Posted in Deconstructing Power, Reflection, Sermon

The Bakery at the heart of the Universe (Season of Creation 4 – The Cosmos)

John 6:35-51

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The notion of Jesus coming down from the heavens or in more modern language, the sky, only makes sense to the world view of his day which was naturally, that of a flat earth. God lived behind the dome that held back the waters over the flat earth.

We who have seen the planet from outside have a problem with this understanding

Does this mean that we have to mistrust the words of Jesus? Not at all. What we do have to do as a matter of responsible scripture reading is lift the truth of Jesus’ teaching from the frame of the context in which that truth was taught.

Every religion which wants to retain relevance has to do this with their ancient texts. Not to do this could one of two problems. Firstly the religion would make less and less sense to people who are living in cultures with different world views, or secondly followers of those religions that do not want to translate into modern contexts would find themselves having to practice their religions in forms that would be more and more out of step with modern society. The most cursory look at religion worldwide will offer many illustrations of these two challenges.

It would seem that the more intelligent forms of Christianity are accepting the challenges of modernity and are continuing to attempt to apply the ageless wisdom of Jesus to the reality of the ever expanding body of knowledge and information that is at our disposal regarding the way the world works.

Reflecting on the realities of the Cosmos has affected the practice of our faith in very significant ways.

Allow me to highlight three

We have rediscovered the power of the feminine for our pater-dominated lives.

At present the archaeological record shows that the first artefacts to have been made by homo-sapiens about 30 000 years ago, were figurines of pot-bellied, broad hipped women.

This seems to point to the religious awe that a tenuous tribe would have had for the ability of women to produce offspring to ensure the ongoing life of the tribe. The religion of those first peoples seems to have been strongly feminine, and it was only when agrarian settlements appear that the energy shifted in religion and social life to a male dominated patriarchy and the maternal was replaced by the material energy of landed people. This strong male energy that led us ever outward in exploration and technology, but which also had its shadow side in the oppression of women, the imperialism both of politics and religion; has brought us to the very edge of a mysterious Cosmos that fills us with as much awe as it must have filled our African proto-parents when they walked into the vast world 70 000 years ago! We are once more on the edge of exploration and at the doorway of discovery. We are hungry to know more.

We have returned to the survival priorities of first peoples.

Having passed through the male-dominated phase of exploration and subjugation (some would suggest annihilation) of nature, we have arrived at the place where the old tribal survival priorities now demand that they be our global priorities. Journey, tribe, nurture, sustainability, words that described the values of first peoples are now once again on our agendas. We realise that for the foreseeable future there is only us in this part of the universe. We are the planetary tribe of earth. The survival of the tribe demands an end to any smaller agendas and pursuits that place the welfare of the whole tribe in jeopardy. Our hunger can no longer rob others of their right to heaven’s bread, neither can we hoard Jesus like moulding manna, as if he is only for our nutrition in the church.

We have taken religion from the outside to the place Jesus had directed it to so long ago, the inside, the heart.

Being confronted by this ever expanding Cosmos we have sympathy for the somewhat disputed comment of the first human space traveller Yuri Gagarin who said, “I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.” 14 April, 1961. Those of us who try to be honest with ourselves as we can, have to admit, “Neither have we” It is this confrontation with the silent vastness of space (the name “space”, says it all) that challenges us to either fall into a despairing atheism or to honestly seek for the space where God truly can be encountered. Don Cuppitt the irascible modern, non-church going theologian was heard in an podcast on Philosophy Bites to declare that Jesus was essentially the world’s first Humanist. What he seems to mean by this is that Jesus was one of the first to point to the inner “space” as the most significant for human encounter with God.

Carl Jung of course saw it too, “We are living in what the Greeks called the right time for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” i.e. of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science.

Jung is also alleged to have said, “If you will not go within, you will have to go without” Living on the Third Rock from the Sun in a rather obscure corner of the universe is not as threatening as it may at first seem. Rather, it has brought us away from outer male dominated ritual forms to inner feminine forms of encounter with the God of the Macro and Micro Cosmoi. The God who invites us as God always has, to integrate our split an divided selves and societies, into the non-dual unity that has always been God’s true nature. Here at this one point of the infinite void of the Cosmos, I encounter in my very being, the One who breaks bread and feeds my soul.

So on this Cosmos Sunday of the Season of Creation, I celebrate the return of the feminine to our thinking, the return to first people’s priorities for survival, and the journey inward that has been necessitated by the encounter with the vastness of the Cosmos.

I am a pilgrim of the one Earth tribe, nurtured by the One, whom we all call God. The God of Bread from heart and heaven. The Baker at the heart of the Universe.

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Posted in Conflict resolution, Deconstructing Power, Reflection, Sermon

Danger! Crossing Ahead. (Season of Creation 3 – Storms)

Listen to this sermon as it was preached on Archive.org

Luke 8:22-25

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’

There is something inherently threatening about crossings. So many people have lost their lives crossing rivers, crossing mountains, even crossing the road!

When I first saw this topic included in the the Season of Creation themes I wondered what it could have to say about the creation.  I have realised in my reflections that storms are usually due to, and the agents of change in the natural order.  High and Low pressure systems, Tectonic plate pressure bursts, all herald a change and the crossing from one stasis to another.  As such they parallel our life journeys

Today’s Gospel is an account of such a crossing. Luke tells us that one day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and said, “Let’s cross over to the other side“. A harmless intention on the surface, but as it turns out a choice that had life threatening consequences. As I have said before, if we remain stuck in the literal, lowest level meaning of this narrative we will have a good Sunday School story of which we can draw pictures and cardboard cut outs. The reality is however, that you and I are no longer seven years old and our adulthood therefore demands that we find a deeper significance in this story if we are to do justice to it.

As so often happens in the Gospel narratives, when we agree to look beyond the storyline we discover yet another metaphorical map that is of profound use for the journey into wholeness.

So let’s look a bit deeper and discern the choice, the crisis, the call, and the calm in this crossing story.

As I said, crossings can be dangerous. Any decision to cross the unknown for the sake of transformation is fraught with danger. For Jesus it was a decision to go to the foreign country of the Gerasenes, and we do well to remember that their first encounter after disembarking is with a demoniac! There are always dark energies like the Nazgul, in Lord of the Rings, who seek to suck the soul from those who wish to cross from mediocrity to higher awareness. Mental hospitals and rehab centres the world over, are filled with people who took too lightly the crises inherent in their choices. Choices that do not have the potential of life threatening crisis within them are trivial and non-transformative. A few minutes watching television advertising will give us enough examples of trivial choices that are fed to us as real transforming choices. Do we really think being “spoiled for choice” when it comes to toilet sprays is transforming?

The fact that Jesus falls asleep as they are sailing is a beautiful childlike cameo in the piece. The one’s who truly know their identity and their destiny can allow themselves to be at peace in the midst of danger. Jesus models what the Psalmist knew, “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lo rd, make me lie down in safety.

For the untransformed and fragmented soul, however, the encounter with the powers of the deep; both the wind and the waves of our undigested shadow material that emerge when we decide to cross over to transformation, can be scary indeed! The disciples are overwhelmed with fear.

I have been intrigued and disturbed by the waves and winds of fear that wracked America this past week with the anniversary of 911. I am appalled at the fear mongering that is going on in my own country. Fear constricts us and paralyses us. It makes skilful fishermen doubt that they can make it in a storm on their familiar lake. The real heart of the storm of course is the fear of change. Was the storm really that bad or did the disciples just not want to go to the territory of the Gerasenes?

Finally at the height of the crisis there is the call to Jesus ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’. It is a constant prayer of mine that each person who finds themselves overwhelmed with the fears and cares of life, will have a Master sleeping in their vessel. Too many panic driven decisions to suicide, divorce, addiction and self abuse, come from forgetting to wake the Master sleeping in our battered boats.

The calm that Jesus brings is truly, the “peace that passes understanding“, isn’t it?

It is a peace that comes from the same source that enabled him to sleep through the crossing. No matter how frightening the crossing, the true hero and heroine knows that what arises also passes. It only our fear that makes us think that bad things cannot be transformed and redeemed. “O we of little faith

The disciples are of course, amazed when the storm stops and they experience the calm of post-adrenal quiet, both externally and viscerally. Bemused, they “said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”

We are left to give our own answer to their question. My answer to the question is, “He is the one whom I want to become

Anyone coming with me for the ride?

Posted in Conflict resolution, Deconstructing Power, Reflection

Why am I so needy?

Luke 12:22-31

He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

An indigent Indian poet with the musical name of Simanta Chattergee, once said to Robert Johnson, ‎”If I began thinking about needs, I would sink to the bottom of the world. If I don’t think, I get what I need

Fauna Sunday in the season of creation, is an invitation to invert our arrogant assumed dominance of the created order and to contemplate the inherent wisdom of the creation which witnesses to the provision of God far more than we, who claim to be the crown of that creation, do.

The following is an excerpt from a CNN report dated May 10, 2010 (

CNN) — The world’s eco-systems are at risk of “rapid degradation and collapse” according to a new United Nations report. The third Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) published by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) warns that unless “swift, radical and creative action” is taken “massive further loss is increasingly likely.” Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the CBD said in a statement: “The news is not good. We continue to lose biodiversity at a rate never before seen in history.” The U.N. warns several eco-systems including the Amazon rainforest, freshwater lakes and rivers and coral reefs are approaching a “tipping point” which, if reached, may see them never recover.

Whilst some of the extinctions can perhaps be viewed as part of the ongoing process of evolution and the natural selection process which sees the survival of the fittest, nevertheless, we cannot exonerate ourselves from being a conscious participant in the extinctions. It is important for us to note that for the first time in the history of the planet, apart from God’s role in things, evolution and extinction are being affected by a species which is aware of what we are doing, whilst we are doing it!

Some of the major human threats to species are well known but at the risk of redundancy, let me list them once again:

  • Unsustainable hunting
  • Trophy hunting of large predators
  • Introduction of exotic species
  • Habitat destruction

I am not so sure that Jesus’ prayer from the cross is applicable in this case. Remember as Jesus was being crucified, he prayed,” Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing“? I think we know exactly what we are doing but we have made a critical error of judgement. We have failed to discern our role in the vast drama of this complex and beautiful planetary play. By a cunning sleight of hand, our dominant egos have tricked us to believe that everything exists to fulfil our needs and not the other way around.

Jesus grasped it in the gospel reading for this second Sunday in the season of creation. And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

  • The nations of the world” as Jesus refers to them. Seem to be those who have not grasped the secret of God’s reign, or as someone called it, “the God first principle”.
  • Your Father knows that you need them” begs the question as to whether I like all the other created species can place my dependence on God to provide what is needed. (Am I the only one, or do you also hear a thousand arguments arise as you read this? I wonder whose voice those arguments are using? My parents, teachers, financial advisors all baulk at this concept.)
  • “Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” There was a time when “seeking first the kingdom of God” meant I had to go into the world and get everyone to think and act like Christians do. I no longer believe that. I believe that Christianity as it is commonly practiced is a far from Jesus as the Pharisees were. No, striving for the Father’s kingdom has come to mean for me a radical reconsideration of what it means to form my life around following Jesus.

In that process I have had to confront my culture and all that it has indoctrinated me to believe.

That process has, in turn, taught me that striving for the Kingdom of the Father is a lifelong search for the places where nurturing and not destruction is taking place. My search for nurturing rather than destructive teachings has taken me outside of my own religion into a global community of concerned people who are together and individually searching for ways to heal and not to hurt.

For example I have learned from a maverick Japanese farmer called Masanobu Fukuoka, who wrote, The One-Straw Revolution that:

To the extent that people separate themselves
from nature, they spin out further and further from the centre. At the same time, a centripetal effect asserts itself and the desire to return to nature arises. But if people merely become caught up in reacting, moving to the left or to the right, depending on conditions, the result is only more activity. The non moving point of origin, which lies outside the realm of relativity, is passed over, unnoticed.

I believe that even “returning-to-nature” and anti-pollution activities, no matter how commendable, are not moving toward a genuine solution if they are carried out solely in reaction to the over development of the present age. Nature does not change, although the way of viewing, nature invariably changes from age to age. No matter the age, natural farming exists forever as the wellspring of agriculture.

This wise man also said:

To disrupt nature and then to abandon her is harmful and irresponsible.

So I have learnt that ravens and lilies have a wisdom, which Jesus understood and which when grasped is liberating for the troubled human soul.

My maternal grandmother had a simple plaque that used to hang in her kitchen. It read:

Said a sparrow to another,

“I would really like to know,

Why all these human beings

Rush and scurry so?”

Said the other little sparrow

“It seems pretty clear to me

They don’t have a heavenly Father

Such as cares for you and me.”

The secret seems to be that when I trust God first in all things, as ravens and lilies do, I then don’t have to worry about discerning need from greed.

The words of that indigent Indian poet have is so well, ‎”If I began thinking about needs, I would sink to the bottom of the world. If I don’t think, I get what I need