Archive for May, 2010

A “new clue” to explain existence… Spare me!

May 18, 2010

The New York Times has an ambitious-sounding headline this morning: “A New Clue to Explain Existence.” How disappointing to learn, then, that the article is not about metaphysics, the only branch of philosophy equipped to answer questions related to “existence,” but just plain old physics.

It turns out that physicists have used the particle accelerator at Fermilab to potentially explain why a young universe contained more matter than antimatter.

According to the basic precepts of Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been created in the Big Bang and then immediately annihilated each other in a blaze of lethal energy, leaving a big fat goose egg with which to make to make stars, galaxies and us.

We learn from the article that the reason this annihilation didn’t happen is related to the matter-antimatter oscillations of a strange particle called a “neutral B-meson.” The details aren’t important to my point. But here’s the potential payoff:

Whether this is enough to explain our existence is a question that cannot be answered until the cause of the still-mysterious behavior of the B-mesons is directly observed, said Dr. Brooijmans, who called the situation “fairly encouraging.”

If Dr. Brooijmans (or the writer of the article) thinks that this discovery has anything to do with the question of existence, he is guilty of a category mistake—which is very common when skeptics and atheists talk about how science disproves God. Why was there a big bang to begin with? Why was there matter (and antimatter) to begin with? Why were there these strange particles known as B-mesons or muons or electrons to begin with?

The question of existence comes down to a question of why something and not nothing. The article purports to say that these physicists are on the verge of answering that question, but they will do no such thing. Even a universe that had annihilated itself (and all matter within it based on the existence of a big bang and all these particles, etc.) and now appears to be nothing (if there were someone to observe it) is something—metaphysically speaking. In other words, even if these physicists are correct, there would only be nothing because there was first something. Again, why?

At its best, this potential new discovery can only answer why this something and not some other something. And even that answer is only a partial explanation. Reality has multiple, mutually non-competitive explanations, as I’ve discussed earlier.

Video from last Sunday: “Our Sisters,” Part 1

May 17, 2010

Here’s the first of two videos we showed in Vinebranch yesterday about our sisters. Enjoy!

Video from last Sunday: “Our Sisters,” Part 2

May 17, 2010

Here’s the second of two videos that we showed in Vinebranch about our sisters. This one features Matt Sassaman’s ode to his sister Mary Jo.

Sermon from 05-09-10: “Relatively Speaking, Part 1: Rebekah and Jacob”

May 16, 2010

Sermon Text: Genesis 25:19-28; Genesis 27:1-17, 41-45

[Click on the play button below to hear the audio of this sermon, or click here for a downloadable podcast.]

I posted something on Facebook this week about how I consider Rebekah, the focus of today’s scripture a hero of the Bible. Oddly enough, not everyone agrees with me—including my clergy friend Geoff, who’s working on a Ph.D. in Old Testament. He wrote, “Not a fan of the whole family. Isaac: waste of space… Esau: trades his birthright for a bowl of soup. Moron. Rebekah: sells out one son for the sake of another. Jacob: probably the best of the lot (which isn’t saying much)… Sorry, Brent, but I find it hard at times to think about these characters in terms of ‘biblical heroes.’” Far from being heroes, he wrote, they are “object lessons”; they put the “fun” in dysfunctional.

Maybe all that’s true, but, hey… no one’s perfect. And I still love Rebekah. And I’m going to make a case for her! Read the rest of this entry »

This Sunday: “Relatively Speaking” continues by looking at sisters

May 12, 2010

Our sermon series on families in the Bible, “Relatively Speaking,” continues this Sunday, May 16, with a look at two sisters, Mary and Martha. The scripture is Luke 10:38-42.

As we did last week, we will feature a special video. AFUMC people that you know will be talking about their sisters. (If you want to talk about your sister in the video, let me know! Email me at bwhite@afumc.org.)

To celebrate sisters, I’ll leave you with my favorite song about sisters, Loudon Wainwright III’s “The Picture.”

A brother needs a sister to watch what he can do

To protect and to torture

To boss around, it’s true

But a brother will defend her for a sister’s love is pure

Because she thinks he’s wonderful when he is not so sure

What makes your mother a hero?

May 11, 2010

One theme of my sermon on Sunday was that Rebekah was a hero—in part because, whatever else we say about her, she was a mother, doing her best under very difficult circumstances. The following are some of the texted responses from the congregation to the question, “What make your mother a hero?”

She is always there, and no matter what, she’s strong.

She always helps when I am sick.

My mother is a hero to me because she is the kindest person I’ve ever known.

She can fly and has super strength. But shhh… don’t tell anybody.

She put up with two boys.

She lets me sleep in and occasionally miss school when I’m having a bad day… Unlike Dad.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mother’s Day video from Sunday

May 10, 2010

Enjoy the Mother’s Day video we showed in Vinebranch yesterday! We’ll be having a new video each week for our sermon series on families, “Relatively Speaking.” Next Sunday, our video will be about sisters.

Sermon for 05-02-10: “Learning to Be Content”

May 7, 2010

Sermon Text: Philippians 4:10-13

[Click the play button below to listen to the sermon or click here to download an .mp3 podcast.]

Do any of you do card tricks? Any other magic tricks? If so, you want me in your audience. I guess I’m not terribly observant for one thing, so I’ll often miss the sleight of hand that goes into the trick—or I’ll fall victim to the misdirection, which is the magician’s stock-in-trade. Plus, I’m able to suspend my disbelief. I know that there’s no such thing as magic, but—man—when a magician does a trick I will be enchanted!

I like the magician duo Penn & Teller. Unlike many other magicians, they happily violate the magician’s code and explain how they do their tricks. I saw a special on TV once in which they performed one of their tricks, which involved—I think—making ping pong balls disappear and reappear. It was an impressive trick! Then they showed the trick in slow motion as Penn—the one who does all the talking—narrated what was happening. It was still impressive. There wasn’t simply one a-ha moment—one important action that faked everyone out and was the secret to the trick. Rather, the two magicians were engaged in a sequence of intricate and highly coordinated actions that were happening very quickly. It must have taken weeks or months of practice to get it right.

The point is, even if you know the secret, it still seems especially difficult to carry out—to make it work. Read the rest of this entry »

Collect of the Day: Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 6, 2010

From the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I would happily include prayers from our United Methodist Book of Worship, which is an excellent prayer and worship resource, but it’s not freely available online. As we Methodists are “children” of the Church of England, our liturgies and doctrine are shaped to a large extent by the Anglican tradition, including the Book of Common Prayer.

The “fun” in dysfunctional

May 5, 2010

I saw a Sam Phillips concert many years ago in which the singer joked that her family put the funk in dysfunctional. In anticipation of this Sunday’s Mother’s Day sermon on Rebekah, my friend Geoff M. made a similar point on Facebook about Abraham’s family in Genesis.

(I still maintain that Rebekah is heroic in her own way—but I’ll explore the question more fully in my sermon. No one’s perfect, after all. 😉 Regardless, we can certainly learn from her (and her family’s) mistakes.)

Not a fan of the whole family. Isaac: waste of space. Only thing her ever did was avoid getting sacrificed. Esau: trades his birthright for a bowl of soup. Moron. Rebekah: sells out one son for the sake of another. Jacob: probably the best of the lot (which isn’t saying much). He either deceived Esau, or at best, played on his stupidity for personal gain.

Oh, then there’s Jacob’s family also. Laban, his uncle, deceives him into marrying Leah who he didn’t love. Rachel and Leah use both Jacob and their handmaidens in a game of natal one-up-manship. Yeah, these two are the ones that put the “fun” in dysfunctional. Then Jacob’s sons sell their brother into slavery, then lie to their father claiming Joseph was dead.

Sorry, Brent, but I find it hard at times to think about these characters in terms of “biblical heroes.” More like cautionary tales, and witnesses to the fact that God often works *in spite* of us.