8 Dec 2013
“…His dwelling shall be glorious.” (Isa. 11:10) In the name …
Today is December 8th, and if it were any other day than Sunday, today would also be the Feast of Divine Love, one of those special and unique liturgical creations of our church denomination. The Feast Day Mass is postponed until tomorrow, but I would still like to talk about it a little bit today. And it does fit in well with the Advent theme of coming to better understand and appreciate what it means to say that in Jesus of Nazareth God has directly entered into our world.
I don’t know if any of you have seen the recent Bill Cosby comedy special. It was his first televised comedy act in decades. I thought he was great. The last story he told was about his wife calling him up to their 11 years old daughter’s room. The room was a pig sty. And after the mother had gone-on about picking up the mess, the 11 year old girl responded indignantly, “I didn’t ask to be born.” Bill Cosby said he was so impressed with how quick and intelligent his wife was when she answered right back, “And you’re not what we asked for either.”
I wonder sometimes if in a nutshell this is what our relationship with God may look like. I sometimes get the feeling that God’s children do not appreciate all that God has done for us in the ordinary. Religion, I think, has a terrible tendency to denigrate what God has created for us because religion has the unfortunate tendency of judging everything against the imagined perfect. And with perfect as our model everything is going to come up shabby no matter how extraordinary it is. Then it ends-up that while believers are complaining about how terrible and evil the world is, there are scientists, many of whom don’t believe in God, who are absolutely amazed by the miracle of creation.
A couple of weeks ago Paul Davies who is a famous astrophysicist and much published author wrote on op-ed piece for the New York Times. A link is included in this sermon on our webpage. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/19/opinion/are-we-alone-in-the-universe.html?smid=pl-share) He offered that the creation of life by a series of increasingly rare chemical accidents may make life on a habitable planet a one in a trillion-trillion chance. Your odds of winning the Mega Millions lottery on Tuesday for some $300 million are 1 in about 260 million. We all know how extraordinary it would be if we were the one in that one in about 260 million. If you multiply those already incredible odds by about 40 you get a trillion. I don’t even know how to figure out the ratio to a trillion trillion. It may be, but I’m not sure of the math, that the miracle of life is 40 trillion times more exceptional than the odds of any one of us winning Mega Millions. And that’s just life, not intelligent life. It’s bacteria not humans. Scientists look at this in utter amazement. Some Christian churches, most as matter of fact, however, look at this and somehow come-up with the theology of original sin, that every man, woman and child is born a sinner in a sinful world.
This past Monday evening I attended a talk by a Smith College geology professor about the geological story of our Connecticut River Valley. It was held in a room at the Amherst Brewing Company. The room was literally filled beyond capacity. They brought in extra chairs, people stood along the walls and some even sat on the floor right around where the professor was talking. I said to a friend that it was just like in church on Sunday morning. The professor and the people there were excited, captivated and thrilled by the miraculous story of this living planet, but too many people of faith remain unmoved by this miracle of creation.
When Bp. Hodur was a young priest back in the 1890’s he was teaching the formally uneducated, immigrant miners and their families in Scranton about the contemporary science of that day. And after this church was born, he instituted the Feast of Divine Love. This was the liturgical rejection of original sin, that we are by nature sinful and fallen. This was the liturgical affirmation that creation is a grand statement of Divine Love. The Bible’s story begins with God’s act of creation. The first two days, according to the story, lay the groundwork of creation, and it’s rather matter-of-fact in its presentation. However, on the third day, life appears, and now God says at the completion of each day: “It was good.” At the end of the sixth day, humans are created and God says, “It was very good.” St. Paul writes to the earliest Christians, “Ever since the creation of the world, [God’s] eternal power and divine nature … have been understood and seen through the things He has made.” (Rom 1:20) How strange it is to me that this awe before creation is now not found so much in the church as it is in science. And this is why the Feast of Divine Love is so important. It rights this profound wrong.
It’s also important because it repairs a serious theological problem that is at the heart of Advent and Christmas. If Mary was the only person born free of original sinfulness so that Jesus wouldn’t inherit it through her, then Jesus’ human nature is not the same as everyone else’s. If we’re all born one way and Jesus is the exception, then Jesus is not fully human, and if Jesus is not fully human then the whole reason for God coming into the world is annulled. If He’s shielded from our universally inherited sinfulness, then His moral example for us is compromised. But Jesus is born as one of us. God has entered our world in Him. And creation and life are sacred and holy.
It is quite obvious that creation is far from perfect, but that is a far cry from saying that it is not miraculous. And the greatest miracle in the whole of creation is that, as the Bible says on page one, “God created [humans] in His image.” This points to our intelligence and free will. This creation is the God-given opportunity for us to work with God to make a better world. We’re not being treated by God like perpetual infants, but as heirs. We can’t react like the spoiled child yelling, “I didn’t ask to be born.” The Feast of Divine Love is the celebration of God’s wondrous creation and His invitation to us to help make it always better. So let us pray today’s words of Isaiah: “His dwelling shall be glorious.” In Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo