In Awesome Wonder

In 2016 I discovered Nick Knisely’s book, Lent is Not Rocket Science, a daily trip through Lent with a focus on scientific information. I thought it was a good book at the time, but I wasn’t ready for its seasonal significance.

This year, I’ve gone back to it with a different mindset. In part, I owe my new attention to an online course I signed up for just after reading Knisely’s reflections called “Astronomy: State of the Art,” offered by Prof. Chris Impey of Arizona State University.

I was pretty slow with the readings and assignments for this online course, more of a lurker, I suppose, but it awakened my latent curiosity about physics, astronomy, meteorology, etc., and had me investigating telescopes, binoculars, and online skywatching software.

And, of course, the journalist still lurking in my retirement consciousness had me exploring popular magazines such as Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, and several more science newsletters.

The course brought me back to Bishop Knisely’s 2013 meditations for Lent.

Knisely, I should mention, before being ordained an Episcopal priest and eventually consecrated as Bishop of Rhode Island, taught astrophysics at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University.

An important aside to my interest in astronomy occurred when during my on-off attentions, I stumbled across the YouTube record of a memorial service for gospel singer George Beverly Shea.

Reading about Shea, who died in 2013 at 104, and with my mind already re-enthralled with astronomy, I couldn’t help but meditate with a new awareness on the words of the hymn that Shea popularized at the New York City Billy Graham Crusades, “How Great Thou Art.” The song’s opening stanza provides, I think, an astronomer’s prayerful meditation:

O, Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder

consider all the worlds thy hands have made;

I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder:

thy power throughout the universe displayed;

 

Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee,

How great thou art, how great thou art.

 

References:
Knisely, W. Nicholas. Lent is Not Rocket Science: An Exploration of God, Creation, and the Universe. Cincinnati, OH (Morehouse Publishing Co.) 2013.
Jason Soroski. The Story You Don’t Know Behind “How Great Thou Art,” (www.crosswalk.com). Originally a nine-stanza poem written in 1885 by Carl Boberg, a Swedish ex-sailor and lay-minister who went on to serve in the Swedish Parliament. Boberg died in 1940 before his hymn became popular. It was selected in a Christianity Today survey as readers’ second favorite hymn behind John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.”
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