Rumblings from the Pastor’s Study:
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?…when the morning stars sang together, and the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” Job 38:4, 7
Every Sunday, following the Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Pardon, we together as a congregation sing the Gloria Patri—“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be—world without end, Amen, Amen.” And every Sunday I find myself thinking about that last phrase, “world without end.” Now I suppose I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. In all likelihood, all that’s intended to be heard in those words is that the world under God’s hand will be sustained, one way or another, for all eternity until the old creation has passed away making room for the fullness of God’s infinitely better new creation heralded in Jesus—a new creation which will itself never end, or, as the Apostles’ Creed states, “whose kingdom will have no end.”
But I always find myself thinking those words in a slightly differently way, not as “world without end,’ but “worlds without end.” And with that one day, I found myself beginning to consider our universe. For a period of time in history humanity believed that the earth was all there was, covered over by the skies and heavenly realms above. But that idea passed away as we found out more through the science of astronomy—how there were other planets and other stars like our sun, billions of miles and more away. According to the website of the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy, there are some 300 billion stars in our galaxy alone with the possibility of some 30 billion planets. And that’s just our galaxy, the Milky Way—there are “over 100 billion galaxies in the observable Universe,” the website states. In many ways the universe itself seems to echo the words of my adjusted Gloria Patri—there seem to be indeed, “worlds without end.” And with all those stars and planets out there, it seems possible, if not likely, that some of them have inhabitants. In recent years the search for planets capable of sustaining life as we know it has become a growing project, and a number of such planets have been identified. SETI, (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) an organization founded in 1984, based in Berkeley, California, uses interconnected computers tying together thousands of people around the world who constantly monitor incoming radio waves from space looking for evidence of just this kind of life. And that’s just life as we humans would recognize it—who’s to say there aren’t lifeforms in space living and communicating in ways we would not even be capable of recognizing?
So, what does all this have to do with God, I hear you asking. Fair question. But if, as I assume, God is the God and Creator not just of our little corner of the world, but of the universe in its entirety, observable and unobservable, then God is the God of all those beings of creation out there wherever they are, which makes them, in some way, brother and sister creatures to us—even those we might not even recognize as life. And I would guess, if that is the case, that God, Father, Son, and Spirit, has reached out to them in some way, even as God has reached out to us. And further, I would take this to mean, that as Job found out in his book, the world of God is a much more amazing, awe-inspiring—even perhaps intimidating, but ultimately wondrous, place than he or we can know, a creation “the morning stars” and “heavenly beings” welcomed into birth with shouts of joy. And with that, the God who made it all is also to be known as a wonder beyond all wonders. But one last point to ponder. If those beings out there, even unknown to us, are somehow our family in our God, our one tremendous God, how much more so those people we see around us every day? And what does that mean for how we treat each one—how we see each one and welcome each one? Can we, perhaps begin, at least a little, to live in God’s worlds without end even now?
In Christ’s love, Pastor Steve