The Wonder of the Periodic Table.

On a very mild and dry Sunday morning Third Space met as usual at the Bandstand in the park in Matlock.  The topic for our worship was the Periodic Table of the Elements.



Most people I think will have a sense of wonder and awe at the scale and beauty of the Universe, and a feeling of  wonder about the Earth and life upon it. My thinking behind using the Periodic Table was to show that the natural world is also amazing and wondrous even at the atomic level.

“In all things of nature there is something marvellous.”  Aristotle.

We said together the following prayer of praise:

O Divine Voice,

You sing and the universe comes into being;

O Divine Breath,

You breathe and all things spring to life;

O Divine Word,

You call and creation is sustained;

O Divine Flesh,

You are born among us, and the Creator is clothed in creation;

O Divine Spirit,

You fill all that has been formed;

O Divine Life,

You are the pulse of all that is.

And so, in amazement and awe, in wonder and celebration

we marvel at this mystery:

In you all things live and move and have being,

In all things, you live and move and express your Divine artistry;

And so we join with creation in the eternal song of worship and wonder………………….


The Periodic Table is a tabular arrangement of all the chemical elements in order of increasing atomic number (i.e. the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom).The table is arranged into Groups (columns) and Periods (rows) and we discussed the chemical properties of various Groups and Periods. We learned that the non-radioactive naturally occurring elements  are made in stars by atomic fusion from hydrogen and helium. All the elements beyond plutonium (atomic number 95 to 118) are man made, and that in 2015 the last four elements ( 113,115, 117, 118) were synthesised in labs and so Period 7 is now complete. It must be added that the four new elements only have a fleeting existence of less than one thousandth of a second!


We then individually read the following bible passages to inspire a time of reflection and thanksgiving: 

 Psalm 8:3-4

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place, 

 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

 human beings that you care for them? 

Isaiah 40:26

“To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.


Job 38: 4-7, 31-32

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it? 

On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?”

 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
   Can you loosen Orion’s belt? 

Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons?”


Matthew 2:2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem, and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”


Rev 22:16

“I, Jesus, am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”


Back to the Bandstand and the Periodic Table and we learned together about the chemical properties of various individual elements:

Gold – it occurs in the Earth in its metal state and is very resistant to chemical attack. It was treasured in all ancient civilisations as a symbol of the immortality of the gods and as a gift fit for a king.

Sodium – we remembered from school how as the metal it reacts violently with water and gives off hydrogen which burns, and how with chlorine it makes common salt.

Lithium –  if people with bipolar disorder take lithium compounds it smooths out their highs and lows and how it  makes it possible to build small yet powerful batteries.

Caesium – it reacts so violently with water that if it was placed in a beaker of water it would explode smashing the beaker. Used in atomic clocks it helps them to keep time extremely accurately. It is the largest atom of all the elements, the most reactive metal and pale gold in colour making it one of only three coloured metals.

Osmium – this is the densest element being twice as heavy as lead – this is because of the way its atoms  exist in its crystalline structure.

Flourine – the most reactive element of them all.

Copper – it is found in the respiratory protein haemocyanin, and carries oxygen to the tissues in some crustaceans (crabs, lobsters etc) and most molloscs (octopus, squid etc). For these animals living in cold water with low oxygen pressure it is effective at transporting oxygen.

Neodymium – is in Period 6 and one of the lanthanides, it makes extremely strong small magnets for use in modern technologies.

Radon – it is the second  biggest cause of lung cancer in the UK after smoking!

Carbon – it is the fourth most common element in the universe after after hydrogen, helium and oxygen. It is the chemical basis for all life on Earth. It is very unique in that the number of compounds it can form is almost infinite.  The atoms of carbon can be bonded together in different ways to form both graphite and diamonds.

Bismuth – it is the last stable element before they all become radioactive. Generally, elements are like the ones around them in their group or period. Arsenic and antimony near bismuth in the same group are very poisonous, lead and mercury just before bismuth in Period 6 are very poisonous and polonium just  after bismuth in Period 6 is both radioactive and poisonous. Bismuth is an ingredient in ingestion remedies!

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom”. Socrates.

We then had a bit of fun thinking of names for the four new elements and where to place Third Space  in the Periodic Table and why.

We closed by sharing bread and wine with the following words:

In spite of our doubts,
may we recognise you in our midst:
wounded, bloody, and resurrected.

In spite of our doubts, may we receive you in bread and wine.

In spite of our doubts,
may we know when we come face to face
with love that is greater than death.

In spite of our doubts,
may we reach out to touch the wounds of the world’s pain
trusting that when grace and love surround them
they will become part of Christ’s resurrected body.

And in spite of our doubts,
may we live as though we are, too.

Cheryl Lawrie.

We then adjourned to Cool River for Fairtrade refreshments and further discussion.