Curate's Sermon - 8th February 2015

May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started.
Wait... The Earth began to cool,
the autotrophs began to drool, Neanderthals developed tools, we built a wall (we built the pyramids). Math, science, history, unravelling the mysteries, that all started with the big bang! BANG!

Those of you who are fans of American TV comedy will no doubt recognise these words as being lyrics from the song “The History of Everything” by the band the Barenaked Ladies - never thought I would ever hear those words in a sermon! – but anyway this is the song that is the theme tune of what I gather is the most watched American television comedy show at the moment – namely The Big Bang Theory.

For those of you who don’t know, The Big Bang Theory is a show that follows the trials and tribulations of a group of scientists – both male and female - as they attempt to cope with their professional lives – they are all theoretical or practical physicists or biologists - and their personal lives; which mainly involves for at least one character, keeping his nerdish tendencies, such as his expansive collections of science fiction and superhero merchandise under wraps, as he tries to impress the streetwise girl who lives across the hall.

However, should you put the term the Big Bang Theory into Google or any other search engine on the internet you do not of course exclusively find yourself directed toward information to do with this TV show. For unsurprisingly this programme is named after the current prevailing model suggested by scientists such as the photogenic TV presenter Dr Brian Cox for the origins of the universe.

As the song suggests, scientists believe that about 14 billion years ago – 13.8 to be precise - all of space was contained into a single point from which, following an initial explosion, it has been expanding ever since. It is the observation that galaxies are drifting apart at high speeds that is suggested, amongst other things, as the evidence that this is indeed the case.

Now theory this may well apparently be, and yet the other day it was suggested to me that this idea is actually one that removes God completely from the process of creation. “We only need the idea of God for reasons of morals and ethics” was suggested “because science has now shown us how the world began without him”.

Ouch we may well think! Has science with this theory really rendered our passages from the Old and New Testament today and of course the beginning of Genesis as pure hokum and fantasy? In the beginning was it simply chance that produced the depths, mountains, hills, soil and all the rest? Well of course the answer is neither we nor scientists have any real proof either way, which  means that, whatever the likes of Richard Dawkins may say, just as for Mark Twain, the rumours of God’s death have most certainly been exaggerated - for why couldn’t He have caused the big bang to take place – if indeed there was one?

That those of us of faith must believe that God was involved in the creation of Life, the Universe and Everything though is I would say vital. And yet I do not for one minute believe that we of faith must always disbelieve what science says in this or any other place that our paths cross. Indeed as science is an area of human endeavour, creativity and intellect it is by definition the place where we can, will and should find God.

Personally I think that both science and religion do themselves great harm in battling over who is right and who is wrong over God and creation. Really we should delight in what science can tell religion about how things came about and science should delight in what religion can tell it about how truly magical it is to see and understand what this can and will mean for the world if, as we believe, God is why these things occurred and still do. And these are things described not least of course within our Bible passages today, passages that tell us about God and Christ and this His creation – their creation. 

But first, I feel that I should say that, one thing that religion can most certainly learn from science is the sheer sense of wonder and joy that scientists often derive from the world and the universe around us. Take the aforementioned Dr Cox, if you can get passed his perfect hair and teeth, it is clear that he loves the world, the universe, the order and rules that control and dictate what goes on within such - the puzzles that life offers and throws up each and every day. Whether he believes in God or not he and others, such as David Attenborough clearly adore this realm that we believe that God has given to them and us.

Does this put us to shame? I hope not, but as those who believe that in the beginning whatever it was and however it came about it was God who gave us these things, such wonderful gifts, shouldn’t we feel obliged to treat such with perhaps greater and deeper love and respect than these people?

If you are not convinced then I would direct you to our passage from Proverbs today - for here we have Wisdom “rejoicing” in God’s inhabited world and more than this “delighting in the human race”. Is Wisdom the Word and is the Word Jesus Christ – there is a long winded history to this debate that I do not wish to go into now – for my purposes the answer is yes.

Which allows me to say that, as Christians, as those who follow Jesus Christ as Lord, what choice do we have but to treat the world as Jesus does in this passage from the Book of Proverbs – as a place of delight and joy. A place most importantly that contains things that bring Jesus such feelings of warmth and happiness – things that we then should clearly look to ourselves as needing to be equally loved and cherished and delighted in. 

It is an oft used caricature of pious church goers that we see sin and evil all around us in the world – and yes there is I would agree much to worry us on that front each and every day. Indeed as the first letter of John says “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”.

However what passages such as ours today tell me is that we shouldn’t fall into the trap of just dismissing the world as going to hell in a handcart, but instead see that everything in the world was and is created by God and as such must be seen as intrinsically good. To line myself up with the sci-fi geekiness of characters in The Big Bang Theory, in my favourite film Star Wars even the darkest of characters, Darth Vader is redeemed because his son Luke Skywalker believes that there must be good inside him. To be clear though I did fill in Church of England and not Jedi on the last National Census form.

But my point is, that as hard as it may be sometimes to see this, we as followers of God must realise that all of the world that God created is as God Himself states on the evening of each and every day of creation in Genesis chapter 1 “good” – indeed when He saw all that He had made on the sixth day He saw that it was indeed “very good”. To restate the point made in Proverbs the conclusion of creation for God and His co-worker Wisdom, Jesus, is delight.

And of course this delight is shown perhaps most clearly in the actions of the Father in sending His only Son into the world. A dog is for life and not just for Christmas the advertising campaign says, and so to the beginning of John’s gospel.

The passage that perhaps most clearly hails the incarnation, the arrival of God in His created universe in human form is of course rightly heard on or around the 25th of December in most churches each and every year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but it is also worth hearing each and every day because it reminds us so much of the truth verbalised just later in St John’s gospel that “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life”.

But the other thing that this passage tells us, as indeed Proverbs also does, is that through being there at creation, through seeing and knowing how things came about, through knowing the ins and outs of everything living and created from the very first Jesus is in the best possible position to judge and save this universe, this humanity that He knows so well. Nothing is beyond Christ’s knowledge, the earth, the hills, the heavens, the skies to name just a few things from Proverbs - anything and everything there was, is and will be are known and understood by Him.

And this means that we can turn to Him and expect Him to know what to do, we can rest assured that anything happening to us He understands, we can expect any plan designed for the universe involving Him to work, because like a master worker He was there beside God at the very foundations of the Earth that He was sent to save.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, when the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep as it says in the book of Genesis maybe; in the beginning when God lit the blew touch paper and it all started with a big bang perhaps; in the beginning however it came about was Wisdom, was the Word, was the Father’s only Son, Jesus Christ.

A Word then who helped to create this wonderful gift that we live in, a Word that knows how it works, how we work and is delighted and overjoyed at what He sees. Delighted and overjoyed enough to come into the world and save it, because He and His Father know that what they have made, all those things around us that we see each and every day, but most importantly perhaps all those things that we do and are – all of us - are worth loving enough to save. Amen.