“Cosmic Christ,” Annett Hanrahan
The “Cosmic Christ”
While not a “monarchist,” strictly speaking, I was nonetheless deeply moved by the death of Queen Elizabeth II and touched by the burial liturgies we were able to watch via television or live stream over the last few days. The liturgies included one of my top five favorite hymns, which brought me to tears at the final phrases: “changed from glory into glory, / till in heaven we take our place, / till we cast our crowns before thee, / lost in wonder, love, and praise.”
That hymn is, of course, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (The Hymnal 1982, #657), and it always evokes for me the profound juxtaposition of divine glory and human frailty, of what in old-fashioned language would have been called the “condescension of divine love.” But there’s nothing condescending whatsoever about the pining of the Lover for the Beloved. The great exaltation of love in that hymn makes the Gospel perfectly plain in that regard: the unimaginable love of Heaven comes to Earth, not as a gesture of noblesse oblige, but, well, for love.
Here’s what love does: it bridges gaps, crosses chasms, removes barriers, welcomes all. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we will hear it in some lofty language on Sunday morning. On the Fourth Sunday of the Season of Creation the theme is ridiculously broad—“universe.” Or, we might say, everything in cosmic scope. And so, we will hear from the classic opening chapter of the Letter to the Colossians in which Christ is lauded as the “head of the body,” the “firstborn of the dead,” the “firstborn of all creation.” The text lauds, in other words, what came to be known as the “Cosmic Christ.”
I worry that such lofty language for the Cosmic Christ obscures the Earthy Jesus. Even more worrisome, that such language removes Christ from our daily patterns and rhythms as ordinary human beings. Ironically, I suppose, that same letter to the Colossians tries to fix this “problem” by insisting that in Christ “all things in heaven and on earth were created,” and that in Christ God was “pleased to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven.”
I take that passage as a vital reminder that in the Universe of God’s astounding creative work, there is no “up” or “down,” there is no “lofty” or “abased,” there is no “divinely spiritual” or “humanly physical.” All of these are united, reconciled, joined inseparably, seamlessly stitched together into an unimaginable fabric of light, and love, and life; Heaven and Earth are one. That’s the character of the “Universe” we will celebrate on Sunday. And I firmly believe that Elizabeth Windsor is, even now, with tears streaming down her face, singing praises to that God of unimaginable love as she casts her many crowns before the heavenly throne…
Crossroads of Healing—Fertile Futures: A key component of our educational and outreach efforts as a parish is the “Crossroads of Healing” initiative, occasional gatherings and events devoted to the visual arts and spirituality for building a world of social justice. We are once again privileged to collaborate this fall with the Saugatuck Center for the Arts as they launch their fall exhibit, “Fertile Futures.” Artist Molly Costello (pronouns, they and them) is committed to imagining and building a world of thriving for all beyond the violence of racism and greed and toward collective wellness, accountability, and abundance. The exhibit is rooted and framed with agriculture, bold colors, and images that invite deep connections between and among us and all others.
As All Saints’ parishioners, we have two special opportunities to see this exhibit and interact with Molly Costello.
- The first opportunity is on Wednesday evening, October 19, which is a preview and chat with the artist before the exhibit officially opens. Please let me know if you are interested and I will reserve tickets for us so we can go together as a parish group!
- The second opportunity is a facilitated “talking circle” with Molly on Saturday afternoon, November 5, at 1:00pm. Registration is required for this event to keep the size of the conversation manageable. Click HERE for more information on that circle and to register.
Faithful and Equipped: Worship and education intertwine at the heart of Christian community as they continually shape and reshape us as the Body of Christ and equip us for our Gospel-witness in the world. The challenges of today’s world now urge us to pay particular and deliberate attention to how the key issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality all intersect and are framed by our ecological crisis. Beginning with this fall’s “Crossroads of Healing” events (see the notice above) a full slate of educational opportunities are planned from now through June, all of which are designed to form us more deeply in Christian traditions and equip us more effectively for our shared ministries in the wider community around us. On Sunday, November 20 (Christ the King Sunday), I’ll outline some of the key themes and topics for this range of programs during a Rector’s Forum at 9:00 a.m.
Click HERE for a draft version of the schedule and to start thinking about how you will want to participate in these opportunities with a variety of presenters, formats, and locations (ranging from indigenous insights concerning the land to classical Christian commentaries on the lectionary, and from the history of race and racism in the United States to the urgent call for more effective environmental action.)Most of these activities would be wonderful opportunities to involve friends and neighbors!
Dates and Notices:
- Holy Cow! The CAT Survey was sent out recently to currently active participants in the life of this parish, an important tool for helping the clergy and lay leaders move forward in our shared ministry and in reaching out to the wider community. We’re asking you to complete the survey (which takes roughly 20-25 minutes) before 9:00 a.m. on Monday, September 26. We will have a parish meeting to discuss the results and hear from a Holy Cow consultant on Sunday morning, October 16. (For those without Internet or email access, we are providing hardcopy surveys and instructions.)
- St. Francis’ Sunday: The Season of Creation concludes with our annual celebration of St. Francis’ Day on Sunday, October 2. The 8:00am liturgy that morning will be for humans only; for the 10:15 service, you are invited to bring well-behaved companion animals with you for worship and a blessing!
- League of Women Voters Forum: We will host a forum with the candidates of Saugatuck City Council at the parish on Wednesday evening, October 5 at 7:00pm. This will be a facilitated Q & A session moderated by the League of Women Voters. This is a non-partisan event with no candidate endorsements attached. If you live in Saugatuck, do come and bring your neighbors!
- Harvest Festival: Each year we collect food and household items to help ensure that the migrant workers who pick our fruits and vegetables do not themselves go hungry! We will have an ingathering of these items on Sunday, October 9, and there will be an interfaith worship service that afternoon, with our own Bishop Singh in attendance!
A Red Letter Day: Today we remember St. Matthew the Evangelist on our calendar of commemorations. Many consider Matthew’s account of the Gospel to be the most aligned with the traditions of Judaism, presumably because his audience was mostly Jewish. It’s also an important reminder of Jesus’ own Jewish identity and his religious tradition. We’ll remember Matthew tonight at Evening Prayer. Click HERE for the NEW liturgy leaflet and click HERE for the readings. To join this service on Zoom at 5:30pm (EDT), click HERE, or use meeting I.D. # 828 9666 2141 and passcode # 584221.