Thursday, February 1, 2018

Getting a Good View

According to the Google, the tallest mountain in Israel is Mt. Hermon, which stands at 7,300 feet. I like to imagine that the prophet had looked down from somewhere up that height when he wrote Sunday's reading from Isaiah 40: "It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers." Of course, they didn't have airplanes or skyscrapers. From a high mountain, people below might look like grasshoppers or even ants. What happens when you go higher?

Although I prefer the aisle seat, I do enjoy looking out the window of an airplane as the cars get so small that I can no longer make them out. And then the roads blur out of focus. And then individual buildings disappear. And then whole cities become blobs of color on the ground. And then I can see nothing but enormous swaths of green and blue and brown. What happens when you keep going up?

The International Space Station is 254 miles or 1,300,000 feet above the earth. From that perspective, one can behold at once entire countries or even continents. Do you remember the "Pale Blue Dot" photo that Carl Sagan showed the media as Voyager turned around and took a picture toward the earth, happening to catch a tiny speck that was earth caught in a sunbeam? Of that dot, Sagan wrote, "That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives...There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world." I think Carl Sagan was a fan of Isaiah 40.

God is so high above us, sitting on his infinite perch, that he beholds in an instant not only all of humanity but also the entire expanse of interstellar space--all the distance between all the stars around which orbit all the planets and, almost certainly, all the other intelligent species with whom we will never make contact--at least in this life. Yet the same God who sees all that, who created everything that is, "gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless." The reach of God, measured in light years, still stretches down to those who need God's help. God knows us and calls us by name. Those who wait upon the Lord are not forgotten but are sustained, are made strong, and soar like eagles. We are vain who think that God's power belongs to us. Who are we? We are less than a breath on the scales of life. Yet those who wait on God with humility, patience, and faith are met by the Almighty.

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