Wonder”

Worship Script 1


 Worship Script (1 of 4)

 “Sense of Wonder”

 

OPENING WORDS

From “Awake to Wonder” by Reverend Janet Parsons  

We Unitarian Universalists are encouraged to wonder, to explore mystery. We encourage everyone to seek their own answers. And we offer guideposts along the way, places to turn for knowledge. We make much of our seven principles, but we also are a living tradition that draws from six sources, our guideposts. And our very first source, mentioned before any religious traditions, is this: 

“Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life.” 

What this tells us is that all people, across any religious belief system or cultural tradition, has access to wonder, to awe. No matter who we are or what we believe, we have access to those moments that make us sometimes feel very small, such as when looking at the night sky, or can make us feel, fleetingly, for a second, at one with everything around us. A moment when the universe seems to open somehow, and life changes for us.

 

HYMN #38 - Morning Has Broken

 

FIRST READING

From “How Wonder Works” by Jesse Prinz, professor of philosophy at the City University of New York.

 

Scientists are spurred on by wonder, and they also produce wondrous theories. The paradoxes of quantum theory, the efficiency of the genome: these are spectacular. Knowledge does not abolish wonder; indeed, scientific discoveries are often more wondrous than the mysteries they unravel. Without science, we are stuck with the drab world of appearances. With it, we discover endless depths, more astounding that we could have imagined. 

In this respect, science shares much with religion. Gods and monsters are wondrous things, recruited to explain life’s unknowns. Also, like science, religion has a striking capacity to make us feel simultaneously insignificant and elevated.  

Wonder, then, unites science and religion, two of the greatest human institutions. Let’s bring in a third. Religion is the first context in which we find art. The Venus of Willendorf appears to be an idol, and animals on the walls of the Chauvet, Altamira and Lascaux caves are thought to have been used in shamanic rites, with participants traveling to imaginative netherworlds in trance-like states under the hypnotic flicker of torchlight. Up through the Renaissance, art primarily appeared in churches. When in the Middle Ages Giotto broke free from the constraints of Gothic painting, he did not produce secular art but a deeply spiritual vision, rendering divine personages more accessible by showing them in fleshy verisimilitude. His Scrovegni Chapel in Padua is like a jewel-box, exploding with figures who breathe, battle, weep, writhe, and rise from the dead to meet their God beneath an ethereal cobalt canopy. It is, in short, a wonder. Atheist that I am, it took some time for me to realize that I am a spiritual person. I regularly go to museums to stand in mute reverence before the artworks that I admire. 

Bringing these threads together, we can see that science, religion and art are unified in wonder. Each engages our senses, elicits curiosity and instils reverence. Without wonder, it is hard to believe that we would engage in these distinctively human pursuits. 

 

SECOND READING

From “The Sense of Wonder” by Rachel Carson, American biologist and conservationist. 

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.

 

HYMN #338 - I Seek the Spirit of a Child

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES

“Wonder” by Rev. Jane Ranney Rzepka

Recalling her childhood in a Unitarian Universalist fellowship, the author writes…

Sunday school was a mixed bag. On the plus side, I learned to turn cartwheels—though, now that I think of it, that must have happened during coffee hour, not Sunday school. On the minus side, we had to sing songs with hand motions, which, for a child with hazy notions of right and left, was a dreaded source of public humiliation. Let’s not even mention the Hokey-Pokey. There must have been crafts, with glitter and pipe cleaners and paste, materials gathered with effort and expense by our teachers, but I don’t remember a single result. My apologies. 

What I do remember—and this is a little embarrassing to a self-conscious geek—is that I liked the actual content. I looked forward to the meat of the matter. We heard religious tales from the Bushmen, the Hebrews, the Iroquois, the Icelanders. There were stories about injustice, and talk about how to recognize it and find the courage to fix it. Certainly there was Akhenaton to learn about, and Susan B. Anthony, Socrates, and Jesus the Carpenter’s Son. And there were the words of Carl Sandburg:

 

Something began me

And it had no beginning;

Something will end me

And it has no end.

 

This was the good stuff. 

There were the lima beans—not for eating, rather for growing. How was it that all we had to do was get the dirt into a Dixie cup, stick a dried lima bean in there, water it there on the window sill, and presto, it sprouted? That knocked my socks off. 

We tromped around in the swamp come springtime in search of tiny round balls with squiggly tails. Pollywogs! To watch them turn into frogs was a miracle beyond expressing. 

Planting bulbs in the fall. Then wait, wait, wait until you just about forgot all about them, and, after the slush went away for good, the flowers showed up! I wanted to call the Weekly News Herald. 

Not to mention the eggs, the incubator, and the chicks. 

What was Sunday school all about back then? Wonder. For me it was all about wonder. Wonder and awe. The inexplicable great big picture. Religion at its finest. Now, over fifty years later, that’s still true.

 

MEDITATION

“A mindful wonder meditation” by Shaun Lambert, Baptist minister based in North West London. 

May I know wonder.

May I see with wonder.

May I hear with wonder.

May I touch with wonder.

May I taste with wonder.

May I sense with wonder.

May I feel with wonder.

May I be overwhelmed with wonder.

May I run with wonder to greet this world.

May I walk with wonder.

May I be still with wonder.

May I know God and resonate with wonder.

May all my senses resonate with wonder.

May I fly in my imagination with wonder.

 

(Pause) Blessed be.

 

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 that they 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

Witness to Wonder (Excerpt)

by Dan Schatz, minister, Unitarian Congregation of West Chester, Pennsylvania

It is easy, in the drudgery of the day to day, to forget that the air we breathe and the ground we walk upon, the lushness of tree and leaf and soil and animal, the richness of human culture, the complexities of emotion—that all are miracles beyond measure.

It is easy to forget that every moment is a wonder and a testament to the sacred unfolding of existence that defines the universe—and that we, too, are part of that transcendent wonder.

I believe this firmly—that we are sacred beings in a sacred world. No part of our living is divorced from that reality; this life and all that surrounds it is holy, from beginning to end. Every human being—whatever category or description they might belong to—is a sacred being.

I believe this firmly—that the world we inhabit, from the primordial slime that gave rise to the air we breathe to the American chestnut trees in my backyard; to the thistles and the groundhogs, also in my backyard, that will not go away; to the grass that grows through the cracks of crumbling pavement, and even the pavement itself, is sacred. All of it is. All of life is wondrous, and we are part of life. With our very breath, we are witness to wonder.

But we forget. It’s easy to do. I suppose on some level that’s a good thing. We probably wouldn’t get much done if we spent every moment staring in rapturous wonder at dandelions, appreciating the miracle of sneezes even as we breathe in the ragweed. And perhaps that too is a miracle of sorts, as the author Terry Pratchett once commented. “Human beings,” he said, “make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom?”

When I think about things that way, it astonishes me that any of us can manage to be bored, but we do. It is in such moments, when I become aware of them, that I try to rise from the sleepwalking of day-to-day getting by and look around me. It is in such moments that I might pick up an instrument and practice that miraculous art which is music, or I might listen to another practice that art. Perhaps I will step outdoors for a few moments and walk under leaf and sky. Maybe I’ll pick up the telephone—another miracle—and call someone I love, with whom I have not spoken in too long a time. Maybe I will play with my son. Or perhaps I will simply soldier through, getting done what needs to get done, and wait until later to be grateful for the sacredness of life.

It is common, these days, for people to say that even if they are not religious, they are spiritual, or that they are seeking a deeper spiritual life. Sometimes it’s not exactly clear what we mean when we talk about spirituality, but if by that word we mean a sense of connectedness with something greater than ourselves, or a feeling of wonder and gratitude, or a motivation to step out from familiar patterns of thought and view ourselves and everything around us in a different way, we could do far worse than pay attention to this world as it is.

 

HYMN #29 - Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

 

BENEDICTION