February 11th 2018
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Cover photo by Kathy Ayers, “Haystack Rock and Crows”

Holy is this cosmos,
Whirling, expanding, living, dying,
Yearning for abundance and freedom,
Imperfect holiness, reaching for a promise of wholeness,
Yet always, already a perfect reflection of Spirit.\
–Bruce Sanguin

I Corinthians 13:8-13 (Scholars’ Version)
if I were fluent in human and heavenly tongues
but lacked love
I’d sound like a hollow gong
or a crashing cymbal

if I could interpret oracles
had the key to all the sacred rites and secrets
and every insight
if I had all the confidence in the world
to move mountains
but lacked love
I’d be nothing

if I parted with all that I owned
if I offered my body to the sacrificial flames
but lacked love
it would do me no good

love takes its time
makes itself good and useful
love doesn’t envy
it doesn’t boast
it doesn’t bluster

it doesn’t make a scene
it doesn’t look after its own interests
it doesn’t throw fits
it doesn’t dwell on the negative
it takes no pleasure in injustice
but is delighted by the truth

love uphold everything
trusts in everything
hopes for everything
endures everything

love never falls away
though oracles will cease
tongues will fall silent
insight will fall short

we know bits and pieces
in bits and pieces we deliver oracles
but when the whole picture emerges
the bits and pieces will disappear

when I was very young
I talked like a child
thought like a child
reasoned like a child
when I grew up
I put an end to childish ways

now we look at a reflection quite obscure
then we’ll gaze face to face
now I know only bits and pieces
then I shall know as I am known

so then confidence hope love
these three endure
but the greatest of these is

Luke 12:22-31 (Scholars’ Version)
He said to his disciples, “That’s why I’m telling you: don’t fret about life, what you’re going to eat-or about your body, what you’re going to wear. Remember, there is more to living than food and clothing. Think about the crows: they don’t plant or harvest, they don’t have storerooms or barns. Yet God feeds them. You’re worth a lot more than the birds! Can any of you add an hour to life by fretting about it? So if you can’t do a little thing like that, why worry about the rest? Think about how the lilies grow: they don’t toil and they never spin. But let me tell you, even Solomon at the height of his glory was never decked out like one of them. If God dresses up the grass in the field, which is here today and is tossed into the oven tomorrow, how much more will “God take care of you, you with your meager trust. And don’t be constantly on the lookout for what you’re going to eat and what you’re going to drink. Don’t give it a thought. These are all things the world’s pagans seek, and your Father is aware that you need them. Instead seek his empire and these things will come to you as a bonus.

Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman
And I say to [hu]mankind, be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God….

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand
God not in the least….

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one
is sign’d by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

Today is Evolution Sunday or Science Sunday.

The idea of celebrating and honoring the scientific enterprise in worship on the day closest to Charles Darwin’s birthday originated with a biology professor, Dr. Michael Zimmerman about a dozen years ago.

His concern was that religion was erecting a barrier between people of faith and science, in particular, evolutionary science. Dr. Zimmerman hoped that if clergy would publicly embrace evolutionary theory and state that it was not contrary to the Bible or to religious doctrine, that might reduce the opposition to evolution being taught in public schools.

Hence the Clergy Letter Project. There are about 13,000 clergy who have signed that letter. Thanks to Southminster Presbyterian Church and Cascades Presbytery, the Clergy Letter was endorsed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Our own Kathleen Huddleston testified on its behalf when the General Assembly met in Portland in 2016.

I don’t need to encourage anyone here to embrace scientific education. I do invite you and encourage you to come tonight to Southminster for a presentation on whale evolution. The presenter, Jon Peters, is a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but he likes us and he has attended worship here and offered to share his presentation with us. It will be fun to learn about whales.

I am going to suggest that learning about whales and whale evolution is not only an intellectual, scientific enterprise, but it is a spiritual exercise. The Universe or God or the Divine Mystery or whatever name you have, reveals its secrets through the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature, said Aquinas.

When Jesus wanted to teach a spiritual concept to his disciples he often referred to the Book of Nature. In fact, he may have relied upon the Book of Nature even more than the Book of Scripture. Almost all of his parables are about life. Parables about seeds and harvest, rain and sunshine, and considering crows are a few examples.

Worried about stuff? Consider the crows. When you have done that, then ogle the lilies of the field. That you will get you out of your head.

Think change is impossible? Watch seeds transform into a 100 bushels of wheat. Then try to take credit for it.

Think you deserve better treatment from life because you are so well-behaved? See if the sun or rain cares about your behavior. It rains and shines on the good and bad alike.

Jesus predates evolutionary theory. He didn’t know scientifically how all of life is related and that ultimately every species of life on earth from poison ivy to porcupines to people all have common ancestors. We are literally kin to every living thing. Jesus may have known that from spiritual intuition. Now we know from evolutionary science, from studying the Book of Nature.

I included the poem from Robinson Jeffers as our call to worship because I found it to be a beautiful example of the via postiva, that is the spiritual path of awe and wonder. That is the first path. That is the path that brings out delight. That is the path of joy. That is the path of amazement.

To feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things—earth, stone and
Beast, man and woman, sun, moon and stars—
The blood-shot beauty of human nature, its thoughts, frenzies and
And unhuman nature its towering reality—
For man’s half dream; man, you might say, is nature dreaming, but rock
And water and sky are constant—to feel
Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural
Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.
The rest’s diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas,
The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.

Jeffers knew the via positiva. The sole reason of poetry, and what is poetry if not worship, the sole reason says Jeffers, is beauty. The natural beauty. The Beauty of Things.

When we get worried and frightened about our lives and our peccadillos and the peccadillos of others and the state of the union and our aches and pains—we can care for that. We may not be able to cure all of that, but we can care for that. We can care for ourselves by spending time with the crows, or the lilies, or the ocean, or the mountains, or the park, or the dogs, or just realizing that we live in one of the most amazingly beautiful places in the country. Oregon is a via positiva state.

That is love.

Love of life as life.

Consider the crows. They love what they do. Love is not just a human word. Love is not only am emotion. Love is the interconnectedness of all things, the drive to unite, to connect. This poem attributed to Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 is similar:

love takes its time
makes itself good and useful
love doesn’t envy
it doesn’t boast
it doesn’t bluster

it doesn’t make a scene
it doesn’t look after its own interests
it doesn’t throw fits
it doesn’t dwell on the negative
it takes no pleasure in injustice
but is delighted by the truth

love uphold everything
trusts in everything
hopes for everything
endures everything

love never falls away

He could have been talking about crows or lilies, or whales, or dogs, or geese. None of them envy, boast, bluster, accept when humans interpret their actions from a human perspective. For those critters, they simply live. To live is to love.

I am going to show you a three or four minute video.

What I invite you to do is watch the expressions and the hand gestures on the people in this video. It is a video of people flying with geese. Tell me this isn’t a holy experience.

(Video of man taking people on flights with geese.)

Any experience you have had with the via positiva, the wow, the beauty of things?

(Members of the congregation shared their experiences of awe).