Worship Script 3
See a World Filled with Creativity
Worship Script (3 of 5)
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In it’s brief course lie all the verities
and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth
The glory of action
The splendor of beauty;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday
A dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
- Attributed to Kalidasa
HYMN #21 For the Beauty of the Earth
Excerpts from A Sermon “The Theist in Me” by Bruce Clear
I remember, in my study of Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy, being perplexed by the fact that he talked about God at all. Whitehead offers a fairly complex but complete system. His metaphysics offer to explain why things are the way they are, in fully natural, not supernatural, ways. Why, then, did he talk about "God?"
I poured through dozens of books about Whitehead, searching for an answer, until I finally found one. It was only a sentence or two, but it suggested a reason. Whitehead needed God, the author said, to explain "novelty" in the world. Novelty. That something new happens, that something unexpected happens (such as genetic mutation, for example). The world can go on tomorrow pretty much as it did today, but somehow, something tomorrow will be different.
And another philosopher, the Unitarian Henry Nelson Wieman, called it "creativity." Novelty or creativity: whatever it is, there is something that allows us to face life with fresh vigor, with excitement, and with meaning.
Life is meaningful, or at least it can be. There is no reason why life should be meaningful. But, for many people, it is. Meaning arises from the novelty and creativity of the human imagination, novelty and creativity being normal components of nature itself. From that creativity, we can create meaning.
From Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life by By Frederic Brussat and Mary Ann Brussat
“‘Our spiritual famine has concluded, we are just beginning to restore the honor of the imagination’ Episcopal priest Lauren Artress writes.
Artists, poets, and writers of all stripes reverence this faculty. As the expression of our creativity, it enables us to boldly explore the world.
‘I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of imagination,” English poet John Keats declares. It is his passport to both and inner and outer depths of things.
Another English poet, Percy Shelly, asserts: “The great instrument of moral good is imagination.’ We often forget that there are creative ways of bringing about change in our communities and society at large.
When Jesus suggests that we love our enemies, he is imaginatively expanding our concept of what it means to be a good person. When Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung asks us to love those parts of ourselves that we find unappealing and dreadful, he is imaginatively challenging us to take a new path to personal renewal.”
HYMN #288 All Are Architects of Fate
STORY FOR ALL AGES
T'AI CHI: THE STORY OF ITS BEGINNING by Denise Tyler
There was a young man who grew up in China. Everyone said that he was so calm and peaceful, he should become a monk. Not wanting to displease his family and friends by telling the truth, the young man let them think he was indeed peaceful and calm. Inside, however, the young man was filled with feelings of doubt, joy, love, happiness, sadness—and many questions. Because he wanted others' approval, he kept his feelings and questions to himself. He went on looking calm and peaceful to everyone.
When he was old enough, he entered the monastery, because everyone said he looked so peaceful and calm. They did not know of his secret inner life. Everyone was pleased because they felt he would be a great monk.
For years, he practiced sitting calmly and peacefully, and his masters were pleased. Little did they know that behind that calm exterior bubbled energy, exuberance and still more questions. The young man kept all these things to himself.
After years at the monastery, the young man was to be tested for his deep, inner religious peace. He was to go to a mountain top to meditate daily for many months, and on a final day the master would observe his meditation.
He went to the mountains for many days. He sat and sat and sat. He looked very calm and peaceful on the outside, but on the inside, his mind was filled with the crane's flight, fire and shadows, and the earth's elements, as well as questions of beginnings and endings. He did not tell anyone of the scenes and questions that filled his mind.
One day, he was at the top of the mountain sitting peacefully, pretending to be calm, meditating and preparing for the day of his exam (which was only two weeks away), when a fly landed right on the end of his nose. He tried wiggling his nose to get the fly off. This did not work. He wiggled his nose again. What a stubborn fly! Next, he waved his hand and the fly danced. As he waved his hand, he discovered how joyful it felt to move. The fly then landed on his nose again. The young man waved his other hand. This, too, felt wonderful.
The fly began to turn circles and move with the wind and earth. The young monk leaped and laughed, dancing with the fly. As the days passed, the young man looked forward to his dancing and moving with the fly. He lost all track of time—hours, days, or minutes. He knew only the joy of moving in harmony with the elements, earth, water, fire, wood, wind, and metal.
The young man went to the top of the mountain on the day of his exam, but he had forgotten that this was a most important day. He saw the fly and they began their dance together, earth, water, fire, wood, wind, metal. They moved with focused energy and great joy. Neither the fly nor the young man noticed the Master of Masters seated, watching their movements.
After a while, the Master of Masters approached. The young man grew silent, embarrassed and fearful. He was supposed to be calm and meditative. He looked down in shame. He had failed his training.
The Master of Masters then said, "Young man, you must teach me this movement. You use the energy of the life force to mirror the earth, fire, wind, sky, birds, and water. This focused energy complements our study of inner peace. Since all is in balance, we need stillness and energy; we need peace and activity; we need meditation and movement.
"Teach me. Then you will teach all the monks this new miracle of focused energy."
So from one young man whose creativity spilled over to dance with a fly came a meditation of movement called "T'ai Chi."
Words by Lyn Cox
Creative spirit, source of life and love:
We give thanks for the beauty of this day and for the company of those assembled here.
Thank you for the breezes of change, clearing our heads and bringing fresh ideas. May they cleanse our minds of the oppressions and isms that divide us.
Thank you for the flame of hope, the heat of righteous anger, the warmth of compassion, and the fire of commitment. May they bubble the cauldrons of transformation.
Thank you for oceans of love, rivers of connection, tears of relief, and pools of serenity. May healing waters flow over us and through us and among us, wearing down the sharp rocks of despair to bring joy in the morning.
Thank you for the good earth beneath us, around us, and within us. May we take this clay and co-create a new realm of justice and beauty.
Thank you for all these and more. We accept our gifts and commit to building, sculpting, painting, singing, and dancing them to life; to abundant life.
CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN
Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives. As you do, you may briefly share what it is. We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.
by Michael Tino, minister, UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester, Mt. Kisco, New York
We each were born with the powers of creativity. While we’re not all going to be famous artists or poets or musicians, we each have the faculties to use our imagination to create. To use these gifts allows us to change our relationship with the world around us.
Mid-20th century process theologian Henry Nelson Wieman writes about the power of creativity as the ultimate source of goodness. In The Source of Human Good, he explained:
The creative event weaves a web of meaning between individuals and groups and between the organism and its environment. Out of disruptions and conflicts which would otherwise be destructive, it creates vivifying contrasts of quality…. In weaving the web of richer meaning, the creative event transforms the individual so that he [sic] is more of a person…. Creative good is the guide we must follow if we are to find the way to life’s supreme fulfillment in qualitative meaning.
To Wieman, the ultimate power of any being is its ability to create—to deepen and transform its relationship with those things around it. As humans, we use this power of creativity, including our powers of imagination, to create meaning by interacting with the world in new and different ways.
Creativity and imagination create community. Weaving together words or capturing the play of light in the trees both create a common cultural reference point for the people who see and hear them. They allow people to discuss, to interpret, to imagine for themselves what those words might mean or what that light might look like.
Philosopher and theologian Rabbi Jonathan Sacks identifies creativity as one of the most important virtues to cultivate in our increasingly complex world. In his book The Dignity of Difference, Sacks argues for the importance of education, which he thinks is the key to developing creativity: “Creativity is itself one of the most important gifts with which any socioeconomic group can be endowed.”
Creative imagination is not just nice. It’s necessary—for connections with the world around us and with others, to enrich our lives and to stimulate our mind. It is necessary for a deep and full spiritual life. Imagination is also necessary to survive when times are rough. Throughout time, those facing hardship and oppression have turned inwards for inspiration for living, even in the harshest of conditions.
I once met with a group of colleagues seeking to create resources for congregations to embrace multiculturalism in authentic and worshipful ways. As part of our meeting, we sang—a lot—which was wonderful. We began and ended each session with song, and we were careful to put each song into a cultural context that allowed us to connect with its origins and meaning.
One morning I was slated to lead us in song, and I chose the hymn “Over My Head.” Perhaps you know it: “Over my head, I hear music in the air… There must be a God somewhere.”
The hymn comes from African-American slave communities in pre-Civil War America. Unlike so many other songs of that period, it had no hidden meaning about escape or freedom. It was sung, simply, to remind slaves that wherever they heard music, God was present; that song, no matter how harsh their circumstances, could bring them to a place of peace and worship.
It was meant as a reminder that song sparks our imagination—imagination that brings us to another place. For slaves in chains, toiling in the fields, this imagination was life saving. It allowed them to face another day.
The ability to imagine what is not goes hand-in-hand with the ability to dream up what could be, and leads us to yearn for the possible instead of finding complacency in the present.
In their book, Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat quote poet Percy Shelley: “The great instrument of moral good is imagination.” They take a lesson from that: “We often forget that there are creative ways of bringing about change in our communities and society at large…. When Jesus suggests we love our enemies, he is imaginatively expanding our concept of what it means to be a good person.”
Indeed, the teachings of great moral leaders throughout time have relied upon human imagination to see a world that did not exist—and upon human creativity to make that world a reality. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is as famous for his dream as for his hands-on work of community organizing, but both required him to imagine a better future for people of all races and ethnicities.
Both required him to communicate that vision to others, and to have them imagine it also. Both required him to inspire people to dive in and do the work that needed to be done in order to bring our nation to a place that existed at the time only in the collective imagination.
Imagination is necessary to dream. Dreams are necessary to form goals. Goals are necessary to make change. And if we want to build a world better than the one we have today, change will be necessary, even when it’s not easy.
Together, we can dream up better days, better ways of relating to each other, better ways of being in harmony with the web of life we’re a part of, better ways to see the world. Together, we make that imagination reality.
HYMN #298 Wake Now My Senses
By Tom Schade
There is a power at work in the universe.
It works through human hands,
but it was not made by human hands.
It is a creative, sustaining, and transforming power
and we can trust that power with our lives
[and with our ministries].
It will sustain us whenever we take a stand on the side of love;
whenever we take a stand for peace and justice;
whenever we take a risk.
Trust in that power.
We are, together, held by that power.