The mystery of the cosmos is a good mystery. Colossians 1:15–20 reminds us of the goodness of creation beginning light years away from where we live; that each star and planet was created to praise God, as was each mountain, tree and animal on Earth.
The “cosmos” is the universe. It is regarded as a complex and orderly system; the opposite of chaos. Pythagoras used the term cosmos for the order of the universe, but the term was not part of modern language until the 19th century when a geographer and polymath, Alexander von Humboldt, resurrected the use of the word from the ancient Greek, and assigned it to his multi-volume treatise, called Kosmos, and, along the way, influenced our present and somewhat holistic perception of the universe or universes as one interacting entity.
Huge I think! Too huge for my brain. I’m impressed by construction of tall buildings in the city. I’m impressed by Uluru and the Kimberly’s, even a tree can grab my attention for hours.
Let alone, that the earth on which we live is surrounded by a universe that is still expanding outwards and that there are universes beyond that.
Heaven knows if I’ll ever get my head around light years, the distance light can travel in a year.
Did you know that in May this year scientists identified a new exoplanet candidate that could eventually support human life: Kepler-62f, located some 1,200 light-years away from Earth.
Kepler-62f’s potential habitability is based on it being a suitable distance from its sun, and astronomers think this might give it the necessary mix of solid rocky terrain and oceans to support life. The planet is about 40 percent larger than our own, so at least there’s room to spread out, if we ever get there. I sense that today the scientists, politicians and Hollywood don’t have much faith in the human race maintaining this earth as habitable.
Our Cosmos Sunday was the last Sunday in our “Season of Creation”. I guess you can’t get much bigger than that, I mean it’s the whole of creation really. In the Uniting Church there is a tolerance to differing theologies and in this environment there are many ways to look at our cosmos. There are some that believe the earth was literally created in seven days, or six with a rest day. We say literally because the view takes the two creation stories that start our holy bible and blends them together to make one true story written from God. They have a label these days, they are called creationists. The secular world would have its extreme beliefs too saying that science and religion doesn’t mix. One cancels out the other.
I believe God was in the beginning and in the beginning was God. The Word was with God and the light and wisdom and all that comes forth has its origins with God. I believe that if God had wanted to create the earth in seven days God could have. But I think that science is unravelling the story of how the cosmos came about. I don’t see the theories of science as an opposite to the theology we encounter in our Holy Scriptures. There is a lot that science and theology have in common apart from mystery solving. Just as an example, both believe there is an ordered system, complexed but not chaos. Actually the scientific thinkers have given me a bigger picture of God the Creator then I could have imagined. I believe that many of the scientific community over the ages have been inspired by God, blessed by God, guided by God, in their enquirers and pursuit of the truth. But it is also true that there are many scientists that don’t believe in God. And like to tell the world that Christians are foolish.
All that human posturing aside, the pursuit of the truth has led to many discoveries and rediscoveries. Like the solar system I grew up knowing is not the same as the one my children are learning today. There are some great mysteries in our world. And there have been some great theorists who challenge themselves to explain how this cosmos interacts. I’ve been reading about the problems of the cosmos (problems meaning things to solve or explain). At present physicists have two separate rulebooks explaining how nature works. It is the biggest of problems; it is the smallest of problems. There is general relativity, which beautifully accounts for gravity and all of the things it dominates: orbiting planets, colliding galaxies, the dynamics of the expanding universe as a whole. That’s big.
Then there is quantum mechanics, which handles the other three forces – electromagnetism and the two nuclear forces. Quantum theory is extremely adept at describing what happens when a uranium atom decays, or when individual particles of light hit a solar cell. That’s small.
Now for the problem: relativity and quantum mechanics are fundamentally different theories that have different formulations. It is not just a matter of scientific terminology; it is a clash of genuinely incompatible descriptions of reality. The conflict between the two halves of physics has been brewing for more than a century – sparked by a pair of 1905 papers by Einstein, one outlining relativity and the other introducing the quantum leap.
So after a week or two reading about these theories that explain our reality, it boils down to this.
Relativity gives nonsensical answers when you try to scale it down to quantum size, eventually descending to infinite values in its description of gravity. Likewise, quantum mechanics runs into serious trouble when you blow it up to cosmic dimensions.
Well why does Einstein’s theories need an airing on Cosmos Sunday you say. I think it highlights just how amazing this world is, and calls us to praise our God and be so very thankful. I believe it belongs because Cosmos needs to be celebrated, our Creator God is God of this huge world.
As Einstein puts it “which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking.”
Taught by God, all of our senses may participate in the beauty and wonderment of creation.
Looking with wisdom and understanding, we see the interconnectedness of all things, animate and inanimate. And on seeing and understanding, our souls will break out in praise and thanksgiving.
Proverbs 8:22–31 and Psalm 148 speaks of the joy in being a part of God’s good creation, and how we envy Wisdom, God’s constant companion. There with God from the beginning, seeing all creation come into reality – the stars, brilliant galaxy clusters, shaping of Earth – its varying land formations, soils and life within, waters – great and small, gushing, gurgling with laughter. Mischievous, whimsical. Is it only we artists, woodworkers, bead-workers, leather-smiths, weavers, needle-workers, landscapers, architects that can know such joy?
Perhaps this is so for all human artists – composers, choreographers, photographers, bread-makers, poets, and, without prejudice, all creative, artistic endeavours where wisdom, love for beauty, taste, and design meet together in harmony.
What a gift to be with God as an artist of creation. To give birth; nurture to maturity. Love another into the fullness of potential. For Wisdom and Love are necessary companions. The Cosmos is a work of art. The night sky over the dark of a warm desert night is breathtaking. Words cannot describe the splendour of colours, swirls, spirals, rings of light, and luminous cloud crystals in images of constellations taken by a satellite camera. Our hearts well up with thanksgiving for the beauty of the forests, mountains, valleys and canyons, bountiful soils and sands of many hues, plants and flowers, fruit trees and berries, springs and lakes, animals and insects – variety and kind beyond counting or imagining. All in harmonious and interdependent relationship – our food, medicine, wonderment; our source of healing and regeneration. Earth brings forth all. Yet Earth is just one speck in the total array of the Cosmos, a partial image of the invisible God.
And so we hear this day the call to let us love and preserve creation; in that same wisdom and love, it is given to us.
Colossians 1:15–20 reminds us that it is through Jesus presented here as the Cosmic Being—through whom all things are held together, all things are reconciled. We are connected to the whole of creation, and are called into relationship with God that seeks healing; transforming frail and fearful human beings into full wholeness. The church is called then, to be an embodiment of that reconciliation, making peace through the outpouring of Jesus’ life. All of Jesus’ life represents reconciliation; a life lived for the incoming of the realm of God, the Kingdom of God.
People love mystery stories. The who-dun-its are always the most popular fiction genre—whether in books, television or movies. Any good mystery writer or experienced mystery reader can tell you that the reason the mystery tale is so compelling is that in order to unravel the mystery you must enter the lives of all the different characters. You must learn their quirks, their habits, their secrets, their shortcomings. You must enter into a relationship with the characters, inhabit their lives until you understand them, unravel them, become one with them if you want to uncover the mystery that they hide.
The New Testament is our mystery text. It tells a dramatic story. It gives us all sorts of colourful characters. It offers a complete set of all the usual suspects. As the gospels and epistles unfold their tale, the mystery that is the heart of this story is only slowly revealed. In the gospels Jesus constantly drops hints to his seemingly dense disciples. They never figure out the mystery during Jesus’ ministry on earth. Only after Jesus rises and the gift of the Holy Spirit is given at Pentecost do Jesus’ followers finally experience the unveiling of the mystery. When the Spirit of Christ enters into the disciples and brings them into a genuine and full relationship with the resurrected Christ, at last they begin to comprehend the mystery.
The mystery they begin to understand is that:
- Redemption is not an accomplishment, it’s a relationship.
- The mystery is not something to be solved, but something to be entered into and experienced.
- Christ is the head of the church, yet Christ’s Spirit animates every cell in this Christ-body we have become a part of.
The essence of the mystery that the gospel reveals is that the mystery is a PERSON, Jesus the Christ. Christ himself is the mystery of God. This mystery is not a principle or a set of rules and regulations. The mystery is not a new Law. The mystery is an experience with a person who wants to live in us and through us. Your life can be so caught up in Christ’s life, that your story and God’s story becomes one! Your life and Christ’s life can be so united, that the very energy of God is at work in you. The mystery of God’s secret plan is not some map, not some puzzle. The mystery of God’s secret plan is a priceless treasure – a relationship with Christ himself.
How shall we live in this cosmos? As creatures among creatures! Let us praise God, for the cosmos is the embodiment of the love and wisdom of God. Let us praise our cosmos Christ by being Christ to one another. This way of living means being these in action, being these in our use of Earth’s resources; being these toward the homeless refugee; being these in the justice on our streets. How might you reflect the Cosmic Christ now?
Rev. Melinda Graham