Thank God For Science, Week 3 — The “Navel Gazing” Sermon Rewind

So I have a telescope here with me.  Not exactly a high powered one, of course, but nevertheless a version of that which enables us to see the intergalactic and interstellar.  And if you were with us last week, we looked through this and saw the extraordinarily long odds against the universe being here and functioning.  We should have CHAOS and yet we have a COSMOS.  All in all, I pray, it helped some of us see that such a finely tuned, HIGHLY UNLIKELY, universe demands a fine tuner.

              This week, though, we put that telescope aside in favor of this MICROSCOPE.  A good chunk of you here have not looked through one of these since high school biology class.  And the microscope, of course, takes us in the opposite direction of the telescope … instead of staring at the stars, this helps us gaze at the navel.  And in some ways, discoveries with THIS have been more problematic for faith.  This isn’t the realm of astronomy but the world of biology and you know what they call it in most colleges and universities these days, don’t you?  Evolutionary biology.  And there was a collective gasp in the room just now.  There are departments of, professors of, evolutionary biology teaching some of your collegians even as we speak!  It’s like the GS friend who way back on New Year’s Eve I told about this series, and he said, “Wait, Aren’t faith and science at odds with each other?”  And I answered, “No, but thank you for proving the point of the series!!”

              But over the last 25 years or so, our scientific friends (including some evolutionary biologists) has made more strides at going deep, deep inside us than ever before.  They have taken Navel Gazing to epic proportions.  And what they have discovered is that each of us has a startling computer-like code replicated billions of times in our bodies.  Because have you ever thought of this?  How does your body know how to do what it knows how to do?  Not just your muscles and your bones, but where is the information that tells your lungs how to breathe?  Your heart how to beat?  Your hair how to replace itself when one falls out?  (We hope!)  Where is that information that determines the color of your eyes, the tone of your skin, the color of your hair?  Who thinks of all those things you never think about???

              Well, every cell in your body – and your body has around 37.2 trillion cells at any given moment, give or take a billion – has a nucleus and every nucleus has for lack of a better word a BRAIN in the middle of it.  And that brain is called DNA and your DNA and my DNA looks kind of like this:  AV.  It’s called a double helix, and note that it looks suspiciously like a string.  It’s really like a sequence or string of letters that functions like an operating system for your body.  All of you here have it!  Turn to your neighbor and say, “You’ve got some nice looking DNA there.” 

              But do you know what is kind of scary about all that?  We share most of that DNA code with most of the animal kingdom.  Like you share over 92% of your DNA code with mice.  Turn to your neighbor and say, “I think he just moved my cheese.”  And you share over 98% with the chimpanzee, our closest relative!  Turn and say, “I KNEW I should never have seen Revenge Of The Planet Of The Apes.”  I’m just giving some fact here; science without interpretation, and I want you to tuck those high percentages with mice & apes & others in the mammal kingdom away.  We might just come back to it later.

              But let’s put up that DNA photo again:  AV.  While you’re looking at it, think of all that is going on in your body right now.  You’re breathing, at least most of you are.  You’re processing information in your mind.  I am using my vocal cords to form words and you are using your brain cells to comprehend them.  Your stomach is digesting what you had for breakfast.  Right now!  Your taste buds still have your morning coffee on them, maybe even longing for more.  You’re smelling the soap or shampoo you used; maybe even that which the ones sitting beside you used.  All that is going on right now, you didn’t think of ANY of it until I told you and the question remains: who thinks about all the stuff you don’t think about?  It’s all in that string of letters repeated billions of times over and again in your body, the DNA does it.  Massive IT program stringing through your body.

              After seeing that, take a look at Psalm 139:13-14, the heart of David’s poem about conception, creation, and identity:  READ.  Huh.  God is a knitter (and life begins in the womb, but that’s another sermon for another time).  You know what happens in knitting, don’t you?  One simple string gets networked through a series of knots, repeating knots, until you get a scarf, a hat, or a sweater.  Huh.  DNA is a string, sort of knitted microscopically all over your body.  Now:  did David know he was dropping hints 3200 years ago?  Probably not.  But God did.  He used the awareness of people at that time – people who couldn’t conceive of a microscope, much less use one – to plant the seeds of awareness of what actually goes on in the unseen parts of our bodies.  At the very least, it’s HIGHLY coincidental. 

              And fascinating. Because in that microscopic detail of mitochondria and protein and enzymes and all those words you BARELY remember from high school biology is the delicate detail of us.  The blueprint of you.  The architecture of me.  The fingerprint of God.  Because think of it this way … if it’s a massively small computer code determining and deciding you, didn’t any computer ever write its own code?  We got any code-ers here?  Yea, YOU!  You ever sat down and the software had written itself?  Of course not! 

              Here’s why I’m grateful for science when we get into some heavy duty navel gazing:  The smallest detail reveals the grandest design.  Yep!  Some of the most faithful scientists are those biologists, experts on the molecular level of life, who see the stuff up close and personal and recognize that the intricacy of the DNA bears the imprint of the infinity of the Father.  REF.

              It’s really like this.  Remember that I told you DNA most resembles not just a string but a string of letters that tell the story of you?  Well, I have here a Scrabble set (by the way, my mom was still beating everyone else in the family at Scrabble when she was 100).  Well let me take all these pieces and jumble them up and THROW them over here (DO IT).  And you walk over to what you’ve just thrown over and lo and behold the letters have formed themselves into this:  AV, To be or not to be, that is the question.  That’s preposterous, isn’t it?  No WAY that could happen randomly!  Hey – your DNA design is WAY COOLER even than Shakesepearean speech.  That’s what it’s like; that’s why I am profoundly grateful for the science that has unveiled the divine imprint inside you and me and everyone here.  REFRAIN. 

              Or maybe it’s like what happened when the Human Genome Project completed its work in 2000 and the human DNA map was completed, an extraordinary accomplishment.  Here’s what our President at the time, Prez Clinton, had to say:  READ, Collins p. 2.  And the scientists weren’t embarrassed!  They didn’t go all atheistic evolution on the Chief!  They were honored.  It’s interesting … for a long time theologians have debated (tongue in cheek) whether God spoke Hebrew or Greek and it turns out he speaks DNA.  REFRAIN

              And … do you remember that disturbing statistic that you are 92% mouse and 98% chimp?  And how so many people would look on that stat with a mixture of skepticism and disappointment?  Oh, no, no, no.  Look at it again. It’s the inter-relatedness of all things.  And before you think I’m suddenly going Buddhist on you were God is everything and everything is God (no), consider what Paul says in Romans 8:20-22: READ.  Oh my goodness!  It doesn’t all revolve around us!  It’s all related, connected, and even yearning for redemption together.  You put up the 92% mice and 98% chimp with Romans 8 and all of a sudden it makes a lot more sense.  It doesn’t lessen my faith in God; it enhances it!  Because all that stuff, all those species, all that adaptation through the aeons, we DO in fact share a common ancestor:  God Almighty.  There is an inter-relatedness of all things written into our DNA and somehow all of it will be redeemed, restored, renewed.  Why else would Colossians 1:20 say it this way?  READ. 

              But beyond that, know this, all you who are a bit twisted this morning that you’re 92% mouse and 98% chimp.  In that gap is not only the grandest design but the GREATEST DISTINCTION.  The tiniest space has the most enormous difference.  Because … what other species maps its own genome?  What other life form explores its own DNA?  Ah! We ARE fearfully and wonderfully made and if it only takes the slightest tweaks to create both opposable thumbs and inquisitive brains, that is God’s prerogative!  His right!  His design!  There is enough there to let us know it’s all related; there is enough difference to remind us that we alone bear his image.  The slightest adjustment, the tiniest calibration, and you move from created order to fearfully and wonderfully made.  I’ll take it.  That sliver of distinction will never be bridge and will always make the difference.  The intricacy bears all the marks of infinity.  REFRAIN

              So we navel gaze and as we do so, I’m grateful that my DNA is thinking about all the things I don’t think about.  I suppose it’s made me mostly introverted, usually careful, pretty organized, and given that my dad lived to be 95 and my mom is still going at 103, it’s give me some genes for LONG LIVING.  You’re stuck with me for awhile.  I am so grateful that God designed it, science helpls me understand it, Jesus is purifying it, and the Spirit enlivens it.  And I see in my own two children how DNA gets passed on and yet the variation of the string of letters creates two completely different persons in terms of size, temperament, outlook.

              I look at a place like Good Shepherd, with folks from lands ranging from Angola to Uruguay (looking for Zambia!) and we’re one but we’re not the same.  Those tiny distinctions reflect the grandest of plans.  Maybe the most important thing that it does is help me to recognize that people are not problems to be solved, they are wonders to be savored.  You!  Your mate!  Your sibling!  Your in-law who annoys you!  Your neighbor who bothers you.  Your child who disappoints you.  Even your parent who forgot you.  All of them.  Wonders to be savored.  Their intricate details reveal an infinite design and the navel gazing – and the bible – tells me so.

Collins, page 2: Without a doubt, this is the most important, the most wondrous map ever produced by humankind.  Today, we are learning the language in which God created life.  We are gaining more awe for the complexity and beauty, and the wonder of God’s mos