Sermon: “Cosmic Celebration”

September 25, 2016: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Season of Creation: Cosmos Sunday

Proverbs 8:22-31
Colossians 1:15-20

The Season of Creation we’ve been observing this month concludes… well, it doesn’t really conclude. That word seems to flat for what we come to today. Instead, the Season of Creation springs up toward the infinite reaches of the cosmos. In the figures of Lady Wisdom from Proverbs with whom all creation was made, and of the Christ who is firstborn of all creation here in Colossians, our Scriptures resound with joy. It’s a Cosmic Celebration.

But I have to tell you, I haven’t felt much like celebrating. This has been a very hard week. Near and dear to me have been the people we’ve said farewell to just recently in this church. We had a wonderful celebration of Lily Inouye’s life last Tuesday, and hearing all the music and the shared memories truly made me smile. On Thursday I attended the funeral for the Rev. Ichiro Peter Annes, who had served the United Church of Christ of Pohnpei congregation worshiping right now in the building of faith under their new pastor, the Rev. Bensis Henry. Many of Rev. Annes’ wide circle of friends and family stepped up to bear witness to his life and love, or to share their appreciation of him through music. I know we’ll have another great celebration for Betty Pacheco this coming Friday, and I’ll smile again to remember how she’s made me smile more than once in the short time I’ve had to know her.

But there are tears with those smiles, and sorrow with those memories, and there’s a poignancy to the celebrations that I cannot deny. I would be surprised indeed to learn that I’m alone with the tears, and the sorrow, and the loss.

It’s been a very hard week for celebrating, because what Sojourner’s founder Jim Wallis calls “America’s original sin” of racism has been manifest in violence once again. Two African-American men have died in encounters with police. Officer Betty Shelby, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been charged with manslaughter for the death of Terence Crutcher, while in Charlotte, North Carolina, community frustration has boiled over into non-violent and violent protests following the death of Keith Lamont Scott. And there was the shooting at a mall in Burlington, Washington, and renewed combat in Syria.

Throw in the daily news accounts of someone actually comparing refugees who are desperately fleeing their homes to escape a merciless war to poisoned candy – well, Wisdom has seemed either very distant or in very short supply. The delight in human beings which Wisdom shares with our Creator God seemed hollow, or mistaken, or even stilled in the midst of it all.

So I stood up from my desk where I’d been working on this sermon, and I stood just outside my office door for a few minutes to clear my head, or welcome inspiration, or something. And I looked out beneath the heavy clouds, and saw a faint patch of blue.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen that formation: how looking east toward the Pacific Ocean, the clouds may gradually thin, and fade away into a pale blue. Now, what’s happening, as I’m sure you all know and as I also know, is that the clouds are forming as the moist air on the trade winds approaches this island and rises to climb over the mountains. They’ll leave some rain behind for us, perhaps a lot.

But despite my sadness, I didn’t see the approaching grey. I saw the promise of blue.

Since a step outside my door had worked so well, I decided I’d take a little walk around the church grounds. And as I walked up the steps, I saw the big brown UPS truck that had stopped to pick up something. The driver hadn’t found anyone in the main office – it was after Momi goes home – and was walking back to the truck leaving a note. But I was able to wave him back, and he put the package he’d come for on his truck, and off he went.

If I hadn’t started up the steps when I did, I wouldn’t have seen him.

Coincidence? Probably. But pale blue in the distance, a UPS driver who was glad to see me so he could do his task, one of the E Maka’ala teachers who joyfully pointed to a bigger patch of deep blue sky as she led her charges outside to play before another rain shower could arrive – these coincidences fed my weary soul. Appreciating them may not be deductive reasoning, but it’s wisdom.

It’s not deductive reasoning. It’s wisdom.

The cosmos provides us with endless opportunities to appreciate beauty, even in processes that are actually destructive. Some of the nebulae which glow so entrancingly in photographs mark the deaths of stars, which blew up in cataclysms we can barely imagine. Others are the opposite. They are the birthplaces of stars, providing them with the star-stuff from their hazy clouds, and incidentally frustrating Earth-based astronomers who’d love to get a closer look at a proto-star through the gas clouds.

Here on Hawai’i the lava that advances through the forest, burning its trees, becomes new ground where new trees may grow in a few years. The decomposing leaves of ferns and trunks of trees becomes the food of new plants – through that amazing network of fungus, of course. The death of the ‘apapane is the life of the i’o.

And Christ, here in Colossians, is both the firstborn of all creation, and the firstborn from the dead, “so that he might have first place in everything.”

That, too, is wisdom.

I didn’t dance away from my vision of pale blue sky, or my chance encounter with the UPS driver. Cosmic celebrations need not be cosmic in scale. They just need to be enough.

Enough to pick up the work before you. Enough to embrace the friend who’s with you. Enough to resolve that the stranger might have justice. Enough to offer forgiveness to the one who’s hurt you. Enough to acknowledge the wisdom of God in Creation. Enough to give thanks for the gift of Christ’s salvation.

Enough to rejoice in existence. Enough to rejoice in life.

A cosmic celebration need not be cosmic in scale. It just needs to be enough to relax into the cosmic love of God.


Categories Sermons | Tags: , , , | Posted on September 25, 2016

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