Second Congregational Church
318 N. Church Street
“The Genesis Machine ”
The Rev. Dr. J. Michael Solberg
November 22, 2009
Right now, over on the border between France and Switzerland, scientists are getting ready to conduct one of the most incredible experiments the world has ever seen. Using one of the most expensive machines the world has ever seen, the Large Hadron Collider, they are going to smash some atoms together at a faster speed than ever before, and record the results with more precision than ever before. Among other things, they are going to be looking for a subatomic particle called the Higgs Boson. So far the existence of this particle is only a theory, but the Large Hadron Collider may change that. Using tubes that are cooled to a temperature lower than the emptiness of deep space, and magnets that will bring the atoms to within a whisper of the speed of light, the will recreate the conditions that existed about a millionth of a second after the big bang.
This experiment is worthy of our attention not just because it is incredibly cool that scientists are able to do this kind of stuff, but because in the popular media the experiment carries dramatic theological overtones. One newspaper carried the headline, “Genesis Machine poised to end quest for God Particle.” The article goes on:
“ By crunching together particles at high speed and energy, the machine is designed to recreate conditions that have not existed since just after the Big Bang. "This is a Genesis machine," said theoretical physicist Professor Michio Kaku, of City University in New York. "This machine will help us to unlock the secret of the origin of the universe."
The secret of the origin of the universe: mildly theological language. Of course, I wish them all the best. What humans have been able to do with the gift of science is incredible, but I do sometimes wonder at the theological presumptuousness of some who do this kind of work. The secret of the origin of the universe?
I’m afraid that if that is what they are after, then they have wasted a lot of money. The secret of the origin of the universe is no secret at all – in fact, not only do we already know all about the origin of the universe, we know its ending, and its present as well. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, Which is, and Which was, and Which is to come.”
Of course, I am mixing realms of knowledge here. But the scientists did it first. Not all, but some. If they want to talk about particle physics and Higgs Bosons and muons and string theory I’m all for it, and I’ll just happily listen and learn. But when they start talking my language, our language, when they start talking about a Genesis machine, the God particle, and the secret of the origin of the universe, then I think it is time to step in.
The non-scientific, but profoundly truthful foundation of our faith, is that a guy who was born 2000 years ago in a dusty village in Palestine, who had no position and no political power, who seems not to have done much of anything while on this earth other than teach by word and deed – that guy is Alpha and Omega - the beginning and end of all that is, and he is the meaning of the present as well. The one who is, who was, and who is to come. The present, the past, and the future all are what they are because Jesus is who he is.
But the way I have set this up today could be slightly misleading. The message of the book of Revelation isn’t an argument, certainly not a scientific argument, but also not a theological argument. It is rather an assurance. It is a personal message of comfort and hope. Comfort and hope for the Christians who were being persecuted when it was written, for the pilgrims who came to New England almost 400 years ago, for the scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider, and for us.
For millennia humans have wondered where we came from and where we are going. My neighbor whose job was eliminated, but who still needs to feed her children, wonders where she came from and where she is going. The father whose son was killed in a gang shooting wonders he came from and where he is going. The child who longs to be able to keep up in math class wonders where she came from and where she is going. The congregation that travelled across the ocean and settled at Plymouth, wondered where they came from and where they were going. The scientists smashing atoms together with the LHC wonder where they came from and where they are going. And the congregation that is today celebrating Pilgrim Sunday, and today dedicating our offering to God, wonders where we came from and where we are going.
My friends, we came from the love of God made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth, we now live and move and have our being, in the love of God made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth, and we are going to the love of God made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, Which is, Which was, and Which is to come. Amen.