Jesus Dancing Upon the Rings of Saturn – a sermon for Good Shepherd Sunday, Easter 4A

Readings included:  Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23, John 10:1-10

Technical difficulties resulted in a failure to record the audio of today’s sermon. You can read the sermon below.  Before you read the sermon watch the video: Crashing Into Saturn

As a little girl, I remember staring long and hard at a model of our solar system. My young eyes were drawn to Saturn. Round and round and round my eyes followed those rings marvelling at the mystery of those colourful rings. I remember wondering if Jesus could dance upon the rings. I didn’t have much of a grasp of who Jesus was but I had the distinct impression that Jesus existed somewhere in the great beyond; a place beyond our grasp, out of reach, far away. I imagined Jesus dancing upon the rings of Saturn followed by a large flock of sheep, bouncing up and down much the way sheep do in meadows; colourful meadows, that’s how I saw those mysterious rings; colourful meadows on which Jesus danced, and sheep bounced.

This week, as I watched the animation of  Casini crashing through the rings of Saturn and listened to the sounds of something and nothing brushing against the outside of the spacecraft, I heard a sound emanating from my imagination: “Baaa, Baaa, Baaa!”  and there on the big screen inside my tiny brain, I saw Jesus dancing, and sheep bouncing.

The Cosmos is a vast, expansive, MYSTERY in which we live and move and have our being. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Within this vast, expansive, Mystery I have everything I need to live life abundantly. I can lie down in not just green, but colourful pastures.

My English teachers always insisted that we ought not mix our metaphors, but as Casini crashes through Saturn’s rings, I am overwhelmed by the mixtures of metaphors that dart all around us, encircling us in a plethora of abundances. We don’t have words to convey the splendor with which our cups runneth over.

“Baaa, Baaa, Baaa!” We are like sheep darting back and forth not knowing where to begin to partake of the sweet, succulent grasses that promise to nourish, ground, and sustain us all the days of our lives. Jesus insisted that he came that you might have life and live it abundantly.

Abundant life! Allow me if you will to ask a good Lutheran question, a question that Lutherans have been trained for 500 years, to ask, a question that Luther asked over and over again in his Small Catechism: “What does this mean?” Abundant life, what does it mean to have life and live it abundantly?

Today, as the rain falls, and the grass grows, we can’t help but see spring bursting forth. We are in the midst of the abundance of Creation. Abundant life, abounding life, generous life, bountiful life, large life, huge life, great life, bumper life, liberal life, prolific life, teeming life, plentiful life, bounteous life.  Look around and you will see the Cosmos living abundantly.  Take a deep breath and you can taste the abundance of life, teeming life, bounteous life, plentiful life, abounding life.  The life of the Cosmos is indeed abundant.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and live it abundantly!”

Sadly, over and over again, generation upon generations of the followers of Jesus have failed to embrace the Gospel, which Jesus lived as he proclaimed the Good News of abundant life, by living fully, loving extravagantly and being all that he was created to be.  For too long now the followers of Jesus have failed to embrace abundance as the core, the very essence of the gospel.   We have opted for a smaller, lesser, more confining, indeed, a more restricting narrative with which to proclaim the gospel.  For most of the past 2000 years, the master narrative the followers of Jesus have chosen to tell has been the story of the fall of Adam and Eve and the need from redemption through the suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  Humanity has been defined as fallen, broken, in bondage, sinful, less than, small, worthy of contempt.  The followers of the One whose passion was the gift of abundant life, have opted for a story that portrays life as little more than a testing ground for some other life, some after-life, some place other than where we are now, a place to which we can escape the smallness of this life.

But look around, taste and see that it is as our ancestors imagined our Creator declaring after each marvelous day in the Genesis of Creation, it is good, it is very good.

Human beings are in the words of Julian of Norwich, “not just made by God, we are made of God.” We are in God and God is in us because we are made of God. What’s more, this amazing Cosmos is not something separate or apart from us, we are in and of the Cosmos. The Cosmos is in God and God is in the Cosmos, and yet, this LOVE that we call God is not limited by the Cosmos.

This sacred communion of which we are a part is positively teeming with diversity. There are no duplications, each precious part of the Cosmos is unique, each part intimately connected. The sheer abundance of the Cosmos is beyond our comprehension and yet so very accessible if we but reach out and touch it, or open our eyes to see it, our open our arms to embrace it, or open our minds to imagine it, or breathe deeply to draw life within it.

This gospel of abundance is so much bigger than the story we have chosen to tell. Carefully studying the book that our Creator has written which we call the Cosmos, it is clear, in the words of Thomas Berry, that: “Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human.”

Embracing the abundant life that Jesus lived to proclaim, requires the faith to open ourselves to the splendor of the Cosmos of which we are an intricate part.  The ongoing revelations provided by the Cosmos are clear for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

As Berry so beautifully puts it, “in the unfolding dynamics  of the universe, we can see with confidence the continuing revelation that takes place in and through the earth. From the beginning the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth, if this same dynamism brought forth the continents and seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process. Sensitized to such guidance from the very structure and functioning of the universe, we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture.” The gospel, the good news written large in the very stuff of the Earth, in our flesh and bones, this is the good news that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, fit for abundant life. Yes, we are still evolving into all that we were created to be. Yes, this evolution can be fearsome and will break us in ways that are painful, as we are shaped and molded by this compelling force pulling us deeper and deeper into the fullness of our being. Yes, we are incomplete, but as we look to the Cosmos we see that the secrets of our evolution lie in our attraction to one another, our completeness is to be found in the ONENESS into which we are drawn by the very ONE we call God; the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being, this LOVE that we call God.

We are created for more. The Good news of abundant life, is that the LOVE out of which we are made, lives and finds expression in us.

As the spacecraft Casini crashes through the rings of Saturn, I hear in my minds ear, my own heart tremble at the sheer magnitude of abundance and it is almost too much to bear the explosive ending that we all know is coming. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I have come that you may have life and live it abundantly. What does this mean?

What could Jesus mean, live it abundantly? Jesus, who commanded that we LOVE one another the way that he has LOVED us. How exactly did Jesus LOVE?

Could it be that Jesus was so open to the power of the LOVE that is God that Jesus was able to live his life fully without fear? Can we who aspire to follow Jesus, can we be open the power of the LOVE that is God so that we too can live our lives fully without fear?

Jesus lived life abundantly, loved abundantly without fear. Jesus was so open to the power of the LOVE that is God that Jesus would not let the powers of darkness, nor the shadow of death stop him from loving and living fully. The kind of LOVE that Jesus embodied and taught has no boundaries. No darkness, no power, no fear, not even death can limit the power of LOVE.  For if LOVE is limited by death, then love will always be qualified and quantified. That Jesus was willing to LOVE without boundaries, came at great cost to himself. But Jesus was willing to pay that price in order to show others the way; the way to LOVE without limit, without fear, without boundaries.

LOVE without boundaries is abundant life. That Jesus’ LOVE endured the worst that the world could send his way, that Jesus’ LOVE was for all the world,           dead and buried, and yet continues to burst free from the grave, bears witness to the power of LOVE. That Jesus’ LOVE could not be destroyed, not even by the thing we fear the most, death itself, saves us from the need to fear death.

Jesus has shown us the way. We can live abundant lives that are free from the fear of death.

Because Jesus has shown us the way, we are free to live fully, to love extravagantly and be all that we were created to be. LOVE shines in the darkness of the Cosmos and the darkness shall not overcome LOVE. If Jesus, life, death, and resurrection teach us anything, surely, they teach us not to be afraid. Not to be afraid of the darkness. Not to be afraid of living fully. Not to be afraid of loving extravagantly. Not to be afraid of the powers of evil. Not to be afraid of the power of death.

LOVE will endure. All will be well.

Jesus can’t save us from life. There is evil to contend with. There will be darkness and there will be death. Jesus couldn’t save himself and he cannot save us from life.  Darkness and death are part of life.   Each of us must walk into the darkness that lies before us.   We can beg God to take the cup from us!   But the darkness will still come.   And there will be days when the darkness will triumph.   There are good Fridays too many to mention out there.   We can shout all we want for Jesus to save us, but in the end we too will have to take up our cross and find a way to follow Jesus into the darkness and beyond, trusting that even though it feels for all the world, that God has forsaken us, we will make it beyond the darkness. The cross will not look the same for each of us. But there will be crosses to bear.

Jesus has showed us the way.  If we are to follow Jesus, then we must love one another the way that Jesus loved.   LOVE is the way beyond the darkness.  Do not be afraid of evil, of death, or of the darkness.  Follow Jesus who by love frees us from the power of darkness to hold us captive to our fears, so that we can have life and live it abundantly.

How exactly did Jesus love? Without limit.

What did Jesus save us from? Our fears.

Surely, we can frolic in these colourful pastures! Baa, Baa, Baa,

Morning has Broken for Christ is risen. Life is abundant. Let us live as Jesus lived, let us live this God-given, this God-infused life of ours abundantly. For in God, Life is Good, very very Good! We are created for more. The Good news of abundant life, is that the LOVE out of which we are made,

lives and finds expression in us.

So, let us live this miraculous life of ours, abundantly, loving as Jesus loved, without boundaries, without fear. For in God, our Lover, Beloved, and Love itself, life is abundant!

 

 

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