Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sergei Bulgakov on the Incarnation

Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944) was an eminent Russian Orthodox theologian. Here is something he wrote about the Incarnation:

God wants to communicate to the world his divine life and himself to "dwell" in the world, to become human, in order to make of humankind a god too. That transcends the limits of human imagination and daring, it is the mystery of the love of God "hidden from the beginning in God" (Eph 3:9), unknown to the angels themselves (Eph 3:10; 1 Pet 1:12; 1Tim 3:16). The love of God knows no limits and cannot reach its furthest limit in the fullness of the divine abnegation for the sake of the world: the Incarnation. And if the very nature of the world, raised from non-being to its created state, does not appear here as an obstacle, its fallen state is not one either. God comes even to a fallen world; the love of God is not repelled by the powerlessness of the creature, nor by his fallen image, nor even by the sin of the world: the Lamb of God, who voluntarily bears the sins of the world, is manifest in him. In this way, God gives all for the divinization of the world and its salvation, and nothing remains that he has not given. Such is the love of God, such is Love.

Such it is in the interior life of the Trinity, in the reciprocal surrender of the three hypostases, and such it is in the relation of God to the world. If it is in such a way that we are to understand the Incarnation--and Christ himself teaches us to understand it in such a way (Jn 3:16)--there is no longer any room to ask if the Incarnation would have taken place apart from the Fall. The greater contains the lesser, the conclusion presupposes the antecedent, and the concrete includes the general. The love of God for fallen humankind, which finds it in no way repugnant to take the failed nature of Adam, already contains the love of stainless humankind.

And that is expressed in the wisdom of the brief words of the Nicene Creed: "for our sake and for our salvation." This and, in all the diversity and all the generality of its meaning, contains the theology of the Incarnation. In particular, this and can be taken in the sense of identification (as that is to say). So it is understood by those who consider that salvation is the reason for the Incarnation; in fact, concretely, that is indeed what it signifies for fallen humanity. But this can equally be understood in a distinctive sense (that is to say, "and in particular," or similar expressions), separating the general from the particular, in other words, without limiting the power of the Incarnation nor exhausting it solely in redemption. The Word became flesh: one must understand this in all the plenitude of its meaning, from the theological point of view and the cosmic, the anthropological, the Christological and the soteriological. The last, the most concrete, includes and does not exclude the other meanings; so too, the theology of the Incarnation cannot be limited to the bounds of soteriology; that would be, moreover, impossible, as the history of dogma bears witness....

The Incarnation is the interior basis of creation, its final cause. God did not create the world to hold it at a distance from him, at that insurmountable metaphysical distance that separates the Creator from the creation, but in order to surmount that distance and unite himself completely with the world; not only from the outside, as Creator, nor even as providence, but from within: "the Word became flesh". That is why the Incarnation is already predetermined in human kind.
Translated by Andrew Louth, "The place of theosis in Orthodox theology," in Partakers of the Divine Nature (Christensen and Wittung, eds., Baker Academic 2007).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Incarnation as the Reason for Creation

For the fifth day of Christmas, a little something from Charles Williams. Referencing Duns Scotus, Williams suggests:

The Incarnation is the point of creation, and the divine 'reason' for it. It pleased God in His self-willed activity to be incarnate. But obviously this union of Himself with matter in flesh did not necessarily involve the creation of other flesh. It would have been sufficient to Himself to be Himself united with matter, and that 'united with' means a union very much beyond our powers to conceive; more than a union, a unity. Even now, in spite of the Athanasian Creed, the single existence of the Incarnate Word is too often almost Gnostically contemplated as an inhabitation of the flesh by the Word. But it is not so; what he is He is wholly and absolutely, and even in His death and in the separation of body and soul He remained wholly and absolutely one. His act could have been to Himself alone. He decreed that it should not be; He determined creation; He determined not only to be incarnate, but to be incarnate by means of a mother. He proposed to Himself to be born into a world.

This decree upon Himself was the decree that brought mankind into being. It was His will to make creatures of such a kind that they should share in that particular joy of His existence in flesh. He bade for Himself a mother and all her companions; perhaps the mystery of the mortal maternity of God was greater than that, but at least it was that. It was the great and single act of active love, consonant with nothing but His nature, compared to which the Redemption (if indeed He were infinitely to maintain all souls alive) was but a sheer act of justice. Our flesh was to hold, to its degree, the secrets of His own.
"Natural Goodness" in Selected Writings p. 107

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Does God Pass Gas?

When our oldest daughter, Sara, was a little girl of around six, she took ballet. I sometimes drove her to ballet lessons in our old Volkswagen Beetle. Once, as Sara pulled her seat belt and shoulder harness on, it made a slight hissing sound. This prompted her to observe, “It sounded like the car passed gas.”*

Being the kind of dad I am, I replied, “I thought it was you.”

“Dad, I don’t do that anymore.”

“Sara, honey, everyone passes gas.”

“Yeh, I guess so. But God doesn’t.”

“No. Probably not. But, I expect Jesus did when he lived on earth.”

“Dad, they didn’t do that back then!”

I assured her that they did and that such has always been part of being human and having bodies. From there I offered a brief lesson on the wonder of God becoming a body in the person of Jesus which included all the usual things that go with having a body. Including passing gas. The fact that God not only made her body, but took on a body himself meant that her body – all of it – was beautiful and blessed. Even if it was sometimes kind of funny.

God "abhors not the Virgin's womb" we sing in the carol, God abhors not the messiness of mere humanness. As Rodney Clapp observes in Tortured Wonders:

In St. Augustine’s estimation, the human is “an intermediate being,” created and poised between the beasts and the angels. . . Godlike in some regards, animalistic in others, we can find our intermediate being incongruous, mysterious, and self-contradictory. It can appear monstrous as well as wondrous, and sometimes it is not easy to tell which.

It is central to the Christian confession that Jesus Christ entered and embraced our intermediacy. A truly Christian spirituality, then, must not flee from earthiness. It will make some sense of and help us inhabit our in-betweenness. In other words, we are spiritual creations not just in our churches and dining rooms, but in our bathrooms and on our sickbeds. Christian spirituality comprehends not only the sparkle in our eyes but the grime under our fingernails. p. 177

A traditional Christian spirituality . . . insists on embracing our physical creatureliness entirely, from head to toe and in between. The spiritual and the scatological meet and, however odd, are not at odds. This spirituality, sweats – and breaks wind. But Christian spirituality also takes the body more seriously than does postmodern spirituality. The body in all its physicality is real. It is not merely a sign or instrument to be manipulated for surface effect. It is a true, honest body inside as well as out. It is a body so true and central to human being that it will, transformed, be borne into eternity. p. 188

Similarly, Charles Williams:
The body was holily created, is holily redeemed, and is to be holily raised from the dead. It is in fact, for all our difficulties with it, less fallen, merely in itself, than the soul in which the quality of the will is held to reside; for it was a sin of the will which degraded us. Selected Writings, p. 117

Among other things, this means that to truly celebrate the miracle of Christmas:

- we cannot treat or think of the body - ours or others' - in all its earthiness as something ugly or repulsive. The Incarnation affirms the fundamental goodness of being human with all our vulnerability and awkwardness. There is no human body, however unusual, and no aspect of authentic human experience, however mundane, that is not blessed and honored by the divine enfleshment.

- we cannot hope to fully engage the divine while ignoring our embodied neighbors. This is true in general. It is also true in worship. Christian worship is an embodied, full-sensory affair involving the embodied members of the body of Christ gathered together.

- we cannot neglect the bodily needs of our neighbors.

- we cannot pretend that hurting another body is ever other than sacrilege.

- we cannot pray for someone without "putting skin on our prayers" by doing what we can do to tend to the need ourselves in the name of Christ in whose name we pray.

A good Christian axiom, taking the Incarnation seriously, might be: “Don’t try to be more spiritual than God.” It is an axiom worth remembering as we celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation. Merry Christmas.

*This story is shared with Sara’s permission. She is now 28.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

God’s Translation & Ours

A sermon on John 1:1-18 for Christmas Day/First Sunday of Christmas

Translation can be a tricky business, and if those who are translating are not fluent in both languages the results can be humorous. Here are some examples of some mistranslations to illustrate how translation can be difficult:

A hotel sign from a hotel in Tokyo: “Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read this.”

In a Bucharest hotel lobby there is this sign: “The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.”

In a Hong Kong supermarket: “For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service.”

Again in Hong Kong, outside a tailor shop: “Ladies may have a fit upstairs.”

And again in Hong Kong, a dentist has this sign: “Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.”

A laundry in Rome has this advertisement: “Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.”

At a Copenhagen airline ticket office there was this sign: “We take your bags and send them in all directions.” That’s not mistranslation; that’s just honesty in advertising.

A doctor in Rome has this advertisement: “Specialist in women and other diseases.”

And, lastly, my favorite. In an Acapulco hotel there is this sign: “The manager has personally passed all the water served here.”

Translating is tricky business. I’m sure that if we went to Italy and spoke Italian they would have all kinds of funny stories about how our fractured attempts at speaking Italian didn’t come off quite right. The same would be true in Mexico or Hong Kong. Translation is a difficult thing from any language to another.

I wonder if one way to look at what we celebrate during Christmas season – the Feast of the Incarnation – is to think of it as God’s translation: “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God" (John 1:1) "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God has spoken in human terms in the life of Jesus. Jesus, not just in his teaching, but in his concrete, fleshly life – the things that he did, the things that he taught – every living moment was a translation of the idiom of God in heaven, of the life of the Trinity, into the language of a human life. Jesus is a translation into human, fleshly terms of the life of God. God spoke the language of "Heaven" in “Human”.

Because of our sin, our brokenness, our ignorance, we don’t even speak human all that well, let alone the language of Heaven. Our human is broken human at best, sometimes barely understandable. A heavy accent of sin, of fear, of selfishness, of violence and hatred inflect our human. Not just our speech, but our attempt to live humanly. But, Jesus as the truly Human One, he is the human who speaks Human fluently.

In that sense, understanding Jesus as fully God and fully human is to understand that he is the one fully bilingual person. He speaks the language of the kingdom of God, the language of the life of the Trinity, fluently. But he also speaks human fluently. And he speaks both simultaneously, not the way we usually think of bilingualism where one might speak Spanish in one context and then English in another. It’s not that sometimes Jesus is speaking human and sometimes Jesus is speaking Heaven. The miracle of the Incarnation is that he speaks both at the same time. When he is being most human, Jesus is speaking the idiom of the Trinity, the idiom of Heaven, in fleshly terms. And, when Jesus is being most Godlike, he is speaking fluent human the way we are all created to speak it - to live it. Jesus’ life is the vocabulary of both Heaven and the truly human. The vocabulary of his life, his faithfulness, his obedience, his love, his joy, his peace is the vocabulary of Heaven lived in the flesh and the vocabulary of the flesh lived in the context of God.

We will never speak more than broken human this side of the kingdom, let alone speak the language of Heaven with anything like fluency. But we are invited by God’s grace, and through the Holy Spirit speaking in us and through us, to learn to speak true human and true Heaven. In coming as the true Word, Jesus has made a way for us to be that true word as well – the body of Christ speaking the language of the kingdom in a world that desperately needs to hear it.

When I was in seminary, there was a table in the refectory called the “mesa Espanol” – the Spanish table. There, faculty and students would gather at lunchtime to practice their Spanish with one another so they could become more fluent. The church is like the “mesa Espanol.” We gather week by week (and during the week) to practice the language of the kingdom of God. It is the language we hear spoken in the life and teaching of Christ, the Word of God. As we practice with one another, and as we seek to speak and live that word in the world around us, by God’s grace we become more and more fluent.

Translation from Human to Divine is tricky business. But, the day will come - God has promised - when we will be gathered up into the very life of God and we too will begin to be bilingual – speaking truly human, speaking truly God. The Incarnation is God translated into human that we might be translated into God. That is the promise of the Incarnation. It is the promise of Christmas.

Here are a couple of interesting passages from the New Testament in the King James (Authorized) Version:

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
- Hebrews 11:5

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. - Colossians 1:12-14

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Doubt Your Doubts

Unless we are willing to doubt our doubts, our doubts are just excuses to avoid the implications of believing.

Collect for the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle
Almighty and everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with sure and certain faith in your Son's resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Little Floaty Things That Say "No"

Why do you believe in God?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

God's Yes

John Lennon was murdered twenty years ago this month. I am reminded of a radio interview I heard in the wake of that tragedy in which Lennon recalled how he met Yoko Ono. He had been invited by friend to a conceptual-art show. He found one piece of the exhibit particularly intriguing. It was a step ladder that led to a magnifying glass hanging from the ceiling. Lennon climbed the ladder. He looked through the magnifying glass at a placard taped to the ceiling which had one tiny word on it – yes. Moved by this small declaration of hope, Lennon found the artist – Yoko Ono – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Tomorrow’s gospel begins to move our attention from anticipation of Advent season to the celebration of the actual advent of Jesus who is also Emmanuel, God with us. Like that hopeful word that so moved John Lennon, the word God spoke in speaking the Word into the quiet of Mary’s womb, into the insignificant manger in little Bethlehem, and hence into the world, was God’s “Yes” to humanity. The Incarnation affirms the fundamental goodness of being human with all our vulnerability and awkwardness. There is no aspect of authentic human experience, however mundane, that is not blessed and honored by the divine enfleshment. At the heart of it all is not silence or indifference, but an exultant and relentless Yes. God has created us to hear that yes and in the Incarnation declared us unequivocally worthy of his attention and fellowship.

To be sure, from our earliest days, humans have responded by ignoring or rejecting God's Yes and preferring to speak our own yes to ourselves for ourselves. But we are unable to speak yes on our own and our self-referential yes invariable fragments into myriad no's resulting in the incoherence of sin. To the obstinate “no” of human violence, selfishness, pride, and greed – of all that refuses God’s Yes – we hear a terrifying and resolute “No!” Our “no” and God’s “No!” finally meet in Jesus on the cross. The human no is answered by God’s No! and, in the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning, God’s fundamental Yes to humanity (indeed, to all creation) is reasserted.

In the end, we will only be able to hear God’s Yes if we are first willing to hear the No! to all that in us contradicts that Yes. That is the way of repentance of which we have already heard in Advent. Faith is our yes in response to God’s Yes proclaimed in Jesus Christ. As the 20th century Swedish theologian, Gustaf Aulen, wrote, “In spite of timidity, faith is the soul’s audacious yes to God” (The Faith of the Christian Church, p. 29).

There are but two commandments:
1. You shall say, “Yes” to the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
2. You shall speak “Yes” to your neighbor as you yourself have heard “Yes” spoken to you.

May we prepare to hear again God’s Yes spoken in Jesus, God with us, come to save his people from their sins. "For in him every one of God's promises is a "Yes." For this reason it is through him that we say the "Amen," to the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cry of a Tiny Babe

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Picture from here.

The gospel for this Sunday has me thinking of of the lyrics of another fine song by Bruce Cockburn:

Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph get upset because he doesn't understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says "God did this and you're part of his scheme"
Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says "forgive me I thought you'd been with some other man"
She says "what if I had been - but I wasn't anyway and guess what
I felt the baby kick today"

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything
'Cause the governing body of the whole land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there's a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you've got ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It's a Christmas gift you don't have to buy
There's a future shining in a baby's eyes

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe
- Bruce Cockburn, Cry of a Tiny Babe (Nothing But a Burning Light)

I appreciate the humanness of the first verse. Given they were real flesh and blood people, I can imagine the conversation between Mary and Joseph going something like this. The second verse is a stark reminder that many continue to suffer at the hands of despots and death squads. And that even when we want to do right, as did the "wise" astrologers, evil is close at hand (Romans 7) and we often come pretty close to wrecking everything. The last verse is particularly moving with its affirmation that there is a future shining in this Baby's eye giving us each a glimpse of our worth and the promise of forgiveness. And the refrain is evocative. The disruption of a stone splashing into a still river and redemption ripping through the surface of time cautions against the temptation to sentimentalize and domesticate the Christmas story. Something fundamentally disruptive occurs in the Incarnation. And that is where the hope is. In a world such as ours, something - some One - has to disrupt the usual flow of things to bring redemption.

Here are some comments on the song from Cockburn himself which can be found here:
'Cause the governing body of the holy land is that of Herod, a paranoid man, when he hears there was born a baby King of the Jews, sends death squads to kill all male children under two.' I wanted to put it into terms people can relate to now, because the story itself is so familiar, that its been reduced to traditional images that really work against our understanding of it as a human story. A story that happens to people. You know Joseph's got a saint in front of his name and Mary's got a halo. Those images are so entrenched in people's minds. The fun part of writing a song about it was to crack those images and try to see through to the lives of the people who were directly affected by those events."
-- from "Bruce Cockburn an Update" by Lahri Bond in the June/July 1992 Dirty Linen

I wanted to write a Christmas song. I went at it like trying to tell the Bible story but put it in modern terms. Like the Goddard movie "Joseph and Mary". I thought the story in the Bible is such an interesting story, but you forget how interesting it is because it's held up as a cliche so much to us. And over the years people have lost their humanity, who are in the story, and they've become larger-than-life figures. And I just thought it would be interesting to play at putting them in a human context. So Mary becomes a little bit shrewish and has a little bit of an attitude. The classic Mary figure, the Madonna - the original Madonna - is a far cry from any young Jewish mother I've ever run across [Laughs]. So I wanted to get it into something that people could relate to.
-- from "Closer to the Light with Bruce Cockburn" by Paul Zollo, SongTalk, vol.4, issue 2, 1994.

We've tended to lose sight of the reality of that story, of the immediacy of that story because it's so tied up in historical baggage. Mary is always the Madonna with a blue vale and everything. But in the story Mary is a woman who finds herself pregnant and can't explain it to anyone, especially Joseph who's kind enough not to want to see her executed but is sort of trying to extricate himself from the situation. You figure what must have been going through their heads at that time, I wanted to do a song that would address that fact-the humanity of the people involved.
-- from "Bruce Cockburn: The Soul of a Man", by Michael Case, Umbrella magazine, year unknown.

Collect for Advent 4:
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
- Book of Common Prayer, p. 212

Friday, December 10, 2010

Waiting For A Miracle

The appointed lessons for Advent 3 have put this song in my head all week.

Look at them working in the hot sun
The pilloried saints and the fallen ones
Working and waiting for the night to come
And waiting for a miracle

Somewhere out there is a place that's cool
Where peace and balance are the rule
Working toward a future like some kind of mystic jewel
And waiting for a miracle

You rub your palm
On the grimy pane
In the hope that you can see
You stand up proud
You pretend you're strong
In the hope that you can be
Like the ones who've cried
Like the ones who've died
Trying to set the angel in us free
While they're waiting for a miracle

Struggle for a dollar, scuffle for a dime
Step out from the past and try to hold the line
So how come history takes such a long, long time
When you're waiting for a miracle

You rub your palm
On the grimy pane
In the hope that you can see
You stand up proud
You pretend you're strong
In the hope that you can be
Like the ones who've cried
Like the ones who've died
Trying to set the angel in us free
While they're waiting for a miracle
- Bruce Cockburn Waiting for a Miracle (Singles 1970-1987)

The season of Advent reminds us that we live between two miracles: The miracle of the Incarnation (with all the attendant miracles of Jesus' conception, life and teaching, atoning death on the cross and resurrection on Easter) and the miracle of the restoration of all things when "peace and balance are the rule."

Remembering and celebrating the penultimate miracle we now live waiting with anticipation for the ultimate miracle of restoration and transfiguration. In the meantime, it can seem "history takes such a long, long time." Though the brightness of those two miracles sheds light into our present darkness, we still only see as through opaque glass and "rub our palms on the grimy pane in the hope that we can see." We rub away at the recognition that the proud, the mighty, and the rich continue to have their way at the expense of the lowly. We rub away at the realization of our own weak hands, feeble knees, fearful hearts. Like, John, languishing in Herod's dungeon, we sometimes find ourselves uncertain.

And yet, in the light of the former miracle, we live trusting that the One who gave sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, cleansed lepers, enabled the deaf to hear, raised the dead, and brought good news to the poor has not abandoned us. He is present to us by his Spirit whose presence joins the two miracles, making them one. Thus, it is not so much that we live between two miracles as that we live in the midst of one great miracle. But, it is God's miracle, performed in God's time. In our smallness, we sometimes have a hard time seeing it and living into it. Which is why, I suppose, patience is understood to be the root of all the virtues. And we can be patient because we know we are living in the midst of an unfolding miracle.

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. We are waiting for a miracle.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Renk Health Clinic

St. Barnabas, Glen Ellyn, IL has been supporting the ministry of our sisters and brothers in the Diocese of Renk, of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. Among the things we've supported is a Health Clinic. The clinic is directed by Dr. Paul Deng Kuol. There is a midwife, Sister Ruth Kur. And there is a pharmacy. The clinic sees as many a 100 patients a day for such things as treat malaria, diarrhea, a range of parasites, bronchitis and other lung ailments, HIV/AIDS, etc.
Dr. Paul
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For the last six years St. Barnabas has sponsored a fund-raising concert of eclectic music (several of our members are professional musicians and we invite some friends of the parish to perform as well). With the help of a matching grant, we have raised $12,000-16,000 dollars each year. These funds go directly to the purchase of medicine, vaccine, and vitamins. They also help to fund the salary of a midwife. The clinic is one of only a few in aregion in which the healthcare system is dismal. It is one of only 719 or so health clinics in southern Sudan for a population of 8.26 million people. And there is only one doctor for every 10 clinics.

Our support of the Renk Diocese Health Clinic addresses three of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality rate
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

Sister Ruth, midwife
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Because of the approaching January 9 referendum, there is a possibility that for a while after the referendum the clinic will not have access to the resources available in Khartoum. And since Renk is on the main road from the north to the south, they are anticipating an influx of displaced persons forced to leave the north. Therefore, we want to send funds to for the clinic before the end of December. So, we are selling tickets early. We are also selling gift cards that people can give as Christmas presents. Check out GIVE SMART - three ideas for making your charitable donations count by one of our members.

The Clinic Pharmacy
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So, I know that there are lots of good causes out there, but I invite anyone who would like contribute to doing so. If you are interested in helping us help out the health clinic, you can send donations to

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church
22W415 Butterfieled Rd.
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

Your gift will save lives and offer hope.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Before the Boom (and beyond) - an Effervescent God?

From an editorial in today's New York Times:
Astronomers and astrophysicists have given us insight into what happened in the first trillionths-of-a-second after the Big Bang, nearly 14 billion years ago. But the current cosmological hypothesis is that before the Big Bang there was nothing.

Now Roger Penrose, the eminent British mathematician, is arguing that there is physical evidence that may predate the Big Bang. In a recent paper, he and his co-author, the physicist V. G. Gurzadyan, describe a pattern of concentric circles detected against the universal backdrop of cosmic microwave radiation generated by the Big Bang. These circles, they say, may be gravitational waves generated by collisions of superbig black holes before the Big Bang.

The two scientists go even further, claiming that the evidence also suggests that our universe may “be but one aeon in a (perhaps unending) succession of such aeons.” What we think of as our “universe” may simply be one link in a chain of universes, each beginning with a big bang and ending in a way that sends detectable gravitational waves into the next universe.

The argument is highly controversial. But if the circles the two scientists have detected stand up to further examination — if they’re not the result of noise or instrumental error — it could radically change the way we think about our universe. And the notion is no more radical than that of some cosmologists who argue that our universe is only one in a multiverse — a possibly infinite number of co-existing, but undetectable, universes.

The question is: What do we do with these possibilities? Our answer is to marvel at them and be reminded, once again, that we live in a universe — however we define it — that contains more wonders than we can begin to imagine.

I played with this idea a bit in my second post on this blog: An Effervescent God? It gives new meaning to "He counts the number of the stars and calls them each by their names. Great is our LORD and mighty in power; there is no limit to his wisdom." (Psalm 147:4-5)