When Galileo (and Copernicus) recognised that the Earth was not the centre of the universe but orbited the Sun, he was considered heretical. Galileo was placed under house arrest, forced to recant and recite a daily confession, such was the level of angst, fear and opposition he faced from a religious world in Europe. In foolishness, the Church unjustly railed against this great man of science.
Newton learned from Galileo’s ‘mistake’ and at the end his great work, Principia, he wrote: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” Barbara Brown Taylor says of this: “He gave God credit for the laws, in other words, but the laws themselves left very little for a deity to do. God may have designed the machine and thumped it into motion, but once the thing got moving it seemed to do just fine all by itself. As far as the universe was concerned, God’s job was most like that of a night watchman: someone who dozed in a lawn chair while the stars spun in their courses overhead.” This notion of the world as a system in which a part could be removed, fixed or replaced and the whole thing could function again, impacted every part of life. In school or society, when a child or person caused trouble, they were taken out, punished or dealt with (‘fixed’) and then put back expecting everything to function properly once again – but often didn’t. People are unpredictable and respond emotionally and often irrationally or do things because of influences within or beyond them. Life is unpredictable. The world is not a machine and people don’t act like parts in a machine. God is not a cosmic clockmaker who drops in and out like nothing more than a simple repairman.
Quantum physics changed everything again. Suddenly the scientific world recognised the relational centre of everything. Einstein however did not like Quantum Physics because it went against his own laws of relativity and the speed of light being the ultimate speed of all things. There’s lovely research the he and 2 colleagues, Podolsky and Rosen performed (called the EPR Experiment). If a sub-atomic particle decays into 2 particles, they are called twins and are intricately connected. If one particle spins one way, the other spins the opposite. So, if we took one particle across the universe and left the other in the laboratory before us, somehow caught it and reversed its spin, the other particle would instantaneously reverse its spin. There is an instantaneous communication between the two particles that transcends the speed of light. Einstein hated this theoretical stage and refused to believe it as it went against his very own theory. Various experiments proved that some mysterious form of communication between the two particles existed and Einstein called it ‘spooky action at a distance.’
This and many other discoveries reveal the deep interconnectedness of all things. Everything is connected and in relationship. Biologists speak of the ‘web of life’ and we know of the interconnected systems of nature, cycles of water, nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide… Modern science speaks of the relational nature of all things. The atoms in our bodies come from the dust of stars and have been part of rocks and trees and animals… over immeasurable time. The water I drink has been through oceans, rivers, animals, trees, through me, you and the world. When I do something, it has an effect on other people, on the earth and its creatures, and the larger the act, the wider the ripples of impact. This world is deeply and profoundly interconnected and relational.
Traditional religion has envisaged a God such as one in Newton’s Principia, a cosmic clockmaker who is relatively uninvolved but never-the-less sits in some kind of judgement over us and does some stuff to ‘fix us’. I’m not sure how we got to this notion of God because it is not the picture of God who created all things through love and saw that it was good. The picture of the relational God appears in the first chapter of the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) where God speaks the world into being as an act of creative love. On the sixth day God says, ‘Let us make humans in our image, in our image let us make them.’ This is a relational God who exists in community and looks upon the creation as being very good, enjoying the wonders of the world that emerge from the heart of Divine love. In the Jewish stories God is always described in a relational manner – ‘the God of your fathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…’ When Moses stood before a burning bush, he wanted a name for God – ‘who are you?’ God replied, ‘I am who I am’. In other words, you will only know me as you experience me and trust me.
Jesus speaks relationally saying, ‘I am in the Father and the father is in me and I in the Spirit…’ He also invites us to be in him and he in us and we will be in God… It is circular and grounded in the interconnected reality of all things – in God.
Paul was converted from a belief system that categorised everyone, defined who was in and out, right and wrong… He experienced the relational God in Christ who transformed him and opened his heart and mind to embrace all people and all things. He speaks of all things being equal in Christ, where difference and diversity is recognised, received and celebrated but all are one. In Ephesians 4, we are told that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God, who is over all and in all and through all.
God is the essential unity that holds all things together in interconnected, relational love. God is the energy, the life, the wonder and mystery at the heart of all things, the source and the life of everything. All was created in God and has its life and being in God, whether we recognise and understand this or not. This is the heart of true faith and life, that God who dwells amongst us, is with us and through us and loves us because God is love.
This week is Trinity Sunday and we celebrate God who is a diversity in unity, a community, a relationship held in love. The expression of this love is the act of creation and the embracing of the physical world through the incarnation of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth, in whom we see the very essence of God’s love and grace enacted in human life. The Spirit of God pervades all things as the creative Spirit that animates life and continues the act of creation through the evolving life of the world. Psalm 8 will be read and sung this week as an act of praise that rings through the centuries joining people of faith and expressing the awe and wonder we all know in the very beauty of everything. It is a song of praise for the beauty, wonder and diversity of all things and all are held in profound love and grace in God!