“Earth”

Worship Script 2


 

A Denizen of the Earth

Worship Script (2 of 4)

 

OPENING WORDS

By Langston Hughes, Adapted


It’s an earth song --

And I’ve been waiting long

For an earth song.

 

It’s a spring song!

I’ve been waiting long

For a spring song!

 

Strong as the bursting of young buds.

Strong as the shoots of a new plant.

Strong as the coming of the first child

From its mother’s womb --

 

An earth song!

 

A body song!

 

A spring song!

 

And I’ve been waiting long

For an earth song.

 

HYMN #60 In Time of Silver Rain

 

FIRST READING

Excerpts from  The Mind on Fire,  by Robert D. Richardson Jr.

Throughout the garden and the indoor exhibits Emerson notes “how much finer things are in composition than alone.” Emerson was fascinated by the web of relation and analogy, the very stuff of classifications, which, said Herschel,”cross and intersect one another, as it were, in every possible way, and have for their very aim to interweave all the objects of nature together in a close and compact web of mutual relations and dependence.”

Herschel’s description of the purpose of classification provides a key to Emerson response to the Jardin de Plantes. He gazed at the exhibbits and saw relationship everywhere. Not only were the specimens linked to each other, they were also linked to him: “Not a form so grotesque, so savage, not so beautiful but is an expression of some property inherent in the man the observer.” Perhaps for the first time since Ellen’s death, Emerson felt an agitated, sympathetic - almost physical - connect with the natural world. He was powerfully affected. “I feel the centipede in me - cayman, carp, eagle, and fox. I am moved by strange sympathies. I say continually, I will be a naturalist.”

Emerson’s interested now took a marked turn toward the scientific. He did not because a scientist or even a naturalist:for all his interest in the physical world his reaction to the Jardin des Plantes was not that of a scientist. But from now on he acknowledged an unbreakable tie between his own mind and the natural world, and in his investigations into that ties he never lost his interest in the methods and materials of science.


SECOND READING
Excerpts from Each and All by Ralph Waldo Emerson


Little thinks, in the field, yon red-cloaked clown,
Of thee from the hill-top looking down;
The heifer that lows in the upland farm,
Far-heard, lows not thine ear to charm;
The sexton, tolling his bell at noon,
Deems not that great Napoleon
Stops his horse, and lists with delight,
Whilst his files sweep round yon Alpine height;
Nor knowest thou what argument
Thy life to thy neighbor's creed has lent.
All are needed by each one;
Nothing is fair or good alone.
I thought the sparrow's note from heaven,
Singing at dawn on the alder bough;
I brought him home, in his nest, at even;
He sings the song, but it pleases not now,
For I did not bring home the river and sky; —
He sang to my ear, — they sang to my eye.
The delicate shells lay on the shore;
The bubbles of the latest wave
Fresh pearls to their enamel gave;
And the bellowing of the savage sea
Greeted their safe escape to me.
I wiped away the weeds and foam,
I fetched my sea-born treasures home;
But the poor, unsightly, noisome things
Had left their beauty on the shore,
With the sun, and the sand, and the wild uproar.
Then I said, "I covet truth;
Beauty is unripe childhood's cheat;
I leave it behind with the games of youth:" —
As I spoke, beneath my feet
The ground-pine curled its pretty wreath,
Running over the club-moss burrs;
I inhaled the violet's breath;
Around me stood the oaks and firs;
Pine-cones and acorns lay on the ground;
Over me soared the eternal sky,
Full of light and of deity;
Again I saw, again I heard,
The rolling river, the morning bird; —
Beauty through my senses stole;
I yielded myself to the perfect whole.

 

HYMN #79 No Number Tallies Nature Up

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES

River, by Christopher Buice

 

Once upon a time there were two rivers flowing side by side. Both rivers liked to argue about who was the best.

“The water in my river is better than the water in your river!” said one.

“No, the water in my river is better than the water in your river!” said the other.

The two rivers would flow along all day arguing about which river was the best. Both were quite sure they were the greatest.

“Doesn’t my water make a joyful sound as it runs over the smooth, polished pebbles on my bottom? And look at the way the sun reflects off the ripples and eddies that form around the granite boulders at my edge. These things are so beautiful. Surely, I am the best river!” said the first.

The other river replied, “Ah, but look at all the fish that swim in my clear, cool water. And have you heard the frogs singing at night? They live in the reeds and lilies that grow at my banks. I am home to so many wonderful creatures. Surely, I must be the very best river!”

The two continued to argue until, one day, something strange and unexpected happened. The rivers rounded a bend, slid down a small falls, and suddenly saw that they were flowing toward something much bigger and greater than themselves. Up ahead were big, crashing waves, and water everywhere for as far as they could see. They continued to rush, faster and faster, until the water from both rivers churned together into the vast and enormous ocean.

Then a sound came from the sky. It came from a cloud that chuckled for a moment and then said, “Now you see how foolish you have been arguing about who is the best. There is no highest or lowest. There is no greatest or least. All things are one and all are joined together like rivers in the sea.”

 

MEDITATION
“In Nature” from Moorings by Rev. Orlanda Brugnola

We, who are undeniably part of the natural world

are alienated by no small arrogance

we see ourselves with a grander mind

with and intellect.

 

We cannot know the mind of the dolphin

or the heart of the lion

or the soul of the wolf

except we see with different eyes.

 

When these were people like our people

when we knew then as our own though different

when we understood the wholeness of it all

then perhaps we knew somehow deeper.

 

May we let ourselves be taught by those who share our world

the beings of the sea, great and small

the birds of the air, hunter and singer

the creatures of the land in all their forms

more wondrous than we could imagine.

 

May we learn once again to take our place in the wide amazing whole of nature

that we may not in ignorance

perish finally from the earth.


 

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

I Am a Denizen of the Earth by James C. Leach, senior minister, UU Church of Charlotte, North Carolina

 

On Christmas Day, 1832, Ralph Waldo Emerson, newly resigned from the burdensome constraints of ministry, rather impulsively boarded a freighter bound for Malta. He had declared in writing: “I will not see with others’ eyes… I would be free.” Over the course of many weeks, he slowly wandered up through Italy and into France. A half-a-year into his trip, he visited Paris’ botanical gardens, a place of major scientific research.

It was an experience that would redirect the course of his life. Exhilarated by the scientific classifications demonstrating relationships between species, he noted, “How much better things are in composition than alone.” And that’s when the insight arrived, a perception that, in time, would not just reorient his life, but would also introduce a new way of thinking about our human relationship to nature.

Gazing intently upon the gathered species, he felt—intuited, really—that they were not just related to one another but were somehow linked to him. “Not a form,” he’d write, “so grotesque, so savage, nor so beautiful but is an expression of some property inherent in the observer…”And, in his ecstatic state, he would affirm: “I feel the centipede in me—cayman, carp, eagle and fox. I am moved by strange sympathies; I say continually, ‘I will be a naturalist.’”

Robert Richardson, in his biography of Emerson, The Mind on Fire, reports: “He did not become a scientist or even a naturalist… But from now on he acknowledged an unbreakable tie between his own mind and the natural world…” And that way of thinking would launch the Transcendentalist movement.

As theological descendants of that Transcendentalism, how do we understand the relationship between humankind and the natural world? Are we necessary caretakers of a less-well-equipped natural order? Is nature our gigantic big box store, a place for us to roam up and down its aisles, taking, using, drilling, chopping, harvesting at will? Is nature something we are apart from, and therefore something we need, at least on occasion, to get back to?

There are dramatic implications for how we imagine the way humans and nature are related. Our view of it and us and how the two do or don’t correlate will have significant consequences in the commitments we make, in the habits we attempt to break, in the concerns we raise, and in the things we find to celebrate.

I suggest that Emerson offers us a very good place to begin. His “original relationship” is the key. We should experience nature for ourselves, and our experiences should be trusted. Emerson was an inveterate walker, setting out in all kinds of weather to observe, to apprehend, to encounter, and to draw conclusions for himself.

To be sure, he regarded science with deep respect. He read and studied and talked often with the scientists of his day. His deepest experiences, however, were not found in books or laboratories, but rather along the paths, in the woods and the streets and farms, alongside the streams and ponds all about him. Emerson bemoans: “We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within [us] is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE.”

That’s it. That’s the relationship: “universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related.” “We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul.” The botanical garden thrilled Emerson because he discovered not just a whole new world of science there; he discovered himself.

We don’t escape to nature. Rather, there is no escape from nature; it is within us. We don’t get away to nature. Rather, there is no place to get away from nature; we are forever being drawn into that deep connection. A cardinal’s single chirp, a frog croaking in the night, the shrill cry of a hawk, the haunting call of an owl. A dogwood in bloom, an iris bursting with shameless color, a simple wildflower, a red bud gone from pink to green.

Susan Griffin put it this way: “We are nature. We are nature seeing nature… Nature speaking of nature to nature.” And in the words of Emerson’s friend and fellow Transcendentalist, H. D. Thoreau: “The creaking of the crickets seems at the very foundation of all sound… It is a sound from within, not without. It reminds me that I am a denizen of the earth.”

 

HYMN #1064 Blue Boat Home

 

BENEDICTION

By Walt Whitman, Adapted

 

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not

Emulate the earth.

 

There can be no theory of any account unless it

corroborate the theory of the earth,

 

No politics, song, religion, behavior, or what not,

Is of account, unless it compare

With the

Amplitude of the earth,

 

Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality,

Rectitude of the earth.