By Rev. Joan Kessler
Several weeks ago, at the beginning of Lent, I watched a documentary entitled, Carbon: The Unauthorized Biography. The opening of this program spoke of carbon as a story that never ends, and you and I are but one chapter of it. Carbon is found everywhere; atoms come together to form an element that is the fundamental building block of life. We hear references to carbon all the time… our carbon footprint… a federal budget that is providing financial incentives for Carbon capture projects… it is the most talked about and quite possibly least understood element on Earth.
13.8 billion years ago, the Big Bang happened, compressing everything around us into a much smaller volume. Pressure built up and expanded over time and our universe was born. Atoms came together, elements formed. Carbon came later, forming in the heart of a star, the documentary told me. Stars live by fusing elements in their cores. Stars also grow old, they get bigger, and they die, losing their stuff to the wider universe. They collect, they come together to form new stars and planets. Carbon is created over and over again, and it formed life, including you and me. One-fifth of our bodies are made it, born of collisions of this element, every molecule, every cell is loaded with the stuff. More than 90 percent of everything we see… wood, plastics, fabric, the food we eat are all made possible because of Carbon. She is inescapable and is always with us. She bands together with other elements to create stability.
My fascination with Carbon and stardust and creative forces comes with me as part of my preparations for today. You will notice the banners behind me have changed for our celebration of Palm Sunday. But it is the cosmic banner that hung in this space for the past five weeks of Lent that I want to reflect upon as we enter Holy Week for this year. I heard from many of you how much you enjoyed seeing Margaret Kyle’s cosmic banner. The black of the universe with the brilliant design of stars painted across the fabric… I don’t know whether Margaret was using random or intentional strokes or a bit of both, but the end result was a masterpiece of the cosmos that is part of us… that surrounds us… you only have to look up into a darkened sky to sense the awe and wonder and mystery of Creation and its Source. How does the cosmos, the divinely created order speak to our Lenten journey?
Most importantly, the cosmic journey represents loving, conjoining forces at work. Jesus, the one we call the Christ, was more than just a historical figure who walked this earth some two millennium ago. He was a great teacher, a healer, a moral exemplar who knew people and how humans worked. He embodied the divine nature, the God presence, lived out on the ground in everyday life. The Christ is the firstborn of all creation as Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians. Creation came through Christ, the firstborn of all that is physical and spiritual. The Prologue of John’s gospel tells a creation story:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
This challenges my Christology this Holy Week… that Christ is part of the Cosmic story… the same story you and I are part of. This day, we commemorate Jesus’ life and his ministry. His journey into Jerusalem sees him cross the threshold from life to death to resurrection. He walked everywhere he went and yet he chooses a young donkey, with a bony back, never ridden before, to make his entrance into Jerusalem. This journey of crossing over will see him betrayed, arrested and sentenced to death by crucifixion, an execution saved only for those the Roman state saw as religious or political extremists. And the version of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem from Luke sees those who lined the streets to welcome him not waving palm branches - they didn’t have time to go and gather these. Instead, they took off their cloaks and laid them on the dry, dusty ground, a stark contrast to the display of military power and might on the other side of the city. Worlds will collide and the energy was transformative.
Jesus draws my attention to the bigger picture this day. The image displayed on the cosmic banner has come to emulate for me the interconnectedness of all living things and this story today of Jesus riding into Jerusalem to face betrayal and death we commemorate not only as moment in religious tradition or Christian history but as part of the cosmic interconnection. I am part of this story. You are part of this story. One of justice, forgiveness, belonging, of renouncing power and military might and corrupt government for one that honors and protects the human dignity and ethnicity of every person and the natural environment whose resources we need every day. If Jesus held any power, it was one of Hope for humanity, for creation, the world and the cosmos.
The journey towards this new world order continues. Jesus never saw himself as a king or a military leader with power and might. Jesus constantly gave those things away. If Jesus held any power, it was one of Hope for humanity, for creation, the world and the cosmos.
Instead, he calls attention to the stones. Those things beyond ourselves needing our attention… the foundation of the earth is crying out for justice and equality and compassion. What would the stones cry out today? An end to the war in Ukraine? Continued work towards autonomy and self-governance and truth and reconciliation for First Nations people? Do the stones cry out for an urgent response to climate change and the things we are going to have to do differently to preserve life on this planet? The stones shout out to those who will listen.
While I live a life very close to the ground, this Palm Sunday, I am looking up to the heavens, the stars of the night sky, and I remember that I am stardust. Christ is stardust and more than a historical figure but the God Presence of everything, the journey onward for goodness and loving connection. I pray you all a most blessed and fulfilling Holy Week to come.