Dear Grace Church Family,
What could the writings of an Episcopal mystic and the discoveries of a brilliant modern physicist have in common? In this, the third and final installment of my Cosmology series, you’ll find that the answer to that question is, A whole lot! Take a look.
Psalm 105: An Infinite Web. In our Psalm for today, the Psalmist says this:
“Sing to God, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wonderful works
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord
Seek the Lord and his strength:
seek his presence continually.” (Psalm 105:2-4)
The Psalmist’s call to “seek the Lord continually” is not a call for a desperate search so that “somehow” God might be found “somewhere.” Rather, this is a joyful call born in the confidence that God does not need to be “found” at all; that God is already “everywhere.” The issue here, if there is one, is not with whether God can be successfully sought, but with whether we will do the seeking. The Psalmist’s conclusion is that if we will only seek, we will “find”, because God has been awaiting us all along.
This is very much the discovery and life-experience of Author and Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor, whom Richard Rohr quotes today. Though her spiritual experience is that of a mystic from twenty years ago, as I will point out at the end of this devotional, one of the greatest minds of the 20th and 21st Centuries came to a similar conclusion about reality just three years ago. Here is Rohr’s introduction:
“Author and Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor has been writing about the intersection of faith and science for a long time. In this essay, written over twenty years ago, she was already exploring a new cosmology, one that honored her deep understanding of both God and the workings of the universe. She has the courage and conviction to ask hard questions and wrestle with them alongside us. Her insight into God’s unifying and enlivening presence has much in common with the mystics. As Franciscan theologian Bonaventure described, God is One “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” 
Here is Barbara Brown Taylor’s reflection:
“In Sunday school, I learned to think of God as a very old white-bearded man on a throne, who stood above creation and occasionally stirred it with a stick. When I am dreaming quantum dreams, what I see is an infinite web of relationship, flung across the vastness of space like a luminous net. It is made of energy, not thread. As I look, I can see light moving through it as a pulse moves through veins. What I see “out there” is no different from what I feel inside. There is a living hum that might be coming from my neurons but might just as well be coming from the furnace of the stars. When I look up at them there is a small commotion in my bones, as the ashes of dead stars that house my marrow rise up like metal filings toward the magnet of their living kin.
Where am I in this picture? I am all over the place. I am up there, down here, inside my skin and out. I am large compared to a virus and small compared to the sun, with a life that is permeable to them both. Am I alone? How could I ever be alone? I am part of a web that is pure relationship, with energy available to me that has been around since the universe was born.
Where is God in this picture? God is all over the place. God is up there, down here, inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is.
At this point in my thinking, it is not enough for me to proclaim that God is responsible for all this unity. Instead, I want to proclaim that God is the unity—the very energy, the very intelligence, the very elegance and passion that make it all go. This is the God who is not somewhere but everywhere, the God who may be prayed to in all directions at once. This is also the God beyond all directions, who will still be here (wherever “here” means) when the universe either dissipates into dust or swallows itself up again.”
In his last major work, published in 2018 just before his death, Stephen Hawking presented his conclusion that the Universe is in fact completely interconnected in an all-encompassing web. Though he does not use the word “God” to describe this web, his language very much follows Barbara Taylor’s. In fact, his language mirror’s her statement, “I am part of a web that is pure relationship, with energy available to me that has been around since the universe was born.” Taylor, though, takes the step of Faith, as the Psalmist calls us to do, and realizes that there is nowhere that God is not. The Psalmist’s call is not an impossible task. It is instead the most easily accomplished thing to do in the Universe. “Seek the Lord’s presence continually.” (Ps 105:4b)