Canon Ray Dugan
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. These words from today’s Epistle to the Hebrews were originally attributed to Saint Paul; however, recent scholars attribute them to an unknown author, probably in Rome, at around the turn of the first Century. This author was telling us that despite the troubles of our present time, which as in every age of human existence, always appear greater than anything we have seen in the past, will be set right by a loving God in due time. However, Jesus tells his disciples and we are his disciples in this troubled age, that we are not to be afraid, but to be prepared for what comes with our lamps lit and ready for action no matter the hour of the day.
We marveled to hear of the courage of the security guard in Dayton who having gathered hundreds in the bar whose door he was securing, locked the door and courageously stood off the shooter facing him defying him to enter the premises. His defiant action in defense of the frightened victims he had accepted to protect was a marvelous example of what Jesus asks us all to be prepared to do.
We have all been shocked at the acts of violence and killing that seems to be accelerating at a frightening pace. Whether the cause is a consequence of increased calls for opposition to thousands seeking asylum from violence in their homelands of Central American and Africa, or neglect of mental health treatment of those suffering from drug misuse and mental illness or the lack of a more equitable level of pay for low income workers, our elected officials need to hear from us in calls for action to make this a better word and find political solution to the issues of our age. Be Ready!
Another issue that has served to alienate many seniors in our society from younger generations is the rapid pace of change in our world. We are doing a poor job of keeping up with and adjusting to these changes. Seniors must learn to respond to younger impatient drivers going 20 or so miles over the speed limit in cars that offer quick response time with voice commands and new control aids that didn’t exist when we got our learner’s permits. Younger drivers must also be ready to respond to slow drivers in the high-speed lanes or careless left-turning seniors. Blessed are the drivers whom the highway patrol finds alert when they come upon them Be Ready!
When I am asked my race, I sometimes respond that I am a member of the human race. When I am asked what my church is, I sometimes reply that I am an ecumaniac. I define an ecumaniac as one who loves all denominations and religions better than their own. I still prefer being an Episcopalian as long as the Episcopal, Church continues to expand our faith, belief and definitions of the Creator Master of the Universe in such a fashion as to be one who loves all of his (or her) creations. You know the Bible includes definitions of God that go beyond describing God as a male. Why can’t we, the human race, learn to be more inclusive? I simply hope that when the owner of the universe comes for me to take me to my heavenly home I will be ready to acknowledge God as my heavenly parent and won’t be too surprised to meet those who have preceded me into the after-life we describe as heaven.
I was reminded last week of the rapid pace with which our modern society has had to adjust to changes in our knowledge of the universe. I viewed a program in the Nova series on Channel 8. I was reminded that just two or three centuries ago, scientists believed that the earth was the center of a two-dimensional universe around which the sun, moon and planets orbited covered by a canopy of stars fixed in a dome above us. Just within the past century we have learned that our galaxy is only one of thousands of galaxies expanding from a central core that erupted in a big bang 13.8 billion years ago. The knowledge of an expanding universe is a consequence of vastly improved telescopes and space travel which has expanded our knowledge of the moon, Mars, the rings of Saturn and even passing comets.
Cosmology has had to make radical changes in the way we have come to think about not just our earth and the planets but our place in the universe that we as Christians believe God created. Astrophysicists have had to make radical changes in the way they think of things. We, theologians with Bachelor of Science degrees like I have, have likewise had to make radical changes in the ways in which we think and teach our children about God. I believe I have accommodated my faith in God to those changes. My knowledge and faith in God have expanded along with the universe. I always thought of God as an awesome God to have created the world in which we live. Now, I am called on to believe in God as a universal God that created this vast universe in which he has dwelled for over 13 billion years and yet who responds to every sparrow’s fall on this insignificant speck of dust we call our home. Wow! Can we be ready to respond to our heavenly Father who created the vast universe 13.8 billion years ago when we are called to respond to our summons to join our Lord and our loved one who have preceded us into that galaxy far away we call heaven? I believe I am so ready and will be happy to be welcomed by friends and loved one who are already members of that heavenly kingdom.
Do I believe that heaven is only populated with Episcopalians? Or are there also former creatures of other planets orbiting other stars in our Milky Way galaxy who have been visited by our Lord? I can imagine that in this vast universe in which our planet earth is but a mere speck of dust there may well be other creatures who have evolved sufficiently within the past 13 billion years to have recognized and acknowledged the presence of God in their midst? We are told in our scriptures that God loves his creation and cares for every living creature. I can hardly wait to see God’s heavenly Kingdom!
When I am asked what I think about the acts of violence that are occurring in our world today I answer that we must respond with acts of love and compassion to those in a world that hurts for them. If someone hits me on my cheek I am told by our Lord that we are to turn the other cheek. We are to love God, who sent his only begotten Son in order that all who live in God’s creation are to respect it, learning to love it as our Lord does, and to love others as God loves us.
Returning to our Epistle to the Hebrews, we are told: “By faith we understand that the worlds are prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” The author of Hebrews was, of course, not aware of the extent of “the worlds” that were prepared by the word of God. The extent of the visible universe in the 21st Century is clearly far more vast than he imagined. Are we prepared to recognize God’s presence in our world today and accept the commission that our Lord has given to us? Jesus is calling his disciples, that includes you and me, to be prepared to spread God’s love for his creation to a troubled world. We are to offer solace. Where there is confusion and blindness, we must provide clarity and vision. All the while we have available the tools at hand to repair a broken world. As St. Paul put it, we have faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Love one another.
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