Thoughts about Missa Gaia...

NOTE:  This is an interpretive overview I am working on for our congregation's upcoming presentation of Paul Winter's "Missa Gaia." I am trying to put this gig into context so if there is anything that is unclear, please let me know, ok? 
In three weeks - Sunday, November 22, 2015 @ 3 pm - we will present the Berkshire premiere of Paul Winter's "Missa Gaia/Earth Mass" at First Church of Christ on Park Square in Pittsfield, MA. The score for this contemporary composition includes the songs of a timber wolf and humpback whale in addition to "melodies and dynamic rhythms from Africa, Brazil and American gospel traditions." It incorporates into "traditional Mass and biblical texts" the music of creation including jazz and choral settings mixed with soprano sax, cello, oboe, organ, piano, bass and percussion.
We are sharing this work of art with the wider Berkshire community as a benefit for our partner in mission: BEAT (Berkshire Environmental Action Team.) And there are three key reasons for our performance:

+ First, we believe in the work of BEAT (learn more about them here: http://www.the beatnews. org/) Eight years ago, our faith community made a decision to focus our often diverse interests into four broad areas:  eco-justice, peace-making, food security and local justice organizing work. This shift allowed us to invest time and resources, talent and treasure, into partnerships with local mission activists rather than acting like we had to do it all by ourselves. Cooperation and servant-hood is always at the heart of the Cross where our horizontal human connections embrace our vertical yearnings for the holy and "heaven and earth embrace, compassion and justice kiss." (Psalm 85)

Over time a deeper truth was revealed beyond our initial act of efficiency: we began to see the eternal pattern of Christ made flesh among us through our efforts at solidarity. Daniel O'Leary expresses this theological truth exquisitely: "We are treasured beyond measure by a mercy that does not depend on our worthiness - that carries no inspection for perfection." There is a love deeper than our imagination at work in the world that binds us together in unity. It includes not only human beings, but animals, the elements and the entire cosmos. As Richard Rohr writes in his current blog post - and Diana Butler Bass articulates in her brilliant new book, Grounded - since the beginning of time, God has been calling us to live as one:

The Greek word used for Word in John's prologue is Logos. Philosophy has often defined Logos as the rational principle that governs and develops the universe. Christian theology would say it is the Divine reason, logic, or plan that was revealed in the life course of Jesus. The early sermons in Acts tried to "demonstrate that Jesus was the [Eternal] Christ" (2:36, 9:22) and therefore the deepest pattern for everything that preceded and followed him. This is a major game changer, although most will not allow their game to be changed. I like to use the word blueprint to make the point here. Every time you read "the Word" in John's prologue, just substitute the word "blueprint," and it all makes much more sense to the contemporary mind…The Primal Anointing--"Christening"--of all matter with Spirit, which began in Genesis 1:1-2, is called "the Christ" in Christian shorthand. As both Colossians (1:15-20) and Ephesians (1:3-14) make clear, Christ is "the first born of all creation," which makes everything else--you and I included--the second born. He is the Archetype and we are the Type. According to Duns Scotus, Bonaventure, and the continuing Franciscan school, Christ is Plan A from the very beginning. 

This is far different than the Plan B exercise that most of us were taught as children. Jesus, the Christ, is not a mere problem-solving answer to the issue of sin (various atonement theories), but in fact, the very meaning, purpose, direction, beauty, joy, goal, and fulfillment of the whole divine adventure. As the Book of Revelation puts it, the Christ is "the Alpha and the Omega" of all history and of all creation (1:8, 21:6,22:13). With this perspective, Christianity need not compete with other religions; rather, authentic Christians can see and respect the Christ Mystery wherever and however it is trying to reveal itself--which is all the time and everywhere, and not just in my group. This is far beyond tribal religion; in fact, it makes all tribalism impossible. In Another Turn of the Crank, our Kentucky sage, Wendell Berry, writes, "I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement [at-one-ment] with God."\

We are in this together. The greater our alliances with those beyond the ghetto we know as the Church, the stronger our social order becomes and the common good is fortified.

+ Second, we made a commitment to the wider community to share the work of our common sabbatical - the congregation's and my own - during this first year AS (after sabbatical.) In our sabbatical grant application, we were clear that not only did we want a season of sabbatical rest for ourselves - clergy and congregation - but we wanted to share the wealth of God's blessings with our wider community. Consequently, we built into our funding request resources for some benefit concerts that would integrate jazz and church with acts of healing our social wounds. 

It would be antithetical to the heart of Christ to want to keep everything to ourselves. As we sometimes proclaim in our opening Eucharistic Prayer:  "We bless you for the beauty and bounty of the earth and for the vision of the day when sharing by all will mean scarcity for none." Indeed, we have a long history of using our gifts to enrich the well-being of our wider community. During our 250th anniversary, it was pointed out that in addition our first pastor's involvement in the Revolutionary War (at the battle of Bennington), our congregation not only advocated and helped create the region's first hospital - and hospice - but also the first counseling center, too. We were founding members of Habitat for Humanity and on the ground floor of organizing both the CROP Walk to Fight Hunger as well as BIO (Berkshire Interfaith Organizing.) This concert (and the ones to follow) flows from our heritage. It gives shape and form to the counter-cultural notion that "beauty can save the world." 

+ Third, this is a kairos time moment when more and more of the Western world is realizing a powerful shift in our understanding of the Sacred. In Christian theology there are at least two notions of time - chronos and kairos - and both are real. Chronos time is, as you might guess, chronological time. It is linear, rational, sequential and the way most of us think about time most of the time. Kairos time, however, is sacred time - time that awakens us to our deepest loving potential - where the very purpose of creation is revealed and realized. It is an opportune time for tenderness, compassion and justice.

Richard Rohr wrote about this moment in creation like this and his insights resonate with mystical allies of mercy throughout the world from Pope Francis and Diana Butler Bass to small entrepreneurial green businesses and individuals practicing love and tenderness in small acts of personal tenderness.

We're living in a truly amazing time. The ever broader shape of the cosmos is becoming an ever broader shape for theology itself. [1] Our sun is nothing more than a minor star in one small part of a single galaxy. We used to believe our universe was static, but it is still expanding outward. When I was growing up, the common perception was that science and religion were definitely at odds. Now that we are coming to understand the magnificent nature of the cosmos, we're finding that many of the intuitions of the mystics of all religions are being paralleled by scientific theories and explanations. If truth is one (which it has to somehow be, if it is truth), then all disciplines are just approaching that truth from different angles and levels and questions...

Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, shared how our view of the universe and God has been evolving. During the Middle Ages, when most of our Christian theology was developed, the universe was thought to be centered around humans and the earth. Scientists saw the universe as anthropocentric, unchaning, mechanistic, orderly, predictable and hierarchical. Christians views God, the "Prime Mover," in much the same way, with the same statit and predectable characteristics - omnipotent and omnisicient, but not really loving. God was "out there" somewhere, separate from us and the universe. The unique and central message of the Christian religion - incarnation - was not really taken seriously by most Christians. In facdt, our whole plan of salvation was largely about getting away from this earth! Today, we know that the universe is old, large, dynamic, and interconnected. It is about 13.8 billion years old, and some scientists think it could still exist for 100 trillion years. The universe has been expanding since its birth. Our home planet, Earth, far from being the center of the universe, revolves around the Sun, a medium sized star in a medium sized galaxy, the Milky Way, which contains about 200 billion stars. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years in diameter. Furthermore, it is one of 100 billion galaxies in the universe. We do not appear to be the center of anything. And yet our faith tells us that we still are. This cosmic shock is still trying to sink into our psyches.

We are one people - one earth - one love. The more we can fortify these connections through beauty and peace, the clearer the vision becomes in the wider community. St. Bob Marley got it completely right...


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