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Stretch Out

Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21, Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 and Excerpts from Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Hello beautiful people, thank you for being here for our worship this morning. Here in Colorado, we had weather whiplash since we were together last. And that wintery storm did some pruning. In my neck of the woods here in South Boulder, there were piles and piles of limbs. On the upside maybe we have lighter loads after a pruning of heavy branches? When I saw so many downed branches and large limbs, it reminded me how much this time is reducing us, taking some parts of us, even some of our joints and our limbs- bringing them to the ground. Maybe you feel pruned too? But like the trees you are still here. And there will be cleanup and mourning what is being lost, but there should also be celebrating of what remains, of what is still rooted deep and reaching wide.

And so, as you are moved, I invite you to take a deep breath and to let yourself arrive. Join me in a spirit of prayer.

God, Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, wherever they are, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen

Galaxies are moving, but not through space, in space, because space itself is also moving and the Universe has no center. But it includes everything in existence, from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy. Approximately 400 million stars are born each day, which is about 4800 stars per second! Since forming some 13.7 billion years ago, the Universe has been expanding and even accelerating in its expansion since then. The cosmos are continually stretching out…

Carl Sagan wrote that the “The size and age of the cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home.”

And because our tiny planetary home is in peril, we feel lost in numerous ways.

Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity, lost somewhere between what is and what could be, lost between an economic system designed on unending growth and infinite resources and the vision of another way, lost between the spiritual and material, lost in the unending days of uncertainty, lost… is our tiny precious planetary home, in peril and in a period of chaos.

Even in this hard and harrowing time, even amid smoky skies and unclear horizons and ongoing lies about what is, I wonder if just like the Universe itself… I wonder if we too are being stretched? I wonder if right now we humans are literally being expanded?

Because from what I am hearing, from what I am sensing, from medical professionals, educators and spiritual leaders, librarians and greeters, politicians and organizers, legal professionals and elected officials- all of us are doing new things, by force, by circumstance, by the push of this moment.

Each and every one of us are being stretched…

Trying new ways of meeting and greeting, new ways of connecting and organizing, new ways of creating and curating, new technologies, new platforms, new apps, new skills! Stretch out, spread out, extend, incline, bend.

The book of Exodus tells us that after all that Moses had endured and then evaded and then survived and then inspired and then created, the text tells us that “the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers." Stretch out your hand. Stretch out. Stretch!

As John Clayton writes, “The Bible repeatedly refers to the fact that the Universe, that the cosmos “stretched,” … The Hebrew word used in those passages is “natah,” which is to stretch out. And the most common use of this word in other places in the (Hebrew Bible) is to indicate a person’s hand stretched out to point or show motion, like here in Exodus 8, for example, “natah” is used to describe Moses’ moving his hand and his rod…” Clayton contends that the Bible tells us that accelerative, is the force what moves the cosmos as a whole.

Natah- lengthen, distance, bridge, span… Stretch out!

This is what all of us are doing right now, pulling ourselves from what worked in another world, to what is keeping us in this moment. We are doing things regularly that have put us at the edge of our own knowing, at the edge of our comfort and capability. We are bridging from what was to what will be.

This means we might find that our days make us more frustrated and more exhausted…. And yet, what if this is a way of building the foundation for a new way? What if stretching now hurts, but is preparing us? Reaching beyond our current set of skills, stretching out beyond where we thought we might ever be, might be just the kind of practice needed for the world God wants? Because as we saw from Moses, the stretch, Natah points to movement. What if in this very moment we are cultivating new capacities, building new muscles, creating new capabilities for just what is needed next?

Because Cosmos, by definition is the opposite of chaos- it means an orderly harmonious systematic universe. It means an organized generative arrangement that creates new possibilities, new light and new life.

So I wonder if the way to combat chaos is cosmos? I wonder if this is the moment to celebrate that we are stretching right along with the Universe?

As Carl Sagan wrote, “Cosmos is a Greek word for the order of the universe. It is, in a way, the opposite of Chaos. It implies the deep interconnectedness of all things. It conveys awe for the intricate and subtle way in which the universe is put together.”

If you are frustrated and tired, maybe it is because you are stretching, learning, growing, transforming in ways you have yet to see? We are moving, but not through, instead in, within and among all of creation. Because the whole thing is moving and there isn’t a center, but everything in existence is included, from the smallest to the largest. I wonder if we/us/each of us and all of us are in a period of expansion, of reaching, bridging, changing and stretching?

Natah- to stretch out, to spread out, extend, incline, to bend.

Natah- to lengthen, distance, bridge, to span…

From the poetic explanation of how our earth began, the book of Genesis says that God responds to chaos and to the deep with cosmos-order. God’s spirit (ruach), a mighty wind, hovers over a deep and this Ruah, created light in that deep, that darkness. And then that Ruah, that mighty wind, divided water from water, and then It named them earth and seas. And then that Ruah, that mighty wind, God leads a people from slavery to freedom. As in Exodus, just like in the story in Genesis, Anathea Portier-Young writes, “God again makes light in darkness and, by a fierce wind or spirit (ruach), rearranges sea, reveals land, and divides waters. Exodus, the road out from slavery to freedom, is a story of a new creation.”

She goes on, “God’s power to create from nothing, from formlessness and void, is the same power by which God saves and transforms. It reveals a path for God’s people and builds walls to protect them from the chaos and death of the sea. Yet the crossing remains treacherous.”

Indeed the crossings ahead are treacherous.

But what if we are being made ready? What if this time is teaching us that living and building the world to which Jesus pointed, forming and being the kind of world God imagines for us, isn’t about knowing how and then getting there, rather what if it is about constantly being willing to stretch and be stretched on our way to something else? To lengthen, distance, bridge, to span…to reach beyond the comfortable, to cultivate new capacities, build new muscles, create new capabilities for what is needed next?

Carrying on even when we cannot quite reach, keeping on, keeping up and keeping going is our prayer. Being faithful right now is getting out of bed and getting up when we fall or the technology baffles. It is stretching out, extending, inclining, bending, bridging, reaching beyond…

From seemingly nothing, from formlessness and a void of light, from chaos and a long dark night, lost not just between immensity and eternity, lost between the spiritual and material, lost in the unending days of uncertainty, lost… is our tiny precious planetary home, in peril and in a period of chaos, and yet we are expanding. The cosmos are continually stretching out…

And to make the treacherous crossings, so must we. This means that in the days and weeks to come… when we are weary from the discomfort of the stretch, let us celebrate, that we are being faithful to this moment.

The great artist, Pablo Picasso said, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Each of you are artists of a world that is not yet. We must do what we cannot, what we know not, yet. God, Spirit, Ruah, again is making light in darkness and, by a fierceness rearranging the sea. This is a story of slavery to freedom. It is a story of a new creation. Indeed the crossings ahead are treacherous.

But what if we are being made ready? Natah- keep reaching toward that which we cannot yet touch, stretch out and we just might get there…

May it be so.

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