A Universe of Miracles
Video of sermon posted (here)
Call to worship (here)
Music video (here) Our Music director, Beth Dion, sang this song,
Something simply amazing happened a few weeks ago. It was in the news, but I don’t think it got nearly the attention it deserved.
From the March 17th LA times:
“Scientists staring at the faint afterglow from the universe’s birth 13.8 billion years ago have discovered the first direct evidence for the theory of cosmic inflation — the mysterious and violent expansion after the big bang.
The findings, made using radio telescopes at the South Pole, support the idea that our known cosmos make up just a tiny fragment in a much larger, unknown frontier that extends far beyond the reaches of light.
During this period of inflation, which happened just a fraction of a second after the big bang, the universe ballooned from smaller than an atom to 100 trillion trillion times its original size, at a rate faster than the speed of light.”
Wow! That is, rather, I have to say it “cosmic.”
They are already talking about a Nobel Prize for this discovery.
Some more explanation:
“The researchers used radio telescopes at the South Pole to stare at the cosmic microwave background radiation — a faint afterglow left over from the big bang that permeates the universe.
Scientists have long wondered why this faint background light is so uniform across the sky… Stars clump into galaxies, and galaxies cluster together unevenly across the heavens. But no matter where you look, the cosmic microwave background seems to look essentially the same.
Why was the cosmic microwave background so smooth while all the stuff that came after it looked so lumpy?
In 1980, theoretical physicist Alan Guth came up with an answer: All that stuff from the early universe had originally been in a single tiny spot when it was ripped outward in a violent expansion.
Because the universe was compressed and experienced a single sudden expansion, the characteristics of the background radiation would be roughly the same.
It would require a massive spurt of inflation that scientists could barely comprehend. In less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the universe popped into existence, the newborn cosmos expanded from the size of a tiny subatomic particle to roughly the size of a basketball.
As the universe continued to expand at a slower rate and then cool, it carried with it the signature of this early trauma.
Guth’s inflation theory became a cornerstone of our understanding of the early universe — but scientists had thought it would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove.
The signal from the cosmic background microwave has weakened over time, making it exceedingly difficult to find the signature of this ancient inflation behind all the cosmic “noise.”
The only hints could come from distortion in the fabric of space-time, created by the trauma of inflation. That could be detected by looking for a particular pattern of polarized light in the cosmic microwave background, known as B-mode polarization.
The theory was that sudden inflation, based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, should cause an onslaught of gravitational waves that ultimately would change the polarity of the background radiation, leaving behind a distinctive swirling pattern.
The theory of inflation is rooted in quantum mechanics, which operates on the subatomic scale. The new discoveries show that the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity, which governs very large-scale phenomena, are also quantum phenomena.
Much remains unknown. Scientists still don’t agree on exactly what triggered inflation in the first place. Whatever it was, they do think that it was a mysterious, repulsive force — rather like the dark energy that pervades the universe today and is causing it to expand, but far more powerful.
The discovery lends support to the idea that what we typically think of as the universe is just a tiny part of the much larger cosmos. Parts of the universe could have been hurled well beyond the range of light and thus far beyond the observable fringes.
The findings also leave open the idea that there could be multiple universes, not just the one we inhabit.”
I won’t pretend that I understand all of that – or even most of it. Some of you might. Maybe the reason that this discovery hasn’t gotten wider press is because of the complexity of the science.
But even if you only understand a little bit of it, the significance cannot be denied. It is evidence in support of the big bang theory of creation, something that occurred almost 14 billion years ago. It is evidence that the universe, the cosmos, is much older and larger than we ever imagined.
“We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon, and we got to get ourselves back to the garden”
Joni Mitchell wrote those words in the song, “Woodstock,” that the band Crosby, Stills, and Nash made famous.
We are stardust. We are small creatures on a small planet that is spinning through a universe older and vaster than anything that was imagined in the past.
Our very atoms go back to the beginning of time. That is spelled A-T-O-M not A-D-A-M, by the way. Should it make us feel small and insignificant? Are we somehow less than worthy if God did not directly create us from a lump of clay or someone else’s rib?
I don’t think so. I believe instead, like the song Beth sang earlier, that the increasing understanding of the universe means that, “everything is holy now.” We are stardust.
It truly is a miracle that we are alive, here today, in this place, and at this time.
So much is made of a supposed conflict between science and religion. I don’t see a conflict at all. There is something very spiritual about a scientist looking into the mysteries of life and of creation. Scientists develop their theories based upon known facts, they look for ways of testing those theories, and then they revise them again and again as necessary as new things are learned. Isn’t that the essence of life? Isn’t that at least part of why we are here?
Have you ever watched a baby, or a small child, discover something new? It could just be a mote of dust that is dancing in the sunlight. They might reach for it only to discover that it is not something they can hold in their hand. That fact doesn’t make them cry, it fills them with awe and wonder, as they enjoy something that they cannot yet understand.
Much of life is like that for us. Things happen that we cannot explain. We are thinking of an old and dear friend, and then suddenly they are on the phone wanting to talk. We are unhappy and feel like we can’t go on, and then a stranger smiles at us. The crocuses and daffodils are coming to life now in Utah. Out of the snow and dry ground, their bright colors amaze us with their beauty.
It is the small things that create miracles, the dust motes, the smiles, the seeds that somehow comes to life in the cold ground, and perhaps the most awe-inspiring of all, the inflation of the universe from something smaller than an atom into all the stars we can see in the sky at night, and all the one’s that are so far away that their light only reaches our eyes long after the fires of those distant suns have burned away. We are stardust, billion year old carbon. Everything is holy now.
If everything is holy, are we not holy as well? Our very bodies are composed of elements that were created before the beginning of time? Can we see ourselves as sacred beings, destined to live our lives in tune with a creation story that is truly cosmic in its scope? We may not be made in physical image of God because the cosmic God has no form or shape, or at least one that could be recognized as human. The cosmic creation story hints of a God that is pure energy, that was capable of sparking the biggest bang of all.
You don’t have to name that energy God, but it is hard to deny the power that was unleashed when the universe expanded.
Remember too, that we all have a spark of that kind of energy within us. Namaste, Namaste, we say it all the time. The divine spirit is in each and every one of us. Is it possible that we might be able to expand our own universe, our own lives, in an awesome big bang of creation?
It must have been loud
That moment of creation
Waking up Adam and Eve
And probably the animals
Dozing on the Ark
Mix up your metaphors
And come down from
Your high horse.
Creation can’t happen
In a vacuum.
Maybe it did.
If the universe can be created from a vacuum, in a microsecond of time, then what can we create, if we unleash the holy power within each of us?
This religious community, this relatively small church has accomplished so much since it began a little over 20 years ago. We have changed both our town and ourselves. I can only say that both have been for the better.
But there is always more. The force of life and love is always expanding, spreading out, reaching deeper, and answering a call that is buried deep in both our bodies and our cells. Everything is holy now. There is no reason to let fear, loss, or despair blind us to that reality.
What more can this community do? What more can you do? What is your answer to the message from the universe? It shouts for us to live our lives in fullness, to expand our minds, to open our hearts, and to reach our hands out to try and grasp that shining something that floats in the sunshine. And always we return, to awe and wonder at the miracle of the universe. Everything is holy now.
Close with words by Mary Edes: “Like the cosmic dust following after the great Perseus Meteor, we are the living remnants of time and all that has come to pass in its wake—briefly shining lights on the way to eternity. We are only visible to the naked eye for an instant. Take this moment to shine like the start dust you are. May the light of our time on earth shine to bless the world and each other. Shine. Shine. Shine.”
Namaste, yet again, Namaste