of Ecclesiastes seeks to share wisdom with the whole of
humanity. Today I think we can say we feel that echo – his
words resonate – guide me to help this world. If we seriously
consider the marriage of science and religion
as I proposed
last week we could share with the teacher a 13.7 billion
year common creation story, - All living things, all
cultures and belief systems, share a creation story AND we have
a response to our Wisdom teacher that would knock his socks
off. A response to his observations that there is no justice in
this world. A response to him and to us about the fear we have
of death. We do indeed have a purpose that can sustain work and
ambition without greed or envy like he saw all around him. Like
we see around today.
[I mean I
don’t disagree with his observations – do you? When you look
around, the oppressed ARE still victims. Economic, political,
environmental oppressors still gain power. We do all face
death. It is maybe the most confusing part of life. Life lived
only for greed, power, and motivated by envy of what your
brother or friend has – is no life at all. (But consider how
even those with a purpose – with principles – can become an
extreme of their own vision)]
But are the
luckiest ones in this life those that have never been born? Is
it better to not exist than to exist and know death? (I can’t
say that.) Do our religious stories provide the existential
comfort that we seek when we look at the world with the eyes
that the teacher has?
It is Jesus
who is our role model. The early gospels are a beautiful,
challenging guide for modeling a deep abiding integrity and
purpose in the face of challenge, chaos, destruction, death.
for us a trust in time, a faith in the creative power of God.
He modeled humility in the face of ignorance – with the woman
who begged at his feet for scraps of food. He had a radical
honesty and authenticity that shook the most crooked politicians
of his time and frightened most faithful followers too. He
demonstrated how compassion for even the most lost causes was an
act of faith in the future, taught personal accountability as a
deep spiritual practice and modeled a deep integrity that was
grounded in the past, aware in the present, and looked toward
lectionary text from the gospels today is from Luke – the story
of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus. It is a
resurrection story, where the disciples are walking together
discussing the past – and in their present Jesus is walking with
them but they don’t recognize him. It is as they are sharing a
meal, physically breaking bread, that they feel the emotion and
power of the past in their present. And in that powerful moment
they share a purpose for the future – have a shared story to
tell and take action to spread the good news.
Last week I
introduced some of you to a book I was reading called Thank
God for Evolution written by UCC minister Michael Dowd. (He
is another wisdom writer). He uses the phrase Deep Time to
describe the perspective humans ought to adopt. He details a
cosmic story, that is both evolutionary and spiritual and his
guide for the world in finding their way together. Deep
Time/Deep integrity honors what science and religion both offer
to this world in order to heal it.
Deep time in
the past tense means we value the contribution and sacrifices of
countless ancestors and others, human and nonhuman, who have
made this moment possible. Connie Barlow created a litany from
which I will share parts about the gifts of death to the
born, and stars die. Along the way these stars fashion the
very atoms of our bodies. Mountains are born, and mountains
die. Along the way these mountains create the particles of
sand and clay that blend with dead plants to become
soil. Glaciers come and glaciers go. Along the way they
grind rocks into new soil and sculpt ponds and lakes.
Species come and species go. Along this odyssey of
evolution, marvels emerge: eyes, limbs, feathers, song,
teaches us that we exist because of the cycle of life and death
that preceded us. Each death makes new life possible. Each new
creative emergence is nested in it’s past, is firmly grounded in
the present and is constantly moving outward, to the future.
Facing our death, or the deaths of
those around us is an act of deep integrity and we need not be
ashamed of death with our children: (more from Connie Barlow):
Cells are born, and cells die.
Along the way, the winnowing yields fingers and toes, fins
and wings, and the miracle of healing from injury. Forests
of cells are born and die, but do not let go. Along the way,
these ancestor cells stiffen into wood of uncommon strength
and endurance, allowing the living green cells to reach for
the sky. Baby animals are born in abundance, and myriad
plant seeds are cast to the wind. Along the way most of
these children become food, supporting the vast ecological
web of life. Humans are born, and humans die. Along the way
each may blossom with love, and accrue wisdom as elders, and
then by their passing make room for generations of children
now and forevermore.
Deep time in
the future tense means we accept full responsibility for
ensuring a just, healthy, beautiful, and sustainably life-giving
future for Planet Earth and its diverse species. (more from
born, and ideas die. Along the way they nourish the human
journey, onward, inward, and outward, in an arc of wonder
that now embraces a hundred billion galaxies. Love comes,
and love fades, dies, or endures. Along the way we
experience the richness of existence, sanctified by laughter
and tears. Each of us is born, and each of us will die.
Along the way our awareness of death urges us to live fully,
to give fully, and to take not one moment for granted.
I mean is that a universe we
can say yes to? Is that a life worth living?
life (yours and all life) through deep time eyes is an act of
honoring evolution because it is shaped by all that we continue
to learn about this world - it is an act faith because it
means trusting the universe, as it changes, welcoming those
challenges and little and large deaths, finding the meaning in
the new life that comes.
You see we do
have something that the animals do not have: We have the
ability to cherish and protect what continues to nourish us.
Most animals do their part naturally.
Our desire to
live and our fear of death has encouraged humans to see
themselves as more important than the other living things. More
valuable and therefore can do whatever they want. It has kept
us blind to the way in which the world uses Death naturally
and creatively at every level of reality and from celebrating
death as fully sacred - just as sacred as life. The
instinct to live is biological, and a good thing.
on the subject of death:
conflicted in my response to the death of Osama bin Laden. (how
did I feel?)
Feeling glad that Osama Bin Laden
is dead, rejoicing in his killing is not against nature.
Instincts for survival, for justice, the feelings of pride, of
national identity, of status (superiority?) – all of which upset
me this week – but that I too have felt – they are our very
early evolutionary selves still crawling out of the primordial
goo – So I not only felt the relief that so many of us did but I
also felt the deep, deep echo of time saying to the world “this
is not over.” There is more to do.
I don’t want to be spitting in the
watched the President in his address on Sunday night what stayed
with me was his reflection that “the real damage was the
enormous loss of life and the pain of losing spouses, friends,
children.” And how it was in the people we lost, in their
deaths, that we found each other, that we realized what was
important, and that we are all connected, “regardless of belief
system or political agenda.” When we meet Bin Laden’s death
with the same jubilation that he took in killing so many many
people – we are building upon that loss, deepening the chasm
that the world needs us to make new life of . I felt that way
when we got started in Afghanistan 10 years ago (I remember that
day), and I felt it on Sunday night.
As the week
progressed I found my shared reflections with others to be on a
deeper level, a more evolved level, if you will and I returned
to the sense of trust in community.
Even as we
seek to grow in evolutionary integrity - to live in the way
Jesus taught us, to heal ourselves through the spiritual and
evolutionary practices of Trust/Faith, Authenticity/Honesty,
Service/Purpose –we will feel well, as humans, we will. And it
will not be enough to save the Earth – there will be more work
to do – for as Thomas Berry says, “You cannot have well humans
on a sick planet.”
Ecclesiastes 3 & 4 through the lens of environmental justice -
We are both the oppressors and the oppressed. We are stepping
on our own toes, cutting our own breath short. We are
threatening and defeating what we could be.
selves have but a brief window of opportunity to delight in, and
contribute to, the ongoing evolution of the body of life. I for
one am still learning what it means to be responsible to the
future – and simultaneously, grateful for the comfort of knowing
that what I can contribute will be built upon by those that come
after me – and grateful that I can feel the compulsion, that I
have the awareness at all that I need to evolve, need to change
my habits, need to create new worldly comforts that do not
compromise my ability to breathe.
If the human
project is build community – be that body of Christ, the hands
that serve, the hearts that heal, the minds that make meaning –
together – a shared meaning.
response to another T. Barry quote, that “We have got to fit the
human project into the Earth project.” Is to say that the Earth
project is the same – to honor and heal that which we are all a
part of – we know the answer, whatever the answer lies with each
thanks for our shared history, and our shared present, and I
pray that we may recognize how to share the future.