240218 – Wondering – Creation

Lent 1 ~ Psalm 19

Our Lenten journey this year will be a little different. We’re going to be exploring the theme of ‘wonder’ instead of the usual themes of Lent. Oh, we’ll mix in some good, thoughtful, introspective stuff, but we’ll be using some of the crayons we rarely colour with. We’ll be exploring some of the wisdom literature in the Hebrew Scriptures – Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and then we’ll turn to John’s gospel as we get nearer to Holy Week.

This is actually a Lenten series that I preached here 10 years ago, so the odd bit might sound familiar, but 10 years on I suspect it will also sound new again. I hope you enjoy our Lenten journey…


I wonder. I wonder what it would be like to talk about wonder for Lent.
I wonder what wondering might do to us.
I wonder if wonder might open us up to seeing God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in new and…wondrous ways.
I wonder at how you allow me to stand in this sacred space every week and wonder with you.
I wonder what ‘wonder’ even is?

According to Oxford wonder is “astonishment mingled with perplexity or bewildered curiosity.”
I wonder if that definition helped anyone.

Once upon a time in a theology course I took, I defined wonder as “an awe-full disequilibrium inspiring inquiry.”
I wonder if anyone other than my prof and I find that wonderful.

So what is wonder? On the one hand it’s curiosity. It’s a question that you want to answer. For example: I wonder why butterflies migrate so far? That’s the inquiry part. But we also talk about wonder as marvelling at something, being wowed, astonished, and awed. We call such things wondrous, or wonderful – not just nice but full of wonder.
I wonder why butterflies migrate so far?

So there are two components in wonder that need to be there. If you don’t have them both you just have curiosity or astonishment – which are great things – but to be wonder they need to be together.

Maybe this will help you. It’s wonder when it stops you and starts you at the same time! Wonder is an experience of something that stops you in your tracks with awe and shakes you up a little because it’s so special – but then it also starts you wanting to lean into it, to learn more about it, to be more immersed in it. Stop, and start.

Here’s a definition I really like: Wonder is something that’s breathtaking and breath-giving at the same time. It takes your breath away, and it fills your sails with a desire to dive in. Or maybe you like it really simple, like this one: Wonder leads to wondering.

I wonder what makes you wonder.
Maybe you wonder if I can keep talking about wonder for 6 weeks! (just watch me!)
Some of you wonder at or about science-based stuff.
Some of you wonder at or about music and the arts.
For some it’s people and what makes them tick that stirs your wonder.
Some of you wonder at or about relationships.

Can you see yourself being stopped and started in some of those things? Have you experienced having your breath taken away by something awesome – awe-full – and then been really energized to go further into it? I wonder.

What makes you wonder?
What stirs wonder in you?
What do you find wondrous?
What do you find wonderful?

Take a second right now and let your imagination or memory drift into something you’ve experienced as wonder. – [wait a few breaths] – Do you remember how it made you feel a little off balance? Do you recall how it excited or energized you? Can you feel it still drawing you now even though it may have happened a long time ago?

I wonder if the thing that makes something more than just curiosity or astonishment is God? Maybe wonder is a glimpse of God’s Presence – a deep, albeit fleeting, awareness that we are not alone, that God surely is in this place at this time – and that transcendent intersection of sacredness and awareness is the spark that ignites our imagination as we marvel in the awe-full glory of the moment, and our hearts burst open allowing God’s immeasurable love to flow in and through us.

Maybe wonder is what God’s Presence feels like!

We have all gathered together in this special place (both in-person and online) for a particular reason today.
Is it perchance to wonder?
– to wonder about this Holy Mystery we call God?
– to wonder at how experiencing this strange “Something More” wobbles our knees and makes our hearts yearn for more?
– to wonder at the story of Jesus, and his life, and his teaching, and how it turns our upside down world rightside up, and makes life feel more abundant?

How wonderful!

How does our bible begin? Genesis is our story of the creation of the universe. Is it fair to say that it’s a story of pure wonder? I think so! In the beginning was nothing but the Holy Mystery, and that Mystery spoke, or perhaps exhaled, and the thing that was spoken was light. Think about that. Take in a breath and hold it. Can you feel the energy building up inside? Can you feel it get more intense the longer you hold it? And then finally when you let it loose you explode with energy. The universe began with an explosion of pent-up energy and there was a great light – a big bang, if you will – and the universe has been in motion ever since. So is that science or religion? I wonder.

From that big bang all the materials of the universe were born, and as they swirled and spun through time and space stars and galaxies were formed, and exploding star after exploding star propelled the stuff of creation ever further through the universe, until one day our planet Earth took shape, and over time that primordial stuff bore life, and over more time humanity emerged and looked up at those stars and said, “I wonder.”

In Genesis 1 it says humanity was created in the image of God – the Holy Mystery that energized and energizes the universe. Then in Genesis 2 it says humanity was formed from the dirt, and life was breathed into us. Breathed into us – breathtaking and breath-giving. So, are we created in the image of God, or in the image of dirt? Yes! Both! Ask a scientist. We are literally stardust. We are all made of the same stuff of the universe. That means on a fundamental level we are all absolutely interconnected and, in profound ways, we are one – one with the universe, and one with the light that was first exhaled.

We often find ourselves defending religion against those who would say that the Bible is just stories and only science can explain the world. Really? I think we’re all talking about the same thing just using different language. John 1 – In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and God was the Word – and the Word, the cosmic stuff of the Mystery of the Universe, was incarnated into humanity. That’s a pretty insightful scientific understanding of the origins of the universe for a bunch of silly religious people.

Let’s talk science for a minute and see if it doesn’t sound a bit like religious language to you.

A cell consists of three primary parts – a nucleus in the centre, then kind of liquidy stuff around it called cytoplasm, all held together by a membrane. This is the building block of everything we know. Take our planet and cut a cross section in it and what do you see? A core, surrounded by liquidy moving stuff called the mantle, all held together by a membrane called the crust. And the earth itself is like part of an organism in our solar system, which is like a cell in the galaxy, which is like a cell in the universe… Are you experiencing wonder yet?

And we, here in this place. We are the liquidy stuff that moves all around a core that is the Holy Spirit, all held together by a membrane called Faith United Church – which is like a cell in the body of Christ, which is like an organism in relationship with all the other bodies in the world, and in the universe, and, and, and… Lost in wonder yet?

Don’t you find all that interconnectedness breathtaking and breath-giving at once? Doesn’t it stop you in your tracks, and wobble your knees, and make your head spin even as it lights you up and makes you want to know and experience more of it? That’s wonder!

It’s so sad that somehow the idea took hold that science and religion are opponents rather than dialogue partners. Maybe the dialogue would be easier if we realized that wonder is our common tongue! In the 4th century theologian John Chrysostom talked about the bible and creation as the two “books” of God. About the same time Saint Augustine called creation/earth God’s “big book.” God’s story and the world’s story are one story. Reading the Earth and reading the Word are reading the same stuff.

Listen to Psalm 19:1-10 again. Is it science or religion? Or is it just wonder!

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens God has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;

the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear
(the awe) of the LORD is pure, enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

Yes, it’s very poetic language instead of analytic scientific terminology, but it’s just gushing in wonder about the way the world works, and how God’s Presence and God’s ways are infused within it all, and how by noticing, and embracing, and immersing in that Presence and those ways leads to an integrated, balanced, harmonious life of flourishing and delight. It’s wonder upon wonder leading to wondering and the wonderful.

The scientist and the spiritualist are both wonderers. On a clear night go outside and look up. The heavens are telling the glory of God. The universe proclaims God’s handiwork. As you pass by a flower, stop and look down. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Curiosity alone doesn’t cut it.
Astonishment alone doesn’t accomplish anything.

But wonder – wonder-filled wondering,
breathtaking and breath-giving,
wows bringing forth worship,
awe seeding adoration,
disequilibrium inspiring delight,
perplexity awakening Presence
– wonder is the fuel that lures us ever deeper into the way of Jesus.

Wonder is the way of pilgrims journeying toward Jerusalem, mystified by the interconnectedness of stardust, and organisms, and beauty, and love, praying their deepest and most profound prayer: I Wonder!