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Edward F. Markquart

Series A
Harnessing the Energy of Love

Baptism of Jesus   Acts 10:34-43

Tielhard de Chardin. Spelled C H A R D I N. Can you say it? Chardin. The Ch sounds like an Sh. Shardin like the French wine, chardonnary. The accent is on the second syllable and it sounds like “in.” Shar-din’. A Frenchman. Born in 1881 in France. Tielhard de Chardin, but people like me simply remember him as named Chardin. In this sermon, I will call him Chardin.

Chardin came from a very devout Roman Catholic family. He was the fourth child of eleven children. He went to Catholic schools as a child: to a Jesuit Catholic gradeschool, a Jesuit highschool, and a Jesuit College. His Catholic piety was deep within him. He was was taught in his Catholicism.

He attended Jesuit schools. Many of you know that Jesuit schools are the finest of schools. His parents were his teachers but also the Jesuit priests were his teachers during his youth. Jessuit teachers are the finest in the world. Here in the state of Washington, we know of two Jesuit univerisites: Seattle University and Gonzaga University. Jesuit priests always wed the intellect and the Spirit.

Chardin had a natural apitutde for the sciences. He graduated from a Jesuit college in physics and chemistry and became a science teacher at a college in Cairo, Egypt. He became college instructor of phyics and chemistry.

After teaching physics and chemistry on a college level, he went to England to study theology for four years to become a Jesuit priest. When you become a Jesuit priest, you are a smart and you become well educated priest. Jesuit priests are some of the smartest and best educated people in the world. 

At this time, Chardin not only became a Jesuit priest, he also became a fine geologist and  palentologist. He received advanced degrees in both subjects. He studied and accepted evolution as part of God’s complex processes of creating the Earth and the universe. Chardin saw no conflict between his deep Christian faith and science. Chardin became a symbol of the synthesis between faith and physics, Jesus and geology, Christ and creation. In his scientific studies, Chardin became that symbol of the synthesis of science and religion. Faith and physics did not contradict each other; Jesus and geology did not contradict each other.

This was the time of World War I in France, and Chardin served in the military as a stretcher carrier. For his service in World War I, he was awarded the famous French medal of honor, the Legion of Honour.

The Roman Catholic Church could not embrace the thoughts of Chardin because of his beliefs in evolution and he was assigned to a remote place in China where he was a paleontologist for twenty years, helping to find the remains of the Peking Man who is thought to be 350,000 years old.

He wrote a famous book entitled, THE PHENOMENON OF MAN in 1955. When I was in college, I was required to read his fundamental book, which I did not comprehend nor understand. I tried but Chardin was too complex my young mind.

Why Chardin? Why am I talking about Chardin this morning? Because Chardin gave the world one famous quotation and that quotation has been etched into human history. I memorized this quotation as a young man and it lives within me. It has become a motto of life for me.

(Flash the following quotation on the screen with a powerpoint. Leave the quotation on the screen for the entire sermon.)

“Some day, after we have mastered the wind, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of Love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”

From that quotation, seer into your mind, “We shall harness for God the energies of Love,” and when we do that we will have discovered the greatest power in the world. Focus of the phrase, “harness for God the energies of love.”

I think those words are worth memorizing and putting into your deepest memory bank. Please do that during the rest of the sermon. You can do two things at once: memorize those words and listen.

Let us all read the quotation together: “Some day, after we have mastered the wind, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of Love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”

More powerful than the winds, (think of the strongest winds)

More powerful than waves, (think in your mind of the highest waves you have seen)

More powerful than tides, (think in your mind of the most extreme tides you have seen)

More powerful than gravity, (try to imagine the power of gravity)

More powerful than the tornedoes, (think of a tornado that you have seen/experienced)

More powerful than earthquakes, (recall an earthquake you may have experienced)

More powerful than the slippage of techtonic plates underneath the earth and a tsunami.

More powerful than nuclear energy (think of a nuclear power plant)

More powerful than solar energy (think of modern windmills across eastern Washington)

More powerful than all of these is harnessing the the powers of love. Chardin has that vision: to harness the energies of love which was/is a power greater than all the forces of nature.

He said: And when we harness for God the energies of love, for a second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.

For you personally to harness the energies of love.

For this congregation to harness the energies of love.

For the nations of this earth to harness the energies of love.

We will then find a new kind of power.

Are these words of Chardin wishful thinking? Bravado talk? Unrealistic rhetoric? Idealistic, unrealistic philosophy? Or could it be that this words and vision are true?

It is with these words ringing in our ears, that we approach the Bible lessons for today, The Baptism of Jesus Sunday.

What I am suggesting to you this morning is that Jesus of Nazareth harnessed the energies of love more than any other person on earth before or after him. When Jesus harnessed the energy of love, he became the most powerful person who ever lived.

Please turn to the epistle lesson for today from Acts 10:34-38. “Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” With your pencil, highlight those words, “Anyone who fears God and does what is right is pleasing to him.” God shows no favoritism for creeds and religions and religious ideologies. Anyone who stands in awe of God and does what is right/righteous is acceptable and pleasing to God.

“You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Notice in his baptism, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. As a consequence of being anointed with the Spirit of God’s love and the spiritual power of love, Jesus went about doing good and healed all who were oppressed by evil.”

That is what the baptism of Jesus was all about. Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of love, the power of God. Jesus harnessed that Spirit of God’s love and the energies of love, more than any person before or after him. When Jesus harnessed the energies of love, he went about his life doing good and healing all people who were oppressed by evil. There was no one who ever lived on earth who harnessed the energies of love like Jesus did.

Also, that is what our baptism was all about. In our baptism and in our growth as a Christian, we too are fulled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the power and Spirit of God’s love. As we grow and mature and become like Christ, we begin to harness the energies of love. Yes, you and I begin to harness the energies of love…for God and each other.

The greatest people on earth have harnessed the energes and spirit of love. The great saints of history, for example. The great saints of the past like St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa of our century. Both of these people harnessed the energies of love.

The greatest people in our parish harnessed the energies of love. For you, who has been the greatest person in our parish? For me, it was Ellen Heffner, the founder of our homelss ministry. I remember being under a highway viaduct in downtown Seattle with Ellen one day when she was giving food out to big, burly homeless men. What a saint. I feel that Ellen harnessed the energies of love more than any other person in our parish. And Ellen was a force because of it.

The last funeral that I did in our church was for Sharon Richardson who died too young, at age sixty. During our worship services, most Lutherans have a time clock in our body that goes off one hour after the opening hymn. A worship service is not to last longer than a hour. But the funeral that day lasted two hours. At ninety minutes, I first looked down at my watch. Where had the time gone so quickly. What was so unusual? We had an “open mike” and the little people of earth were telling stories about how Sharon helped their lives. Several single moms with several kids by several different fathers. Samoan young women whose lives Sharon touched. These people told their stories of how Sharon had intervened in their lives and helped save them. Yes, no doubt about it. Sharon had harnessed the energies of love. And Sharon was a force because of it.

The great people in my life? Like so many people,  my mother. Why, she harnessed the energies of love more than anybody else in my family. We all feel that way. She was something else, the way that she loved and cared for people.

All the great people I know in life discovered the miracle of harnessing the energies of love.

Some people look at love. They admire the love they see in other people’s marriages. But they need to take the next step and harness that energy of love for their own marriage.

Some people look at love in the saints of the great lives in our parish. You can look at love, see images of love, observe loving actions in others like Ellen Heffner and Sharon Richardson, but Chardin is suggesting something more than looking at love or thinking about love or observing love in others. Chardin is talking about something else. He is talking about harnessing the energies of love in your own life and thereby discovering power, the power of love.

Again and again in my life, I see people who have harnessed the energy of love and have have discovered fire and power.

Let’s go in a slightly different direction. At this moment in our planet Earth, we are overwhelmed by the tragedy of the earthquake in the ocean floor off the coast of Indonesia. That earthquake pushed the ocean above it and there was a powerful wave beneath the sea. That wave was moving at the speed of a jet airplane, at the speed of five hundred miles an hour. As that wave underneath the ocean gained speed and force, it became 23,000 times more powerful than the atom bomb that we dropped on Hiroshima. It struck with such force and magnitude that everything it its way was crushed and drowned.

The winds, the waves, the tides, gravity, tsunamis are powerful. But not as powerful as harnessing the energies of the force of love. I am not sure you believe that. I sense that some of you may believe more in the power of the tsunami mroe than the power of love.

The key to life for you and me as individuals to harness the energies of love.

The key to life for our congregation is to harness the energies of love among us.

The key to life for our nation is to harness the energies of love within our nation.

The key to life for the world communities of nations is to harness the energies of love.

And when we as individuals, congregations, nations and world communties harness the energies of love for God, for the second time in human history, we will discover fire…and power like we have never witnessed before.

During these past two weeks, I feel that the human community is attempting to harness the energies of love. Yes, the whole human community. There is an outpouring of love and social compassion unlike I have ever seen in my lifetime. From everybody. From all the nations.

From the nations. Billions from the nations like Australia, Germany and the United States. Billions from the World.

From the philanthropies. Phones ringing off the hooks at philanthropic organizations like the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Doctors Without Borders, Lutheran World Relief, and others. In all these philanthropic organizations, their website are overwhelmed with visitors who want to give. 

From the militaries. Even militaries are getting into the act, flying their helicopters not to drop bombs but to bring food. Airplanes, ships, troops created for war, at this moment, are harnessing their energy to do good for people in need.

From the little people like you and me. Kids giving their allowances. Having car washes. Emptying their piggy banks.

All harnessing all this energy for good: from nations, armies, navies, churchs, children, schools, colleges, everybody.

Do you have that vision for your own life? What would your life be like if you began to harness the energies of love for the sake of God, others and even your own soul?

Baptism is being incorporated into a community where you mature and grow to be like Christ who harnessed the energies of love for God more than anyone else.

Now, I would like to talk about the second aspect of Chardin’s life: the unity of science and spirituality, a unity between Christ and creation, a unity between Jesus and geology, a unity between faith and physics. Jesuit priests understand this. Chardin symbolized this.

In the Book of Genesis, we know that the creation is inherently good. The continuing creation of the sun, moon and stars are good. The continuing creation of the Earth itself is good.

I would like to suggest to you that God is still creating the creation and the universe and that the movement of the tectonic plates are part of God’s plan, are part of God’s good creation, are part of God’s continuing creation, as are hurricanes, earthquakes, eclipses and everything else that is part of God’s natural order of creation.

As we all know, this earth of ours is infinitely complex. From my Old Testament class on the creation, we learned about this wonderful complexity of the earth. We learned that there were:

9,700 different species of birds

15,482 different species of fish

250,000 different species of flowering plants

4,260 different species of mammals

6,787 different reptiles

80,000 different mollusks

1,000, 000 different insects

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 different stars. 1 to the 21st power. That is 21 zeroes of stars.

Please look at me for a moment. Look at me and my body. In my body, there are 60,000 miles of blood veins. Isn’t that incomprehensible? This world of ours is so wonderfully made by God and is so wonderfully complex.

At the men’s breakfast the other day, we were discussing the tsunami. Rand said, “I am hearing on TV that many religious commentators say that the tsunami is an expression of God’s wrath on the earth, is an expression of God’s anger towards people on this earth. And it is only going to get worse and there will be even worse tsunamis and worse earthquakes and worse death rates. Why? Because such acts of nature are an expression of the wrath of God.” Rand said, “I have heard this several times.”

Wil, 89 years young, said, “O, not at all Rand. Tsunamis are not an expression of the wrath of God. Read Genesis. God created the world good. Everything God said about the created order was good. In my Presbyterian catechism of my youth, the first question was, “What is God?” I learned that God was infinitely wise, infinitely powerful, infinitely holy, infinitely just and infinitely good.” Tsunamis are part of God’s good creation.

Dale chipped in: “I don’t believe that God micro-manages the creation. God isn’t sitting around pushing buttons that set of “earthquake there,” “flood here,” “tsunami there,” “typhoon here.” God isn’t into micro-managing the creation and pushing buttons to set off differing disasters. When I get into trying to make sense out of God micro-managing creation, I find myself in a whole bunch of circular arguments that go round and round and round. I believe deeply in a good God and I go about doing the work of God, using my brains and my love and energy to do so.”

Paul was waiting his term. Paul said, “If God wanted, could he have lifted his finger and stopped the tsunami from hitting those shores. That is, I am asking a bigger question: does God intervene in our human history and prevent natural disasters or diseases?”

Norm said, “You mean like God stepping in and omitting my cancer of the lymph system that is incurable. I believe that God is with me to give me strength to face the challenge of life and death.”

Ed said, “His name was and is Immanuel. God with us. God with  us in all circumstances of life. That is the miracle. Not the stopping waves of God’s good creation, but that God has promised to be with us for every mountaintop and valley of life.”

Chardin. Chardin was a great Jesuit priest and devout believer. He taught us well when he said,

“Some day, after we have mastered the wind, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of Love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”

My nine year old grandson was drawing and doodling during this sermon. As he walked out the door, he gave his grandpa (me) a sheet of paper. Ben had draw a heart, with a harness attached to the front of the heart, like a harness from the bit in a horse’s mouth, with reigns going back from the heart. He, Ben, was holding onto those reigns. The picture of the heart he drew was of a smiling heart, smiling because the heart was happy that its energies were being harnessed for good …and for God.

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