This Planet of Pain
Matthew 23:32–56, Mark 15:21–41, Luke 33:26–49
Now we open
to the story of the Crucified and Risen One,
arms stretched out
across the chasms of fear,
pulling factions into his own broken body,
closer to his pierced heart,
so that this planet of pain
may one day claim as its own
the love flowing out from that
sacred, broken heart.
Yes, pull us in, Spirit of the Living God,
into the Heart of our hearts,
that we might once and for all
lay down our arsenals of fear
and take up our tools
to build the kin-dom of God
for the sake of all creation.
This prayer is one of the prayers for Good Friday in Bruce Sanguine’s latest book, If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics. Sanguine, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and pastor of Vancouver’s Canadian Memorial United Church, wanted “prayers for worship and spiritual practice that are written from the perspective of the great evolutionary story of the universe.” But evolutionary thought is still in infant stages in both theology and liturgy. Sanguine wondered:
What was born of necessity soon became a weekly discipline of joyful creative expression. I wondered what prayers in support of the new cosmology and evolutionary spirituality would look and feel like: How would we pray together if we took the science of evolution and the new cosmology seriously—if we saw the presence we call God intimately involved with the modern scientific realities of the universe, the planet, and human beings? How do we translate Paul’s intuition of a Christ who is cosmic in scope and sovereignty into prayer form? How do we pray into the mission that emerges when we bring this lens to bear on the text? What fresh insights might emerge from the ancient biblical texts if we brought an evolutionary lens to the task?
Sanguine decided to start writing his own prayers to fill this void in liturgy. The result is an incredible prayer book that challenges us to expand our understanding of who Godde is, who we are as individuals and the church, and how we are connected to, not only everything on earth, but everything in the universe. I have always been fascinated and awed that the human body is made of the same building blocks as stars. Reading and praying prayers that acknowledge and praise Godde for making us of stardust resonated deeply in me, such as these lines from “Everywhere Light”:
that even as we carry around
the entire universe in our bodies,
and in our luminous minds,
we look elsewhere for sacred revelation.
despite knowing that each carbon atom in our blood
and firing neuron in our brain
came from ancient stars,
somehow we can ignore our own radiance.
I also loved all the different ways Sanguine describes Godde as both male and female, as family and cosmic, personified and the Ground of All Being. Sanguine challenges us to think about the little boxes and small definitions we limit Godde with and encourages us to explore new ways of describing Godde and knowing her. “The Happy Communion” is a perfect example of helping us see the Trinity in a relationship with each other and us instead of a hierarchy:
Community of Love,
Creator, Christ, Spirit,
Three in One,
you in Christ,
Christ in us,
and everywhere, Spirit,
connecting, caressing, cajoling
us into the image of wholeness
tattooed on the heart and the soul
of every living thing.
If Darwin Prayed is a much needed prayer book exploring how Christian faith and science, can not only get along, but together show us new ways of seeing Godde, humanity, the world, and the universe. I hope to see more theological and liturgical sources come out in this strain. I want more prayers and songs that show the modern view of the world and universe as opposed to the ancient model of the domed universe: hell beneath, earth in the middle, and the heavens above with Godde outside of it all. I want to see more liturgy and prayer that shows the universe as vast, expansive, all of us connected with everything, and Godde in the midst of it all with us and creation.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from SpeakEasy agreeing to post a review on my blog.