Dear Church Family,
I want to get geeky with you.
Specifically, I want to take a few minutes to explore the boundaries between faith and science, because I think they overlap more than we know. It is common to think that they don’t really blend—that one believes either in science or religion—but it’s not that simple…sometimes science lead us to a better understanding of our faith.
Take, for instance, this number: 1/137 or, if you prefer your fractions converted to decimals, 0.0072992701. At first glance you might think it was the odds of the Bears going to the Super Bowl in any given year, the chances of Carrot Top making a comeback, or the odds of any other event that we never expect to see hapen.
In reality, it’s something we experience every day, all day: the fine-structure constant of the universe.
And now you’re slapping your forehead, saying, “Of course! How could I forget?” But just in case you still don’t remember, physicists tell us that the fine-structure constant of the universe is what governs how electrically charged particles interact everywhere in the universe—from deep space to the core of a star, from the farthest reaches of the universe to the inside of our bodies. It’s the number physicists plug into many critical equations governing what happens in the universe, in order to make those equations work out… and without it, the universe would fall apart.
More accurately, the universe as we know it would not exist—the fine-structure constant (1/137) makes it possible for atoms to form. If the fine-structure constant were larger or smaller, physics would break down, and chaos would rule the day. You know—there would be nothing but “a formless void, and darkness…”
And that’s where religion meets science, because for many people who know about it, it is impossible not to recognize that Somebody built the fine-structure constant into the guts of the universe, just to make the universe possible. Genesis 1:2 tells us that a wind from God (ruach, or Spirit) blew over the chaos and brought about creation…and to my geeky self, physics suggests that the way order was brought to chaos was by God imposing a simple, yet powerful, building block–and once the fine-structure constant was imposed, the rest would fall into place.
Perhaps, if physics has been a discipline a few thousand years ago when the Book of Genesis was put together, preceding the command to “Let there be light,” we might have found a command to “Let there be a fine-structure constant of 1/137.” But even if God never said the words, we know God put it there to enable the existence of the universe.
All of which is a reminder, today, that just as God maintains the universe through a simple, yet omnipresent constant, God also invites us back into relationship with him through the simple, yet unshakeable constants of love and grace. Without them, nothing is possible, but with them…anything is. Like the fine-structure constant and many other features of this amazing universe, God’s love is ever present and ever glorious. Embrace it and reflect it—and be thankful for God’s mercy during this Lenten season.
See you in church!
(Earlier A Word from the Pastor messages may be found in Newsletters.)