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.

“Deep, deep as the ocean…”(Season of Creation 1)

Luke 5:1-11

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans which contain 97.5% of the water on the planet.

It is estimated that the oceans formed between 4.6 and 3.8 billion years ago.

Life began in the oceans because of the nutrients that were washed into the oceans and provided the content for primitive unicellular bacteria to develop, so one could say that the oceans are the primordial archetype of God as all life emerged from the oceans

It is probably this archetypical power that explains why the sea holds such a fascination and a sense of deep threat to us all. As Joseph Conrad has it, “The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.

At a psychological level, the ocean with its restless surging has often been a metaphor for the unconscious part of humanity. As Carl Jung said, “Consciousness seems like an island surrounded by the sea in which there is a self-replenishing abundance of living creatures.”

The early Hebrews had a deep respect for, and fear of, the sea.

Possibly because they had their origins as desert nomads in the Sinai Peninsula, when they came eventually to settle in Canaan, the Hebrews never became a seafaring nation, despite the fact that their entire western Border was the Mediterranean ocean. The closest the Jews came to seafaring was to be Lake-farers on the Sea of Galilee.

Today’s Season of Creation Gospel locates Jesus on the Sea of Galilee.

At the literal level (always the lowest level of meaning for literature) this is an account of the call of some Galilean fishermen to follow Jesus. That is what I would call the Sunday School level of interacting with the story. Many of us grew up with that level of interpretation and reading the narrative as adults there is the temptation to revert to only that understanding of a nursery bible story. To do that as adults is, I believe, to shirk our responsibility to seek the symbolic depth of this account of human transformation.

What is most haunting in this account is the instruction of Jesus, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” It is a command for the fishermen to trust him at the point of their impotence

Now we need to be clear that in oceanographic terms the invitation to go deeper was not a huge ask. The Sea of Galilee has a maximum depth 43 metres, which is within the capacity of a level one scuba diver. To put it is perspective the deepest place in the oceans is the Puerto Rico trench which drops to an amazing 8605 metres!  However, when you are used to keeping to the shallows, any depth is deeper than where you are.

In order to relevantly access this gospel narrative from the context of 2010, I would like to suggest that this passage has the potential for being a profound map for our own transforming following of Jesus.

Would it be too much to suggest that Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.“; could also mean, “Don’t be afraid to explore the unconscious, for there you will find nourishment.”?

  • Is it not true for many of us that our deepening experiences with Jesus happen when we are resting on the shores of our self sufficiency, thinking the work is finished?
  • Or at times when, Jesus invites us to explore something new, against our better judgement. We follow simply because a deeper authority invites us?
  • Many of us will know that when we have responded to the call of Jesus to go deeper we have discovered a harvest from the depths we have not explored before.
  • Sometimes that invitation has meant that we had to encounter and override our fear and resistance
  • Just like those fishermen, these depth encounters have been an equipping for new life tasks, and all because we risked some depth.

I am blessed to live at the ocean. I see the mysterious depths from my window where I write this. Oft times when I gaze at this ancient mass of water, and hear the voice of the surf, I glimpse that like the ocean, God is an unfathomable, mysterious presence of life giving love. I pray that I will always have the courage to risk going deeper into that abbysal love.