All Spring, as I've been thinking about Easter and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost my mind has been flitting in and out of a baccalaureate address I was privileged to deliver to last year's St. Helena High School Seniors. Of all things I chose to talk about the spiritual properties of the miracle of photosynthesis. The address was a little longer, because I couldn't leave all this philosophy without giving them something concrete to take away. So the sermon goes on longer than is shown here. The rules for the road may pop up at another season of our Taize. Hope you enjoy playing around with the ideas of photosynthesis and the work of the Holy Spirit in your lives. Have a great summer. See you in the Fall.
St. Helena High School Baccalaureate 2009.
There is no rational explanation I have been able to ascertain as to why I am here in the assemblage of such honorable individuals as yourselves. However long and circuitous my journey has not been unrewarding. I spent too many years in graduate seminary in pursuit of my dreams. After I navigated my ordination trials and tests, an illustrious body of clerics and loved ones gathered together to review my work, administer oaths that I affirmed, and bestowed upon me the title of Reverend, which at the very least, completed my seminary goal. And now, for some of the above reasons, and none of them, here I am, and surprisingly, it is 'who I am'. At long last, I am authorized to practice my ministry with full confirmation of the authority of the church which in fact has affirmed 'who I am', not just 'what'. I think we're all on this journey adventuring toward our 'who' and I'd love to share some of my imaginings with you today.
Not that I have any smart or relevant things to say to you on the eve of your departure from the single most way of life you've known. But in the slew of smart and illustrious people who most likely have spoken with you about your commencement, I've been wondering all week what I could say to you that might stick with you beyond just this moment.
It occurred to me that since you are still in an academic mindset that a simple reminder of a random scientific formula might come to mind when you need it most.
I've long been attracted to the miracle of photosynthesis. You know the chemical formula I'm sure. It's a favorite point of memorization for middle school science teachers. Let's say it together: 6 CO2 + 6 H2O + energy from light ---> 6 O2 + C6H12O6. Two essential elements, gas and water, combine with sunlight to produce food and oxygen. Gas and water in the presence of sunlight equals enough food for a plant's journey. Really, when you think about it, all a leaf has to do is present its broad surface to the sunlight so that inside the leaf's tissues, the magical process of making food can occur.
So what do the essential elements of 'who we are' have any connection to the metaphor of photosynthesis.
Well, stay with me as we begin to figure this out together. First we go to the scripture we read.
1. God breathes into creation (Ps 93: God acts within every moment and creates the world with each breath.)
2. God creates us (Ps 139: You (Yahweh) have knit me together, wonderful are your works.)
3. God continues to co-create alongside us (Isaiah 43)
Let's take these scriptures now and apply them to this simple scientific formula, so that it might be singular enough for you to carry with you as you begin this next phase of your life's journey.
If we read the psalmist correctly we might safely say that God creates us by breathing into us. So imagine your version of who God is, breathing into us like say, blowing up a balloon. Isn't CO2 expelled as we breathe into something? For today, and just for the fun of it, and in order to make God's 'breath' more concrete, let's define 'God's breath' as 'that which is breathed into me to create my well-being.' In short, that which feeds and supports my essential being, or, that very thing which gives life. With breath we have a beginning formula:
*CO2 (God's life-giving breath) plus...
Water, H2O/ Our experience of breath is that it is invisible. Only on a cold day can we really see our 'breath'. Yet water is certainly visible and touchable. Like our bodies. Coincidently, isn't it common knowledge that 60-70% of our physical bodies are water. Water is our body's principal chemical component and makes up at least 60 percent of our body weight. Every system in our body depends on water, so perhaps we can call this part of the equation, the physical. So, the invisible (breath) plus the visible (the water of my physical body) creates a physical being call 'me'.
*(CO2) God's life giving breath + (H2O) a physical yet fluid body to inhabit the breath, (and create the on-going fluidity of life in something like a storyline)...whoa, we don't want to get ahead of ourselves here.
You are about to journey into a wilderness where the life adventure will change your story from the way you've told it to yourself. Water is fluid and on-going, changing and creating. So far you've been brought up by certain ideologies, created in part by your parents, your community, your place, your culture. All of these add up to a life's belief system, which now may seem solid, yet, will change, as your body storyline is fluid. You will re-create your story over and over in your lifetime. And into your changing storyline God is breathing life-giving moments of all kinds. Look around us, here in the Napa Valley creation is at its best in all seasons; you've been gifted by a small high school where you were given the opportunity to explore a multitude of different aspects of your gifts and personality to name a few examples.
With this addition we have now:
*(CO2) God's life giving breath + (H2O) a physical yet fluid body which co-creates my multi-changing story line. OR
*God's life giving breath/God in me + my changing (creating) story>in the presence of any light filled moment = my personal miracle.
Way more than enough for my journey.
Did I say 'any' light filled or love filled' moment. Yes I did. The desert ammas and abbas, (our spiritual parents) would concur that any moment of light of love in my life changes me, and moves me into more light. The presence of light and love makes me see my life and other people's lives, differently. Our word 'photo' comes from the Greek meaning 'light, of or produced by light'. So we have the magic ingredient. With God's breath in me, plus my physical, fluid self, in the presence of the loving-light of God shining directly in my life...that is, in the concrete, light-filled moments I experience, I under-go a syntheses; a chemical process that creates ME with enough spiritual, emotional and physical food for me to be more than fully alive. Like a leaf all I do is lift my soul and body to the light filled moments of my life so that inside my deep spirit the magical process of photosynthesis can occur.?!
By now, you may be asking how this brand of photosynthesis might make real sense in my daily living? Firstly, if the Universal Creator-God has created me, and affirmed my very being, and breathes into me to inspire me to life, and plants deep within me an original purpose which allows me to demonstrate gifts specific to me and a desire to love my life and those gifts. Then if in fact I continue doing what I've already loved doing, and build upon and give out and create from this gifted arena and this becomes my sole goal, then I am in collusion with the creator of the universe?
It's a simple, complex, and amazing question. But simply put, yes. The simple part, and the challenge, in the midst of co-creating your life with the creator of the universe, is to remember that like the sunlight on the leaf, your daily business is to turn toward the light of God's sunlight upon you, so that God might continue working in you. Doesn't seem too hard. And if you pay attention to what goodness comes into your life each day, the life-giving, light producing aspects of your daily life, then the silly metaphor of photosynthesis, i.e., my having enough, will be true for you all. The daily miracles of your life will be sure.
*God's life giving breath in me + God's gifts and desires through me> in the presence of god's light and love = life-giving miracles of my lifetime.
So what have we explored? Some silliness about photosynthesis? Yes, and no. Really this whole thing is about truly knowing the following:
1. You've been breathed and created in love, (God breathing into you because God can't wait for your very being to be present on earth)
2. that your body has been called by name, for the physical purpose of loving (that is God's gifts and desires planted in you),
3. in the presence of all the light and love you could possible ask or think (that God works for you)
4. and continues to co-create with you to live your miraculous moments of a lifetime.
Here we are, who we are. We are the created beings who have been synthesized by God.
*God creating breath + God's gifts and desires in me> in the presence of all the incredible light of friends and loving community = enough miracles for a lifetime of journeys! Photo(spiritual)synthesis!