Psalm 149 and Excerpts from The Story of Our Universe May Be Starting to Unravel by Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser
Sunday September 10th, 2023
By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Welcome again on what was called when I was growing up, Homecoming Sunday! Or Rally Day! I now realize the concept was really more like: hey come back to from the lake, come back!
So thank you for being here in person and online and welcome you are joining on our livestream.
I invite you now to let yourselves arrive a bit more fully. I know it is honestly my hope that you we each hear something, that we each hear a gem, a question, a bit of inspiration. So let us take some deeper breaths, breathing in peace and breathing out worry, breathing in hope and breathing out fear… And as you are moved I invite you to join me now in a spirit of prayer from Psalm 19. God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
We are learning about the atmospheres of extrasolar planets, and we are uncovering some of the building blocks of life elsewhere in the Universe. And we are studying stars as they are forming in their “dusty cocoons”and we can see the heated material that point to the beginnings of planetary systems.
We have been operating from a paradigm of understanding that after the Big Bang, the Universe was basically “a hot soup of particles.” And when everything began to cool, the atoms began to ionize and then that allowed light to move about on its own and then the Universe was no longer opaque! But it would still be about a few hundred million years after that big bang! Before there was light, like real light, like let there be light kind of light. Scientists believe that the “Ultraviolet and visible light emitted by the very first luminous objects has been stretched or ‘redshifted’ by the Universe’s continual expansion...” The James Webb Space Telescope was designed to see this light and to answer the questions about the first light.
The images from the telescope are stunning, breathtaking, gorgeous. Cosmic cliffs, nebulas with blue and red and gold. Deep fields of purple explosions.
But as incredible as the photos have been, they have started to unsettle. Because the data is starting to point out what aren’t minor discrepancies. There is enough that many are starting to ask: Is our operating paradigm wrong?
As professors Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser write, “Perhaps the solution to the problems the Webb is forcing us to confront will require only that cosmologists come up with a new “dark” something or other that will allow our picture of the Universe to continue…” Have you noticed how scientists sometimes just try to patch up an old theory for a while? But now there is so much data coming in that challenges what we thought we knew that there is another possibility entirely.
Are you ready for it? Here it is, they write, “We may be at a point where we need a radical departure from the standard model, one that may even require us to change how we think of elemental components of the Universe, possibly even the nature of space and time…” Wow!
And they go on to tell us how hard it is see beyond an existing paradigm because we are and scientists are “haunted by ghosts of basic assumptions hiding unseen in the tools we use.” And I can hardly begin to process this idea: “every act of observation influences the future and even the past history of the Universe.” What if we need to rethink how we thought about and are thinking about the entire Universe?
What if we thought we knew more than we did? And what if some of these old paradigms were built on assumptions that we now know are incomplete or wrong?
I wonder if this is true for the cosmos but also true way down here on planet earth for us too?
What I mean is that what if some of our assumptions about what would always be are wrong?
And what if some of our assumptions about one another are wrong?
And what if some of our ideas about our separateness are wrong?
And what if some of our ideas about what is possible are wrong?
And what if some of our ideas about how our ability to influence are wrong?
What if we have far more power than we knew?
And so in biblical phrasing, in the wisdom from our ancient text, what if we are living in a time that is asking us to sing some new songs? We give thanks for the songs that have carried us right here to this moment, we give thanks for the theories that allowed us to keep questing to arrive where we are and also what if the Universe is inviting us to let go of what we thought we knew?
What if in big and little ways we human beings are being asked to acknowledge the ghosts of assumptions hiding unseen right here in our everyday lives?
What are the new songs beckoning to us? What paradigms are we being called to question? How can we keep evolving?
That’s a question I have asked myself a lot lately. I have joked that I wish I could plug myself in like the smartphone and wake up with iOS. 1.6.2 uploaded with a cheery message- you operating system has now been upgraded. Nicole 5.0 is ready! Wouldn’t that be nice? But that’s not how it works.
I believe that being willing to evolve leads to a rich and powerful life, but also many opt out. Because it’s easier just to stay doing what they are doing. Or they pretend they can do it on their own, alone, apart from any kind of community is possible. I know I am biased, but I don’t see a lot of success among those who think they’ve got it.
In my experience, being willing to let go of old paradigms or to challenge one’s own assumptions or to be regularly willing to change one’s mind when new information comes, requires a certain amount of intention. I watch how quickly many people default to the ego stance of digging in, even when you get more information, instead of shifting, dig in harder.
But what if the Universe is inviting us to let go of what we thought we knew? And what if doing that gives space for possibilities we cannot yet perceive?
As many of you know, our church is embarking on quite a few experiments right now- with how we are structured, how we build community. And this willingness to try new things has been glorious to be a part of. And thank you for being willing to evolve!
In part because it is allowing us occasions to acknowledge assumptions we have made that are hiding right here, assumptions about - why people come, what they need, what kind of music they like, assumptions about economic circumstances, or family situations. What if we could let go of some that? And we are going to take a minute right here. And we are going to do something vulnerable. And I invite you to partake as you are moved. I invite you to turn to the person next to you and I invite you to share one thing you are invited to let go of in terms of what you thought you knew… And you on the livestream how are you being called to evolve?
Beloved of God, what if from the vastness of the cosmos to all the way down here, what if we are being invited to let go of what we thought we knew? And what if we have power far beyond our imagining? Because what if even “every act of observation influences the future...”? As Richard Rohr wrote, “the atoms and molecules that existed at the Big Bang are the same atoms and molecules here right now…” We are stardust! So it’s not if things will change, but how, and how we will evolve along with It all. What are the new paradigms and possibilities we cannot yet see? What are the new songs we long to sing? Let us dare to. May it be so. Amen.