I would like you to look at your hand for a minute. Fix your gaze at the center square inch. That square inch of your body contains more than four yards of nerve fibers, 1,300 nerve cells, 100 sweat glands, 3 million cells, 3 yards of blood vessels, and 32 million bacteria. Amazing, isn’t it?
You have 45 miles of nerves just in the skin of your body. There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels that run throughout your body. All of this is an intricate part of a larger community of cells. There are anywhere from 10 trillion to 100 trillion cells that come together to form you. Each one of these 10 to 100 trillion cells is a community in its own right: made up of a membrane, a nucleus, mitochondria, cytoplasm, different types of membranes and interconnected tubes and enzyme sacks all working together, to process and connect information, feed and support internally and externally to the rest of the body. All that in one cell. One cell in you, one member of one species on earth. One species out of perhaps 5-50 million species of life on this planet. One galaxy out of anywhere of 50 billion galaxies, containing about 50 billion stars in this universe.
From the sub-atomic level, to complex eco-systems and social systems, all of life, matter and sprit are interconnected. The matter that formed our bodies is the same matter that formed the great stars of the universe.
All this abundance and diversity around us and in us is ours to behold. Like the great mystics, how could we not contemplate all this and not weep? How can we not be in awe at the power and creativity, and wonder of the creator? As we celebrate Stella’s baptism, how can we not fall on our knees praising the power of love, our love for one another, for Stella and all our children, our new members, all which represent God’s love for us. A love that stretches from the sub-atomic to the galactic.
Jesus’ word to us today is that he came that we would have life, life abundantly. Our scriptures today show us the awe of abundance that is embedded in our spirit as we choose the spiritually abundant life. The psalmist depicts God as a shepherd who feeds, shelters, protects, leads and guides; who journeys faithfully at the side of a single soul through the green pastures and the deepest, darkest valleys of life – and still lays the table before us, even in the presence of enemies. Because of this relationship of care and protection, the soul is filled with awe; as her cup runs over and mercy and goodness become companions all the days of her life. That is the description of an awe-tinged life.
We see Jesus in the gospel describing himself as a protective gate for the sheep, and a shepherd who lays down his life for his flock, to protect them from thieves and bandits who would invade the community and destroy it for selfish purposes. That care, day in and day out, night and day, is awe inspiring. We are awe filled to be the sheep of the flock of Jesus, the Shepherd, we know his voice – just as a newborn baby knows its mother’s voice.
The early Christian community described in Acts, is modeled on the life and teaching of Jesus. It cares for each other, worships and eats together. Their common life is the vehicle through which awe, wonders and sign occur. This common life creates glad and generous hearts. Awe is at the heart of our interconnected life together.
The striking commonality among these texts is the various and creative expressions of awe in the act of relationship and sacrificial caring. We see it in the holy hand of the Good and protective Shepherd. We see it in the spiritual handprint of the example of the life of the early church, and like the great mystics, how could we not contemplate all this and not weep? How can we not be in awe of the creator and those believers who dedicate their lives to emulate, day by day, trillions of cells of good works?
We live in a world where counterfeit awe is cultivated: at the abundance of money in the hands of billionaires, at catwalks such at the Met Gala last week, at the strength of militaries and fire power to control countries and dominate peoples. This worldly awe always ends up with vast numbers of people loosing and being hurt. This isn’t the awe that God calls us to. God would have us find awe in 7 billion human beings devoted to fellowship. God would have us find awe in the millions of prayers lifted up together. God would have us find awe in when communities that share its endless yards of resources, holding all in common, and distributing to those in need. God would awaken awe in us as we break bread together and distribute it to the hungry—those who bellies need bread and those whose hearts are famished for spiritual bread, needing to know the love of God and finding a place in community and creation. God would have us find awe together, not just because we have in common blood, nerves and cells, but that we have come to have identical glad and generous hearts.
Stella’s baptism, and the reception into membership, beckons us to find awe together. Awe that we can still find in the triumph of the power to love and care -- in what often seems a turbulent and frightening world where bonds are broken and where community is forgotten.
Together we have vowed to raise Stella to know the love of God, and participate in the life of “the Church that Shares and Cares,” as Union is known for. So let us pursue awe together. Let us look in our hearts at the vessels that lead us to follow Jesus: as protectors and advocates for the voiceless, as holy Shepherds who lead the weary to green pastures and still waters, and as a church that holds all things in common so that all are together and lack nothing. May that awe of such life inspire us and bind us together, bringing true abundance for all into our world. Amen.