Seeing & Hearing

The Webb Space Telescope—Years of Preparation

The result of spending years and billions of dollars didn’t initially result in building anything that looked remotely like a telescope. Truly, it took faith in things hoped for and faith in things not seen to believe that a telescope with a mirror larger than 20 feet in diameter could be squeezed inside the tip of the Ariane rocket. (Hebrew 11:1). Similarly, unless you knew the truth, you would never believe that the LORD, Moses and Jesus were building communities and people who were good, who were very good. After all, the Bible is full of examples of communities and people who claimed to serve the LORD, but whose hard hearts caused them to do all kinds of evil things and to establish all kinds of evil laws. The LORD revealed through Jesus that all of us who follow the Way of Jesus should likewise be like tireless good shepherds, diligent housekeepers, and compassionate parents as we find our best place of service to save, find and restore others.

It took about 20 years and $10 billion to prepare the Webb Space Telescope for launch.

How long did it take and how much did it cost the LORD to prepare Israel for launch? (Exodus 20:2; Psalm 136:1-26).

How long did it take and how much did it cost Moses to prepare himself to launch Israel? (Psalm 90:1-17; Exodus 6:16-27; Exodus 7:6-7; Hebrews 11:24-27).

How long did it take and how much did it cost the LORD to prepare the Church for launch? (John 1:1-4; 3:16).

How long did it take and how much did it cost Jesus to prepare himself to launch the Church? (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 20:28; Luke 2:40; John 8:56-59; Philippians 2:5-8).

How long has it been taking and how much has it been costing to prepare yourself to launch actions that do for others what you would want them to do for you?

I’m not going to detail the time and cost of such preparations and launches.

It’s fair to say that it took me three books to write my answers to these questions: The Promised Land (covering the books Genesis to Ruth), Healing the Promised Land (covering the rest of the Old Testament), and Hoping in the LORD (covering the Gospels).

It’s also worth remembering that the result of spending all those years and all those billions of dollars didn’t initially result in building anything that looked remotely like a telescope.

Indeed, unless you knew the truth, you would never believe that the payload inside the tip of the Ariane rocket was a gigantic telescope!

It would be like believing that the caterpillar inside a cocoon could ever emerge as a butterfly! Do you ever feel as if you and Humanity are still like a caterpillar trapped in a cocoon even though we dream of being a butterfly who flies among flowers? (Romans 8:22-30).

Truly, it took faith in things hoped for and faith in things not seen to believe that a telescope with a mirror larger than 20 feet in diameter could be squeezed inside the tip of the Ariane rocket. (Hebrew 11:1).

Nevertheless, faith and hope triumphed over logic and common sense. There truly was a gigantic telescope squeezed inside the tip of the Ariane rocket!

Similarly, unless you knew the truth, you would never believe that the LORD, Moses and Jesus were building communities and people who were good, who were very good. (Matthew 13:31-33 (the parables of the mustard seed and of yeast in dough)).

After all, the Bible is full of examples of communities and people who claimed to serve the LORD, but whose hard hearts caused them to do all kinds of evil things and to establish all kinds of evil laws.

For example, the Law required executing people for multiple offenses (Exodus 22:18-20; Leviticus 20:1-2,9-16,27).

The Law permitted men to divorce their wives for any  reason (but the women could not divorce their husbands at all). (Matthew 19:3-10).

Moses advocated and committed genocide. (Deuteronomy 3:3-6; 7:1-5; 9:1-3; 20:16-18).

Joshua advocated and committed genocide. (Deuteronomy 31:1-9; Joshua 8:24-26; Joshua 9:24; Joshua 10:28-40).

King David was a rapist and a murderer. (2 Samuel 11:2-17).

None of these evil acts represented the ultimate desires of the LORD. He only permitted them due to the hardness of people’s hearts. (Matthew 19:8).

Therefore, we never give up praying that the kingdom of the LORD will come so that the LORD’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10).

And, therefore, the LORD refuses to give up revealing that he is:

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands [of generations], and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7).

The LORD refuses to give up revealing that each human is created in this image of the good, good God. (Genesis 1:26-31).

The LORD refuses to give up revealing that each human and each community should act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the LORD God. (Micah 6:8).

The LORD refuses to give up until each human and each community makes justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24).

The LORD refuses to give up until each human and each community becomes compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. (Isaiah 45:22-24; Romans 14:11; Matthew 16:18; Matthew 28:18-20).

How do we know that the LORD will never give up? (John 3:16-17).

How do we know that all of us who follow the Way of Jesus should never give up? (Hebrews 12:1-3,11-13).

The LORD revealed through Jesus that he is like a tireless good shepherd who spares no effort to save his lost sheep. (Luke 15:3-7)

The LORD revealed through Jesus that he is like a diligent housewife who spares no effort searching in the dirty darkness to find her lost coin. (Luke 15:8-10).

The LORD revealed through Jesus that he is like a compassionate father who endures any humiliation to restore his lost children to his family. (Luke 15:11-32).

The LORD revealed through Jesus that—like the Webb Space Telescope—he will never give up for however long it takes and for however much it costs to establish each human and each community in their best place of service. (Genesis 3:8-9; John 3:16-17).

The LORD revealed through Jesus that all of us who follow this Way of Jesus should likewise be like tireless good shepherds, diligent housekeepers, and compassionate parents as we find our best place of service to save, find and restore others.

For the Webb Space Telescope, this best place of service will be a million miles away from Earth at the LaGrange Point 2.

For humans and our communities, this best place of service is everywhere that we are anointed by the Spirit of the LORD to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, restore sight to the blind, set the oppressed free, and proclaim this time of the LORD’s favor! (Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 (see Septuagint); Isaiah 58:6).

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For additional thoughts arising from the Webb Space Telescope, please read my blog “The Webb Space Telescope—Reaching the Place of Service”.

In my book Visions of the Church (published together in one volume with my book Visions of America), I use the troubled—but ultimately triumphant—flight of Apollo 13  as the narrative thread to provide an overview of 2,000 years of Church history in a mere 80 pages.