Monday, July 17, 2017

The Power of a Spot

A few weeks ago, NASA's spacecraft named Juno did a quick fly-by, from 2,000 miles away, of the largest planet in the solar system - the planet Jupiter.  Jupiter being 89,000 miles in diameter is over 1,000 times larger than the planet earth.  Most scientists think Jupiter is more of a swirl of gas than it is a solid planet.  But the size of Jupiter is not what Juno's cameras were focussed on, nor was its gaseous nature.  What Juno was focussed on was the iconic and ever-famous "Giant Red Spot" that swirls upon the surface of that planet like a gargantuan, red Christmas tree ornament.  "For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter's Giant Red Spot," said Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.  In my own elementary school studies of the solar system, I can still remember my teacher discussing the "Giant Red Spot," and I remember wondering in my own developing young mind what that spot exactly consisted of.  I remember my teachers telling me that "The Spot" as it became known is 10,159 miles wide and 1.3 times larger than the earth.

But the question I want to ask in this morning's blogpost is more basic than the dimensions of this planetary anomaly.  What I want to know is, why does anybody care about the spot?  What is it that attracts us to the spot?  Why are we obsessed with the spot?  There are other spots in the universe, "bullions and bullions of them," in the innimicable words of the late astronomer Karl Sagan.   What is it about the Giant Red Spot that caused NASA, with its dwindling federal financial support, to send one of its spacecraft a long way out of the way to see the SPOT?   And what I have concluded is that there is an obsession in the human consciousness with SPOTS.  It is;

The Power of a Spot

Yesterday after church I was eating at my favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara, Via Maestra 47, a tiny but delicious Italian eatery on State Street.  My oldest daughter loves the homemade spaghetti and marinara sauce.  As I hoisted a forkful of the glorious stuff into my mouth, by some happenstance, and it always happens, a flick of red marinara sauce landed on my best Sunday shirt.  For the rest of the afternoon I was obsessed with the red spot.  It may not have been planetary in dimension, but it occupied a "Jupiteresque" space in my own mind.  Whenever I looked down, it was staring me right in the face.  No body else seemed to notice it much.  But I saw it.  I knew it was there.  The rest of my shirt was pristine with perfection, but all I could focus on was the SPOT.  Again, it is,

The Power of the Spot

For my Doctorate I have been reading a lot of theology lately, trying to determine how some of the great people of the faith (John Wesley, George Whitfield, CS Lewis, Augustine) came to the Christian faith.  For many of them it was an understanding of God's "prevenient Grace".  God's free gift of eternal life.  But before the discovery of eternal life through Jesus Christ, there was always the SPOT.  For John Bunyan, writer of the great book, Pilgrim's Progress, "Wherefore I began with all seriousness to examine any former comfort, and to consider one that had SINNED as I had done, might with confidence trust upon the faithfulness of God."  There it was, the SPOT.  Almost every one of the great people of faith have been consumed with focus on the blot, the sot, the sin, the SPOT.

The Power of the Spot

What's really interesting about the Giant Red Spot on Jupiter is that at least in cosmic terms, it really isn't that big.  At 10,000 miles wide, it is only 10% of the size of the entire planet.  And, of course, Jupiter is a tiny spec of dust when compared to other planets in other galaxies...far, far away...

Who knows what draws the human eye to the things which aren't perfect over the things that are?  Why do we enjoy the evening news?  It seems often to be a highlight of all that is wrong with the world?  Why does our eye and focus go to the tiny bit of marinara sauce on an otherwise white shirt.  Perhaps, that is really the power of sin, to make large the things in our own own minds, that are really not that large at all.  And, perhaps that, in the end, is one of the great powers of the cross.  To wash clean all the SPOTS of our lives.  The prophet Isaiah said, "Though your sins are like scarlet (GIANT RED SPOTS), they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." (Isaiah 1:18).

All For Now,


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