Science and Christian faith are not enemies. We are not at war. From time to time the church in need of a devil, has picked on scientists. The result: the church left red-faced, the alleged devil exonerated. Like Galileo where the church at last had to sing, “Galileo we are sorry. We didn’t mean it. We were wrong.” More recently Darwin has been dubbed the devil. Growing up in Louisiana, I thought Darwin was the devil married to the voodoo queen Marie Lavo. But Darwin turns out to have been right; the church not so much. Now we are stuck with the squirrely little God of creationism who requires that adherents bow before the false god of twenty one impossible facts in order to be a true believer. Instead I offer you the powerful, almighty God of creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who raised Jesus from the dead. The little god that revels in small, insignificant beliefs needs to retire or die. Instead let us embrace a God big enough and powerful enough to include psalms and physics in the equation of life. What better time than Easter to celebrate the power of creation and resurrection?
The Louisiana chef, Emeril Lagasse, punctuates his recipe explanations with “Bam!” He will be showing you how to make bar-b-que shrimp, add say, “I wouldn’t be doing New Orleans justice if I didn’t add some Cayenne pepper, BAM”! I take this to be the culinary equivalent to AMEN! God rolled the stone away! BAM! He is not here he has been raised! BAM!
I invite you to embrace resurrection as the pivotal point of life. Our critics, the atheists, keep blathering about the impossibility of our faith. Well the skeptics offer as explanation for our existence the idea of countless parallel universes with which we can never communicate, and whose existence we cannot test. This claim involves as imagination as wild as any tale in any sacred book. And it requires a faith of extraordinary power, so the nonreligious should take a break and give us Easter!
I begin with creation – not a bam, but the Big Bang! One of the great discoveries of science is that our universe has been 15,000,000,000 years in the making. The Big Bang means that the pre-existent matter exploded into trillions of pieces and after billions of years of patient persuading, God sorted the universe into galaxies and stars and a place for us to live! Sam Keen says, “Since the Big Bang quickly blossomed, like a skyrocket on the Fourth of July, into this kaleidoscopic world that contains Indigo Buntings, rattlesnakes, physicists, and since the eventuality of anything depends on everything else (in other words, if there is no carbon in the stars, there is no human brain), doesn’t it seem reasonable to assume that something like a cosmic form of DNA informed the movement from bang to blossom, during which the ultimate singularity became plural?” I believe Keen means God with this beautiful statement, but God is far more than a cosmic form of DNA.
I have always liked the term the “Big Bang.” I chose the picture on the bulletin cover to make the connection between creation power and resurrection power. Only God can create and only God can make the dead live again. As God made us from stardust, God raised Jesus from the dead. The astronomer George Coyne has said we are literally made of stardust. “The elements that enable life are formed in the stars themselves, and only a universe like ours could have forged these elements in abundance sufficient to produce planets where life was possible” (Kenneth Brown).God’s creation established a relationship between God and all of creation that depends on God. Moment by moment, all of this depends on God and for us to live as if this doesn’t really count, or that this doesn’t cause us awe and amazement, or to believe that it doesn’t much matter whether we participate in the life of God or not, seems rather odd to me.
Science taught me that at the heart of every solid thing is the dance of the subatomic particles. But at the heart of the subatomic particles is an action and motion that no science can measure – the outpouring of life from God. The Bible taught me: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it;2 for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.” In fact, I find it fascinating to read science along with the Psalms. Now, there’s a balance worth pursuing! A scientific psalmist!
“When we celebrate Easter, we are really standing in the middle of a second ‘Big Bang’, a tumultuous surge of divine energy as fiery and intense as the very beginning of the universe. ‘The fire in the equations’, the energy in the mathematical and physical structures of things, is here at Easter. “Let there be light” and “Lazarus come forth” are unleashing the same creative power.
Creation and resurrection – God’s Big Bangs! These actions of God make you a living, breathing member of this planet. Creation is going on now; so is resurrection. God has acted again and again and again, to create, preserve, save, and maintain your life.
Without creation, there is no life. Without resurrection, there is no way to live without fear among the tyranny of death. I want you to revel in Easter. God raised Jesus from the dead. I have often tried to picture what happened in that dark grave. The current of divine power surging through the three-day dead body of Jesus, his eyes opening, adjusting to the darkness, aware of a new power within, the stone rolled away, the first awkward steps, a glance at the nail piercings tattooing his hands and feet, and the bright light of Easter dawn – I just don’t have a category for this. Was it cardiopulmonary resuscitation? No it had to be more because Jesus was as dead as dead can be. Was it divine defibrillator paddles? Our one clue is found in the creation story: [God] “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;” and the man Jesus was raised from the dead.
I am interested in whether or not I can help you embrace resurrection power. What is there in you that has died and in need of a resurrection? The word of Jesus, the one who died and was raised from the dead, can give you a resurrection. “So if anyone is in Christ, he/she is the new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” To be in Christ is to have been buried and raised with him. Resurrection is the new creation.
We are part of a “fully gifted creation,” a universe made up of the “right stuff,” Howard van Till says. “Ours is a fully functional, robust, fully equipped universe.” It has a bias for life and God intends for us not only salvation and wholeness in this world, but also an even more complete salvation in a life beyond the grave. Christians call this life resurrection.
I have come to praise resurrection not prove it. I feel my own deep response to Easter rising in my heart. In the Divine Comedy, as Dante draws near the celestial sphere, he says that he heard a sound he had never heard before. It sounded “like the laughter of the universe.”
The whole universe laughing. Recall the words of Romans 8 – “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Resurrection sets creation free at last. I see it coming; I’m on an Easter roll: The chains broken BAM; the futility ended BAM; the sick healed; the blind seeing; the lame walking; the hungry fed. BAM! Resurrection’s got ethics! But also joy: The rocks alive with praise. BAM! The mountains dancing. \BAM! The trees swaying in the wind of the Holy Spirit. BAM! The solar system, the Milky Way, the hundred billion galaxies that surround our earthly protons, all bent over in convulsions of hilarity.
We are made from the dust of the earth itself. The details of our making are grander than the writers of Genesis might have dreamed. For human life to appear on this planet, we needed a universe vaster than the nighttime sky. And we have one! We required a cosmos of inconceivable age. And we have one! We needed finely tuned fundamental constants to stoke the fires of trillions of suns, and a balance of light and heavy elements forged in the embers of dying stars. And we have all of it. As life emerged from the very forces that shape galaxies and fill the earth with light and color, we know, as a people of faith where all this fortunate collection of circumstances came. They came, as all things do, from God. Bam! On Easter Sunday I believe more fiercely in the opening lines of the Apostle’s Creed than on any other day: “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. LET EASTER PRAISE ROLL! Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. I THINK THE PSALMISTS LOOKING BACK AT CREATION LOOKED FORWARD TO RESURRECTION!
Or as the poet Max Ehrmann puts it:
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.