Monday, August 12, 2013

What does Set Theory have to do with Jesus?

So, I promised on Friday I would publish my geek sermon: so, tell me if you think it worked or not. (More beer later this week.)

Sermon from 8/11/13 Luke 12:32-40

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.
I speak with you in the name of the adventurous, life giving, ever present God.  Amen.
My son Isaac has a doll figurine of Buzz Lightyear the character from the Toy Story Movies.  Does anyone know Buzz Lightyear’s catch phrase, his motto?
[To infinity and beyond]
I want you to keep the concept of infinity in your heads today because we are going to talk about the infinite nature of God.  Before we get to that though I want to offer a warning and a challenge.
The warning is since today is the blessing of the backpacks, and many of our kids and young adults are going back to school, plus we have many educators and school staff in the congregation, I want to honor that by offering a little math lesson today.  Consequently, the challenge is that even if math was not your favorite subject, DO NOT TUNE OUT and start thinking about your grocery list or what you are going to do tonight or if Honey Boo Boo will ever get elected president.  I challenge you stick with me on this, it will make sense and it will relate to today’s Gospel passage in the end.  
Okay so here is the math lesson:
Let’s start with this concept of infinity.  What does it mean to say that something is infinite, that it goes on for infinity?  
[That it goes on for ever]
Right, infinity is a description of size, of how large or small something is.  If something is infinitely large then it can’t be any bigger.  Also, if something is infinitely small it can’t be any smaller.  
Alright next concept is that of a set.  This one is easy.  A set is just a collection of items.  A chess set, for example, is the group of pieces needed to play chess.  Now,we can combine these two concepts: we can have sets of numbers that are infinitely large.  One example is the set of numbers called the counting numbers.  Everybody count to five.  1,2,3,4,5  Right so, you started with the number one.  The set of counting numbers starts with 1 and goes on from there.  It doesn’t stop with 5, or 10, or 50, a hundred, or even a million.  It goes on guessed it...infinity.  The set of counting numbers is infinitely large.   Now, there is another set called the set of whole numbers.  It is very similar, in fact almost exactly like the set of counting numbers except it starts with 0 instead of 1.  So, it begins 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and goes on for...infinity.  The set of whole numbers is also infinity large.  Now, we almost have an interesting conundrum here because the set of counting numbers and the set of whole numbers are both infinitely large, they are the same size, but there is one more number in the set of whole numbers, remember that added zero.  
Now, you might be thinking at this point, “Preacher, what in the world does this have to do with Jesus.”  I’m going to tell you.  Hang with me; we are almost there.
So, the set of whole numbers has more numbers in it then the set of counting numbers, but yet they are the same size.  That’s a bit different than other sets.  For example I come from a bigger family than Jodie.  There are three kids in her family and five in mine.  My set of siblings is larger than Jodie’s.  But these sets of numbers, that we are talking about, are the same size.  So, how can we describe the difference if not in terms of size?  Well, what we do is say that the set of whole numbers is more dense than the set of counting numbers.  It’s like if you have a piece of wonder bread, and a hearty piece of homemade nine grain whole wheat bread.  They might be the same exact size but there is a whole lot more stuff in the whole wheat then the wonder bread.  
You with me so far?
Alright, so the set of whole numbers is more dense than the set of counting numbers. So, now is when we get to God in all this.  We say that God is infinite.  In other words God is the same size as these number sets.  However, it is obvious there is a whole lot more in God than in a set of numbers.  Therefore, applying what we did with the sets of whole and counting numbers, we could say that God is the densest of infinities.  God is infinitely large and there is more in that infinity than any other infinity.
Now, we are almost to the Gospel.  You can do this.  You can stay with me.  Keep listening.
If God is the densest of infinities, then God has in any given situation, context, or relationship an infinite number of options, an infinite number of choices available to God.  God can choose anything.  So, what does God choose in God’s relationship to us?
Now, we have finally come to the Gospel.  See, the Gospel says today, Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  God chooses to give us the kingdom.  There can be nothing more gracious than God making that choice.  I mean if you read the bible or even a brief history of the Christian Church, these stories of God’s relationship with us, then you see just how unfaithful, disobedient, unruly, ungrateful and displeasing we have been to God. But yet God chooses give us the Kingdom.  That’s some amazing grace right there.   
Now, we become more aware of just how gracious God’s choice is when we remember that God is the densest of infinities.  God has an infinite number of options for what to do with us, and yet God chooses to love us, to forgive us, to even die because of us, be risen from the grave and still choose us.  So, my brothers and sisters, if God chooses to love us, to indeed give us the kingdom, when God has an infinite number of other options to choose from, and despite what all we have done up to and including the very killing of God, then why, why, why would we ever be afraid.  
Fear not, my brothers and sisters, not only did you learn a little math today, but it is also the Father’s good and gracious pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Do not be afraid to love your neighbor, do not be afraid to forgive as God forgives, do not be afraid to stand for justice, to practice peace, and to generously give of yourself.  Do not be afraid to approach this Holy Altar and receive that which we could never deserve.  Do not be afraid to come to God’s table and receive the Body of Christ.

And by God my brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to take that body of Christ out into the world and freely and radically give it away.  Do not be afraid, my brothers and sisters, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Amen!

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