Monday, December 25, 2017

Let Us Ask for Wonder

Homily preached on Christmas Eve at the early service at St. Thomas' Church, Bath, NY.

And Mary pondered all these things in her heart…

Mary was full of wonder.  She had been, ever since Gabriel’s visit to her, when she has asked, “How can these things be?”

She had said, “Yes.”  But that doesn’t mean she had everything all figured out.  What she signed up for was a mystery, about which only wondering was possible.

In Godly Play, the curriculum we use in our Sunday School here, “wonder” is  our most important word.  We tell the stories of the Bible, and we ask the children to wonder about them.  We do not teach them what they mean.  The stories do that as we tell them time and again, and as we wonder about them a little more deeply every time.

           Just what is wonder?  It often helps me to understand a word like this by thinking about its absence.

What is the opposite of wonder?  It may be certainty.  This might be a clue to why the church is less and less attractive to people.  People think we deal in certainties , certainties that they cannot be certain about.  The truth is we only deal with mystery and wonder.

I think the ultimate opposite to wonder is judgment.  Again, people think that judgment is the church’s primary business, because it is God’s ultimate business.  We have not done a lot to prove otherwise, but it is the greatest of ironies, because we follow one who taught, “Do not judge, or you will be judged.” (Luke 6:37) and “You judge by human standards; I judge no one.” (John 8:15)

Judgment is an infection.  It is as easy to catch as the common cold.  It is the need to be certain and to apply that certainty to others in order to determine whether they are right or wrong, true or false, patriotic or not patriotic.  As a people we are soaked in judgment, and more than that, we are drowning in it.  The common cold of judgment has turned into full-blown pneumonia.

What would it look like to trade judgment for wonder? Just one thig really, one simple but difficult, sometimes painfully difficult thing to do. We would need to approach one another with questions rather than statements of fact.

Perhaps, I need to say that, first of all, we would need to approach one another, because what keeps us divided is the bubbles that we allow ourselves to live in. We tend to associate only with those who agree with us, are like us, who don’t upset our view of the world.

I came across a helpful quote the other day,

Fundamentalists live their life with an exclamation point.
I prefer to livre my life with a question mark.

Living life with a question mark, living life in wonder, does not mean that we do not believe in something, or hold certain values, or hold some very precious things that are true for us.

But it is to live an open life, ready to listen, ready to learn, ready to ask why someone else believes the way they do, and ready to change our minds about something at least occasionally.  It is to live in this basic attitude:  I am more like you than I am different from you.

For this Christmas, among the other things for which we ask, let each one of us ask for the gift of wonder, and allow mystery we celebrate this night to re-enter our lives.  We don’t need to have everything figured out.  The truth is that we cannot have everything figured out.

The us embrace the gift of mystery. Let us ask for the gift of wonder.

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