I brought in a picture to share this week. It is by Richard Caemmerer from the Grunewald Guild. This picture touches my soul because it reminds me that I can touch the cosmos--that each of us can. It is a picture of what I imagine happening when we come together to worship and create a thin place. The power of the universe focusing on one spot even if just for an instant can be felt if we open our hearts to it. This swirling power of the cosmos as Richard painted it is what I imagine happening when the communion bread is raised and broken.
From the Message [by Eugene Peterson] we have the letter to Ephesus: “How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. …” I think Paul had a vision like this picture when he wrote this. Paul had experienced God in community--had created thin places where he could touch and be touched by the cosmos.
Jesus brought in a new era. Everything in the Universe was shifted. The view of God went from looking up to looking out. These wise men or band of scholars looked up and saw a new star so they had to investigate. They studied what it might mean and were compelled to pay homage to the new king the sign proclaimed. It would have been a costly journey, but they chose to go anyhow. They went to the people in charge at the most important city to find out about this king. And they were sent to lowly Bethlehem. They traveled the distance all the time looking up at the star and then found themselves looking straight into the arms of a young mother. We don’t know how old Jesus would have been by the time of their visit, but he still could be held in his mother’s arms. From the work of the contemporary seers, the child was under two years old--still considered an infant.
These scholars from afar paid homage and gave their gifts then they left without drawing attention to themselves. From Matthew in The Message: “They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! … Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him.”
They were not looking up, they were looking straight into the face of God. They had such an experience there in Bethlehem that they were compelled to protect the child from Herod so he would not know how to find Jesus. The whole cosmos seems to have come together so they could learn of, seek out and find this child. They must have been touched by this experience. They came to see, smell and taste the living God. And they were not disappointed.
Of course the Magi are a beautiful message that from the beginning Jesus came into the world for the whole world. It is a message to us that Jesus came for us Gentiles, too. And a message that he came for the wealthy and educated just as he came for the outcast and poor-like the shepherds and the townsfolk of Bethlehem. This group of scholars had it together and Jesus came for them--called them to come and experience the living God.
So let’s not leave anyone out in our thinking of whom we might invite into our life in Christ. If you meet them or know them or transact business with them or if you seek them out in humble places, Jesus came for them just as he came for us. The whole cosmos can fit in this one little point in this one little church for this one little moment. Just as the cosmos swirled into and through the cave in Bethlehem while a young woman writhed in the pain of birth and a baby burst forth and cried that first cry. The birth itself was a miracle as all births are. The following events were remarkable enough that the early church felt it needed to write them down: The unlikely visitors, the unexpected journeys, and the mother who stored and treasured it all in her heart. Did she feel the touch of the cosmos?
I feel the touch of the cosmos when I gaze into the face of an infant. I feel the touch of the cosmos when a person from our “under the bridge” community asks for a prayer or a hug. I feel the cosmos rush through my body when I lift and break the bread. I found out last week that Shawn finds special significance in hearing that bread break, too. I keep this picture up year round to remind me what a privilege it is to be able to do so many wonderful things with so many people.
On this picture is Richard’s caption:
The One who set the Magellenic cloud on its course,
Now for our sake and the sake of creation
Brings the cosmos to the manger.
And the One who traveled past the Pleiades,
Through Orion, Andromeda, and the Milky Way
Desires now to live in the small house of our hearts.
Eugene Peterson’s foreword to the New Testament states this about why these works were written in the street or common language of the time rather than in the formal language of great and important works. “… one good look at Jesus--his preference for down-to-earth stories and easy association with common people--gets rid of this supposition. For Jesus is the descent of God to our lives, just as they are, not the ascent of our lives to God, hoping he might approve when he sees how hard we try.” Let me say that again, “Jesus is the descent of God to our lives, just as they are, not the ascent of our lives to God, hoping he might approve when he sees how hard we try.” Mary and Joseph were ordinary people, the shepherds were ordinary people, Bethlehem was full of ordinary people, and even the Magi were ordinary people-with money and education--but ordinary in their own setting. The extraordinary thing was this experience of God they all had--this thin place created by the birth of a child who trailed the cosmos behind him and allowed it to blow through the earth and compress itself into a cave. No wonder there were angels singing and wonderful signs like a new star and the fulfilling of prophesies!
Trusting this story as true, as a depiction of “love coming down at Christmas” helps us to come to peace. The universe has shifted and we have a message for a tired and worn out world--a message of hope and peace and abundance for all people.
The cosmos was brought to a manger and now he desires to live in the small house of our hearts. Now that is amazing! Welcome him.