The following message was given by my friend Frank Bacon at the Quaker Meeting today in South Minneapolis. I think we could call it:
Is God in the rain?
Frank’s talk 2016.02.28
I was raised an atheist. I realized I was a pacifist when I was 12 while watching a TV documentary series about WWII called Victory at Sea. I thought to myself, “These people are crazy.” At 15 I found out that I wasn’t the only pacifist in the world, and started attending the Evanston, Illinois Friends Meeting, which I had found out about from one of my teachers. Since then, I have been all over the place theologically, but my pacifism has remained constant. But how can I sort out my theology? I have some thoughts:
When we settle here in silence, there is a spirit that enters this room that transcends the here and now and brings us closer to the absolute, eternity, the universe, God, the holy spirit. I just can’t seem to find the right word. Maybe there isn’t a good word. Or any word. Perhaps it is ineffable.
Dictionary dot com defines “ineffable” as:
“Incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible; as in ineffable joy.”
Inexpressible. Even by words such as “God” and “exist.”
There is a blogger who calls himself The Mystical Seeker who says:
“The sacred mystery, the deepest meaning of life, can be experienced mystically, but then what do you do when you try to capture that mystery and explain it? You are forced to use words, symbols, myths, and the other tools of the human imagination. And that is where it gets tricky.”
So then, does God exist?? Well, I don’t know; Lewis Carrol wrote,
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’”
What do you mean by God? Is God the the old man with a beard, dressed like a Roman, who built the entire universe in the time it would take me to build a bookshelf? Or is God some kind of abstract essence of the universe that makes us feel awe? Or something in between: perhaps a loving, omnipotent, omniscient Spirit not made of atoms? We are often encouraged to define God in our own way and, like Humpty Dumpty, choose what we mean by it.
And, for that matter, what do you mean by “exist”? For one example, we know that water exists – it’s a material substance that we can feel, manipulate and analyze; made of atoms organized in a particular way. But what about rain? We would say rain also exists but the use of “exist” in this context has an entirely different meaning than when we say water exists. “Rain”, although a noun, is like an honorary verb indicating something that water does. “Lake” indicates a form water sometimes takes. Does “God” exists the way water does or the way rain or a lake does? Perhaps something the universe does? Or an aspect of the universe? Is this question answerable? Is it even important?
For one of the many, possible answers, I suggest looking at the night sky. That’s the universe out there. How did it get there? There are many creation stories that try to explain this. My favorite is the one about the Big Bang. According to the story of the Big Bang, about 13.8 billion years ago, the entire universe was packed tightly together in a ball about the size of a baseball. Some even say the size was infinitesimal. Then, all of a sudden, there was a huge explosion. All of the atomic particles went on to form atoms shortly thereafter, in only about 300 million years. Since then, these atoms, have spent all of these billions of years swirling around forming stars, planets, black holes and a lot of other stuff, including you and me.
So, your body is made up of these atoms. Pick any atom of your body, say that hydrogen atom in your right index finger. That atom has been around for 13.8 billion years, swirling about the universe until the earth was formed and eventually becoming part of you. Where has that atom been all of this time? Perhaps it was part of a water molecule making endless trips between clouds and oceans, going through millions of animals, working its way up plants before once again evaporating. There are about 7*10^27 (seven billion billion billion) atoms in your body, and these atoms have spent the last 13.8 billion years all over creation before forming you. This seems like a miracle! Perhaps figuratively?
We are all the same age: we are 13.8 billion years old! In the night sky, you are looking at a mirror; that is you out there. George Fox said there is that of God in everyone. Carl Sagan said there is that of the universe in everyone. Maybe both said the same thing in different words. You are the universe! Maybe Carl Sagan was religious in his own way.
Well then, does God exist? For the answer, just look at the night sky. The answer will come not in words, not yes or no, not this or that. It is just there.
— Hafez, a fourteenth century mystical Persian poet said,
Every child knows “The Holy One”.
Not the God of Names and Forms.
Not the God of Do’s and Don’ts.
Not the God of Big Ideas.
The Holy One only knows 4 words:
“Come dance with me!”