Einstein’s enduring gifts


We all know the equation, combined with the image of Einstein with wild hair from our college days: posters, T-shirts. But what the heck does it mean, other than that Einstein was undeniably brilliant, and approachably crazy?

I wanted to know more.

WikiHow (thank you wikiHow: much of what follows is taken word for word from this source), told me that energy (E) can be neither created, nor destroyed. It becomes transformed into a different kind of energy.

Mass is the amount of matter in an object. Invariant mass is, as you might expect, the kind of mass that never changes no matter what. Relativistic mass is dependent on the velocity of the object. In Einstein’s formula, m (mass) is the invariant kind.

Like energy, mass can be neither created nor destroyed, but can also change its form. So the ice-cream you’re eating on that hot summer’s day still has the same mass, even though it’s melted, and is in the process of being transformed into a different kind of mass as it makes its gloopy way through your digestive system. Your initial scoop of ice-cream has stretched out and got mixed with other stuff and, – we know the details.

The “c” piece is about the speed of light. But the main point is that there is a link between energy and mass, an “equals” sign. They’re not two separate things: maybe one is “contained” within the other.

The cogs started moving inside my head.

What this mean for the language I use to describe the interrelationship between all things and what we call “God”?

Everything is composed of mass and energy. Neither are destroyed. Energy is transformed, as is mass. Mass can change.

As I reflect back on my day, and pause at moments to give thanks, I become reconnected with the presence of God. It doesn’t mean that God somehow disappeared in the intervening periods; I just wasn’t connected. But when I recall the thing, the person, the moment in the course of the day that lifts or reassures, the awareness of God’s presence is awakened within me. It’s as if the “equals” sign appears. And this then bounces off into an awareness of God “speaking” to me through my interactions with others, and the world around me. The nature of the “mass” has shifted, but is undoubtedly there.

This is particularly so when you contemplate the idea of the grace of God: unconditional, unearned loving-kindness, with more than a sprinkling of joy and delight at times. You become aware of it working within and around you. Just because you may have been unaware of it, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist; it is there. After all, when you eat your ice-cream you don’t think about the continued “life” of its energy and mass. Well, not until you step on the scales…

So, as a good Lutheran, I’m going to put myself out there and say that God’s grace is another example of E=mc2 at work. It is there as energy, active, engaged. It is there as mass – a concrete, nameable person, an experience. It is at the heart of who we are. And it will never disappear.

What a wonderful thought. Thank you, Einstein.



One of the tranformative moments of my sabbatical happened during the first week: attending the Kenyon Institute’s “Beyond Walls” programme. We had each been asssigned to a home group; mine was “E”. On our last morning those of us from the “E” group who were still there agreed that we had experienced something profound. We wanted to honour it by encouraging one another to continue writing, and to read one another’s work in the same respectful and gracious way we had done all week as a way of building on these newly-acquired skills.

Our first assignment on returning home was to write a piece based on the letter E. Thank you, dear colleagues and friends, for your continued encouragement.


Image of Albert Einstein with text taken by permission https://www.flickr.com/photos/chilipeppered

Please note: all opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and are not to be seens as reflective of any one denomination or congregation.

© Ilze Kuplens-Ewart 2016

Thanksgiving Sermon October 13, 2013

       There’s something very special about little children.  Particularly if they’re your own, or, even better, godchildren or grandchildren.  The way the hand gets stretched out towards you:   “Sam!/Beth, Grandma, Grandpa: Look at me!  Let’s explore! Why?” In that brief second of time, all the cares you may be carrying slip away and all that matters is that encounter.  The trust, the love, the delight. 

            The gift a child brings.  An honest gift presented without the giver even realizing what is happening. 

           Image Yesterday a small group of us gathered outside to have our pets blessed, and later we joined other dog owners in the leash-free park outside.  Got to know the dogs, and the owners, heard the stories, felt the connection.  What had brought us together?  Our pets.  All dog, and cat owners know about unconditional love – it’s what they are given every time they come in through the front door.  It’s a gift that’s unconditional: all we have to do is provide our four-footed companions the care and attention they deserve. 

            During the morning a couple shared their experience of driving back the night before from Muskoka.  A meteor shower.  One so intense it looked like an unmoving, white Northern Lights.   The unexpectedness of the experience.

            Take a moment.

  • Stop reading.
  • Take a deep breath, exhale.  
  • Open yourself up.  

What comes to mind?

       Like the small child reaching out its hand, these experiences are heart-given, like our pets, they are unconditional, like the wonder of nature: unexpected.  In their unexpectedness, their joy, their honesty, they flip our mood around, transform the moment.  They stay with us, they resonate within us. 

            None of them have anything remotely to do with material possessions (with the possible exception of having an engagement ring presented to you),  yet they have an extraordinary staying power.  They can even shift how we see things, how we prioritize, and on what we base our fundamental values. 

            Seeing the first ultrasound images of the baby growing inside you changes you, or feeling it’s heart beating next to yours as your little one is handed to you for the first time and you hold it in your arms.  You realize: this is it.  Nothing else matters quite so much.   You are now a parent.  The years of “me”, of “it’s just the two of us so we can vacation, spend, go out, have gone, the first priority is now your family. 

            Please, this isn’t meant to be an artificial, Sound of Music, sugary reading of life. You know that, because you’ve been there. Each of us can recall at least one of these moments. 

            They are all gifts, gifts  of grace.  Unexpected offerings that open the eyes of our heart and soul to a new way of being.  They are presented to us by the Creator, the one who breathes life into us, into the world around us.  These are the experiences that bring colour to our lives, that enrich us beyond the temporary excitement of material possessions, they are life-giving. 

            Recalling these experiences evokes emotion within us. We experience what we felt at the time, sometimes even magnified as we begin to grasp their immensity.  They are what we are given to be a part of who we are, to help us see the bigger picture when we feel overwhelmed, to straighten our backs and release our shoulders when we feel the weight of the world pressing down on us, to propel us forward when we are lost. 

            In these moments of wonder, of joy, of being overawed, we encounter God reaching down to us, to caress our souls with her presence.  Inviting us, gently, into a new perspective on life.  The one that Jesus speaks of: that transcends the ephemeral, that sweeps us up into a gigantic, never-ending vista.  One based simply on deep, giving love. 

            You know what it’s like when you are truly loved:

something inside you is freed up and you can begin to become who you truly are.  You can love, and be loved and that means, you can give yourself permission to become vulnerable.  And once you learn to become vulnerable, you acquire the gift of compassion, the ability to stand alongside another human being during the challenging times of their life.    And to this mix, to this gift of being able to relax into who you are and focus on the other comes the gift of joy.  

            This is so very rich. 

            This is so very important.

            It changes you.  And as you are changed, the world of which you are part is changed.

            So,  take a moment to be still, evoke the memory of that time, andgive thanks.  From the bottom of your heart.  To pray that the inspiration of that time continues to change you, us all into the image of God that is already right here, within us.

            The Lord is near.  Right here. Right now.