Holy Communion

Pentecost 13
August 19, 2018

John 6.52 “The Jews then disputed among themselves saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”

      I said in the sermon last Sunday that it is disingenuous to say that Jesus was a good teacher and leave it at that. You can say that about Confucius and Siddhartha, Moses and Mohammad. You can say that about a great many people whose wisdom and charisma have inspired others to live better lives, to choose hope over despair, kindness over wrath, and love over hate. Jesus had wisdom and charisma, and he inspired others in those ways. But you can’t rank him with those other spiritual teachers because he simply wouldn’t allow it. He did not present himself as one more prophet in a line of Israel’s prophets or as one more rabbi in the tradition of Judaism. He presented himself as the Savior of mankind. 

       His mission was not simply to educate others about the right way to live but to save them by giving them what they lack: a life that will not end in death.  “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” he said. Jesus prefaced many of his most important teachings with the words “Truly, truly” or “Amen, amen." Usually an “amen” would come at the end of a prayer, as an affirmation by others of what was said. By putting the “amen” first and doubling it, Jesus was claiming for himself an authority for his teaching that had no equal on earth and needed no affirmation from men. He was summoning his audience, the Jews, to hear the authoritative word of God from his lips: “You have no life in you.” he said. We can imagine the thoughts going through the minds of those in the synagogue in Capernaum who heard him say this: “You have no life in you? Does he think we are dead souls? Who is he to say that we have on life in us?” 

       Jesus was nothing if not controversial. Had he stuck to healing and teaching men to love one another and be always generous and forgiving, he would never have angered anyone, thus never crucified, and we would never have heard of him. He would be today at most an obscure footnote in ancient history texts along with Honi the Circle Maker, another charismatic healer of that age. But Jesus did much more than heal the sick through prayer and preach about love. He taught that humans, whether Jew or gentile, are dead souls who because of sin have no hope of life beyond this one. He promised to give them life that would extend beyond the grave. And he promised to do this by making them acceptable to God.  But how could he, a man, make other men acceptable to God? Who was he to claim he could do this? After all, Moses taught that we are acceptable to God by keeping the law and obeying God’s statutes.  Moses went up Mt. Sinai to meet God and receive the word from him directly. Who was this nobody from Nazareth compared to Moses? You can’t blame Jesus’ contemporaries for wondering about him and questioning his authority to make such a fantastic claim.

       But Jesus was not intimidated by their skepticism. Knowing that they were wondering how he would save them apart from obedience to the laws of Moses, Jesus told them: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” The obvious question follows: who but God can raise others up on the last day? Did Jesus declare himself in the synagogue at Capernaum to be God? Let’s listen again to what he said. He said that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” He then said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”  Is he the Son of man? Who is the Son of man? The Son of Man is the title that Jesus most often applied to himself. The Son of man is a figure in the prophecy of Daniel (Dan.7.9-14). He is the perfect representative of humankind, the man who comes to God on the last day on behalf of humankind and receives from God all power, dominion, and authority on heaven and on earth (Mt.28.18). He is the man through whom humankind becomes one with God from whose presence we were exiled because of Adam’s sin. The Son of man is our redeemer, the one in whom humankind finds salvation, complete reconciliation of fallen humanity with God. 

       This is why I said to you last Sunday that you cannot just dismiss Jesus as a good teacher. If he was who he claimed to be, the Son of man, then he was much more than a good teacher; he was humankind’s redeemer, a divine man sent down from heaven whose mission was to lift men up to God and bring many souls to heaven. If he was not who he claimed to be, he was then a bad man and therefore not a good teacher. Good teachers don’t deceive their students. So you see the problem? Jesus has not left us the option of just lumping him in with all the other gurus, faith healers, prophets, Biblical scholars, law givers, and mystics, of which there have been thousands through the ages. If he was who he claimed to be, he is the most important person who ever walked the face of the earth. If not, he was a charlatan and a fraud, maybe a pathological narcissist who should be totally rejected. Many did then and many do now.

      And you can see why many would reject him. This is a hard teaching to accept, especially for Jews: “For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”  What does that mean? It means that the only hope Jews (and remember he was preaching to his fellow Jews) have of salvation is to eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood. You can imagine if you were in the synagogue that day that you’d turn to your friends with a quizzical look and ask, “Did I hear that right”? (There’s a wonderfully comic scene in the movie The Life of Bryan, a Monty Python satire of ancient Rome, in which Bryan, a contemporary of Jesus is listening to him preach the Sermon on the Mount. Bryan’s at a distance and is having trouble hearing Jesus. He says to a friend beside him, “What did he say? Blessed are the cheese makers? Why favor them?” To which his friend replies, “He didn’t mean it literally. He means blessed are the makers of any dairy product.” The lesson there is before you criticize the sermon, check with your friends first to be sure you heard it right.) You can’t blame the Jews in the synagogue that day for murmuring among themselves and wondering about Jesus.  “How can this man give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink?” they asked indignantly. What does he think we are? Cannibals?”  He did not seem to mean it figuratively. He seemed to be saying that others, (and again, I repeat, he was speaking in a synagogue to Jews, the tribe that God called out from all the pagan tribes on earth to be the bearer of his revealed word), he’s telling God’s chosen people that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they wish to attain salvation. You can’t blame faithful Jews if they walked away from him that day thinking he was crazy and weird, not to mention he was overturning a thousand years of Jewish teaching about righteousness and obedience to the laws of Moses and seeming to establish a pagan cult that idolized him.  John implies that none of the twelve understood at the time what he was saying. How could they? His doctrine would not come into focus until the night of the last Supper.

        On the other hand, remember why Jesus was preaching in Capernaum. He was there in the synagogue to explain to them the meaning of the miracle of the loaves and fish that he had performed the day before. Almost everyone in Capernaum had been with him in the wilderness and had seen the miracle with their own eyes. They ate the bread and the fish he gave them. He had worked in public view the greatest miracle Israel had seen since God rained down manna for them to eat in the wilderness a thousand years before. Jesus had every right to explain to them what it meant and to be believed. A man can who feed five thousand other men with a few loaves and fish shouldn’t be too hard to believe.

      Nevertheless, whether he meant his words to be taken literally or figuratively, there was enough in what he said to incense and offend any faithful Jew. Judaism is based on obedience to the laws, traditions, and rituals of Moses. A Jew becomes righteous by faithful adherence to those sacred laws and customs; period. There is no other way to salvation for a Jew than through obedience to God's word as it was handed down to Moses on Mt. Sinai. And yet Jesus, in this remarkable—and from a Jewish perspective utterly unorthodox—sermon is offering Jews a new way to attain salvation. He offers his flesh and blood to eat as the means of our salvation, apart from the law. Jesus was saying that no one has ever been saved by obedience to Mosaic laws and customs, because no one keeps them perfectly and therefore, no one is without sin (Rom.3.23). The only way to salvation is to receive the life that comes from Jesus, the Holy One of God, a man without sin (Mk.1.24; Is.53.11). The law is a guide to moral conduct but Jesus is our salvation (Gal. 3.21-26). Jesus alone is without sin (Heb.4.15). Jesus alone is perfectly acceptable to God (Mt.3.17). Therefore, the only way to become acceptable to God is to be united to Jesus Christ, to share his holy life (Gal.2.20-21). Jesus teaches that because he is the Son of man and in full possession of the divine nature, because he is uniquely among men one with God he alone can offer men salvation by sharing his life with us. If we receive his life we become as he is: without sin and therefore perfectly acceptable to God. And we share his life and become one with him by eating his flesh and drinking his blood. 

       We know in hindsight that when Jesus said that his flesh was real food and his blood the drink of eternal life that he was referring to the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion that he would institute at the Last Supper (Mt.26.26-28). Holy Communion is the heart of the Christian faith. When Christians say that they believe in Jesus they mean that we are saved not by his wisdom or our great faith but that he saves us by uniting us to himself. He is our salvation. He does this for us, as a free act of grace though we are undeserving (John 1.17; Rom.5.15-17), once through baptism in which he forgives original sin and often through Holy Communion in which he forgives our actual sins by cleansing our soul with the perfection of his body and blood. Whether he meant the words of institution at the Last Supper (“This is my body… This is my blood”) to be taken literally or figuratively is still debated today. Protestants insist that he meant it figuratively, that we receive him only through faith in his word. But the first Christians did not take it this way, and Catholics today still teach that he meant it literally: the bread and wine, through an act of transubstantiation become Christ’s actual body and blood sacrificed on the cross. St. Ignatius, a bishop and martyr in the early second century, called it, “the medicine of immortality.”

        I’m not going to enter today into this unfortunate debate between Protestants and Catholics. I’m only going to emphasize again that Jesus’ most important teaching is that there is only one way to salvation and he is it (John 14.6). Jesus is the world’s savior, the one sent from the Father in heaven to save sinners (1 Tim.1.15). He saves us by uniting us to himself by giving us in the sacrament of Holy Communion his flesh to eat and his and his blood to drink.

       That leaves each of us with a decision to make. Will you believe in Jesus or will you, as so many did in Capernaum that day, dispute his claim to divinity and reject him? I urge you not to reject him but believe him. Humble yourself to faithfully receive the gift he offers us in the sacrament of Holy Communion. “For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed,” he said. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the living father sent me and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”

"And They Shall Be Taught By God" John 6:45

Pentecost 12
August 12, 2018

     In the beginning of the movie Animal House, the camera pans across the campus and we see carved into the base of the school founder's statue the words “Knowledge is good.” That quote is such a silly cliché that it tips off the audience not to take any of what they are about to see seriously—that this movie is going to be a satire about foolish college students behaving badly. It’s a very funny movie that makes us laugh at ourselves for sometimes being silly, sophomoric, and irresponsible.

       The Gospel of John is about as different from Animal House as you can get. John’s Gospel begins with the sobering words, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Where the director of Animal House prepares his audience for a farce, John from the first sentence of his gospel prepares his audience to meet God.  The central theme of John’s Gospel is that Jesus Christ has made God known in a way that no one else has or possibly could (John 1.18). Jesus did not just teach about God, but God revealed himself definitively in Jesus of Nazareth such that it may be said that if you don’t know the man Jesus Christ, you don’t know God; or, to put it another way, you don’t know God until you know Jesus Christ, the only man who was, is, and forever will be fully God (John 10.30).       

       In the third chapter of his Gospel, John introduces us to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, who came to Jesus by night saying to him, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher come from God” (John 3.2). By calling him “rabbi," Nicodemus meant to pay Jesus a compliment. But Jesus did not take it as a compliment. A rabbi is a teacher. Jesus was much more than that. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a teacher. One of the great joys of life is learning from a good teacher. A good teacher is able to touch her students on a spiritual level and get them to be as excited about her field of study as she is. You don’t become a good teacher just by having expertise in a certain field. You’ve got to love the study, and you’ve got to love your students and want them to love it as much as you do. It’s that love of learning and the ability to impart it to others that enables a good teacher to make a great difference in a person’s life.

      Jesus was a great teacher. We first meet him at age twelve in the Temple teaching the rabbis and impressing them with his love for the word of God and with knowledge of scripture way beyond his years. And then we meet him again in the gospels as a mature man employing parables to teach his disciples about prayer and the faith. We hear him in the Sermon on the Mount inspiring his disciples to hope and trust in God’s mercy, to love one another, be servants of each other, be charitable to all, be kind and generous, be compassionate and forgiving of every wrong. He teaches us today, as he taught his disciples, to be prayerful, stay sober, respect marriage, control our sexual desires, honor our parents especially in their old age, and obey the Ten Commandments. Jesus taught people by word and example to imitate God and be merciful, be holy, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” he said  (Mt.5.48). If that isn’t good teaching, teaching people to be good, then I don’t know what good teaching is. So, we can’t be too hard on Nicodemus. Jesus was teaching people to obey God’s commandments and inspiring them with his passionate love for God’s word. He was in that sense a very good rabbi indeed.

       But what sets Jesus apart and makes him unique is that He was doing much more than teaching people about the Kingdom of Heaven. His larger mission was to open the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven and lead us in. “I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me,” he said. “ And this is the will of him who sent me…that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6.38-40). A man who says that cannot be a good teacher. He can only be one of two things. He is either a narcissist with delusions of grandeur, a man out of his mind. Or he is who he claims to be. If he isn’t who he claims to be than he is a bad man, teaching a false doctrine and, therefore, anything but a good teacher. But if he came down from heaven to be the one from whom we sinners may receive eternal life, the one who will judge us in the end, then he is far more than just a good teacher. He is the redeemer of our souls, a man among men but a man with no equal. If he was who he claimed to be then he was not only a messenger of God, he was the message. If he was who he said he was, then he not only had an expertise in scripture, he was the one who caused the scriptures to be written and of whom the scriptures speak. If he was who he said he was, he was the Word of God.

      So you can’t blame people for wondering about him. They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, I have come down from heaven?” It’s a natural question to ask of a man who lived at home with his mother until age thirty. How could this nobody from Nazareth possibly be from heaven? He must be out of his mind, right? And yet, when we see Jesus interact with all sorts of people and hear him speak, he doesn’t seem to be insane. He seems to be perfectly sane. So, what’s going on with Jesus? Who was he really?

       Well, he told us who he was when he said, “it is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God’.”  “And they shall all be taught by God” is a prophecy from Isaiah 54.13, a prophecy that Jesus fulfilled. If there’s any doubt that he fulfilled it, the passion, death and resurrection of Christ is more than enough to take that doubt away. For what did he teach the Jews? He taught them that they didn’t understand their own scriptures, because they did not understand that the Savior would come to them and be rejected and suffer at their hands, be killed by them and then rise again on the third day. Jesus alone understood that. He proved his divinity by being the only rabbi in the entire history of Israel who understood how salvation would come to Israel and to the world and then accomplishing it. And by fulfilling every detail of the prophecies, even rising from the dead on the third day, he left no doubt in the minds of those who knew him that in Jesus, all Israel had been taught by God.

        Jesus called his message the gospel or good news. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk.1.15), he boldly said. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that “at long last the promises of God announced by the prophets of Israel to forgive our sins and welcome us back into the kingdom of God from which we were exiled because of Adam’s sin is over. The Savior is among us, as he promised he would be, and our redemption is near.” In Jesus Christ, God fulfilled his promise and kept his word.  He promised that one day they will all be taught by God and they will all know me (Jer. 31.31-34), and in Jesus Christ that is what he did.  God came among us as one of us and by so doing fulfilled the scriptures that promised eternal redemption to all who believe in him and are baptized in his name. That is the gospel.

       You would think that the whole world would rejoice in this since what Christ accomplished on the cross, the expiation of our sins, benefits us all (1 John 2.1-2). Nevertheless, the gospel of God (Romans 1.1-5) is rejected by Jews who think Jesus was an unorthodox rabbi and a false prophet; it’s rejected by Moslems who claim he never died on the cross or rose from the dead; it’s rejected by liberals who worship reason while denying the supernatural and  rejecting even the possibility of divine revelation; it’s rejected by Hindus and Buddhists who worship many pagan gods and no gods; and it’s rejected by communists who believe that humankind will create its own salvation when the dictatorship of the proletariat is established on earth. I suppose there are as many reasons people reject the gospel as there are people who reject it.

       But one reason stands out to me. It’s hard to believe that God, if God exists, would come down from heaven. If you were in heaven would you come down here? We love life and are grateful for what we have in this world but if heaven, where love is perfected and suffering unknown, is half of what they say it is, I wouldn’t want to come back. It’s hard to believe that someone would come down from heaven if he didn’t have to. And God being God didn’t have to. But Jesus revealed to us, and this is his greatest teaching, that God is three eternal co-equal persons sharing one divine nature in perfect love. God is love (1 John 4.8). And the nature of perfect of love is that love does what it doesn’t have to do. Love is heroic and love is selfless. What our Lord did, he did for us from love. Heroically and selflessly, in the words of an ancient Christian hymn, “He, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2.5-8). The gospel of God coming down from heaven to suffer and die for us so that we might receive his Spirit and live eternally with him is a love story, the greatest of all love stories; the greatest because Christ’s love for us is the greatest of all loves.  When someone loves you, you have to make a choice. You can either receive that love and return it or say no and walk away. Faith is a heart that’s open to receiving the love that Jesus Christ offers us, love poured out on the cross for you and for me, for all sinners everywhere.

      We have all been taught by God. The question now is: who will listen? Will America quit self-destructing, in an orgy of drugs, promiscuity and violence, and listen? Will the world ensnared in a thousand false faiths listen and receive his teaching? And what about you, will you listen? I hope so because his teaching is the greatest truth, the greatest love and the greatest promise ever made. And everything, really everything depends on whether you believe him. “This is the will of my Father,” Jesus said, “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6.40).

Science and the Existence of God

Pentecost 11
August 5, 2018
      

Last Sunday I told you about an 11-year-old boy who recently graduated from college in Florida. When asked what his goal in life was, he said that he wanted to become an astrophysicist and use science to prove the existence of God. That sounds like a formidable task, but it’s easier to do than you’d think because modern science, despite all you may have heard to the contrary, supports our faith in God, the Creator. Nevertheless, this boy has an uphill task and he’ll need courage because American academe into which he is headed is dominated by agnostics and atheists, many of whom use science to convince our children (to whom we entrust their education) that the belief in the Christian and Jewish religions, which hold that God created the universe out of nothing to be a home for human beings with whom God has a special relationship having endowed each one of us with an immortal soul, is a fantastic myth. They claim it is no more based in objective reality than are the stories of the ancient Greek gods on Mount Olympus. Many point to the stunning success of modern science in the fields of technology and medicine as evidence that human reason and intellect are the keys to our survival and that God’s grace is irrelevant. Our great technological achievements and first-world prosperity give some the impression that even if God exists, we don’t need him. And because so many prominent, popular scientists—Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking for example—following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, have professed themselves to be agnostics and atheists, millions of people have followed them. It’s easy to see why. After all, if the smartest people in the world don’t believe in God, that ought to tell us something, right?

       Well, not so fast. Just because a person knows a lot about physics, astronomy, math, or biology doesn’t mean that he knows anything about relationships, love, justice, truth, or theology. There is more than one kind of knowledge in this world. It is one thing to know how a diamond is made; it’s another thing to know what it’s good for. If you take your girlfriend out to dinner and explain to her the molecular structure of a diamond you will bore her to tears and put her to sleep. But if you set that diamond in a platinum ring and put it on her finger, then you’re really going places. See what I mean? Just because someone is a “genius,” doesn’t mean that person really knows anything about life. If you can tell me how to calculate the speed of light, you’re giving me useful information. If you can tell me what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the light of the world," you’re giving me priceless wisdom. The first kind of knowledge may help me get a job with NASA and launch a rocket. The other kind may help me enter heaven’s gate. My point is that knowledge gained through scientific study is important, but wisdom gained through the study of ethics, philosophy, and theology is also important. For a full understanding of life we need it all. The problem with the modern age is that it has turned science into scientism, an ideological belief that all other forms of knowledge are inferior for not being objectively based. This is nonsense, but it has become a ubiquitous prejudice of secular society that is leaving us confused about the eternal truths that give meaning to our existence. In other words, modern science has done a lot to improve our quality of life, but in diminishing the importance of faith and of the revelation of God in Christ that inspires it, it’s leaving us bereft of wisdom and uncertain as to what we’re living for.

        The good news is that the advocates of atheism who push the narrative that modern science has utterly discredited the Gospel and proven God to be a superstition are sinking in quicksand. They get away with it because they have had hegemony over our universities now for decades and therefore their political influence throughout the society is formidable. They will remain the established power for the foreseeable future but eventually the truth will win out. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free," Jesus said. God can be denied but God cannot be defeated.

        How can science help prove the existence of God? Well, let me emphasize first that we already know for certain from revelation and reason that the universe exists because of God and could not exist without God.  We know from divine revelation recorded in the Old Testament and affirmed by Christ in the new that God created the universe for human beings. We need nothing more than that for faith. But we also have a variety of proofs for God’s existence through philosophical argument and logic. Aristotle was not a Jew or a Christian but he was a brilliant thinker who used logical argument to prove that the universe could not exist without outside help. What we call God he called the “Unmoved Mover,” but his logic is as clear today as it was 2,500 years ago. Other great minds, including Saint Thomas Aquinas, further developed the arguments that Aristotle began, leaving no doubt in any sane person’s mind as to the dependence of this universe on its creator. We know by revelation and reason that we live in God’s universe. Science cannot disprove the existence of God. But modern science does offer some evidence that denies the atheists claim that the universe and the human beings in it came into being without God.

       Ask the question: did God create humankind or did the human mind create God? And I think most people today would either say, “I don’t know” or would come down on the side of believing that man created God. One of the reasons that people would answer this way is because Darwin’s theory of evolution is, though theory, taught in our schools as fact. Going back to the Scopes trial about a century ago, the special creation of human beings formed in God’s image is no longer taught in the schools; we’re all descended from apes don’t you know? And “creationists,” as we are now called, who resist the new atheist revolution are viewed as backward anti-intellectuals living in the fundamentalist dark ages. But is Darwin’s theory settled scientific fact? No, it’s not. Darwin said that the fossil record would support his thesis. But here we are over 150 years later and there is no evidence in the fossil record to support his theory. The biggest discovery in this field of paleontology is known as the “Cambrian explosion." This refers to the discovery that in the Cambrian era life forms emerged whole, with no gradual evolution to form them in all the different phyla. In other words the fossil record undermines Darwin’s theory. Furthermore, Darwin’s theory offers no clue as to the actual origin of life. How did conscious life emerge out of unconscious non-life? Darwin surmised that lightning struck a warm little pond and caused life to begin. No divine Creator was necessary either to begin life or to form a human being from an amoeba. It all just happened by chance, randomly over many millions of years by a magical process of natural selection that oh, by the way, no one has ever observed. According to Darwin’s theory, life is just a freak accident of nature. There’s nothing really special about human beings.

       The problem with that argument is DNA. It turns out that Darwin’s warm little pond theory doesn’t hold water because we have learned that DNA, the basic building block of life, is so complex that it would take longer than the planet earth has been in existence to make by random chance even one strand if it. What does DNA do? Well, think of the human cell as a city and the DNA is like a computer that runs all the traffic lights and so keeps the traffic flowing. Modern microscopes have let us see into the human cell, and what we see going on there has been compared to Times Square at rush hour, a fury of activity all being organized perfectly by DNA. That is why DNA has been compared to a super computer. But no computer can program itself. Information is put into a computer by a programmer on the outside. Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project during the Clinton administration, called DNA “the language of God.” He wrote a book about it with that title and told the story of how he came to believe in God through his study of DNA. He’s not alone. Many others have said the same thing: that evolution cannot explain the existence of DNA. The theory of evolution which purports to prove that human life emerged from the earth by purely natural processes without the help of an intelligent Creator is undermined and discredited by the discovery of DNA.

       Another dramatic discovery of modern science in support of the Creator is called the “Big Bang." The Big Bang is the name given to the discovery, gained from information gathered through the Hubble telescope, that the universe has not always existed. The universe began to exist about 13 billion years ago. Once there was nothing then suddenly out of nowhere there appeared what is called a singularity, something slightly smaller than the head of a pin and then “bang!”, it exploded. Suddenly there was light and all the stuff from which the planets and suns were made burst forth as from a fountain. There was nothing and then suddenly there was something; a universe appeared out of nowhere. And when we say there was nothing, we mean nothing—no time, no space, no matter. What caused the universe to come into being? Nothing comes from nothing. Did nothing create a universe out of nothing? Or did God, a supernatural intelligence bring nature into being by an act of divine will? The answer is as obvious as the sunrise: The Big Bang is scientific evidence supporting the account of the origin of the universe given in Genesis 1.

       A fourth discovery of modern science supporting the Creator is something that cosmologists, those who study the origin of the universe, call the “anthropic principle." Cosmologists have learned that the chances of all the events happening that had to happen for carbon-based life to form on this planet are so remote that it’s inconceivable that human life could have happened by chance. We’re talking odds of trillions and trillions to one that carbon-based life, equipped with DNA and a rational soul happened by chance. As Sir Fred Hoyle, a prominent British physicist put it: the odds that human life emerged by sheer chance are equal to the odds that a wind could blow thru a junkyard and out comes a fully functioning 747 jet. What are the chances of that? The anthropic principle proves that the chances that life formed on this planet by sheer luck with no help from an intelligent creator on the outside are trillions and trillions to one.

       I’m not going into any of this further today. My point is simply to give you confidence that science has not made the case for atheism, but that modern science has produced discoveries that strongly support the gospel. There are more holes in Darwin’s’ theory than in a piece of Swiss cheese. The discovery of DNA makes it all but impossible to believe that human life happened by chance. The Big Bang supports the account of creation given in Genesis 1. And the anthropic principle further shows how utterly remote the odds are that human life came into existence on this planet by chance.

     So with all of this scientific evidence on their side, how is that Christians who believe in God the Creator of heaven and earth find themselves on the defensive, being called “creationists” and mocked for their faith in the Creator? The answer to that question is obvious. Atheists have succeeded in establishing themselves in the institutions that govern our intellectual life and they aren’t going to let go willingly without a struggle. We are fighting a cultural struggle of epic proportions. And we are right in the middle of it. People who are rebelling against God won’t admit they're wrong because their careers are at stake and they don’t want the humiliating responsibility of going to church on Sundays and kneeling before God. Nor do they want to conform their lives to the moral order by which God has structured the universe. In a secular society you don’t have to. There are no social or political consequences to being faithless in modern America. The secular society sets us free not to believe in God and many today won’t give up that freedom as false as it is. They run our schools and they want to keep it that way. Consequently they don’t teach Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas in the classroom. My guess is that most college graduates haven’t even heard of the things I talked about in this sermon today. But many Christians haven’t heard these things either because scientism and atheism have found their way into our seminaries as well, so that many modern liberal clergy are part of the problem. You can’t teach what you don’t know. So have confidence. God exists. Revelation, philosophy, and modern science all point to God, the Creator.

      If and when you wonder whether God exists or not, ask this question. Do you really think that the universe appeared out of nowhere by chance for no reason? I once had a young woman explain to me that she was an atheist because “everything is random," she said. But we couldn’t get further into the conversation because she was on a tight schedule and was in a hurry to get to the airport to catch a plane. But I felt like saying, “If everything is random, what’s the hurry to catch a plane? It probably won’t be there.” If everything is random, why does everyone here today have plans for this afternoon? And plans for the week to come? How is it that we live in such a highly organized world? Human beings are builders and planners and organizers. If everything is random, how did we get that ability and felt need to put everything in order? We got it from the Creator who created this perfectly balanced world for us, in whose image we are made. Don’t let the secular society psyche you out. There is every good reason to believe in God and no good reason not to. Modern science supports that view. As Saint Paul said in this letter to the Romans, open your eyes and look at the world around you. Life is not absurd, and this planet is no accident. Those who don’t believe in God have no excuse (Romans 1.20).