Listen to the sermon here
Watch the video that was shown in place of the traditional readings for Reformation: Thomas Berry and the Earth Community here
Gospel Text: John 8:31-36
Ruminating over this Sunday’s prescribed reading from Job 38, my mind harkens back to 2012, when I had the privilege of attending a series of lectures given by the great Phyllis Tickle who described the current reformation that the church is experiencing as part of a cultural phenomenon that happens about every 500 years, which she calls “The Great Emergence”. When asked what skills religious leaders will need to navigate the information age, Tickle insisted that the best advice we could give to anyone considering a religious vocation was that they should study physics. Inwardly I groaned, remembering my feeble attempts to come to grips with the most rudimentary theories of quantum physics. But I also nodded in agreement, knowing that so many of our religious narratives strive to make meaning of the cosmos as it was perceived by ancient minds. When our ancestors looked into the heavens they had no way of knowing the wonders of the cosmos that we are beginning to discover. While physicists can ignore theology, theologians who ignore physics will find themselves stuck atop Job’s dung-heap impotently shaking their fists at the Divine. Perhaps Tickle is correct and the clerics of the future will out of necessity need to be physicists. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku speculates that the universe is “a symphony of strings” and the “mind of God would be cosmic music resonating through eleven dimensional hyper-space”. If you have the courage to climb down from the dung-heap, take a look at Michio Kaku’s “The Universe in a Nutshell”. If the Divine bollocking that Job endured makes you wonder if ignorance might just be bliss, then take a peek at “Is God a Mathematician?” or “The Mind of God”. Who knows, maybe if a few more of us dare to dwell in the questions we might just come up with imaginative narratives to help us fathom what it means to be human.
An excerpt from “Love Poems From God” by Daniel Ladinsky,
(Penguin Compass, London: 2002)
(1515-1582) “Teresa was born in Avila, a beautiful high mountain village of Spain. She was one of thirteen children, three girls and ten boys, in a wealthy family. The Spain in which Teresa grew up was permeated with 700 years of Arabian culture; the eradication of Arab power was followed by one of Spain’s darkest periods, the insanity of the Inquisitions, which, in the fourteenth century, along with other grievous deeds, forced mass conversions of Jews to Christianity.”
“Teresa was her father’s favourite child, and the most spirited. Her mother died during childbirth when Teresa was thirteen, after which she had little supervision. It is believed she had a lover at the age of fifteen, which caused her father to send her to a convent boarding school, only to see her return home two years later because of poor health. When she was twenty-one, Teresa ran away from home to join a convent. At that time many convents were more like hotels for women, allowing them a great deal more independence than they would be allowed at home, though after two years at the convent Teresa had a near-death experience that changed her life. A spiritual awakening began in which she cultivated a system of meditation that sought quieting the mind to such an extent that God could then be heard speaking. Over the next twenty years she experienced many mystical states but not until she was fifty did she begin the most far-reaching aspects of her life’s work.” Continue reading
When I was a kid, the adults in my life were very fond of telling me how grateful I ought to be because things were so much harder back when they were kids. I’m sure most of us can remember being told by our elders just how tough times were when they were back in the day. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and just about every adult I knew must have grown up poor. Why if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “When I was a kid we were so poor that…..” well I’d have a whole lot of nickels.
Today, when I hear the words, “We were so poor that…” I brace myself for an outrageous claim like…. We were so poor that we couldn’t afford Kraft Dinner. Kraft Dinner, you were lucky, we were so poor that we couldn’t afford dinner, all we had was a cup of cold tea without milk or sugar. Cup of Tea, we were so poor that we only had filthy cracked teacups. Filthy cracked teacups, that’s nothing we were so poor that we couldn’t afford teacups, we used to have to drink our tea out of a rolled up newspaper. That’s nothing we were so poor that all we could we couldn’t afford newspapers so we had to suck our tea from a damp cloth.
Someone always chimes in with, “Well we might have been poor, but you know we were happy in those days. That’s right money can’t buy happiness. We used to live in a tiny house, with holes in the roof. “House? You were the lucky ones we were so poor that we had to live in one room, all 126 of us, with no furniture. Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of falling! Ha! You were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in a corridor! Ohhh we were so poor we used to dream of living in a corridor! A corridor would have been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We were woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us!!! Rubbish tip, you were lucky, we were so poor that we lived in a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarp, but it was a palace to us…especially after we were evicted from our hole in the ground and we had to go live in a lake. Lake, you were lucky to have a lake, there were a 160 of us living in a small cardboard box in the middle of the road. Cardboard, we were so poor we lived for three months in a brown paper back in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down in the mines for 14 hours a day, week in week out. We had to get up out of that cardboard box at three o’clock in the morning and lick the road clean with our tongues. In case you didn’t recognize it, that was my interpretation of a classic Monty Python sketch, simply called the “We were so poor sketch”. (watch the video below) Continue reading
Let me tell you a classic Thanksgiving story created by the brilliant Garrison Keillor, which takes place on the outskirts of Lake Wobegon, where “All the women are smart. The men are good looking. And the children are above average.”
“It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” Keillor’s old home town. “There was a holiday this last week and the return of the exiles. The exiles who come back to their home. Children who’d grown up and moved away and had families, and learned how to complicate their lives in all sorts of new and interesting ways. They come back every year to a little town so much the same it’s hard to look at it and not believe you’re still twelve years old and that’s just how some of the returning children behaved too, when they came back.
A lot of them drive up from the cities with their families and they make a last stop at the Cross Roads Lounge, about ten miles down the road, as they come up over the rise and down into town, the last drags are taken on a lot of last cigarettes, and the first of a lot of breath mints are popped into their mouths and the last warnings are issued to their children, the grandchildren, in the back seat, not to talk about you know what, in front of grandpa and grandma, and remember that at grandpa and grandma’s house before we eat grandpa bows his head and we’re all supposed to be quiet that’s called asking the blessing or saying grace and grandpa is talking to God. So you remember to be quiet then and close your eyes and don’t say a word.
One of the Olsen boys was giving this speech to his children coming into town on Wednesday. He explained all of the rules and was surprised to hear a little voice pipe up from the backseat. And his daughter said, “Who is God daddy?”
He said, “Jesus Christ! What am I gonna do now?” “Two blocks from home! It’s a little late to get this kid shined up for the parents so she looks Lutheran you know.”
The Season of Creation ends today with the commemoration of St. Francis and the rhetoric of election season together with the events chronicled in Paul Moses book “The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace” inspired this sermon.
The reading from St. Francis and the Scripture reading can be found here
Listen to the sermon here