Sunday, October 5, 2014

Newtonian Baptism -- The Church in Motion Stays in Motion

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, October 5, 2014

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.
We will, with God’s help.

I have a seriously brilliant 15-year old astrophysicist in my house, so every day is a crash course on how the universe works. Every day, he teaches me something new or reminds me of something I’ve long forgotten.

So I’ve been reminded recently that there are three laws of physics that govern how the universe moves. They are Newton’s Laws of Motion, and they’re beautiful in their simplicity.

First, a body at rest will remain at rest and a body in motion will remain in motion.

In other words, if we’re standing still, we’re going to keep standing still; and if we’re moving, we’re going to keep moving.

But what causes the motion to begin with? Well, that’s the second law:

Acceleration happens when a force acts upon a mass. We become in motion when a force acts on us.

I love physics because it pulls back the curtain on how God set all of creation into motion. It teaches us about how God works. These two laws of physics are not just about how the planets stay in their courses or how Matt Carpenter’s bat can send a Clayton Kershaw pitch 400 feet off the right field wall at Dodger Stadium – they are about us and how we exist as God’s people, how we exist as the Body of Christ.

They are about five words that are central to the Christian life we share.

We will, with God’s help.

Newton’s first law tells us that we are either inert or we are in motion – and, if all else remains the same, how we are is how we will stay. Well, the Body of Christ is never inert. The Body of Christ is always in motion.

In our baptism, we are asked five questions, and they are all about action. They are all about motion.

Will we gather in prayer, worship and study?

Will we actively resist evil and cling to God?

Will we boldly proclaim the Gospel?

Will we serve and love everyone?

Will we work for justice and peace in the world?

These are all about action. These are all about motion. That’s because the church on earth is never at rest. We are always moving.

And so when we are asked these questions in baptism, our answer is “we will.” If the choice is being a body at rest or a body in motion, then we choose to be a body in motion. Always moving, moving to shape this world into God’s dream. Moving to bring into being the kingdom of God.

But of course, “I will” or “we will” is not the whole answer. And that’s where Newton’s second law comes into play.

Newton’s second law says motion doesn’t just happen by itself. The acceleration of an object depends directly upon the net force acting upon the object and the mass of the object. The equation for this is Force = Mass x Acceleration. And so our answer to this amazing call to motion is not just “we will” … because that would never be enough. Our answer is:

We will, with God’s help.

That’s because, with apologies to George Lucas, in this equation, God is the Force, we are the Mass and our life and mission in Christ? Well, that’s acceleration. That’s the Body of Christ in motion! The only way we can live all the life- and world-changing promises of baptism is if God acts on us and in us and through us. There has to be a propulsion system, a force behind any body in motion, and ours is the Holy Spirit of Christ. And when we become the church in baptism, we are asking God to move us – to send us out into the world to love and serve and labor and proclaim.

As the Church, we move in the world at the speed of God. We move in the world with the force of God. It is why the Body of Christ has toppled empires, struck down unjust laws and transformed societies. It is why we are bold enough to pray each time we gather, “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” because nothing less than that is the goal of the Body of Christ in motion.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Because Newton had one more law of motion, his third.

Newton’s third law of motion is to every action there is always opposed an equal reaction. If you press a stone with your finger, the finger is also pressed by the stone.

In other words, there will always be resistance.

There will be resistance from within us when we feel the force of God acting on us, pushing us to move. Because being a body at rest is comfortable. Being a body at rest can feel like a well-deserved break from a world that itself is moving so fast.

And there will certainly be resistance from the world when we as the Body of Christ move into it and through it and sometimes against it. There will be resistance that will call us crazy and that will try to convince us that we should leave the world a body at rest, that we should not move the world forward because things are fine just the way they are.

There will be resistance like we hear in this morning’s Gospel reading where the tenants believe they own the produce of the vineyard and refuse to give it to the landowner. Resistance to producing the fruits of the kingdom.

And when we meet this resistance – the resistance inside ourselves and the resistance outside these walls, our call is to come closer together. Come closer together to one another and closer together to God. Our call is to repeat that mantra even more loudly.

We will, with God’s help.

We will with God’s help.

We will, with God’s help.

We will, with God’s help is who we are as Christians and it is who we are as Christ Church Cathedral. It is about us being a body in motion that will stay in motion because we are moved by the Holy Spirit of Christ. It is about us knowing that there will always be resistance both within us and without, but that together, with God’s help we can keep moving and produce the fruits of the kingdom.

Being the Body of Christ in motion is not just the call for some of us but for all. The WE in We will is every member of the body of Christ. That’s why as we begin our stewardship program this year our primary goal is not an amount but 100% participation. For everyone to be moved by the Holy Spirit of Christ to be a part of how the Body of Christ moves through giving.

Part of the “we” in the “we will, with God’s help” that will guide us through this month of commitment, this month of celebrating the history and imagining the possibilities of a Body of Christ Church Cathedral in motion is our stewardship team, co-chaired by Carlyn Katz and Michael Rohan. And so I’m going to step away now and, with God’s help, they will take it from here.

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