Saturday, October 28, 2006

God of Wonders

I am facinated by these recent photos taken by the scientists at NASA with both the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope. It truly is beyond my comprehension. The first is a just released photo of the Antennae galaxies. The second is a dust ring inside the Andromeda galaxy. The third shows the remains of an exploded star named Cassiopeia A. The colors are the remains of the star's materials. These were all released this past week and can be found all over the Internet. Mind blowing.

The release of these photos is perfectly timed for me as they compliment a book I finished reading. The photos, the news, and the book all make me think of these all-too relevant lyrics from "God of Wonders" by Marc Byrd & Steve Hindalong:


Lord of all creation
Of water, earth, and sky
The heavens are your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on high

God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares your majesty
You are holy, holy
Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth

Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light
And when I stumble in the darkness
I will call your name by night

Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth
Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth

The book I just finished reading is RUTHLESS TRUST by Brennan Manning. In it he writes about the kabod (Hebrew word for "glory") of God. This word kabod speaks to God's transcendence. In writing about the "awesome majesty" of God, he also uses the terms, magnalia Dei. The dictionary says transcendence is to go beyond, exceed, surpass, exist above and in independent of. We in church don't talk enough about God's transcendence.

Manning writes about the Upsilon Andromedae which is the first multiplant system found around a star other than our sun. It is located 264 trillion miles from earth. He writes, "between twelve and fifteen billion years ago, the universe began in a stellar nursery 79.8 quintillion miles away, with an explosion of immeasurable force." Manning discusses the various scientific theories of how it happened and concludes: "Indeed, the moment was so immense that it has shocked our notions of physics. Either the observations are wrong, or there is something out there that we have not begun to comprehend." In a USA TODAY editorial, one of the Andromedae researchers is quoted as writing, "I'm a very troubled theorist."

Manning points out that "When the glory of the transcendent God is not addressed, our focus shifts to human behavior, the cultivation of virtues and the extirpation of vices, the qualities of discipleship, and so on."

For me, here is one of the most powerful passages of his book:

Moralizing surges to the fore in this unbalanced spirituality. At the very outset, it presents a warped idea of the relationship between God and humans. From her parents a child learns of a deity who strongly disapproves of disobedience, hitting one's brothers and sisters, and telling lies. When the little one goes to school, she realizes that God shares the fussy concerns of her teachers. At church, she learns that God has another set of priorities: she is told that he is displeased that the congregation is not growing numerically, that irregular attendance is the norm, and that his recurring fiscal demands are not being met.

When she reaches high school, she discovers that God's interests have expanded to an obsession with sex, drinking, and drugs. After twelve years of Christian indoctrination at home, school, and church, the teenager realizes with resentment that God has been used as a sanction by all those who have been responsible for her discipline--as when Mommy and Daddy, at their wits' end over her mischievous antics as a toddler, allude to "the eternal spanking." Through this indoctrination, God is unwittingly associated with fear in most young hearts.

Moralism and its stepchild, legalism, pervert the characer of the Christian life . . . . Clearly, the God of our imagination is not worthy of trust, adoration, praise, reverence, or gratitude. And yet, if we are unwilling to address the issue of transcendence, that is the only deity we know . . . . The loss of transcendence has left in its wake the flotsam of distrustful, cynical Christians, angry at a capricious God, and the jetsam of smug bibliolatrists who claim to know precisely what God is thinking and exactly what he plans to do.

Wow! Okay, that's the end of the Manning quote and I love it. I put in the italics on the word "our" because God is beyond anything we puny humans can think up. That is why I love the song GOD OF WONDERS and that is why I love these photos of outter space. My God, the Abba of Jesus, is not erratic, changeable, or fickle! He certainly is not out to get me.

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