Sunday, 9 January 2011

We are Stardust

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. – Genesis 1:1-3

Twentieth century science completely rewrote the story of our universe and our understanding of creation. Today, science generally accepts that our entire universe began with a massive explosion that took place some 14billion years ago. Authors such as Judy Cannato call this the beginning of God’s self-communication. In her book 'Radical Amazement' (2006) she observes how through God’s grace stars were born and galaxies were formed. Nor does she limit God’s participation to the single act of creation. In fact we are told that the Holy One was present as supernova explosions scattered bits of cosmic matter throughout the universe and forces like gravity began to draw matter together in relationship. God was not identical to these developments, but neither was God separate from them. Michael Dowd in his book, 'Thank God for Evolution' (2008) describes the same process in this way: Ancestral stars are part of genealogy. We can now feel a familial bond to the heavens. Every atom in our bodies, other than hydrogen, was forged in the fiery belly of a star who lived and died and recycled itself back to the galaxy before our own star, the Sun, was born.

Our earth was born more than 4 billion years ago. Half a billion years followed before life in the form of primitive cells appeared having gradually evolved from the perfect mix of celestial fire and gasses, or STARDUST. And we are now learning that God’s involvement in creation or evolution is still ongoing. While time may fail us to observe evolution on earth in its slow progress science has discovered that the Universe continues to expand and Galaxies are racing further apart. These amazing discoveries have been made only within the last one hundred years. Prior to the nineteen twenties it was assumed that the universe existed only of the planets and stars within the Milky Way. Today we recognize that the lights we see as stars can actually be other galaxies which are now estimated in the billions!

Seeing the traditional story of creation in this Light we may begin to  realize slowly that we are indeed made of stardust and therefore know  that the Light of God does indeed dwell deep within us and all of creation. For the skeptics consider the following  from the biblical story of creation. Genesis tells us that in the beginning, or the first day, God commanded, "Let there be light" yet we are told subsequently  that light only appeared on the fourth day when God issued, “Let lights (our Sun, moon, stars, etc.?) appear in the sky to separate day from night . . . “. Thus, from where did the Light on the first day appear as mentioned in Genesis 1:1-3?

"I am the light of the world.  Whoevever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness.  John 8:12

The significance of the term ‘Light’, which appears more than 270 times in the bible, remains very important in my life. When I am in darkness, be it through depression, anxiety, fear or worry the absence of God’s light is not always obvious. Independence and arrogance are the stumbling blocks that prevent me from climbing out of my pain. I recall a prayer or reflection many years ago during a particular strong period of depression. In my desperation; I asked (wrote) God to help me out of this threatening and fearful situation. As I wrote the image of being trapped in a totally dark room appeared. In an effort to find the light switch I kept running into hidden pieces of furniture and other obstacles. God then reminded me that stumbling blocks, when exposed to the light, will eventually been seen as building blocks to help us climb out of our pain. All I needed to do was find is the Light switch!

Finally, Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology (2004) looking at the question of ‘How did it all begin’ invites us to consider an even greater question when he asks “what existed before the Big Bang is of little or no concern to the conventional scientist. I suggest that it is of enormous importance for those among seeking to unravel the meaning of the new evolutionary story of our time, and this includes a growing number of scientist and theologians.”

Our story of Creation in the Christian context is of course based on the Book of Genesis. Other older cultures and succeeding religions share similar stories as well as variations of creation based on legend and tradition.  Often the drama is told against this backdrop which has remained virtually unchanged for generations. But as I have indicated in this blog a dramatic change took place beginning with Galileo and more significantly within the last one hundred years as cosmic discoveries revealed a completely different story as I attempted to explain  in this blog. Now for the good news or new story – the Creator is revealing itself in a new and dynamic way.    In fact, this shift or change of view will have a radical impact on how we relate to one another, our planet and more importantly to God.  


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