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Science sermons

Theologian Abraham Kuyper taught that everything that is was a thought in the mind of God before it ever came to be. If this is true then creation is filled with revelation; with truths that reflect God's thinking. Over the past few years, I have been the recipient of/participated in three John Templeton Foundation grants exploring the link between faith and science. Each grant has had a preaching component where I would preach on either the scientist, their field of study or both as text (through and alongside the scriptures). God's truth in the bible would illumine his truth in creation and vice versa. 

Knowing God through the Mind of a Scientist

This talk was given at Ambrose University and explores a few of the ways scientists image the empirical mind of God (and how we can know God more through how science thinks).

God's Healing Power in your DNA

What do DNA reparation mechanisms say about how God thinks; about who God is? Right now, in your body, your DNA is being repaired trillions of times per second! What an amazing grace! Can you feel it? This message is a part of a sermon series entitled, 'God's Body Language' which explores human physiology as 'icon' and scientists as 'parables'.

God's Body Language: The Gut

In this message Pastor John looks at what the nature of the human microbiome teaches us about the nature of God. This sermon is part of a series of messages on the human body that that have been funded by a Fuller Theological Seminary STEAM grant. 

The Theology of Ice

In the book of Job, God asks Job, "From whose womb comes the ice?  Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?” (Job 38:29, NIV) The implicit answer is clear. But why did God give us ice? How does ice allow our world to better flourish? And why in the world is it so slippery? (A UC Davis researcher helped me with this last question!)

The Knee - God's Body Language

This sermon is one of eight in a series of messages looking at God's revelation through the human body (part of a Fuller Theological Seminary/ John Templeton Foundation STEAM grant). Christians believe that, right now, in a resurrected form, Jesus has two knees. We also believe that our knees were made through him (John 1:1-3)... as are orthopedic surgeons. What would it mean to know Christ through our knees? This sermon attempts to connect God's revelation through the knee with the parable of an orthopedic surgeon and God's revelation through scripture. (If you're interested in seeing a 2O minute excerpt of an interview with the surgeon check out the next video!)

The Knee - Interview with Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Laurie Hiemstra.

Here's an inside look at part of the process of how scientific texts are exegeted (researched and read). Before this meeting Dr. Hiemstra was given a series of questions that were designed to help her engage the knee (and her job) from a new theological/revelatory perspective. As you'll see, these questions led to a new understanding of both the knee and her job as a surgeon. 

Interdependence - God's Body Language

This message explores the topic of interdependence - both physiologically (within the human body) and relationally (within a Triune God!). Here's one quote from the sermon, "Jesus took a human body into the very Godhead itself. For all we know Jesus’ body, right now, in some glorified and perfected form, still has a cardiovascular system, a muscular skeletal system, an endocrine and exocrine system, a digestive system, an immune system, a nervous system, a renal system, and a respiratory system." God created all of these systems to work interdependently. What does this fact teach us about the nature of God?


All images - Italian artist Nunzio Paci, nunziopaci.it/ , used with permission.

Seeing Unseen Things

This message looks at how unseen things help us see an unseen God.
Media in this video - scaleofuniverse.com/ and youtube.com/watch?v=zIxcEKZB-kY

 

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…”
Colossians 1:16, NIV

Searching for God (through a Giant Squid)

In this message, I explore God's depths through the story of the mythical Giant Squid. To be human is to search for and experience the unknown. Could it be that our insatiable desire to understand creation is really a desire to know God? And can the search for a Giant Squid help us know God more?

God, Cancer and Radiation Therapy

Discovering God's often hopeful, time buying, sometimes life-saving, cancer butt-kicking presence via radiation therapy. 

 

"The aim of radiation therapy is to deliver a very accurate dose of radiation to a well-defined target volume with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissues, resulting in the eradication of the disease, the prolongation of life, and/or the improvement in the quality of life."
Jacob (Jake) Van Dyk, MSc, FCCPM, FAAPM, FCOMP, DSc (hon), Professor Emeritus, Departments of Oncology and Medical Biophysics, Western University, in The Modern Technology of Radiation Oncology, Page 2, Vol 1

The Science and Gospel of Branches

In this message, I look at Jesus’ teaching, “I am the vine; you are the branches,” through the lens of science. How do God’s botanical truths help us better understand Jesus’ words?

"Most animals have to grow at a fixed pace, but with plants it's different. “If the environment is harsh, plants grow slower. If the environment is favorable it may invest a lot more energy in leaves. If you’re short on water you invest more energy in roots. If conditions are favorable and there is light, the plant invests more energy above ground. This form is incredibly plastic. It’s really remarkable just how flexible [a plant’s] life and growth strategy is.”
Dr. Vernon Peters, Chair, Biology Department
Associate Professor of Ecology, The King's University College

Supernova - Death and Resurrection in the Universe

In this message, we boldly go where no one has gone before and search for God’s revelation in the life, death, and resurrection of stars. 

“During the Big Bang, only Hydrogen (H), Helium (He) and a little Lithium (Li) were created. Not nearly enough elements for life as we know it to exist. Heavier and more complex elements came about through the life and death of stars, two kinds - low mass stars and high mass stars. When a low mass star dies the element carbon (C) is produced. When a high mass star starts to die elements like Oxygen (O), Neon (Ne), Magnesium (Mg) and so on up the periodic table, until you reach Iron (Fe) are produced. And then, when that high mass star explodes in a Supernova, heavier elements than Fe are made. The heavier elements that make us up are created in the end stages of a high mass star’s life. It is only through the death of these stars that the elements for life are created.”
Prof. Heidi L. Manning, Ph.D., Mars Rover researcher, University of MN (paraphrased by JVS)

God's Stress Relieving Truth in your Neurons

In this message, I search out the thoughts of God as we find them embedded in the stress relieving capacities of the human brain.

“By studying the brains of adolescent rats, I was able to uncover a brand new way in which brain cells communicate with one another during stress. I was able to observe how these cells in the hypothalamus can use substances – naturally produced versions of the active ingredients painkillers like morphine (opioids) – as messengers to other brain cells. I found that opioids are made and released by cells to shut down communication lines. If you can imagine that during a stressful event, many brain cells begin to panic and yell at one another, opioids are used by these particular cells to lower the volume or hang up the phone so that neurons don’t become overwhelmed. What does this mean? … it means that our brains are more sensitive and flexible than we previously thought or could have imagined."

A Neuroscientist summarizing her recently published paper in the journal Nature Neuroscience

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

​How can something so wrong bring about so much good?

 

“When people ask – and seems like people always be askin to where I can’t never get away from it – I say, Yeah, that’s right, my mother name was Henrietta Lacks, she died in 1951, John Hopkins took her cells and them cells are still livin today, still multiplyin, still growin and spreadin if you don’t keep em frozen. Science calls her HeLa and she’s all over the world in medical facilities, and in all the computers and the Internet everywhere.... But I always have thought it was strange, if our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come her family can’t afford to see no doctors?”
Henrietta Lacks’s daughter, Deborah, page 9, The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

Wolverines (and the fierceness of God)

In this message, I look at the elusive, mysterious, powerful, and incredibly wild Wolverine. If God created this animal, then surely it has something to say about its Maker.

“If wolverines have a strategy, it's this: Go hard, and high, and steep, and never back down, not even from the biggest grizzly, and least of all from a mountain. Climb everything: trees, cliffs, avalanche chutes, summits. Eat everybody: alive, dead, long-dead, moose, mouse, fox, frog, its still warm heart or frozen bones. Whatever wolverines do, they do undaunted. They live life as fiercely and relentlessly as it has ever been lived.”
Douglas Chadwick, The Wolverine Way

 

“But I'll make you as hard in your way as they are in theirs. I'll make your face as hard as rock, harder than granite. Don't let them intimidate you. Don't be afraid of them…”
Ezekiel 3:8, MSG

The Biomechanics of a Runner's leg

In this message, I look at the biomechanics of a runner’s leg. What does running tell us about the Maker of all legs?

 

“That’s where we[human beings] have an advantage, that steady running at a sub-maximal speed, and we can do that for… I don’t know how long.”
Dr. Benno Nigg, Founder of the Human Performance Lab, University of Calgary

 

“They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,they will walk and not be faint.”
The Prophet Isaiah 40:28-31, TNIV

The Hydrology of the Bow River (Finding God in the Flow)

In this message, I look at the hydrology of the Bow River. What does this flowing wonder tell us about the God who made it?

“The water eventually needs to go back to the ocean… The Bow River has developed over time to have the capacity to carry just the right amount of water. The size of the river that we have going through Calgary, and also the gradient - the river has adapted to this particular environment - that’s what makes it right for this place we live in.”
Dr. Masaki Hayashi, Canada Research Chair in Geosciences, U of C

 

“All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.”
Ecclesiastes 1:7, TNIV

Geophysics and the Ground of all Being

How does how we listen to the earth inform our understanding of God? 

“Geophysics allows us to see things you can’t see.”
Lee Wamsteeker, Geophysicist

“We fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
2 Corinthians 4:18, NLT

Epigenetics and the Love of God

What does God say through how our genes express themselves? What do epigenetics teach us about how God teaches and cares for us?

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Psalm 139:13-14, TNIV

"A cell in your skin will have all the skin-specific genes ready to activate when needed, while it will have all pancreas-specific genes "locked away", not accessible for production in any circumstance. That happens because of the epigenetic regulation of those genes. At the same time, our own life experiences can influence this "availability". It's interesting to note that there is no change in the actual DNA sequence, it's just how accessible it is to be "read". It's also interesting that these traits can be inherited, in some cases. it's as if our parents gave us the book of life (our genes), but they also highlighted the important passages and put a shade over the chapters that they didn't need (assuming we won't need them either)."
Dr. Carlo on how Epigenetics work

The Kidney, Homeostasis, and the Holy Spirit

Believing that God designed and made the human kidney, what does this internal organ teach us about God's nature?

"What really happens is 1,700 L are seen by the kidney, 180 L get through the filter inside the Nephron, then the good stuff that is needed gets taken out and you are left with anywhere from 0.5 -2.0 L per day of waste. The amazing thing is that the total length of a single nephron is about 3 cm (all that work and intelligence happens in 3 cm!). The total length of all the nephrons together is 60 Km, or 600 CFL football fields."
Dr. Garth Mortis, Nephrologist

Science and Faith?

This message will explore the false dichotomy of Faith vs. Science.

"There is a congruence between our minds and the universe, between the rationality experienced within and the rationality observed without.
Physicist and Theologian John Polkinghorne

"The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

The God of all Neurons

What do Neurons teach us about who God is? Can they help us know him better? 

"Each and every neuron is formed with communication in mind; their job is to listen and pass on what they’ve heard. What do they find out about the world? Some neurons are highly specialized; feel touch or pain, some neurons smell, or taste, or see, or hear. Most of our neurons exist wanting to listen to other neurons, they grow big long “dendrite” branches to seek out chemical connections that are good, or get rid of ones that are bad. What do they do with all this information? Well, as far as we know, their main purpose is to pass it on."

A neuroscientist (quoted in the sermon)

The Large Hadron Collider - Searching for the God Particle

The world's biggest and most powerful atom smasher. What does its creation tell us about who we are? And about who God is?

"Our ability to understand the universe and our position it in is one of the glories of the human species."
Richard Dawkins, in his intro to James Jeans, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing 

"Where were you when I laid the earths foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy."
God to Job 38:4-7, TNIV

Wound Healing - God's Physiological Truth

What does the body's healing process tell us about its Maker? 

 

Who can heal you?
Lamentations 2:14

 

"The repair of wounds is one of the most complex biological processes that occur during human life... In the moments after an injury occurs, various intracellular and intercellular pathways must be activated and coordinated if tissue integrity and homeostasis are to be restored. Cellular components of the immune system, the blood coagulation cascade and the inflammatory pathways are activated in addition. Many types of cell including immune cells (neutrophils, monocytes, lymphocytes and dendritic cells), endothelial cells, keratinocytes and fibroblasts, undergo marked changes in geneexpression and phenotype, leading to cell proliferation, differentiation and migration."
NATURE, Vol 453, 15 May 2008 Geoffrey C. Gurtner1, Sabine Werner2, Yann Barrandon3,4 & Michael T. Longaker1

God revealed in a Redwood

Redwood (Sequoia) – “Common names include Coast Redwood and California Redwood (it is one of three species of trees known as redwoods, but "redwood" per se normally refers to this species). It is an evergreen, long-lived, monoecious tree living for up to 2,200 years, and this species includes the tallest trees on Earth, reaching up to 115.5 m (379.1 ft) in height and 8 m (26 ft) diameter at breast height. It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States.”
Wikipedia

 

“Coast Redwoods get about a third of their water from the fogs that roll in off the Pacific- good thing, because it’s no easy trick to lift water three hundred and fifty feet in the air, which is what some of these titans do.”
Books and Culture, Alan Jacobs, The life of Trees, July August 2008

 

"So you'll go out in joy, you'll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines— Monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God."  God through the prophet Isaiah 55:12, MSG

God Below the Surface

In this message, I explore what river and sea creatures have to teach us about knowing, loving and worshipping God.

 

"God spoke: Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life! Birds, fly through the sky over Earth! God created the huge whales, all the swarm of life in the waters, And every kind and species of flying birds. God saw that it was good. God blessed them: Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean! Birds, reproduce on Earth! It was evening, it was morning? Day Five."  Genesis 1:20, MSG

 

"But ask the animals what they think let them teach you; let the birds tell you what's going on. Put your ear to the earth learn the basics. Listen the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories. Isn't it clear that they all know and agree that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand? Every living soul, yes, every breathing creature? Isn't this all just common sense, as common as the sense of taste? Do you think the elderly have a corner on wisdom, that you have to grow old before you understand life?" 
Job 12:7, MSG

God's Face in a Honey Bee

What do Honey Bees teach us about their Maker?

“Consider, for instance, this brute fact: that 16-ounce honey bear in your pantry exists only because tens of thousands of bees flew some 112,000 miles in a relentless, unquestioned pursuit of nectar gathered from 4.5 million flowers. Every one of those foraging bees was female. By the time the life of each ended—they live all of six weeks during honey-making season—each bee flew about 500 miles in twenty days, the span each lives outside the hive.”  Books and Culture

“Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see how good God is.”

Psalm 34:8

God, Infinity, and Mathematics

​What can mathematics teach us about the infinite mystery of God? 

"[Mathematician] Keith Devlin evocatively describes the mathematical process as ‘making the invisible visible.”

 

Romans 1 declares that, “[God’s] invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

 

Mathematician Ian Stewart says, “We encounter mathematics everywhere, every day, but we hardly ever know it.”

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