Summary: A Psalm about the benefits of our personal connection with God through Jesus Christ and the connections that we have with one another in the church.
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 26, 2012 Proper 16B
St. Andrew’s Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
He came to work at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, as a newly minted PhD in physics. He was not assigned to any existing research projects. A premise of employment was that the new hires were smart people who would create their own research projects.
He was living in the Bronx at the time and he began to notice networks of people and industry. He observed communities large and small; he saw water, gas and electrical networks. He wrote a research paper on networks and submitted it to journal after journal. The response was, time after time, in his own words, “this is rubbish.” Finally, after five years of rejections, his paper was accepted for publication by Nature. In October 2000, Nature published his research with the catchy title, “The Large Scale Organization of Metabolic Networks.”
The author’s name is Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, and he is one of the pioneers of a new field in science called Network Science. While he was doing his work at IBM, Dr. Steve Strogatz was working with a graduate student at Cornell, Duncan Watts in the same area. Network Science is an interdisciplinary field that studies complex networks using the theories and methods of math, physics, biology, chemistry, computer science, graph theory, statistics, linguistics and sociology.
Do you remember six degrees of Kevin Bacon? Three years ago, the Science Channel premiered a documentary titled “Connected: the Power of Six Degrees.” The film is about network science and it featured an experiment somewhat like the game, six degrees of Kevin Bacon. For the experiment, a package was given to 40 people who were chosen randomly in 28 countries. The goal was to get the package to Dr. Marc Vidal in Boston at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute by sending it to someone they knew who would send it to someone they knew until it arrived in Boston and was handed to Dr. Vidal.
One recipient of the package was a woman in a small village in Kenya. She asked all her fellow villagers, but she could find no one to who knew anyone to send the package to. Then an aunt from Nairobi visited who had a friend in New York and the package was on its way.
A woman in Germany had a friend in Canada. A dancer in France had met a dancer from Boston at an international conference, but when the package arrived in Boston it was found that the dancer was no longer there and the package was returned to France. In Burma, a man knew a lawyer in Germany who knew someone in the U.S. In the end, 3 of 40 packages made it to Dr. Vidal. The experiment became an illustration of how well the six billion people on this planet are connected.
The thesis of network science is that there is a hidden blueprint to nature. As Christians, we know who created not only the blueprint, but the entire universe. Network science says that we are “more connected than ever thought.” Christians, with the author of Psalm 16, can say we are connected through God, the creator of all things. Once we realize this, our lives are then lived in gratitude for our connection to our creator through His Son, Jesus Christ.
I heard Laszlo Barabasi speak briefly on Monday night at Boston University as he introduced network science to 20 high school students. Network science is about connections and interactions among connections. Connections are elemental, essential, and enriching. This morning, we will look at the power of our connections and what they mean for our lives.
Psalm 16 begins with a prayer and an assertion. The prayer is
“Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in you. “ (v. 1a)
The assertion is
“I have said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; my good above all other." (v.2)
Because the psalmist knows that he is connected to the Lord, he knows that he can pray
for protection. He believes that he receives protection because of God’s power in his life.
Notice the personal language, the psalmist says that the Lord is “my Lord.”
Furthermore, God is “my good above all other.” Is that true for you?
The Lutherans have Martin Luther; the Methodists have John Wesley, and the Roman
Catholics have Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas is that influential in the Roman Catholic
Church. He has influenced Roman Catholic theology since his own time, the 13th
Century, and he became required reading for clergy in 1879. [Crash Course in Church
History, p. 66]
For Aquinas, God is the greatest good, the ultimate end or goal of life “to which all