#BeyondReason, a reflection for Sunday, August 2, 2015 challenges the assumptions we make about God, Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, Human Reason, Science. This reflection asks us if we are open to what God can do and can we leave our assumptions from what we have learned from the world at the door. Listen to “Beyond Reason” to see if you can. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #NASA #JesusChrist #Spiritual #Moses #John6 #WatertoWine #ManatoBreadofLive #EternalGifts #OpentoChange
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/2/2015 The 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read John 6:24-35.
NASA has reported that the New Horizons space probe has reached the Kuiper belt region of the solar system and has reached the planet Pluto. I love how NASA builds space exploration probes through their manipulation of the laws of physics, use of mathematics, human reason, and the ingenuity of humanity. The people at NASA know what can be done and what cannot be done. They know the limits of certain materials so as to make human beings safe in space. They know these things and can make theories about what is out there far, far away. Pluto is a great example and I have the link to the initial NASA New Horizons press conference video on the website MySpiritualAdvisor.com for you to see what I am talking about.
In the press conference to announce what Pluto has found, Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons project, announced that there were at least 4 theories about Pluto that needed to be updated. At least, there were four by my count, I will mention three. Stern said Pluto is bigger than we thought, so we can stop arguing if it is the largest object in the Kuiper belt of our solar system. He announced that its polar ice cap was indeed a polar ice cap and not something else. So, we can put that to rest. He announced that there is a source of hydrogen that is leaking out of their atmosphere, apparently something else for which much ink has been spilt.
My point is that there were conjecture, theories, and hypotheses based upon our understanding of our limitations within the universe. We can see that our logic, mathematics, and physics were right because we got to Pluto. We can see that our logic, mathematics, and physics were wrong because we have had to adjust four theories of what we thought about Pluto. Our ability to understand, our logic, is limited because we are HUMAN. We are discovering the solar system and finding out what is right about what we thought and what is wrong about what we thought. We are doing the best we can with limited abilities.
I can understand why it is that we trust science and its logical roots so much. Time and time again, with trial and error, we come to discover something that is repeatable so many times that we can statistically call it “truth.” It is with this logic, this human reasoning that we come to the Gospels and Christianity. We value science and reason so much that we have placed it above our other abilities. In fact, John Locke, the philosopher from the 18th century, wanted to show that Christianity is entirely reasonable. What Locke, and others like him, caught up in the prevailing sentiments of the times, did was put scientific reasoning and logic above Christianity. By saying “Christianity is reasonable” we are saying that the dictates of what society says is “reasonable” are the truth by which we should judge Christianity. What 18th-21st century philosophy would say is that anything that we cannot measure with our human abilities and senses is not real or true.
I just pointed out to you that NASA had to redo four theories about Pluto because human reason and science was, well, wrong. So, tell me again why it is that we subject our faith, our Christ, our Lord to be subjugated to a scientific method, human logic? Who elevated the human being so high? If I remember, the first time we humans elevated ourselves above everything else because of our ability to analyze a situation, a woman and a man ate a piece of forbidden fruit and the whole enterprise came tumbling down.
Let me say that I am not advocating that science be ignored or not admired for its masterful ability to achieve great things. Science and logic are the discovery of facts and reality. Christianity is the declaration of God and his truth. They are not in competition with each other and need not be. Yet, for us, who are bathed in a culture and 600 year long philosophical battle between reason and science over Christianity, we ought to take a breather from our scientific, human-reason centered viewpoints and remember that there is a God, and we are not him.
We would not be the first to do this God-grab idea. Nor would we be the first to limit our view of what God can do based upon our everyday world view. Look at the Gospel reading for today. It is totally one big parlor game. It is sort of like the Monty Python movie that has Jesus saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” but the hearers are too far away to hear and one of the hearers says, “Did he say blessed are the CHEESE makers?” Another hearer says, “Oh, it is not literal, he means all makers of dairy products.”
If you remember, last week, Jesus fed the 5,000. The people thought he was like Moses and wanted to make him king in response. Jesus left them. So, instead of being amazed at him and turning their hearts toward God, the people who were fed want another meal. They searched for Jesus, pretty extensively, enough to go across the “sea”.
It is clear from the exchange that Jesus knew they came, not because they wanted to believe in God, but because they wanted another meal. They wanted Jesus to be like Moses who reigned over them and took care of all of their material needs in the desert. They even make reference to the manna that they said, “our ancestors gave us.”
Here we have human reasoning that is so off the mark because it is only dealing with day to day self-interest. Jesus has to correct them, it was not your ancestors who gave you the manna, it was “[his] Father in heaven who gives you the true bread from heaven.”
I have spent time in both the Protestant and Catholic worlds. Both sides are so worried about differentiating themselves from each other that I think they miss the point about the Bread of Life passage here in John 6. I will get to this in a moment because it is so important.
First, though, the people in the passage are after day to day, physical, satisfaction. Their very action is misplaced. In the manna, they see God only serving them. Give me, God, so that I know you are real. We do that, too. If you are real, Lord, give me the car I want. If you are real, Lord, heal my pain. If you are real, Lord, agree with me. If you are real, Lord, give me a million dollars. That last prayer is a particular favorite of mine. What we are saying is, if you are real, Lord, you will fit into my expectations and human reasoning of what God is about and can do. What if God is beyond our expectations and our reasoning? What if God is beyond physics?
Catholics claim that the bread and cup are changed into the body and blood of Christ through the use of Aristotelian philosophy. Although admirable, it is unnecessary. God does not have to use an outside source to confirm his Real Presence in the elements of the Bread of Life meal, which is the Eucharist. Some and most reformed Protestants say that the bread and the cup are nowhere near Jesus’ physical body because the laws of physics and human reason would say that we cannot scientifically prove that Jesus is in the bread and cup, so he isn’t. I have actually had a person say to me, “I know that Jesus said it was his body and blood, but it isn’t really.” The Orthodox, who are wowed by the mystery of God and his ability, [who influenced John Wesley greatly], say something more plausible: they don’t know how God does it, but he does.
My point today is that the Gospel readings for the next three Sundays are going to deal with Jesus as the Bread of Life. If we are going to understand what he means, we have to first ask ourselves if we are open to what God can do. Do we believe that God is beyond physics and is above human reasoning?
Are we open to God’s abilities to be beyond the universe? Must we subject Christianity to be limited to human reason, or are we, as human beings, equipped to handle a mystical reality that is so much more rich, so much more eventful, so much more…more? Does Jesus heal? If we believe in a God beyond physics, then he can rearrange the molecules by the power of the Holy Spirit through faith and heal. Does Jesus raise the dead? If we believe that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and life giving principle, beyond human ability to explain it, then yes, he can. If we believe that God is able to do things outside reason and the scientific method, but that reason and science are for use in service to the Gospel, then worship on Sundays just became so much more alive, full, and real.
So, there you have it, a choice. Which world view are you going to embrace? Are you going to embrace a world that limits God based on human limitations or are you going to embrace being human based upon the possibilities of the power of God in his own right? I choose the latter and I hope you do too. Amen.
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