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Friday, October 3, 2014

Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the shadows clear away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
“Alleluia, alleluia,
alleluia, Lord most high!”

“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” from Liturgy of St. James
(tune: Picardy)
trans. Gerard Moultrie
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

There are a lot of monsters in the lore of the Judeo-Christian world. “The six-winged seraph, cherubim with sleepless eye.” “Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way.” Creepy—like an invading army of dragonflies. Like most monsters, they are manifestations of qualities that we struggle to understand—in this case, the speed and power of God and God’s constant awareness.

These days, we have different ways of understanding the size, scope, and power of God. On February 14, 1990, at a distance of nearly 4 billion miles, the Voyager spacecraft turned and took one final snapshot of Earth, before the craft’s cameras were shut down. The result was the famous photo “Pale Blue Dot” showing an infinitesimally small Earth against the immense blackness of space. A universe of this size was inconceivable to biblical writers. Instead, they created monsters. We can look at the size of the universe and behold the power and majesty of God and see ourselves on that small speck, in the words of Carl Sagan, that “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

Sagan had this to say about the impact of this photo:

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”

Here is God’s truth from the mouth of a self-proclaimed agnostic. Deal more kindly with one another. In this large cosmos, on this small mote of dust, the greatest imperative is love, and kindness, and compassion.

Lord, you are too great for our comprehension. Your love for the dust on this cosmic speck is beyond comprehension. Help us to practice love for each other, knowing that we share an impossibly small vessel in the universe. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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