All of my nieces and nephews are now college-aged or older, which I can't believe. Time just goes by so quickly. But I remember when they were little, and I remember once when my niece was just about three years old, she was so frightened by a storm that was happening outside -- all of the thunder and lightning was really scary to her. And her older brother, my nephew, who was around six or seven at the time, was making it even worse, trying to scare her even more. He was saying that the thunder was God's angry voice because she had been a bad girl, and that the rain was God's tears. God was so sad that she had been so bad, and the lightning bolts were meant to strike her -- you know, terrible things that our older siblings tell us.
Maybe you had older siblings who told you similar things about storms. My elder brother actually told me something cute. He said when I was little that the thunder meant the angels in heaven were bowling, and that the lightning meant they got a strike. Now, of course, it all seems so silly today because as adults, of course, we understand how weather works. But for a moment, I would like you to picture yourself back in biblical times. 1000s of years ago -- you lived in biblical days. There were no meteorologists. People had a very childish understanding of how weather worked. They didn't understand. They didn't have a Farmers Almanac to tell them when to plant their crops. They didn't have a 24-hour news channel to tell them when a storm was approaching or Al Roker to give them the five-day forecast.
Okay, so what did they do? Well, they looked up to the sky for their answers. And why did they look up there? Well, as we spoke about last Sunday, that's where they thought God lived. They thought God was up there. So when the clouds would darken, and there'd be storms, they interpreted it to mean, in their childish way, that God was angry with them.
And the Bible is chock-full of examples like this. So it says, for example, in 2nd Samuel, verse 22, “The Lord thundered from heaven, and the most high uttered his angry voice, he sent arrows and scattered them (lightning), he made darkness canopies around them, and massive waters and thick clouds in the sky.” And in Isaiah 30, verse 30, it says, “The Lord will cause the voice of his authority to be heard in cloudbursts, downpours, and hailstones.” In Deuteronomy 11:17, it says, “The anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, he will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain, and the ground will yield no food, and you will perish quickly.”
And then, of course, as we heard in today's Gospel reading, at three o'clock in the afternoon, the sky turns pitch black, as Jesus takes his last breath on the cross.
The Bible, whether it's the Old Testament or the New Testament, is chock-full of examples of how what's happening up in the sky, symbolizes God's temperament. So it really shouldn't surprise us today that Christians who take the Bible literally still believe that every single time there's some extreme weather that happens here -- a hurricane or something -- we always hear from these popular TV evangelists. They always say, well, the storm is God's punishment. God's unhappy with us because of things like gay marriage, and abortion.
And of course, it's all so ridiculous. It's so silly. That's childish thinking. We should not believe the same thing about weather that ancient people believed thousands of years ago. We know now how weather works, and weather has nothing to do with God's anger and wrath.
In fact, the extreme weather that we've been experiencing in our lifetime has nothing to do with God's anger, and it has everything to do with us. Our abuse of the planet, our destruction of the planet. So today we are celebrating what we call Sky Sunday. And as Dan reminded us so beautifully in his words this morning, the sky we're talking about isn't just the blue stuff that's up above us. We're talking about the entire cosmos.
Now, you heard in our Words of Integration and Guidance this morning from our friend Richard Rohr, the term, “The Cosmic Christ. And that may be a new term for some of you, but I promise you, it is not a new term. It's an ancient term. It dates all the way back to the early Christians -- to the desert fathers and mothers.
And as Father Rohr so perfectly explained in that passage, Christ isn't Jesus's last name. Christ and Jesus are two completely different things. Christ existed billions of years before Jesus of Nazareth even existed. When God birthed everything into existence at the Big Bang, when God said, “Let there be light,” there was the Christ, the Christ was born, the power and presence of God was infused into all of creation.
Now Jesus was a man from Nazareth 2,000 years ago, who was able to become one with that Christ presence. And he said that we could do it too. In Paul's letter to the Colossians, he says this, “The sun is the image of the invisible God, the First Born of all creation. In Him, all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, things visible and invisible. He is in all things.”
Now, the He, the Sun, the firstborn of all creation that Paul is talking about, is not Jesus of Nazareth. He's talking about the Christ. The Christ is the firstborn of all creation. Jesus was able to become one with the One, one with all that is, and he came to show us the way, so that we could do it too. But as Father Rohr said, in our words this morning, most of us just think Jesus was the One, and that we're just here to worship him. But Jesus, his whole point was to say, no, this Christ is born in you, you are the light.
Now the 20th century scientist Carl Sagan, who studied the sky, said, “The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff. There are pieces of stars within us all. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” And contemporary scientist and writer Neil deGrasse Tyson says, “The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores, and exploded these enriched ingredients across galaxies billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in this world. We are chemically connected to the molecules on Earth, and we are atomically connected to the atoms of the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
We literally started life among the stars, and the stars live in us. And no offense to Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson, but they weren't the first to say that. Jesus of Nazareth said it 2,000 years ago. You remember what he said? He never said the kingdom of heaven was up there in the sky. He said that the kingdom of heaven is within you. And he said, You are the light of the world. The light is within you. Now the first people to discover this light that we hear in the gospels were the Magi. You remember them from Christmas, the three wise men. They were astronomers. They studied the sky. They studied the cosmos. And you remember from Christmas, they follow the star of wonder, and it guided them to the perfect light.
My friends, we don't have to wait until Christmas. Christmas can be born in us every single day. When we study the sky and the cosmos, we ponder the allness of God, and we let that guide us to that perfect light that is within us.
And so that's what I want to invite you to do this week. Put your focus on the sky, during the day if you have some time. Just look up at the clouds. You know, Spirit gives us signs in the clouds. And if at night, you have a chance to just ponder the night sky, look up at the stars like the Magi did, and feel the allness there, and the awe and wonder. Because what it does is, it connects us with the light within us. The stars up there are made of the same thing we are made of.
So this week, find time, if you can, each and every day or night to do that. Express your gratitude to God for this light of the cosmos, this power and presence that is with us and within us. And may you come to more fully recognize and realize God is not separate from you. You were made in the very image and likeness of God. Which means you are made of star stuff. You are made of God stuff.
Reverend Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration & Guidance
by Richard Rohr
Most Christians know about Jesus of Nazareth, but very few know about the Christ, and even fewer were ever taught how to put the two together. Many still seem to think that Christ is Jesus’ last name. By proclaiming my faith in Jesus Christ, I have made not just one, but two acts of faith, one in Jesus and another in the Christ. The first and cosmic incarnation of the Eternal Christ happened at the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the human incarnation of that same Mystery a mere 2,000 years ago, when we were perhaps ready for this revelation. Christ is not Jesus’ last name, but the title of his historical and cosmic purpose. The Christ is much bigger and older than either Jesus of Nazareth or the Christian religion, because the Christ is whenever the material and the divine co-exist—which is always and everywhere. I think we are all sad to admit that organized Christianity has often resisted and opposed the true meaning of the Cosmic Christ. Rather than being taught that we can and should follow Jesus as “partners in his great triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14), we were told to be grateful spectators and admirers of what he once did. We were taught that although Jesus was “fully human and fully divine,” the best most of us could do was to see ourselves as only human, and Jesus, for all practical purposes, as only divine. We thus missed the whole point, which was to put the two together and then dare to discover the same mystery in ourselves and in all of creation!
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