Schrödinger’s Faith

This is a sermon I gave at Mooney Valley Salvation Army on Sunday 5 August, 2012, on the text from Colossians 3:4. 

We’re going to continue looking at Colossians, and today we’re looking at chapter 3:4 which says, “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” We’ll get onto this in a bit, but first, let me share with you a bit of my story. I’ve been a Christian my whole life. While some may have fantastic stories of their conversion, of a miraculous about-face from the depths of despair to the heights of glory, my story seems bland in comparison. My parents were Church of Christ ministers, I went to Church every Sunday, went to Sunday School, for all intents and purposes, I was a good Christian boy. When my parents switched to the Anglican Church, I went along as well, and continued to grow up in the Church. I made decisions along the way, but to be honest, I’m not certain it made that much effect on my life. As hard as it is to say, sometimes, I was a Sunday Christian – I would be there on a Sunday, but the rest of the week, my life didn’t exactly reflect what I was being taught. There was something missing.

I may be touching on similar people’s experiences here. You’ve grown up in the Church, and you can’t pinpoint the exact moment of conversion. Or you’ve been a Christian for so long that the incredible joy and excitement that went with your conversion has either slowly dulled with memory, or has been exaggerated so much that you’re not sure what happened anymore. Yet, there may be others here whose story of conversion is so strong and accurate it could have happened yesterday, even if that yesterday was 50 years ago. You may have met these people, who are so enthusiastic about their faith, and their enthusiasm is infectious, and catching, and your dull story starts to get polished up abit… only to slowly return to that cloudy mist that blocks clear memories.

Maybe, in an effort to find that enthusiasm once again, you’ve been to different Christian events. For a lot of young people, they will find these in Planetshakers events – I know I did. I went to one back in Perth, and I came away from it so enthused and so touched by the Holy Spirit, and determined to make a change in my life, but a week or so later, the Planetshakers were long gone, and my faith was dulling once again. Don’t get me wrong – I never lost my faith, but things weren’t always so clear.

When this dullness covers our faith, it brings other problems into our lives, and these problems are not new. Take, for example, my good friend Jonah. Actually, he’s not really my friend. I never met him. But his story is one that I’m sure you’re familiar with. He had faith in God, and one day, he was told to go and tell a town that they were going to be destroyed. You’ve probably worked out by now what happened next. The dullness in his faith affected his decision-making, and instead of doing what God said, he fled, and hopped on a boat. And you know what, that worked out real well for him…

Has anyone heard of Schrödinger’s Cat? It’s a thought experiment devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. To avoid getting into too much detail and confusing people, here’s the Wikipedia description, and my apologies to any Quantum Physicists out there:

A cat, a flask of poison and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead.

To break it down to a really simplistic level, until you open the box, you have no way of knowing if the cat is alive or dead. It is only upon opening that we can discover what happened.

While Jonah was on the boat, his faith was – in effect – both alive and dead. He hadn’t told anyone what God had told him to do, nor had he told anyone on the boat who he was, or what he was. I’m sure you know what happens next. They encounter a storm, cast lots which fall on Jonah, and they question him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” Here, they are getting ready to open the box. “I am a Hebrew,” says Jonah, “and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Jonah opens the box, and reveals his faith. This terrifies the crew, and as I’m sure you know, they throw him overboard, and the Lord provides a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and he stays in the belly for three days and nights.

Got himself into a bit of a mess didn’t he? But why? For Jonah, he was scared. He didn’t want to have to tell Nineveh that they were going to be destroyed because he thought they would destroy him. But it also meant that he would have to talk about his faith. Not that he wasn’t able. That description of the Lord is a pretty good one, “the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” I might have to memorise that one, as a simple description that I could share. But he was scared of sharing his faith, and there are times where I’m sure you’re scared of sharing your faith too. I know there are times where I wish I could shut up about it.

I’ve got a friend on Facebook who I would describe as a militant atheist. He’s very well-educated, and can hold an argument very well. But whenever I engage in discussion with him, he always manages to pick out these verses in the bible that make me run to my commentaries to figure out what is being said on that passage. Or he brings up points that are difficult and challenging to counter. Sometimes, I wish that I could just block him, so that I don’t get drawn into such arguments. The reason behind it is that by getting into these discussions, you open yourself up to attacks on your faith, and when you find something lacking in your bible knowledge, that’s really embarrassing, particularly when it’s an atheist who is showing you up. You get frustrated that they can’t see what is so obvious to you… or – depending on how dull your faith is – what you thought was obvious to you.

For Jonah, you might think that talking about his faith didn’t work out well for him. And that’s true, because through Jonah we actually see what a prophet is not supposed to do. However, when I look at another friend – Daniel – I see someone who was not scared of sharing his faith, even though he faced persecution, and it in fact worked out well for him. Daniel was in exile in Babylon, and was chosen to work in the King’s court. As part of this, he had to eat the royal food and wine. But Daniel did not want to defile himself in this way, so instead he convinced the official to all him and his friends to eat nothing but vegetables and water, and after ten days, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men. Later, Daniel interprets the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar without the King having told anyone what the dream was. Daniel tells of his faith like this: “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.” And then goes on to explain the dream. On hearing this, the king fell prostrate on the floor and said to Daniel “Surely your God is the God of Gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

Now, you may be thinking at this point – or possibly prior, what on earth does Jonah and Daniel have to do with Colossians? Let’s return to the verse, and try to flesh this out. The verse starts with, “When Christ who is your life is revealed.” As Christians, we have declared to Jesus that he is our life. When we ask him into our lives, we are “born of the water and the spirit.” Christ takes up residence in our lives, he’s there all the time. However, sometimes, he’s like Schodinger’s cat. We don’t let anyone in, so no-one knows if he’s alive or dead. Sometimes, even we don’t want to open the box, in fear that he might be dead. So we live in this state of uncertainty.

But Paul goes on to write that when Christ is revealed, then we are also revealed “with him in glory.” Well, that sounds pretty good. I’d like to get me a bit of that Glory (glory, hallelujah…). But I’m not really sure what it means. See, the greek word used, δόξα  (doxa) can mean a number of things. Splendour, magnificence, majesty, a thing belonging to God, an opinion resulting in praise, honour and glory… a few different meanings there. One way of describing glory is all of the wonderful aspects of God – love, patience, kindness, mercy, justice, and everything else!

The beautiful thing for me is that Paul writes here that we can reside all of these wonderful aspects of God by revealing Christ in our lives. When we do that, when we open that box, when we tell others about him, he opens the box of our lives, and we are revealed, and his wonderful aspects are seen through our lives.

Once I started to talk about my faith to others, I realised that Christ was doing amazing things in my life. I no longer needed spectacular events to polish my faith for a little bit. Through doing a little bit of polishing every day – through prayer, through reading the bible, and through telling people about my faith, my story, my struggles and my successes – that I found my faith to grow clearer, and to remain clearer. It was – as Paul put it – that I was being revealed in Glory.

Through starting to share your story, Christ will start moving in your life, and start revealing those wonderful aspects in your life. So how are you going to be known? So how are you going to be known? Are you going to be like Schrodinger’s cat, no-one knowing whether your faith is alive or dead? Or are you going to praise your Saviour all day long? Are you going to share your faith with others, and live a life that shows this wonderful aspects of God that shine through us when we reveal him?

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Author: Ben Clapton

I'm an Officer in The Salvation Army, currently appointed with my wife as Corps Officers at the Rochester Corps in country Victoria (20 minutes out of Echuca). I play violin and guitar, amongst many others, and love golf and running.

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