July 24, 2011 Millinocket and Winn
The second chapter of Journey of the Universe by Swimme and Tucker, is about the formation of galaxies. When the universe was about a half a million years old, it was like a huge cumulus cloud growing ever larger. You know, the big puffy kind of cloud we’ve seen in the summer sky over the last week. But, instead of just continuing to grow and expand, the gigantic single cloud split into many smaller clouds. Each of these clouds collapsed into itself and formed a galaxy of stars. After each galaxy “jelled,” it started on its own unique journey: moving farther and farther apart from the other galaxies.
In some ways you could also say this is the story of St. Thomas’ and St. Andrews’. Years ago there was only St. Thomas’, but as the Magic City rose out of the woods in the early 1900s, St. Andrews’ started its life joined to St. Thomas. I wonder if you could look at this phase as the marriage of Jacob to Leah. Maybe not exactly what was wanted, but necessary at the time. It wasn’t long though, before Jacob was able to marry Rebecca. Jacob was then able to separate his family from his father-in-law’s.
But in to the story of the universe: we might well ask the question: “What broke this initial cloud so it could form galaxies”? Scientists have discovered that there are waves that were present from the initial exhalation at the birth of the universe: waves that are fluctuations in the density of matter that also grew as the universe expanded and eventually got large enough to break the cloud apart so smaller clouds could form. We can think of these waves as something like the sound waves we create when we speak or when we make music, or when we jackhammer concrete. These waves go from our mouths or our instruments and disturb the air around us so that the waves hit our eardrums making them vibrate and so we hear. Sometimes these sounds can be disturbing, grating or loud. Sometimes we hear the vibrations as music, sometimes as a whisper. Some people have called these waves in the universe the “music of the spheres.” Try to imagine this cosmic music as what “moved the universe into the next phase of its journey.” The phase of galaxies forming. The natural next phase of St. Andrew’s and St. Thomas’ was as separate parishes with separate identities in separate communities. And that has brought your two parishes to where they now are. This brings up the question of a center. Where can the center of these two parishes be? I know it is not in the middle of the Penobscot River or in Medway.
Let’s answer this by looking at where the center of the universe lies? In times past we humans believed it to be here on our lovely blue planet: in Jerusalem, or Mecca or on a special mountain in Tibet or Africa. Each culture has its own explanation of where the center was, but over time, we realized this was not literally true. The center of the universe was not a city, nor the earth itself, nor our sun, nor our galaxy the Milky Way. In fact, we have learned that the Milky Way is just one galaxy in an universe that has millions of galaxies and the Milky Way is part of a supercluster of galaxies that revolve around each other. This is a concept that is very difficult to grasp: each supercluster of galaxies is at the center of the expanding universe. In other words, there are millions of centers in our universe. Not only is that concept a hard one to understand it goes against all the logic we’ve been brought up with. How can there be multiple centers, yet one expanding universe. All we can do is say with the psalmist (Psalm 105:5a) “Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, ... “ The more I learn about the wonders of God’s creation, the more I am awestruck by the complexity and creativity that is present in all of God’s creation.
What might be useful for us is to consider today is what it means to have multiple centers. For St. Thomas’ and St. Andrew’s it is a fact of who you have become. The communities in which you exist are different centers, yet there are lots of things in common. Multiple centers seems to be a way of being in the universe.
But going back to our own galaxy, the Milky Way: we know it has spiral arms, and those spiral arms turned out to be important. Density waves pulsing through our Milky Way causes the cloud to condense in certain places. This condensing forms stars: stars which burn brightly for millions of years then either explode or die out. Spiral galaxies are the birthing places for new stars. On the other hand, elliptical galaxies are doomed to die out because they cannot produce new stars: it takes those spiral arms like those in our Milky Way, reaching out, to form new stars. Creativity in our universe is not uniform, but it is there.
|NASA Hubble Photo|
Large Magellanic Cloud—Star-birthing Area
But don’t think that is all there is to the creativity of our universe. We have a satellite of our Milky Way, called the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Some think it was once a spiral galaxy that experienced a major calamity. What that calamity was we don’t really know, but whatever happened, the LMC could not produce new stars and was dying. But then, something truly amazing happened. After billions of years it came within reach of the gravitational pull of our Milky Way and the two galaxies interacted: the LMC was able to produce new stars again. Both the Milky Way and the LMC were changed by the interaction. The creativity present in one led to creativity in the other. It wasn’t just the creativity either, there was a generosity in sharing.
All of Jesus’ parables this morning about the kingdom of heaven speak of God’s incredible generosity. Generosity in the smallest of seeds growing to the size of a tree. Generosity in a huge amount of leavened flour that would make enough bread to feed a small army. Generosity in a treasure found in an unexpected place or a pearl of great price and even generosity in fish from the sea, even though some will not serve as food. The story of universe is also one of incredible generosity, creativity and awe. A galaxy has come to life again. The story of God’s people is always one of coming to life again. The story of Jesus’ resurrection is pre-eminent among them. Jacob didn’t give up on marrying Rebecca, even though he was tricked by Laban. Although, I must admit I do hear a common refrain in Laban’s words “this is not done in our country--giving the younger before the older.” makes me think of the frequently used: “that’s not how we’ve always done it.” And yet there is always the possibility of resurrection. God doesn’t give up on any of us.
Matthew reports Jesus as saying” “And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’” All of you here at St. Andrew’s and St. Thomas’ are scribes being trained for the kingdom of heaven and I challenge you both to look at your treasures of time, talent and money to bring something new out of the old Like mustard seeds, new leaven, new treasures in unexpected place this is also resurrection.
I say with Paul: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor the present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”