Last Wednesday, when I went to retrieve the Buffalo News, I discovered this pleasant surprise in the pre-dawn southern sky. It’s a waning or descending halfmoon, accompanied by Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. Jupiter is the bright one, almost directly above the moon. Mars has it’s characteristic red tint, and is to the right of the moon. And Saturn is fainter (at over 800 million miles from Earth), appearing closer to the left edge of the photo. I scurried back into the house and grabbed my DSLR with the 300 mm lens and managed to get a half decent shot handheld. If I was certain that I could get it in before sunrise, I would have set up my camera tripod. Now I’m glad that I didn’t take the time, otherwise, I would have missed the shot.
Ever since I started using my telescope, I’ve been a lot more aware of the night sky. I guess that I never realized how much I spend most of my life looking down, rather than up. Initially, I was afraid that all of that sky would make me feel insignificant, but I discovered just the opposite to be true. I now feel that God blessed me – indeed, all of us – with a curious mind and the skills to satisfy that curiosity. So far from seeing myself as insignificant, the night sky actually makes me feel loved and woven into this amazing creation. Psalm 97 came to mind:
Psalm 8:3-8 The Message (MSG)
3-4 I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?
5-8 Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden’s dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, Made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild, Birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps.
That sky last Wednesday put a smile on my face and assurance in my heart. The planets and the moon are still in the sky, and that’s a gentle reminder that this is still God’s world and we are still God’s valued people. We’re not in this life alone – never were and never will be.
Written by Steven Hall - Retired Pastor of Lockport, NY UCC