5th Sunday of Easter – Ted Hicks, Sunday May 2nd

WE ARE SUCH STUFF AS GOD IS.                         

Excerpts from Psalm 19
Adapted from “Psalms for Praying”: Nan Merrill, Continuum Press, 2002

The heavens declare the glory of the Creator:
Such light, such colour, such beauty!
The firmament proclaims the handiwork of Love:
Such ecstasy!

Day to day speech pours forth
and night to night knowledge is revealed.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet does celestial music go out through all the earth,
and its lyrics sounded to the ends of all worlds.

To such music, the sun dances
from dawn to dusk and to dawn again,
like lovers on their wedding night,
singing love’s song
and celebrating the dance of life.
The sun’s rising is in eternity
and its circuit encompasses infinity:
nothing is hid from the sun’s light.

The heavens declare the glory of the Creator:
Such light, such colour, such beauty!
The firmament proclaims the handiwork of Love:
Such ecstasy!
HYMN: “It’s a Song of Praise to the Maker”, More Voices #30
(Lyrics printed on final page)

SCRIPTURE: 1 John 1:1-2, 5; 4:16

In Christian tradition, John is identified as one among all the first followers of Jesus who shared a particular intimacy with Jesus that gave him a deeper, more intuitive understanding of who Jesus was (is) and what he taught (teaches). In these excerpts from a letter attributed to John in the Christian scriptures, we hear its writer straining to put insight into words.

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us…. This is the message we have heard from Christ and proclaim to you, that God is light and in God there is no darkness at all…. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in God’s love abide in God, and God abides in them. (New Revised Standard Version)

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church and to the whole created order: Thanks be to God.

Of The Stuff That God Is

We are not just made by God, we are made of God. Philip Newell attributes this simple but radical insight to Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century English mystic.* Because it is both simple and radical, as Newell suggests, we need to hear what she had to say again and let it sink in. Listen for the significance of two common prepositions and all the difference they make.
We are not just made by God, we are made of God.
Julian was not Celtic in the region of Britain she lived but the Celtic Christians further north would have agreed with her. The Creator did not bring into existence something out of nothing. Instead, when the Creator’s yearning turned imagination into matter and life, the Creator used what was already available from all eternity: and that was the Creator’s very own essence. Imagine with me the Big Bang, the creation story as told by contemporary science. Within that apparent ball of darkness and nothingness were all the attributes the Creator needed to fashion a universe – or many universes – in such dynamic diversity. In a moment that is still unfolding, those attributes flared out to give form to and to live within every thing that was or is or ever shall be.
God is light, says John, and God is love, John also says. And so, condensed inside what might have appeared to be profound darkness and absolute nothingness was eternal light and abiding love that burst forth from an ecstasy of divine passion to birth measurable matter and visual pattern. And within every speck of this universe and all the apparent spaces between each one, continues to indwell those elemental energies that are the essence of God: Light and Love. And may I dare to suggest other elemental and divine energies as well. Things like imagination itself that, through the vivid inner life of children and the strange realm of dreams and the mind-bending work of artists, is constantly stretching the boundaries of what we think is real and possible. And an instinctual impulse towards order and harmony that expresses nature’s and its Creator’s innate longing to connect and belong and to know itself as one. And diverse sexual energies from within God that long to find each other in every form of life, to reunite, and to create even more life. And a wellspring of joy and gladness, of hope and courage, of patience and perseverance, of healing and regeneration that, even when buried deeply underneath the hardpan of life’s challenges and pain, constantly seek a fissure through which to bubble up to the surface.
We are not just made by God, we are made of God and those elemental and divine energies are the essence of our being, of all life, and even of inanimate matter itself. All these energies burst into time out of eternity, continue to swirl about coalescing now into this form and then into that one, perhaps dying in one form only to be reborn in another, the energies themselves never dying. Jesus was one of those forms into which those energies came to dwell and, as much or more than any other, he understood the divine nature and innate oneness of all things visible and invisible. He longed for us to grasp, to experience, and to cultivate that awareness. I struggle to find words to express what I can almost understand. Jesus used a simple image from nature to communicate what was his commonplace reality. “I am the vine, you are the branches, my Father is the vinedresser,” he said.** An image, not of separate or alienated beings, but of each one as part of an organic relationship, with Spirit running through as its animating force.
Look and listen around you. At the birds singing. At the grass and the spring flowers greening and blossoming. At the stones in the labyrinth and at the paint on the walls of the church building. Each and all made of the stuff that God is. As are we and the ones beside us.
Think beyond this time and this place and allow your imagination to bring to mind our larger world and all its minutiae and wonders and heartbreak. An infant taking his first breath; an elder taking her last. A store clerk scanning your purchase and the purchase itself. A front line worker masked and gowned and aching for the patient lying there intubated and monitored by that beeping machine and the hope they share that it will keep beeping. And, oh yes, the PPE and the tubing and that beeping machine too. The easy banter between a nurse and a neighbour as the one gives a vaccination to the other. The super moon glowing huge and ruddy in the evening sky. The light from that distant star that finally reaches our night sky even though the star itself has long since imploded. Astronauts looking down on a blue planet. An ingenious rover wandering the surface of a red planet seeking signs of life. Each and all made of the stuff that God is. As are we and the ones beside us.
Being of the stuff that God is, who or what is not to be held precious and cherished, to be recognized and honoured, to be protected and enhanced, to be known as kin? Yes, in some, it is harder to see than in others. But it is still the deepest truth about all things, about every creature, about each person about every speck of matter to the farthest edges of the universe. As it is about you and the ones beside you. How can we notice that in all things and in each one? How can we help others who doubt that about themselves to remember it is true and to live into that reality for themselves?
*The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings.
John Philip Newell, Skylight Paths Publishing, 2015, from the Introduction **John 15

For Further Reflection:

1. Who or what comes to mind for you as you look around you, as you free your imagination to wander, and as you let your heart open? … Each and all made of the stuff that God is. As are we and the ones beside us.
2. What difference does it make to think of yourself and others and all the world this way?

How might any of your reflections or current concerns lead you into prayer
before you continue with what follows?

From the United Church of Canada’s Song of Faith

We witness to Holy Mystery that is Wholly Love. God is creative and self-giving, generously moving in all the near and distant corners of the universe. Nothing exists that does not find its source in God. Our first response to God’s providence is gratitude. We sing thanksgiving.

Finding ourselves in a world of beauty and mystery, of living things, diverse and interdependent, of complex patterns of growth and evolution, of subatomic particles and cosmic swirls, we sing of God the Creator, the Maker and Source of all that is.

Each part of creation reveals unique aspects of God the Creator, who is both in creation and beyond it. All parts of creation, animate and inanimate, are related. All creation is good. We sing of the Creator, who made humans to live and move and have their being in God.

HYMN: “Each Blade of Grass” – More Voices #37


Gerard Manley Hopkins
From Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Peace be with you
In the name of the Creator, the Christ, and the Spirit,
One with all Creation.

It’s a Song of Praise to the Maker – More Voices #30

It’s a song of praise to the Maker, the thrush sings high in the tree.
It’s a song of praise to the Maker, the gray whale sings in the sea,
And by the Spirit you and I can join our voice to the holy cry
And sing, sing, sing to the Maker too.

It’s a call of life to the Giver when waves and waterfalls roar.
It’s a call of life to the Giver when high tides break on the shore,
And by the Spirit you and I can join our voice to the holy cry
And sing, sing, sing to the Maker too.

It’s a hymn of love to the Lover; the bumblebees hum along.
It’s a hymn of love to the Lover, the summer breeze joins the song,
And by the Spirit you and I can join our voice to the holy cry
And sing, sing, sing to the Maker too.

It’s the chorus of all creation; it’s sung by all living things.
It’s the chorus of all creation; a song the universe sings,
And by the Spirit you and I can join our voice to the holy cry
And sing, sing, sing to the Maker too.

Each Blade of Grass (Circle of God) – More Voices #37

Each blade of grass, ev’ry wind that soars,
the waves that sweep across a distant shore,
make full the circle of God.
Each laughing child, ev’ry gentle eye,
a forest lit beneath a moon-bright sky,
make full the circle of God.

Each silent paw, ev’ry rounded stone,
the buzz that echoes from a honey’d comb,
make full the circle of God.
Each fire-brimmed star, ev’ry outstretched hand,
the wind that leaps and sails across the land,
make full the circle of God.

Each icy peak, ev’ry patterned shell,
the joyous chorus that the dawn foretells,
make full the circle of God.
Each cosmic hue, ev’ry creature’s way,
all form the beauty of this vast array,
making full the circle of God.

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