What a marvelous world we live in. Today the Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to three American scientists for their recent discovery that the pace at which the universe is expanding is accelerating. Although that sentence is easy to understand grammatically, the concept is hard to grasp: the entire universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate. The image that comes to mind for me is of taffy being pulled and stretched more and more.
"O LORD our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens." (Psalm 8:1)
Scientists, however, tend to compare this process to a mound of raisin bread dough. As the dough rises (increasing in size) the raisins are pulled farther and farther apart. Think of the raisins as galaxies and you have a simple illustration of what is happening in our universe - the whole thing is getting bigger, wider, and as a result the galaxies are moving away from each other.
Scientists say this is a good thing. If the universe were to stop expanding it would collapse upon itself (because of the pull of gravity). My mind cannot quite picture that, but surely the earth would not survive such an event. Space itself is expanding - there's more of it all the time. Greek philosophers used to wonder whether the universe was infinite or finite. If it is finite and you stuck your hand out at the edge, where would it go? What an amazing question to contemplate.
If the universe is ever expanding what does that say about us and our place in it? Out in the country, away from the lights of the city, when you gaze up at the night sky with its millions of stars, it becomes obvious how small a single human being is by comparison. When we think of the countless generations that have preceded us and all those that will follow us, our lives, our communities, the nations and their struggles also seem small and passing. Is our own significance being reduced as the universe gets bigger?
"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals, that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4)
And yet God does care for us, even though we are tiny in comparison with the universe, even though - considering the breadth of time - our days are but a sigh. There are so many wonders in the created world we'll never fully understand them all. But the knowledge that science has gained of the universe and how it operates is fascinating.
"You have given (human beings) dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet." (Psalm 8:6)
Praise God for our ability to learn and understand. Praise God for this incredible world where we live. Praise God for caring about all of us regardless when or how long we live. Truly God's being and God's activity is more than our minds can fathom.
"O LORD our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:9)