Dear OMG blog readers,

Below is the text (and links to the audio and video) for the sermon I preached this last Sunday at my home congregation, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, in Duluth, Minnesota.

This summer, our community is taking a short break from the common lectionary to focus on creation, dedicating a Sunday apiece to rain, trees, the cosmos, animals, and rivers.

I was asked to preach on the Cosmos.

That is, I was asked to preach on pretty much Everything.

What I learned, in preparing to speak on Everything, is that everything is related to everything.

Unfortunately, like Narcissus, we tend to be so obsessed with our own concerns that we fail to look up, to raise our heads, to see the beauty—and the pain—surrounding and connecting us all.

As it happens, the gospel text was from Luke, an apocalyptic passage which included (happily, for my sermon writing slant) the command for us to raise our heads, because our redemption is near.

Below, then, I considered Narcissus with his head bowed low, and our calling as Christians to instead raise our heads up high to notice and engage beauty—like the stars and feasts and love—and suffering—including by way of protesting in the streets and in letters to politicians about the abomination of the migrant camps and white supremacy.

As Christians, we are called to trust the One who not only raised heads, but who himself was raised, and who frees us to savor beauty and denounce suffering, all in the name of God.

You can access the mp3 here; the gospel reading begins at 24:40 into the service.

If you would like to see the video, download the free App Sunday Streams, and login using gloriadeilutheran. The video of the sermon begins at about 31:50 in.

I confess that I got emotional when I spoke about the policies to separate children and families, and about white supremacy: such real, horrific threats, and all too often enforced and condoned by those who self-identify as Christians.

Also, you will note that at the beginning of the sermon, I do tease our congregational chaplain, because during announcements she inadvertently invited everyone to happy hour rather than coffee hour, which segued quite nicely into my sermon.

More people than usual did show up, come to think of it…

At the very bottom are links to available resources to fight the abhorrent migrant detention centers, and lists of religious organizations—including the ELCA—which raise their voices in the name of God to object. The lists overlap, and the lists are hardly exhaustive.  I’d be grateful for additions to each category in any comments you offer!

Peace to you all.


GOSPEL  Luke 21:25-27

25There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Grace to you and peace from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Buckle up and settle in, because we’ve got more or less only a handful of minutes to cover only the Cosmos and God before Doug Maguire is going to cut off my mic and turn out the lights, so let’s get cracking.

The other day, I was talking with Else about the daunting task at hand, and mentioned that while preparing and researching for this sermon, I had been learning and been reminded about all sorts of things, including that technically, we are indeed all cosmic star dust.  And, with a grin, I also pointed out that it had dawned on me there are at least three different ways of thinking about what you all wanted me to address today: Cosmos, as in the universe, or Cosmos, as in the flowers, or Cosmos, as in the adult beverage, to which Else, without missing a beat, said, also with a grin: Hmmm. Given that, if we really are all star dust, it does make a person wonder to what we are returning when we die: the universe, a garden, or the bar. 


First of all, let’s just point out the obvious. Today is…Sunday.

Sun.Day. Like, it’s not a Dad joke, or even a bad joke, or even a joke! 

The day that we gather to worship has embedded in its very name the Sun—a fairly key body in the wider cosmos.

The name that we have for this day of the week is Sunday, because the Romans marked the day for devotion to the Sun God, and called it the dies Solis, the day of the sun. 

In fact, though not one of the texts assigned for the day, if you know that the ancient pagans believed that various heavenly bodies and earthly elements were themselves gods, it makes the text especially found in Genesis 1 particularly rich with Hebraic shade: “Oh, oh, I’m so sorry: that sun that y’all call a god? Our god made that sun. That water that you believe is a god? Ooops! Our god made that water. And that sky? Yup. Same. Thing. Bye Felicia.”   

Anyway, the ancient Germans happened to like that idea very much, and so also named the day after the sun (they had their own ancient German gods, and the tradition segued quite nicely) and so they up and adapted the tradition by calling the day Sonntag, the remnants which you also find in other languages, like the Scandinavian Søndag, for example.

It goes without saying that Christians picked up on this convenient connection too, albeit in a different fashion and for different purposes. In my studies I ran into a quote from St. Jerome who said, more or less, “If pagans call the Lord’s Day the ‘day of the sun,’ we willingly agree, for today the light of the world is raised, and today is revealed the sun of justice with healing in his rays.” 

Nothing new is ever under the sun, as they say.

But the thing about the cosmos is that it really is everything. It’s the sun, and thank God for that…but it is also the moon, and the stars, and the nebulae that we can’t see, and the black holes that we can’t seem to understand, and the possible other-forms-of-life that we can only imagine about and make movies about which range from the terrifying (Alien) to the adorable (ET). 

Closer to home, it is the water and the earth and the humans upon both, and the creatures who call one or the other home, and it is the electrons and protons and quarks that confuse us but make us who and what we are even so whether we can wrap our minds about the odd but true nature of quantum physics or not. 

So to think about the cosmos is, in short, to think about everything.

And this morning, everything in 15 minutes, give or take!

And it is not only to think about everything, but it is to realize that everything is connected to everything.

Everything is connected to everything.

Everything is connected to everyone.

Everyone is connected to everyone.

To think about cosmos, therefore, is to be humble, and to be humbled. 

I have a marvelous book by a late theologian, a man named Jeffrey Sobosan, a book with what I think went to print stuck with a kitschy name, but is a powerful text anyway: It’s called Romancing the Universe: On Theology, Cosmology, and Science There are marvelous and poetic ways he looks at the cosmos, and implications about our lookings and musings about it, but one small paragraph grabbed me in these last few weeks, thanks to the texts for the day.

Sobosan writes of the tale of Narcissus: you know, the beautiful young man of Greek mythology who found himself so stunning, so enticing, so gob-smacking gorgeous that, once he discovered his reflection in the water, he could not stop looking at his reflection.

Narcissus could not stop making himself the center of his life, and depending on the version of the tale you hear, he either melted into the earth to become a flower, or he threw himself into the pond out of despair because he could never have the one he loved—himself.

Sobosan does something interesting with this myth, though: he says that our tendency, as humans, is to be obsessed with ourselves in a very similar way. We love ourselves, and do so at the expense of loving others (as our poor Narcissus was wont to do). 

We spurn relationship—even recognition—of the other, and dedicate ourselves instead to…ourselves.

We care a lot about ourselves.  We look and muse about ourselves. 

A. Lot.

But in our obsession with ourselves, we tend to find that by being so self-absorbed, we are either left alone or we die alone, and have missed out on the glorious richness that is and is in the cosmos.

It’s a fairly distressing take on the State of Things, I will grant.

But Sobosan takes it further, looking for some hope and a different way to think through it all, and he pondered, what would have happened if Narcissus would have just looked up?

What would have happened if Narcissus had simply raised his eyes to the wonder and beauty that was all around him?

What would have happened if he had leaned his head back when the night sky was too dark for his reflection, but perfect to behold stars and galaxies to flicker his imagination…and perhaps even his humility?

What if he had recognized that the universe was not just about him?

Was not just him?

It is not too much of a stretch to ask the same of us, I do believe…which, of course, is what Sosoban is hoping readers will figure out is his ask.

What would happen if we would raise our heads from mulling our own self-absorbed fixations?

What would happen if we would raise our heads and see the world around us?

What would happen if we would raise our heads and see the world around us matters?

What would happen if we would raise our heads and thereby realize that we are obsessed with ourselves—our needs, our privilege, our ways, our wants, our prejudices—at the expense of the other—those who want to love us, and those who want to be loved by us, and those who simply need to not be harmed because our fixation on ourselves?

And what would happen if we would raise our heads and behold not just the beings but the beauty?

For there is so much beauty in the universe to behold: stars, and stained glass windows, and small frogs underfoot, and water, and music, and art, and falafel and red wine—I really like good falafel and a good red blend—and smiles from boys who would never smile again, and quick-wits and grins from girls who would otherwise have many reasons to be dour, and 82 year old fathers who relatively late in life they love soccer so much but love their daughter just that much more so they come to church and sit in the back to slide out right after this sermon to dash home and watch the rest of the women’s world soccer match, and congregations like this one that makes as a way of being: Welcome! We are glad you are here—yes, even you, because of course even you. All are welcome.

Now, there was much that struck me about Sosoban’s musings on Narcissus, but all the more because of our text from Luke. It’s short, so I’ll read it again:

25There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Now, first, I understand the gulp that this text inspires. 

But stick with me here, for a moment.  

Note that the people were to…raise their heads.

They were to look around, as the world and the heavens and the seas were roiling about, they were to raise their heads and in confidence no less.

Redemption is near.

The old order is passing, and a new one is beginning.

They were—we are—to be like Narcissus should have been.

Now it’s worth noting here that many scholars believe that Luke—the gospel writer who was particularly concerned with the poor, the dispossessed, and the disempowered—is speaking to people, Gentiles and Jews alike, who have been living in fear of the power of Rome.

It was a merciless regime, threatening people who disobeyed, who yielded to a different authority than it, who were impoverished, who were hapless and hopeless, who were not like the prevailing culture, with persecution of the most unpleasant sort. 

One Lutheran biblical theologian I know, Dr. Richard Swanson, notes that while Jews and Gentiles were both oppressed, the Jews had hope in a way that the Gentiles didn’t, for the Jews, they had Torah. In their religious tradition, they had not only an identity that reminded them of who they were and whose they were: they had hope.

And therefore, Swanson says, the text is referring less to the end times, and more to the way that things are every single day.

Anyone in this space who has suffered understands what he means here: when one is overwhelmed, is frightened, is alone, is desperate, is grieving, is hopeless—it seems as if everything is upended, everything is psychedelic in its presence, everything is unpredictable and unsteady.

But, to this experience and impression, what does Luke say? 

Not that we are to settle into the fetal position.

Not that we are to obsess about ourselves.

Instead, Luke says that we are to raise our heads and look around.

We are to Behold.

Like, in the beautiful poetic sense of the word: behold.



Be awed.

For God is present, even if it seems as if God is not.

God is present in the cosmos, for God created it, and if that is true, than the cosmos and all that is in it is worthy of being treated as if it is of God.

The earth.

The water.

The air.

The creepy crawly things of the earth.

Your family.

Your friends.


And the immigrants.

The children at the border in shameful, in fact it is not too much to say evil, inhumane conditions.

Those suffering under white supremacy—both as oppressed and oppressors.

The poor.

The hungry.

The homeless.

Those in ill health.

Those who can’t afford insurance or treatments to heal.

The belittled.

The lonely.

The enemies.

Every single text today reminds us not that we are nothing, but that we are all, it is all, something.  

Even that gloriously snarky text from Job: “Where were you, you…name that should not be uttered from the pulpit.” 

Even there, and certainly in our psalm, and certainly in Colossians, we are reminded that God is named as the Creator of All.


And given that, not to mention the awe that Sobosan carries for the cosmos, and not to mention the text from Luke, today we are being called to raise up our heads, and notice it all!

And if we do lift up our heads, we are not to put them back down again!

If we lift up our heads, we see where the unity, the integrity, the care, the concern for God’s creation is threatened, and we as people of God stand up, like the text says, we stand up, our heads raised and high, and we be the presence of God in those cosmic breaches.

Because, as I said above, to about the cosmos is, in short, to think about everything.

And it is not only to think about everything, but it is to realize that everything is connected to everything.

Take out the sun, for example, and we have troubles.

Stick a child in a insurmountably offensively misnamed “camp” separated from family and food and medical care and even hugs, we have troubles.

Remain silent in the face of such abominations—for that is what they are, abominations—and we have troubles.

We have troubles that we can’t see or even care about if our heads are down looking at our navels instead of looking up and noticing both nebulae and needy people, all of whom are of God!

To ponder the impossibly wide cosmos, that is, is to ponder the impossibly deep questions of despair, of apathy, of cruelty, of self-preservation…and of hope, and of compassion, of interconnection, and of beauty. 

We know something of God’s agenda for creation, because we have this marvelous (and not assigned for the day) text from Genesis where, after God created on every day, God set back, scanned the accomplishments of the day, and said, “Tov,” which in Hebrew means, “Good,” and then on the very last day, when God was really impressed with all the handiwork, God called it “Tov Meod,” really good.

This is, as the late theologian Robert Farrar Capon said, “terrific stuff.”  

We know that God loves God’s creation.

And we know that God is unpleased when it is maltreated, for we here gathered today have for varying reasons and degrees up and self-identified as Christ-ians. 

We also know something about God’s agenda for creation because we know Jesus.  

And Jesus just happened to care about creatures!

He cared powerfully, not just in head-shaking ways, but in head-raising ways—he noticed people’s pain, because his head was up, and he raised people’s heads who were down, down, down.

And he also cared about the beauty of the world: consider the lilies of the field, the sparrows, the super lousy wine that deserves an upgrade. 

As people of God, as creatures of the Cosmos, as followers of Christ, we are called to do the same.

We are so, because not only was Jesus’ head raised up—he was!  

And that resurrection proclaims that not only is the cosmos God’s, but so is the future, which is one where death will not win.

We are here, in fact, being fed with that Word, fed with the bread and wine, being fed with the news that Jesus did not stay dead, and then find ourselves walking out the door with our heads up, noticing pain, noticing beauty, and responding to it all as people of God to steward life where death reigns, and to steward awe at the cosmos where self-absorption has hold.

Like, really.  

Not making it up.

Like, write a letter to your Representatives about policies and politics which are obnoxious—with the emphasis on noxious.

March in the streets.

Welcome a stranger.

Buy a telescope and look for the Milky Way.

Take a hike.

Listen to music.

Make a feast. 

Fall in love. 

Show your love. 

Raise a beverage of your choice to beauty and the God who makes it.

People of God, lift up your heads.

It is Sunday.

The God of the Sun has made you with love and joy for this cosmos, and this cosmos needs you to love with joy—and to care about and care for—the cosmos.

That would be, specifically, caring about and for everything.

Including the cosmos, and perhaps even, if you are so inclined, the cosmos.



Religious Groups Who Denounce the Treatment of the Migrants