Today’s Word from Rev. David Bieniek…
“Ah, Sovereign God, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for you.” – Jeremiah 32:17
For years I had tried to catch the Perseid meteor shower. It seemed that when August came around, I was either too busy, weather was too bad, or I just plain forgot. A few years ago, I was determined to see them. Now living in a place with dark nights and a forecast of clear skies, I set my alarm for 2:00 a.m. – the best time for viewing. It seemed as though I had just fallen asleep when the alarm rang. “Just a few more minutes,” I thought, but something kept nagging me. “Get up. You will fall back to sleep and miss them, again.” I dragged myself outside.
Tall pine trees surrounded our house like a cathedral which I feared would interfere with meteor watching. As I came out on the deck and looked up, I was amazed at all of the stars – billions of them. As I looked up, a meteor flashed across the horizon welcoming me to the wonder.
I went back in and got my yoga mat; perhaps stargazing would build up some good karma in the mat. I lay down on the deck, took a deep breath, and let it slowly leave my body. I felt like I was floating in a sea of stars. I had not seen stars this plentiful since I was a child on Padre Island. There were so many, I had difficulty picking out any of the constellations I have known for years. I could see the Milky Way, the telltale sign of the presence of our galaxy spread out from one end of my viewing field to the other as if someone had poured milk across the universe.
“Your children shall be numbered like the stars of the Heavens,” Abraham was promised. Three of the world’s religions claim their roots from Abraham, yet they wage war and shed blood on each other. Too bad we cannot live in harmony as these stars appear to do up in the heavens. As I lay there, the song Beautiful World by Eliza Gilkyson began playing in my head. It is a haunting melody that speaks of our existence on this planet adrift in a sea of billions of other stars. How unique and how blessed we are to be here.
I realize that I was only seeing one galaxy. Beyond our galaxy we now know are billions of other galaxies. When I was a teacher, I did a science project with my students where they would have to count the number of galaxies in a picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. There were so many galaxies in that photograph that some of my students would get frustrated at the high numbers they were counting. When I told them that this picture was taken in a space about the size of a thumb held at arm’s length, they were amazed. We did the math together and estimated there were more than 150 billion galaxies in the observable universe.
My mind wandered around these thoughts as I watched meteors streak toward Earth. Bits of comet and space dust burned up in the atmosphere before my very eyes. Some of them were brilliant; some of them were just dim streaks of light as they plunged to their “death.”
Unlike the August mornings I grew up with, it was chilly so the dogs checked on me. In Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the horse “thought it queer to stop without a farmhouse near” and “gives his bells a shake to ask if there was some mistake.” The dogs walked by and licked my face seeming to ask the same question. Satisfied that I was fine, they returned to bed not as interested as I in the majesty beyond our world. I counted ten meteors within twenty minutes – enough for that year.
Perhaps this year on August 11, the best night for watching, we will watch them together – each in our own place yet connected by the mystery of a God who created a universe this vast.
Rev. Dave Bieniek