“Miracles”

Worship Script 4


 

Truth In Miracles

Worship Script (4 of 5)

OPENING WORDS

Why Not A Star from Margaret Gooding

 

They told me that when Jesus was born a star appeared in the heavens above the place where the young child lay.

When I was very young I have no trouble believing in wonderous things; I believed in the star.

It was a wonderful Miracle, part of a long ago story, for telling an uncommon life.

They told me a supernova appeared in the heavens in it's dying burst if fire.

When I was older and believed in science and reason I believe the story of the star explained.

But I found I was unwilling to give up the star, fitting symbol for the birth of one whose uncommon life has been long remembered.

The star explained became the star understood, for Jesus, for Buddha, for Zarathustra.

Why not a star? Some bright star shines somewhere in the heavens each time a child is born.

Who knows what it may foretell? Who knows what uncommon life may yet again unfold, if we but give it a chance?

 

There is so much more

Than we can comprehend

In the nature of things,

In their beauty,

And in their sadness.

May we be open

To those wondrous moments

When the universe would speak with us

By starfall or storm,

Rock or butterfly,

Leaf or fox,

Bud or snowflake.

May we hold precious

Such strange communions as occur

And know ourselves blessed.

 

HYMN #38  Morning Has Broken

FIRST READING

Mark 15:1-8  (NIV)

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

 


SECOND READING
Excerpt from Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

“Let’s consider you age to begin with - how old are you?’

“I’m seven and a half exactly.”

Now you needn’t say “exactually,” the Queen remarked: “I can believe it without that. Now I’ll give you something to believe. I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the Queen said is a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no such use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice.” said the Queen. “When  was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
 

HYMN #12  O Life That Maketh All Things New

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Lily in the Window by Thomas Rhodes


Once upon a time there was an old man who lived alone with his grandson in a dirty hovel. Everything around them was filthy (you can imagine!) One day a stranger appeared and gave the young child a beautiful lily. The boy took it home and placed it on a windowsill in his house. The grandfather saw the flower and put it in a jar of water. His grandson realized how dirty the window was in contrast to the lily and cleaned it. The grandfather then replaced the jar with a vase, and swept the floor. Over time the boy and grandfather clean up their home, even planting flowers out front. Neighbors stop by to admire them, and they become integrated into the community.

Eventually the original lily dies, but by this time the house is clean and orderly, the boy has friends, and the grandfather is calling on a lady neighbor.

(In Christian traditions, the flower represents Jesus. The resurrection, of course, isn't one of the flower itself, but of the man and boy who found new life.)

 

 

MEDITATION
Holy One, Know by Many Names by Marta M Flanagan

Holy One, known by many names -- Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer -- you make your presence known to us in the sunshine of winter, in the dance of the flame, and in the lingering embrace of a trusted one.

Fill us this day with your warmth, your power, your strength. Help us to see our lives with a freshness born of the spirit. Lift up the blessings: the loved ones, the ones we treasure for simply being themselves, -- the ones we laugh with, the ones who teach us to trust ourselves. Hold close the ones who are ill this day, those who feel the discouragement of the body. Stand by those who know their time is limited. Fill them and us with courage, with peace.

Gracious One, release us from our burdens. We bring the memories of the past, times when we fell short, times when we were hurt. We have fear: worries of what will be and how we will make do. We get carried away with small concerns: the daily issues that press upon us. Help us to let go. Free us from inner bonds.

We look at ourselves: the advantages we have been given, the opportunities we have seized. Fill us, O God, with a sense of gratitude for the gifts that are ours: knowledge, skills, and hard won insights. Nudge us to give back, to reach out -- sharing our talents, our riches, and ourselves with those who are discouraged, disheartened, or simply unaware; with the young, the dispossessed, the elderly.

Gracious God, grab our attention, seize us with the brightness of the day, with the miracles of life itself, that we might be filled with new passion, new resolve, heeding your quiet call to take the next step. Amen.

 

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.

 

SERMON

REsources for Living by Lynn Ungar, minister for lifespan learning, Church of the Larger Fellowship


I’ve always loved the line from Alice Through the Looking Glass in which the Red Queen declares, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” It delights me to think about an actual practice of believing in things that will never be true, like being invisible or pet unicorns or flying without wings. Believing impossible things has led people to create and dare and dream and make the world of the possible bigger than we thought it was.

But I’m become less enthusiastic about believing impossible things these days, or less comfortable at any rate. In the political world it seems like there are an awful lot of people who are determined to believe in impossible things in ways that do outright damage. Believing that giving money to rich people will help poor people, for instance, is a downright destructive thing that a lot of folks seem determined to believe in.

When you believe that natural resources are unlimited, and that you can drill and mine and chop without consequences for everyone, you are believing in an impossible thing that ravages this earth. Denying scientific findings because you don’t like the results is believing in impossible things, and the costs can be dreadful.

So which is it? Is believing in impossible things a beautiful trait of dreamers and creative pioneers, or is it just an excuse to be intellectually lazy when what you want doesn’t match up with the facts?

Those questions seem especially relevant this time of year, when we celebrate two different holidays that tell stories that feature impossible things—what we usually describe as miracles when we’re talking religion. The Passover story is full of miracles: a bush that burns but is not consumed, a walking stick that turns into a snake, a whole series of punishing plagues, a sea that splits open to let people walk through. All of them quite impossible. The Easter story, of course, is centered on a man who is dead for three days and comes back to life. That doesn’t really happen.

So what do we make of these miracles? Do we declare them silly and unscientific, and dismiss the holidays that go with them as equally so? Or do we commit ourselves to trying to believe impossible things, so that we can keep the beauty of the holidays?

I think the key might lie in the subtle difference between an impossible thing and a miracle. An impossible thing, dreadful or charming, is really just a thing that can’t happen. Believing in it as an act of imagination or fantasy is fine, but it’s a terrible thing to base policy decisions on.

But a miracle is a little bit different. A miracle in an impossible thing that points us toward something greater. The miracles of the Passover story point toward God being on the side of the enslaved Hebrews, and making their liberation possible when there was no conceivable means of escape. The miracle of Jesus’ re-birth points toward the sacred truth that things are forever dying and being re-born, that endings often lead directly to new beginnings that we might never have imagined.

There are two words in the Bible that are translated as miracle, but a more accurate translation would put those words as signs and wonders. A miracle is something that catches your attention, a sign that points you toward some truth that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Or it is something that makes you catch your breath in amazement, that fills you with awe and wonder.

A miracle doesn’t have to be impossible, but it does need to be extraordinary enough that it pulls you out of everyday stumbling around just getting things done and into something higher or deeper or wider than what you had seen before. Which means that you might experience a miracle seeing a baby being born or reading a really good book or climbing to the top of a mountain. You might experience a restored relationship as a miracle or you might miraculously find yourself free from a habit or addiction that was making your life too small.

Biblical miracles are events that remind people that God is at work in the world. That might not be a definition that appeals much to you, but the not-quite-impossible thing that I like to believe before breakfast is similar: we are connected to one another and to the other beings of this planet in ways that we can neither fully see nor fully understand. Sometimes a miracle drags us out of our self-centered ways and gives us a glimpse of that larger thing to which we belong.

 

HYMN #307 The Human Touch Can Light the Flame

 

BENEDICTION

We Receive Fragments of Holiness by Sarah York

 

We receive fragments of holiness, glimpses of eternity, brief moments of insight. Let us gather them up for the precious gifts that they are, and, renewed by their grace, move boldly into the unknown.