Scripture raises problems for a significant number of Christians. The scientist
who believes himself to be a Christian sees Scripture as the record of
wisdom, depicted in the context of the materialistic paradigms of the time of
its writing. The vision of the meaning of life, and a vision of good that is more
than that which works, is what we look for. We still see human life as part of
something much greater -- part of some Grand Design, behind which is a
Grand Designer, with a Purpose.
(Some suggested readings for a special service might be:
Lesson 1. Genesis 3: 21-23 or Wisdom 7:15-26
Lesson 2. 1 Corinthians 13: 11-12 or Revelation 21: 1-4
Lesson 3 John 1: 1-14)
Interestingly, Psalms, which may be recited or sung between the lessons,
often display an appreciation of Creation in a manner similar to that of a
present day scientist. Examples are Psalm 19, and Psalm 111, the second
verse of which, in the Latin version, is engraved over the entrance to one of
the most significant physics laboratories in the world, the Cavendish
Laboratory at Cambridge, in England. It is believed they were put there at the
request of Professor James Clerk Maxwell, who was responsible for
developing the mathematical equations which are the basis of modern
The sermon, or homily, is part of this instructional section. One listens to this
with a view to learning some new aspect of the theme of the day. However, a
scientist may be disappointed because few clergy have enough scientific
background to appreciate his or her approach to truth. When this happens, it
should not be a disaster for a scientist, even if he or she is unable to be
satisfied by the preacher's vision of the subject, because the overall purpose
of the service is celebration and worship, and that is yet to come.
To approach the worship section, we recite one of the ancient creeds.
We then, in our prayers, pray for the Church everywhere in all space and in
all time. Unfortunately, in our time, this prayer or litany has been allowed to
become dominated by the particular concerns or interests of the person who
leads the prayer. But we must all be careful that we personally pray for all
creation at this time.
The act of contrition has already been referred to, but there is often a specific
act inserted here, as we approach the climax of our worship. This position
reflects our desire to be clean as we approach the altar.
We now approach the element of the service which is essentially worship. We
are exhorted to
In so doing we refer to Isaiah's vision (Ch 6 v1_4).
"Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD OF HOSTS: the
whole earth is full of his glory."
As each called, the threshold shook to its
foundations at the sound, while the house began to fill with clouds of smoke.
The researcher in science spends most of his or her time trying to make
sense of their observations. Just very occasionally, for a brief moment, things
make sense, and one has a vision of a Grand Design. It is suggested that it is
this type of vision that Isaiah had. It is a wonderful, even intoxicating,
moment. We have a brief description of the magnificence of that moment as
experienced by the prophet. That vision of the Presence is one we
incorporate in our Liturgy, and have done so since early times in the Christian
Church. As we contemplate this we may bear in mind also the embellished
description of the writer of Revelation in the fourth chapter.
What does each of us picture as we contemplate the Presence in our
worship? I venture to suggest that this element in the Liturgy is frequently
allowed to pass with little significance to the worshipper. But for the scientist
this is, at least in part, the fulfilment of those flashes he or she has in their
research. The Grand Design is there; although we see it, to use Paul's
imagery, "As through a glass, darkly". But it is magnificent. The Creator's
Creation, the laws of order, and the beauty of their working are there. The
mystery is at least partly revealed, but sufficiently to stimulate our faith in its
final and complete Revelation. Jesus is recorded as saying of us humans, "By
their fruits you shall know them". Surely, if this is true of us, it is a valid thing
to say of the supreme Creator. God, in all his divinity, is revealed to us, at
least in part, in the wonders of his Creation.
But as we have seen, discovery of order in Creation leads us to contemplate
the question "Why?", and to seek a purpose. At this moment our faith in
apurpose, and our urge to seek it, are stimulated. Through Sigmund Freud we
have learned that virtually all animal action, including that of the human,
arises from sexual biochemistry, and that includes love, and the
inquisitiveness which makes a scientist. However, the mystery of a possible
destiny remains a mystery, but here in the Presence, we are reassured of the
destiny. We see that Freud's sexual biochemistry is but part of the means of
achieving that destiny. The puzzles of life that we see all around us, such as
evil, pain, and our own perversity in doing the wrong even though we know
the right, i.e. our sin, somehow promise to make sense within that Grand
Design, and even contribute to the magnificence. Here is the ultimate in
grandeur; beauty, joy, fragrance, and love. The vision involves all the senses;
sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.
Appreciation of the essentially superlative nature of this moment has
stimulated artists of every kind to lavish their finest efforts on beautifying it.
The architecture of the area of the Altar, the embroidery of the Altar frontals
and other decorations, including the vestments of the Ministers at the Altar,
and all the other accouterments of the service, represent the finest that can
be produced with the limitations of ability and money. The smoke seen by
Isaiah is often reproduced with sweet smelling incense. But perhaps the
musicians have given some of the finest and most diverse expressions of
magnificence to this moment. In all musical settings of the Mass, the Sanctus
represents the climax, within overall works which usually are the finest efforts
of any composer. Although it was not written as a liturgical Mass, that of
J.S.Bach in B Minor is perhaps the greatest. The upper voices singing
"Sanctus" provide a magnificent tracery or embroidery, which resolves itself
into a superlatively beautiful sequence of chords, while the orchestra dances
around them. And the bass voices seem to depict us heavy footed mortals
stomping around in elephantine joy. The rhythm simulates the swinging of the
censer. All this gives way to a heavenly dance in the fugue of "Pleni sunt
coeli", to be superseded by the unleashed exuberance of the double chorus
dance of the "Hosanna". The wounders of science as seen by the scientist
are entirely in tune with these visions of people of earlier eras.
Can anything following this be other than anti-climax? On the contrary, the
greatest is yet to come.
In its contemplation of primordial origin, ancient Hebrew wisdom envisioned
God and the Spirit of God, in darkness (Gen. 1,1-2). While the parallel should
not be pressed too far, science also tends to think of a duality at the
beginning of Creation as we know it -- there was matter/energy, and the laws
of physics. Implied also, was darkness. Along with this, most scientists have a
concept of a "Grand Design", of which they can see only a tantalizingly small
part. The nagging question that the scientist is led to contemplate is the
possibility of ultimate purpose.
Worship -- part 2