Christ in Judgement – John De Rosen at Saint John’s Memphis, TN

December 29, 2013

I want to begin with the Mural behind you on the tower wall.  On the left you see an angel with a book held above his head. You might think this is the book of life, but, in fact it is the Book of Knowledge.  Inscribed on the Book of Knowledge is Albert Einstein’s last equation.  Over sixty years ago when John De Rosen painted this  mural this equation marked the edge of human speculation on the nature of reality.  It turns out that this equation is incorrect.  Yes, our Book of Knowledge is in error.  That seems appropriate, somehow.

I WILL BEGIN WITH the language of Quantum Physics and move to the Readings for Today.  I believe that Quantum Physics and John’s Poetic Prologue speak to the same reality!!!

Thomas Young

Thomas Young

Albert Eeinstein

Albert Einstein

Quantum Mechanics

  •    In the late 19th century,  Thomas Young found that light  is a wave.
  •    In 1905 Einstein discovered that light is also a particle.

This was a terrible dilemma.  What do you do with contradictory evidence?  There were two options:

 If this had the church we would have formed rival groups, the Particularians and the Waveites,  accused each other of heresy and carefully decided who was in and who was out. They could accept one set of evidence and reject the other.  What they did do was hold on to the evidence and look for a way to explain the paradox. [A statement that seems contradictory, unbelievable, or absurd but that may actually be true in fact.]  It took 25 years to sort out but Quantum theory now tells us that light is not particle or wave but rather, BOTH particle AND wave. Reality is actually richer than we had imagined.

Now consider the poetic language that John uses in the prologue to the Gospel that bears his name. We will look at the Gospel reading but before that lets go back to the beginning.  Biblical Poetic Language  Now turn with me to the Gospel reading for this morning.

Please forgive me for stating the obvious but the whole thing begins in Genesis 1:1-2.


I’m reading from the Schocken Bible a translation by Everett Fox,  “At the beginning of God’s creating of the heavens and the earth, when the earth was wild and waste, darkness over the face of Ocean, rushing-spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters – God said: Let there be light!  And there was light.”  Fox’s translates Hebrew to English retaining the rhythm of the Hebrew language.

Let us then  consider God as Noun and Verb, Particle and Wave.

Notice the verb in relation to the Incarnation.  In the collect: ALMIGHY GOD, you have poured upon the NEW light of your incarnate WORD. In Isaiah, “You shall be called by a New Name (noun) that the God will give.  God restores things that are fallen and have grown old.  God does new things!  As a way of speaking about this creative and playful aspect of God,  someone has said that God’s favorite practical joke was old women getting pregnant!

  • Old Women getting pregnant!   Sarah, Rebecca, Samuel’s  momma & Sampson’s.
  •  Behold, I am doing a new thing.  A Virgin shall conceive and bear a son!
  •  Note the annunciation mural,   Here Mary sits amid dry and arid stone, yet as Gabriel speaks to her   the word of God the ground around her bursts into flower.

 The energy of New Light of thing incarnate – The wave of New Light becomes an incarnate particle.   Isaiah    For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden cause what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. …  You shall be given a new name.  Do you hear the train a’coming!

The energy of the uncreated light is the same energy that makes the desert bloom and the virgin conceive! Here we see the train a’coming.  In John’s Prologue, WORD is better translated: CREATIVE ENERGY. Read aloud with me. … For the creative entergy was  with God and the Creative Energy was with God and the Creative Energy was God The light Incarnate is wave and particle!

The Church is also Wave and Particle, noun and verb!

We do know that the nature of matter is not object or wave it is both!.  Embracing this paradox is what Richard Rohr “non-dual” thinking – moving beyond a either/or to a yes/and

Church is both noun and verb – particle and wave

Note how the “Body of Christ” functions.   We are the gathered people of God in a particular place, at a certain time, to worship God (because God is worthy) and to encounter the Risen Jesus in the breaking bread, through the Power of the Holy Spirit and then having been fed with bread we move from noun to verb, go out into the world to be bread for those who are starving for what we just become.

If we have been fed be bread!

Do you see beloved?  The Renewal Works is simply a way of thinking for us as we open our hearts and minds to the light of God’s grace and love. This process is to help us get clear about our place in the economy of heaven, the physics of grace!  If we have been fed then let us be bread!

Christmass Eve in the Mid-night – 2004

Saint John's Christmas Eve 2007

Saint John’s Christmas Eve 2007

Here we are. We are finished waiting.  It is high time to get on with it and celebrate Christmas, all twelve days of it.  The culture is already weary of Christmas or Excessmass as some are calling it before it has even arrived.  The Christmas trees are already brown and will be by the curb by the weekend.  The culture is already looking to the next festival of Hallmarketing. We, however, will give it our best effort to keep the celebrating going.  Don’t forget the Feast of Saint John will be on the 28th at 6:00 in the evening followed by another, you guessed it, party!

George Carlin

Materialism is always the shadow side of the Feast of the Incarnation – of God becoming a material human being.  We can become inordinately attached to our stuff.  I heard recently of a very successful professional who parked his brand new Lexus in front of the office, ready to show it off to his colleagues. As he got out, a truck came along, too close to the curb, and completely tore off the driver’s door of the Lexus.  The man immediately grabbed his cell phone, dialed 911, and it wasn’t more than 5 minutes before a policeman pulled up.  Before the cop had a chance to ask any questions, the man started screaming hysterically.

His Lexus, which he had just picked up the day before, was now completely ruined and would never be the same, no matter how the body shop tried to make it new again.  After the man finally wound down from his rant, the cop shook his head in disgust and disbelief.  “I can’t believe how materialistic you are,” he said. “You are so focused on your possessions that you neglect the most important things in life.”   “How can you say such a thing?” asked the man.  The cop replied, “My God, don’t you even realize that your left arm is missing?  It got ripped off when the truck hit you.  “My God!” screamed the man, “WHERE’S MY ROLEX?”

I for one will not be telling you tonight that all the “stuff” that surrounds Christmass is evil.  I am a Christian who reads the creation story, which ends with the words, “It was good, very, very good!”  As Robert Farrar Capon says, “God made stuff, he has more of it than anybody and he likes it even more than we do.”

539 christmas 2006

Materialism is a dead-end WHEN we begin to think that stuff is all there is AND that we are loved and valued in proportion to the amount of stuff we have.  Tonight we celebrate the deep mystery of the Good News of God in Christ, namely, that God has become flesh, born of the Virgin Mary and entered history like any other human being.

The ordinariness of it all is troubling and the extraordinariness of it all is troubling. It just doesn’t make sense.  It seems that it be either/or but never both/and.  Nils Bohr the Physicist says that superficial truth says, either/or, but profound truth says both/and!  We come to affirm that mysterious profound truth of both/and.  Jesus the baby born two thousand and four years ago is fully God and fully human at the same time!

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass, The White Queen advises Alice to practice believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast.  It’s good advice.  Unless we practice believing in the impossible daily and diligently, we cannot be Christians, those strange creatures who proclaim to believe that the Power that created the entire universe willingly and lovingly abdicated that power and became a human baby”

This is the season of “impossible things,” of: a Word that was with God from the beginning, and is now flesh, dwelling among us a baby who is born to be King paths being forged through the wilderness a virgin who is also a mother a coming that is past, present, and future and the opportunity to know God the Father, through the One who is and was and shall be forever.

John Polkinghorne

John Polkinghorne

 John Polkinghorne writes, “The mystery of our redemption . . . proceeds not from the outside by illumination, but from the inside by participation.  We need transformation not information.” We have enough information already.  The human heart is complicated and troubled.  On this night people all over this planet are in trouble, sickness and hardship.  Many are divided by strife conceived of ancient hatreds.  To the shame of us all, some that believe that Jesus is the Christ are divided by the very belief that should unite them and us in a common joy.

 Many of us come here tonight with a slow leak in our souls. We perhaps thought that we would be different by now. We thought that we would have achieved more, done greater things and made a greater splash.  We are a year older.  We are beginning to realize that none escape the ravages of time, no even us!

The gift of Jesus, the Christ born in a manger is not just a mythological figure designed to express a deep longing of our hearts. Polkinghorne says, “The Logos is not a mythological theory but a crucified man.”  We come tonight believing that the crucified man that rose from the dead was once a baby.

 So Christmas really is not JUST for children.  The wonder of a child at this event is part of it of course, but the greater part is for adults who are a little tattered by now by life. This is a time to be still and remember that the faith we hold says that in the end all things will be made well. The faith we proclaim says that since the birth of Jesus, heaven and earth are joined.

God has come and lived among us in the flesh. We are not alone, even when we feel alone. Bethlehem, which in the Hebrew tongue means, house of bread, was the place that God chose to send the bread of heaven.  That same bread of heaven is ours every time we come to this table for communion with the risen Lord.

Minster in the snow

Minster in the snow

So we gather tonight to hear the good news of the saviors’ birth.  Tonight we celebrate the good news that heaven and earth are joined.  God has come and dwelt among us in the flesh, making the material holy.  We are not alone.  C. S. Lewis once wrote, “What a terrible place the world would be, if it were always winter and never Christmas.”  Well for once it is winter in Memphis and it is also Christmas in Memphis and we are not alone.  O come let us adore him!

 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! Amen.

Light is the Word

We travelers, walking to the sun, can’t see

Ahead, but looking back the very light

That blinded us shows us the way we came,

Along which blessings now appear, rise

As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,

By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward

The blessed light that yet to us is dark.

Wendell Berry   Sabbaths  –  1999 VI

christ enthroned

God on Earth, Man in Heaven; Angels Joined the Choirs of Men, Men had Fellowship with the Angels.

Saint John Chrysostom

Come Home, stop, All is forgiven, stop.

I have a hunch that the only thing worse than being a orphan is having a family!  I know, that is a very dark thing to say… I also know from living my own life, observing as many as four generations of a family in a congregation and studying the dynamics of  Family Systems that all families are troubled.  Anxiety rising past the threshold  of tolerance  often produces “cut-off.”

Greg Spalenka
Greg Spalenka
“The concept of emotional cutoff describes people managing their unresolved emotional issues with parents, siblings, and other family members by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact with them. Emotional contact can be reduced by people moving away from their families and rarely going home, or it can be reduced by people staying in physical contact with their families but avoiding sensitive issues. Relationships may look “better” if people cutoff to manage them, but the problems are dormant and not resolved.”
(Bowen Family Center

Rabbi Edwin Friedman said many times, “People who are cut off, particularly from their family of origin do not heal.”  That being the case he said the bridging cutoff boosted the immune system.  He encouraged clergy to work to overcome cut-off in their own family in service to their own health as well the healing of  their people.

Luid de Morales

Luis de Morales

A useful question of Scripture is, “Where does my story intersect THE story?”  One of the ancient practices is the Cycle of the Liturgical Year.  The season preceding the Twelve Days of Christmas is Advent.  It is a time to watch and wait.  It is a time to be pregnant with Mary (and Elizabeth).  It is time to pay careful attention to dreams, the inner life, with Joseph. Above all we await the coming of the child Jesus, Emmanuel: God with us.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson was dying, the story goes, his aunt exhorted him to make peace with God to which he replied, “I was not aware that we had quarreled.”  His aunt’s response is, so far as I know, unreported. My answer to Ralph Waldo, is a quote from Isaiah the Prophet (9:2), “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Jesus is the gate of heaven and sits in figure made from the overlap of two circles representing heaven and earth.

Jesus joins heaven and earth

Matthew the Evangelist picks up the melody, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.’ (4:16). This is that for which we waited. Now Heaven is joined to Earth and Earth to Heaven.  I other words, in Jesus the cutoff between God and humanity is bridged.  This great universal theological truth is for the healing of our story, here – now – in real time.  The immune system of all creation is quickened that healing will break out among the nations and indeed the whole of creation. JWS

The House of God & Gate of Heaven … & I did not know it


Blake 2

After the painting Jacob’s Dream by William Blake and Genesis 28: 11-17

A young man leaving home
For long years to be gone
Might fall asleep and dream,
His head upon a stone.

A stair appears that bends
In spiral toward the light,
The bright Orb where it ends,
Though he sleeps through the night.

Darkened, below the stars,
Angels in constant motion
Walk up and down the stairs.
Delight and clear devotion

Make graceful all they do.
The light and dark are bound,
Heaven to all below,
Bright stair and stony ground

Inn one light joined. In sleep
The dreamer wakes. He sees
Above the stars the deep
Of heaven opened. Is

He living, then, his part
Of Heaven’s earthly life?
And what shall be the art
By which this sight can live?

Darkened upon the earth,
He fills with light, is made
A witness to high Truth
And so a man afraid.

His land – this meager sod,
These stones, this low estate –
Is the household of God.
And it is Heaven’s gate

Wendell Berry,  2004

The Power of Unforseen Grace


I showed this film at the beginning of the Rector’s Address at the Annual Parish Meeting on December 15, 2013. In the spare, elegant work of the the Holy Spirit, a mirror story emerged at Saint John’s on December 7, 2013.