Clevedon Presbyterian Church
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Looking Up

August 19, 2019
Martin Baker

18 August 2019                                         Looking Up Martin Baker

Hebrews 1:1- 12

1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7 Of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire." 8 But of the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous sceptre is the sceptre of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions." 10 And, "In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; 12 like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end."

Last week I attended a lecture by a prominent Physicist, Professor Jeff Tallon, who is also passionate about his Christian faith.

Just a few of the points he made.

The universe is really incomprehensible in its size and also extraordinary sensitive and intricate in the forces that hold it together.

In the midst of this enormity humans are wonderfully gifted, we each have billions of neurons in our brain about as many as the stars in the visible  universe,  and from those neurons  have the skills to develop the formulas and scientific models that explain how enormously complicated the physical forces at work in forming the universe.

And the third point – quite a few of his fellow physicist have a strong and active faith. Jeff spoke  of how he goes to the world Physicists conference each year held in Cambridge, and he says about 70% of the physicists  attend the church service they always have. He says that many of these genius people are willing to allow that the presence of creator can be reasonable supposed within the enormously complex formulas that they spend their lives developing. In fact, even on a statistical basis, the presence of intention in creation is at least a likely a cause of the origins of the universe than the other highly speculative theories that may be impossible to ever prove.

One thing Jeff has real problems with is that when well-meaning Christians says that science is incompatible with faith. He would say, as a physicist, the exact opposite, science and faith can work very closely together.

For example, as a mathematical type he counted up the hundreds of times both Jesus and his followers asked questions.  Questions and the discoveries and understanding that flow from them, run right through the Gospel story. Questions and discoveries also sit at the heart of scientific enquiry.

Hebrews is about these enormous things. Think about the idea that not only us but in a way the universe created in God’s image

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

I think it was the physicist who said big claims require big proof.  What might proof look like?

If Bob said he drank a glass of ginger beer last night. I would go yes, I can believe that. If Bob said he made the ginger beer himself. I could believe that as well.  If Bob said his ginger beer had become world famous, as much as I liked Bob and trusted him, I guess I would kind of want some verification.  Either I would think he had drunk too much of his own ginger beer home, or he was going crazy, a little deluded, or I would really want proof that that was the case.  

I don’t want to sound too theoretical here, but what might be proof?  That Bob’s ginger beer was indeed world famous?  

So when I talk about my faith, about the presence of God about the great claims of the Gospel.  You might say, well that’s your experience and your truth. It is just a personal thing. It doesn’t prove anything.

But our reading today is actually making a much bigger claim.  And it is a claim that is made by Jeff and a majority of his fellow physicists.  

‘but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.’

And they point to these formulas not as a way of disproving God, but to do the very opposite. That there are forces at work that are so extraordinarily unlikely and complicated and universal , that the presence of purpose, that the hand of the creator can quite reasonably be supported.

This is the Einstein Field Equation.

My understanding is that this incredibly complicated equation describes the relationship between gravitational forces, time and light.

Albert Einstein, conceived a formula like this, almost 100 years ago,  without anything like  the scientific equipment available today.  A human beins with as many neurons in the brain as stars in the universe could produce what is called the Einstein Field Equation which described how gravity and time work. The very fact that there are those exceptional minds among us that can gaze out into the enormity and not fall back on our insignificance, but can actually engage  and explain how things hold together.

And the tiniest most miniscule variation from the formula would result in everything flying off or crashing together.

And so our Christian physicist glories in the statement, god appointed his son heir of all things and through him also e he made the universe.

Scholars tells us is on the key reasons behind the writing of the book of Hebrews. It seems most like that the book is written to a Hebrew or Jewish community who become Christians but are wondering whether they made the right decisions.  They are likely thinking it seems, that their previous faith with is rules and ritual and order was easier was more straight forward.

And the writer of Hebrews is saying this thing, before you give up on Jesus on following Christ; let’s reflect on the great claims in the Gospel.  

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

We listen to those words and we listen for the great claim that is behind them.

The Son is said to be "heir of all things."    

As we know if you inherit something it happens after a person dies.

I know this sounds like a bit of a complex logic, but the writer of Hebrews is telling us two things.   God does not die, but the Son becomes the inheritor of what God has, through his own death.

As we read the rest of this verse we are told what this means:    

3 He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

I was talking with a couple of people during the week about the experiences we have all had. Of coming onto a train or to some public place and everyone is now looking down at their screens.  The restaurant with everyone with their phone on the table. Or the family sitting down to eat and the rules around the use of phones at that time.  All that looking down. Or the routines the order.  All the things that demand our attention.

I know these passages are not easy.  But one thing our passage this morning is about, is looking up.  Looking up even in the midst of persecution, looking up when your homes have been ransacked, looking up when you have been expelled from your old religious community.

Looking up and being reminded of the greatness of creation, the greatness of creator this huge understanding that you have bene created in the image of God.  That we are part, along with this whole universe, of God’s created purpose

In these verses there are these four claims.

First that  God is committed to pursuing relationship with fallible and often broken and complaining people,  God never stops communicating, had never stopped relating.

The second claim is God is faithful

Through the prophets and Scriptures, God promised humanity a Messiah a saviour a deliverer. This God of all creation  whose presence can be testified in the complexity of the created world, can be trusted to follow through on the promises

And then, with all this grandeur, the third claim is that the brokenness between us and God this thing called sin has been dealt with in Jesus

Jesus experienced the worst that humans can do. Announced God’s forgiveness and bring us to new life as resurrected people.

Jesus  leads the way on our pilgrimage.

We can commit our entire lives to Jesus  . As big as that it, because this is the one through whom God created the universe

Our ability to understand God is limited,  a bit like our comprehension of the magnitude of distance.  Affirming this enormity,  Hebrews  gives us a glimpse of God’s glory by lifting our minds from the mundane to where Christ shares in God’s own life, exalted above the angels. This Christ is the same Jesus who lived on earth as a human being, revealing to us the very being of God This extraordinary God is the same one who meets us in our very ordinary lives

There comes a time, for us all perhaps, when we need to pause, in our business with all our issues, just to pause. To pause , look up, and ponder that we and this universe are created in God’s image.

I know Christmas is still four months off but these realities might be a source of wonder by our physicists,  but also our poets and our song writers.

Hark the herald angels sing. Glory to the new born king. Peace on earth and mercy mild god and sinner reconciled. Joyful all ye nations rise join the triumphs of the skies . Hark the heralds angles sing. Glory to the new born king.

AMEN