Entangled in Light and Shadow
May 3, Fifth Sunday of Easter:
Draft text of the homily, please do not cite without permission.
Here’s a phenomenon many of you are probably familiar with.
If you have two tuning forks…both tuned to vibrate at say 440 hertz (which is A above middle C), even if they are a ways apart, when you strike one…the other will also begin to vibrate at the same frequency.
That’s a very simple example of acoustic resonance. [see a demonstration here]
Another somewhat similar phenonmenon…We know the heart beats…but it’s it’s not just the heart as a whole that beats…there are individual cells in the heart that also beat.
Single cells that pulse…each at their own pace…Until two of them are brought together.
When two are brought together…they begin to beat as one.
If you separate them…that unified rhythm breaks down…and they’ll begin to beat independently.
But when brought back together…they beat together…it’s an intriguing phenomenon. [video]
Newborn infants, as young as 12 hours old will mimic the facial expressions of adults.
Which isn’t terribly surprising…
What is surprising is that newborns who are congenitally blind can and will do the same thing.
If the mother holds the child and frowns, the baby also frowns, even if they can’t see the mother doing it. [Here’s a much quoted, almost 20 year old, article that discusses the phenomena]
To get even freakier there’s something called quantum entanglement.
Quantum entanglement is what happens when two sub-atomic particles—electrons for example—become entangled.
Once that happens, what ever happens to one affects the other, no matter how far apart they are.
If one is spinning clockwise…and the other is spinning counterclockwise…And if something happens that makes the one spinning clockwise change direction…The other one will immediately also change direction…no matter how far apart they are.
Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance”
For a long time it was only theoretically possible…but there have been recent experiments where scientists can actually observe this happening. [here’s a short video that I found helpful to begin to try to sort of wrap my head around this]
Harmonic resonance…and synched up heart cells…and quantum entanglement all point to something profound and true about the reality in which we live and move and have our being.
We are connected with everything that is…in deep and profound ways, and in ways we have only barely begun to comprehend.
Today the apostle Phillip, after having preached throughout Samaria, suddenly gets a feeling…
“I need to go to Gaza.”
I know the story says, “an angel of the Lord said to him, “Get up and go south,” but you’ve undoubtedly had a similar experience…that you should call a friend…that you should go visit someone…and then finding out that something remarkable has just happened to them?
Or that they were thinking of you too.
Picking up the phone to call someone and having the phone ring and it be the person you were going to call…
You’ve experienced that spooky action…that resonance…
So Phillip gets a feeling and then he and the Ethiopian eunuch find each other…and become entangled.
In the same way that all Christians are all entangled…through the sacrament of baptism…
After Phillip is spirited away, they both continue to rejoice and proclaim the Good News, so in a real way they do continue to have an effect on one another.
We are also entangled with them…their story resonates with us.
Maybe it resonates strongly with you…maybe only slightly…maybe you catch it only as a dim desire for something more…something deeply meaningful…in your life.
But somewhere in you, it resonates.
Because we are entangled…like branches and vines are entangled with each other…we abide in them, and they abide in us…we are one…
Spooky action at a distance…the simultaneous pulse of single cells…the vibrations of sight and sound around us…the deep weaving of connection from our earliest moments…
We are entangled…
We are entangled in each other, and in God.
We abide in God.
And God is love…so we abide in love…
We are made of love.
Lovingly woven together into a fabric of compassion.
Like branches we are attached to the source, the vine, the true vine.
We are made of love and woven together—entangled—in compassion.
And yet, we also live in the elements of our context.
And too often those places don’t look like the face of love.
We see too many sheep led to slaughter…and far too much humiliation and justice denied.
We are made of love and entangled with one another and yet love…
not affection, or romantic, or even brotherly love
but pure love…is like the face of God…it’s hard—if not impossible to look directly at.
We can sense the resonance of it…we can learn to respond to it…we can mirror it…
But looking directly at it is all but impossible.
And when we look away there are so many other powerful, raw emotions that are also very hard to look at directly.
In the face of the roiling sea of emotions that crash over us, and sometimes threaten to sweep us away, we all learn how to protect ourselves…how to maintain a sense of stability.
We learn how to minimize, and we learn how to lash out….
We learn how to deflect, and we learn how to act out…
we learn how to hide…to hide from those powerful emotions, and to hide from the face of God…
We take up life in the shadows.
We live in God’s love and light, and we also live in our own shadows and the shadows of others.
And we learn early on how to read and react to the shadows around us.
Children of alcoholics learn how to read the signs, and learn strategies for minimizing the damage.
Children of depressed parents learn how to overfunction…
Children of color learn very different lessons than white children do about power and authority and who has it and who gets to wield it.
Through multiple, joyful and painful experiences we branch out in life, we learn how to relate to other branches…
We learn empathy.
We learn apathy.
We learn antipathy.
All in varying amounts based on the circumstances of our lives.
We learn how to recognize, and cherish a shared experience.
We learn how to shut down, and shut out emotions and experiences that cause pain in ourselves.
We learn that some emotions are so painful, so frightening, that we actively push them away…
It’s been a hard week to look at the news.
A lot of disturbing and frightening and emotional images, from Nepal to Baltimore.
Omid Safi, Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center and a weekly columnist for Krista Tippet’s podcast, “On Being” offered a helpful reflection on both Nepal and Baltimore this week.
When news of the earthquake in Nepal broke, he says, “Mingled with the shocked state of grief was the immediate response I heard everywhere: How can I help? What can I do to help? [Here’s a link to Episcopal Relief and Development’s Nepal Response Fund]
This is humanity at our best.” [Safi]
He contrasts this to the response in Baltimore.
Granted the context there is vastly more complicated .
The dysfunction and trauma there has simmered for decades.
The path forward not at all as simple and clear as sending medical help and rebuilding.
Safi writes: In the face of a natural disaster, “We do not lash out against nature, or God, but reach out in compassion to one another. It’s harder for us to exhibit the same compassion when we humans are involved [in the causing damage].”
And yet what Baltimore, and Ferguson before it, and LA 20 years ago, and Selma 50 years ago, what they all reveal is that “we are in pain. Some of us [suffering] in anger, others [suffering] in fear.”
What would it look like, he asks, to see us respond to pandemic racism by embodying the ethics of Nepal, and reaching out in compassion?
To look beyond the headlines, listen beyond the 24 news cycle and “hear the voices of anguish. [alongside] the voices of deep humility, compassion, and strength.”
A half a century ago, John Donne, one of Anglicanism greatest poets wrote “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” [The poem is No Man is an Island]
We are entangled with each other. We are entangled with the people of Nepal as surely as we are entangled with the people of Baltimore.
We live in the shadows of systemic injustice and violence.
And yet, we can still feel the pulse of love…we can still sense the vibrations of that self-giving resurrected, Easter love…the love that casts out fear…
And what Jesus and Phillip, and John and that Ethiopian eunuch do still resonates within us…
still affects us…
still calls us to reach out…
to step out of the shadows…
to continue growing toward the light…
To see the face of God mirrored in the love we express to one another…
To retune our hearts to the vibrations of that living fabric of compassion that weaves us all together.
To abide in the love that creates and inspires.
To live in God and bear fruit that brings healing to a hurting world.