Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
Last week it was about storms and the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. At Northmead Uniting, where Sue and I were, we were invited to think about storms in our own experience – possibly wild weather, but more often stormy times in our relationships. The cosmos is like that too, with a wide range of meaning, taking us from the depths of the space and time to the innermost places of faith and hope. There, too, we each have our stories.
When I was a teenager, growing up in Ireland, I had lots of opportunities and encouragement to find joy in so many things. There was the life of our family, including much music-
Until I was about 17, churchgoing was not part of it. However, I am ever grateful for the humility and wisdom of my parents and how they encouraged each of us children to ask questions, followed by their respect for the journeys of hope and meaning which each of us chose to follow. Over those years I was on an exciting journey of discovery of the powerful methods of science and what these make known. Teaching about that subsequently became my professional work. At the same time, my intuition grew that this extraordinary cosmos has a deeper meaning and purpose than could be reached even by the amazing insights of science.
In time, amidst the faithful encouragement of prayerful friends, I became convinced that Jesus was to be for me the Way, the Truth and the Life. Over the many years since then, my reflections on the cosmos, and on where its deepest meanings lie, have drawn on both scientific and Christian ways of understanding.
I reckon that questioning of our place in the cosmos – all that we experience, see and imagine, goes back to the beginnings of human consciousness, to the dawn of the story of humankind. Each of you has your own story of questioning, wondering, and suffering too, and your own experience of encountering and walking with Jesus on the way.
Psalm 148 is a beautiful expression of wonderment, and it has endured precisely because it has touched so many people over some 2500 years or more. Psalm 148 is full of praise to God, and wonder at all God creates and has created. Imagine Israelites of long ago singing it in their family and national gatherings. Imagine Mary and Joseph, with their growing family of children -
The good order of nature, on which we so depend– the sun rising and setting, the stars in their place, the way seasons come and go, the life cycles of plants and animals, are so basic to our lives it is easy to take them for granted. Our thriving also depends on good order in human affairs. That is so often frustrated with relationship breakdown, selfish and careless acts, greed, bad management and good intentions with unforseen and destructive consequences. That is the world in which we live.
In the NT, the Greek word kosmos is basically about good order – how the heavens and earth are ordered, and about the divine purpose and potential for human affairs. It only occurs once in today’s readings, in the Gospel, where Jesus says “The bread that I give for the life of the kosmos is my flesh” Here kosmos is translated as “world”, as it is in the 68 times or so that it occurs John’s gospel. In John, the immediate meaning points to the “world” or “cosmos” of human affairs, in all their ambiguity,. In that love we find love and hate, generosity and selfishness, and all the falling short which in English translation is sin. Jesus gave himself so that the disordered world, whether your life or mine, our communities, our nations, or all humankind, might become ordered and more fully reflect the image and glory of God.
But the memories of Jesus, and how he was interpreted by the first Christians, go far beyond seeing Jesus as Saviour for humankind. This greater vision has its most dramatic expressions in the prologue to John’s gospel, the beginning of the letter to the Hebrews, and in the reading we had today from Colossians 1:15-
Today, we have a very different cosmology. The beauty of what we see with our unassisted eyes is now the visible expression of a vast universe of galaxies, radiation and mysterious dark matter and energy, set in a cosmic fabric where space and time come together. Whether ancient or contemporary, wonder at the physical cosmos still provokes us to reflect on why this amazing universe exists. We still ask, “what does it mean?”, and “how do we fit in?” That popular explainer of science, Paul Davies puts it neatly: “The most intriguing question is, why are we here asking why are we here?” Now, as in ancient times, looking at the heavens still has power to provoke the deepest of questions, and bring us back to the relational meaning of heaven. How do we relate rightly to all that is, and to the source and destiny of our existence – to our God?
The vision of Christ in Colossians ends with these words: “and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” Christ is not only the one through whom God creates and sustains all things. Jesus’ death on the cross brings healing, reconciliation and fulfilment of all things – bringing in the divine destiny of the cosmos, of God’s good and beautiful order for humankind and for all things, seen and unseen.
The first gatherings of disciples of Jesus were driven by the unshakeable conviction that Jesus, though crucified, was risen from the dead, present in them and present to them. In the NT writings, the church is described as the “body of Christ”, and the breath of life in the church is the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit. The risen Christ is described as the first-
I am very appreciative that we share in the Eucharist together today. It is the sacred drama enacting Christ’s life entering our lives. For us, its cosmic outworking is the call to live as part of the Body of Christ, and be participants in God’s re-
In the closing words of Psalm 148, Praise the LORD, Hallelujah.
Theme: Christ, the Wisdom of God, and the Cosmos
Question: What is our place in God’s work of cosmic reconciliation?