“Miracles”

Worship Script 5


 

I Believe In Miracles

Worship Script (5 of 5)

OPENING WORDS

Quote from “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

 

I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.

 

HYMN #339  Knowledge, They Say

 

FIRST READING

“The Willing Suspension of Disbelief” by Gary Bauslaugh from Humanist Perspectives, Issue 154

The appreciation of fiction, it is said, requires ‘the willing suspension of disbelief.’ That is how we can enrich our lives through literature, while not believing it to be literally true. Rational people temporarily suspend critical judgment in order to imagine that fictional stories are real. Creationists permanently suspend critical judgment in order to believe their fictional stories did happen.

Science, in contrast to reading literature, requires the willing suspension of belief. We must put aside our prejudices and predilections and seek to see what really exists, not what we wish to see. This simple, crucial, idea seems still not well understood. Wishful thinking is not critical thinking.

 


SECOND READING
First Breath, by Adam Lawrence Dyer

That first breath must be delicious.

It must be more tantalizing,
more intoxicating than any drug,
fragrant like no flower will ever be
enticing like no body scent.
It must be all of this, and more
yet without words or memories, how do we know?

That first glorious rush of air
wants us to keep breathing
wants our hearts to keep beating
wants our eyes to open and see
wants our souls to open and say “yes.”

The first breath wants us to live all our life saying,
please God,
let me live
let me breathe
for just one day more
until we breathe our very last.

 

HYMN #338 I Seek the Spirit of A Child

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Fruits from “A Bucketful of Dreams: Contemporary Parables for All Ages” by Christopher Buice


Once upon a time, a mother and her daughter were carrying bags of food to a neighboring village where people were hungry and had no food of their own. The two had to travel a great distance, which made them very tired, so they stopped to rest. As they sat down they heard a voice call out to them.

“Hello,” said the voice.

The two travelers looked around, but saw no one.

“Hello!” said the voice again. “Look over here by the rock.”

The mother and her daughter looked over by the rock and there they saw a thorn bush. The two looked at the thorn bush for a moment and then they looked at each other.

“I believe that thorn bush is talking to us,” said the little girl.

“I am not a thorn bush!” said the voice. “I am a beautiful apple tree. If you like, you may sit awhile and admire my beauty.”

“If you don’t mind my saying so,” said the little girl. “You do not look anything like an apple tree and you do look exactly like a thorn bush.”

“Silly girl!” said the voice. “I am the most beautiful apple tree in all the land. Please feel free to sit and enjoy my beauty.”

“Are you quite sure you are an apple tree?” asked the mother.

“Yes,” said the voice from the thorn bush. “I am quite sure.”

“Then perhaps you can help us,” said the mother. “You see, we are carrying food to a neighboring village where people are hungry. Since you are an apple tree, you could give us some apples to take to the people who have nothing to eat.”

“No,” said the voice from the thorn bush.

“No?” asked the mother. “Why not? The people are very hungry. They don’t have any food at all. They would love to have some of your apples.”

“No,” repeated the voice from the thorn bush. “You see, I don’t have any apples right now.”

“Oh,” said the mother. “That’s too bad.” After a moment she said, “Well, we must be going.” And the mother and daughter stood up and continued on the road to the village.

“Come back!” cried the thorn bush. “Come back and admire my beauty!” But the mother and the daughter did not hear the thorn bush.

After the two had traveled many miles, they became very tired once again and decided it was time to stop and rest. They had not been sitting long when they heard another voice.

“Hello,” said the voice.

The mother and her daughter looked around awhile before they noticed a very small man sitting next to a rock. The man was dressed in very stylish and expensive clothes.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m not a bad man. I won’t hurt you. In fact, I’m a very good man.”

“You’re a good man?” asked the mother uncertainly.

“Oh, yes!” he said. “I’m a very, very good man. I read the holy book everyday for hours and hours. I pray each morning when I rise and pray again in the evening when I go to bed.”

“Are you quite sure you’re a good man?” asked the mother.

“Oh, yes!” he replied. “I’m quite sure.”

“Well, then, perhaps you will help us,” said the mother. “My daughter and I are carrying food to a neighboring village where the people are hungry. We’re very tired from walking for so long. Would you please help us carry these bags to the village so that the people there will have something to eat?”

“No,” said the little man. “I’m a good man, but if I were to help you carry those bags, I might mess up my nice new clothes. Then I might not look as good. How would anyone know I’m a good man if I don’t look fine? Sorry, but I can’t help you.”

“Oh,” the mother said. “That’s too bad.” After a moment she said, “Well, we must be on our way!” And the two picked up their bags of food and continued down the road.

“No! Come back!” yelled the little man. “Stay here with me, for I am very lonely!”

But the mother and her daughter didn’t hear the little man, and they continued walking on the road to the village.

For a while the two walked in silence. Finally, the daughter said to her mother, “I’m confused. Today we have seen a strange plant that claimed to be an apple tree. And we also saw a strange little man who claimed to be a good man. But how can we be sure? I mean, how can we tell a real apple tree from a fake one? Or a real good person from a fake one?”

“Well,” said the mother. “It isn’t always easy to tell the difference between something that is real and something that is fake. But it seems to me that if you want to call yourself an apple tree, then you should give the world some apples! And if you want to call yourself a good person, then you should give this world some loving kindness and a helping hand. After all, it is by our fruits that we are known.”

 

MEDITATION
by Sarah York

Give us the child who lives within . . .

Give us a child's eyes, that we may receive the beauty and freshness of this day like a sunrise;

Give us a child ears, that we may hear the music of mythical times;

Give us a child's faith, that we may be cured of our cynicism;

Give us the spirit of the child, who is not afraid to need; who is not afraid to love.

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

God, Jesus and the Tooth Fairy by Karen Gustafson

My first conversation with my granddaughter Phoenix regarding the tooth fairy happened in a larger conversation about religion in general. She was five-and-a-half and had already lost three baby teeth, the first during a vacation to Trinidad with her mother.
In the months just prior to this conversation, I had been passively curious about her parents’ decision that she could attend a Lutheran Bible School throughout most of the year with her maternal grandmother, a conservative Christian. This seemed to me to be at odds with the religious sentiments of her parents, who were, I perceived, at least agnostic and at most Unitarian Universalist. 
Phoenix and I were out for lunch and she was chatting matter-of-factly about the large refrigerator box that her father had rescued and made into a playhouse. “It is,” she said, “a perfect place to play Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”
I took a big breath.
“Are you still going to Bible school with Grandma Mamma?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” she said, “but this fall I will go to real school. I will like that better because at Bible School we only learn about God and Jesus, God and Jesus. And besides, Grandma Mamma doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy.”
“Really?” I said, trying to sound more incredulous than relieved.
“Yup,” she said. “But I know there’s a tooth fairy. When I lost my first tooth in Trinidad I put it under my pillow and I got a note from the tooth fairy saying that she did not have my gift because of the crowds at Carnival but she would be back in three days. And in three days, there was a ring and five dollars in Trinidad money under my pillow.”
More, I thought, than she might expect from God or Jesus.
Her parents, with elegant ease, allowed her to sort out this little trinity of mythical figures God, Jesus and the Tooth Fairy, which I found to be an interesting beginning for her own free and responsible search for truth and meaning that figures so prominently as the fourth principle of this Grandma’s faith tradition.
This summer, when I commented on her little ring that she always wears, she, now seven-and-a-half, explained to me, a little impatiently, I thought, “I told you, Grandma, that this came from the tooth fairy when she came to me in Trinidad.”
“How do you know the tooth fairy is a girl?” I asked.
“Because,” she said, “the last time I lost a tooth, I made her a little dress and put it under the pillow.”
“How did you know what size to make?”
“She left me a note and said that it fit perfectly. Next time I lose a tooth, which should be when I am about ten, I will ask her name. I really want to know her name.”
I have mulled these interactions over and over.
 

Had I shamelessly cooperated in a lie? I mean, I don’t really believe in the tooth fairy. But why, I wondered, was I so willing to engage this child in extending an illusion that will ultimately be disproven or denied. I believe that when the literal reality of the tooth fairy’s existence comes to Phoenix, that belief will have served its purpose and its literal truth will simply be irrelevant.
And yet I cannot help but wonder how would I respond if the pull of the Bible stories and Grandma Mamma’s denial  had been stronger than then the pull of the tooth fairy. Would I have been able to let those miracles stand without question? “Raised from the dead, you say. Wow, that’s amazing.”
 

But what’s the difference, really?
 

A partial reconciliation of this distinction came to me in a quotation from scientist and writer Gary Bauslaugh:  “Rational people temporarily suspend critical judgment in order to imagine that fictional stories are real. Creationists permanently suspend critical judgment in order to believe their fictional stories did happen.”
 

In this sense, it is not the particularity of the story that is of note, but more the lens through which we view it. For thousands of years now, many have viewed the miracles in the Bible as proof texts pointing, as Episcopal Bishop Spong says, to the supernatural power of God, which is the “foundation of our security system.” In rejecting that version of God, Spong—and many of us—summarily reject the idea of miracles at all. If the mere use of the word immediately conjures up Spong’s definition of miracles as the “supernatural setting aside of natural causes,” then we might well have grounds for skepticism or outright rejection of the notion of miracle.
 

But I confess that this definition leaves me feeling more than a little resentful. Where do the literalists on either side of the Christian miracle debate get off forcing a clear white line between what is real and what is not? What of those deeply human experiences that somehow defy reason and logic and proof?
 

Anyone who reads fiction, or goes to the theater or the cinema, or even reads the comics in the newspaper understands that we don’t need to know the whole story behind every character, or every minute detail of the setting. We can still be in relationship with those characters or embrace the unfolding drama of their lives within a context that is clearly not real in the literal sense, but is a reflection of some greater reality.
 

What’s important is the willingness to temporarily set aside the literal, the explainable, the rational; to disarm judgment and preconceived notions for the purpose of opening up some other part of our being.
 

I have watched a thousand sunsets, each one of them different. I am certain that there is a scientific explanation for every nuance of light and color, but I don’t think that knowing all of that would enhance my experience. I hear birdsongs from birds whose names someone knows, and I choose to remain unschooled in ornithology. I know that if I take apart a butterfly to try to understand it I will end up with a pile of butterfly parts.


Please understand that I am in no way questioning the value of taxonomy and physics and the explainable wonders of the known universe. But sometimes I want to simply watch from the darkened theater, engaged and amazed by a world I cannot explain.


It is not my desire to turn us away from reason but rather to encourage us toward wonder, toward the miracles we find beneath our pillow should we be willing to look.
 

HYMN #343  A Firemist and A Planet

 

BENEDICTION
Shine! by Mary Edes

Like the cosmic dust following after a great Perseid meteor, we are the living remnants of time and all that has come to pass in its wake—briefly shining lights on the way to eternity. We are only visible to the naked eye for an instant. Take this moment to shine like the star dust you are. May the light of our time on earth shine to bless the world and each other. Shine. Shine. Shine.