A New Unity Sunday Gathering
We arrive in this place individually or in small groups
We arrive apparently separate and distinct from one another
Independent individuals and groupings seeking for themselves
Yearning to make our own lives easier, richer, more meaningful and purposeful
And we arrive together
We look around
We look deeper
And we catch a glimmer of understanding that we never were alone in the first place
We come together to rediscover and live into the connections that bind us together
We come to be held again in the web of unity that holds us
May the light of this flame open our senses to know the oneness that is already ours
Shaking the Tree, by Jeanne Lohmann
Vine and branch we're connected in this world
of sound and echo, figure and shadow, the leaves
contingent, roots pushing against earth. An apple
belongs to itself, to stem and tree, to air
that claims it, then ground. Connections
balance, each motion changes another. Precarious,
hanging together, we don't know what our lives
support, and we touch in the least shift of breathing.
Each holy thing is borrowed. Everything depends.
From Albert Einstein
"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty."
Message, by Andy Pakula
In the beginning, some 15 billion years ago, all the matter and energy in the universe was concentrated into a minutely tiny space of unimaginable mass and density.
In one colossal explosion, all that is and all that ever will be exploded from from that tiny point. Everything we know and everything we don’t know originated there and then.
As the white hot matter expanded at enormous speed, it began to form gas and, over many millions of years the gas condensed to form stars and planets and moons.
In time, organic molecules grew more complex and - in a wonderful moment eons ago - the first living thing developed.
We are descendants of those beings. We, along with all living things, are the descendants of that story of creation. As the great Carl Sagan put it: “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
This is a powerful story - as powerful as any story that starts with “in the beginning” or the many different creation stories from many different world cultures.
But what makes it especially meaningful to me is not that I am starstuff. It is not even that you are starstuff, although understanding our origin should give us a sense of our place in the universe.
What is so important is that *we* are starstuff. All of us. We are the same kinds of atoms and molecules from the exact same source. We were all there together in that infinitesimally small point of everything that preceded the big bang. We are the universe consciously gazing back upon itself.
What’s more, there is nothing exclusively you in you or me in me. The only thing unique about us is how all this magical starstuff is arranged at the moment. Before today, what is me now was once rain, earth, decaying leaves, animals, air, and plants. And it will be again. In a very real, practical, scientific sense, we are deeply interconnected.
Because of the vast numbers of molecules that make us up and the sacred recycling that connects us, each one of us contains within us molecules that were once part of almost everyone who ever lived - the powerful and the downtrodden - all races, all genders, all abilities, everyone.
The greatest tragedies of our lives come because of the belief - Einstein called it a delusion - that we are separate.
We live in a time and place where we are encouraged to be completely independent. We are instructed that no one else will look out for us - that we must stand entirely on our own - separate, isolated, alone, and in need of no one.
Nothing could be more wrong.
In truth - beyond our physical interconnection - our lives are entirely relational. We are physically shaped by the body that encloses us from fertilised egg to birth. We are shaped by the people surrounding us as we grow from birth to adulthood.
The influences do not stop there. Although the culture urges us to deny it, we are continually formed and reformed by those around us. We are social animals - open and embracing of the ways around us for good and for ill.
Over the next three months, we will expand on our lives in relationship. We will consider the many ways we affect one another. We will look at friendship, and love, and intimacy, and the power of community.
Today, the most pressing and immediate challenges in our world are vastly worsened by our inability to live into our interrelationships as beings on this planet.
In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested for his peaceful agitation for equal rights for Americans of African descent. From his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama he wrote a letter. It contained powerful words - not of anger toward those who oppressed his people - but of connection. He spoke of our obligations to one another - all of us.
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
When people are living in terror and dying by the tens of thousands in Syria, we must know that this catastrophe affects us as well and act as though our own brothers and sisters and children are there. When they flee to safety, our own family are fleeing. When they seek refuge in places like Britain, our own flesh and blood are calling to be sheltered.
As we live on this planet, we are not guests or rulers. We are relations - part of the family of all live past, present, and future. When we allow our world to be destroyed through human activity and inactivity, we harm our own - the family of all beings with whom we are so closely related and to whom we are so intimately tied.
Our interconnection and the interrelationship of all beings on this small planet orbiting a star in the Milky Way galaxy is not simply a nice concept. It is not just a way to think. It is a reality - both comforting and sharp-edged.
What affects one affects all. We cannot limit our global warming to one part of the earth.
What affects one affects all. We cannot allow oppression to continue in one land and imagine it will not have enormous consequences in all lands.
What affects one affects all. We are not alone. We are deeply interconnected and interdependent with one another. And we have come here to be in a place and with a people prepared to make that deep relationship once again visible and active in our lives.
In the beginning we were together. We still are.
May it be so.