First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Rev. Kent H. Little
Date: June 23, 2019
Scripture: Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18:55, Romans 8:31-35, 37-39
Sermon: “The Invisible String, The Gospel of Nothing”
Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18:55
To love is to know me, My inmost nature, the truth that I am.
Romans 8:31-35, 37-39
So, what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? God didn’t spare Jesus but gave him up for us all. Won’t God also freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No! But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.
This will date me, however, one of my favorite movies is Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman. My favorite scene in that movie is when Old Lodge Skins, played by Chief Dan George, is sure it is his time to die. Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman’s character, goes with Old Lodge Skins up to the top of the ridge. He lays down and closes his eyes. He lays there for a long time… finally opens his eyes and looks at Little Big Man and asks, “Am I still in this world?” the reply is “Yes, grandfather” Old Lodge Skins groans, “I was afraid of that. Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.”
I thought of that scene last Friday afternoon as I went out to Standing Bear Lake for a little fishing time. As I was casting my bass lure, reeling it in, casting it out, reeling it in I was pondering my sermon for this morning. And…well…While I thought I knew what I wanted to say… nothing would come. I am passionate about this topic…and at the same time standing there on the shore the words would not come. Frustrated I was. That ever happen to you? I thought about ending the sermon here … with Old Lodge Skins wisdom, “Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
However, the answer to my dilemma was in my hand all along… there was this invisible string wound up in my reel, threaded through the eyes of my fishing rod, tied to a lure… well, okay, not really invisible, but certainly transparent, and fine… there was this connection between me and what I sought. I have long found connection to nature and to the rhythm of creation when I am fishing. I have long said, “Fishing is the point, catching is a bonus.”
There is something about the rhythm of casting and reeling and living in expectation of connection. For me it involves the entirety of who I am. The feel of the line on my finger, to line of sight and my intended target, the pulse of releasing the line and knowing just when to stop it… when I am fishing… there is a connection to all there is, whether I am conscious of it in the moment or not.
It is that invisible string the book speaks of… between those who care about us and ourselves… when we are away as the book suggests… at school, between friends, in a submarine, on a mountain top, as a ballerina, or a jungle explorer, in outer space, even the mom says… across the expansive mystery of death… even there. The question is asked… “Does the string ever go away?” “No. Not ever.”
My pondering on the shore of Standing Bear Lake brought my thoughts to Saint Francis of Assisi and comments from a book by Richard Kearney entitled, Anatheism, Returning to God After God. In his book he posits, “It is only if one concedes that one knows virtually nothing about God that one can begin to recover the presence of holiness in the flesh of ordinary existence.”
It is likened to the wisdom of, once we define God and describe God, we are not longer talking about God. He works on helping us unpack all the baggage we carry with us when we are talking about God, to let it go, those notions of a God “out there somewhere,” a God somehow disconnected from the world and us and intervening once and a while.
He speaks of Saint Francis when he writes, “We should not forget Saint Francis’s sacramental vision of the natural world. This represented a profound “heresy of the heart” that broke from previous metaphysical doctrines of Christianity as acosmic denial of the body. Francis’s bold heresy was to have challenged the gulf between humans and nature as Francis did – fire and water, sun and moon, animals and plants are our brothers and sisters.” It was a mystical panentheism – view that God is in all beings – and was condemned as blasphemy by many orthodox Christians before and after Francis. But for Francis, it was a way of restoring God to the world, of rediscovering a living God amidst the ashes of a dead one.”
All this to say, there is this connection to all that is. There is this fabric in which we exist… A tapestry of which we are a part…Connected to one another…Linked to all that is…A thread… The Invisible String, if you will. One to another, and another, and another…creating a material of our existence… The ground of our being, to quote theologian Paul Tillich …A Fabric of the Cosmos , to cite a title by Brian Greene… We, All…are interrelated in this journey of life… Bound up on this trek… Some may refer to this fabric, this connection, this belonging as… God, Divine, Energy, Presence, Knowing, Higher Power… We are all a part of this immersing fabric…
So many, so diverse of expression and experience…And I believe if we are awake to it.. We experience it… can feel it… Rob Bell in his book, “What we talk about when we talk about God” Quotes Jane Fonda from a Rolling Stone interview when asked about becoming a Christian she responds, “I could feel reverence humming in me.” Bell says that phrase resonates with him, it does with me as well… this Divine Hum, if you will, “when we find ourselves deeply aware of the something more of life, the something else, The sense that all of this might just mean something that it may not be an accident, that it has profound resonance and that it matters in ways that are very real and very hard to explain… however, there are those times when the rhythm is just right… and there is this hum of existence, this awakening to the connectedness of all things… this Invisible String that holds you to me, and to you, and to you, and to you, and to you….
One of the ways I practice this connectedness on a regular basis is in my prayer life…when I pray for someone or something… I envision this connection… a literal link between me and the one I am praying for… a connection that wraps them and holds them in my heart. I believe, in ways that we may only hope to understand, it is a literal connection… call it spirit, call it energy, call it a psychic thing, call it Divine, call it God… but there is something deep within me that believes there is a direct connection in that moment.
What would our world look like, be like if we were aware and awake to that connection in every moment… rather than this disconnected fractured world that surrounds us far too often. I have chosen to call this connection, this thread, this cosmic fabric, this tapestry…. Love. I believe it was what Paul envisioned in the mystical moment he pondered this connection when he wrote those words to the Romans…”For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NOTHING. No Thing! It is the Gospel of Nothing… Connected, immersed, interwoven… inseparably buoyed in the presence of love.
We are all a part…It is the beauty of who we are in this Divine fabric of existence …In God Believes in Love by Gene Robinson, I love his words when he writes, “God is all about love. Whatever is at the center of the universe, whatever gives meaning to creaturely existence, whatever we mean by “God,” it is all about love. There is no more fundamental belief among people of faith!”
This thread, this “string” is the glimpse of the more… a connection from which we can never be separated… ever… For here, caught up in this journey of life and community together, we are immersed in a sea of love, filled within, surrounded without, buoyed in an eternal connection one to another. And whether it is a few blocks, a few miles, a few towns, a state or states, miles upon miles that stand between us, or that expansive mystery we call death, we are connected just as surely as if we stand side by side, for in this Spirit of the Divine, there is nothing, nothing that can separate us from love. This. Is. So! Amen.
Kearney, Richard, 2011. Anatheism, Returning to God after God. Columbia University Press, New York, NY.
Greene, Brian, 2004, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, Alfred A Knopf, New York, NY.
Bell, Rob, 2013, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Harper One, New York, NY.
Robinson, Gene, 2012, God Believes in Love, Straight Talk about Gay Marriage, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY.