Particle Physics seems to be in the news. A group of scientists have used the Large Hadron Collider to produce, and I quote, “strong indications for the presence of a new particle, which could be the Higgs boson.” The Large Hadron Collider is a magnetic tube in a 27 kilometre long circular tunnel 100 metres underground in Switzerland. It can accelerate the tiniest particles of matter to very nearly the speed of light, bring them together head on, and measure the results. Everything is incredibly fast, incredibly small, incredibly short lived and incredibly difficult to detect. After analysing many trillions of collisions, it is very likely that the Higgs Boson, with a mass of around 126 gigaelectronvolts really does exist.
Do you see how careful these scientists are when they describe their experiments? They talk about possibilities, likelihoods, strong indications and probabilities. The only evidence is the result of a computer program. Without these tools it is utterly impossible to prove that the Higgs boson exists. However, that hasn’t stopped the newspapers putting up headlines saying, Confirmed: the Higgs boson does exist.
Worse still, the British Daily Mail reported, “The search for the 'God particle' is over. Almost half a century after the existence of the Higgs boson – the particle that holds the universe together and gives it substance – was predicted, jubilant scientists announced that they appear to have found it.”
The statement is based on accurate reports, so you could say it’s true, but it is wrong. Scientists hate it when the Higgs Boson is called the God particle. And to say that the Higgs Boson holds the universe together and gives it substance is totally misleading. It sounds as if the Higgs Boson is working hard to keep the universe from falling apart and disappearing into nothing, and that is simply not true.
The newspaper article does not dig below the surface; it makes simplified and obvious statements and is actually harmful and misleading.
You might just as well say that Jesus was only a carpenter. Which brings us to our Gospel. The people of Nazareth are like us. They want a nice simple statement based on facts that we can see and touch and hear and smell and taste. Possibilities puzzle us in the same way that they puzzled the Nazarenes. “Who is this fellow Jesus? He can’t be the Messiah, he’s just a carpenter!” And they brought along Jesus family to show that he was only a village tradesman.
They did not dig below the surface; they only stated the obvious; they refused to believe what they couldn’t prove. They were so unbelieving that they prevented Jesus from doing any great acts of power in their town. And Jesus was amazed at their unbelief.
Jesus’ response to their unbelief was to send his disciples out, two by two, to go and find people who would listen and believe and repent, that is, turn from their old habits, allow their lives to be changed and find new life and hope and salvation. The Nazarenes wouldn’t listen, so Jesus left them and sought out willing listeners. He advised the disciples to do the same. “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
A question comes to mind here. Are we like the Nazarenes? Is our faith only on the surface? Do we like the easier and more obvious parts of faith? Do we reject any challenge to our lives, our lifestyle or our character? It’s hard to answer these questions, because if we do have these attitudes, then they are part of who we are and they are difficult to detect – a bit like Higgs Bosons, really.
And if we are not like the Nazarenes, are we like the scientists who use the best ways they can find to dig below the surface, look beyond the obvious and push back the frontiers of knowledge? The Higgs Boson is not the end. There is more yet to be discovered in God’s wonderful creation.
The gospels are full of people who heard the words of Jesus, began to explore their own lives, started to believe and repent, to make changes and to set out on the path of salvation. This is the Christian journey of faith and we are the pilgrims who are making it.
Next Sunday Archdeacon Karen Kime will be our guest at our service of reconciliation on our journey of healing. It is our opportunity to walk a short way with our indigenous sisters and brothers. It may lead to great things. We won’t know unless we walk with them even only for an hour, once a year.
Next Sunday our confirmation candidates will gather for the first time on their exploration of faith. Together we will try and dig deeper, look closely and think carefully about the faith and traditions of the Anglican Church.
And of course every Sunday we have the opportunity use our worship to build our faith. We gather to meet the living God of all creation; to share the community of faith, and to use all the talents we have to search for the real God particle, the creator of all that is, who really does deliberately and lovingly work ceaselessly to hold the universe together and give it substance.