Today we welcome guest writer, Luke Harbaugh of HOPE International. Luke will be speaking at Faith Church this coming Sunday.
Last week, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its first flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto, giving us high resolution photos of (what used to be considered) the tiniest planet in our solar system for the very first time.
You can see them here.
Pluto not being considered a planet anymore is a touchy subject for millennials like me. What am I supposed to do with the mnemonic devices we learned in elementary school for remembering the names of the planets? “My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nine…” Nine what?! (The answer is “Nine Pizzas,” by the way – if you consider Pluto a planet.)
That bitterness aside, astronomers still marveled at what had previously been unseen on Pluto’s surface. Mountains as high as the Rockies. Brilliant ice formations. A huge, heart-shaped region that was aptly named “Tombaugh Regio,” after the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh.
One of the beauties of modern science – be it within the disciplines of astronomy, biology or even physics – is that is continues to take us “farther up and deeper in” (to use C.S. Lewis’s words) to the beauty that surrounds us. NASA’s people used descriptors like “amazing,” “wonderful,” and “astonishing” to describe the images that were sent back to Earth from more than three billion miles away, and as we continue to explore the universe around us over the next several generations, there is no doubt that we will continually be floored by more and more moments like these.
Being floored by the beauty, size and grandeur of the universe is nothing new though. Ancient people had just as much appreciation for Creation as we do, even if they didn’t have as many tools to explore it. Those who were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit had demonstrated special insight into the universe, declaring that it doesn’t exist as an accident or for the sake of itself – but instead exists to witness to the God who made it.
Psalm 8 says, “You have set your glory above the heavens…When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” And later, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
The Psalmist, even though he never had access to high resolution photos of the solar system, was blown away by the views the universe had to offer. One can only imagine what the stars and the planets looked like to David’s eyes in the Judean night sky thousands of years ago. No wonder so many of the Psalms compare God’s glory, his character and his majesty to “the heavens.”
Yet, even though the universe that surrounds us is described as “amazing,” “wonderful” and “astonishing,” the heavens are not the pinnacle of God’s creation. Genesis 1:26 -27 says this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
The stars, the sun and the moon, for all of their grandeur and glory, are not made in the image of God. Only humanity is given the honor of that particular gift. The Psalmist knew this too, proclaiming in Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. What have you done with this gift? What have you done to bring this gift alive in others? Do you feel like you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” today? God has determined that you would bear His image within His Creation – is that image alive in you?
It is a good thing to be impressed by the photos that came from NASA last week, to stare at the night sky in awe and to wonder what else God has hidden for us to discover. But also remember that you are, in fact, a greater creation than even them; and if we allow God to resurrect His image within us, then there is nothing more fearful or wonderful than a person fully alive in Christ.