Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 4 - Harmony

Scripture: Genesis 1:14-19
Theme: This morning’s sermon considers the Celtic practice of venerating the lights of the sky; and how such a practice might lead to a deeper self understanding of ourselves and of God.

I think the first song Ruby memorized was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...much thanks to Dora, believe it or not, for that one.

Fascination, joy, appreciation, awe,
celebration of the lights of the sky: the sun, moon and the stars,
This is what Day 4 of creation in Genesis is all about.

“The unbridled wind of God’s creativity gives to the lights of the skies.  
The sun, moon, and stars, in their harmonies of movement and light, are further theophanies or [ways in which God is revealed].
Shining out of the darkness of space they express something of the inexpressible.  
“there is no speech, nor are their words,’ says the Psalmist,
‘yet their voice goes out through all the earth.’  (p. 51)

We are on week four of our look at Celtic Christianity as guided by a Minister in the CHurch of Scotland: Philip Newell.
On Day 4:
The sun by day and the moon and stars by night declare the mystery of God.

And the simple question that Newell asks is: What is it that they are saying?

Hmm: Have you ever wondered what the sun and moon are saying?

Like all that has been created, they have been spoken into being by God’s Word.
To not listen to them is ignore the self-disclosure of God. (p.52)

What do the sun and moon say?

    For this answer Newell looks to the Celtic tradition.
And there, Newell takes us in the direction of human sexuality!  

Wait a second. I thought that was Day 6!
God created them male and female in the divine image
That’s when I’m supposed to be in Mexico and Bob Chesnut’s preaching and he can cover that topic...

I for one am a feel a bit awkward addressing the topic.  
I’m not used to talking about human sexuality in private company, much less from the pulpit.
The only time sexuality is really a topic in church settings is
where two or more youth are gathered...and in that place lots of supervision is called for....

But, to stick with what we’re doing during this seven week series,
I’ll attempt to go in the direction Philip takes us.
Philip has not shied away from challenging the Western churches traditional teachings:
that all things about our sexuality are bad,
- that the union of a man and woman is how original sin is passed down,
The church at one point even went so far to suggest that the holy spirit impregnated Mary, the mother of jesus, through her as to not leave much for the imagination...

On Day 4 of Creation, he asks:  What do the sun and moon say?
And he sees an opportunity to talk about human sexuality.

“The Celtic tradition--[not unlike that of many ancient peoples]--
has been characterized over the centuries by a great awareness of the heavenly bodies.
There was the belief that a love of the lights of the skies....
brought with it a type of grace from God.”
The Celts saw spiritual light and physical light as interwoven...

In Celtic villages, it was a common everyday practice:
- for men to take off their hats to greet the sun in the morning;
- and for women to bow to greet the moon

In this way they venerated, honored, and show respect for these heavenly bodies.

And more specifically, Newell points to the tradition of the Celts which assigns masculine attributes with the sun, and feminine attributes with the moon.
This is why the men would take of their cap to the sun;
and women would bend their knee to the moon.  

The sun’s brilliance of strength was associated with power and outward energy.
It was identified with clarity, with seeing things by the light of day,
and thus with reason and intellect.
The light of the moon was seen as soft and gentle;
for the light of the moon does not banish the darkness as the sun’s light does.
The moon is a lamp in the night, whose light was identified with the intuitive,
and with the flow of feeling and emotion.  

And so out of that tradition sprang an understanding that
the sun is a masculine theophany of God and the moon a feminine theophany.  

While God is mystery and Unknowable.
At the same time, Scripture affirms that:
“there is in God both the masculine and the feminine.
There is a mother’s heart at the heart of God, as well as a father’s.
The prophet Isaiah compares God’s love to a mother’s when he asks:
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Similarly Malachi, using the image of fatherhood, asks:
‘Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us?’  

In essence God is neither male nor female,
but in the way the divine-self is revealed in the world, God is both.  

The practice of venerating the lights in the Celtic tradition was eventually repressed by the 19th Century...rigid Calvinists of the day who had the power to do so, stomped it out--labeling it as pagan and pre-Christian.  
Newell points out that while it was a pre-Christian practice;
after Christianity became the predominant religion of the Celts the practice itself became Christian;
the taking off the hat to the sun, or bending a knee to the moon was accompanied by making the sign of the cross.  
And the ring around the Celtic Cross is a sun symbol.

Was showing reverence for the sun and moon nature worship, as the Calvinists worried?
It makes me wonder: How do we show reverence to nature, and honor God in doing so?
Surely, our current overwhelming practice of destroying and abusing nature in an unconscionable way ought to be much more worrisome for 21st Century Christians, than worry about worship of nature....

Here in New Mexico,
I believe we have deep appreciation for the lights, perhaps more than many in the world;

But, reverencing/ adoring these lights of God is not something most of do consciously?
Any one bow to the moon recently?

Newell is concerned about what happens when we do not revere these lights?  
Do we miss something of the Mystery of God and God’s revelation?
Do we lose a sense of who we are in relationship to one another?
Do we fall out of balance in our understanding of the masculine and the feminine?

And thinking of it another way, he wonders if we pay more attention to the sun than the moon, does that mean we have a tendency to--almost unconsciously--value what we call masculine traits more than feminine?

How is it that so many societies throughout history are Patriarchal?
That there seems to be a tolerance of systems of oppression and abuse toward women?
Why is it that the majority of societies in our world turn a blind eye to violence--domestic or otherwise--toward women?  
Why have we men become so susceptible to carrying out violent acts toward women--be they physical or at a much deeper emotional level?
And interestingly, if you ask any perpetrator-
most of us men would either deny that what we’re doing is abusive,
or we live in terrible regret, and are at a loss because we don’t know how to act in another way?

Trasie ran out of gas not long ago...and rather than respond to a damsel in distress,
I went to the place of gender stereo-typing...
And invited the Public saftey aids who were blocking traffic, to join me in that place....

Women not surprisingly, have counter attacked.
A wonderful bumper sticker:
All men are idiots, and I married the king...Yikes!

How might a theology of God as both masculine and feminine free us from  this kind of really juvenile and primitive behavior?
HOw might a theology of God as both masculine and feminine lead us into a deeper discovery of who we truly are?

Sun and moon....lights of the sky...
Newell suggests that in affirming the Mystery of God, the Unknowableness of God,
that yes, what we’ve come to construct as masculine and feminine characteristics do exist, but never precisely defined.
And as part of God’s creation--created in the image of God,
we are in essence neither masculine nor feminine,
and yet we have both masculine and feminine characteristics.  

At heart we are an unfathomable mystery, deeper than the categories the world would assign to us.  We are both sun and moon.  Gentleness and power, softeness and energy.

This is quite different from the practice of our society
which would have us live into one or the other...
Men from Mars. Women are from Venus and

Everything has been separated into male and female.
Think about products sold to us:
Men’s and women’s sections at the department store.  
Women’s razors and men’s razors?
Women’s cigarettes and men’s?
Sleeping pads for camping?
I find Trasie’s women’s sleeping pad much more comfortable, and lighter, why would I not want that?   

Newell suggests:
“We have been predisposed as a tradition against men who show their feminine depths--such as tenderness,
and feel threatened by women who have strong masculine energies.”

Newell lifts up
“The celtic tradition, [which] celebrates the marriage of the two, both within ourselves and in relationship.
It encourages a discovery of the hidden depths of who we are and an integration of these
with what we already know.
To discover gentleness and mystery within ourselves,
for example, is not to abandon our strength and clarity of reasoning.”
The Celtic tradition sees Christ as the beginning of this ‘unification’.
Christ shows us ‘an example of the restoration of human nature.”
Christ directs us towards ‘the experience of harmony’.
Christ is both “Son of the moon’ and ‘Son of the Sun.’ the tradition says.
Through Christ all things came into being says gospel of John:
Christ reveals how we might  be set free...
the harmony in the heavens moving in relationship.

But, how do we go beyond appreciation of the light to reverencing them?
Are we interested in trying it just to see what may come as a result?

A salute toward the sun when leaving our homes?
Blowing a kiss toward the moon before going to bed: Good-night moon...

It was really weird when one of my seminary professors on a field trip, while we were standing around idle waiting to go somewhere,
stood faced the sun,
extended his arms from his side,
closed his eyes, and smiled.  

We were all like, what’s up with this dude.  (that's not him...)
When we asked he said, you try it...and some of us did.

He pointed out that in doing this we pay attention to the life and energy from the sun;
it stimulates our very cells...and brings us joy in this way....
the gift of life from the sun: God spoke it into being.
The divine masculine giving us all strength and vitality.

And the grace of the moon:
I’ll never forget the moon the evening the youth were up at GHost Ranch...
on top of Chimney we shared communion...
and as the final prayer was being spoken, a gigantic glowing ball of a moon rose in the horizon...
we all just stopped, speechless and
stared at God’s word spoken,  

The divine feminine gracing us all with her presence....

When we search within ourselves,
there are of course false cravings and fantasies, sexual and otherwise,
but planted at the core of our being, are the desires for life and love.
Knowing ourselves at our deepest dimensions, is likened, Newell says,
to twilight
- the period of the ‘two lights’
- a mystical time
-neither day nor night
- both day and night.
The marriage of the time of the sun with the time of the moon.

The heavenly lights
revelations of the harmony of God...
and the harmony which exists within each of us.

In the name of the Mother and Father of life, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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