As Christians listen to the scriptures and ponder the thoughts of our preacher, farther afield our planet soars in its elegant orbit the perfect livable distance from our sun - and our family of planets spin and soar at our sides, each at its own perfect pace. “Glory, glory!” we sing in rows of pews while stars explode, galaxies expand, and the universe continues its endless transformation. Inside our bodies, expanding and contracting with our breath, atoms hustle through their orbits as our energy cycles rise and fall. We bow our heads in prayer.
Somewhere a loved one is dying. Someplace, lions are charging their prey. Rivers are cascading over rock forms. And couples are making love.
There may have been times when orderly, word centered, front focused worship could express our understanding of our relationship to the universe, but these are not those times. We have seen the stars from the Hubble telescope and we have studied the paths of the smallest particles. We have viewed the earth from our spacecraft and we have seen it unleash violent earthquakes and wild Tsunamis. And through the lens of our telescopes, we have detected the provocative tracings of the beginning of time, the “Flaring Forth” as Brian Swimme calls it, the explosion of the life force 13.7 billion years ago that is still pulses through us today.
Present day protestant worship, mainline, liturgical, and contemporary, is a revision of worship practices of the recent past. We revised our liturgy from the Roman church of the third century - which was an inheritance from the house church worship of the earlier Greek church. Early Christian worship was based upon Jewish temple worship at the time of King David. The temple worship of David’s time was an outgrowth of the wandering Israelites who followed Moses through the desert with the Ten Commandments and their tent-like tabernacle on their shoulders. The cosmology of today’s worship is based upon human culture and community life of the last 4000 years – a short time in comparison to the life of the universe.
What style of worship would be an expression of creatures living in universe like ours? How can we celebrate being born out of the billowing particles of the original fireball - carried, created, and transformed into who we are today? Perhaps we have not gone back far enough to design worship that reflects upon and celebrates our place in the cosmos. Perhaps our worship need not be based solely upon the experience of human beings, latecomers in the unfolding of the cosmos. Perhaps we should look to volcanoes and atoms, orbits and emergings, the interplay of particles, the expansive field of stars, dark matter, black holes even – for our inspiration.
Or perhaps we should begin with the first big burst of life that effused out of the intention of the Great Mystery 13.7 billion years ago to help us shape our own expressions of wonder, despair, awe, and grace.
Rev. Dr. Gail Ransom
November 14, 2011