“…The apparent truth is that we belong to a web of creation in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is inconsequential.”
The Luminous Web – Barbara Brown Taylor
I admit, reading about chaos theory, quantum physics, and the new biology did not sound like my cup of tea. But the pastor’s team had agreed to read a book together and this little book of essays on science and religion by Barbara Brown Taylor came highly recommended. As an Episcopal priest who continually finds science speaking to her spirit, she writes in a way that weaves observation and revelation together. It is a beautiful little book that explores—among other things—the physics of communion, the limits of knowledge, and the origins of the world that bring praise to God.
It seemed almost frivolous to get together for pizza and a book discussion in the middle of a Tuesday when there are so many other things to do, but making this time was like a shift in our workday universe, much like Taylor is writing about when she talks about chaos theory. It is much more than just an hour and a delicious Henrietta pie at Pizza Dad’s (turns out, I love banana peppers on pizza). It is a shift in headspace: a demonstration of our mutuality, a shared experience, not born out of necessity but out of love. The stimulation of this book took us beyond the dialogue of the present moment and into refreshing tangents that harkened back to my Old Testament survey course in undergrad. That might not sound fun, but it was. I am glad to be a part of a team with such a vast array of knowledge and gifts. I feel bolstered by our collective capacity and the diversity of thought and perspective. We belong in a web of creation in which nothing is inconsequential. Reading, dialoguing, and influencing each other over lunch does more than shift our appointments for the day, it affects the way we lead and the kind of church we are. I am grateful to be part of a team that will do this. And the world needs the church to live this kind of mutuality.
For a few weeks in our cells, the whole church was considering how our lives demonstrate mutuality in Jesus. Following Jesus together means we are a part of something concrete, alive, and active. Mutuality is the action that responds to belonging. In other words, when our sense of belonging is in Jesus, our life together is the response. The church—the Body—is made up of many parts and we work together to move and to act with the Holy Spirit. This plays out in all kinds of practical, tangible ways: through shared meals, childcare, housing, money and helping each other move, work, create, connect and grow. A shared mission and common projects have an impact beyond our individual capacities. Each person matters! We say this all the time as part of our theology, but it was so powerful to read how the natural world reflects this truth in all of creation.
On page 72 of The Luminous Web, Taylor says,
Every one of us will change the world, whether we mean to or not. All it takes is .000127. Shift anything in the world that much and you may be the catalyst that turns a monsoon into a blue sky (or the other way around). Pick up some stranger’s crying baby at exactly the right moment and that baby may turn out to be an artist instead of a tyrant…All you know for sure is that your best laid plans are susceptible to chaos, and—conversely—that what looks to you like the worst kind of chaos is really a beautiful double spiral in three dimensions. Whatever else you have faith in, have faith in this: there is a strange attractor at work in your life that will not let you fly off the page. There is no order without chaos. There is no chaos without order. They give birth to each other, again and again.
I am not sure there is more order or chaos in the church than anywhere else in the world. But I am sure that the one who authored the cosmos holds it all together. I am deeply grateful to be a part of a church that is held together in Jesus in the midst of the chaos. Beautiful things are birthed in us and in the world—a team of pastors leading together, one church with different congregations, many cells in various locations, but one shared mission. Our day-to-day life as the church demonstrates a ‘oneness’ that embodies more than scientific principles. It is part of a cosmic shift that began with Jesus a long time ago and continues to be revealed on earth as it is in heaven. And that is worth reading and talking about.