Do you remember the old Joni Mitchell song, “Woodstock”? There is so much yearning for resurrection in the lyrics. The ‘child of God’ trying to get his ‘soul free’. The refrain crying out, ‘and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden’. Still, it is another phrase that stays with me, because, in cosmic terms, it is so accurate. “We are stardust, we are golden.” At the end of the song, Joni repeats, “we are stardust, billion-year-old carbon.” Truly, we carbon-based creations are composed of the very stuff of the stars. Yet somehow, we’ve lost sight of that reality and our interconnectedness in our living and (often) in our theology. Only recently are we rediscovering, recognizing and beginning to honour the ultimate reality of our deep interweaving with the cosmos and with one another. Formed and re-formed from that intimately elemental stuff of creation, we are one with the universe.
The resurrection stories in the four Christian gospels highlight that reality. After disappearing from the tomb, Jesus appears in a garden, his cosmic appearance so altered that Mary, who loves him dearly, mistakes him for the gardener. Only when he calls her by name does she know him. Two disciples walking home to Emmaus, accompanied by that same cosmic Christ, recognize him only when he breaks and blesses bread in their home.
It’s easy to miss the holy in one another. The little pieces that glimmer with stardust. The times when someone calls us by name, breaks bread with us and blesses it. There is so little time in our busy lives to look around, and when we do, it is more often than not merely to notice the vast divide and differences between us. We spend the majority of what little time we do find, looking, or trying not to look, at the mess we’ve made of the world and our relationship with it and one another. Wars, refugees, people, creatures and whole ecosystems displaced by violence, trauma, poverty, colonialism, economic and ecological devastation. Yet the yearning for transformation, both personal and collective, persists.
For Christians, the fifty days of Easter are both a celebration and reminder of our renewed possibilities for transformation. A time to look for and create personal and collective changes with the potential for new life. Like the risen Jesus, these transformations may well come disguised. They will likely not look the way we expect. Cosmic realities rarely do. Families and communities will have different shapes, colours and cultures than we are used to. Grasslands may flourish where old-growth ecosystems once stood. And the transformations we seek, create or inherit will certainly come with costs, costs we may choose willingly, or may have forced upon us by the realities of our decisions and indecisions. It all starts with looking at the world with new eyes to see the stardust in one another.
Early on in the biblical story, Moses looks down at the promised land, a land he will not enter, and reminds the people who have traveled forty years to that place that much rests on their choices. Much rests on their commitment to justice for widow and orphan, the infirm, for elders, for the first-fruits of the land. The choice is clear – life and prosperity or death and destruction. Choose life, Moses urges them. Look closely and see the holy in all that surrounds you. See the stardust. Whatever we may believe resurrection was, is, or means, this much is still true. We are stardust. And there is still time to choose life.
(Joni Mitchell, Woodstock lyrics © Crazy Crow Music)
Julianne Kasmer is a minister in the United Church of Canada and recently retired chaplain at Our Place Society.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE: https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, May 7th 2022