Looking at today’s readings, I was wondering what I might preach about.
As I was doing this, it came to me that the very idea of wondering, even the very word wonder might be worth exploring.
When I was a small boy, I was, with my parents, on our way to Norfolk in my father’s precious Austin 7. Suddenly my mother exclaimed “Whatever is that !”
I don’t remember what it was she had seen, only my father’s response – because it remained a family joke for the rest of his life. He said: “Oh yes, dear, I was just going to wonder what it was myself.”
Dad just going to wonder stuck with him after that.
Wonder – just happens – unexpectedly, not something you decide to do.
Reflecting on this experience of wonder, I thought about the sort of experiences that can provoke it.
What happens to us – it stretches our imagination – so that a quite ordinary something – appears to be extraordinary. (Sometimes referred to as a Burning Bush experience – like Moses in the desert.)
For a start it could be the realisation that anything exists at all ! We take existence for granted all the time – and then it’s possible to suddenly wonder where it all comes from !!
Recently I learned that 2/3 of all living creatures on this planet live in the oceans – and one third of them have never been seen by a human being.
This seems quite a wonder, to start with !!
Then again – the fact that you and I are here right now is a matter of wonder.
Gerard Manly Hopkins wrote:
“In door, each one dwells
Crying – ‘What I do is ME !
For this I came.’”(King Fisher Poem)
Pilate said that all thinking begins with wonder.
I myself recall an experience many years ago. It was a glorious frosty winter day – the sun dazzling the Norfolk countryside. On an ancient cobbled flint wall perched a Black Bird. As birds do, it gazed at me with one eye.
For a brief second I felt I had seen, and was being seen, by all that had ever existed, a conversational glance – NOW.
The old English word for such an experience was to Behold. Julian of Norwich used it to discover her entire experience of Jesus. It was in the King James Bible over three hundred times. Today it has been removed – only the words look and see survive – not the same experience !
One of the most mysterious wonders for each of us is our BREATH. In Genesis it says that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils, and he became a living being.
The ordinary , every moment’s breath we take – Where does it come from ? You might say – from the chemistry of the universe. But we experience our breath as personal – brings us life.
Small children live in constant wonder about everything. Parents can be irritated when a child is transfixed by a dandelion or a bee !
“Oh come on!” is the usual reaction from the parent.
Maybe that is what Jesus meant when he said that to approach the WONDER of the Kingdom, we have to be like little children.
Ultimately the word wonder is associated with the concept of mystery – and the mystery that surrounds the Divine. Early Christians gave the description of the Eucharist as the Holy Mystery.
The exploration of wonder leads us to realize that we live, engulfed in mystery.
The Divine mystery radiates in all experiences of wonder.
God Himself – the Universe – Mozart – David Hockney. Higher mathematics, a BLACKBIRD – and the LIGHT and SPACE of this Church.
It is this Gift of SPACE and LIGHT that causes folk to pause in surprised wonder when they enter this building – the Theatre of our Holy Mystery.
Evelyn Underhill and Simone Weil described PRAYER as
ATTENTION TO the MYSTERY OF GOD.
Recently a friend searched on line for the word WONDER.
One thing came up which was the account of a small class of five and six year olds. The teacher had taught them about the Seven Wonders of the World. She asked them to write down from memory. One little girl did not hand in her paper. She explained that she realised that she had misunderstood the question.
She had written:
The Seven Wonders of the World
Are To Touch
And to LAUGH.
Simon Holden CR
As Kingfishers Catch Fire By Gerard Manly Hopkins
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.