1. Nature seems beautiful and cool to us. Everybody wants to be there because it looks so nice, but just as a mountain range looks beautiful until you're close enough for it to kill you, the ocean is beautiful until your boat sinks, and tigers are beautiful on nature videos, up close they will destroy your body. Nature is blindly hostile towards us. If I got close to any star I would be destroyed by gravity and many forms of radiation including heat hot enough to cause not physical or chemical reactions, but nuclear reactions that reconstitute my very atoms.
- This reminds me in some ways of the way of Jesus. Evangelicalism often makes his way seem quite smooth, but as we get a bit too close to Jesus we are stripped bare of our safety and sent in to Burma to die, slums to get sick, or our middle class neighbor's home to hear heart wrenching struggles that nobody would take the time for him to share.
- The stars are a big distraction as well. This kind of beauty is quite intoxicating, but in the same way that reading great fiction can keep us from the scriptures the stars can distract us from life. For all my admiring of the stars I suddenly became sickened by the fact that I had sermons to write, friends with problems, I was physically ill, and that there were not only millions of poor, uneducated, unfed, unbelieving people in the world, but many in my own town. When I got home my friend Mervin Yeagle was sick, I was blessed with being with him for a few hours before he died. Jesus was made known in the last years and the death of this man. But the stars had nothing to do with Mervin Yeagle.
- Since beauty of this sort is typically a distraction from the stuff of real life, such as suffering I am beginning to want nothing of it.
2. Many people experience God in a rather profound way when they look at the stars and I want to encourage people to seek things like that. The sky at night reminds us that we are small. This is an important thing to recall. But what can one know of God by the stars? Some atheists see, supposedly, nothing of God in the stars. One might surmise that God is big or that there must be a lot of gods to make such a big universe. One may think that God is distant and uncaring by looking at the stars. Back to meditation 1: nature which seems so beautiful will kill you indiscriminately. Why would such a being make a place that is so deceptively alluring? I am attracted to things so awe-inspiring, but the very bigness of these things makes them caustic to my body. Think of the big wave surfers, one mistake in that much force and you will not make it out unharmed.
- In Romans 1:20 Paul seems to mention the possibility of knowing God by what he was made, though that word could be translated, "the things that have been done." But it seems that though creation is God's love for us, it is mired by sin, only in God's actions in creation is he known. This means in what he did on behalf of Israel, what he does for the church, what he did in giving us the scripture, and ultimately in Jesus Christ the crucified and risen one. So anyway, the point I'm making is that whatever way we can know God in nature, including the stars, in our sinfulness, it is of no use to us apart from God's self-disclosure in history. And even God's self-disclosure in history does not reveal his character fully until Jesus Christ, and even now we know only in part. So for dying Mervin Yeagle, Jesus Christ was the name on his lips at his death. He did not ask that the strange creator of the stars remember him, he said, "Remember me Jesus, please remember me. I know you, you wouldn't forget me."
- What we can know of God from nature is instructive in many ways, but only really in light of God's revelation made within creation. Knowing that God can make mountains, stars, animals, and storms that can kill me instructs me in the fact that God, or the gods, can do whatever they want. Knowing that the creator God who rescued Israel became flesh and that this enfleshed God, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, suffered for his people, lived the example of true humanity, and sends the holy spirit to make us whole reminds me that this God who can do whatever he wants loves and actually is love.
- A God who somehow suffers is not revealed by looking at the stars, by black holes destroying galaxies, by bears that can kill me with one swipe of a Toyota sized paw, or by mountain ranges. This is only revealed by God's actual actions in Jesus Christ crucified. The suffering, sinful mass of humanity can find comfort in God not as the mere artificer of the worlds, some sort of divine clockmaker, but as the suffering servant. The creator becoming creation somehow, inexplicably, offensively suffering. Look to nature to find some examples of God's majesty, but only to remind you of the sheer nothingness of it compared to "the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power." That is on the cross, God's weakness as the strongest action in the universe, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.