In our ongoing celebration of the Season of Creation, today we shift our focus to the Cosmos. Usually, the word “cosmos” conjures up starry images of far distant constellations. Staring out into space can make us feel small and insignificant. But on this Cosmos Sunday, I’d like us to move us from our usual perspective of the cosmos. Perspective is a powerful tool, especially when we contemplate our place in the cosmos. You see the word “cosmos” refers to the entire universe, every dimension of time and space, spiritual and material. The cosmos includes the glittering galaxies that are so distant that we must peer at them through sophisticated giant telescopes as well as the deep domains within each minute molecule which we can only peer at through the lenses of sophisticated giant microscopes.
In addition to the material dimension of universes, the cosmos also includes the dimensions of time, our imaginations and of the spirit. Take a cube of sugar for example. Scientists tell us that you could fit the entire human race into the volume of single sugar cube; that’s right all 7 billion of us in a single tiny sugar cube. Something about the emptiness of matter that is beyond my intellectual ability to comprehend.
The cosmos is both infinitely large and infinity small. None of our telescopes and none of our microscopes can actually capture the vastness of the infinitely large nor the infinitely small, we must rely on our imaginations for this perspective on the cosmos. Staring out in the night sky can make you feel very small. Looking around the Earth, which is in and of itself a small planet can make you feel small and insignificant. But as the psalmist insists, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. The Hebrew word that is translated as fearfully can also be translated as awesome. Your very being is so very wonderful that it inspires awe. Awe and wonder are the very first religious impulses. Congratulations, for you are awesome, tremendous, wonderful. And yet, so often we can only see ourselves as small in relation to the cosmos; small and insignificant, small and powerless.
I remember, once long ago, when I was feeling so very small, insignificant and powerless. I was only ten years old. My Grandfather had a way of belittling people that was crushing. Granda had been taunting me over something I had said. The adults had been talking about war in the Middle East. The year was 1967, the year of the Six-Day War. I was just ten and didn’t understand the details of what was happening. But I did understand the drills we went through at school. Those of you of a certain age may remember hiding under your desk as we practiced what we would need to do in the event of a nuclear attack. Somehow our wooden desks were supposed to offer us some sort of protection. It was madness. A kind of madness that all of us, even the adults in the room all bought into.
Anyway, the adults were taking about war and I piped up about the need for peace. My Granda, who firmly believed that children should be seen and not heard, proceeded to ridicule and belittle me. I don’t remember his words, I can only remember how I felt, and those feeling can still rise up inside me and make me weep. I loved that old bugger, and I’m sure that it was my love for him that made it possible for Granda to crush me. Love among other things, love makes us vulnerable.
I remember dashing out of the house, out into the darkness of the night. Staring up at the stars and feeling so very small, I didn’t notice that I had been joined by my Uncle. I was sort of sniveling, not wanting him to know how horrible I felt, trying to put on a brave front. Slowly, as my Uncle talked me around, I managed to get my sniveling under control and blurted out something about how unfair it was that adults had all the power. My Uncle insisted that I was more powerful that I thought and to prove it he told me to look up at the moon. The moon was full and bright, and my Uncle went on and on about how very large the moon was. Then my Uncle insisted that little old me, I was powerful enough to snuff out the moon. I insisted that that was just crazy. How on Earth could I ever snuff out the moon? Then my Uncle proceed to show me just how powerful I am.
Uncle Cliff showed me that if I held my small thumb up to the vastness of the night sky, and positioned my thumb in just the right place the great big moon would disappear. Little old me. I was powerful enough to make the moon disappear. I was so much more powerful than I thought. I didn’t know it then, but that was my first lesson in the importance of perspective. We are so much more powerful than we think!
Perspective is a powerful tool. Sometimes we feel so very small and insignificant. I don’t know about you, but for the past few days I’ve been paying attention to a sixteen-year-old from Sweden as she takes the whole world to task. Greta Thunberg is a phenomenon. Talk about being fearfully and wonderfully made. Greta has been diagnosed as “on the spectrum.” Greta’s Asperger’s syndrome helps her to see things from a different perspective; a perspective that the world desperately needs right now.
Greta has been mocked by the powerful and yet she herself has demonstrated a kind of super-power that has turned out millions of people across the planet whose collective power is making a difference. Nations, corporations, and world leaders are paying attention to this powerful young woman. Tomorrow, all sorts of announcements are expected from the United Nations about the ways in which various nations, corporations and world leaders intend to respond to the climate crisis.
Greta has rebuked the powerful. Greta’s words are not naïve nor are they idealistic. She may be young, and she may be small, but she is more powerful than you think. Don’t let the chattering masses fool you. The Orange man in the Whitehouse can bloviate all he wants, but little Greta has the power to hold up her thumb and make him disappear.
At the UN youth summit, 20 of the biggest corporations, as well as 40 major countries announced the actions, they will take in response to the Climate Crisis. Perspectives are changing; individuals do matter. You are more powerful than you think. We may not be able to make the climate crisis disappear, but we can join hands and embrace a new perspective that has the power to respond in harmony with the earth. You are more powerful than you think.
Yes, you have thumbs, many of you have green thumbs, you can begin by planting a tree, you have the power to cultivate a new harmony with the Earth. You are also amongst the wealthiest people on the planet, many of us have retirement investments, you have the power to ensure that your investments are healing and not hurting the Earth. You are also wise, with the power of information at your fingertips. You have voices, voices that you can use to exercise your freedom of speech, and the power of the ballot. There’s an election coming, and you have the power to hold our leaders to account. You are more powerful than you think.
When I was at university, there was an urban myth about a professor who handed out an exam paper. The exam was placed face down on the students’ desk and when they were instructed to turn the paper over, they discovered a blank white page with an ever so small red dot in the centre of the page. The students were instructed to write about what they saw.
When the allotted time ended the professor collected the papers and began to read what the students had written. Without exception each and every student wrote about the small red dot. No body, not a single person wrote about the mass of white that surrounded the small dot. Now based upon a particular perspective, interpreters of this urban myth have insisted that we tend to focus more on the small things that distract us and fail to see the large stuff that is all around us. But when if you shift your perspective you will see the power of a small thing to make a big thing disappear from focus. I suspect that some might say the white represents the magnitude of the climate crisis and the small red dot represents those who are willing to do something about the crisis. But if we change our perspective, we will see that the red dot, represents the small number of people who stand against the vast number of people who are working even as we speak to respond to the needs of the Earth.
You are more powerful than you think. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are awesome. You are wonderful. You are intricately, intimately, connected to the cosmos. You are DIVINE. You have the power to change the world. So, have at it!