April 21, 2019

2019 Easter_April21


Jesus and the Black Hole

Easter Sunday – Year C

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger


Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed.


The whole Easter story was none other than Fake News! From the Gospel:


“But these words seemed to the Apostles an idle tale,
and they did not believe the Women.”


The Women had seen what everyone thought was unseeable. This idle tale of the Women would not be believed by the Apostles until they, themselves had physical proof. [I don’t want to spoil that story for you; you’ll have to come back next week to discover how that turns out.]


History is full of Fake News! People aren’t going to believe you if they cannot see with their own eyes and touch with their own hands. And even though every bit of what happens and exists in the world is impossible to be verified by every person, we are skeptical of the truth. So, we believe what we want to believe and label the rest “idle tales” or “Fake News”.


Let me tell you about another phenomenon that suffered its own problems with Fake News, until a recent photograph emerged. Can anyone guess what that is?


Only 11 days ago, the world received the first ever photo of a black hole. We are now able to see something that is so far beyond our reach that it’s unimaginable. By show of hands, who has always believed in the existence of black holes? Well, for centuries, the black hole was Fake News. Let me give you a short history.


  • One of the scientists behind the concept of black holes was The Rev John Michell, scientist at Queen’s College Cambridge and Rector of St Botolph’s Church just a minute’s walk away. The American Physical Society has described Michell as being “so far ahead of his scientific contemporaries that his ideas languished in obscurity, until they were re-invented more than a century later.” Fake news – in 1783.
  • Karl Schwarzschild and David Finkelstein did some further work that speculated about a gravitational anomaly from which no light could escape. These were mathematical curiosities. Fake news – in 1916 and 1958.
  • Some of Albert Einstein’s formulas led to what we know today about black holes, and even he was skeptical. Mid-20C Fake news.
  • Then, neutron stars were discovered by British scientist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, which made black holes a possible astrophysical reality. Not-so-fake news – in 1967.


So, many people – the general public and you – from at least the mid-60s have believed in black holes far before they were either detected or this photo emerged 11 days ago. But the notion of the black hole was not without its Fake News, its idle tales…and we’re still just taking their word for it.


How long, then, will it take us to believe – truly believe – in our heart of hearts – in the Resurrection, that Jesus Christ – the part of the Godhead who became human for our sake – shines His light to give us – each of us – each of you – Eternal Life?


This is where scientific research
and faith in God intersect: the
ongoing and persistent quest for
something that you know is true,
that you know is the Truth, and
that you know is better than
anything this earth could ever
offer you.


That’s why so many scientists are women and men of faith; that’s why I personally have worked with scientists who are also priests and bishops; that’s why a Cambridge clergyman could be the first to predict the existence of a black hole 236 years ago! Not everything you can’t see is an idle tale or Fake News. Research scientists and followers of the Jesus Movement must continually strive to see what others believe to be unseeable.


The Resurrection story is a fantastic one; it’s a sensational one; it’s an incredulous one! It’s a story first told by the Women who were never going to be believed. They hadn’t seen Jesus yet, but they saw the empty tomb and spoke to angels. They knew!


The Apostles will proclaim in the Gospel readings over the next several weeks: “We have seen what we thought was unseeable!”, which is to quote The Director of the black hole photo project, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer Shep Doeleman.


“We have seen what we thought
was unseeable!”


The black hole is real in the astronomical realm; the Resurrection is real in the divine realm. This is the Good News, not Fake News.


This Good News, we receive at our Baptism. Into this Good News, Diane/Makayla will be baptized this morning. We light the Paschal Candle – the Christ Candle – on Easter Day for the first time symbolizing the light that cannot be extinguished – not even by a black hole. Diane/Makayla will receive that light at her Baptism, and lead us out into the world to share the Good News.


Imagine Jesus Christ – or the Eternal Life which He rose from the dead to give to us – on the other side of the black hole. The New York Times described the photo of the black hole: “It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.” I envision that light coming out the other side – whatever that is, and wherever it may be – an intense stream of light that is


the Light of Christ, who Himself
is a one-way portal into Eternity.


The photo of the black hole came from The Event Horizon Telescope, a network of 8 radio observatories on 6 mountains and 4 continents. It is named after the edge of a black hole, “the point of no return; beyond the event horizon, not even light can escape the black hole’s gravitational pull.” The black hole is the astronomical realm’s yin to the divine realm’s yang: Jesus Christ’s Resurrection is a “gravitational pull” and also a point of no return…one of inescapable light and Eternal Life!


Go forth and share this Good News.

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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