I suggest that the concept of God is not a hypothesis formulated to explain the relationship between particular events in the world in competition with scientific hypotheses. Belief in God is primarily a commitment to a way of life in response to distinctive kinds of religious experience in communities formed by historic traditions; it is not a substitute for scientific research. Religious beliefs offer a wider framework in which particular events can be contextualizes.***
Every disciple is selective and has its limitations. Each abstracts from the totality of experience those features in which it is interested. The astronomer Arthur Eddington once told a delightful parable about a man studying deep-sea life using a net with a three-inch mesh. After bringing up repeated samples, the man concluded that there are no deep-sea fish smaller than three inches in length. Our methods of fishing, Eddington suggests, determine what we can catch.
At re/New planning meeting tonight (topic: "Change and Transition"), Lindsay referenced Octavia Butler. (Her facebook status after she got home from the meeting was: "Change is the one unavoidable, irresistible, ongoing reality of the universe. To us, that makes it the most powerful reality, and just another word for God. Earthseed: The Books of the Living Lauren Oya Olamina" — Octavia E. Butler Reminds me of Re/New planning tonight!)
Later, Laura Ruth pulled out her smartphone to pull up the Preamble to the UCC Constitution -- for the "It [the United Church of Christ] affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own" bit (which recalled for me the "Making the Faith Our Own" Lenten House Church series last year), but she read the whole paragraph leading up to that sentence, so my primary (silent) takeaway was, "the UCC really affirms Jesus as the Son of God?"
Anyway, what I actually said was, "You just outgeeked me."
We'd been talking about Scripture earlier, and Rachelle had said something about wineskins and I said about the seed dying and breaking open, and somewhere in there we had Isaiah's "Do not remember the things of old for behold God is doing a new thing," and Laura Ruth and Rachelle were going back and forth trying to remember which chapter that was exactly, and I said it was a lectionary reading from Lent and Laura Ruth said, "last Thursday," or something, and I said, "No, it was a Sunday, because I remember using it in a sermon -- though I may not have actually finished the sermon," and I said, "And I don't have my netbook with me, so I can't look it up" (though it was probably good that I didn't have my netbook with me, so I was engaged with the conversations and ideas at the table rather than getting focused on researching). So after I got home I skimmed through my recent sermons and emailed Laura Ruth (Subject: Isaiah 43:19 = Lent 5C):
From the sermon I wrote for Lent 5C - Preparing for the Desert Rain:"My ways are not your ways," we heard God say two weeks ago (Isaiah 55:8).
This week, God says, "Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old" (Isaiah 43:18). That is difficult.
there is a sense in which Christ calls us to die to our old lives so that we can be resurrected in Christ.
There are lots of parables about that -- you can't patch an old wineskin with new cloth or it will burst and the wine will run out and be ruined, instead you must put the wine in new wineskins (Luke 5:36-39); a seed must fall and die and break open in order to become more than just the single seed that it is in itself (John 12:24). We could come up with our own parables -- like the caterpillar who metamorphoses into a butterfly.
In Trina Paulus' book Hope for the Flowers, we learn that in order to become a butterfly, "You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."
Lent is about learning to give up being a caterpillar -- and about learning to want to fly. Learning to give up the things that keep us attached to this desert ground so that we can soar, as we were always meant to.
Lent is about preparing ourselves for that new thing which God is desiring to do in our lives. About preparing the desert places in our souls for God's quenching rain -- uprooting the weeds so that new life can blossom.
And so I send you forth -- back into the desert, back into the wilderness, back into wherever you are in the world -- to continue preparing for the rain which God is preparing to send, so that you may have resurrection life.
After Laura Ruth quoted the "every generation" bit, Jeff suggested putting that in tension with (sings) "As it was in the beginning, is now and every shall be, world without end, Amen, Amen." I immediately responded, "Which beginning? What part of the beginning? In The Beginning was chaotic water..." Laura Ruth said, "Tell it, sister," and so I went on and said, "In The Beginning was chaotic water, and the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, moved over the waters, and yes there was order -- separating the water above from the water below -- but there was also abundant newness -- the first six days of Creation were full of radical change."