Harmonices Mundi


In 1619, the German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler published his masterwork, Harmonices Mundi  (Latin: Harmony of the World). 

For centuries before Kepler, philosophers had spoken metaphorically of the "music of the spheres"-- the idea that the celestial bodies, in our solar system moved in a way that was a form of music. 

Kepler actually discovered something deeper.  He asserted that there were physical harmonies in planetary motion. He found that the difference between the maximum and minimum angular speeds of a planet in its orbit approximates a harmonic proportion.

Kepler claimed that each celestial body moved in a way that formed part of a piece of music that was filled out by the parts of the other celestial bodies.  In other words, the sun, moon and planets were singing. 

I'm not a mathematician or an astronomer, so the details of Kepler's work make me dizzy.  But the thought of a song being "sung" by the universe around us absolutely blows my mind, and lights me up. 

There is this wonderful verse in the prophetic book of Zephaniah from the Hebrew Scriptures that reads: 
"The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."
I've always loved that verse.  I'm not a musician, but I love music, and the thought that God is "singing" over us all---that just does something for me. 

Sometimes, I feel like I can hear that song so distinctly.  It seems in those moments that there is something harmonic going on around me, and I sense there is music playing, a song being sung, and that God is in it.  

But I have to admit that most of the time I'm distracted by the noise in my life, the cacophony of voices in my head, the things that have to get done, the demands I place on myself...  there's no end to what drowns out God's song. 

It can get to the point where I begin to believe that whatever music I may have heard was all in my imagination.  How would we even know if there wasn't a song being sung?  

I read this poem the other day by Billy Collins entitled "Music of the Spheres" gave me a beautiful way to understand this a bit more.  

But let's say the needle were lifted
from the spinning grooves
of those celestial orbs

then people would stop
in the streets and look up
and others would stop in the fields

and hikers would stop in the woods
and look this way and that
as if they were hearing something

for the first time,
and that husband would lower
the newspaper from his face

look at his wife
who has been standing the doorway
and ask Did you say something, dear? 

How good is that?  This poem gives me the words to be able to articulate my feeling that if the song God is singing actually stopped... we would know it, even if we aren't fully aware now that it's being sung all of the time. 

One of my mentors, Rob Bell taught about this, and connected the whole concept to Jesus.  Rob affirmed the presence of the song, and how so often we either don't hear it, or if we do hear it we often live out of tune with the song.  

He said,  "Jesus came to show us how to live in tune with the song."  That is so amazing to me.  It's not like we don't know how to hear the music, or stay in tune with it.  Jesus showed us how in the way he lived... what he said... how he acted... how he loved.  

Do you hear the music?  If not, maybe you need to turn down the noise around you.  And maybe you have heard the music, but you are no longer in tune with it.  Maybe it's time to renew your journey of stumbling after Jesus, doing everything you can to live as he lived.  

Below you can see a full video of Rob's teaching on this from several years ago.  It's always been an inspiration for me, and I hope it is to you as well. 

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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