January 15, 2017 | Song of Faith, Part One, John 1: 1-5 | Jen-Beth Fulton –
We Sing of God the Creator
You have just listened to the first segment of one of the most beautiful pieces of writing the United Church of Canada has created. “The Song of Faith” is created with poetry, visual art, symbols and imagery to bring our very unique voice alive in a new way. The first segment helps define who God is for us. I love it’s wide, open hearted, poetic words for the many faces and images of God, Holy Spirit. As we begin a more intimate journey with our Song of Faith, I have been asked to say who God is for me.
But first I want to say I love the beauty of the Power Point this morning, Thank you Nancy & Sharon It speaks so deeply to the beauty of the universe, God within us, and the scientific revelation that just possibly the music of the spheres was involved in the creation of the universe.
So, who is God for me? Knowing that any knowledge and understanding is always changing, in light of new knowledge and experience,
God is for me.
The power of Infinite Love, who is with me, no matter what I endure, or where I take myself. The very ground of my being. An experience of the relationship of Love
A vulnerable God who weeps with us. Who cannot stop the suffering – even the evil that is done to us
But the One who yearns to be in relationship with us, and, if we will change our perspective, seek compassion and live out of generosity, can bring us joy, and yes, even meaning within and beyond our suffering, as we are ready for it.
Meditating quietly on who God / Love is for us, we might come naturally to the age old questions :
What is the universe?
What is the place of humans in this universe.
How then shall we live?
One of my joys this past couple of years is meditating with Richard Rohr each morning. Reading and then silence deepening my relationship with, & listening to God, Wholly Love. Coming to define anew, who God is for me anew.
It was through the Center for Action and Contemplation, Rohr’s home Community that I was offered the opportunity to listen to a Webinar by Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar, on “The Journey of the Universe.” In her introduction she said that there was an opportunity to study the course, of the same name with her, her partner, John Grim, also a Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale, and Brian Swimme, Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, whose work, “The Ten Powers of the Universe” I loved when Nancy led it at our church soon after accepting our Call.
It was during this course,The Ten Powers of the Universe, that I first felt inspired to use God and Universe interchangeably. Though, this still felt heretical to me, so mostly I didn’t share this new consciousness with many people. And the Song of Faith’s words, “……….the fully shared life at the heart of the universe – God within the universe – comes closer to what I give my heart to now.
As this course was inspired by Thomas Berry, whose two books I had read with awe about 14 years ago, especially “The Great Work” dedicated to the children of the Universe, I registered to participate. It has been an amazing adventure of learning. And I knew almost immediately that I wanted an opportunity to share this learning with you, my faith family.
Thomas Berry, who died in 2006 has been called a Prophet and a Mystic, He wrote of a New Story, the Cosmological Story, to help humanity move from being a destructive element in the universe to assisting in the flourishing of all creation. He can be a guiding light through these challenging times of unparalleled Earth devastation. Our task, he says is to begin the transition from our modern industrial-technological civilization to a more benign mode of human presence to Earth. This calls for a radical re-visioning of what it means to be human among the communities of our planet home, and how to birth a new age of healing and harmony with all creatures and elements of earth. Thomas was inspired by his mentor Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit Priest and Paleontologist whose understanding of the Cosmos led to Thomas’ profound understanding of the universe story.
(Power point Image of The Cosmos / Northern Lights. The Bible. Nature / The Heron)
Berry, a Priest, when flying back from an environmental conference in the Seychelle Islands, looking down over the Nile River at 30,000 feet, realized that he was not a theologian, but rather a “geologian.” With this term, he viewed himself as a human being who emerged out of eons of Earth’s geological, biological, and spiritual evolution and was now reflecting on our world. From his vast study of Sacred writings, the Cosmos and Nature, he held that Sacred Literature, our Bible, and other Sacred stories were one reflection of who God is for us. Nature and the Universe were the other two (Reflect on Images). So we look at these three, our Holy Literature, the Bible, together with the Cosmos, imaged so vividly in the stunning beauty of the Northern Lights and Nature represented here as a Heron, all three of which are images of the Holy Spirit, for me.
Tucker and Swimme do not want to replace our many sacred stories, as evinced by their new book. “Living Cosmology,” The Christian Responses to the Journey of the Universe, edited from a conference of this topic held in 2015. They are working to bring a new perspective of a story which is for all Creation, not just separate tribes and religions. Each of us emerged out of billions of years of evolution and we can reflect on the world, like Thomas Berry from this perspective. A Palestinian Refugee, studying at Yale university, said to Mary, “I think the trees are praying for this Conference.”
The reading from St. John’s Gospel from our Sacred Literature, particularly, the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God,” images for me the Big Bang or the Flaring Forth as being God’s words in the beginning of Creation 13.7 billion years ago, seeding the Cosmos with powerful creativity. Then ten billion years later, with the mighty explosion and death of a giant star, a Supernova, humanity came to birth.
Brian Swimme who tells The Story of the Universe in books and a wondrous film, reminds us how, since the earliest expression of culture, humans have sought to understand and define our place in the universe. To this end we have developed cosmologies, which are our stories that invoke our our common experience of reality. These stories describe where we have come from and where we are going. The religious and philosophical traditions we have honored for millennia all bear witness to our deep desire to find orientation and meaning in what we see, experience, and feel around us. We struggle over a lifetime to know how we came to be, and what our role is in the vast universe. In fact the creators of The Journey of the Universe consider the universe not to be a place, but a story. A good place to start, as we all know the power a good story has to transform us. We need this New Story, as our present one of over Consumption and Industrialization, has become dysfunctional and destructive to the universe itself, all of creation. That which God called good.
Madeleine L’Engle, one of my favourite writers described with joy how she was taken out into the night at about age three, to look up at the stars and how filled with wonder she was at the night sky. How as an adult, she took herself out onto the “stargazing rock” on her property, when she became disorientated with herself, her writing, or another human. I loved her telling of this experience and lifetime habit and wished it had been mine. Yet, no matter our age, we can all lie on a blanket beyond the piercing glow of cities and look with awe at the night sky. Having a child with us enhances the experience Swimme reminds us. Studying, and experiencing the Cosmos enhances our sense of wonder and curiosity. How do we live with the reality that we are one with all of this glory and all of humanity?
Rediscovering who we are, not as consumers caught within industrialized nations, but finding our purpose as humans to enhance life, not diminish it. This can be our endless prayer alongside Kathleen Dean Moore, Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim, Brian Swimme and millions of other, caring, conscious humans. In this Kathleen says,” we embrace our still evolving role as children of the earth and as a planetary species. No longer are we citizens of nations alone, but of the entire globe. Our allegiance, she suggests, is moving ever outward from family, society, state, continent, to the blue green planet that is home, and even beyond that to an ethics of the Cosmos. There is no time for wavering, she maintains. We must humbly move into our mature role as a mutually enhancing species. Human and other than human. To do otherwise is to risk the destruction of life on the planet,” she warns. I often gently pinch my skin to remind myself that under this skin, we are all one, made of the stardust of a supernova. A giant star.
^I so identify with this course affirming a wider sense of interconnectedness. I also deeply appreciate a new startled consciousness, that happened to me when I first learned from Thomas Berry about Supernovas dying, with a massive explosion, yet this death seeding new life, ourselves included, having stardust in our very beings. I wrote with joy, in my Journal, that possibly this is death and resurrection into new life of expanding, ever evolving deeper consciousness Mary Tucker & Swimme together bring me to a particularly moving discovery. In their words, This universe story has the power to awaken us more deeply to who we are. For just s the Milky Way is the form of the universe as a Galaxy, an orchid is the form of the universe as a flower and humanity is the universes becoming conscious of itself. Scientists and philosophers maintain that the universe experiences itself through our consciousness. An almost unbelievable concept. ^
We feel wonder and awe knowing that our planet, earth was created 13.7 billion years ago with the miracle, that if it had happened even a fraction faster, it would have self destructed immediately, and if it had happened a fraction more slowly nothing would have evolved. We know too humanity’s beginnings 4 billion years ago is balanced by the growing knowledge that we are rapidly diminishing all of this, our species, the other than human species, and our planet as we know it. Yet we cannot be frozen with fear.
Mary Evelyn Tucker, Brian Swimme and John Gunn have taken their stories, work and films to every continent. Their hope for the re- flourishing of the universe is the abundance of young people, scientists, and many millions of others who out of their concern and compassion, are putting their energy into work, reseach, and careers in making a difference. In bringing their wonder. Imagination and education to bear on the belief that nothing we do aught to add to the diminishment of the universe. Each one of us has a part to play, for the sake of our children. We are the next generation’s future.
There is the need to face our fears about planetary diminishment. I have been so grateful to be reading “The Book of Joy”, a dialogue between The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Tutu, from South Africa, and narrator, questionnaire, Douglas Abrams, while preparing this Reflection for this morning. The Dalai Lama maintains that if every 8 year old was taught meditation, war would end within one generation. The Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu, like Byron Katie and Caitlin Frost, all teach and remind us that, when we face a fear, if we can do something about it there is no need to stress and worry. If we can do nothing, then there is no point in becoming stressed. This is the only way to live, Out of compassion, generosity and joy. Remembering too that our Source is also Mother, Friend, Comforter, and inspiration of courageous living.
May it be so.