18 Pentecost C–9/18/16 Cosmos Sunday
Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 148; Colossians 1:15-20; John 6:41-51
Pr. Maggie Breen
My dad died to alcoholism when he was 65. He had struggled with the loss of life much earlier. The ways of the world caused him great anxiety. He couldn’t work out how he fit, couldn’t find a way to the life he was made for, and so he drank. He lost his job, a job that never really used the gifts he had, in his early 40s. He never worked again, and he slowly, and painfully drank himself to death.
This man, who struggled so hard to be grounded and to fit in this world, would take me outside as a child to look at the stars. We’d look up – look for the shapes and the movements that we knew would be there. We would see light coming to us over thousands of years. Light in the darkness pulling us beyond what we were experiencing in our everyday lives. Somehow in the pull of those stars was the connection to something good, something life-giving, something to which we belonged.
And then we would watch the news together – my dad and I. It was the 1980s. Old industry was closing down. People were displaced, reeling, no longer sure of where they fit. My dad was a trade unionist. We watched the trade union movement in Britain as it tried to preserve the livelihood of their people in the midst of post-industrial change and government policies that were relying more heavily on the free market. My dad wasn’t militant; what he was trying to do in part was to have me see a group of folks doing what they could to stand up for the needs of a people in trouble – he was showing me a light in the darkness – a connection to something beyond what we were immediately experiencing in our own lives, our own losses, something good, something life giving, something to which we belonged.
At the same time as my dad was losing his last grasp on any sense of belonging, and as my home slipped further into chaos and uncertainty, I would go to church. Not every week. I had questions. This church wasn’t coming around my dad as he struggled. It was like our bodies, our hunger for meaning and peace, and just our plain old hunger, was somehow separate from the needs and the life of our Spirit; it was like what was happening to us in the real world didn’t matter to the church, to God. I couldn’t articulate that at the time – I have put words around it since – but at the time I was angry, disillusioned, confused. I couldn’t see how I and my family fit in the way of this church. How could such hell possibly be happening at home and this church not care, not be involved somehow in some real tangible way? But I would go to church mostly when guilt got the better of me and when I did, in spite of everything that didn’t make sense to me, I remember this Jesus sticking to the roof of my mouth in that communion wafer – a light in the darkness – pulling me beyond my immediate experience; pulling me towards something good; something life-giving, something to which I sensed I belonged.
Our conception of this universe has changed over the last century. In 1900 the Milky Way was considered to be the whole universe. In the 1920s Edwin Hubble confirmed that the Andromeda nebula was in fact a separate galaxy and then he went on to identify millions of other galaxies. Now thanks in large part to the telescope named after Dr Hubble we know that this great universe is in fact made up of billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars.
In the mid 1920 astronomers were also studying light in space and they saw that the stars in our galaxy were moving away from earth and that other whole galaxies were themselves moving away as well. The universe was expanding. Belgian priest and physicist Georges Le Maitre asserted that the universe must be expanding and that it must have started in a single point in time and space. By the 1960s George Gamow’s Big Bang theory, the claim that the universe had exploded to life from a single dense particle smaller than an atom into a universe still expanding some 13.7 billion years later, was widely accepted. Our universe and all that is in it comes from a single point of energy. The stuff we are made of “has been developing, rearranging, reconstituting, evolving, growing, since the beginning of space-time itself. Everything that we are made of – all the constituents that would eventually come together into the people you and I are now were present at the origin of time and space” We are made of the same stuff – you and me. The elements of our being have been present throughout time, they were present in Jesus, the bread of heaven who came to be with us, they are present in the bead we will share at the table today. We are connected in a deep elemental way to the people that Jesus sends us to serve, and to the creation of which we are a part. “There is quite simply a connectedness at the root of our being.” We belong to each other.
And this thing we belong to, this creation, this universe, well it tends towards life, but a life that only flourishes when its interdependent parts each have what they need. There is another theory of the universe that gets to this claim. Philosopher Ken Wilber is one of the thinkers behind the theory of holons. According to this theory all reality is made up of holons. Wilber defines holons like this: A holon is a whole that is part of other wholes. For example, a whole atom is part of a whole molecule, a whole molecule is part of a whole cell, a whole cell is part of a whole organism and so on. We are not separate. We are holons: whole entities within whole entities, whole entities overlapping and entwined with other whole entities, whole entities, people, communities, systems of life and mystery that are dependent upon others. When any part of the system doesn’t have what it needs for life, or when it takes more than it really needs, then the whole suffers and every part, every other interdependent whole, is less than they were created to be. And according to Wilbur, Holons grow and become more complex, more capable, more conscious as they engage in the struggle involved in working out their mutual relationship with each other; as the work out what it means for all they are in community with, including themselves, to have what they need from each other.
Isn’t that what that Jesus was about? Isn’t that the way of God that this Jesus brought to us and made real for us? He taught over and over, he gave his whole life to the claim, that we will find the life we are made for when all are attended to. We will find ourselves and the life we were made for only as we let go of our drive for control, our drive for security through accumulation, our fear of the unknown. It is these impulses that get in the way of others and by extension get in the way of ourselves finding the belonging and the life we were made for. Jesus came from God and entered this world of atoms and molecules and holons to shows us what it looks like to lead a life that rests in God’s eternal provision, and gives itself in real world ways to God’s desire for balance and limit and life.
My dad got a glimpse of this way when he looked at the stars and saw the mystery to which he belonged and he showed this way to me as he had me consider the power of lives lived for others. I remembered this way of God somewhere deep in myself when I took that bread of heaven as a child and I see this way now when I look at you. You beloved people of Lakeridge. This way of God is evident in so much that you are about. And to me it shines most evidently lately in the way you give your church to house those without homes.
Every night for the past two weeks four families have slept on mats downstairs. They find sanctuary here as they make their way back to what they need to be well, to have life. There are children who come to your church late in the evening and who, thanks be to God, do not have to experience a church and by extension a God, who chooses not to get involved in their very real struggles but instead offers comfort and hope in real and tangible ways. There are families who see in you a people willing to stand up for those who are in trouble. And the wider community is looking to you as a sign of something good, a promise of belonging – a light in the darkness.
But there is something that I don’t want you to shy away from. An opportunity to move further towards the life you, the life we, were created for, that I hope you won’t miss. This relationship with these families and with REACH and the wider community is an interdependent one. You are dependent on these families and the wider community who are in this work with you of as much as they are dependent on you. These family, the volunteers, the others to which you are connected through this endeavor are also a sign to you. If we use the language of holons. This endeavor with other holons – the families, volunteers, the REACH churches, the community connected to this work will if engaged it lead all of us, yourself included, to growth and fuller life.
These other holons, other parts of this community, have something to reveal to you as much as you have important gifts for them. I don’t know what it is, but I do know it’s there. It’s a light for you and for this life together as sure as the light in the night sky. It’s there waiting to lead you beloved Lakeridge into greater understanding, maybe of yourself, maybe of some aspect of our life together.
This is good news. So don’t be afraid. Go with courage. Trust in God’s provision and look for what it might be. Get to know some of the folks that are staying in your building, get to know some of the volunteers who are in and out, get to know the work of other churches and friends who are walking this path with you, learn something about homelessness, ask questions about others who offer services to those who are in need in Renton, pray for each other and all involved in this work. Do something to open yourself to the gifts that are in your midst. There is life to be had there. They have something to teach.
God made this universe as a community that belongs to each other, that thrives when we look to make sure that the needs of all our parts are attended to. Thanks be to God beloved church at Lakeridge for the way you give yourself to this way of God. I pray that as you go this way you will have revealed to you a deeper sense of your belonging in this God of the Universe and the eternal life God wants for you.