Sunday, July 28, 2013

You Really Got A Holon Me

You Really Got A Holon Me!

"For freedom Christ set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; but do not use this freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves for one another." Galatians 5: 1, 13

Paul gets a bad rap. I am not entirely sure why that is, and frankly have given up trying. The fact is he is the first witness in the New Testament - his letters are the earliest witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The gospels had not been written and quite possibly had not even been conceived when Paul tried to put into words that which seemed impossible to describe, explain, make sense of.

Yet, these two verses are brilliant! Written as they were to a community struggling to know what to do next - a community being told by certain posers that before you can be baptized you must first be circumcised. Paul recognizes at once that a) this is not great motivation for bringing people on board, b) it just is not very good news, and c) he recalls that there were no pre-conditions set out by Jesus when he encountered him on the road to Damascus. So Paul writes a letter to the church in Galatia urging them not to be fooled by all this talk of pre-conditions before you can be connected to the community of Christ - which, as it turns out is the community of creation.

Note the brilliance of his argument - don't be slaves to the latest fashions, don't be slaves to self-indulgence. Be free. Freedom is what Jesus calls us back to. Yet, it is a freedom that makes us slaves to one another - with "one another" as a place holder for "everything," every thing in the entire universe, which of course was a lot smaller then and still expanding as it does to this very day.

Our understanding of freedom tends to be rather superficial. We want it to be a license for a kind of wanton narcissism - "I'm going to do my own thing," we say, as if any thing is ours and ours alone. We seek "financial freedom" which tends to make us slaves to materialism, commercialism, and consumerism. We become enslaved to the very thing or things we believe will make us free. Illusions about freedom convince us we must fight for it, arm ourselves to protect it, only to enslave ourselves to what Dwight David Eisenhower termed the military industrial complex. Then we wonder why we live in a world seemingly dominated by violence on every corner, on every street, on every  eleven o'clock news hour. To quote Barbara Streisand, "De-dum, that's a fine kind of freedom...." So she's a liberal. Get over it.

Holons. Holons, the work of philosopher Ken Wilber, just may be one way to rescue Paul's vision of freedom he believed was what Christ was all about - our freedom. Wilber suggests that the entire universe is made up of holons, or whole/parts (whole-parts). He writes, "A holon is a whole that is a part of other wholes. For example, a whole atom is part of a whole molecule; a whole molecule is part of a whole cell; a whole cell is part of a whole organism. Or, again, a whole letter is part of a whole word, which is part of a whole sentence, which is part of a whole paragraph, and so on. Reality is composed neither of wholes or parts, but rather whole/parts, or holons. Reality in all realms is composed of whole parts."  - A Theory of Everything (Shambala Press, Boston:2000) p. 40

Reality consists of everything, seen and unseen. Holons emerge into ever more complex forms, observes Judy Cannato in her book, Radical Amazement. Molecules are more complex than atoms, and cells are more complex than molecules, and yet the cell depends upon the atoms and molecules for existence. Each holon that emerges depends upon all the other holons below for its very existence. Think about it for just a moment. The utter interconnectedness of everything, literally every thing. It's not just about us. It is about every thing.

Wilbur also asserts that to destroy a holon destroys everything above it. Destroy the atom and you destroy the molecules and cells above it. We have witnessed that kind of destruction. August 6th, The Feast of the Transfiguration is also the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima - destroying atoms destroyed life.

The theory of holons holds true for organizations as well. Groups of individuals make up families, families make up communities, communities make up institutions, nations - and groups form even more complex organizations such as NATO, the UN, and so on.

The theory of holons points us to the interconnectedness of everyone and everything on the most fundamental dimensions. Connectedness is fundamental. How we treat water and air has consequences for life - all life. How we treat one another has consequences for everyone and everything else. Paul could see this. Paul understood the interconnectedness of everyone and everything.

Hildegarde of Bingen put it this way, "God has arranged everything in the universe in consideration of everything else." If it bothers you, you do not even need "God" to see how this radically amazing universe is put together. The important thing to consider is that to live in freedom is to live with attentiveness to the intricate connectedness of all that is - seen and unseen. This, asserts Judy Cannato is truly radically amazing! p.102

What parts make you a whole? Consider making a list of all the holons below and above you which make you you. Sit still and ponder the interconnectedness of it all. Reflect on how this interconnectedness calls you to be free. To be truly free is to be truly attentive to all that is and to act accordingly. Through love we are meant to become slaves for one another and for every thing - seen and unseen - throughout this radically amazing universe!  Amen.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Word Is Very Near To You

21 July 2013 – Proper 11 – Luke 10:38-42

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, St. Timothy's School for Girls

The Word is Very Near to You
Last Sunday we began to reflect on Prayer with Scripture, or what is sometimes called Meditative Prayer. We examined a standard definition of Prayer: Prayer is a conversation with God. Although we tend to assume it is our responsibility to get the conversation going, we discovered that prayer is not initiated by us.

God initiates prayer – indeed, one might say God initiates all, but all is a rather too comprehensive a reality to take on within the friendly confines of a Sunday morning sermon! As we begin to reflect on the reality that it is God who is calling us, wooing us, choosing us and inviting us, that the “conversation” is already in process, we learn that the first priority in a life of Meditative Prayer with Scripture is to be attentive to what is already being said, to receive it from God, and to respond. We also have come to see that our attentiveness may be all the response that is needed.

So that if we discover in our time with scripture that God loves us, we are to savor that, and allow it to sink in. We do not have to “do” anything except perhaps bow our heads, or raise our hands and say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Yet, it is far too easy to simply reverse the common definition of prayer as conversation and say, “In prayer God speaks and I answer.” For to say that implies that God is out there speaking to us in a one-on-one confrontation, and to stay with this understanding prevents us from living into the distinctly Christian experience of God – God as expressed in Trinitarian worship and Trinitarian belief.

Early Christian writers soon discovered that the experience of Abba-Father, Jesus-Son and the Indwelling Spirit-Breath-Wind of God were not simply colorful metaphors to enliven our devotion to the One God, but rather the Christian community was led to a radical revisioning of who God is, a revisioning that is as daring today as it was nearly 2,000 years ago! So that Christian Orthodoxy came to insist that we cannot have a simple “one-on-one confrontation with God because God is not merely one. Got is a three-fold life – Trinity! The ‘personal’ God of Christian experience is not an omnipotent Individual, but a communion of self-giving love.” The Word is Very Near You, Martin Smith (Cowley, Cambridge: 1989) p 26

So when we are attentive to the conversation that is already going on, we come to know that there is no individual to whom we respond, but rather we are drawn in to a relationship and dynamism of mutual love and self-giving going on within God. So that it is “one thing to say that prayer is conversation with God. It is another to say that God begins the conversation. But it is yet something else to say that God is a conversation. In God love ever flows between the Father and the Son in the Spirit. Love is answered by love, and the conversation … takes in the suffering of a whole universe striving to attain fulfillment with its Creator.” Ibid, p 28

Prayer is communion between all that we are and all that God is.

When we allow our selves to sit with a story like the one in Luke 10 we sense some of all this. It is a continuation of a series of stories in Luke reflecting on our calling to love God and neighbor. Like Abraham and Sarah welcome the three mysterious strangers by the Oak tree, Martha welcomes Jesus into her home – much as we do in prayer, welcoming Father, Son and Spirit into the home of our hearts. Like Sarah and all middle-eastern women of her time and ours, she sets about meeting the needs of the guest in her home. Her sister Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet and listens.

It is interesting to pay careful attention to what Jesus replies when Martha suggests Mary might be more of a host in the traditional sense: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” We see a picture of Jesus who is open to the choices of women. He does not expect women to run for the kitchen when he comes within their home. Despite the traditional take on this story, Jesus does not appear to be chastising Martha, but rather is suggesting that she might also choose to sit at his feet and listen. There is room for Martha to join him as well. He permits choice. In so doing, Jesus becomes the host.

Two things: 1) it is important to find time to welcome God as Father, Son and Spirit into our households, and 2) it is just as important to allow them to host us. For when we open ourselves to receive them into our hearts, we find they come to care for us, to tend to us, to heal and nurture us.

We are all “Marthas” much of the time. We are so busy doing, doing, doing day and night that we forget that when God enters the households of our busyness we have permission to drop everything, even time honored and expected hospitality, and sit quietly as our guest becomes our host, caring for us, comforting us, holding us, loving us for who we are, where we are.

Imagine what it would feel like to allow Jesus to wash your feet for just a few minutes in quiet once a day? This is what Meditative Prayer with Scripture means to be for us – an oasis of God offered hospitality in the midst of an otherwise all too busy day.

Concludes Martin Smith, “In the love the All-embracing Father has for the Son, and in the love the Son has for the Father, in the issuing of the Spirit from the Father and the Spirit’s return in the Love of the Son, there is everything we mean by prayer – intimacy, adoration, self-offering, love, desire, crucifyingly acute sympathy for a world torn by pain and joy. Our prayer is not making conversation with God. It is joining the conversation that is already going on in God. It is being invited to participate in the relationships of intimacy between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is an eternal dance in full-swing, and we are caught up in to it. Prayer is allowing ourselves to join the dance and experience the movements, the constant interplay of the persons of the Trinity.” Ibid, p Amen.

The source of humility is the habit of realizing the presence of God.
   Archbishop William Temple

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Base Camp

Base Camp
For Richard Chiroff

The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every
town and place where he himself intended to go.”
Luke 10: 1

Several years ago a dear friend and colleague in faith astonished us with the assertion that Dark Energy, that mysterious 70% of the universe that is believed to be the energy that keeps the universe expanding ever outward, is the Holy Spirit. I have spent much of my time since investigating Dark Energy, reading both scientific and theological accounts, listening to reports on the radio, sitting in silent contemplation – and I have come to an awareness that Dick is very probably correct in making that association.

The journey toward an understanding of Dark Energy and the third persona of the Trinity currently finds me reading Judy Cannato’s concise little treatise, Radical Amazement: Contemplative lessons from Black Holes, Supernovas, and other wonders of the universe (Sorin Books, Notre Dame, IN: 2006). Over the past 13.7 billion years (and still counting) Creation has been unfolding, one tiny evolutionary step at a time, a process in which we are certainly important but not the only active participants. Our capacity for self-reflection, however, is what differentiates us from the rest of the time, space, matter, time continuum. Cannato points out that both Julian Huxley and Teilhard de Chardin observed that “human beings are nothing less than evolution become conscious of itself.”
“In us the evolving universe is capable of self-reflection. We are the universe conscious of itself…homo sapiens [wise ones], the ones with the ability to be aware.” p 57

Our consciousness, she points out, is both amazing and demanding, both central and essential to the continual ongoing unfolding of creation, of the universe, of the cosmos, of the mystery that is life.

Demanding in that beginning with the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago, every particle, every atom, every “thing” that has evolved throughout the still expanding space-time continuum of interstellar space, right down to the most basic elements on this Earth are all interconnected – interdependent – in the most cosmic sense, “we are all in this together – people, creatures, rocks, rivers , streams, stars, supernovas, black holes, and of course, all being propelled further on our journey by Dark Energy. For our wholeness, what Christians call salvation, is intricately bound to the wholeness or salvation of all – all in the most radical sense we can imagine that word to include and entail. All. Before we go back to thinking the universe is in any way anthropocentric, remember, the human genome shares 99.9% of the same genetic material as an earth worm! We are all in this together.

There now exists an urgency to utilize our capacity for self-reflection.  As a result of our egocentrism, materialism, religious fanaticism, and human ignorance (to name a few), we have spawned political and environmental crises of epic proportions. Our soil, water and air along with our suffering sisters and brothers of all species cry out to us to put our consciousness and self-reflective capacities to work on behalf of All.

“Consider this: you are able to sit and read these words as the result of 13.7 billion years of development. Over the past four billion years, life on Earth has developed from primordial cells that did not even have a nucleus into Homo sapiens. The water in your body contains primordial hydrogen formed in the first seconds of the Big Bang. The carbon atoms that form you came together as a result of the explosion of a supernova. The concentration of salt in your body matches the concentration of salt in the ancient seas. Your cells are direct descendants of unicellular organisms that developed billions of years ago. You have a reptilian brain and are able to walk courtesy of vertebra that developed 510 million years ago. You see because cholorphyll molecules mutated so that, like plant leaves, your eyes can capture the light from the Sun. And in your mother’s womb, your tiny body repeated the whole process of multicellular life on Earth, beginning as a single cell and then developing greater and greater complexity.” p 65

In Luke 10 Jesus sends out seventy on a mission to establish base camps for the Good News – centers for healing, centers for bringing our interconnectedness into awareness – a mission to bring those on the outside of society back into the center. In having evolved into Homo sapiens with the capacity for self-reflection, we have been made the base camps for the ongoing development and expansion of the entire universe, beginning right here on Earth. Jesus, God and Dark Energy are all calling us to be radically amazed at our interconnectedness to all creation, especially to our sister and brother creatures here on Earth. Our soil, water and air along with our suffering sisters and brothers of all species cry out to us to put our consciousness and self-reflective capacities to work on behalf of All.

Cannato concludes that the “how” of creation/evolution and the “why” of Mystery give us an idea of who we are  and what we are about. That the radically amazing elements that make us who we are and capable of being the consciousness of the universe is meant to give us the capacity to reflect, to know, and to make choices on behalf of the whole – on behalf of all. We are all one. When will we begin to act as if we know this and believe this? Amen.