Light of the World

Jan. 18, 2015

1 Sam. 3.1-10; 1 Cor. 6.12-20; Jn. 1.43-51

Scientists have for many years been working toward a grand theory that would explain how everything in the universe fits together. Such a theory could be used to answer the most complicated of questions in a very simple fashion. Someday we'll know the answer to questions like "Is there life on other planets?" It's been said that the surest sign that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is that they have never tried to contact us! The math works out...even if we don't know the correct formulas yet.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing the film, "A Theory of Everything". It's the biographical story of Stephen Hawking, the British astrophysicist whose groundbreaking work has dealt with space and time. Although he fell victim to the crippling disease of ALS, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, Hawking is now in his 70's, and he continues to work. Hawking has followed the lead of other great scientists who had sought a simple theory that could grasp in a single formula...a universal explanation of time, matter, energy and everything...much like Einstein's E=mc2. Hawking has had a particular interest in "black holes". As you probably know, these are very dense, collapsed stars that have such a strong gravitational pull that they grab and pull everything into themselves. One would not want to get too close or be pulled in. The limit or boundary that marks a point of no escape from the black hole is called an "event horizon"...if you go past that point and there's no way back. Nothing can escape its pull...not even light...that's why it's called a "black hole". In fact, entire universes could and have collapsed into this "singularity" as it's a gigantic and cosmic crunch, whole solar systems and galaxies have been vacuumed into this tightly compressed hole in space. But, here's the really interesting part of this, the opposite of this phenomenon is also true. That is, from this a highly compressed singularity of a black hole, entire worlds, universes could spring forth as an act of explosive creation.

Imagine, that some 15 billion years ago...God's presence hovered over such a black hole and God spoke to that singularity the words recorded in Genesis, "Let there be light" and "BANG!" the light sprang forth from the black hole, and God said. "It is 'Good'". Dr. Francis Collins in his book The Language of God said that if the Big Bang that created everything had not been a powerful enough explosive, all that is would have only gone so far and then collapsed again as gravity pulled it all back together OR if were too strong, the gases and particles that would normally coalesce to make planets and suns and stars would not have been able to form because things would have been moving too fast to collect and come together. It had to be just right...and it was.

I mention all these about theories of the universe because it bears directly on the meaning we expressed in our collect or prayer for this Sunday. We prayed, "Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory". For us Christians, light is a metaphor that describes God and us, and all in all. Light represents an essential part of life. Without light, then life is marginalized or ended. Cover some grass in your yard for just a few days and see what happens. It shrivels and its vibrant green color disappears. Light is also an important symbol of the gospel. 1st John describes Christ by saying, "in him there is no darkness at all." Or in the words of this Epiphany season, "Those who walked in darkness have seen a great light." As we move forward into 2015, we hope for more light.

There are times when one can become very discouraged about our world. If we didn't know any better, we'd think that living in the darkness of conflict, suspicion, terror, and cynicism, is just the way it's supposed to be. As philosopher Aldous Huxley said, "Maybe this world is another planet's Hell." But we Christians reject that way of thinking. We believe that light and knowledge will bring us to a better place.

We believe, as St Paul said in 1st Corinthians, "Now I know it part...(but) I shall (at some point) fully know, as I have been fully known (by the Lord God)." As the Psalmist put it today, "How deep I find your thoughts, O God! how great is the sum of them!" As God instructed the boy Samuel in the scripture today, so God instructs all who will listen.

So, what does all this mean to you and me? Just this: as Jesus came to Nathaniel and knew him completely, thoroughly, and deeply, so we are all known to God. And as vast as the universe is, there is still a unique and vital connection of love between God and every single one of his creatures. And every moment of every day that we live and every thought and every action that we perform connects us through God to everything else that is. And there is nothing hidden that will not be known. There is no error that will not be corrected. There is nothing that will not come to light. This means that God will balance the equations that we can not. God will bring it all to light. Someone has said that the work of all the most complicated observations and theories about the universe could be summarized in a single phrase, kind of a grand theory...and that is, "Twinkle, twinkle, little I wonder what you are." With God's grace we will come to know and to share that knowledge as we live in the brilliant light of Christ. Amen.

The Reverend WA Ray
ST Thomas Church Diamondhead, MS 1/18/15