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Look Up To The Stars

by Pastor Kari Bahe
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Since NASA released the first images from the James Webb space telescope, revealing the largest and most intensive view of the universe, I can’t help but think of Psalm 8:

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them?”

The Webb telescope is capable of looking 13.6 billion light years away. For perspective, the Milky Way Galaxy is approximately 100,000 light-years across.

As astronomers explained in a recent New York Times article, every dot in the image is a huge galaxy:

“While there are a few interloper stars in the photo, nearly every dot in the image is a galaxy. For a sense of scale, if you could hold a grain of sand at arm’s length up to the sky, that speck is the size of the view. It is one minuscule sliver of our universe, filled with thousands of galaxies, each with billions or trillions of star systems in each of those with its own planets” [NYT article, July 12, 2022, Gawking at the Universe].

These beautiful, powerful pictures are but one sliver of creation! The power, magnitude, creativity, and the “making all things new” ways of our God are revealed in these pictures. Albert Einstein once said:

“the more I study science, the more I believe in God”.

Looking at these pictures magnifies both our insignificance and our reason for being. The truth of the grandeur of nature, the glory of creation, the vastness of the universe – and the miracle of God’s ongoing and daily renewal are seen in these images.

“How numerous are your works, O Lord. You made them all in wisdom. The earth is full of your creations,” [Psalm 104]

NASA’s work, of course, is secular. But these glimpses have given humanity a moment of collective awe and a reminder of what we accomplish when we work together. This collective experience of looking into the heavens is perhaps just what we long for in the days of pandemics, uncertainty, and change. It seems we so rarely share anything collectively that is positive anymore. And yet, that is what we do every single day as a faith community. It is here that we collectively look with awe and wonder upon the works of our God and here that we collectively affirm that there is something more to our lives than the chaos, hatred, fear, and division that is in front of us every second of the day.

At the risk of sounding like retailers who seem to catapult us into the next season about halfway through the current one, I want to remind you that fall is coming soon. And as all new seasons do, fall provides an opportunity to turn the page, evaluate, and recreate how you want to live. It is my deepest prayer that as we emerge from these years of living with pandemic and lightning-speed changes, you will take time to consider your participation in the collective faith community that is Zion. Faith has been wrongly relegated to the “private” sphere of life. Faith is never private. It is personal, to be sure. But, God has created us in a way that calls us together. That means we don’t know who we are as a community unless you are here–even if you haven’t been here for two years or several months!

Excitement is bursting all over the place at Zion. There is a collective sense that God is up to something very special here. VBS, summer camp, youth group, confirmation, Sunday school at both services, music, revitalized worship space, service groups, helping Ukrainians resettle in our area, a Call committee seeking our next Sr. Pastor, a brand new collective view of who we are and who we want to be via the CAT survey, a committed and faith-filled council, rebuilding of our staff, reinvesting in all things Zion, and anticipating a time of regathering are pointing toward renewal and the truth that our God is a powerful, creating, abundant God who is actively connecting us for a purpose that is far greater than we can see or imagine.

As God told Abraham: “look up at the stars”. Let the Webb images help you see more than you can imagine and then be ready for all that God is doing with, for, and among us. This newsletter will give you some glimpses of that for the fall, so plan now to recommit to how you want to be a part of this amazing faith community. It is here that we find a collective sense of awe and wonder at all that God is doing in our lives, in the lives of others, and, in fact, in the universe!

This photo: landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI


Pastor Kari Bahe

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