Dancing at the Heart of the Universe.

Posted: September 15, 2021 in Uncategorized

Mark 9:31-36

Dancing at the heart of the universe.

The story line seems simple enough. “The earth is in an intricately balanced equilibrium of temperature, ocean currents and weather patterns, and this equilibrium is being distorted.  Massive disruption is going to occur without major corrective measures” (Paul Sheehan, SMH 2006).

The ‘story line’… is the story line in the Al Gore film, ‘An inconvenient truth’. The film is about human-induced global warming. But it is also about one man, Al Gore, former Vice President of the USA, indeed the candidate George W Bush, um… ‘defeated’ for the top job in 2000. And his passion to tell the world about an issue which goes to the very core of who we are, as a species.

This is an important film and all of us should see it.

Support for this film and its moral message is very strong from commentators: “Whether you are convinced by what you see or not, every other subject is trivial by comparison” (Paul Sheehan, SMH 2006). “You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times 2006).

But some don’t get it. Despite the scientific research used to support the thesis of the film
there are those who are sceptical. They claim no matter what we do, global warming is “inevitable”
and instead of thinking we can prevent it or slow it, we should “start figuring out how we’re going to adapt” (Cairncross, Globe & Mail 2006).

Such thinking can result in a paralyzing negativity, especially in the world of global-warming politics, because it makes the problem appear insolvable. Planet Earth’s story is important and all of us should hear it. While it is not surprising to note the negativity in that it is reflected in many areas of life such as anti – vaccinationists, in our Covid ravaged world or an alternative view to almost everything in life driven by an underlying marriage to dualisms as a priori when approaching any subject.

One event that seemed simple enough. Was the return of Pope Benedict xvi to the German University of Regensburg, where he was a theology professor in the 1970s. During his speech to academics, he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who regarded some of the prophet Muhammad’s teachings as: “evil and inhuman” (Phillip Coorey, SMH 2006).

While his speech quite rightly condemned religious violence, his biased words implied that only Islamic fundamentalists had ever been guilty of religious atrocities. The Islamic world reacted angrily. Despite a personal and public apology from Benedict during the week, protests continued in the Muslim world, especially in India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Iraq.

This is not the first time this pope Benedict caused anger and resentment. At his election in 2005 former Catholic theologian Matthew Fox said this was the election of the “first Grand Inquisitor as Pope” (Fox 2005). While Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff said Ratzinger “a hard man and without compassion,” and he feared that while Pope “an immense hell of hypocrisy will reign in the Church”.

These may seem harsh statements. But what is more significant is that they go to the heart of an out-of-date church and they challenge an authoritarian clergy. Not just in the Roman Catholic tradition but the whole Church. They are important issues and all of us should reflect on them. As issues that still go on in other forms today.

One issue that could be examined today is the response to the Covid-19 pandemic as Governments and communities seek to control and eradicate the global infection. What is the response generating in its wake or in its assumptions or even in its management policy? What effect will the response have on our understanding of what it means to be human in our world today and tomorrow? This is not a protest against what is happening but rather the results of the dualistic and simple approach to combating it?

Another occasion seemed straight forward enough. This one is unpacked by the teller we call Mark.  He says that: An itinerant sage with a group of disciples was walking from one place to another, listening and talking. And that while in a poor, peasant, agrarian society such an occasion was perfectly natural. these disciples were caught up in other issues, preferring to think about prestige and rank in their community, and figuring out how they were going to bring it about.

But this story appears to have been mor e complex than that as the story line is also about the sage Jesus and his passion of inviting others to re-imagine their world: to enlarge their picture of God to include all of humanity, and to enlarge their feelings of self to include the neighbour.

Ian Harris talks about this when writing of the faith journey of Dr Ian Cairns when working his way through Marks Gospel. Ian shows that God is not an unchangeable outsider, but is rather being formed in the processes of human searching and reflecting, and is therefore changing the patterns of human thought. The word ‘God’ symbolizes ‘our highest ideals of well-being, for the universe and for all its species, including the human.

So, in a symbolic act Jesus took a young street child, set the child in front of everyone so they could see, and put his arms around her. To understand the power of Jesus’ symbolic action
we should not think of children simply as loving and innocent. At the time of Jesus children were ‘non-persons’ (John Donahue. American web site 2006).

Where a child was a nobody unless its father accepted it. Where it was commonplace and legal for children to be ‘exposed’ in the gutter or rubbish dump, to die, or to be taken by someone who wished to rear a slave. 

Contrary to the disciples’ desire for positions of power and importance, Jesus is suggesting, it seems to me, that they should be more concerned with honouring into their midst the poor and vulnerable. In other words, re-imagining their world by enlarging their feelings of self to include the neighbour…

To quote Paul Ricoeur when he talked of the hermeneutical imagination: “Are we not ready to recognize in the power of imagination, no longer the faculty of deriving images from our sensory experience, but the capacity for letting new worlds shape our understanding of ourselves. This power would not be conveyed by images, but by the emergent meanings in our language. Imagination would thus be treated as a dimension of language”.

With the Mark story we have a hugely radical way to ignore or push the social boundaries of his society!  To ‘get up the nose’ of those who exercised power to value themselves over others! In acts of caring for vulnerable human beings we are to come face to face with the divine. This, is an important story and everyone should hear it.

Again, in Ian’s work we see Jesus as ‘the human one’ whose authority is of God. Note he is not God but his Authority as Jesus is of God in the sense that he pursues his vision of a world where human beings are freely able to move towards their highest human potential as responsible citizens of the cosmos.

Why? Because the point of Jesus’ life or his ‘ordering vision; is to advance what has been called the Kingdom of God or the reign of God or as Cairns puts it the kin-dom of God. This is not a call to submit to a higher will beyond ourselves but rather to a wholehearted commitment to the ‘common good’, the at-oneness of all things, or a rich quality of life in the here and now, a life ruled by justice and compassion.

What is becoming clear is that in current cultural development we are beginning to recognise that with the corruption of this Jesus ordering vision, essentially by the church itself, a modern ‘material prosperity’ is: harming other creatures, diminishing the functions of ecosystems, and altering our global climate patterns (Peters 2002).

Australian New Testament scholar William Loader suggests that: “Human beings have mostly attributed value to those who have power.  At some levels that has been physical power…  It is equally about having wealth, political power, family power…  They are saying such people are of Or as Cairns puts it, “Faith needs to become an active awareness of the sacred quality inherent in the whole of life, and a wholehearted response to this dimension; and again, ‘a positive determination to wrest meaningfulness from life.

Never before in the history of the world have so many known about so much. The new age dawning is an age of increasing scientific unity. Our living must be set in the context of the larger life we call the universe. And life’s choices are ours to make.

We need to embrace that ‘Spirit’ is a dimension in all of life, a perspective from which all of life may be viewed, and an energy in which all of life may be lived. Once we have heard the cry of the planet, or our neighbour’s cultural or religious pain, or the most vulnerable in our society,
we need to make a choice about what we will do.

Will we dance at the heart of the universe? Will the spirit of compassion and inclusiveness at the heart of Jesus’ life be our response? Will we dance at the heart of the universe? Will the mutual care of a community of faith… be our response? Will we make a difference when we make those decisions?

Amen.

Notes:
Peters, K. 2002.  Dancing with the sacred. Evolution, ecology and God. PA: Harrisburg. Trinity Press International.

Harris, Ian 2021 Hand in Hand, blending secular and sacred tom enlarge the human spirit. The Cuba Press

rexae74@gmail.com

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