Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Universe to Live In

“See, I will create
     new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
     nor will they come to mind. 
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
     for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
     and its people a joy. 
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
     and take delight in my people;
     the sound of weeping and of crying
     will be heard in it no more.”
-Isaiah 65:17-19 

Do people tell you sometimes that you live in your own little world? You may be able to talk researchers at the University of Maryland and Towson State to make one just for you, for real. An entire universe, in fact. Only problem with it is that it fits in a lab. And it runs pretty much like the one we already inhabit.
     The researchers in question announced this week that they had succeeded in creating a “universe” in something called Minkowski space - which as near as I can understand is geometric model of spacetime  that takes four dimensions into account: length, width, depth, and time. The researchers used a ferromagnetic liquid made of cobalt and kerosene, applied a magnetic field to make the cobalt particles line up in columns, and then passed a laser beam through the liquid. When they did so, the light behaved according to Einstein’s theory of relativity - which for the researchers is good enough to say that at least they’ve created a working model of a parallel universe. They could even create multiple universes, which seems to be the real breakthrough here, by varying the amount of cobalt in the liquid. When there wasn’t enough  magnetized cobalt to form the columns, the existing columns would collapse, and multiple universes would pop in and out of existence.
     Yeah, I don’t really understand it either. Then again, I’m sort of, uh, challenged in the realm of  theoretical physics. I guess I sort of understand what the scientists did; what I don’t get is why what they created is a universe. 
     The takeaway here is that creating a universe is apparently not as difficult as one might think.
     Creating one you could live in is another matter.
     God did, of course. Genesis tells the story - twice - in non-scientific language. It’s a description of the creation of a perfect universe, designed by its Creator to support life and ruled over benevolently by the Creator’s crowning creation, human beings, who bear his image. This universe was good. It was in harmony - creatures with Creator and with one another. And then the human beings went their own way, and catastrophe ensued. 
     Sin and death and sickness and hardship and heartache entered this perfect universe, and in a chain reaction everything spun off the rails. The creatures lost connection with the Creator. They hurt themselves, and each other. They neglected the creation they had been made to rule. Death, once a stranger, became a usurper of power in this once good universe. As the original goodness of the creation was lost in weeds and ruins, covered in hatred and pain, and pitted with grave after grave, the people forgot. We forgot our purpose. Our reason for being. The goodness and light that once filled the universe we inhabit. We forgot our Creator. 
     The universe he created for us to live in became a place for us to die.
     But our Creator didn’t forget. Even as his beautiful creation was spinning itself apart, even as human life was devalued and even cut short by rising greed, lust, and selfishness, he was working. He was calling people to remember. Enoch. Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. He made one family into a nation. He revealed himself to them, made a covenant with them. They would be his people and obey his word. He would be their God and never leave them or give them up. 
     Still - they had to live in this fallen, dysfunctional universe, and faithfulness was sometimes easier said than done. Sometimes, like all of us would have, they forgot. Surrounded by sin and violence and grief and death, they sometimes forgot their Creator. But he refused to forget them. He preserved them, redeemed them, protected them, and saved them. 
     And then, through them, he acted. He acted to change everything.
     Through the people he called, he came. He came to his own creation, the Word through which it had come into being. He came talking about a day of renewal. He came declaring that God had come in power, that his realm was breaking in to restore his damaged universe. Isaiah’s hope of new heavens and a new earth, a brand new universe, was coming to pass. He showed what that new universe would look like: lepers cleansed, the blind seeing, the lame walking, the deaf and mute shouting the praises of God, those chained by sin and Satan freed, and even the dead coming out of their tombs, alive. 
      A universe human beings could live in.
     But the broken version of creation that human beings died in demonstrated that even he wasn’t immune to its laws. Inevitably, the hatred and fear and greed and death that eventually overcomes all of us overcame him, too. He was falsely accused and put to death. The world he promised, the new creation, the universe we could live in - it turned out to be a false hope.
     It seemed that way for two days. On the third day, God proved it wasn’t:

     Somehow, in God’s grace and power, Jesus’ death and resurrection becomes the new norm, the new guiding principle, the new theory of relativity for this new universe he’s creating. New creation begins, not from the outside in, but from the inside out - from the redeemed hearts and minds of human beings who hear the voice of God in Jesus and who remember who they’re supposed to be.
     We all want a universe we can live in - not one in which the inevitable end is death. In Jesus, that’s what God has created. A new heavens, a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
     A universe we can live in - truly, completely, eternally.
     So, may we start to live in it now. May it come into existence in the labs of our hearts and minds as we come to know Jesus. May we live with him, in harmony with each other, and conduct ourselves by the laws of the new creation. May this new universe be even more real to us than the old one as we allow its power and influence to make itself known in us. And may it displace the old universe in our hearts long before we see it do so on the day Jesus comes. 

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