Although some scientists will deny a belief in an ultimate purpose, this is
usually because they insist on defining the word too narrowly. But it is difficult
to conceive of any serious-minded individual not seeing some purpose in their
lives, and thus envisaging some overall purpose in life itself, even if they are
quite unable to enunciate what that purpose may be.

The ancient Hebrew wisdom had physical light as the first ingredient of
creative development (Gen.1,vs.3). However, subsequently, in Old Testament
writing, the word "Light" referred not only to physical light, but to
enlightenment and understanding; light was associated with that which was
positive and good, and darkness with ignorance; that which was negative and
bad.

The writer of the Fourth Gospel, in his Prologue (Jn. 1,1-18), sought to modify
our concept of primordium in a significant way. While he agreed with the first
two verses of Genesis, he claims that the description is incomplete. In that
primordial darkness there was a light which the darkness could not extinguish
or overwhelm. Thus, light was not subsequent to the primordial beginning; it
was there from the beginning. The writer uses other terms in conjunction with
light, namely life, which he identifies with the light of us humans. But above
all, he uses the Greek word "Logos"; a word which seems to have been used
at different times and places with somewhat different meanings, but
seemingly with the common thread that it referred to a significant human
preoccupation of the time. In our present scientific age it would seem
legitimate to envisage it including purpose. It was this light, life, logos, which
assumed human form roughly 2000 years ago.

Since the earliest Christian times there have been differing approaches to the
Faith, and "Schools" of thought evolved. We read of the schools of Carthage,
Alexandria, Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Rome. In time, two became
dominant, Rome and Constantinople. The Western Church (i.e., Rome) has
tended to focus on what God does -- in his works. This is clearly in harmony
with the visions of the scientist, and it may be contended in this context that
this very thrust to examine and contemplate God's works may have
stimulated the pursuit of science and scientific understanding in the Western
world. But the Eastern Church (traditionally centred in Constantinople) has
had its thought more biased toward the nature of God. In the same way that
science provokes us to look beyond its domain to seek a purpose, it is
similarly appropriate that we should move Eastward in our thoughts to look at
the Biblical record to see Purpose and significance rather than history, along
with subsequent evolution of thought on these matters. We see a similar
movement of emphasis as we move from the synoptic Gospel narratives to
the fourth Gospel narrative.

Jesus' teachings as related in the Gospel narratives show us how to live this
present life, but then we have another attempt by the darkness to overcome
the light in the Crucifixion. Its success was only apparent and temporary _ the
light triumphed!

The drama of the last meal shared with the immediate followers represents
the institution of the timeless institution of the Sacrament we have with us to-
day. In it, Jesus, the light, life, logos, human face of God, identifies his
substance (body and blood), with the food and drink that we need and enjoy
in this life (bread and wine) and invites us to consume it. In accepting it we
accept our unity with the light, life, logos, and all the responsibilities that go
with it. Now we are not just passive observers of the magnificence of the
Sanctus -- we are an integral part of it. Here also we have an advance on the
picture we have from Genesis. In the Adam and Eve story we are seen to
receive our most advanced understanding (of good and bad) as the result of
sin and disobedience, implying that this was not the Divine intention. Here, in
the Sacrament, we are invited to receive it, the implication being that this is
the Divine desire.

We need to reflect on this approach, because the emphasis differs from the
conventional one we have received from the Church. That emphasis is on
Redemption. The present approach is in no way in contradiction with this, and
Redemption remains an essential part of the Sacrament. However, in our time
this element has tended to lose its force, because, in some measure, the
concept of forgiveness has been accepted by society. Our justice system is
now much more oriented to the rehabilitation of a criminal than to revenge, or
even to punishment. In a way this change represents success for the Gospel,
but it means that we must now move on to see that forgiveness and
redemption are for a purpose, and we are challenged to proclaim that
purpose.

Traditionally the Sacrament has been predicated by the belief that Christ, the
Logos, the Son of God, was sacrificed once and for all time, in place of the
annual animal sacrifices of the Day of Atonement rituals, and by virtue of that,
in Holy Communion we receive grace, and justification for our sins. The
foregoing picture in no way lessens the import of this _ indeed, this
Redemption is a necessary prerequisite for our consummation of and into the
Logos and the Purpose. Immediately before we receive communion we make
a final cry for forgiveness as we say or sing

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world,
have mercy on us -- Grant us peace.

But we now amplify the traditional vision of our unity with the Creator that has
been part of the traditional picture, the amplification being achieved by seeing
perhaps a little more of the Creator through his Creation. Furthermore,
Redemption is the preparation for entering into our ultimate roles as partners
with God in his Divine Purpose. Our acceptance of the Sacrament represents
acceptance of the challenge to participate as fully as we can discern it, in the
fulfillment of God's purpose for the world in which he has placed us.

4
We should now depart, in joy and happiness to "Love and serve the Lord" as
one of the responses has it. One of the brief prayers of the Church of England
seems to strike the right note.


Almighty God
we thank you for feeding us
with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him we offer you our souls and bodies
to be a living sacrifice.
Send us out
in the power of your Spirit,
to live and work
to your praise and glory. Amen.


There may be a temptation to linger with various prayers, which is sometimes
counter-productive, in that they can seem to doubt that we have indeed been
redeemed and unified with the Creator and that further supplications are
necessary. But again the musicians have captured an appropriate note. The
final prayer of Bach's B minor Agnus Dei begins with a quiet humble
supplication for personal peace. As it progresses the tone becomes more
confident and joyful, until finally the triumphant ascending scales of voices
and trumpets have us rejoicing that we have indeed been granted that prayer.


EPILOGUE

While it is counterproductive to prolong the service rather than "Go out into
the world to love and serve the Lord", it is appropriate to consider carefully the
implications of what we have done, and where it should lead. Isaiah's vision
shows the way. Following the vision of the Deity which has already been
quoted we have,

Then I said, "Woe is me! I am doomed, for my own eyes have seen the
King, the Lord of Hosts, I, a man of unclean lips, I, who dwell among a people
of unclean lips".


Here we accept the need for Redemption before we can take our place in the
Divine Destiny and Purpose. Isaiah then goes on,

One of the Seraphim flew to me, carrying in his hand a glowing coal which he
had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my mouth with it and
said, "This has touched your lips; now your iniquity is removed and your sin is
wiped out".


In the Holy Eucharist our Redemption from sin has been
consummated, and the elements of Holy Communion have replaced the live
coal. Isaiah continues,

I heard the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?"
I said: "Here am I! Send me."

We have accepted the same challenge to "Go in peace to love and serve the
Lord". Isaiah then hears God's challenge,

"Go, tell this people: However hard you listen, you will never understand.
However hard you look, you will never perceive. This people's wits are dulled;
they have stopped their ears and shut their eyes, so that they may not see
with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their wits, and
then turn and be healed."

Here is the challenge, and the dire warning of the frustration that will
accompany it. It is the frustration familiar to any teacher, and one with which
Jesus was totally familiar. He taught in parables, in which there were no clear
answers, but rather a requirement to think, and produce an answer or plan of
action based on basic principles and the use of our God-given intelligence. In
response to the disciples' question as to why he taught in this way, Jesus
quotes our passage from Isaiah, seemingly almost cynically,

"For this people's mind has become dull; they have stopped their ears and
shut their eyes. Otherwise, their eyes might see, their ears hear, and their
mind understand, and then they might turn to me, and I would heal them."
(Matt 13:15)


The scholars tell us that the explanation which follows (vs. 18-23) was an
insert of the writer, and not provided by Jesus, because such an explanation
would defeat the requirement to think.

Any scientist who has a fortress mentality, and who is not objectively critical in
his thinking, contributes absolutely nothing to the body of understanding, and
certainly is a useless teacher. It is perhaps in this required wisdom, which is
more readily demonstrably present or absent in a scientist than in some other
disciplines, that science can contribute to modern day understanding of
religious faith, and help to bring it out of the mind's museum into a relevant
contemporary context. And from the parable of the talents we learn that
failure to make use of these gifts, and whatever others we may have, will lead
to personal disaster.

Worship -- part 3

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