Home Worship Service August 2

Union Church
Biddeford Pool
…a place of peace and Presence by the sea

RYAN HUTTON/UNSPLASH

 

August 2, 2020
Cultivating a Life of Contemplation and Compassion
“Abyss, Mystery, and Wonder”

 

Focus: “We must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. – Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

 

Welcome:  The spiritual part of ourselves is a “divine abyss.” It is a dimension that we don’t fully understand at times and yet, we are aware of something within us that is a sacred space.  Our bodies were made for perceiving the beauty of the world–a flower, a kiss, a stunning and vibrant green hillside, a newborn baby.  And yet all the art in the world cannot capture exactly what it feels like to experience the Divine nature of these things. The path of unknowing is to both savor what the senses can take in but also wonder at the mystery of unfathomable depths of even a single atom.

 

Music:  Awe and Wonder (by We Live Forever) -Michelle Currie

 

Call To Worship:

Leader:  Welcome, friends, to this holy day.

All:  We come to offer thanks; we come to sing and pray.

Leader:  Welcome, friends, to this time set apart,

All:  A time to remember those we love, and time to

remember the holy promises of God.

Leader:  Welcome, friends, to this table of remembrance and joy,

All:  The table where we are fed, the feast we share with many.

Leader:  Welcome, friends, and let us worship God.

 

Opening Prayer:

Divine Goodness, Holy One,

Pause us for this moment,

bear us up in this time,

hold us for eternity.

We open to your warming presence.

We remember we came from you.

We affirm all beings are your beloveds.

And all the people say, “Amen.”

 

Lord’s Prayer

 

Scripture:   Psalm 135: 1-3; 13-21

 

Reflection:   Rev. Paula Norbert

 

Music:  What A Wonderful World (by Louis Armstrong) -Michelle Currie

 

Celebration of the Lord’s Supper

Words of Invitation       The Bread and the Cup

Prayer of Thanksgiving

 

Musical call to Prayer:  (two times)  Hush now in quiet peace, be still your mind at ease. The Spirit brings release, so wait upon the Lord.

 

Prayers of the People:

 

Closing Music:   Blest Be the Ties That Bind

Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like that to that above.

 

Benediction:

The world is so varied and beautiful.

Seek wisdom wherever it is to be found.

And may the goodness of the Creator,

the companionship of the Christ,

and the insight of the Spirit,

infuse your life now and always.

Amen.

 

Postlude:  Go In Peace

 

For the Week Ahead

We continue to integrate contemplative practices into our daily lives as a way of opening to the Divine in deeper ways, thereby training our spirits for compassion in all things. This week’s ritual action is a practice of curiosity. Set a reminder to spend some time exploring a “phenomenon” that you don’t yet know about. It might be further exploration into what Hubble has taught us about the universe. Or it could be something about the behavior of an animal species. Whatever you choose, as you do so, allow your mind to take in the wonder, contemplate the information slowly, open your heart to wonder. You may want to put a note nearby, “The more we know, the more we know we don’t know. Wonder and awe that leads to care of creation is good… for the beauty of the earth.”

 

Psalm 135: 1-3; 13-21

Alleluia! Praise the Name of YHWH—

sing praise, you who serve the Most High,

who stand in the house of YHWH,

in the courts of God’s house!

Alleluia! God is good!

[Sing praises to God’s name because it is beautiful!] (a)

 

YHWH, your Name stands forever;

your fame is told from one generation to the next.

For you do justice for your people;

and you have compassion for your faithful.

 

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,

the work of human hands.

They have mouths but they can’t speak;

they have eyes but they can’t see.

They have ears but can’t hear;

there is never a breath on their lips.

Their makers will come to be like them,

and so will all who trust in them!

 

House of Israel, bless YHWH!

Priests of the temple, bless YHWH!

Attendants of the sanctuary, bless YHWH!

You who revere YHWH, bless YHWH!

Blessings from Zion upon YHWH,

who dwells in Jerusalem!

Alleluia!    Ref: CEB

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Sermon

Awe and Wonder

August 2, 2020

As a young girl, I remember attending church with my family every Sunday. As I’ve shared before, our home was full and noisy and chaotic at times with 7 children and my parents all in a relatively small Cape. For me, there was something calming and quieting in sitting in the church when all would be still or music would be playing and I could close my eyes and just be. I really did feel like it was a special place and that something bigger than me, something bigger than my lived reality was in the air, if you will. The rituals of my early church memories, of sitting in an old Gothic church surrounded by the smell of incense, the ringing of bells, the gathering of people from all walks of life; it indeed felt sacred in ways that even now I struggle to explain. In the Psalm today, we hear the Psalmist call out to Yaweh and give praise. Names were important in the Ancient Near East. Names described attributes of the person to whom they were assigned and could be changed when an important occurrence shifted the story and the essence of a person. The psalmist often gives glory to “the name of God.” And yet to name God is difficult for there is no one word that can describe the fullness of the Holy. Let us pray, O God of many names, be with us this day, open us to the wonder of your Presence in our lives and grant us new understanding and hope in these times of uncertainty. Amen.

In today’s passage, the psalmist describes the qualities of God which are worthy of praise: justice and compassion. To imagine a God of compassion, a God who wants to be in relationship with creation was a new way of understanding the divine for the hearers of these words. This is a Holy Spirit that moves and breathes–not only in setting the beauty of creation in motion, but even now. It is an indescribable presence that warrants the simple description “Beautiful Name.”

Writer and Psychologist Andrew Tix writes about an experience of awe that he had while on a trip. “Several years ago, my family and I had the opportunity to travel to the Isle of Skye, an island near the coast of northwest Scotland. Because it was dark when we arrived, I didn’t have any sense for the landscape. When I went for a walk the next morning, I was surprised to find myself surrounded by five stunning mountain peaks. There was a thick, Scottish mist in the air that seemed to affect the quality of the light coming from the sunrise. The wind gusted and blew dark, low clouds quickly by me. As I walked, I felt a tinge of fear and stopped. I suddenly became aware that I felt completely overwhelmed by the glory around me. I looked up and saw the moon. At that moment, I realized in a fresh way that the majesty I observed is only a small part of the grandeur of the entire universe. In retrospect, I believe that this incident opened me up to an entirely new, more experiential way, of approaching my relationship with God.

“In general”, he writes, “awe may be one of the most spiritually significant emotions that humans experience. And understanding and cultivating awe may be one of the keys to Christian formation.” Early definitions of the word awe include the concepts of fright or terror. We may remember Moses and the burning bush. There is the sense of trembling in the face of some greater mystery. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel translated, “the awe of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). In the New Testament, there are several descriptions of the followers of Jesus reacting in visceral ways to finding the tomb empty or in the presence of the messengers of God and the Holy Spirit.

The word ‘awe’ has been greatly overused in common language and yet, we understand that there are experiences in life that reach beyond our capacity to express them. Painters and poets, musicians and other artists often seek to capture that which lies beyond words and so through their work, and at times, in our own experiences, we catch a glimpse of the sacred, of that which is beyond our material world. When we speak of these rare moments of connection with God, they often reflect an experience of depth, of something beyond words in our hearts and spirits. We do believe that God created us as beloved and thus that we are created in such a way that we are capable of a deep intimacy with our God. “This intimacy which we write so much about, is far beyond any words we have. We may believe that without words there is hardly an experience but in fact this wordlessness inflects many aspects of life we do not think of as religious. We touch this part of our spirit in prayer but we also connect with it when we sing or dance or give birth. We are present to what is happening – words would only interrupt the singularity of our attention. Much of our experience refuses to be captured by language. There is a depth where our names run out and we meet a profound silence. Even if we do not have a name for this part of ourselves, we can know that this kind of unknowing is part of our very being. (Dr. Wendy Farley)

When have you felt a sense of wonder in your own life? Can you recall a special experience that touched you so deeply it was beyond any words that might adequately capture it? How have such experiences touched you and spoken to you of the Holy in your life? I think that the experience of awe may be a rare thing, but that does not mean it cannot happen in the midst of very common events in our lives. They key is to focus our attention, to free our minds and hearts and try to be present to the beauty of our world, the sacred beauty, the sad beauty, the troubling beauty and find some way to nurture that and be present to it… The contemplative life invites us into a different kind of engagement with God and creation. The Holy One is often something that cannot be seen or heard or entirely grasped; however, we can get glimpses; we experience the Holy in moments of love and great compassion. We can be attentive to the sacred moments in our lives and, when we find the time to settle ourselves, a greater sense of the Divine may be revealed to us from such simple moments, reminding us that our God is moving in the midst of our days, inviting us to new understandings and to accept that we may never fully understand the fullness of wonder that surrounds us in beauty and in love, and for all of this, we give thanks and praise to the One who is the source of our Creation. Amen.

 

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Searching for Beauty: A Time for Children

Hang a star (or stars) somewhere at home or in the sanctuary.

Today we are on another “search for beauty!” I think we are finding out that we don’t have to look too far to see beauty around us, right? And yet, if we do look far, far, away… we see even more beauty!

Have you ever gone outside on a clear night and looked up? What do you see when you do that? Let’s pretend that right now we are outside and it is night and we look up. Go ahead… do you see something?

Yes! Stars are some of the most amazing things we get to see. And because of a telescope called “Hubble” that has been taking pictures closeup way out in space, we now know just how incredibly beautiful stars and planets and galaxies really are. They are so far away that our eyes can’t take in the full beauty.

Sometimes things are SO amazing it is really hard to describe it. We just go “Wow!” That’s all we can say! Thank goodness we have that word “Wow” to help us! Here is one fun way to say wow in sign language.

This week I invite you to find a way to make stars for your bedroom. Get an adult to help you think about ways to do this. And as a prayer at bedtime, look up at the stars and make the sign for “Wow!” If you find things that are really beautiful during the day, you can make the sign then as well. Every time we say “wow” we are offering a little prayer to God who created the beauty of life. Let’s pray a repeat-after-me prayer:

God of Goodness

Thank you for amazing things…

thank you for wonder…

Help me…

Praise you…

With my “wow’s”

for the beauty of the earth…

 

Worship Materials: “Beguiled by Beauty,” Worship Design Studios, Dr. Marcia McPhee.

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