STLT#78, Color and Fragrance

Wherein I think about process, relationship, and resistance – set to a quaint tune.

I don’t know how many congregations sing this hymn. I know that my home congregation sang it exactly once a year – at flower communion, a ritual devised by Unitarian minister Norbert Čapek in Prague in the 1920s and later brought to the US by his wife Maja in the 1940s.

The tune is, for lack of a better word, quaint. Old fashioned, but not in a ‘stand the test of time’ sort of way. And that’s okay, because it does make it a song of its time, perfect for hauling out once a year so we can tell the story of Capek’s ceremony and his subsequent martyrdom at the hands of the Third Reich.

But this hymn is so much more. And there’s a prescience to the lyrics that make me admire Čapek the theologian even more. You see, this is a very process-theology hymn, yet Čapek had been executed in Dachau several years before Charles Hartshorne wrote The Divine Relativity, which established this new theology, based on a philosophy, based on mathematics and physics.

In this remarkable lyric, we discover a growing God – a creating creator, inviting us to not just notice creation, not just be part of creation, but to be part of creating. All of earth and its earthlings = God’s vision growing. Especially those last two verses that make it clear that WE are God’s vision growing. We are the creation and the creators of reality, though our actions, through our being, in relationship, moving in harmony.

Color and fragrance, magical rhythm,
sweet changing music will change us with them:
life within life, inner light gently glowing,
surely you seem to be God’s vision growing.

O starry heavens, worlds of all splendor,
suns without number, new life engender:
wheel in a wheel with the light brightly glowing,
moving in harmony, God’s vision growing.

Hand full of pebbles, high mountain passes,
depths of the ocean, dew on the grasses:
great things and small, with the light gently glowing,
word of the wordless song, God’s vision growing.

Delicate beings, lacewing and sparrow
in field and forest, clover and yarrow:
life greeting life with the light brightly glowing,
none are too small to be God’s vision growing.

In human eyes burns the soul of living,
illumines altars of loving giving:
greeting, we meet, seeing light brightly glowing,
share in a greater life, God’s vision growing.

Shaper of all things, to us you’ve given
our chance to keep here on earth, a heaven.
Moving in harmony, light gently glowing,
may we be, gratefully, God’s vision growing.

Now as kind of a postscript, but not really – I’m writing this the day after the electoral college, in my opinion, failed democracy. We’re heading for several rough years as we resist the soul-crushing, life-threatening changes that may come. I have been wondering how we will manage, and more, how we can make sense of our faith (and my own process-relational perspective) without it turning into an unrealistic Pollyanna-like fairy tale. Am I asking too much of this positive, creative approach to life, thought, and divinity?

Of course, an answer appeared. As I sat down to write and hunt for the links for this piece, I encountered this quotation from process theologian Bob Menke:

Relational power takes great strength. In stark contrast to unilateral power, the radical manifestations of relational power are found in people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Jesus. It requires the willingness to endure tremendous suffering while refusing to hate. It demands that we keep our hearts open to those who wish to slam them shut. It means offering to open up a relationship with people who hate us, despise us, and wish to destroy us.

It’s about relationships. Not just to what some call God, but to each other, to events, to power, to suffering, to our enemies and our friends, to the earth, to growth. It’s about relationships – because in the end, that’s all we have.

It won’t be easy. In a piece called “How will they change their minds?” blogger and friend Doug Muder explores what it will take (and how minds have changed in the recent past). It requires patience, resistance, and most of all, relationships.

It won’t be easy. But it is what we’re called to, if we are ever to see “God’s vision growing.”

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Read my thoughts about congregational life at Hold My Chalice