If there’s one practice that may connect the disparate traditions that inform Unitarian Universalism, it may be the theme of this week’s small group ministry session based on resources from spiritualityandpractice.com: Wonder. Wonder may be at the root of all human yearnings for the transcendent, the ultimate, the divine; and as such, it motivates much of what we do as a species (once we’ve satisfied our basic physical and emotional needs.) Indeed, wonder could very well be the place in a Venn diagram where religion, science, and art all meet. As Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat say in their introduction to this practice, wonder “increases our capacity to be a bold inner space tripper and an avid explorer of the physical world.” I like that. If the transcendent element is a string that runs through existence from the farthest reaches of the Cosmos into deepest recesses of our hearts, wonder is the frequency at which is vibrates. All we have to do is attune our senses to that vibration and wonder reveals itself to us.
To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments.
— Abraham Joshua Heschel quoted in Finding Your Own Spiritual Path by Peg Thompson
A Teaching Story from A Season in the Desert: Making Time Holy by W. Paul Jones.
W. Paul Jones, a Methodist minister who is now a Trappist monk, presents a thought-provoking overview of the Christian faith as a pilgrimage based on the sacralization of time. He discusses the Incarnation, sanctification, the daily offices, and the meanings inherent in the church year. In the following excerpt, he gets at the heart of the spiritual practice of wonder:
As I have mentioned, my spiritual director, a hermit, once smiled at me and concluded: “The difference between the two of us is that, while life for me is a matter of passing through, for you it is a matter of drinking deeply of everything along the way.” True. I do not want to miss the aroma of even one wild strawberry along the path. That is, I want to live deeply in time in all its manifold richness.
Perhaps it was because I was younger then, but I often remember an experience with an Atlanta elevator. At a conference in a hotel there, some friends suggested that as an “adventure” I ride with them in a glass elevator to the top. Slowly it rose, as I took in the gothic-like panorama beneath: of water features, plants, chandeliers, and colorful people of all kinds. Suddenly we burst through the roof into momentary darkness, then into a glass tube, where stretching out in all directions were the lights of Atlanta’s skyline and above it, the trek of endless stars. While still mesmerized, we penetrated through a floor into a sphere at the top. And as the doors opened, a friendly voice, with a warm handshake, bid us come and eat.
That night, at a table slowly rotating above the glittering city below, we told stories of past, present, and future. That was when I knowingly celebrated for the first time that I was a joyful denizen of time. Even the infinite space all around was bathed in time. Just that morning I had read that an astronomer had perceived a quark twelve billion light-years hence. Staggered by it all, that night I toasted the God of time, drinking thankfully for being alive in all of time’s multifarious intersections.
Questions: Share a story of some experience, event, or person that aroused or renewed your sense of wonder.
Check-out/Likes and Wishes
In the muddled mess of this world, in the confusion and boredom and amazement, we ought to be able to spot something — an event, a person, a memory, an act, a turning of the soul, the flash of bright wings, the surprise of sweet compassion — somewhere we ought to pick out a glory to celebrate.
— Samuel H. Miller in The Dilemma of Modern Belief
To Practice This Thought:Identify something glorious and celebrate it!
Group Session Plan based on resources on Wonder from www.spiritualityandpractice.com.
For a PDF version of this small group ministry session, click here: Wonder.
For more information on small group ministry, visit the UU Small Group Ministry Network.