Divine DNA Found in Great Chain of Being, Fr. Richard Rohr Says

Author Fr. Richard Rohr gives his first lecture of the week “The First Half of Life” to a packed house at the Hall of Philosophy Monday, July 15, 2019. SARAH YENESEL/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“All our Christmas songs talk about Jesus coming into the world, but it would be more theologically correct to say that Jesus is coming out of the Christ-soaked world,” said Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, at the 9:15 a.m. Monday, July 15 Ecumenical Service. His sermon title was “Everything Belongs,” and the Scripture text was Hebrew 1:1-3.

God has been speaking for a long time, Rohr said.

Jesus is the culmination of that speaking, but we got so excited about the culmination that we forgot the 13.6 billion years before,” he said.

As an illustration, Rohr reminded the congregation of the story of Jacob sleeping on a rock as a pillow in the desert. Jacob had a dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder.

Jacob had a “eureka” moment.

“Maybe this was a metaphor for prayer,” Rohr said.

Jacob said: “You have been here all the time, and I never knew it.” Jacob anointed the rock as a gate to heaven; he realized that the world was already Christ-soaked.

“This act might have been considered paganism,” Rohr said. “The root of the Hebrew word for anointing is meshach. The messiah is the anointed one.”

The Jewish people were waiting for the anointed one, Rohr said.

“It should shake your mind to think differently,” he said. “We have a mystery too great, too grand to comprehend.”

The church fathers wrote about the great chain of being. The chain began with finding the divine in the Earth, the firmament, then in plants, trees and animals, then humans, then angels, then the divinity.

“Notice that humans are only one link in the chain,” Rohr said. “Once the chain is broken, we have stopped honoring the divine presence in any link. The link was broken in humans and we believe we have found it only in a few of us, and we have developed thousands of reasons to exclude others.”

For our children and grandchildren, Rohr told the congregation, this exclusion would not work.

“For them, all is sacred or nothing is sacred,” he said. “Christians should be the first in line to recognize the divine DNA in everything.”

Rohr said it takes a contemplative mind to see the DNA in everything, a mind that has the capacity to see at depth. Jacob has a contemplative mind.

At the end of his life, Thomas Merton said, ‘The gate of heaven is everywhere,’ ” Rohr said.  Maybe you need to get to the end of life to see that.”

The view that any one individual group is “chosen” is narcissistic, Rohr said. As children, he told the congregation, our parents make us feel chosen and elected.

“The point is to pass that chosenness to everyone else,” he said. “In the last 2,000 years, we have just been jumping up and down saying ‘I’m special.’ You are, but everyone else is, too.”

If creation is the universality of the presence of Christ, then Jesus is the personalization of that presence.

“The world was finally ready for an I-Thou moment, as Martin Buber said,” Rohr said. “We are able to love something as it is, of itself, by itself; not just what it does for me.”

When Christ is the universal principle and Jesus is the personal manifestation in a religion, then the religion is good.

If you just have the personal Jesus, it is sentimental religion — Jesus is my boyfriend, Jesus-and-me religion,” Rohr said. “If you just have the universal principle, there is no devotion, no heart, only intellectual belief. True Christianity is head and heart.

Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God,” Rohr said. “He is a microcosm of the macrocosm,” he said. “The writer of Revelation called Jesus the alpha and omega. We latched on to the omega; this week we are going to be talking about the alpha.”

Rohr told the congregation that the universe is still expanding — and expanding at an increasing rate.

We can only kneel before the mystery that is larger than we think or we can think, according to physicist David Bohm,” Rohr said. “We can only kneel before the mystery that is larger than we think or can think.”

The Rt. Rev V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor, presided. The Rev. Paul Womack, former pastor of Hurlbut Memorial Community United Methodist Church and co-host at the United Methodist Missionary Home, read the Scriptures. The Motet Choir sang “Holy God We Praise Thy Name,” by John Ferguson, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. The Alison and Craig Marthinsen Endowment for the Department of Religion provides support for this week’s services.

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The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.