Wednesday, June 3, 2009

God, Time, Space & 6th Graders

The kids are always interested in the idea of eternity, how God already knows everything, how we can pray for the soul of someone who is already dead, how places such as Heaven or Purgatory don't exist in time.

"Y'all know we say there's no time in Heaven; or God 'sees' everything at once; or that time doesn't pass for God. That's so because God existed before there was time. How can he do that? Well, we know he existed before he created the universe, right? Right. And even though it's not obvious, time is a part of creation just like galaxies and monkeys are."

Remember the first book of the Bible? Genesis. Yes. The first line of the first chapter is: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void'...what's a void? It's a hole. Yes, what else? It's something that's empty. Yes again; a void is emptiness, nothingness. So what that means is in the beginning nothing physical existed. Before the beginning only one thing existed, which was....God. Who does not have what? A body. And with no creation yet, there's no day & night, nothing moving, nothing getting old...there's no time. But as soon as God created physical stuff, and things began to change, there was time. If nothing ever changes there's no time. The universe God created changes, so there's time in the universe, it changes all the time, as we might say. But does God change? No. Right, God is eternal. But he can see everything he created, that makes sense. And if time's part of what he created, then he sees time all at once too. Yes, but how can he do that?

Look at it this way:

Have any of you taken trips up to the (Blue Ridge/Smoky) mountains? Hands go up. What are the roads like? They're twisty! Yes, they are very twisty; and they don't only go left and right all day, what else do they do? They go up and down! Yes, they're very tricky roads....there are lots of accidents on roads like that...why? Because people can't see around the corners or over the hills. Right. Let's imagine you're all in my car and we go for a ride on one of my favorite twisty roads, Highway 178. People joke that when big trucks go around the tightest turns, the driver sees the back of his trailer in front of him. So let's start, we drive along a bit of straight road, then there's a blind turn, which means? You can't see around it! So what do we do? Slow down! Yes, we get around ok, then there's a rise in the road with a blind crest, which means? You can't see over it! So what do we do? Slow down! (act it out, yank the wheel, stomp the brakes, try to see over and around) Yes. And it's like this whole way. We're constantly surprised because we can't see what's ahead. Look, a bear! Look, a waterfall! We almost hit that deer! (act it out) We can only see where we are, and remember where we've been. So we can 'see' the past in our minds, and right now we can see....the present......but we can't see....the future! Right, we can't see the future. But eventually we get to the end of the road and the trip is all in the past. Now suppose instead of being in the car, you were in a balloon way up in the air over the road, an observer. If you were high enough, how much of the road could you see? All of it? Yes, it's only a few miles long, you could see it all at once. You'd see every hill, every turn. You'd be able to see our whole trip in an instant. You'd know when we'd slow down or speed up, what we'd see and when we'd see it, and know it all before we even left home. So while the people in the car could only experience the drive moment-by-moment in time, and mile-by-mile in distance and space, the observer could understand their whole trip at once, even the parts the people in the car hadn't gotten to yet, their future. The way the balloon observer exists outside of the world of the road is similar to how God exists outside of time. It's as easy for God to see all of the time and space of the universe at once as it is for the balloonist to see the whole road trip....easier, even.

During the year we'll be discussing things that are outside time, such as Heaven, Hell, Sheol, and Purgatory, as well as God, who existed before time as well as existing out of time. When these subjects come up, remember the mountain road and....? The balloon!