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September 19, 2010
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
St. Andrew’s Church
Crazy Love 1: “Stop Praying”
“Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.
“The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival…”
Do these words sound faintly familiar? Perhaps if I add the first line that I purposely omitted you will be able to place them:
“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” [Cosmos, p. 1]
These words were penned just up the road from us in Ithaca by the world-renowned astronomer and Cornell professor Carl Sagan. He died in 1996. Sagan had an infectious enthusiasm for the cosmos and his contempt for religion is also well known.
Our psalmist also exhibits an infectious enthusiasm for the cosmos and also a great appreciation of the Creator of all things.
v. 1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
The heavens above and the earth beneath our feet and all around us speak of the glory of God.
About his childhood, Sagan writes,
“When I was little, I lived in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in the City of New York… Even with an early bedtime, in winter you could sometimes see the stars. I would look at them, twinkling and remote, and wonder what they were. I would ask older children and adults who would only reply, “They’re lights in the sky, kid.” I could see they were lights in the sky. But what were they? Just small hovering lamps? Whatever for? I felt a kind of sorrow for them: a commonplace whose strangeness remained somehow hidden from my incurious fellows. There had to be a deeper answer.
“As soon as I was old enough, my parents gave me my first library card. I think the library was on 85th Street, an alien land. Immediately I asked the librarian for something on stars. Se returned with a picture book displaying portraits of men and women with names like Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. I complained, and for some reason then obscure to me, she smiled and found another book – the right kind of book. I opened it breathlessly and read until I found it. The book said something astonishing, a very big thought. It said that the stars were suns, only very far away. The Sun was a star, but close up.
“Imagine that you took the Sun and moved it so far away that it was just a tiny twinkling point of light. How far away would you have to move it? I was innocent of the notion of angular size. I was ignorant of the inverse square law for light propagation.
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