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Stuck in the middle of glory

| Simon Bale | Vicar's Blog

A few Sundays ago I wandered into North Curry churchyard at 7.30am, still not quite awake (I am not and “early Christian”) and I noticed the snowdrops by the kissing gate. Four and a half hours and two services later I wandered back to my car and there were crocuses in among the snowdrops! Now, I know I am colour blind, but even I know the difference between white and anything with colour in it. In the time I had been giving thanks to God for all there is in the universe, some of that universe had popped out of the ground and revealed itself to me in the corner. It was a lovely moment, to realise once again just how much there is in the ground that hides there for so much of the time.

This evening, after the Ash Wednesday Eucharist, I left North Curry church at 8pm to be met in the dark by a startlingly clear night sky. Echoes of Van Gogh. There was Orion, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades and more, set against a background ribbon of the heart of the Milky Way. Another lovely moment, this time being overawed by the stars that hide each morning as the Sun comes up.

The hidden bulbs and the hidden stars. One an ephemeral sea of colour under our feet, the other a celestial freeze frame of gas and energy light years away. Both wonderful, and neither human.

The Milky Way is our own galaxy, and far beyond that, pretty much invisible to one so blurry-visioned as I, are billions more galaxies and other astronomic and cosmic entities. Who knows, perhaps at that very moment there was a conscious being 25 billion light years from Earth staring up at their own neighbourhood of the cosmos and expressing awe at the vastness. I wonder how they relate to God. Do they have a theology of the Holy Trinity just like me? Have they recognised the redeeming nature of Christ in their lives? Of all the imponderable ideas we have, for me extraterrestrial theology has to be one of the more esoteric.

So, in lieu of any knowledge at all (having only the capacity to ponder and not resolve), I turn my thoughts to the ground beneath my feet. 6,371 km of rock, water, magma and core before we start to emerge upward towards New Zealand (or somewhere nearby). A (cosmically) small, almost imperceptible ball of existence that has vanishingly small effect upon the universe but which is home to so much life. Just as vast as the universe is, so as we look more and more closely at the ground beneath our feet we discover smaller and smaller aspects of life.

Humans mostly grow to be under 2m. We have pet cats that might get to half a meter in length (a big cat!) or rabbits: smaller again, then pet stick insects or spiders (goodness… why have a pet spider?) are still smaller again. In we go, further into the inner realm of microscopy, past amoeba and plasmodium (the cause of malaria) to bacteria. They’re maybe 1-2µm (that’s 1 millionth of a metre), and yet with such a combined effect upon the planet. If you weighed all the life on the planet on one big bathroom scale, over 10% of the weight would be bacterial. Bacteria are astonishing. Both helpful and (to us humans) damaging. They can cause untold suffering in disease, but those are very few. Almost all bacteria are beneficial to how the planet operates, driving the global cycles of carbon and methane, “helping” with mineral formation, being involved on fossil formation… (Simon, calm down: not everyone is a microbiological geek).

Then onward, inward we continue, past viruses (smaller again, maybe a thousand times smaller than a bacterium) and leaving life behind, there are molecules, atoms, smaller again down to the quantum world of quarks and curiously named “particles” like “charm” and “up” and “down” … … … eventually arriving at the very space between such entities and we’re left wondering: speechless at the vastness, above us in the galaxies and beneath and within us in the matter of who we are and how we live.

It’s all there, and we have evolved consciousness that has enabled us to grasp some of how it all fit together. I find this bewildering.

As I left church after ashing this evening,I grasped all this in a flash. In the middle of it all is our awareness of the glory of creation. In a flash I noticed the infinite and infinitesimal world. I noticed the whole of existence, and then found a peace within that is the still small voice of God, an unfathomable truth that I am loved. We are loved. We are forgiven and we are redeemed by an unknowable truth: God is beyond all and God is within all. Go into Lent and take time to look around you. In the midst of all the glory of creation: you.