Last Epiphany A 2023: A God Who Eats Black Holes for a Snack

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I should warn you that this is an unfinished sermon, sort of.
You’ll see what I mean, and
I won’t leave you hanging.

my sermon day when I’m lucky,
Rabia and I began the morning
with our usual walk to the lake.
”Walk” is a euphemism.
I begrudgingly walk and limp and wobble
while she trots and sniffs and wags.
I sigh and humph and shuffle
waiting for her to decide
on exactly the right spot
to do one and then the other
of the rationale for our outing.

The one thing we do together
is sit on “our” bench
and look at the lake.
Me because I am essentially
a sedentary contemplator
and her because I rub her belly.

Anyway, that’s a long introduction
for a very brief experience.
The sun was brilliant.

It was already a giant ball of flame
hovering a building’s height
above the water,
or so it seemed.
It’s intensity was reflected
in a ribbon of gold
unrolled upon the white shouldered waves
pushed to the north end of the lake
by a stiff south wind from Watkins Glen.

Sometimes when we are sitting there
I pray.

Sometimes I talk, Tevia style,
to the Creator-Of-All- That-Is,
and let God know
what I think should be done
as if divinity was a power at my command.

Other times, most of the time,
I sit and invite the wind and waves,
and sun or clouds,
even rain or snow,
to speak to me
whatever words
I need to hear.

But last Wednesday
as I raised my head toward
the rising sun,

I could not look up.
I was about to say something —
likely very unimportant —
when the intensity of light
refused me.
Mind you, I had sunglasses on,
and still I could not raise my head
from its Rabia level bow
to speak toward the sun.

I had already decided
intuitively, which
is how I decide most things,
to use the sun
as a surrogate for God.
I was going to look toward the sun
and offer my prayers.

But the sun
had another idea.
”Down, you fool,” the sun
might as well have grumbled.
I could not look up.

The sun was too much,
too brilliant
too intense
too radiant
for me to look at it
even with sunglasses on.

And that, of course,
was perfect.
We come before God
as if a manageable deity,
a genie in a bottle
we keep corked.
Like in many traditional churches
there is a tabernacle
with a candle lit behind red glass
so we know
Jesus is there – be careful.

We have the altar
where God plays peek-a-boo with us,
and we have the Bible,
in which God
sends up messages in a bottle.

We have preachers
who tell us what God thinks
and what God wants
and what God would have us do.

In short, we have
a very domesticated God
served up in bite-size pieces
so we can chew and swallow
our religion safely.

But in fact, there is no God
like that, not even close.
There is the Creator-Of-All-That-Is
so eternal
so timeless
so cosmic
that God eats Black Holes
for a snack.

Let’s just get a little perspective here.
In the Milky Way,
where our smallish galaxy of Sun and Earth
forms a little tail at the end,
there are fifty other galaxies.
The largest galaxy in the Milky Way
is 14,000 light-years in diameter.
Just that one big galaxy
has ten BILLION stars in it.
Ten billion suns!

But back up a little further
to embrace the universe — our universe,
which is only one of many universes.
Our universe has between
100 and 200 BILLION
galaxies in it.
Just our little universe,
which we laughlingly used to think
was the only universe,
has as many as 200 billion galaxies in it!

our little God,
is the Creator of all those billions of billions
of galaxies,
each with ten billion suns or more.
our little God,
is THAT God.
And we somehow
have gotten the idea
that we can reduce THAT God
to a manageable size
so that we can know it
and understand it
and follow its every command
and digest it
like some cookie
that delights us. Ha!

When Moses came out of the cloud,
which was probably
the small Sagittarius
Star Cloud
known as Messier 24
by the Astrophysics community,
Exodus reports
that he shined.
Moses’ face shined so brightly
that for the rest of his life
he had to wear a veil over his head.
Moses on the mountain
and Jesus on the mountain
are cartoon stories
that attempt to tell us the impossible.

Like cartoons and comics
they tell a fantastical tale
to point to ordinary truths.

The ordinary truth is
that God is THAT God,
and we are nothing but eternal star dust
gathered in a temporary body.
We can’t even get closer to our own sun
than three million miles
before burning up.
How close could we get to THAT God
without obliteration.

Let us remember
that the Bible was not a baby
born all at once
in a single dump.
It is composed of stories,
stories told
before written.
Stories told by story-tellers
in circles of hushed voices
and passed down
for years or decades
and even centuries
before written and edited.

These two mountain-top stories
we heard today
are shadows of the stories
that were told
to deliver a sense of the breadth
and depth
and power
of a God they knew
better than we know,
is THAT God.

We think
that because we know about cells
and atoms
and sub-atomic particles,
and that we can split them
to harness bombs,
that we are big and important.

We think
that because we know how
to capture the power of sun
and the wind
and fire,
that we are big and full of wisdom.

We think
that because we can fly
and dive
and sail;
because we can vaccinate
and paint
and build that we are big and powerful.
We are so mistaken.
We are small.
Vulnerable and
in the presence
of the universe
let alone the God of all the universes.

These stories
seek to remind us
that the humility we lost
in the midst of modernity,
is a lens
we need to find and put back on
so we can see clearly.

There are of course
a number of other intended
punchlines to these stories —
ones that get stretched out
into laws and doctrines and dogma.
But for me, the early morning sun
reminded me
that the transfiguration
is about THAT God
and we need to stop sometimes
and step back
and reach for the humility lens.