Talk Series: A Bigger Picture
What could a science-informed faith look like?

By Sharon Grussendorff

In this series we will look at how some of the advances made in science invite us to reimagine our faith, moving us into a much bigger frame than the small cosmology and confined theology that many of us grew up with.

The outline of talks for this series is:

  1. Introduction: Introductory video to the series (The introduction is about 14 minutes in length).

  2. Talk 1: “Deep Space and Time: the expanse and history of the known universe" (Talk 1 is about 26 minutes in length).

  3. Talk 2: “Matter, Incarnation and Intimacy with God”  (Talk 2 is about 22 minutes in length).

  4. Talk 3: "Non-duality, determinism and God’s will"  (Talk 3 Part 1 is about 18 minutes in length, and Part 2 is 22 minutes long).

  5. Talk 4: "Relativity, time and eternity" (Talk 4 is about 22 minutes in length).

INTRODUCTION

 
Introduction to the mornign retreat
Introduction

Length: 14 min

At the end of this introduction, you could go straight into the first talk below, or you could spend some time reflecting on the scripture passage of the baptism of Jesus yourself and watch the Talk 1 video at a later stage.

Mark 1:9-12

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness.

Henri Nouwen wrote: “As a spiritual practice claim and reclaim your primal identity as beloved daughter or son of a personal Creator.”… “Once I have accepted the truth that I am God’s beloved child, unconditionally loved, I can be sent into the world to speak and to act as Jesus did.”

TALK 1

Deep Space and Time

 
Introduction to the mornign retreat
Talk 1

Length: 26 min

Invitation to wonder:

 

  • Some clear evening I invite you to venture outdoors and look up at the evening sky. Allow yourself to gaze in wonder at the expanse and mystery of the night sky. Once you have done this, make a conscious choice to open your heart in receptivity to the Creator. Allow the inner spaciousness and receptivity within you to reflect the vastness of the sky above you. Reflect on any one of the following questions that stirs within you:

  1. Can you feel the Creator's presence with you / within you? What is stirring in you in response?

  2. Can you sense the invitation to be a co-creator with Creator God, as a participant in our human awakening to our fuller potentialmore cooperative, healing, generative and loving?

  3. Can you open yourself to the silence of wordless awe at the intricate creative wonder of this unfolding creation?

  • Now allow your reflections to become a spontaneous prayer or a creative response in the form of a poem, psalm or artwork.

Quotes for further reflection:

 

Ilia Delio:

“Life in God should be a daring adventure of love—a continuous journey of putting aside our securities to enter more profoundly into the uncharted depths of God."

“We humans are evolution made conscious; hence, our choices for and in the world shape the future of the world.”

“The discoveries of twentieth–century science, especially Big Bang cosmology (“universalism” or cosmic wholeness) and evolution (nature's openness to the future), ushered in two new dimensions of life, wholeness and futurism. Contrary to the ancient Ptolemaic cosmos of order, stasis, and hierarchy, the Big Bang cosmos was now seen in its evolving capacity for greater wholeness and openness to consummation in the future.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

“Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth.”

 

“The time has come to realise that an interpretation of the universe—even a positivist one—remains unsatisfying unless it covers the interior as well as the exterior of things; mind as well as matter. The true physics is that which will, one day, achieve the inclusion of man in his wholeness in a coherent picture of the world.”

Ending music:

End this time with listening to the following version of Beethoven's Ode to Joy, sung with English lyrics "Joyful joyful we adore Thee". If you would like to turn up the volume and sing along, I have pasted the pyrics below.

Ode to Joy (Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee) Lyrics:

 

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,

God of glory, Lord of love;

Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,

Op’ning to the sun above.

 

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;

Drive the dark of doubt away;

Giver of immortal gladness,

Fill us with the light of day!

 

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,

Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,

Stars and angels sing around Thee,

Center of unbroken praise.

 

Field and forest, vale and mountain,

Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,

Singing bird and flowing fountain

Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,

Ever blessing, ever blest,

Wellspring of the joy of living,

Ocean depth of happy rest!

 

Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,

All who live in love are Thine;

Teach us how to love each other,

Lift us to the joy divine.

 

Mortals, join the happy chorus,

Which the morning stars began;

Father love is reigning o’er us,

Brother love binds man to man.

 

Ever singing, march we onward,

Victors in the midst of strife,

Joyful music leads us Sunward

In the triumph song of life.

 

TALK 2

Matter, Incarnation and
Intimacy with God

Introduction to the mornign retreat
Introduction to Talk 2

Length: 2 min

As an opening prayer / song, listen to this beautiful piece of music:

I invite you to reflect on the following quote, and spend some time in quiet prayer, to hear the voice that says, “You are my beloved. On you my favor rests”

 

Henri Nouwen:

"Home is the center of my being, where I can hear the voice that says, “You are my beloved. On you my favor rests” the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam. The same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light. I have heard that voice. It has spoken to me in the past and continues to speak to me now. It is the never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity and giving life and love wherever it is heard. When I hear that voice, I know that I am home with God and have nothing to fear. As the beloved of my heavenly Father, “I can walk in the valley of darkness: no evil would I fear.” ...
Jesus has made it clear to me that the same voice that he heard at the river Jordan and on Mount Tabor can also be heard by me
.”

Introduction to the mornign retreat
Talk 2

Length: 22 min

For further reflection:

Below are some of the quotes from the talk and additional quotes for you to reflect on further:

Richard Rohr:

  • The Incarnation of God did not happen in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. That is just when we started taking it seriously. The incarnation actually happened billions of years ago with a moment that we now call “The Big Bang.” That is when God actually decided to materialize and to self expose.

  • Creation is the first bible.

  • The real trump card of Christianity is not just that we believe in God. The mystery we are about is much more than that: It’s that the material and the spiritual coexist. It’s the mystery of the Incarnation

  • This earth is the very Body of God, and it is from this body that we are born, live, suffer, and resurrect to eternal life.

James Finley:

  • God is manifest in and as your life, in the concrete immediacy of life as it is

  • To enter the mind of Christ is to realise that the things of the earth are the things of God, in whom all things have their being.

Ilia Delio:

God is one with matter so that matter is more than mere materiality; matter bears the depth and breadth of God within it without absorbing God or collapsing God into it.  In fact, it is precisely because God is a personally communicative God [which we name as Trinity] that God can become something other than God.  This is the paradoxical mystery of the incarnation and if you try to figure it out logically you will fail miserably.  One must stand within the tension of the paradox by being at home in the mystery.  And by this I mean that one must simply stand still for a moment and gaze on the rich variety of life in wonder and awe.  There is a hidden depth to matter, an elusive breadth undergirding the material world which we call spirit.  Spirit ... is another name for evolution; it is the energy of newness and openness that empowers the material world to move forward in oneness, truth, and beauty.  This spirit-breathing-life is God’s presence in matter.

For more resources on this topic you can go to the following website:

universal christ.jpg
 

TALK 3

Non-duality

In this talk we are going to look at the topic of non-duality, and the immensely transformative impact that can arise when we shift from a dualistic mindset to a non-dual perspective. To begin with I encourage you to watch the YouTube video below, which gives a fun and very helpful explanation of the wave-particle duality. I will then discuss the implications of this in two parts:

PART 1: Determinism, randomness and God's will

PART 2: Non-duality in knowing ourselves, God and each other

Introductory video: The Wave-Particle Duality

Length: 5 min

Part 1: Determinism, randomness and God's will 
Introduction to the mornign retreat
Talk 3 Part 1

Length: 18 min 30 sec

Guided PrayerThe Dance of Life
00:00 / 07:20

Please follow this guided prayer with listening to the song below, which is a collaboration between the musician Alana Levandoski and contemplative teacher James Finley, as part of the prayer time.

The General DanceAlana Levandoski
00:00 / 05:34
Part 2: Non-duality in knowing ourselves, God and each other
Introduction to the mornign retreat
Talk 3 Part 2

Length: 22 min

For further reflection:

Below are some of the quotes from the talk for you to reflect on further:

Rumi:

You think because you understand ‘one’ you must also understand ‘two’, because one and one make two. But you must also understand ‘and’.”

Richard Rohr:

When you move to non-dual thinking, God is no longer “out there” but not just “in here” either. ... In the mystics, God is always experienced in the soul and at the same time as totally beyond and mysterious. God is both intimate and ultimate.

David Frenette:

The deepest realization of contemplation is not dualistic: you are not separate from and seeking God. God is present in you and acting in all of your life.

L. Gregory Jones: 

We are often less sure of what and whom we love than we are of what and whom we hate. Indeed, we too often stake our identity on being against some person or group. We define ourselves against those who are strangers to us, hoping perhaps to overcome our own uncertainty and vulnerability by defining them as less than human.

Matthew 5:43-48

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

James Alison:

James Alison describes that Jesus is inviting us into a way of being that is “not in reaction in any way at all, but is purely creative, dynamic, outward going, and able to bring things into being and flourishing.” But he also writes: “Living this out is going to look remarkably like a loss of identity, a certain form of death.” ...

"For me [it] is like being at a huge and very spacious party at which there are an awful lot of people, most of whom are not at all like me, and with whom I don’t have much in common. Furthermore this is a party to which I have been invited not because I’m special, but because the host invited me. If only I can let go of taking myself too seriously, then I’ll get on with it and really enjoy the dance. One of the things about this party is that quite a lot of us spend quite a lot of time trying to work out who should be at the party and who shouldn’t, even when the evidence is that the host is pretty promiscuous in his invitations."...

What God’s love looks like is being creatively for the other without being defined over against the other in any way at all. That is what is meant by grace and freedom. … And living it out as a human is what it is to be a child of God, and to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.

Ending song: The prayer of St Theresa:

St Theresa's prayerJohn Michael Talbot
00:00 / 02:35

Lyrics:

Christ has no Body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which He walks
To do good
Yours are the hands with which He blesses
All the world

Yours are the hands
Yours are the feet
Yours are the eyes
You are His Body

Christ has no Body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours

 

TALK 4

The theory of relativity, time and eternal life

In this talk we are going to look at the topic of the theory of relativity, and how this impacts on our understanding of time and eternity.

Introduction to the mornign retreat
Talk 4

Length: 22 min

For further reflection:

Below are some of the quotes from the talk and some additional quotes for you to reflect on further:

Beatrice Bruteau: 

  • The Creator is fully present in the creature, because the creature is God's act of creating, not some product left over after the act of creation is finished. And the act of creating is the active presence of the Creator.

  • [In meditation] we pass out of moving time into a kind of enduring present moment and linger in that moment.

  • The contemplative  life is a life that leads up to and out from the realization of mystical union with the One and the All – the union of the finite and the infinite, of the defined and the indefinable.

  • We as beings are so much more than we had thought we were, so much freer than we had expected, so much closer to one another than we had dreamed possible, because in us, as in all the rest, the finite and the Infinite coexist.

  • “…at the center of our consciousness we contact the Infinite, and the goal of our spiritual practices is to experience ourselves as situated there, at the center, in touch with the Infinite, looking on, in, or through the finite.

  • Suppose we experienced ourselves as situated in the central Infinite, and then expressing as finites? Would this not be the profound metanoia, the complete reversal and turning around in our most basic consciousness to which in fact we aspire?

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee:

The ego cannot reach the Self, but once we learn to surrender, the Self can reach us. The ego and the mind instinctively step aside and we are in the presence of what is eternal.

HeartMath institute:

There is compelling evidence to suggest that the physical heart is coupled to a field of information not bound by the classical limits of time and space. This evidence comes from a rigorous experimental study that demonstrated that the heart receives and processes information about a future event before the event actually happens.

Thomas Merton:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us… It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…I have no program for this seeing.  It is only given.  But the gate of heaven is everywhere.

Thomas Kelly:

Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continually return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself. Yielding to these persuasions, gladly committing ourselves in body and soul, utterly and completely, to the Light Within, is the beginning of true life. It is a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth within us. It is a Light Within that illumines the face of God and casts new shadows and new glories upon the human face. It is a seed stirring to life if we do not choke it. It is the Shekinah of the soul, the Presence in the midst. Here is the Slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action. And [Christ] is within us all.

You who read these words already know this inner Life and Light. For by this very Light within you is your recognition given. In this humanistic age we suppose we are the initiators and God is the responder. But the Living Christ within us is the initiator, and we are the responders. . . .

The basic response of the soul to the Light is internal adoration and joy, thanksgiving and worship, self-surrender and listening. The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop. They become a holy sanctuary of adoration and of self-oblation, where we are kept in perfect peace, if our minds be stayed on [God] who has found us in the inward springs of our life. . . . Powerfully are the springs of our will moved to an abandon of singing love toward God; powerfully are we moved to a new and overcoming love toward time-blinded human beings and all creation. In this Center of Creation all things are ours, and we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.

Deuteronomy 33:27 

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

As an ending song / prayer, listen to the following song by John Michael Talbot, called "Come to the Quiet".

Psalm 131 - Come to the QuietJohn Michael Talbot
00:00 / 03:22
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