Evolution of the Theory – 2

Some notes on the last half of Chapter 4, Evolution of the Theory…

http://fft3.com/utility/convert/index.php?a=config A cosmic lens

Beasts 4-7 Cosmic lens
Does the ‘stuff of the world’ have an innate creativity? (see Beasts, p. 117)

The current consensus is that the universe originated about 13.7 billion years ago, in the ‘Big Bang’.  Looking at biological evolution through the lens of cosmic evolution makes life’s propensity for novelty more comprehensible.    Even in the early phase, the rate of cosmic expansion was calibrated ‘just right’: the proper rate of expansion created the right conditions for galaxies with all their different bodies to form.

We do not know exactly how life originated, but an extraordinary degree of ‘fine tuning’ in the cosmos’ basic structures, laws and properties of matter-energy set up the conditions for life as we know it to begin. Placing the origin of species within the larger framework of the history of the universe casts an illuminating light on life on earth in several specific ways:

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Earth Day 2015

http://crossfitraze.com/wedding-at-the-box/ Preached on April 19, 2015

can i buy gabapentin online CHRIST’S BODY IN OUR WORLD
buy prednisone tablets online Earth Day 2015bluemarblepic how to purchase isotretinoin A Prayer from St. Teresa of Avila *

Christ has no body but ours,
No hands, no feet on earth but ours,
Ours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Ours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Ours are the hands with which he blesses all the world….
Christ has no body now on earth but ours.
* Adapted from Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Today is Earth Day – What is the Church saying? *

In February, a group of Anglican Bishops gathered in South Africa to build on months of conversations carried out via the internet. The group included bishops from cultures and nations that are major contributors to climate change – and bishops from cultures that are suffering because of climate change. In March, they issued their collective statement:

“We accept the evidence of science: Human activity, especially in fossil-fuel based economies, is the main cause of the climate crisis…The problem is spiritual as well as economic, scientific and political. We have been complicit in a theology of domination. While God committed the care of creation to us, we have been care-less – but we are not hopeless…“In the words of St Theresa of Avila, we are God’s hands and feet on earth:  Now is the time for us, rooted in prayer, to step up and take action on the climate crisis.”

* The World Is Our Host: A Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice, March 2015

Today is Earth Day – What are the Scriptures saying?

From the Gospel:   The disciples were gathered together and were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed!” While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence…. Luke 24:36f

What this Gospel says to me:  Although at first the disciples think the Risen Christ is a spirit – a ghost – Jesus is NOT just a spirit. He is not another ‘human’ being like themselves (he appears in the room even though the door is locked). But neither is he just a ‘spiritual’ being (he invites them to touch his hands and feet, and then he asks for food).

The disciples saw that in Jesus, God is present in and through the material world – how, they didn’t know (and we still don’t know). But they trusted their experience of Jesus; in fact, the experience of the Risen Christ was so powerful for them that most of them eventually stopped trying to figure out how it all happened.

(Our minds, influenced by modern materialism, want to understand before we can trust our experience.  In fact, we are so consumed by trying to understand how things work that we have almost stopped looking for the experience. If the Risen Christ appeared to us today, could we set aside our questions long enough to simply experience his presence?)

What did the disciples conclude from their experience? That God surrounds the creation, that God is fully present in the creation – and that God is present with us through Love.

But – here’s the thought that’s been rolling around in my mind this Easter season:

It is easier to believe Jesus rose from the dead than to believe that God loves us.

It is easier to believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead
than to believe that God actually loves me.

And yes, it is easier to believe that Jesus rose from the dead
than to believe that his Spirit’s Love gives us the power to change the world.

From the first lesson:   See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are… Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when God is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see God as he is…. 1 John 3:1f

What John’ letter says to me:  Throughout this Easter season, we will be hearing portions of John’s first letter, written half a century after the Risen Christ appeared to the disciples.  In his old age, John is telling his community that God loves them. He tells them that someday they will know God fully:  when God is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see God as he is….   And someday we will know fully – but we have to start believing now:

It was God’s Love that raised Jesus from the dead. Indeed, it was because of God’s Love that Jesus endured his suffering. The Love that created us, the Love that creates the world, is so powerful that it breaks down doors, it opens graves, and it can make it possible for us to work together to change the world.

Today is Earth Day – what is the liturgy saying?

We Anglicans are blessed by the riches of the Book of Common Prayer – but other traditions can also give us new words, give us expanded visions of God and God’s world, and can help us learn how to care for the world God has given us. And so our liturgy this morning comes from a number of cultures – from New Zealand, Scotland, and England, as well as other American churches.

All these liturgies are telling us that if God is present in and through the material world – then God cares about the whole material world – its atmosphere, its resources, its species, everything – not just the human species.

(4) But before we start: Muir’s bear *

Hiking through Yosemite, John Muir came upon a dead bear lying in the forest. Writing later in his journal, Muir bitterly complained about religious folk who believed there is no room in heaven for such a noble creature.

“Not content with taking all of earth, they also claim the celestial country as the only ones who possess the kinds of souls for which that imponderable empire was planned.” These magnificent creatures, however, are expressions of God’s power “inseparably companioned by love.” They are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bear’s days are warmed by the same sun, and his life, pulsing with a heart like ours, was poured from the same First Fountain. With our stingy spirit we may want to block this creature from heaven. To the contrary, Muir said, “God’s charity is big enough for bears.”

* quoted in Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, by Elizabeth Johnson (p. 228)

So think of the ‘bears’ that are lying in wait for YOU –
in  the forests, the mountains, the trees, the beasts, the waters, the earth, the air.

Ask yourself:
what needs touch MY heart,
what cause awakes MY compassion,
what job might be MY job?

(5) Holy, Holy, Holy 

Whenever we sing the Sanctus, we are remembering the prophet Isaiah’s vision.

Worshiping in the great Temple of Jerusalem, Isaiah saw the glory of God: the curtain covering the Holy of Holies, the most sacred room in the Temple, was opened – and Isaiah saw God’s throne and God, surrounded by angels and clouds of incense. And Isaiah cried out:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Isaiah 6:1f – BCP p. 362

But today, when we say the Sanctus, we will be using words from New Zealand:

Holy, holy, holy:
God of mercy, giver of life;
earth and sea and sky
and all that lives,
declare your presence and your glory.
NZPB p. 469

Notice that again the curtain covering the Holy of Holies is opened, but we are not seeing God dwelling in a room inside a temple, even a great Temple, surrounded by liturgical incense and music. No, we are seeing God’s glory present in the whole world, because :

earth and sea and sky and all that lives declare your presence and your glory…

and the curtain has been taken away from before our eyes.

(6) Today’s commitment – what are we saying?

As we come to the end of the Eucharistic Prayer today, we will ask God to

Empower our celebration with your Holy Spirit,
feed us with your life,
fire us with your love,
and confront us with your justice,
and make us one with every creature on earth
NZPB p. 470

How can we dare to pray that prayer together?

Dare we believe that God is in our world – in this material world?

Dare we believe that God is calling us to bring healing to his beloved world?

Dare we believe that we have the strength to take on this call?

Dare we believe that God will give us the Love that makes such effort imaginable?

Dare we believe that God will give us the Love that makes our part bearable?

This is my prayer for today:
that God will empower our celebration,
us with Christ’s life,
fire us with the Spirit’s love,
confront us with the call to justice,
and make us one with every creature on earth
that cries out for healing, for justice, and for love.

Preached by the Rev. Donna Ross at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church
Earth Day – April 19, 2015

The Story of the Universe

After our February 12 discussion Barry Turner writes,

Thank you to John Horsley for a very intriguing glimpse into the science of evolution since Darwin himself. John mentioned very briefly that what he was saying to us was about the science of natural selection and the origin of species, but not about a sense of meaning that we might attach to the process.

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Lovers of All Creation

Preached on March 8, 2015

Galilee framed

Early morning in Galilee

The first chapter of Mark’s gospel ends with the story of Jesus’ first day of ministry:

Jesus entered the synagogue and taught the congregation… Then he healed a man with an unclean spirit… Then he left the synagogue and went to Peter’s home, where he healed Peter’s mother-in-law… When the sun set, crowds of people came to Peter’s home, begging to be healed, and then he cured many who were sick, and cast out many demons…. (Mark 1:21-34)

And now Mark adds one more sentence: In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35-37)

Even Jesus needed silence and peace – and one of the places he found that peace was the natural world. Perhaps he even went into the natural world to be healed himself – that is, to be put back together, to be re- centered in God.

Throughout my adult life I’ve often thought of Jesus’ own need for rest and healing – as a human being, how could he keep going without it? I thought of his need for rest as I served as a pastor in busy parishes; I thought of his need for rest as I taught young children in public school; but most of all I thought of him when I was mothering small children at home, day after day after day.

We all need the healing that comes from a loving God – even Jesus. And each of today’s lessons points to the healing that comes from God:

• Again and again, Mark’s gospel will show us Jesus’ compassion, his desire to lift people up, his power to heal: Now Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and she served them. (Mark 1:31)

• The prophet Isaiah also speaks of the power of God to lift up, to heal: The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth… He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless… Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

As we Christians have learned the story of Jesus’ life in the Scriptures, seen the examples of his caring and compassion in his life and in the lives of his saints, we have learned of God’s compassion for human beings; we have learned that God is a God of love. But perhaps we need to look more closely at the Biblical story, because there’s another theme in all these texts: God loves the world. That is, God loves the whole world, not just human beings – and God wants to heal the whole world – this whole exhausted world.

Of course, for most of my life I have deeply believed that God loves the world – but Elizabeth Johnson, and many other modern theologians, have shown me that in the past when I’ve thought of ‘the world,’ I’ve thought of the world of human beings – we are the ones Jesus came to save.

But: What if God really loves the whole world?

These are primary themes of Elizabeth Johnson’s Ask the Beasts, which we’ve been discussing here on Thursday mornings:

The Christian God is a God of love and compassion.…and God’s compassion is not just for humans – it is for the whole universe, for the earth and all its species.

The world we live in – its environments, its species – is in need of healing. We are at a truly critical point in our planet’s history. The earth’s peoples are in need of healing – from disease, yes, but also from the harm we do each other. The earth itself – its lands, its seas, its air – is also in need of healing – mostly from the harm humans have done. As God loves the world, as God wants to heal the world, God calls us to work together to bring healing to the whole world – its peoples, its species, its lands and seas and skies.

Both science and faith can guide us as we seek to heal God’s world.

Ask the Beasts begins: “This world evolved in all its splendor without human help. It was the context in which the human species itself evolved, and daily provides irreplaceable nourishment for human bodies and spirits. In our day the world’s future is in jeopardy due to human action and inaction, destructive behavior shot through with a disastrous failure of our vaunted intelligence and virtue. … This book charts a way to see that far from being simply ‘nature’ in a neutral sense, and far from being made only for human use, these living species have value in their own right.”

Elizabeth Johnson’s title, Ask the Beasts, comes from a passage in the book of Job. Job’s friends have been telling him that his suffering is his own fault. If he would just follow the prescription of their traditional religion and confess his sins, God would restore him to health. Job sees God as far more complex and mysterious than their traditional religion teaches, and so he retorts, Ask the beasts, and they will tell you – speak to the birds of the air, the plants of the earth, and the fish of the sea, and they will instruct you. (Job 12:7f)

But when we humans begin to ‘ask the beasts’, Johnson says, “this seems a simple thing to do: consult the creatures of the earth and listen to the religious wisdom they impart. Given Christian theology’s longstanding preoccupation with the human drama, however – and we are a fascinating lot – the invitation to consult the plants and animals asks for a change of method. We have to step outside the usual presumption of human superiority to place something else at the center of our attention.”  We have to shift to those parts of the world who have been silenced, or who have never had a voice.

Ask the Beasts conducts a dialogue – between Darwin’s theory of evolution in The Origin of Species and an exploration of the meaning of the Nicene Creed. (This month and last, we have been discussing Darwin’s theory of evolution – we’ll get to the theology later this spring.)  Johnson writes, “Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species gives full play to life’s natural character by charting its emergence through the interplay of law and chance over millions of years and thousands of miles. The Nicene creed witnesses to the gracious God who creates, redeems, and strengthens these same evolving species, grounding hope for their ultimate future. One scientific account, one religious testimony: my wager is that the dialogue between both sources – one in the realm of reason, the other in the realm of faith – can build a theology that supports an ecological ethic of love for Earth’s community of life.”

In our discussions, we are seeking to conduct a dialogue between science and faith:

• stretching our minds to understand the science explaining how the world works

• stretching our faith to understand a God big enough to embrace the whole world

And we are also singing a new hymn each time we meet, because our hymns reflect our theology – that is, how we think about God.  Sometimes a hymn can make us think about God in a new – and bigger – way, that is:

• stretching our image of Godbeyond the box we keep God in

The contemporary poet and hymn-writer, Brian Wren, has written a hymn which speaks of God’s care for the whole earth.

Great Lover, calling us to share your joy in all created things,
from atom-dance to eagles’ wings, we come and go, to praise and care.
This is a God who rejoices in all creation,
a God who is lover of the whole universe, not just lover of humankind.
What is your image of God?

In the passage from Isaiah, God is above the world, looking down; acting upon the world.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is in the world, reaching out to us; acting within the world.
In the hymn, God is called great Lover and questing Spirit;
God is seen acting within the world, around the world.
How do you see God in your mind’s eye?
Above the world, looking down? Acting within the world?
Remote from your own concerns? Walking with you in the Spirit?
Sometimes with you, sometimes not?

Self-giving Lover, since you dare to join us in our history,
embracing all our destiny, we’ll come and go with praise and care.
God as self-giving Lover weaves in and through creation,
there at the beginning and with us all the way to the end,
joining the world in its history, sharing its destiny…
Our image of God will shape our image of ourselves.
How are you a self-giving lover? How do you care for God’s creation?

Though sure of resurrection-grace, we ache for all earth’s troubled lands
and hold the planet in our hands, a fragile, unprotected place.
Earth’s troubled lands could be the peoples of Syria, Nigeria, Central America…
It could be rain-forests steadily cut down,
mountains destroyed by mine tailings,
rivers and seas and sea-life choked by oil…
Which of ‘earth’s troubled lands’ do you ache for?

Your questing Spirit longs to gain no simple fishing-ground for souls,
but as life’s story onward rolls, a world more joyful and humane.
‘No simple fishing-ground for souls….’
Christians need to work for a more human world,
living our faith within this beautiful world God has made.
What can you do to make this world more humane?

As midwives who assist at birth, we give our uttermost, yet grieve
lest folly, greed or hate should leave a spoiled, aborted, barren earth.
Our image of God shapes our communities as well as ourselves:
We’re called to work not just as individuals, but as a community.
because there’s no way any one of us can do all the caring.
Working together, can we help bring a new world to life?

A homily preached at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church, Los Osos
March 8, 2015


Great Lover, Calling Us to Share

Great Lover, calling us to share your joy in all created things,
from atom-dance to eagles’ wings, we come and go, to praise and care.

Though sure of resurrection-grace, we ache for all earth’s troubled lands
and hold the planet in our hands, a fragile, unprotected place.

Your questing Spirit longs to gain no simple fishing-ground for souls,
but as life’s story onward rolls, a world more joyful and humane.

As midwives who assist at birth, we give our uttermost, yet grieve
lest folly, greed or hate should leave a spoiled, aborted, barren earth.

Self-giving Lover, since you dare to join us in our history,
embracing all our destiny, we’ll come and go with praise and care.

by Brian Wren – Copyright 1989 – Bring Many Names
Hope Publishing Company

Poems from our Discussion – February 12

Carol McPhee introduces two poems illustrating how the way of writing called ‘naturalism’ was influenced by social Darwinism:  “They’re not particularly good poems, certainly not the best their writers produced, but they do illustrate some of the concepts. Edgar Lee Masters’ simple, realistic language without much adornment is characteristic of the school, and so is the cynicism about human life on earth. Robinson Jeffers’ poem is a good example of the idea that violence and war are valuable for human life.”

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The Dwelling Place of God

Elizabeth Johnson asks,

“How can we speak of the creating, redeeming, re-creating God of life
in view of evolution? 

“For the sake of the intelligibility of belief in our day, as well as a basis for right moral action, it is essential that a Christian theology of evolution locate this drama within the very heart of God.”       ( Ask the Beasts, p. 121)

What would ‘a Christian theology of evolution’ look like?

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Poems, Prayers and Promises – the Prayers

From our discussion of ‘The Dwelling Place of God’, on February 19

Barry Turner contributes suggestions for prayer from Christine Valters Paintner’s
Water, Wind, Earth and Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements
We highly recommend this book for meditations this Lent *

Organized around “The Canticle of the Creatures” by St. Francis of Assisi, Water, Wind, Earth, and Fire explores the ways in which praying with the natural elements can enliven Christian spiritual life. In this brilliant book, Benedictine Oblate Christine Valters Paintner synthesizes concrete ideas, simple prayers, and a wealth of thought-provoking quotations on the spiritual significance of the four elements.

Beasts 5-2 fire

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Poems, Prayers and Promises – Images for Prayer

From our discussion of ‘The Dwelling Place of God’, on February 19

Poems, poetic images, art, music…
in addition to their beauty,
they invite us into the mysterious fullness of reality,
a Reality we cannot comprehend without remaining open to its fullness.

Richard Rohr writes (in The Naked Now)

Non-dual thinking is “our ability to read reality in a way that is not judgmental, in a way that is not exclusionary of the part that we don’t understand.  When you don’t split everything up according to what you like and what you don’t like, you leave the moment open, you let it be what it is in itself, and you let it speak to you… Reality is not totally one, but it is not totally two, either!  Stay with that necessary dilemma, and it can make you wise.”

For Biblical images of the Spirit: http://faithmatters.us/praying-with-biblical-images/

For continued meditation on the Holy Spirit: http://faithmatters.us/holyspirit/