…a place of peace and Presence by the sea
Focus: The beauty in other beings exists completely for itself–not for any reason other than that the joy of existence is the purpose of life.”
– Wendy Farley
Music: Secret O’ Life (by James Taylor) -Michelle Currie
Call To Worship:
L: To know the warmth of love,
All: To have the assurance that someone cares,
L: To be confident of our worth,
All: To be bold to love in return,
L: To be washed over with grace,
All: To be accepted as we are:
L: This is to know a bit of God.
All: Then let us worship our God.
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.”
Scripture: Song of Songs 4: 1-7 (Video)
Sermon: Balance and Beauty
Contemplative Moment: (Video)
Music: Simple Gifts (by Elder Joseph Brackett) -Michelle Currie
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: Beauty In The World (by Macy Gray) -Michelle Currie
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.
Postlude: Go In Peace
Song of Songs 4: 1-7
[Look at you—so beautiful, my dearest!Look at you—so beautiful!] (a)
Look at your eyes, sweet as doves
behind the veil that your hair makes,
as it cascades from your head
like a flock of young goats—
black ones, bounding down off Mount Gilead.
And your teeth are sheep:
white as the day they were born,
or newly shorn, and freshly washed,
each with its perfect mate.
Not one of them is alone—
why should we be?
And, ah, the lips of that lovely mouth—
a ribbon of scarlet.
Your temples, behind that veil,
glow like the halves
of a freshly sliced pomegranate.
Your neck has the grace of David’s Tower,
with its jewels hung round it
like the shields of a thousand warriors.
And your breasts—like the twin fawns of a gazelle,
hiding among the lilies.
All my nights, till the sun
comes chasing its shadows,
let me play in these perfumed hills,
these mountains scented with myrrh.
[You are utterly beautiful, my dearest;
there’s not a single flaw in you.] (a)
The Beauty of a World Without a “Why”
August 9, 2020
Today’s reading from the Song of Songs is a form of Biblical poetry that uses beautiful metaphors in nature to speak of love. You likely have not heard this passage too often in church, although passages from the Song of Songs are sometimes read at Weddings. It reminds us of the deep love between two people, of the connections of mind, body and soul that are shared in the best kind of romantic love. Obviously, this was written so long before some of the strict forms of Christianity arose that created a theology of shaming anything connected to sexuality and the body. It reminds us that, if we are lucky, we may experience times in our life when we love another and feel that love reciprocated wholly for who we are. It reminds us that God loves us in each moment, not for what we have achieved or what we accomplish in the busyness of our days, but just for who we are. Let us pray, Be with Us O Creator of our world of Beauty. Expand our sense of You in our minds and hearts and lead us to a path of deeper understanding and peace. Amen.
In this passage, the voice is like the coo of a dove, the curve of the landscape is seen as the curve of the Body. Perhaps the hills and mountains are the curve of the Beloved Creator and our bodies are to be seen as the beautiful handiwork of the same Artisan of Life. We might understand that the speaker sees no flaw in the total beauty of the one who is adored. It’s not meant to imply that perfection is itself the goal, but that actually there is no intentional flaw in imperfection. And importantly, we are to understand that the beauty of the one beheld is not dependent on the judgment of the beholder.
I do believe that part of the human experience is our desire for meaning. As you may have read, Viktor Frankl, explored that quest in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. As a survivor of the holocaust, he yearned to understand God in the midst of such suffering. Part of how we making meaning in our lives is by the ways in which we spend our time, how we make our living, how we connect with others whom we love. I certainly have enough of the New England Puritan in me to need to be busy, to work and clean before I can relax and just be. There have long been theological debates about how we are saved…and if we are saved by works we do or by grace, that God’s love for us is enough. I’m sure you may easily guess what my thinking is…and yet, I admit that I do need a sense of purpose in my life, and that too often, I, along with so many, spend my days doing tasks and keeping busy to somehow validate my presence on earth. I value meaning and purpose, and yes, I do believe we have a responsibility as people of faith to live good lives and love our neighbors.
Today, I’d like to invite us to consider another spiritual path that may give us a lens by which to explore the meaning of life.
The writer, Dr. Rob Manning, speaks about the Dominical mystic, Meister Eckhart. “Have you never read Meister Eckhart? He was a great mystic who died under suspicion of heresy in 1328. Especially Eckhart’s sermons preached in German are sometimes daring in their use of imagery, but at the same time what Eckhart is doing theologically is riffing on the central Dominican insight into the nature of God- that God’s essence and God’s existence are one and the same. So, Eckhart reasons, God is always joyful, a creative, loving, alive spirit in the world. God freely and spontaneously lives out his essence at every moment. God is always freely flowing creative love. God just is, says Eckhart. God has no why. God has no goal, no intention, God just is, and God always is God’s self as creatively giving God’s self to the world. To Eckhart, if you are trying to live by God’s plan, trying to do God’s will, trying to take your why from God, then you are not understanding God, God’s alive, creative spirit, or you are understanding the God whom you have got to get beyond to really understand the God beyond God. The God beyond God simply always lives freely and spontaneously from God’s own creative, loving essence.
In one of his sermons Eckhart used the simile of a horse to make himself understandable. Eckhart says God loves just being Himself, creating and poring Himself into things. This is God’s freedom and spontaneity at every moment. God’s joy and God’s freedom are, he says, like a horse. “God’s pleasure is as great, to take a simile, as that of a horse, let loose to run over a green heath where the ground is level and smooth, to gallop as a horse will, as fast as he can over the greensward—for this is a horse’s pleasure and expresses his nature. It is so with God.” The horse obviously has no why. It just runs freely. Now we can put a saddle on it, use it for transportation, use the horse to plow the field. We can give the horse a why, but in itself the horse has no why. It just is joyful free movement, and Eckhart says “it is so with God.” God just lives freely and spontaneously from His own creative spirit. God has no why. God simply is.
And Eckhart told his congregations that they should not look to God for their why but should simply be like God in living freely and spontaneously from the spark or the spirit of God within themselves, within what he called the soul’s divine core. “Do all you do, acting from the core of your soul, without a single why.” This great mystic of medieval Christianity tells his congregations and us to live freely and spontaneously from our divine core like God does. Eckhart tells us we should all live without a why. (Rev. Dr. Rob Manning, UU Quincy, The Spiritual Path of Living Without a Why)
Eckhart presents a very different way of experiencing the Creator in our lives. I think he provides a challenge to all of us who feel we need to be busy to show how productive we are or how worthy we are. But, is there something in what he shares that may help us to expand our spiritual thinking? In Eastern thought, there is a great sense of balance, the idea of the yin and yang, that we each possess different qualities or drives that need to be balanced. We know well what happens when life gets out of balance, whether for us personally, or in our families, or sadly, in our nation. Yung also spoke about this and the need to rest certain parts of who we are for our well being. Perhaps Eckhart is providing an invitation to balance.
Our Worship over these recent weeks has invited us to focus on a very broad understanding of beauty, of divine beauty, of beauty for its own sake…and to help remind us of our deep and beloved intrinsic value and beauty. Are we enough? Imagine how our lives might be different if we embraced that inner sense of our own beloved core and saw ourselves, if even for a moment, through the eyes of our Loving God, much as a lover may encounter the one he or she loves more than all others, however imperfectly or despite what imperfections we feel we carry. And the beauty beyond us, the beauty that surrounds us in nature or in the heart of another can provide a great relief from the sorrows of life, may remind us that a world exists beyond our personal concerns, and may awaken us to one another in new ways.
Dr. Wendy Farley writes, “The beauty of nature and of all beautiful things lets us experience the world “without a why.” It has no reason other than itself. “Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice…let the sea roar and all that fills it, let the field exult and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy” (1 Chronicles 16:31-33). This joyfulness is not for something else, it is the purpose of life. Tuning into the raw delight in the world is an opening onto the truth of beings: in brooks, blades of grass, the patterns of clouds, the freshness of rain on a city street, the last dangling leaf, whose radiant red concentrates its entire existence before it falls to the ground.
Beauty helps us move beyond our ego by helping us realize that life is its own justification. “For that I came” (Gerard Manley Hopkins). As our self-centeredness diminishes, the world appears in ever more intense colors, sounds, scents, movements, shapes, interactions, changes. There is nothing static in beauty. It is ever changing, moment by moment.” When we are alive to the life that surrounds us, we can be more fully in the present; we can experience the sense of being fully alive to life. We wake up to reality in its loveliness, fragility, conflicts, vitality and realize this is the sacred and holy truth of everything that exists. It matters, not because it matters to me, but because it has its own sacred worth.”
Searching for Beauty: A Time for Children
Put a mirror somewhere that can be discovered at home. In our search for beauty today I have a question for you. What is shiny and reflects one of the most beautiful things on earth when you look into it? Can you guess? OK… another clue… If you want to see if you have something in your teeth, what do you look in?!
Yes! A mirror! Go ahead… can we find one close by?
Whoa! Look at that! I can see me in the mirror! Can you see me in yours? No? What?!! I can see me, why can’t you see me?? Ohhhh…. Because a mirror shows us OURSELVES. So you see YOU. OK… I get it!
That’s really good that you can see you in the mirror. Because today we are going to read a scripture that is like a love letter from God. It says, “look at how beautiful you are!” This is sometimes hard to believe and I can tell you a lot of us adults have a hard time believing it. But it is true. You can also trust that no matter how unique or different you are from anyone else, who you are exactly who you are supposed to be and God calls you “beautiful!” You don’t have to try to be beautiful, you just are. Period.
This week I invite you to get permission and help from an adult to make a big heart on your bathroom mirror right where you see your face. Every time you brush your teeth or wash your hands, which I know you probably do a lot, look at your face inside the heart and know that this is how God feels about you. This is how you are meant to be loved… as part of the beauty of creation! AND guess what… everyone and everything is beautiful all on its own as well. So we can imagine a heart around the faces of everyone we see. Let’s pray a repeat-after-me prayer:
God of Goodness
Thank you for creating us…
for making us beautiful and loved…
let others know they are beautiful and loved too…
for the beauty of the earth…
Worship Materials: “Beguiled by Beauty,” Worship Design Studios, Dr. Marcia McPhee.
Call To Worship: Beth Merrill Neel