12/2/2012 sermon: Life in the wormhole

Location: Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria, VA
Text: Luke 21:25-36

Life in the wormhole

Are you all buckled up? We are in for a wild ride today as we explore Advent from the perspective of life in the wormhole. Ready?

In 1962 (I’m told) Madeleine L’Engle’s now-classic children’s sci-fi fantasy book, “A Wrinkle in Time,” was first published. Perhaps you read this book as a child, or read “A Wrinkle in Time” to your child. In this book, gawky Meg Murray and her genius younger brother, Charles Wallace, go in search of their father, a scientist, who has been taken prisoner in another space-time. The premise upon which this book rests is that two different space-times, two different realities, can be very close to each other, as happens when we take a flat piece of cloth and wrinkle that cloth up. In Madeleine L’Engle’s thinking, where two realities nearly touch, there is a “thin place,” a door of sorts that she called a tesseract. Meg and Charles Wallace stepped through the tesseract, going from one time to another, in search of their father.

Of course, many of you might know the tesseract better by another name. Star Trek fans will recognize the tesseract as a time warp. If you remember your Star Trek history, in the year 2266, while descending to the planet Psi 2000, the USS Enterprise traveled back in time three days after accidently creating a time warp by mixing a batch of matter and anti-matter (the starship’s fuel) incorrectly. The time-warp concept was so wildly popular, Star Trek’s writers found many other ways to have the Enterprise accidently travel through time warps.

Physicists today think that tesseracts and time warps are real, only they call them wormholes. A wormhole is a “path” between our reality and—this is not fiction—a parallel universe, a whole different reality.

In each of these cases, when one is inside a tesseract, or a time warp, or a wormhole, reality and time are contorted. On a “tesseract trip,” or on a journey through a wormhole, we would experience both the starting and the ending states simultaneously. Both states would be real, the old reality we are leaving and the new reality that we are moving toward. For example, if Dorothy were in a wormhole, she would have been in both Kansas and in Oz simultaneously.

Very little imagination is required to perceive that our whole reality, our whole existence, is in a wormhole. Jesus himself told us, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Then he provided the way, the door, through which all of creation has entered. What we are leaving behind is our sin-damaged world, our reality ever since Eden. What we are moving toward is a whole new plane of existence, one beyond all space and time, where all of creation is made new.  The Kingdom of Heaven is literally drawing near.

We know that this perception is true. Our artists got there first, and now even our science is catching up. Don’t we all yearn for our tesseract trip to be over?

Like the wormhole, Advent is a mix of old and new, of “will be” and “not yet” and “already is.” These four weeks between the “ordinary time” of the season of Pentecost, and the new birth of baby Jesus on Christmas Day are a time of waiting to experience, once again, God’s coming to us. We know that the baby Jesus has already been born and has died—some 2,015 times—the same Christ for whom we await his coming again. We need Christ to return, to open the door at the far end, to open the entrance to God’s realm. Like the wormhole, there is a “both-and” character to Advent, coming but already here.

The thing I like most about our lessons today is that they convey this “contorted time,” “contorted reality,” of our existence, without resorting to either science or fiction. Did you notice how our lessons fit together? We begin with a reading from Jeremiah chapter 33, the last book on the three-chapter trilogy called the “Little Book of Comfort.” In this reading the people of Israel are in exile in Babylon, and yet God promises them that he will send a Messiah to right the wrong and to make their world new. “The days are surely coming,” this lesson begins. These are words that we, as Christians, hold dear as we await the coming of the Messiah in a new way. “The days are surely coming!” The end of our life in the wormhole draws near.

Our Psalm today tells us how we are to await the coming of the Messiah; we are to wait in hope as we allow God to teach us how to live in the coming Kingdom of Heaven. This is not hope as in, “I wish it would rain today.” This is hope as in, “I trust God to right our wrong, to make all of creation new.” And this is how we hope: We name the end-state (life everlasting) and thank God for making that life a reality, even before we fully have what we trust we will receive. This is what “I put my trust in you,” means. We so believe that a new reality is just around the corner that we live that new reality into existence even as God is making good on his promise.

Our epistle lesson today expands on how we are to live in this in-between time. Writing to the people of Thessalonica, the apostle Paul says, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…” This is how we are to live on this trip of life; we are to take on the attributes of Jesus, who showed us what our new life requires. Paul continues by naming his prayer for this church, “And may [Jesus Christ] so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” Here we see that the people of Thessalonica were waiting for Jesus, not to be born here on earth, but to return again.

Our gospel lesson expands upon this second-coming idea, as Luke tells us about the “end-times,” as they are called, when Jesus will return again. The end-times won’t necessarily be happy days because the end of our trip through the wormhole sound like scary times. We can’t go back, though; that’s where the worm is. But as scary as these end-times events might be, those events will signal that we are nearing our longed-for destination.

Just how close are we to the end-days? Jesus says that no one knows but the Father. But this admonition doesn’t keep us from guessing. The Mayans predicted the end of the earth on December 21 of this year. At least, that’s when the Mayan calendar ended. When will Resurrection’s calendar end? When will our calendar end?

The Population Reference Bureau calculates that one person dies every 1.8 seconds. NASA calculates that our whole earth will be uninhabitable to life as we know life in “only” 300 million years. So there we have the range of possibilities: somewhere between 1.8 seconds and 300 million years, during which time—Jesus tells us—we should be vigilant. We are to live our lives as if each day were our last.

What a way to begin to think about Christ Jesus’ coming birth in a manger! All of our hopes, all of our expectations, all of our longing for things to be put right are all bound up in this baby-to-be who was, and already-is, and will-be-again.

These words sound familiar, don’t they? Each week we create sacred space here around God’s altar as we acknowledge Jesus the Christ is Lord of time and existence, wormhole or not. In Prayer A of our Rite Two Eucharist we say, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Using Prayer B we say the same thing using slightly different words, “We remember his death, We proclaim his resurrection, We await his coming in glory.”

This is the function of Advent, to draw our attention to our state of waiting, to remind us that we are living in the wormhole: partially but not yet fully of God’s Kingdom. Advent exists to remind us that there is more to reality that we can perceive with our five senses. There is more to reality that we can measure or calculate. We might weary of the journey, but our past is not forever. Our past has been redeemed. We might weary of the journey but we know that our present is not all that there is. We have a FUTURE, and our future is at hand. During Advent we focus on what sustains us on the journey, and we express our gratefulness that we have gotten to leave the worm behind.

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