The theme of this year’s ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston was “This Changes Everything” — an impactful theme in many ways. The discussion ranged from large-scale social justice issues down to learning about how grace and love can drastically impact individual lives.

Sophie’s Choice and the presence of God

The pandemic may seem far removed from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but they are interrelated in the Pieta image that describes our life today.

Like many other parents and ELCA members, I attended the 2018 Youth Gathering virtually via Twitter, Facebook and via an online stream of worship and public speaking engagements. While more than 30,000 gathered it really was ten-fold in attendance thanks to a wider online network. Likewise, the impact these young people will have on their congregations in the months and years to come is immeasurable.

Still in science, there is often the perception that even on a massive scale things must be measured. Large, small or down to the microscopic level, much can be learned about the world around us as youth who visited the booth the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology (LAFST) found out for themselves.

As the theme of our LAFST booth was “Exploring God’s Worlds: Seeing the world through the lenses of both faith and science opens up a new dimension,” it is worth pondering those dimensions and their impact no matter whether it is on the scale of a meteorite or of our very own Milky Way galaxy.

It is interesting that the scale of our own Solar System often eludes us. Booth organizers realized that even a full-scale shrunken down replica of the sun (the size of a basketball) and its planets wouldn’t even fit in the massive Interactive Learning Center in Houston.

One youth from Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland commented on the group’s blog about his day at the Interactive Learning Center where he visited the science-themed booth. He said that one of the top moments of the day was “Seeing that cut meteorite. I thought I had learned a bit about the space that surrounds our planet. Yet, I never realized something as simple as the fact that meteorites are solid shiny iron/nickel inside. I always thought they were an iron oxide.”

He was holding what retired pastor and amateur astronomer Bruce Booher has dubbed for adults and youth alike as “a piece of another world.” Booher was showing students a number of meteorites from his personal collection.

And while tiny, these unassuming rocks are indeed pieces of another world that one can touch and feel and wonder about. These other worlds where meteors fly by will likely come into greater focus in many of these youths’ own lifetimes.

For example, the Mars Rover project is in full swing at the moment, and there was a rocket flying toward the red planet as youth in Houston posed with a cut-out of the Curiosity Rover at the LAFST Youth Gathering exhibit.

Right now another Mars mission is on its way to Red Planet and if all goes as planned it will touch down near the Martian equator in late November and joins the five other NASA spacecraft operating on or above the planet’s surface.

The goal of the project is to measure the planet’s ‘vital signs’ such as seismology and temperature.

On July 25, scientists in Europe announced the finding of a “large, watery lake” beneath an ice cap on Mars. The New York Times reported that it was 12-mile wide underground liquid pool detected by radar measurements near the Martian south pole. Water is seen as an indicator of a planet’s ability to support life – and leads many to ponder what would that alien life be like?

Knowing that Mars once held life, does that ‘change everything’?

Alien life and its implications have been explored on the Covalence website. Most recently Alfred Kracher gave us his perspectives on what may happen when ET is found.

Could such a discovery tell us something about the immensity of God’s grace and love in what may seem like a cold ever-expanding universe?

Some of the youth who held a piece of another world in their hands may have pondered the question of God’s presence at the creation of the universe. Realizing that God is present in, with and under that which surrounds us and in that which is light years away from us does change one’s perspective.

Who knows, out of thousands of young people who gathered in Houston, there may be at least one who may one day venture into the stars to explore God’s worlds further.

Susan Barreto
Editor, Covalence

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