Magnets are an important part of our daily lives, serving as essential components in everything from electric motors, loudspeakers, computers, compact disc players, microwave ovens and the family car. Their contribution is often overlooked because they are built into devices and are usually out of sight.
Just as we did last Sunday with investigating the phenomenon of light, understanding the scientific properties of magnets can be a bit overwhelming at first. But there are some interesting principles about magnets that can inform or theological discussion today. At the very basic level, the motion of charged particles such as electrons produces magnetic forces. This magnetic force may cause attraction or repulsion, depending on the movement of the electrons, which may pull magnets together or pull them apart.
A magnet attracts iron, steel, nickel, and certain other materials. The attracted materials then become magnets themselves in a process called magnetization. For example, if you were to place a nail near a magnet, it would become magnetized and would then attract a second nail. Magnetization occurs because the magnet causes particles called electrons in the atoms of the nail to align along the magnet's lines of force. The atoms with aligned electrons then act like tiny bar magnets themselves.
Magnets have many uses in our everyday life as well as in our homes. We see them most frequently clinging to our refrigerator with pithy sayings or our favorite photos. However, the most important use of magnets in your home are the ones found in electric motors. Believe it or not it's electromagnetic and permanent magnets that help keep your blenders, vacuums, CD players and washing machines all running. They are also termed "heads" when referring to your VCR.
Scientists have also discovered that many animals, including pigeons, honey bees, salmon, tuna, dolphins and turtles are able to detect the earth's magnetic field and may use it to help find their way. Particles of magnetite have been found in the body tissues of these animals. They suspect the particles form part of a system that senses the geomagnetic field. Certain species of bacteria found in the water have also been found that use the geomagnetic field to find their preferred habitat. Each bacteria use the particles as tiny compass needles to guide them along the electromagnetic field.
After listening to this scientific summary, I’m wondering if you caught on to some of the properties of magnets that just might “attract” you to the Good News this morning. It is helpful to remember a few things about the ministry of Christ. He spoke pretty straightforward about it in verses 25-26 of our Gospel text. “Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal. If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice.”
If there is one sure thing we can say about Jesus’ life—it was a life of great extravagance—in the truest sense of the word. He was extravagant in his reckless and scandalous expenditure of his life for the sake of the world's life. That is what the author of John's gospel wants us to hear today. Christ gave his life away without thought of gain or reward. He loved people wastefully. As a result, his life was not a very prudent life. It was not a very conservative life. It was not a very cautious life. It was not - by the standards most people use to measure things - a very successful life.
He shunned no one, not even adulterers, not even tax gatherers, not even neurotics and psychotics, not even those tempted to suicide, not even alcoholics, not even poor people, not even beggars, not even lepers, not even those who ridiculed him, not even those who betrayed him, not even his own enemies. He shunned no one. And the words that describe his ministry seem to be words of sorrow, poverty, rejection and radical unpopularity —words of agony and loss. “As I am lifted up from the earth, I will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.”
That is what John wants us to get from his gospel. It is something at the very heart of what John believed Jesus was all about. Jesus was a magnetic force in the world, because he knew his purpose. He understood his reason for being. And in the midst of a religious society that determined its connectedness to God according to how connected they were to wealth and power, Jesus message was a shock to the system. He believed that his connection to God demanded sacrifice and service to others.
It is the ultimate paradox, of course: lose life in order to gain it. That statement reflects the essence of all that Jesus said and did. It gave his life meaning. Trust life so much that you are free to give it away without thought of return. Apparently, he expected us to live our lives like that - so selflessly, so innocently, without thought for tomorrow - that our lives would seem to be profoundly careless. Was that not the kind of trust that marked the character of his life?
That paradox: giving our lives away in order to gain them is supposed to characterize the Christian life. We, too, are called to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters, as he did, that our lives take on the very same sorrow, poverty, rejection, agony and radical unpopularity that summarized his life. After all, he did not tell us just to "make it up as you go along". He called us to live the only life he considered worth living, which is, of course, the life he was and is.
From so many conversations I’ve had with other clergy within our denomination and outside of it, it seems that most churches these days are about preserving and maintaining what they possess. What do we need to do in order to reduce the deficit, repair the boiler, pay the staff, and keep the photocopier running? That's the stuff that usually takes up nearly all of their time and energy. Instead the very elementary question that we need to ask—in whatever church we find ourselves, is—as Pope Francis suggested: Are we a love story or an institution? The answer to that, of course, is that we are, IF we are free to give it all up for the world as a witness to the ministry of Christ, as a sign of dying in Christ, and as a way of attracting others to Christ. (Excerpts from Barry J. Robinson’s sermon “Paying the Rent” for April 6, 2003 – www.fernstone.org).
From the outside looking in, Jesus magnetic personality does seem to be a downer in our consumerist society that values ownership and affluence. But I think his way of being was so much deeper than we really understand. In fact, we are just beginning to unlock the secrets to his teachings. Jesus drew so many people to him, not just because of his philosophy about God; he knew who he was. He knew his purpose. He understood his reason for being. One of the great laws of the universe is the Universal Law of Attraction. It states: We attract whatever we choose to give our attention to—whether wanted or unwanted. This Universal Law is simply stated by Jesus in Luke 6:31: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
This Law is Universal because it does not matter who you are, where you live, what your religious beliefs are, what year you were born...the Law is true for everyone equally. It is as true as the Law of Gravity. Most of the time, we attract by "default" rather than by deliberate choice. We just sort of go through our day, focusing on problems that need to be solved or on things that did not feel good nor seem right. In so doing, we are actually creating more problems, more of what does not feel good and more of what does not seem right.
Think of yourself as a huge magnet. The kind that pulls metal to itself from afar off. It doesn't "try" to attract, it simply does attract. It is the same way for us. Whether or not we are trying to attract, we ARE doing so all the time. And we attract the likeness of what we think about. If we are thinking about a lack of something, we are attracting more lack (scarcity). If we are thinking about something we love, we are attracting more of what we love and enjoy. I know it sounds incredibly simple, and it is. Jesus said it simply in the Gospel of Luke. We humans are actually very powerful attractors and we can use this wonderful, God-given power to attract what we want in life-simply by paying attention to where we place our thoughts and desires. Picture your heart as a powerful magnet. Your heart is the "vibrator" of all the signals that attract.
Just as magnetic fields are created by the motion of charged particles like electrons, our thoughts and emotions have a charge that either attracts or repels. Our ministry together, our work if you will, is magnetic. And when we let go of all resistance we can believe that what God wants for us will come to us when we put our thoughts and intention on God’s righteousness. Jesus told is so in Matthew 6:33. He knew his purpose, focused on that intention, and transformed the world by following it. And Jesus challenges us to follow too. Let go of your life as it is, being reckless in your love for God and others, and you will have God’s life—without illusion, real and eternal. The Universal Law of Attraction also confirms it: in order to receive love, you must first give it. How will you give love this week? And how will you receive it? (Source: www.law-of-attraction-info.com/whatisloa.html)
In your bulletin is your reflective Lenten exercise for the week. How Powerful is Your Magnetic Force for Christ?
What areas, situations or unhealthy thinking in your life are repelling you from experiencing God’s fullness? What do you need to do to “lose” those things that inhibit you and others?
What do you want to attract in your life? What Christ-like qualities will magnify those attractions and point to your relationship with God?