Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Our New Cathedral

I’ll be creating the liturgy and preaching for Ormewood Park Presbyterian Church in Atlanta Sunday Nov. 16 and 23, 11 a.m.

Sign up now for my free Advent retreat on-line beginning Nov. 22, “Nativity Stories.”

No, I’m not thinking of the new One World Trade Center, or a skyscraper in Dubai, and certainly not a megachurch or other megastore. I’m thinking of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, seeking understanding of the origins of the universe. Its outsize dimensions and outsize hope remind me of the great world cathedrals.

A similar collider in the U.S. was attacked by American politicians who thought they already knew the origins of the universe (Creation) and the site lies incomplete and abandoned in Texas, a testament to the puny mindedness that pervades Congress.

Particle Fever is an inspiring documentary available free on Netflix right now that tells the story of the 10,000 scientists from more than 100 countries trying to recreate what happened minutes after the Big Bang and discover the Higgs Boson that could lead to an explanation of how matter came to be.

In the film, during a briefing on the collider, an economist bluntly asks, “What is its economic value?” A scientist responds, “There is no known economic value—we will just understand everything.”

What is the economic value, say, of Wells Cathedral? Or Notre Dame Cathedral? Or National Cathedral? They not only help us understand our humble place in the cosmos, but the grandness and abundance of that universe.

In an essay entitled “The Truth of Abundance: Relearning Dayenu,” biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann argues for recapturing the concept of “dayenu,” Hebrew for “there is enough.” He writes, 
In the Bible, ‘creation’ is primarily an exuberant, lyrical, doxological expression of gratitude and amazement for the goodness and generosity of God. The theme that recurs is generosity and abundance. There is enough! There is more than enough! There is as much as the limitless, self-giving God can imagine! 
He writes that over against this experience of abundance is cast “the myth of scarcity,” the fear that there is not enough to go around, encouraging hoarding by a range of characters in our world, from the Pharaoh of the Exodus story to today’s “‘money economy’ driven by corporate power that recruits even the government as a company security force.”

A fraction of one percent hoards the majority of the world’s wealth, or capital, or mammon.  They remind the rest of us, not of our humble place in the economic universe, but of our economic humiliation.

Wells Cathedral and the Large Hadron Collider could remind the very rich that “there is enough” for us all, not only to survive, but for all to live well, to live abundantly. “For what does it profit one to gain the whole world, but lose one’s soul?” Jesus asked, rhetorically.

Brueggemann rightly asserts, “The alternative to oppression is sharing, not sharing as isolated acts of charity, but as public policy.”

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Copyright © 2014 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. 


  1. Thanks, Chris. I might have the story mixed up but the idea that when the "manna from heaven" was stored or hoarded, it spoiled has impressed me most of my life. My mom did not like my dad having any cash because sure enough he would give it away to any who needed some. We think it is "responsible" and even "considerate of our community" to store away and save so that we can take care of ourselves so the community won't have to. And then we wonder why we are losing sense of community? I like "dayenu"! Thanks.

    1. Yes, that the manna would spoil if kept beyond a day (except for the Sabbath) is a great part of the story. And I have no quarrel saving so no one has to take care of you, but rather, want to challenge those who know they could never spend the capital they have. A few of these are in the process of giving away fortunes, but most are not.

  2. Fine piece Chris - thanks! I had to chuckle over your comment about the politicians who abandoned the collider in Texas.

    1. I was hoping for that response! Thanks!

  3. The geek in me rejoices. Wonderful comparison!

  4. I love that you mentioned the CERN's Hadron Collider. It reminds me of the geeky physicists in the Big Bang Theory.