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At the Movies: Our Universe

Image: Randall Ruiz

One of the book clubs I’m in this year (yes, I’m in more than one…) is reading a different book by the church fathers and mothers, the mystic voices that have shaped and formed our experience of God in the universe these last two thousand years. 

Every once in a while, as I read, I have to remind myself that these writers lived 400, 600, even 700 years ago. It is the same stunning revelation I experience when I read the letters Paul wrote to the early church. Paul was one man, writing to a couple hundred believers, two thousand years ago! 

And then I remember David writing his poems and songs to God some 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus, and I am stunned all over again by the universal human experience, the terrors, the joys, the praise. It isn’t just humans that praise, though. One such psalm (author unknown), tells all of creation to praise him:

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord from the heavens;

praise him in the heights above.

Praise him, all his angels;

praise him, all his heavenly hosts.

Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

Psalm 148:1-3 NIV

The farther back we go and the deeper into creation we look, the more Christ is magnified… even to the edges and beginnings of the universe.

Our Universe

Now, you just can’t go wrong when Morgan Freeman—the actor who played God in both Bruce and Evan Almighty—narrates a documentary series about the universe. But even without the melodious baritone carrying the narration, Our Universe is bound to inspire awe and wonder.

Available on Netflix, Our Universe reaches back in time and space to connect the very beginnings of creation—that moment when everything that would exist began to exist because God created—all the way to today, to the intimate and mind boggling ways we are all connected to each other. All of us—not just “us” humans, but “us” animals, “us” plants, “us” rocks and minerals, “us” atmosphere and planets and suns and stars. All of us, intrinsically bound to one another.

And called to praise.

Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing

We live in a wonder-full age.

The sages and wisdom teachers of old have known and professed the truths that today, science keeps confirming. Perhaps some scientists use different vocabulary, but they aren’t actually saying anything new. 

Last year, I finished The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World by Sean Carroll. I say that I “finished” it because while my eyes read the words on the page, I’m pretty sure I grasped about 3/10 of what Carroll had to say. Here’s one thing I have thought about many times since reading this book:

“The Higgs field is like the air, or the water for fish in the sea; we don’t usually notice it, but it’s all around us, and without it life would be impossible. And it is literally ‘all around us’; unlike all the other fields of nature, the Higgs is nonzero even in empty space. As we move through the world, we are embedded in a background Higgs field, and it’s the influence of that field on our particles that gives them their unique properties.”

Carroll, p. 136

The Higgs field, or “God particle” sounds an awful lot like what Paul declared two thousand years ago: 

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Colossians 1:15-17 NIV

All of these scientists are simply confirming what the mystics and followers of Jesus have known for ages: He holds all things together. In him all things hold together. All things were created in him, in him and through him and for him.

All things! 

As I watched Our Universe zoom into the eye of a cheetah and out to the nuclear fusion of our sun and then back into the view of a dung beetle on the savanna and then out again to the theoretical beginnings of the universe, I couldn’t help but remember the image 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich gives us in her Revelations of Divine Love:

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”

We live in an age of wonder and awe, an age of technology that can zoom in and enlarge the proteins on a blade of grass to show how they receive light energy from the sun and transform it into sugar, an age of connection and metaphor that expands our sense of the miraculous, how all of these things are held together by one Creator, in our universe, spinning and expanding and evolving and creating, opening our eyes to the magnificence and abundance around us, and our small part in it.

We get to be a part of this unfolding. What a universe. What a God.

Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

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