“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
The other night I was watching a lecture about physics. The professor who was giving the lecture teaches at Cambridge University in England so this guy knows his stuff. He was talking in the same room at the very same desk as world famous scientists have taught from for centuries.
And he was talking about some pretty weird stuff.
There are these everywhere-present quantum fields, for example, and they move like waves, like a fluid, and these fluid-fields are all around us. We are passing through and interacting with them right now without even noticing, and these fields become the building blocks of stuff when they’re agitated in just the right ways.
That’s the amazing insight of Einstein that stuff is just another form of energy.
The math and science behind some of these weird ideas are currently beyond human understanding, even the understanding of a scientist who teaches at Cambridge University in England.
As an example of this, he showed a video image of a super computer’s animation of the activity of the quantum fields inside a small vacuum of space. It was churning and changing constantly. Particles were coming into existence out of nothing and disappearing just as quickly back into nothing. And that’s all in empty space, a vacuum.
But even in emptied space, the quantum fields that are still there take a supercomputer to figure out what’s going on. Imagine, he then asked, how complicated it is to do the same equations with stuff inside the box, and then what if that box was the size of the universe.
And he was all excited. He was excited about what was known, but he seemed even more excited about what was not yet known, what was yet out there to be discovered, about the possibility of one of those “aha moments” when the light goes on and something is seen for the very first time.
He was all excited about the process, not only the answers, but the process. He was giddy over the thought that the next answer would be closer to the truth.
I think that’s why I like science even though I can’t do the science.
If I had one bedrock complaint about religion, it’s that too often religion forgets or dismisses the excitement, the challenge and the purpose of discovering something new. We think truth is already found and explained, and all religion has to do is repeat it.
Well, that gets boring real fast.
Then, religion can become lifeless, or at least not a part of my life. It’s somebody else’s era, somebody else’s questions, somebody else’s answers, somebody else’s “aha moment.”
And we can forget that we’re supposed to be seekers. Each one of us. That’s why I’ve always found a great deal of inspiration in Isaiah’s words that Marcia read for us today: “I have called you by name, you are mine” This passage was one of my own “aha moments” when I felt Jesus talking to only me. Faith is meant to be deeply and intensely personal, a first-name basis with God, a relationship of on-going discovery.
And of course there are more “aha moments” waiting for each of us. The physicist in Cambridge was trying to understand creation and was baffled. We’re looking beyond that creation for the Creator.
The physicist was all excited about discovering the mysteries of the world around us. We’re looking at that and the world beyond our world. How have we let this become dull and predictable?
In last Sunday’s newspaper, in Parade Magazine, famous people were asked how they spend their Sundays. Mark Hamill talked about a more elaborate breakfast; Matt Damon about sports with his father; Caitriona Balfe, maybe you know who she is, talked about breakfast but then being dragged off to church; John Legend spoke about relaxing with family; Meredith Vieira about walking along the Hudson River; J.K. Simmons loved sleeping in and then exercising. Nobody spoke about Sunday and church in a good way except Tyler Perry, and his was only in the past tense.
How come breakfast and sleep, exercise and conversation are exciting, but God on a first-name basis can become dull?
So Jesus of Nazareth is about 30 years old. He’s the son of a carpenter and He’s a carpenter Himself. Something is gnawing at His soul. He’s searching for something, but not sure what. He leaves His family, community and business behind and walks some 90 miles by Himself.
He’s looking for John the Baptist.
Jesus accepts baptism from John. It was a profound moment for Jesus. Luke says Jesus is in prayer and all of a sudden it was like the heavens opened.
This is Luke’s depiction of Jesus’ “aha moment.” Jesus realizes that He is God’s beloved Son. This is His moment of discovery. Jesus is not the same anymore.
This is new, and Jesus is changed by it. Not changed as in becoming something He wasn’t before, that would deny the whole beautiful and powerful message of Christmas, but changed in the sense that He now knew better who He was.
He discovered something about Himself and His first-name relationship with God.
When scientists make a discovery, they’re not changing creation, they’re getting to know it better. That’s what’s happening at Jesus’ baptism.
But sometimes I hear religion trying to make this boring, that Jesus is only giving us an example to follow when He accepted baptism, that it wasn’t all that surprising or inspiring for Him, that He already knew fully who He was and was only waiting for the right time to give us an example to follow.
Why do we do these things? Why is religion afraid of a Jesus who has “aha moments”? And why don’t we better encourage our own “aha moments” when it comes to faith?
We don’t need to be afraid of questions. We need to be afraid of being afraid to ask questions, as if our faith wasn’t strong enough to handle them.
This is where discoveries are born. This is when we can approach closer to truth.
Faith is exciting. The perfect God is calling us somewhere and that somewhere is yet to be discovered. Church can be a part of this spiritual journey. I hope it is.
That Cambridge scientist was seeking, but his journey was moved forward by those who came before him, and also those who worked with him. Our faith, our spiritual journey, also needs those who came before us and those around us, and that’s church.
Let’s be seekers. Let’s realize that God has called us by name. And let’s look for our “aha moments” when we discover what being this close to God means, and let's walk that journey together. For this may we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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