On Tuesday, October 2nd, the Nobel Physics prize was shared by a woman, Dr. Donna Strickland, the first woman in 55 years to be given this award, and only the third ever, since the beginning of Nobel Prizes in Physics. She is Canadian and shared this prize with a French scientist, Gerard Mourou, and a 96-year-old American, Arthur Ashkin, who is the oldest to ever receive a Nobel Prize. He is responsible for “optical tweezers”. He told the Nobel award presenters in Sweden that he does not have time to travel and receive an award because he is working on a scientific paper and cannot get away from his work. Did I mention that this guy writing scientific papers in 96 years old?
Laser technology that includes phrases like “optical tweezers”, and “chirped pulse amplification” makes it possible to cut minute holes in materials and living matter incredibly precisely. One area that has been transformed is using corrective advanced laser eye surgery for millions.
“Optical Tweezers” make it possible for scientists to hold, observe and move tiny objects with laser beam fingers. Labs can now examine and manipulate viruses, bacteria and other living cells without damaging them. This is advanced precision laser technology, and this cutting technology is opening research into a multitude of industrial and medical applications. As Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz would say: “Toto, We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Our first reading in Hebrews this morning says that the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. The Holy Spirit knows and understands our hearts and our thoughts, bringing down to the smallest and finest details of our lives, (those parts we cannot even see), spiritually discerning the intentions and motivations behind our thoughts.
The Living Word takes the Written Word, like this passage in Hebrews, and like laser fingers, cuts deep into our hearts, and the void in our heart cries out as God intends for us to do with this response: I am open and receptive to the ministry of the Word of God that is sharper than any two edged sword that comes to bring healing, correction, and encouragement in my life. The Word is piercing, cutting deep into the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.
There is a Proverb that says: The human spirit is a searchlight of the Lord searching the deep things, our minds, our thoughts, and intentions of the heart. (Proverbs 20:27) God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
God is in the farthest horizons, (macro), way out there, beyond our grasp, but at the same time in the smallest and minutest details (micro), as the Apostle Paul says: The mystery of the faith is Christ within in you. In the recesses of our heart, God is there. The Holy Spirit searches our hearts and brings healing, cleansing and encouraging from the inside out, the spiritual vitality of Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, using the Written Word to minister and bring healing into our lives. Amen?
In our Gospel reading today in Mark we read:
A man runs up to Jesus, knells down and says: Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus says: You know the commandments. And the man says: Teacher I have kept these commandments from my youth. Jesus says: You lack one thing: go sell what you own and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.
I like the way this story starts out: A man runs and kneels before Jesus and says: Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life? We see an earnest desire, humility and an openness to do whatever is necessary to inherit eternal life.
So, let’s be realistic here. What does this mean for us? What’s this mean for you? Does it mean that you should all sell everything we have and live a life of poverty? Does that mean every one of us should do that? Let’s look at this passage more closely. It says that Jesus loved this man and was concerned for him. Jesus took time to talk to this individual and used it not only for him but his disciples, as a teaching opportunity.
This guy really wanted to do the right thing, but he went away sad because he had many possessions. It’s obvious that Jesus was not writing this individual off. Sorry buddy, but you didn’t make the cut. And, we don’t know what happened to this man later. We don’t know if he sold everything and gave it to the poor or not. We are not told the end of this story.
We know from reading the gospels that Jesus is always concerned about possessions that tend to trip us up. He encourages those that have two coats to give one of them away, and if you have food, share some with the poor. Share your resources. Don’t let your possessions get in your way.
This message is not just for those in a higher tax bracket. It’s for all of us. Most of the people in the world think that all Americans are rich and compared to the way the rest of the world lives, most of us are. Jesus says that it is almost impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, but then he says: What is impossible with man is possible with God. What is impossible with man is possible with God.
We all struggle with possessions and certain things we do not want to give up. All of us have limits about what we can or can’t give up or are willing to give up for this calling “to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.” But, remember this: Jesus loved this man that that had a lot of possessions, and he did not tell him he was lost. His message to you is that he loves you too.
Just be careful that your possessions, those things you hold dear, do not trip you up. And, be careful not to judge others, for as you judge, you shall also be judged. All of us make compromises in our lives. We draw these lines and say: Okay, this is all the farther I’m going. I’ll do this thing that God wants, but I’m not going to do it the way Father Dave does it.
That’s okay. That’s not between you and me. That’s between you and God. Jesus has a way of getting to the heart of the matter, just as He does with the person in our story that walks away grieving. It does not mean that story is over. The Spirit continues to work in that person’s life, just as the Holy Spirit continues to work in each one of our lives. That’s called transformation, being changed from the inside out. The Word of God is a sharp sword cutting quick to the heart) and what is impossible with humans, is possible with God.
What God is directing me to do with my life, may not be what God is directing you to do. And at sometimes in our lives, (and you all know this is true), God has asked for more sacrifice, and at other times the sacrifice seemed more like a small offering.
It reminds me of the story of the pig and the chicken on the farm. The farmer liked eggs and ham for breakfast. The chicken says to the pig. Isn’t it exciting to give back to the farmer for what he has given to us? And the pig says: That’s easy for you to say. For you it’s an offering, but for me it’s a sacrifice.
Jesus says that with humans, it is impossible to enter the kingdom of Heaven, but with God all things are possible. Amen? The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen