Gravity

This morning I feel a little like the theological student who put in countless hours of study before his exams, diligently revising names and dates from the Bible. Come the day, he opened his exam paper and was required to distinguish between the prophets Elijah and Elisha. As he didnít have the slightest notion which was which, he began his essay: ďLet us not haggle over the differences between these two truly great men. Instead, let us give a list of the Kings of Israel and Judah in their chronological orderĒ!

In other words, Iím going - actually to follow a recent trend from other speakers here - not to talk about todayís readings but instead to look at something else. What Iíd like to discuss is a very powerful, invisible force in this place which begins with the letter ďgĒ. Yes, you guessed it Ė gravity!

I donít mean gravity as in solemn seriousness, I mean that incredible power which is keeping me standing on the floor, you seated in your pews and this building rooted to the ground.

Now, I canít hope to emulate the way Dr Brian Cox would cover this subject but it IS worth thinking about for a moment; the enormous mass of the earth, pulling everything towards it. Itís very easy to demonstrate gravity Ė look:  

(drops bunch of keys)  

Something weíre all very familiar with and donít think twice about. If I were to go to the north pole or the Sarah desert, or the top of the tallest tower in the world or the top of Mount Everest , that would still happen. 

It is the same force which holds the atmosphere around the earth, which pulls pieces of space debris inwards to burn up in the atmosphere as meteorites or, if large enough, to crash into the earth as meteors. Itís the same force which reaches out to the moon, keeping it in orbit around us. Itís the same force which keeps this earth and the other planets in orbit around the sun and the sun and the other stars in orbit around the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. 

Why am I talking about all this? Well, donít you think gravity is very similar to that other very powerful, invisible force in this place beginning with ďgĒ- God? 

The call of God is something Iím sure everybody here has felt and continues to feel. If youíre anything like me, there are a dozen other things you could - or perhaps even should - be doing at this time on a Sunday morning. Yet here we are, answering Godís call; being drawn to Him.

Of course, Godís call is not just about coming to Church, itís about much more. For some, itís actually about become an ordained Minister of the church. For others, the call is to be a lay Minister. Others feel they are being called to missionary work, evangelising, helping the poor, helping the sick. 

We all have a ďvocationĒ - our vocation is where our talents meet the needs of the world. That vocation is just as valid in answering Godís call if itís singing in the choir or arranging the flowers in church, or dusting the pews or delivering leaflets or comforting a neighbour or caring for a child. The list is endless - we canít all necessarily be another Florence Nightingale or William Wilberforce or Mother Teresa but, as ordinary men and women, we can - in our own way - be a Christian hero like them if we listen to and answer the call of God. There is so much we can do, in so many different ways, to help sustain and build up the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Just like gravity, the power of Godís calling affects everybody; the only difference is that some choose not to listen or to try and fight it. Just going back to gravity for a moment here is a fascinating thing: despite the huge mass of the earth pulling these keys towards it, the enormous forces which actually warp spacetime and cause the keys to shoot down in less than a second, look - I can bend down pick them up.  

(picks up bunch of keys)  

as easily as that.

I can actually defy and overcome that immense pulling power.

Itís just like that with God, isnít it? If we choose to, we can simply walk away, walk out of that door, turn our back on God, get on with our lives and have nothing at all to do with Him. Itís easy.

The thing is, though, just as we canít hide from gravity, we canít hide from God. In fact, the number one best selling religious book at the moment is called ďWhy God wonít go away?Ē.

Remember Adam and Eve, trying to hide from God when they discovered they were naked? God still found them. Remember Jonah, trying to run away from God, hiding in a ship and trying to sail away to Joppa? God still found him.

In the book of Jeremiah the Lord says ďcan anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?Ē. What about the words in Psalm 139? - ďWhere can I go to flee from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide meĒ.

So, letís try and be aware of the power of Godís call, to listen to it, to tune ourselves into it, to respond to it. Letís remember that although we may try to walk away from God, he will still be there, calling us back. 

How do we remember? Well, next time something falls from your hand (drops keys again) and you stoop to pick it up (picks up keys again), remember the power of gravity; remember your power to overcome it and remember Godís power in drawing you and me towards Him.

I think all this is summed up in, for me, one of the most moving lines in literature. Itís from one of the Father Brown stories by G.K. Chesterton, requoted in Brideshead Revisited:

"I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line, which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread".

© Richard Farquharson, Maulden, Bedfordshire June 2016

This sermon was originally delivered in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Maulden, Bedfordshire on 26 June, 2011