Monday, April 28, 2008

Sermon for Year A Easter 6

God who made the world and everything in it

Some of you may remember the children’s books
from a few years back, WHERE’S WALDO?
That’s a little bit of what we hear in today’s scriptures—
but WHERE’s GOD?

If we are really honest
almost all of us have asked that question a time or two.
In the face of suffering or grief or violence we wonder


GOD is OUT THERE is our default mode.
We pray: Our Father in Heaven.
Artists often portray people looking UP when they are praying.
The priest holds her hands upward during the Eucharistic prayer.
Ascension Day is just around the corner from Easter—
this year we celebrate the Ascension on Thursday, May 1st.
Our tradition tells us that Jesus ascends into heaven.


Paul is standing in front of the Areopagus—
some of you in this congregation have stood there yourselves—
and Paul begins by trying to find common ground with the Athenians,
He knows they, too believe there is a GOD OUT THERE.
The God who made the world and everything that is in it.

Earth, wind and stars, loud rushing planets…

Let’s take a look at those loud rushing planets for a minute.
We’re going to create our own solar system right here in the church.
I borrowed this bag full of planets from a friend of mine.

We can’t have planets without first having the SUN.
The SUN is the center of it all.

A PLANET is a celestial body in orbit around the sun.
Each and every planet goes around and around,
always moving counter clockwise
around the SUN.

Closest to the SUN is MERCURY. The sun’s best little buddy.

Next is VENUS—almost the same size as the EARTH but the hottest planet—400 degrees!

Then there’s EARTH—our Book of Common Prayer says,
This fragile earth, our island home…

MARS is next—mostly carbon dioxide in its atmosphere.

Then great big JUPITER---318 times the size of earth

SATURN is only 95 times bigger than earth,
but it has all those really cool rings.

Then there’s the planet that often causes giggle among school children-- yes, URANUS.
It’s a cold planet
and orbits the SUN on it’s side which is pretty awesome really.

NEPTUNE is the eighth planet,
17 times the size of earth

And then….
well, when I was learning the planets in school,
we learned there were NINE planets—
that PLUTO
was a full-fledged planet.

PLUTO was discovered in 1930, named a planet,
but demoted in 2006 to a dwarf planet.
There’s quite a few of those little dwarf planets out there.
Pluto has a little planet posse!

Every planet is unique.
We learn more and more every day.
Every planet is unique but they all have the SUN in common.

One thing remains absolutely constant:
All the planets orbit around the sun
We don’t really have room here in the church to orbit our planets
but it is one of the official requirements to be a planet.

To a planet, to be part of this solar system
you have to orbit around the SUN.
You have to have a centerpoint.

You can’t just go off on your own personal journey and still be a planet--
you’d be an asteroid or maybe a rocket—but not a planet.
You would lose your center, your focus,
what matters most to you as a planet--
The SUN.

You know it’s how St. Patrick,
when he went to Ireland,
evangelized the pagans and taught them about Jesus.
The people were already religious—
just by looking at creation,
they knew there was something bigger than they were--
only they worshipped the Sun.

And Patrick said, “Me, too!
I worship the SON, too!”
Only he meant that he worshipped the S-O-N not the S-U-N.
Patrick like Paul started from a place of common ground with people.

He listened and in turn, the people of Ireland listened to him
and soon became SON—S-O-N-- worshippers themselves.

Paul is standing to speak to the philosophers of Athens
and he acknowledges that indeed, there is a God is OUT THERE--
but also a God that is RIGHT HERE.

Jesus says goodbye to his disciples.
He tells them that God will be right here with them.
I will not leave you orphaned.

Creator. Pure mystery.
God lives with you and me.
God is in you and in me.

Sometimes we ask, WHERE’S GOD?
Sometimes it is difficult to believe, to have faith,
especially when horrible things happen to us,
when violence is happening in the world around us and beyond us.

There is a story told about a scientist, a self-proclaimed atheist,
who was a friend of Sir Issac Newton.
The scientist stopped by to see Newton one day,
just after Newton had finished making his solar system machine—
one in which you crank the handle
and the planets and the moons move around,
orbiting the sun.

The man saw the machine and said,
“This is fantastic!”
He went over and cranked the handle
and the little planets and the little moons began
orbiting around the son.
“Who made this wonderful machine?” the man asked.

Sir Issac Newton replied, “Nobody did.

His scientist friend said, “Issac, I don’t believe you heard me.
I asked you, who made this marvelous machine?”
Newton replied again, “Nobody.”

“Now listen, Issac.
Somebody obviously made this machine—
don’t keep saying NOBODY.”

Newton looked up and said,
“Isn’t it amazing, my friend,
that when I tell you nobody made a simple toy like this,
you don’t believe me.
Yet when you gaze out into the real solar system—
the intricate marvelous creation that is around you—
you cannot believe there was a Creator who made all this.”

Newton never felt he had to draw a line that separated his faith
from his scientific mind.

But not in Newton’s times and not now
does everyone believe
there is a GOD OUT THERE.

Perhaps that is why Jesus tells his disciples,
If you love me, keep my commandments.
If you love me, love God and love one another.

Jesus is not talking about Valentine’s Day love—
that wonderful ooey gooey feeling we have toward someone special.
Jesus is talking about a love that acts,
A love we show in the way we treat people—
Yes, certainly that includes our family and friends.

But that love—AGAPE love—also means
showing respect to each person we encounter.
How we speak to the cashier at CVS.
How we treat the person we are furious with about something.
How we respond to the suffering, the hunger, the needs of others.

It is the love we have and show on a daily basis
to all and any of God’s people
that keeps us orbiting around what really matters.

It is love
that connects the dots from the GOD OUT THERE


There is no place we can be
outside the orbit of God.

+ + +

Using the inflatable planets in this sermon was inspired by a sermon preached by the Rev. Rick Lawler at St. Mary of the Hills when I served as the Associate there. He was kind enough to loan me the solar system.

The story about Sir Issac Newton and is friend came from the preaching resource SYNTHESIS.


Bill Roberts said...

Noswaith dda.
I am researching blogs and came across yours and read about your doing post-grad studies yng Ngymru.
Are you learning Welsh by any chance? How did you decide to study at Lampeter?
Bill Roberts


Bill--it's been awhile since you left this comment but wanted to respond anyway. A friend, a priest from Ireland, suggested I study at Lampeter. It was an excellent experience, especially working with my advisor Jonathan Wooding. I did not learn Welsh (except for a few words/phrases) but would love to do that at some point. Even though Ireland and Scotland are my heritage, Wales feels like home.
Peace to you!