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Turn to Wonder

John 20:19-31 and ​​Excerpt from Living Philosophies by Albert Einstein

Second Sunday of Easter April 24th, 2022

By Nicole M. Lamarche

Welcome again on this spectacular spring day on this second Sunday of Easter and thank you for all that went into last week, in resurrecting Jesus, I am not quite resurrected myself yet, but it’s good to be with you.

As we come to this time in our gathering, I invite you to just take a few moments to breathe. It feels important to keep remembering that one of the oldest names for God is Ruah, Breath, Spirit… Breathe in hope, breathe out fear. Let go of all of our to do lists. That we might arrive to a place of more openness to Spirit together.

Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

"dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life."

Who said that? That’s right. -prince! And it feels perfect for us too. We come here in part to be reminded that each of us is a beloved of God and that we gather together because we know that getting through this life, the way we want to, takes others, it takes all of us doing this together. And that is one of the things I cherish the most these days about church, about what we are a part of, it feels more and more precious and rare, that we show up here with this wild and wonderful mix.

Because I am reading more and more about how divided our nation and some parts of our global human community have become, polarized, finding new ways to demonize the other side. I understand that social media has contributed to this heavily and also I observe that there are fewer places in our culture where people spend time with those who think differently.

Much of modern life allows for the curation of our environments so we can interact primarily with those who think like we do. And maybe part of what we are seeing with all of this fragmentation and a sense of separation, is the loss in our collective capacity to hold complexity and paradox. Perhaps we have atrophied our ability to hold relationships with those who have vastly different experiences and wildly different perspectives?

Recently the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote about this. She said, “It would be difficult to overstate how many people I’ve spoken to recently who speak of having family and friend relationships that have all but crumbled in the last two years. People they loved who they no longer are in relationship with, not because the person no longer loves them, or has done something unspeakably cruel, but because they are anti-vaxers or now have a blue stripe American flag sticker on their truck. I know that there are cases where creating a distance between ourselves and family or friends makes sense for the purpose of survival and self-preservation. I’m just saying it feels like this is happening more due to another person’s stance on an issue and what we are being told that MEANS about them, rather than it happening due to how that person actually treats us and others.” She went on, “in an effort to be righteous, we are losing our humanity…”

In a poll done two months months ago, it was revealed that one of the few things that Americans are united on, is worry over how divided we are.

So with all of this as a backdrop and with all that needs our collective action on planet earth, I think that maybe one of the most important tasks for us and one of the most powerful stances we can take right now is to continue to be a place and a people that refuses to sanitize differences. And I think one of the only ways we can do that is to continue to cultivate curiosity among us. Curiosity over certainty, maybe that’s hard for a church? Turning to wonder before judgment or assumption.

Maybe you have heard Parker Palmer talk about the Quaker commitment of wondering. In his writing on building circles of trust, he says that especially “when the going gets rough, turn to wonder…” Wondering gives us space to remember that there is so much going on beneath the surface, beyond what we can understand. Wonder compels us to be curious. And in my experience, people who are curious are generally less closed off to all of life’s good things.

In an essay in the Atlantic, entitled “A Gentler, Better Way to Change Minds,” Arthur Brooks wrote that, “Launching a rhetorical grenade might give me a little satisfaction and earn me a few attaboys on social media from those who share my views, but generosity and openness have a bigger chance of making the world better in the long run.”

What if this, what if “us,” what if we are a place to practice curiosity, to being open, to trying to do the seemingly impossible thing sometimes of having faith in other humans? Doesn’t that feel hard right now.

I know that most of what is said about this story in the Gospel of John is about how Thomas was in the wrong because he doubted what had happened, but he was the only one who didn’t see it, so it’s reasonable, so most of us would want that same verification.. So when I read it now, given where we are and with all that we have been through, I think maybe the sin isn’t his doubt in the events, it’s his doubt in his friends, it’s his unwillingness to practice having faith in other humans, it’s his unwillingness to be curious instead of certain.

Scholar Nancy Claire Pittman contends that the problem with Thomas is “rejecting the disciples Good News about what they have seen, he rebuffs the very friends with whom he has shared his life for so long…Thus the community that Jesus had tried so hard to build through the Gospel is threatened from the beginning by Thomas’s skepticism.”

What if part of what we are meant to take away from this story is that what will heal us and what will save us is trying for a love that goes beyond the surface. Not long ago, I was in a conversation with a very conservative family member who has often been critical of efforts to mitigate climate change. We started to talk about coal and then our conversation ventured into coal miners and opposition to closing coal fired power plants and while we generally see ourselves on opposite sides when it comes to environmental activism and the urgency needed of this moment, as we talked and more questions were asked, it became clear that the opposition wasn’t about believing that carbon emissions don’t need to be dramatically reduced, rather the core of their fear was related to what it would mean for the workers, which opened me, stopped me, forced me to keep listening. And it took both of us being willing to be curious and to turn to wonder about how the other was thinking and why. It’s so easy to dismiss people who disagree, I think, but what if we turned to wonder first? Because in that conversation, in that place, from there, the energy shifted and we talked about investing money in education and support for coal miners who want to retrain for careers in clean energy or retrain for something else. And we found that surprisingly, we turned to wonder, common ground was revealed.

In her book Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown writes that “Awe and wonder are essential to the human experience. Wonder fuels our passion for exploration, learning, for curiosity and adventure.” She says “researchers have found that awe leads people to cooperate, share resources, and sacrifice for others” and even causes them to fully appreciate the value of others and see themselves more accurately evoking humility.”

I think that it would help heal the world and heal our planet and each of us, if we continue to give one another the gift of turning to wonder and being curious, being open to the beautiful mystery and to possibilities beyond what we perceive. What if we more quickly turned to awe of how we are just basically on a ball blasting through space, going around a big fiery gas of light that could blow up any minute. It’s all magical and mysterious.

Albert Einstein was of course a scientist, but I also see him as a theologian. He said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” And I think this means not just in the stars, or under a microscope, but open to the beautiful mystery that we find in one another.

What would it be like, in a culture like ours, filled with fragmentation and divisiveness to continue to be a place and a people that refuses to sanitize differences? To cultivate curiosity over certainty, turning to wonder before judgment or assumption?

What if that is something powerful that we have to offer one another and the world?

"dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life."

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