Thursday, May 24, 2012

Scientific Contributions to Faith?

For I see Thy heavens, a work of Thy fingers, Moon and stars that Thou didst establish.  What [is] man that Thou rememberest him? The son of man that Thou inspectest him? -- Psalm 8:4-5 (YLT)

Yesterday the Episcopal Church was recognizing Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler.  These two men were key players in the scientific revolution that literally turned the solar system upside down in the late 16th-17th century.  Beginning with a shy Copernicus, the previous belief of a flat earth located at the center of a large dome that had the sun and all the stars and planets rotating around it was shattered.  It took more than a hundred years for The Church to accept the new planetary configuration, but it eventually did swallow its objections.

Lest we think this "obtuseness" on the part of The Church a thing of the past, we should note that we still find conflict between people of faith and science today.  Creationists still show up at school board meetings around the United States to argue against evolutionary theory -- a debate that has been raging since 1859 with the publishing of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.  This conflict between church and science raises the question what part does science play with faith?

The problem, it appears to me, is that we are hung up on the goal of propounding a "Universal Truth."  Human beings do not have the capacity to grasp Universal Truth; if there were such a thing, we would have no need for faith.  The wonder and expanse of the heavens reveal a God far larger than anyone's capacity to grasp the way God holds "it all" together.  We are each like the blind men and the elephant - each of us seeing only the (microscopically tiny) slice of "reality" that we can touch -- that the rest of the elephant is there is an act of faith.  What Copernicus and Kepler, et al did, and science does daily, is reveal how artificially (and vehemently) attached we can be to supposed truths and unimportant details of a limited physical existence.  This is in stark contrast to faith, which stretches out beyond the heavens, beyond science, beyond this mortal life to utterly and entirely embrace the God of Love.  "What is man that Thou are mindful?"  Mindful enough for Jesus Christ to come opening The Way to Truth and Life.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What Do You Know?

As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the work of God Who doeth all things.  -- Ecclesiates 11:5 (Tanakh Jewish Bible)
There are three (apparently) eternal truths in this one verse.  Ecclesiastes is believed to have been written nearly 3,000 years ago.  Take all of our development, technology, and knowledge that has happened in all that time and we still do not know many things.  We still can't say why a wind comes to a particular spot.  We still can't say how a clump of cells build specific tissues or become a living, breathing human being.  If these first two premises hold true even today then the third is also very likely true -- we do not know the work of God.

We like to think we do know God, but the limitation of our understanding betrays our arrogance in thinking so.  In fact, anyone who claims they know all about God is most likely creating a god in their own image.  The handiwork of God's work is an awe-inspiring wonder to start.  We can't duplicate it!  The trail God has us on and where it leads is at best a trail of crumbs.  We know not the time of our journey in this life, nor how, nor why we finally travel the roads we do.  We know God only in the name God uses for God -- I Am -- a present tense verb.  We can't know our future.  We can't change the past.  But, God stands constant in forgiveness of the past, constant in hope for the future, constant in love in the now. 

God of it all -- you know my situation and need.  Have mercy, O Lord.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Set Free

Jesus, therefore, said unto the Jews who believed in him, `If ye may remain in my word, truly my disciples ye are, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'  They answered him, `Seed of Abraham we are; and to no one have we been servants at any time; how dost thou say -- Ye shall become free?' -- John 8:31-33 (Young's Literal)
It comes as a bit of surprise that when Jesus says, "... You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free," that the response back is not to argue about the truth and what it is, but that they are free.  This speaks to the differences in their time and place compared to ours.  We are a litigious, science-based society where there is always a quest for truth -- better studies, better research, better evidence, better sources.  There they lived under an oppressive foreign power.  While we think in terms of proving truth, they lived thinking of the fragility of their freedom.

We oftentimes confuse truth with reality.  Our reality gets filled with daily living things -- things like job, finances, relationships, family, health, marriage, etc.  We get so wrapped up in all the issues, problems, comings and goings of slogging through a day that we accept it all as our "lot in life" -- our truth.  In the same way that the Pharisees lived out the "truth" of their freedom and had difficulty comprehending what Jesus was saying, we too have difficulty.  We have difficulty remembering Jesus proclaimed "The way, The Truth, and the Life."  We easily forget about this trying to balance a checkbook, finish by a deadline, or argue with children.  Jesus teaches a grander Truth, a wider Truth, a Truth that transcends this world, this life.  Through going to church, through taking the cup and bread, through a time of daily prayer and moments counting our gratitude/blessings we remind ourselves that our real life -- our eternal life -- is bigger than the mundane appearances of "important" in our day.  Know the Truth, and in that Truth you will be set free.

Release us Oh Lord to remember again that you walk side-by-side with us and lift us up to a plane higher than that in which we get mired.  By your holy name we pray.  Amen.

(This was the essence of a homily I gave at St. Luke's Episcopal Church's vespers service in Renton, WA.)