The (Other) L-Word, Part 6: Speed of Light

Last October, I was pretty proud of the work I’d done in The (Other) L-Word series to illuminate some of the connections between God and light, but a couple weeks ago, Tony Campolo took me to church.

(Not literally, of course.)

Campolo, a renowned pastor, theologian and sociologist, gave maybe the best sermon I’ve heard in five years (and that is saying something) at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, on November 15. He touched on some of the themes I explored in the (Other) L-Word posts, but pointed out a crucial connection that never occurred to me, so I feel compelled to share it.

The Advent wreath at my church, on the Sunday of Love.

The Advent wreath at my church, on the Sunday of Love.

It’s probably a bit odd to resume this series more than a year after its previous instalment. But on the other hand, it also seems about right to be writing about light, halfway between the lighting of the fourth Advent candle on Sunday, and the Christ candle on Christmas Eve.

Back in Part 5 of this series, we waded a little into advanced physics, but as I discovered when I listened to Campolo, we didn’t wade far enough.

Here’s an excerpt from his sermon, titled Good News:

“Let me take you on a brief excursion into Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Einstein said that time is relative to motion. The faster you travel, the more time is compressed.
“If I put you on a rocket, sent you into outer space travelling at 160,000 miles per second, relative to us, and said come back in 10 years, when you returned, you would be 10 years older, but all the rest of us would be 20 years older.
“If we got you travelling at 170,000 miles a second, our 20 years would be compressed into one day of your time. 
“If, perchance, I could get you travelling at 186,000 miles a second, all time would be compressed into one eternal now. Everything would happen simultaneously. All time would happen in one instantaneous moment. 
“The reason why I tell you that is because that’s like God Time. With God, there is no passage of time as we understand it. A thousand years are as a day, says the scripture, and a day as a thousand years.

The Millennium Falcon jumps to light speed in Star Wars.

The Millennium Falcon jumps to light speed in Star Wars.

If this isn’t completely clear yet, take note of the fact that 186,000 miles per second is the C in E=MC– the constant speed of light.

Campolo also notes that despite the efforts of George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry to convince us otherwise, humans will never be able to travel as fast as light, because as we approached that constant, our physical bodies “would expand in weight and size toward infinity.”infinity

Infinity.

enterprise_at_warp_by_glennshatowski-d33bsy7

The Enterprise at Warp Speed in Star Trek

Does it strike you as significant that the speed of light is an unattainable constant in which all time is compressed into a single moment and mass approaches infinity, in light of our understanding that God is infinite, and the fact that 1 John 1:5 says God is light and the fact that in John 8:12, Jesus describes Himself as the light of the world?

Those verses are certainly metaphorical, but maybe they’re a little bit more than metaphorical.

Perhaps they contain elements of fact, as well as truth.

candleNot that I’m suggesting that there’s a one-to-one relationship here – that because God is light, light is God. But there is something divine about the power of light, isn’t there? The flame from a single candle is visible across an otherwise pitch-black sports arena – light’s power over darkness is absolute.

xmas lightsAnd perhaps not only physical darkness, but also emotional darkness: at this time of year, a few strings of lights transforms a drab, unremarkable streetscape into something downright merry.

And as we noted in Part 5 of this series, light itself isn’t really visible, it makes things visible. And even today’s brightest scientists have trouble categorizing light as either a wave or a particle.

Mysterious and illusive, yet familiar and accessible. Sounds like Someone I know…

OK, Baldy. Say you’re right. Maybe the parallels between light and God do point to more than superficial similarities. So what?

lightSo nothing, ultimately.

There’s no call to action from this little epiphany. Just an invitation to ponder in wonder another illuminating and exhilarating intersection of heavenly truth and earthly fact, hidden in plain sight.

Westward leading, still proceeding – guide us to thy perfect Light.

Peace be with you.

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About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
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One Response to The (Other) L-Word, Part 6: Speed of Light

  1. Pingback: The Lord Is Come | Disciplehood

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