Fruit is starting to ripen on trees, and fall to the ground. We have apples and pears falling to the ground in our backyard. Small animals who don’t climb trees to pick fruit are excited to find snacks like these, this time of year! We are like scavengers too, who gather the grace that’s around us. That’s what Luther said as he breathed his last: “We are beggars. This is true.” We are scavengers, gathering the good grace of God that falls for everyone.
When I hear an apple thump to the ground in my backyard, I always think of Newton’s Apple. No doubt you know the story: Isaac Newton was born in 1642 and grew up on a farm near Grantham, England. He entered Cambridge University in 1661. Four years later in 1665, following an outbreak of bubonic plague, the school temporarily closed forcing him to move back home to his family’s farm at Woolsthorpe Manor. Isn’t that interesting? His insight into gravity happens at home when his school was closed because of a pandemic! It was two years before students were allowed to come back.
It was during this period at home in Woolsthorpe Manor that he was sitting beneath an apple tree in the orchard, contemplating the mysterious universe. Suddenly – bonk! -an apple hits him on the head. “Aha!” he shouts, or maybe, “Eureka!” In a flash he understands that the very same force that brought the apple crashing toward the ground also keeps the moon falling toward the Earth and the Earth falling toward the sun. The force of gravity. Or so the legend goes!
There’s no evidence to suggest the fruit actually landed on his head, but it caused him to ponder why apples always fall straight to the ground rather than sideways or upward, and helped inspire him to eventually develop his law of universal gravitation. And, meanwhile, three and a half centuries later, physicists still don’t really understand gravity.
Newton was a devout Anglican. One of the greatest scientists in human history, and also a person of faith. In 1667, when the plague subsided and he returned to Cambridge, he became a Fellow at Trinity College in Cambridge, which required him to take Holy Orders within 7 years of completing his degree, which he did in 1668.
I say this only to underscore again that the realms of faith and science can be entirely compatible. As Dr.Lew Brown in our congregation so beautifully puts it: “they are partners in the search for truth.”
If you haven’t yet had the chance to see Lew Brown’s Faith and Science Jam, I really recommend it to you! It’s absolutely wonderful. You can find it on our Mount Tabor homepage.Look for the drop down menu at the top of the homepage: Faith and Science Jams.
Lew’s retired now. But his discoveries in his career as a research physicist are just amazing; as, I think, is his description of the never-ending mysteries of the universe. I think his Jam is an important statement of faith and science by a person who continues to find meaning and guidance for modern life through the pursuit of both. Take 17 minutes out of your day today, and check it out! You’ll find Dr. Mark Elstad’s there as well, and coming soon will be Dr. John Carey’s: a world-renowned geneticist. All from our little community of faith!
Newton’s apple falling from the tree, was a simple gift to the Earth; a gift with profound significance. Simple graces fall to us every day, even in the midst of pandemics as young Isaac Newton found in the 17th C. We can worry so much as parents these days about what our children might possibly miss out on, as a result of not having school as usual this fall. But what simple graces may we find in this unusual time, as Newton did? Newton wasn’t in a classroom. He was in his family’s orchard on a beautiful day. Musing. Thinking. Wondering. Imagining. His mind was free to wander, unrestricted by tasks and deadlines, and what unexpected revelation, unexpected grace came to him, as a result! Kids don’t have to discover the Universal Law of Gravitation to justify their time out of in-person classroom. But who knows! Allowing young minds to think freely, ride on clouds of imagination, wonder about the mysteries around them; those I think can be opportunities to gather falling graces.
We all can allow ourselves moments like Newton’s in his orchard. Practicing being simply in the moment. Listening. Observing. Delighting in the falling graces. – Pr. David