By Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield United Methodist
While the rest of us have been organizing closets, trying new recipes, teaching children online and figuring out ZOOM; all worthy occupations, a team of engineers and scientists have been spending their time during the pandemic getting a new observatory satellite ready to launch into deep space. As you can imagine, it was a daunting task.
The James Webb Space Telescope launched on Christmas morning from French Guiana, which I find in and of itself, fascinating. I didn’t know that there is a Guiana Space Center!
According to Space.com, “The telescope will journey to an isolated spot about 1 million miles from Earth known as a Lagrange point, a gravitationally stable spot between two celestial bodies.
“There, far from light interference from Earth, Webb will turn its attention to the early universe, using a fold-out telescope almost 22 feet across, roughly three times the aperture of the 1990s-era Hubble.” www.space.com/james-webb-space-telescope-launch-date-confirmed
The thing about this telescope that is so fascinating to me is that it can peer into our past. As a matter of fact, the publicity for the telescope says that it will be able to discover the mysteries of the beginning of the universe! That is a pretty amazing claim. But that is how space works. What happened billions of years ago is what we see when we look into the night sky. Stars that are no longer really there shine their light through space and we look with wondering eyes into the night sky without realizing we are looking into the far distant past.
We are really no better or no worse that the ancient folk who looked to the night sky with the same wonder. While we, scientifically, know more, we, like them, look with awe trying to discern our own place in the vast universe. So, the psalmist words can be our words, too: When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made — the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place—what are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them? Psalm 8
I can only imagine what the James Webb will discover. But I do know that what it discovers will confirm what we already know: the cosmos is vast, mysterious, ordered and chaotic, and is a window into the vastness of the Holy One. When I look to the skies, I see beauty and majesty and mystery, I see a reflection of God.
Many scientists will tell you the same thing, whether they are looking at the vastness of a tiny microscopic particle or the vastness of a distant galaxy, they see reflected in their discoveries, God, the Holy One. For it is hard to fathom the depths or the breath or the height or the length of this place we call home, without knowing that in some way God is present and God’s love is surrounding all of it, chaos, order, mystery and fact.
As we anticipate the new discoveries from this amazing telescope, let us also anticipate the amazing discoveries of God’s love in this new year. In the midst of all the chaos, order, mystery and fact; where will we wander to find the wonder of God’s love? And know always, that we will never wander so far that we are away from God’s loving presence.