Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The season of creation: cosmos sunday...

WORSHIP NOTES:  Celebrating the Season of Creation:  Cosmos Sunday

This morning I want to talk with you about God’s wisdom:  the orderliness of God’s intentions for the world - the majestic and awesome power of the universe – the quotidian routines that give our daily lives shape and form – as well as the mysterious presence of grace that pulses throughout the heavens and the earth in ways that are staggering.  In our celebration of the season of creation, today is “Cosmos Sunday,” a Sabbath feast set aside for us to celebrate how the very essence of the Lord is an active part of all created things.

·      Our word cosmos comes directly from the Greek word kosmos (with a K) meaning the order of things or the way God intends and desires creation to unfold. It suggests that the will of the Lord fills the entire universe and the wisdom of the Lord sounds some-thing like: “Thy will be done, thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

·      Scientists and theologians seem to be of one mind when it comes to the heart of the cosmos; namely they have discerned that all of creation is “characterized by an orderly impulse to life.  Through (either) revelation or science” there is unanimity:  creation moves towards strengthening and enhancing life.  And this is as true of the stars as it is for you and me and all living things.

No wonder our spiritual heirs in Israel said some 2,500 years ago that the breath of the Lord animates and orders creation:  we and the entire cosmos move to the rhythm and impulse of life.  The ancient Psalmist put it like this in today’s song of praise:

Hallelujah! Praise God from heaven, praise him from the mountaintops;
Praise him, all you his angels, praise him, all you his warriors,
Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, bright morning stars;
Praise him, high heaven, praise him, heavenly rain clouds;
Praise, oh let them praise the name of Go because God spoke the word and there they were!  God set them in place – gave them order
 from all time to eternity – and fire and hail,
snow and ice, hurricanes… mountains and all hills,
apple orchards and cedar forests;
Wild beasts and herds of cattle,
 snakes, and birds in flight; 
as well as Earth’s kings and all races, leaders and important people,
robust men and women in their prime, and yes, 
graybeards and little children
 (join the chorus of the cosmos) and praise the Lord!

All of our readings for this day point in the same direction:  we were created by the Creator with an impulse towards life.  That is how God planned and ordered it – that is the deepest desire of God’s heart – and that is what it means to live as allies of God’s order: we are to nourish all that strengthens life, blessing and bounty on earth as it is in heaven.  Indeed, the wisdom literature of Israel – the practical and theological treasures we know as Proverbs, Job, Psalms and Ecclesiastes – underscore that God’s wisdom is grounded in an impulse towards life. Our task, they teach, is to align our lives according to the order of God’s grace so that we actively pursue God’s will on earth as it is already realized in heaven.

One of my favorite writers, M. Craig Barnes who is now the President of Princeton Theological Seminary, cuts to the chase with respect to becoming allies of God’s cosmos:

What would the world be like if it were run by sacred poets (those who were allies of the Lord’s grace and the order of the cosmos?) It would be a world in which enemies are loved, the poor inherit the earth and no one hurts another out of anxiety about what tomorrow may bring.  These words depict the wisdom of heave, but they appear foolish and naïve (to many) when spoken anywhere on earth.  So it is the job of the poet (in our case read preacher) to stand in the midst of a world that has grown jaded with so-called reality and speak in such a way as to open the doors into the Kingdom of Truth. (The Pastor as Minor Poet)

·      So let me be so bold as to do just that:  all around us are signs of God’s love, God’s order and God’s grace – the trees are turning, the nights are cooler, the pumpkins are ripening and the apples are almost ready.  School has returned for our children.  Much of South County is getting ready to head even further South for the winter.  And the rhythm and order of the seasons is in the air.

·      At the same time there are too many signs that we are ignoring the Lord’s order as life becomes more and more OUT of balance with God’s rhythm for the cosmos.  Just this past week, nine months after the massacre of our children in Newtown and five months after the Boston Marathon bombing, another wounded and emotionally distressed young man with access to weapons of mass destruction, cried out for help and relief by opening fire on innocent women and men at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC.  His slaughter of 13 people, however, is only the tip of the iceberg because since Newtown there have been 17 other mass shootings in the United States taking four or more lives.

Now in the days following this tragedy, as I read about the story of Aaron Alexis, the very troubled young man who executed this massacre, two truths hit me. 

·      One is that something is very much out of alignment with God’s impulse to life in this nation when more and more of our vulnerable and hurting sisters and brothers feel they have to turn to violence to be heard.  How did it come to pass that so many feel so alienated from one another that random acts of violence are seen as a solution?  How did it happen that we gave up on the commitment to living as our sister and brother’s keeper?  How did the tapestry of interwoven lives in America become so frazzled and frayed that such massacres now seem common place?  Here’s a fact:  since Newtown there has been 8,263 gun-related murders in the United States.  Now beloved, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat – or even a Green – we can all agree that this is NOT thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven:  this is hell on earth and life disconnected from God’s sacred order. 

·      That’s one truth; another has to do with the role people of the Lord can still play in reshaping the chaos.  I don’t know about you, but I was astounded that in less than a week the drums of war had been turned towards the songs of peace in Syria.  I know that their ugly civil war is far from over – and I don’t have any illusions that the Russians are any more trustworthy than we ourselves – but let’s face it:  when Pope Francis I called the world to prayer and fasting – when people of faith all over creation started acting on God’s impulse towards life rather than more bombs of death – something changed.  And now, while there is a ton of work yet to be accomplished, the tide of death has been halted in Syria when it comes to chemical weapons.

So let’s get this straight:  the WAY of the Lord - the order of God’s cosmos – requires that we live in a consciously “interactive and interdependent way.  Nothing in all of creation is made without an other – a close companion – because God’s way in creation is collaborative… and without an other nothing can flourish.” (Season of Creation Preaching Commentary) This is the way of the Lord.

So what I want to do right now – as your pastor and one who grieves for the ways we have grown so out of balance with God’s order and impulse towards life – is to give you a few moments of rest and beauty.  The prophet Isaiah once said that in returning and rest – in changing direction so that we become aligned with the order of God’s cosmos – we shall be saved.  That is, we shall be made whole and holy.

·      So in collaboration with my trusted friends and musical colleagues I would like you to join us in a few quiet moments of rest and reflection.  Last week I spoke to you of the importance of church being a safe place – a place open to quiet reflection and deep acts of compassion –a true Sanctuary of beauty and peace.  So right now we’re going to play one of the sweetest and most simple chants ever created for the Body of Christ:  Veni Sancte Spiritus.  The words and music are printed in your bulletin and as the song ripens, please feel free to join in.

·     This is a gentle prayer calling out to the Holy Spirit for guidance – for wisdom – for strength and peace.  And we’re going to pray it in a way that is unhurried – giving each member a chance to fully share their gifts – when it feels right for you, please join in, too.

·     For us this is a prayer and a model for trusting God’s order in the cosmos: we know that things are out of whack and we need God’s guidance deep within. So in the safety of this place – in the sorrow of your heart – and in the promise of the Lord’s unending grace, join us in this prayer to the Holy Spirit…
Jesus made a conscious decision to become an ally of God’s order and impulse to life – and he invites us to do likewise.  One of my other favorite writers, Nora Gallagher, writes that Jesus “understood that choosing the vulnerable path was the only true way to keep his soul alive.”

·      He aligned himself with God’s order in the cosmos to live life as it was intended to be lived:  in harmony, in solidarity, in compassion. The chaos and violence of our era must be taken seriously – this cannot become new status quo – for it is not of the Lord. Learning to see the world as Jesus did – and joining him in an embrace of God’s loving order – is what it means to be a disciple.  “Discipleship,” you see, “is a matter of learning to see the cosmos as God see it.”

Psalm 148 tells us that all of creation – the whole cosmos – is able to sing songs of praise to the Lord because God has established them and fixed their bonds in an order that must not be violated.  To praise the Lord, to sing Hallelujah, is to live in harmony with God’s will, for “these bounds have been fixed forever and cannot be passed.” (Psalm 148) Let those who have ears to hear, hear…


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I teach sunday school to middle schoolers and have struggled with this passage from Proverbs. Finally I have something that makes sense to share with them.

RJ said...

It always does my heart good to know this was helpful. Blessings as you care for those young souls.

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