A reflection on the readings for Epiphany 1A: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Matthew 3:13-17
I don’t know why this happens to me, but often I wake up in the morning with an earworm, the words from some piece of music, usually a hymn, playing round and round in my head. Most recently my earworm was, “In the bleak midwinter.” I think it floated around in my consciousness the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s. Now, the last couple of days it has been, “Come thou long expected Jesus.” Of course I can only remember a couple of words and a sliver of the tune, but that doesn’t stop my brain from tossing it around during yoga class, while drinking a cup of coffee or doing dishes, or even, as I fell while walking outside.
Come thou long expected Jesus, come to set thy people free, from our”….and then I can’t remember exactly how the rest of the phrase goes.
Our mind, our consciousness, is fascinating. Just what is it that makes us tick?
Dr. Robert Lanza is a stem-cell researcher. He is currently the Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology, and Adjunct Professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He has hundreds of publications and inventions, and has written over 30 scientific books. His controversial book BIOCENTRISM, talks about “How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe.” The book has caused a stir because Lanza states that consciousness does not die when the physical body dies. Instead he surmises, consciousness exists before the body and continues to exist after the body dies. [i]
The website “Spirit Science and Metaphysics’ describes Lanza’s theory this way:[ii]
“Lanza points to the structure of the universe itself, and that the laws, forces, and constants of the universe appear to be fine-tuned for life, implying intelligence existed prior to matter. He also claims that space and time are not objects or things, but rather tools of our animal understanding. Lanza says that we carry space and time around with us “like turtles with shells.” meaning that when the shell (of space and time), comes off we still exist.
The theory implies that death of consciousness simply does not exist. It only exists as a thought because people identify themselves with their body...thus, if the body generates consciousness, then consciousness dies when the body dies. But if the body receives consciousness in the same way that a cable box receives satellite signals, then…consciousness does not end at the death of the physical vehicle.….
Consciousness, or at least proto-consciousness, is theorized to be a fundamental property of the universe, present even at the first moment of the Big Bang….
(According to this theory) Our souls are in fact constructed from the very fabric of the universe – and may have existed since the beginning of time. Our brains are just receivers and amplifiers for the proto-consciousness that is intrinsic to the fabric of space-time.”
We hear much the same idea in several places in the Bible. Genesis, Isaiah, and the Prologue to the Gospel of John, for example, all speak of a consciousness that existed before creation. Genesis describes it as God meets the formless void and through God’s imagination structures the void into order: night and day, animals and humans. Isaiah calls this idea, “the servant.” The servant of God is a concept of justice that God reveals to humankind as a calling. Servant is a call to be the one who enables God’s justice to manifest in this time and place. Servant, as Isaiah uses the term, is often understood as both singular and plural. Christians interpret the servant in Isaiah as Jesus and then continue the interpretation to include the body of Christ, the Christian church, called to acts of justice.[iii] John calls this consciousness “the word.” All of these examples convey the idea that God has for creation - that all have equal access to that which enables life to be good – justice- that all will have equal access to adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and employment – because having these in a sufficient amount is what constitutes the kind of healthy life God desires for all creation. This idea comes from the imagination of God and is planted in the souls of human beings. [iv]Jesus provides Christians with the creative Word of God embodied as a human being who reveals to us that this is what God’s imagination intends for the justice of all creation. Jesus leans into the teachings of the prophet Isaiah to affirm what he already knows within himself. No doubt this is a lofty vision, but we hear over and over in scripture that God is with us as we strive to bring forth God’s desire.[v]
Even our psalm this morning weighs in on this idea. To hear this Psalm on the same Sunday that we honor Jesus’ baptism is to be reminded that the word made flesh and gifted to us in baptism, as it was to Jesus, is an awesome task. The voice of God speaks into our beings at our baptism and then resonates throughout our life time, calling us to listen and act. Who we are as Christians is life a long journey of growing ever more aware of what God asks of us. Our formation as Christians does not end at baptism. It does not end at confirmation. These rituals of the church merely mark the beginning.
Last Sunday we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. We considered how God speaks into our lives and into our world with signs, like the star that led the wise ones to Jesus, and also with words. I mentioned a colleague of mine, who is the pastor of a church in Idaho, and a discipline that her congregation practices on the Feast of the Epiphany called “starwords.” On Epiphany, every member of the congregation, including the clergy, are invited to take a star with a word on it. The word is their word for the year. It is a word that is meant to open up one’s prayer life and help one see new ways in which God may be at work in one’s life, revealed through reflection with the starword and the action that produces.
I think this is an interesting experiment for us to engage in as our discipline and prayer practice. So last week a number of us took a starword of our own. Those of you who missed that opportunity can take a word today. The ushers will come around in a minute with baskets with starwords.
I suggest you put your starword where you can see it and remember it. Ponder it over the next year. Let the word form your prayer life however it may do so. Let the word bring new insights into who you are or how you are in relationship with God and other people. Let the starword reveal to you how God is calling you to participate in the revelation of God’s desire in the world today. Let the starword resonate inside of you like an earworm. If you don’t like the starword you draw, and think it will be one of those really annoying earworms, like the jingle of a commercial, maybe that is an important place to begin. Why don’t you like it? But, also will you still dislike it after a year of living with it and letting it pray through you?
A star led the wise ones to Jesus. The incarnate Word, that existed before all creation, is made flesh. God speaks into our lives at baptism and then, over and over, during our lifetimes. May your star word lead you to new insights on how God is working in and through you this year. May your starword help you see just what makes you tick. May your starword be like an earmworm from God.