When I describe setting up a telescope on a mountain in Colorado, people often respond with something between a joke and perplexity, since the altitude of the mountain will diminish the distance to my astronomical target so little as not to be measurable: 1 or 2 miles closer to targets often thousands or millions of light years away, each light year being just under 6 trillion miles. Ascending a mountain to get a picture of the Nebulae in Orion is like stepping from my back yard to my front yard to get a closer shot of the Empire State Building. The change in proximity is not worth the effort.

Moving our thoughts to new heights in order to contemplate God is similarly vain, whether intellectually or ritually. Isaiah addresses the former: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55). Solomon, the latter: “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!” (2 Chronicles 6).

But the real barrier between heavenly objects however distant and my telescope is the gossamer-thin layer of air enveloping our planet and obscuring the light they have sent all the way to us. Hubble’s telescope orbits Earth effectively the same distance from remote objects as mine. The difference is the unstable, unclean atmosphere. Eliminating the densest mile or two of those gasses and vapors can make a huge difference in the clarity with which I can see the light through my scope. (Attached is my most recent capture of some nebulae in Orion from a mountain in Colorado.)

What obscures our knowledge of God is not his distance, but the barriers immediately surrounding us—our distortions, distractions, and disinterest. Isaiah begins the passage above: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” Solomon concludes his nod to divine transcendence with the request that God “listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive”; a request God himself honors in the following chapter.

May our faith(fulness) demonstrate this week that God is no further than the word he has already put in our mouth and in our heart,