"Neutron star collisions may have created most of the gold in the universe."
Wrapped around the ring finger of my left hand is a neutron star collision. Probably a really, really old neutron star collision that, after floating through the chaos of the early universe, was drawn into a gravitational cluster that became a planet. That planet sprouted life, and with that life, intelligence: you, me, our ancestors, possibly even our children. Those intelligent people began to find ways to value things. One of those ways was to mine the gold, melt it down, and stamp it with images of rulers, something they called "coins." Those coins became portable property, a shared standard of exchanging wealth for a piece of property we valued. To express value, we often covered something in that gold as well. Or wear it around fingers to remind us of something of value.
Few of us pay for anything in gold coins anymore. Most of our wealth flits around in electrons, transmitted by magnetic stripes on cards between accounts of vendors and payees. Yet we understand the concept of gold, or those electrons, representing value in a world that relies upon the exchange of material wealth.
Jesus doesn't deny that we live in such a world. When confronted by Pharisees intent on trapping him in Matthew 22:15-22, he examines a coin and declares that it, having been stamped with the image of Caesar, belonged to Caesar and should be returned to him. To function in the world around us, we use money imprinted with the images of a modern-day empire. It, and the values of the empire it represents, are woven into us in ways we cannot escape.
Yet underneath all of that is the collision of neuron stars. That is, underneath that image of Caesar, and masked by those electron blips, is something so awesome, so ancient, so beyond understanding, that we can scarcely comprehend it: a collision of neuron stars! That image of Caesar rubs off of coins -- ask any numismatist. Empires rise, and they fall. The stars they attempted to control outlast them, returning to gold and taking on different forms in different times. Through it all, we are called to look beyond those decaying empires and images, and instead value what truly matters: wonder, perhaps; or the relationship that lies behind the ring on my left hand; courage that enables us to reach out to a sister or brother and accept their help; and more.
This Sunday, not only will we share in worship, but we'll also share an opportunity to look beyond where we are now and begin to focus on shaping a mission and vision for our church. To do this, we have to look beyond the "gold" of our current value structure and begin to imagine a new one - one that God is calling us into, and one that is as awesome as neutron stars colliding. And we'll begin to put that into practice as early as next Thursday, October 26, as our Planning Charrette kicks off to take that vision and turn it into physical structure.
This is an exciting week for UCC Annapolis. Let's continue on this journey together.