We're going to begin this morning with a little bit of Show and Tell. This framed poster has been hanging in the foyer of our church for over a decade now. And it says “Welcome to a Progressive Christian Church.” And among the things it says on the poster is, “We are a church that welcomes all people, including agnostics, and questioning skeptics.”
I really like that. I certainly know quite a few agnostics and questioning skeptics here in our community of Saugatuck and Douglas. Some of them are my friends. And I have invited them over the years to come and worship with us on Sunday. Only one of them took me up on that offer.
That was a few years ago, he came to worship with us in the summer. And he said, Sal, I am so grateful. It was such a wonderful welcome, and a such an inclusive message and beautiful, uplifting music, but it's a little too religious for me. And I didn't take that personally. I know my friends. He is an agnostic, he's also a scientist. And over the years, he has given me lots of books by agnostic scientists, people like Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
And as I read those books, I'd read Carl Sagan said that “The cosmos is within us,” “We are made of star stuff.” “We are the way for the universe to know itself.” And then Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “We are in the universe, we are part of the universe. But more important than those two facts is that the universe is within us. Each one of us are little universes.”
I love those two quotes, but no offense to Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, but someone else said that already. 2,000 years before they lived. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” He said, “You are the light of the world.”
Do you understand the cosmos is within you. You're made of star stuff. That's what Jesus was saying. Now, my agnostic scientist friend can hear that from Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, but he can not hear that coming from Jesus.
Now I have other friends in the community who don't come to our church, because they describe themselves not as agnostic, but as spiritual, but not religious. And one of those friends practices yoga, and I was talking to her about her yoga practice. And she said, “Oh, it makes me feel so peaceful. So centered, it makes me feel one with all that is.” And I said, Oh, that's what I experienced in prayer and meditation. And she said, “Oh, no, I'm not communicating with some old man up in the clouds like you are.” And I said, “I'm not doing that.”
Now, she gave me a book, it was on the New York Times bestseller list, it's called The Universe Has Your Back. And in the book, it says things like, “The universe is always for you, never against you.” And “The universe is always in constant communication with you.” But you know, I could replace in that book, every time they mentioned universe, I could replace it with God. God is the universe.
So what I think is that my agnostic scientist friend, and my spiritual but not religious friend, and I, we’re all talking about the same thing. We're all talking about the same power and presence. We're just using different words for it, different names.
Now I understand why the name “God” can be problematic for people, especially people who think we're talking about an old man up in the clouds. People who think that we as Christians believe in fairy tales, and that we don't believe in science.
But as we heard in our words of integration and guidance this morning, science and religion do not have to be mutually exclusive. They are two sides of the same coin. They both do the same thing. They they help us with this human impulse to look at the world with awe and wonder, to contemplate the meaning of life. So yes, science has proven evolution, and science has proven the Big Bang. But that doesn't disprove God as the Creator.
So, for example, we can say that we know how the universe was created. But we don't know the why. Why was it created?
Well, we as Christians contemplate that Why? And we refer to it as God, the birther of the cosmos. You know, that's how Jesus referred to God. Those of you who have been coming to our church for a number of years, you know that a few times a year, we say the Lord's Prayer here, but the Aramaic translation, because Jesus didn't speak English, he spoke Aramaic, and Aramaic scholars have taken the Lord's Prayer, and they have translated it back to the original Aramaic. And the first line which says, “Our Father who art in heaven” in English, what Jesus was really saying was “birther of the cosmos, whose light dwells within us.” That's what our Father who art in heaven means. That's what Jesus was saying. That's how he was teaching us to pray. “Birther of the cosmos, whose light dwells within us.”
Jesus, 2,000 years ago, discovered his oneness. He became one with the One. And then he made it his mission to teach us to discover that same oneness within ourselves. That's why we refer to Jesus as the Christ. I've told you before, Christ is not Jesus's last name. As we heard in our readings this morning, it says Christ was the first born of all creation. Before the universe existed, there was the Christ. That wasn't Jesus. The Christ existed billions of years before Jesus of Nazareth was even born. At the Big Bang, when God said, Let there be light, there was the Christ. The Christ is the presence, the power, the light and life of God, that Jesus discovered was within him.
And he came to tell us that it is within us too. So, my friends, we can be people who believe in science, but we can also believe in that spark of God, the birther of the cosmos, that is within us.
Neil deGRASSE Tyson said, “When most people look up at the stars, they feel small, because the universe is so big. But when I look up at the stars, I feel big, because the same atoms that are in those stars are within me.”
That, my friends, is what I think the purpose of religion should be, to remind us of our divine magnificence, that God's presence and power is with us and within us.
And so that's what I want to invite you to do on this week that we're celebrating the cosmos, the universe. I want you to find time each and every day, to contemplate the stars, to look at a sunset, to feel one with all that is, to find time to attune yourself, to connect with the presence, the power, the light and the life of God that dwells with us, within us, and as us.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration and Guidance
Excerpted from Time Magazine article by Amir D. Aczel
A number of recent books and articles would have you believe that — somehow — science has now disproved the existence of God. We know so much about how the universe works, their authors claim, that God is simply unnecessary: we can explain all the workings of the universe without the need for a Creator. And indeed, science has brought us an immense amount of understanding. We can now claim to know what happened to our universe as early as a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, something that may seem astounding. But does this vast knowledge disprove the existence of some kind of pre-existent outside force that may have launched our universe on its way? Science is an amazing, wonderful undertaking: it teaches us about life, the world, and the universe. But it has not revealed to us why the universe came into existence nor what preceded its birth in the Big Bang. This question has never been answered satisfactorily, and I believe that it will never find a scientific solution. For the deeper we delve into the mysteries of cosmology, the more the universe appears to be intricate and incredibly complex. Why are even the tiniest particles of matter so unbelievably complicated? It appears that there is a vast, hidden “wisdom” for even the most simple-looking element of nature. And the situation becomes much more daunting as we expand our view to the entire cosmos. Why did everything we need in order to exist come into being? How was all of this possible without some latent outside power to orchestrate the precise dance of elementary particles required for the creation of all the essentials of life? Science and religion are two sides of the same deep human impulse to understand the world, know our place in it, and marvel at the wonder of life and the infinite cosmos we are surrounded by. Let’s keep them that way, and not let one attempt to usurp the role of the other.
What did you think?