Image: Webb’s image is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length, a tiny sliver of the vast universe. The combined mass of this galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying more distant galaxies, including some seen when the universe was less than a billion years old. This deep field, taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), is a composite made from images at different wavelengths, totaling 12.5 hours – achieving depths at infrared wavelengths beyond the Hubble Space Telescope’s deepest fields, which took weeks. And this is only the beginning. Researchers will continue to use Webb to take longer exposures, revealing more of our vast universe.

‘Children of the cosmos’

Andrew Collis
Cosmos Sunday, Season of Creation
Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 148; Colossians 1:15-20; John 6:41-51

Jesus calls the salvation he provides “bread” and calls himself “bread from heaven”. John, arguably the most mystical of the gospels, is artfully constructed, layered. It is sacramental – the material world is a bearer of spiritual meaning, the material participates in the spiritual.

It is said that John’s gospel (symbolised by the flying eagle [see Rev. 4:7]) presents a high christology. It also teaches a radical intimacy.

Believing is abiding (in the vine, in the Spirit … [the Greek verb meno is used 34 times in the gospel, and frequently in the letters of John]).

Believing means radical investment, radical commitment to God in Christ – radical appropriation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Belief is eternal life in the sense that it brings joy, relationship, understanding, healing and hope beyond individual and temporal desires.

With reverence for Jesus (in whom is seen Wisdom the “skilled artisan/little child” – in whom is seen the very pattern of divine life “rejoicing in the world and delighting in humankind”), we might engage the text this way: imagine that we ourselves, the very body of Christ in the Spirit, are given these words to speak, that we ourselves are speaking these words. How might they be (made) true?

How are we the living bread come down from heaven? How do we give ourselves to those who are hungry/protesting/perishing? How do we give ourselves for the life of the world?

Too often the church speaks of Jesus as though he were not really one of us. As though he were a cosmic superhero unlike us. As though we could revere but not imitate his wise ways. As though our salvation entailed mere reverence for his wise ways.

Jesus is the living bread come down from heaven – and once we’ve discerned the meaning of that – in terms of generosity, love, humility, courage – via Jewish Wisdom/Sophia theology and Stoic concepts of the Logos embodied in the true Sage, and so on – we move to consider ourselves the living bread come down from heaven.

For we are all children of the cosmos.

As a child I used to dress up as the flamboyant lead singer of the rock group Kiss, whose persona was the Star Child – confident, well-connected. 

I’ve since learned that we are all Star Children. We are all made of stardust. We are elemental. We are miraculous. We are given, we are gifted, we are gifts.

John chapter 6 is deeply eucharistic. It invites deep and poetic engagements.

What is bread? Bread is fruit of the Earth and of human labour/creativity. Bread gives life to the body. It is a staple. It is sustenance. It is good for the body. It is good to share (a com-panion is literally one with whom I break panas/bread). 

There is the symbolism Paul employs with regard to many grains and one loaf – with regard to diversity and unity, with regard to collective/social and individual/personal identity. 

Bread is intimacy – making bread entails touch, technique … entails intimacy with the Earth. When I eat bread it becomes part of me. I am offered Christ, the Wisdom of God, just as I am offered bread. 

And, as St Augustine of Hippo said: I become what I receive – with others – we become what we receive: the body of Christ, bread for the life of the world.

How do we give ourselves to those who are hungry/protesting/perishing?

We give ourselves to others by listening/learning and by daring to participate in the wise ways of Jesus – with generosity, love, humility, courage … as companions.

ABC analyst and presenter Stan Grant writes: “This past week, I have been reminded what it is to come from the other side of history. History itself that is written as a hymn to whiteness. History written by the victors and often written in blood. It is fashioned as a tale of progress, as a civilising mission …

“My colleagues can extol the Queen’s undoubted and admirable devotion to duty. They can lament the passing of ‘everyone’s grandmother’. My thoughts have been on my grandmother.

“My people have a word, Yindyamarra – its meaning escapes English translation. It is a philosophy – a way of living – grounded in a deep respect. I have sought to show Yindyamarra to those for whom this moment is profound. This is their ‘sorry business’ and I respect that. But it will pass. For Indigenous people, our sorry business is without end …”

The author of Colossians says this about “the firstborn” or Wisdom: “God wanted all perfection to be found in Christ, and all things to be reconciled to God through Christ – everything in heaven and everything on earth – when Christ made peace by dying on the cross.”

These things abide, then, these things hold (us) together – Jesus and bread; Wisdom and the cross; the unveiling of empire and the revealing light of love; salvation histories and sovereign lands; the cosmic ways of Creation and community …

We are all children of the cosmos. We are all Star Children. We are all made of stardust. We are elemental. We are miraculous. We are given, we are gifted, we are gifts. May it be so. Amen.