Earth's Crammed With Heaven
In his sermon on Psalm 8, Jim commented that he never noticed the sky was blue until he became a Christian. My story is similar, but different. When I was seventeen, two years before I became a Christian, I went on the most exciting duck hunt of my life. But it wasn't the duck hunt that was exciting. It was the boat ride to the duck blind.
We had to break ice to get our boat in the water. It was around four in the morning. My best friend was working the motor that day, so I was lying on my back, looking up into the dark delta sky. I'd looked into that same sky many times, but I'd never seen anything like this—a ticker tape parade of stars falling; dozens of them, shooting back and forth like laser beams in a video game. I thought the sky was falling. This might be the end of the world.
I later figured out that these weren't stars. Thanks to Google, I now know it was the Geminid Meteor Shower of December 1998. At its peak, it produced 600 meteors per hour. And, by chance, so to speak, I 'happened' to be out at four in the morning, in the middle of nowhere, without a cloud in the sky.
In my mind, this was the first time in my life I experienced a deep sense of awe. I knew nothing of God at that point. But I had a nagging sense that I needed to thank someone, though I didn't know who, for allowing me to see something so beautiful. I've been fascinated with the sky ever since.
Years later, as a believer, I read The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis and Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. I learned that C.S. Lewis was more fascinated with the sky than I've ever been. When he looked at the heavens, he saw the gospel. I don't have the space to get into the subject in detail, but let me share a couple of Lewis' observations.
Lewis loved the planet Jupiter. In Greek mythology, Jupiter was the kingly planet, represented by Zeus. Lewis was struck by the fact that there is a large red spot on Jupiter's side. This red spot is nearly exactly the size of Earth. Our planet could fit into that spot like a golf ball into its hole. How fitting, Lewis thought, that the kingly planet bears a red mark on its side, reminiscent of the wound given to Christ by a Roman spear as He hung on the cross.
Lewis also pointed out that, twice in Scripture, Jesus is called the "Morning Star" (2 Peter 1:19, Rev. 22:16). The morning star is Venus, the planet that classically represented love. Venus is the first 'star' we see at night (the evening star) and the last 'star' we see in the morning (the morning star). How fitting, therefore, that Jesus should be described as the Morning Star. He is love incarnate. And He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.
It feels like we're on a bumpy boat ride these days. I've found great comfort in the beautiful, Sahara-dust-inspired sunsets we've enjoyed before the recent rains. I've also found joy in watching fireflies with my daughters. In some weird way a group of fireflies along a tree line reminds me of that meteor shower years ago.
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote,
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote,
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.
The glory of the heavens and the glory of this world are meant to point us to the One who made them all. At seventeen I didn't know who to thank. Now I know the One I say thanks to as the wounded King, the descendant of David, the bright Morning Star, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We can say thanks to our Creator in many different ways. But the primary way He calls us to do so is by gathering on the Lord's Day. He set this day apart for us to celebrate and proclaim His resurrection. The wounded King didn't stay in the tomb. He rose like the morning star. And on Sundays we give our "amen" to that fact as we worship the triune God. We see His glory as we gather in His presence; and so, figuratively speaking, each Sunday, we take our shoes off instead of picking blackberries.