The Copernican Revolution
I am indebted today to the community of Taize, France, for the title of this sermon.
In the 16th century, mathematician Copernicus made an amazing discovery:
the sun did not revolve around the earth, but the earth around the sun!
To us this seems like common knowledge, but this discovery turned the world on its head.
The medieval cosmology of the earth at the center had supported the long standing belief
that people were the purpose of God’s creation and that everything circled around us.
Put simply, Copernicus inspired a revolution in perspective:
people were no longer the center of the universe but rather part of something much larger.
Almost two thousand years before, the prophet Isaiah experienced a similar revolution.
Isaiah was in the temple praying when suddenly reality shifted:
the temple curtain turned into the hem of God’s robe
the smoke of the incense filled air
the carving on the altar became winged serpents which lifted off and flew in the air.
Isaiah heard voices calling Holy Holy Holy, and suddenly
Isaiah was no longer in the temple, but standing before God--
God Almighty who was seated on the holy throne, full of majesty and might.
It was as if Isaiah was looking down upon himself from high above—
for the first time he could see so much more than his usual view.
He was in the presence of unspeakable holiness, otherworldly and awesome.
And in the midst of this vastness, the revolution came
For the first time, he could see the big picture:
how small he was, and how foolish he was to think that everything was all about him.
“Woe is me! I am lost!” he cried.
But Isaiah did not lose himself.
With the touch of coal to his lips, he took his place in the grand design.
“Here I am, send me!”
Isaiah volunteered for service, and became part of something much larger than himself.
Perhaps few of us have as dramatic spiritual experiences as Isaiah,
but many of us have had experiences have had an encounter with something we might call God.
For some, we find God in nature: The towering trees of the forest, majestic mountains, or soothing sea.
Others find God when pushing oneself to a limit—marathon, childbirth, or a brush with death.
For others it’s art, or dance, or holding a baby for the first time.
In each experience, we get that revolution of perspective
getting the sense of our place in the universe, of its interconnectedness and vastness.
For me, it happened first in music.
I was a junior in HS, away for two weeks at a summer music camp.
Our wind ensemble was playing a piece entitled, Salvation Is Created.
It was perfect for young players, with soaring lines, rich harmonies, and a lot of volume.
At the end of the camp, the conductor had us turn our chairs in a circle to face one another,
and he stepped outside the circle.
Then we played.
It was as if we were one body, one breath, joining a song that had always been playing,
but that we for some reason had been too deaf to hear.
It was transcendence, awe—a revolution in perspective.
What I am describing may seem like highly personal experiences.
But notice Isaiah’s vision is grounded with this preface: in the year King Uzziah died…
Isaiah’s vision came in the midst of very public events
Uzziah’s reign had been one relative peace and prosperty
his death brought that to an end, and the future was extremely uncertain
Military powers one three sides were pushing were at their borders
It was the year it all fell apart.
As evil forces were winning the day, Isaiah’s vision of God’s incomparable power was esp. important.
Isaiah did not wrap himself in this private experience,
he did not withdraw from conflict into his own safe world.
Instead his visionary experience propelled him right into the chaos
Isaiah’s revolution in perspective ends with being sent him into the world to serve.
We too live in a world with significant conflict and chaos, both personal and communal.
God is looking for people to send into it with faith and courage.
But in order for us to sign on to this mission, we need the revolution to occur.
We need to realize that there is a very big picture out there, and we have only a splinter view of it.
We can’t just dismiss some else’s viewpoint.
It doesn’t mean our view is not important—just limited
A kind of humility is born from this revolution, and an acceptance of difference.
Copernicus and Isaiah had the same revolution: we are not the center of universe.
And you know what? If you have the revolution, it’s kind of a relief.
You don’t have to be right, it’s not all up to you to make things happen.
Instead you can entrust things into God’s care,
and offer yourself in service of God’s big plan.
You can a masterpiece of art with a microscope, or you can step back and view the whole canvas.
Isaiah’s vision and our own experiences of God invite us to step back and enlarge our vision.
We are connected to the grand design; let us be ready to play our part in it, saying, “here am I, send me.”
Children’s sermon: “Weird Math”
Ok, time for the math lesson: 1+1+1 = ??? (flip over card) 1!
What’s wrong with this math? Anywhere else we would know that 1 apple, plus two more apples equals three apples. Or that an apple plus an orange plus a banana equals three pieces of fruit. But here in church 1+1+1 = 1??? How can that be?
Today is Holy Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate the mystery of Trinity. Anyone know what the Trinity is? One God revealed in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Father is the creator, Son is God as a human, Spirit is God living in us and the world around us. All God, but different ways of experiencing God. The math picture looks more like this (show ven diagram of overlapping circles, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) See? 1+ 1+ 1= 1
But even this math picture doesn’t really explain the Trinity, because it looks like there is some of Jesus and some of the Spirit and some of the Father that isn’t included in God. And they really are 1, like our equation says, but still distinct. So I have to turn to science to explain.
I have here: ice, water, steam from our thermos. Can anyone make a connection to the Trinity?
Ice, water and steam are three distinct things. But all are the same substance, right? H2O. See?
1+1+1 = 1!
The ideas of Father, Son and Holy Spirit came from scripture, but it took the church 300 years to figure out how to talk about it. What they came up with is the Nicene Creed, which we which we will say together today.
The Trinity is still a bit of a mystery, but we can, as the writers of bible did, experience God as Father and Creator, as the Son and a human being in Jesus, and as the Spirit, God within people.