Let’s hear it for neutrinos. No, they are not some new dietary supplement or weight loss pill. They’re all around you – billions of them, moving through the walls of your house and your body every second – “like moonlight through a screen door.” Left over from the Big Bang. They’re the flimsiest of all atomic sub-particles, with a mass of almost less than nothing.
Now, here’s the thing. In the chaos of the first instant of creation, out of the Big Bang, a quirky thing about these particles may be the reason we’re all here. Why there’s something rather than nothing. Scientists in Japan have recently found that in the resultant primordial atomic soup the universe, in those first nanoseconds of existence, we were left with a few more neutrinos than antineutrinos. Between matter and antimatter, we “wound up with an excess of matter: stars, black holes, oceans and us.”
All due to neutrinos, a particle almost less than nothing. God works in mysterious ways splendid wonders to perform.
So, I say we ought to have a National Neutrino Week to celebrate. Certainly, more weighty than National Pickle Week!
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you.” Yeah, God seems to have started with neutrinos, almost less than nothing. Marvelous to behold.
Louis Armstrong nailed it when he crooned, “I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and you. And I think to myself what a wonderful world.” Creation is God’s wonderful mansion, a wonderful world. Spacious rooms for all of us here. O\n this earth and beyond. Room for trees of green, and for you and me. Room for all in God’s neighborhood. Each one precious. Ask Mr. Rogers. He knows the neighborhood.
Jesus may not have known anything about neutrinos, but in giving last instructions to his followers, he certainly knew the Heart of the Compassionate One. “I go to prepare a place for you. And how do we find that place, Thomas asked. It is a place in the heart of God. Jesus is the way. What is his way? Thomas, it is the way of gentleness, peace, humility, and a generous love for everything that is the gift of God – that is the way to this wonderful gospel dwelling. That is the way to a bright, blessed day. The dark sacred night – oh, so many splendid rooms. And when our race is run, and we’re enfolded into the heart of God, might we sing with Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World.” I want to be in that choir. No audition necessary I hear.
Even in the midst of COVID-19, we dwell in a wonderfully crafted house of many rooms. God bless those sneaky neutrinos. Hedgehog, robins, jumping spiders, too. Ferns and even the God-blessed devil grass. What a wonderful world!
Lately, I suggested that those disrespecting the rest of us by congregating in violation of “shelter-in-place” orders – these disrespectful folks might accept the responsibility for their actions. As my friend Susan said, “Liberty does not give you the right to shoot a hole in the side of the boat we’re all in.” Should such come down with COVID-19 as a result of their foolish actions, might they refrain from using our free (socialist???) medical services. As our hospitals are already overwhelmed and medical staffs are exhausted, might they, perhaps, consider dying quietly at home instead of needlessly using up scarce PPE? Just saying.
This proposition set off a lively debate that went on for hours on my Facebook page. Most came down on the side of personal responsibility. Some, however, thought those who dared to propose such just didn’t like the president and wanted to make him look bad. Anyway, masks are just for liberals and wimps. A few were downright nasty.
We arrive at the first room – the Room of the Penalty Box.
In the Lord’s house are many rooms, for many varied opinions. Yes, we will disagree, but needn’t be disagreeable. Our Father’s/Mother’s house has rooms for all, and a special room for those when unfit for human consumption. A space known as the Room for Nasty – yes, the Room of the Penalty Box. It is a place for fearful, angry folks to come to their senses. Rejoin the human family. It is that place for all of us to come into the calming embrace of all that is holy and just, as the kids would say, hyper down.
Some took umbrage at President George W’s call to unity last Sunday. As photos of medical workers and ordinary Americans wearing masks, elderly and the young flashed before the screen — In a very moving montage to inspirational music in the background, Dear Old W urged us to take hold of what binds us together, our commonality as Americans.
“Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat. In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together and we are determined to rise.”
One curmudgeon, reading this, referred to the President W. as “satanic.” No, this wasn’t an angry Democrat. The writer also used the same epithet for Clinton – not sure which one he was lambasting. I was afraid to ask.
All of us wondrous people with a room for each – it all began with those blessed neutrinos. In this time of COVID-19 there is a room for us when we are completely out of sorts – the Room of the Penalty Box where we might contemplate our place among God’s neutrinos as they stream through our bodies and practice gratitude.
Yes, let them, sometimes all of us, froth at the mouth and distort the truth. Let all canons of reason be tossed aside. Maybe call this essential space of time out the Room of the Penalty Box. Cry. Curse. Jump up and down. Stamp our foot. And when done, satiated and exhausted, come to our senses. There’s a room in the Lord’s house to calm ourselves. This niche also known as the Calming Room. There our Lord awaits us with the salve of peace and sweet reason. He awaits to enfold us in his arms and assure us that we are loved and accepted just as we are. It will all be okay. In the words of Julian of Norwich, “And all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”
The Room of Gratitude awaits for those of thankful heart. It’s a room of warm embrace for those who reach out in gratitude. An attitude of gratitude goes a long, long way to brighten up God’s Wonderful World.
This last week we had a “Social Distancing Parade of Love and Support” of students who wanted to let their teachers know how much they were loved and appreciated in Claremont. Students, with their families, piled into cars and showed up at one of the local elementary schools. It was the first time in months that teachers and students had seen one another face to face. Teachers stood in front of their school, spaced six feet apart, as a line of cars stretching half a mile drove by honking with students at the windows waving and shouting appreciation. This parade of love and affection went on for over half an hour. There is in God’s house a very special room for those who give encouragement and lift up. President George W, that is your room. Just down the hall to the right.
There is a room for all who lend their shoulder to the task. Doctors, nurses, therapists we know. I’m also thinking of the grocery store worker who at night stocks the shelves and those who check us out..
There’s a special place in God’s heart for a farmer who is saddened at the sight of a mountainous pile of unsold potatoes in his field. Then comes a flash of Gospel brilliance, sacred inspiration. Hours after a call to the local food bank, a smile crosses his face. He stares at the place where before, there had been a huge pile of disappointment. All that is left and was the scattered remains of the few spuds no one had grabbed. Well done, Farmer Brown. Well done, Farmer Elaine.
There is a Room for those who Hunger. Hunger never went away in America, that demon yet abounds, now more rampant than ever. It is reported that, with millions now struggling to provide food for their families, there are those who would strangle the food stamp program. What? Let them eat dirt? In the Great Recession, even the most tight-fisted agreed to a raise of fifteen percent for food stamp recipients. But now? Not so much. There’s a room in God’s heart where the hunger pangs of children with empty bellies are acknowledged. A room where some of our political leaders and food bank volunteers rush to meet the need. They step up, while others slink shamefully away saying, “Not my problem.” Yes, for those unwilling to help, go back a few paragraphs to the Penalty Box Room. Those with a few hours to spare, a few dollars to spare, enter into the delight of God and these families. Jesus heads up the serving line. Welcome, all God’s children and their anxious, frazzled parents. For those who hunger, yes, they shall be fed. We are God’s hands and wallet at service.
There’s the Room of Education and Enlightenment for the Stupid and Dull of Heart. A place for all of us who, from time to time, make dumb choices, and sometimes make a career of dumb choices. A special room for those who refuse to see what is going on about us – who haven’t a clue.
It’s the room for the quack doctor who thinks we might cure this disease by injecting Lysol or Clorox. It’s for the ill-informed who think COVID-19 might be eliminated by inserting ultraviolet lights into our bodies in places where the sun tends not to shine.
This is the room for national healing. Justice John Paul Stevens admonished: “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.” Needed, a room for those too blinded to understand what they inflict on our precious democracy. Lord, do we ever need some enlightenment!
This is the room for those a DJ referenced when he quipped, “The man on the news said at the end of the day what’s going to keep you safe is common sense. Some of y’all in trouble…” Or those of whom Mark Twain spoke, “No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot.” For these, God has the Room of Remediation. Don’t shove, don’t crowd in, folks. It’s a mighty big room, more space than you can ever imagine. It had to be. Make sure you have your mask secured and keep your social distancing.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms.” It may all have been through the miracle of those infinitesimally tiny neutrinos and how they sorted themselves out that were here. All in the blink of an eye, that God fashioned this marvelous mansion of many rooms. A room for all, no matter our disposition. It’s a Wonderful World, blue skies, green trees, starry night and all. It’s the very first gift of God’s grace – the gift of creation itself. Something rather than nothing. You and I. And rutabagas.
As we move through these days of COVID-19, as researchers mightily strive for a vaccine, as nurses and doctors comfort the dying, I offer a smidgen of a prayer an anonymous someone offered up – thoughts that came from the Room of Gospel Heart. Thomas, this prayer will get you close along The Way.
May we who are merely inconvenienced
remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
remember those who are vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
remember those who must choose between their health or paying their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for quarantine at home
remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.
Now, let’s all safely celebrate National Neutrino week. Safely socially distanced, of course. Amen.
 Dennis Overbye, “Neutrinos At Heart of Matter?”, New York Times, Science Times section, April 28, 2020.
May 10, 2020
The Rev. John C. Forney
“National Neutrino Week”