Asking the big questions

In December 2015, Major Tim Peake became the first British European Space Agency astronaut to visit the International Space Station. In a recent interview, he said that one of the things he misses most is seeing his home planet from space. He said, “I might see a picture of a spacecraft and suddenly it takes me right back to being on board the space station and looking out at the universe. You do have to kind of pinch yourself and say, ‘Yes, I was up there, looking back at Earth’. It’s mesmerizing; it’s constantly changing, every time you look out of the window you see a different part of the world. You might be at a night part of the orbit looking at thunderstorms or the aurora; you might be in a day time looking at volcanoes erupting and glaciers and lakes, so it’s just stunning both by day and by night.”

Tim has started a new role as an official UK Scout Association ambassador. He said, “As a cub scout I remember going out on those early night hikes and first sleepovers in the outdoors. Sleeping under the stars and looking up is when the big questions come out: What’s out there? How did life begin? Where is it all going?” These are the big questions for us all.

Johannes Kepler was an eminent scientist and a Christian. He developed a love for astronomy at an early age. In 1577, when he was six, he observed the Great Comet and in 1580 the Lunar Eclipse. Kepler is best known for discovering the three mathematical laws of planetary motion. He also discovered the elliptical patterns in which the planets travel around the sun. As he studied the universe Kepler said, “O God, I am thinking your thoughts after you.”

The heavens bear eloquent testimony to God. He created all things, guides history, and knows every one of us intimately. In Psalm 8 the psalmist says, “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.”

The selfless courage of Andy Peat

In a unique ceremony Warrant Officer Andy Peat, a British soldier, was recently awarded the Anders Lassen Award by Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. The Award recognised Andy’s extraordinary courage while serving alongside Danish colleagues in Afghanistan. It is the first time any solider outside the Danish military has received the honour. Andy is a credit to the British Army and the brave men who are serving alongside him in Afghanistan.

In January 2013 Andy, of 33 EOD Regiment, was supporting a Danish task force patrol. In the early hours of the morning they entered a compound in the Upper Gereshk Valley which was being used for the manufacture of improvised explosive devices. As the team moved into the compound an IED was triggered on the roof, severely injuring Oversergeant Rene Brink Jakobsen. At the time of the explosion Andy was only five metres away. He immediately went to provide medical assistance to Rene. However, there was the threat of more IEDs close by, one of which lay underneath Rene. Andy painstakingly searched under Rene cutting two wires to disarm the IED. As Rene was being stretchered off the roof Andy lay across the path of another IED using himself and his body armour as a shield to protect the stretcher party. Andy’s selfless actions saved several lives that night but, sadly, Rene, aged 39, died of his wounds, leaving behind a wife and three children.

At the Award Ceremony Andy and his wife, Candice, and their 3 year old daughter, Sophie, met Rene’s wife, Camilla, and her children, Sara, Maia and Thor. Andy donated the £3000 awarded to him to Rene and her family. He spoke with striking modesty about his surprise at receiving the award, “To be honest it’s just about doing your job and thinking about what you’ve got in front of you and trying your best to get out of that predicament as quickly as possible. If you take any IED operator and put him in front of the same predicament, all the guys would have done exactly the same thing.”

Andy’s actions remind me of another young man, Jesus of Nazareth, who told his disciples, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” By laying down his life on the Cross Jesus secured forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life for people from all nations who trust in him.

The unique role of mothers

Mother’s Day is a special time for many families. It reminds us of the unique role of mothers. The intimate bond between a mother and her child begins in the womb. After the traumas of labour a mother rejoices when she sees her new born baby and holds them for the first time. The relationship develops and deepens as the mother feeds and cares for her baby. It is a wonderful thing to experience a mother’s love. The first person a child looks for is their mother. It is no wonder that Mother’s Day cards extol the virtues of mothers.

Amongst the many opportunities women in our society have today it is good to remember the vital role of mothers. It is not easy for working mothers, but is something they feel is really important. A friend of ours has recently returned to work after having her first baby. It has not been easy to be separated from her little boy during the day after they have spent many months together. Her husband is helping with his care. Time spent with our children is very precious and cannot be caught up later in life.

The Bible emphasises the importance of the relationship between parents and their children. One of the 10 Commandments commands children to honour their father and mother. The New Testament emphasises this and sets out the benefits which flow from it. “Children, obey your parents for this is the right thing to do. Honour your father and mother. This is the first commandment that ends with a promise – that you will live a long life, full of blessing.” When the relationship between parents and children is strong it is a great blessing, when it breaks down there is great pain.

God’s love for his people is compared to the love of a mother for her child. In a time of national crisis God’s people said he had forgotten them. God answer through the prophet Isaiah was, “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” William Cowper picks up this theme beautifully in one of his hymns, “Can a woman’s tender care cease towards the child she bear? Yes, she may forgetful be, yet will I remember thee. Mine is an unchanging love, higher than the heights above, deeper than the depths beneath. Free and faithful, strong as death.”