The extreme cold which we have been experiencing this week reminded me of an experience of the Cosmos which left me awestruck. It happened one long-ago spring when I was working in Whitehorse for a big tour company. One morning, my boss asked me to drive to Skagway to help oversee the meet and greet of a large cruise ship. I’d been on the road for about an hour, so it must have been about 8 o’clock in the morning. In the Yukon, at that time of the year the sun wouldn’t come for a least a couple of hours. I had just pulled out of Carcross, a tiny town. In those days there was just a small general store in Carcross where, I’d picked up a cup of coffee for the road. I was sipping on the last of my coffee and thinking about how very bright the stars were up in the Yukon. The lack of city lights meant that the sky was illuminated in ways that were positively astonishing to this town dweller. I was enjoying the view, when something began to happen which caused me to pull the car over and venture out into the cold.
Now if you know me, you know that once it gets down below zero, I’m not much interested in venturing out into the cold. So, for me to have gotten out of my warm car when it was more than 25 below zero, you know that what was happening must have been something spectacular. The beauty of the star-filled sky began to dance with colours so dazzling that I could scarcely believe what I was seeing. I cannot adequately describe the dance of the Aurora Borealis. The magic of colours dancing across the sky evoked such wonder in me. I tried to imagine just how far the particles of colour had travelled in order to dance above me.
If you’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing the Northern Lights, you will understand when I say that the dance of colourful rays is breath-taking. But the sound of the Northern Lights is positively other-worldly. There’s a kind of crackling and hissing which rises to a gentle clapping as if the Cosmos itself is applauding the intricacies of the dance. Standing there in amazement, I couldn’t help but join the Cosmos in rapturous applause. Looking back on my frozen adventure, the profound beauty that continues to dance in my memory reminds me of a quote I love that comes from Sir Francis Bacon who insisted that: “God has, in fact, written two books, not just one.” Of course, we are all familiar with the first book God wrote, namely Scripture. But God has written a second book called creation. Lift up your hearts and listen again as the Cosmos declares in infinite and magnificent ways the Gospel of Christ: “I have come that they may have life and live it abundantly!”
Abundance: the dictionary defines the word abundance as an adjective meaning “existing or available in large quantities: plentiful. Copious, ample, profuse, rich, lavish, abounding, liberal, generous, bountiful, large, huge, great, bumper, prolific, teeming, plentiful, bounteous. We stand in the midst of the abundance of Creation. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and live it abundantly!” 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, look outside the windows of this humble dwelling and you will see the Earth living abundantly. Take a deep breath and you can actually taste the abundance of life, teeming life, bounteous life, plentiful life, abounding life.
The life of the Earth is indeed abundant. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and live it abundantly!” Sadly, over and over again, generations 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 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 narrative. But go outside and look around, taste and see that it is just as our ancestors imagined our CREATOR declaring after each marvellous 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. 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, or open our arms to embrace 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 is written large in the very stuff of the Earth, in our flesh and bones,
this 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 Earth 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: the LOVE out of which we are made, lives and finds expression in us. So let us, live this miraculous life of ours, abundantly, embracing all the adjectives that are synonymous with the word abundance: copious, ample, profuse, rich, lavish, abounding, liberal, generous, bountiful, large, huge, great, bumper, prolific, teeming, plentiful, bounteous.
As I stood there in the cold, my heart was strangely warmed by an overwhelming confidence that I am ONE with the stars, ONE with the dancing particles, ONE with the COSMOS, ONE with the DIVINE MYSTERY that we call GOD. I return to that ONENESS each time I remember the way the dancing particles gave way to the rising of the Sun. For after all is said and done, it was the Sun which gave birth to the solar flare that sent particles on a journey beyond my comprehension to dance before me. As the Sun began to rise, I got back into my warm car, and dug out a cassette on which I had recorded Cat Steven’s timeless version of Morning Has Broken. Centuries of glorious human endeavor brought the music to me, so that I too could offer my praise to the ONE who IS ….LOVE.
Morning has broken. Like the first morning, God’s re-creation of the new day. Morning has broken and it is Good. We are ONE with the GOOD. So, life is GOOD. So, let us live as Jesus lived, let us live this God-given, this God-infused, this GOOD life of ours abundantly. For in God, Life is GOOD, very, very GOOD!