Foundations of Transformation
A Cosmic Easter
In December 2013 I posted a blog that the message of Christmas is a foundation for Transformation. “Jesus’ humble beginnings illustrate how God has shared in poverty, and that the starting point for transformation lies in identifying with the poor and the disadvantaged. Indeed, God identifying with the poor and disadvantaged as a central message of Christmas, provides millions with the foundation of how they want to live their lives ……”
If that Christmas message of Jesus’ birth into poverty provides motivation for transformation, the resurrection of Jesus that millions of Christians celebrate at Easter and stake their very lives on, is worth examination as the very basis for transformation. If true, the resurrection would indeed be one of the seminal events of history with the the resurrection being the very hinge point of Christianity.
This Easter my wife Evelyn and I are blessed to be visiting our daughter and her family in Cambridge . On Easter Day we attended their church, St Edwards King and Martyr, where Malcolm Guite, the notable English poet and singer/songwriter, acts as chaplain. (see short bio in sidebar) He delivered a powerful Easter sermon which echoed elements of his 2013 “A Cosmic Easter ” sermon which is featured in this article. What strikes me as singularly important in the sermon is the life choice I have in response to the “grand miracle”, transformation is a matter of choice. I present portions from that sermon along with his poem, Easter Dawn, which appears in the sidebar.
(To hear the entire 15 minute audio of the sermon, click on this link or copy it into your browser: http://sainteds.podomatic.com/entry/2013-04-07T12_52_04-07_00)
Cosmic! I’ve always just wanted to say that word from a pulpit. Cosmic, but cosmic is a word to which I am going to return and my pleasure in saying that word loudly and joyfully to you on this Easter morning. Cosmic, I’ll say it again. It’s not simply that I am perhaps the last gasp of a generation that quite liked to say, “hey man, that’s cosmic” , it’s because since the days when I used to say “hey man that’s cosmic” I have discovered something that genuinely is “cosmic”; and that is the good news that we celebrate today, of the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus Christ.
Even with the little bit of Greek that I staggered through when I was doing my New Testament studies, I was delighted to discover that that oft quoted verse, John 3:16, “…and God so loved the world that he gave his only son Jesus Christ” is actually not so much “the world” as “ton kosmon”, God actually loved “the whole cosmos”. That’s what “the world” is… the whole of everything, the beautiful goodness that he created…
It was actually sitting in this church and hearing words from this pulpit that gave me a great thrill and a sense of that news again when Sir John Polkinghorne, the cosmologist and priest, said about the resurrection; he said that the only thing he felt in the whole of the old order that the current order, the current making of the cosmos, to which you could begin to compare the unique dynamism and power of this event, the resurrection; he said you can only compare it to the big bang, to the singularity, the unknowable thing out of which everything else flowers.
And just as we are trying in some way, brilliantly and beautifully in science, to look at light from a great distance and look back and beginning to try and reconstruct this almost unfathomable, unknowable event out of which we and everything else sprang, that’s the kind of approach we should be taking to the astonishing event of the resurrection. It’s something out of which everything else in the new order, which is the kingdom of God, flowers.
I’d like to share with you, particularly some words from a favourite writer of mine who also comes to this very same conclusion, and this was not something written just recently. It certainly wasn’t just some sixties cosmic piece of writing, although it has that word. It was actually a sermon delivered in nineteen forty-five by C.S. Lewis called “The Grand Miracle”. And of all the writings of Lewis, if I had to choose one passage that encapsulated my hope, I think it would probably be this one.
Let me share it with you as good news on Easter Morning, and tell you that I applaud it all to the rafters. He says this:
“I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on his shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are of course, as scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming.” And then he goes on to say something which seems to me to be prescient of this particular spring. He goes on to say:
“To be sure, it feels wintery enough still. But often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two in this scale. A man really ought to say, ‘The resurrection happened two thousand years ago’ in the same spirit in which he says ‘I saw a crocus yesterday’ because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way, but the great thing is that the corner has been turned. There is of course this difference, that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not. We can. We have the power either of withstanding the spring and sinking back into the cosmic winter or of going on into those high midsummer pumps in which our leader the son of man already dwells and to which he is calling us. It remains with us to follow or not; to die in this winter or to go on into that spring, and that summer.”
He wrote that a few years before he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but you can see the plot there already, can’t you?
“With the wonderful coming of spring”, it’s a wonderful challenge, something astonishing has been done. But we have this response, this possible response, this way of participating.
So I want to finish by saying, what difference does this “singularity”, this “cosmic beginning of a new creation’, this wonderful image which somebody has described “the end and the beginning and the middle, bursting into the midst of history”, what difference does it make to us?
Well, I think the first thing, the first difference that it makes, is that we live in hope. Something glorious has happened but more is coming. Jesus says, “Not yet”, at one point he says, “I’ve not yet ascended. When this happens, go. When this happens, more is to come.”
We’ve seen a glimpse, we’ve seen the first fruits, and hope gives us a new perspective, and it gives us a new energy. How many times the Christian Church itself has completely written off, how many times individual Christians have been written off, or have written themselves off and said, “That’s it, I’ve given up, I’ve had enough”. And then something in us won’t die, something in us won’t lie down, something in us won’t let us let go and give in to the general gloom and pessimism. There is something alive and awake and stirring. That first spiritual crocus, as it were, is still somehow there. And that gives an energy and a hope to us that nothing can take away in this world. So we have hope.
We also have a mandate; we have the novum mandatum, the new mandate from which we took the name of Maundy Thursday and which we received again last Thursday, the new commandment to love. And I believe, because we are speaking of a cosmic spring, it’s not simply a mandate to love one another within our little groups or races or species, I think it is a mandate to love and delight in and share hope with the whole of creation…
To hear the entire 15 minute audio of the sermon, click on this link or copy it into your browser: http://sainteds.podomatic.com/entry/2013-04-07T12_52_04-07_00