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Psalm 8

universe humanOn Ash Wednesday we said “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”. And also:

I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, self-denial, and giving to those in need, and by reading and meditating on the word of God.

I have mentioned that I will I want to particularly focus on reading and meditating on the word of God – especially the psalms. Psalm 8 says a lot about the awe of creation, the universe, being human.

O Lord our governor, •
how glorious is your name in all the world!

Your majesty above the heavens is praised •
out of the mouths of babes at the breast.

You have founded a stronghold against your foes, •
that you might still the enemy and the avenger.

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. We come out of the earth and we return to the earth. This is true whatever way we look at it. In Biology: earth is drawn into plants, we eat, or other animals eat those plants and we eat those other animals. We are transformed earth – transformed dust. Conscious dust.

So how much dust am I? How many atoms is say a 70kg person composed of? A best guess appears to be a 7 followed by 27 zeros. 7,000,00….000,000. Compare that to the best guess of the number of stars in the visible universe: 1 followed by 22 zeros. 10,0000,…000,000.

So there are far, far more atoms in your body than stars in the visible universe! About 700,000 times more atoms in your body than stars in universe.

[As an aside, give or take a multiple of 10, there are 10 to the 80 atoms in the observable universe – that means we can’t write a googleplex, a 1 followed by 10,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000 zeros – there are not enough atoms in the visible universe to do this!]

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, •
the moon and the stars that you have ordained,

What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them; •
mere human beings, that you should seek them out?

You have made them little lower than the angels •
and crown them with glory and honour.

The atoms in my body and yours have been around a long, long, long time. At a guess every atom in my body has been through several stars. They have been been part of millions of organisms. A billion of my atoms once belonged to Thomas Cranmer. A billion more came from Cleopatra, from Pythagoras, from the apostle Paul, and from Jesus. A billion came from the author of Psalm 8.

You are dust and to dust you shall return. But it is extraordinary dust. Awesome dust. You are star dust. What is more – through this dust we are intended for divinisation.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands •
and put all things under their feet,

All sheep and oxen, •
even the wild beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea •
and whatsoever moves in the paths of the sea.

O Lord our governor, •
how glorious is your name in all the world!

source Psalm 8

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3 Responses to Psalm 8

  1. Thanks Bosco
    Thanks for the reminder re: the psalms
    ‘O Lord our governor . . .’
    Enough to stop you in your tracks

    Love the math!
    Reminded me of a little insight, that if you work in orders of magnitude, from the tiniest, tiniest ‘thing’ to the largest (The Universe) A human being is slap bang in the middle of the scale – i.e. the smallest thing is as many times smaller than a person as the Universe is larger! 🙂

  2. yes, thank you for this meditation, Bosco, and also for you comment, Eric, about humans being somewhere in the middle of this scale. Both insights are helpful when one can find it completely overwhelming to imagine a relationship between a human and God who is around the infinitely tiny as well as the infinitely huge and seemingly very alien, if not terrifying, universe. This somehow links the “spiritual” and the “material”.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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