The Rev. Evan Graham Clendenin, Church of the Holy Spirit, Vashon
Many of you at CHS have been enjoying your Wednesday night gathering for fellowship and learning. I haven’t been able to join you so far given the gift of limits on my time, but I’ve been curious, and quite pleased with the readings and topics. It sounds like you get to the heart of good theological questions and spiritual experience. How was the conversation this past week? As you listen and speak and wonder together, what callings in to deeper, more grounded life with God are you hearing? Since you were discussing the topic of wonder this week, I’d thought I’d add a dish to the fellowship table.
“When wonder becomes a fundamental attitude of our spirit it will confer a religious character to our whole life, because it makes us live with the consciousness of being plunged into an unfathomable and incommensurable reality. If we are disposed to reflect on reality in its complexity, then it will reveal itself to be full of the unexpected, of aspects we will never succeed in grasping or circumscribing; then we will be unable to close our eyes to the presence of something or someone within it that surpasses us. The religious person will break out in a hymn of praise or admiration.”
So wrote Sofia Cavaletti, a student of Maria Montessori, developed approaches to religious education based on montessori education. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is one outcome of her work, but her vision might be developed practically in other ways. She helps us all to consider wonder as a basic religious attitude to cultivate with children and people of all ages.
We can receive and cultivate an attitude of wonder throughout our whole lives. It opens us to the larger life has hidden in the world we share, the fellowship we have been called into, the things we see and maybe pass by every day. Like John the Baptist, who looks at his cousin and now sees, wonders, beyond understanding proclaims, sends all his followers off to follow-behold the lamb of God!
And Wonder seems to do at least two intertwined things. One, it invites us beyond our narrower selves, into the connectedness of the world, and into our grounded and more true being, true selves. Two, it invites us to notice, give thanks and dwell with the gifts and the callings and belonging God has already given us. We go beyond ourselves in seeing more fully what we are already made part of our place in it.
The prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul illuminate the strands plied into the call of wonder.
Isaiah utters a call to God’s people to go beyond themselves: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the lost ones of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” A universalist ethic and viewpoint, calling us beyond our limited and like-minded communities and identities into the peace of God.
The apostle Paul calls the church to see, give thanks for and dwell more deeply with what is already present and at work among them. Paul gives thanks-eucharisteo-gives thanks for these people. It’s the first thing he says, and he’ll say it again and again in this letter, to invite the Corinthians to wonder at the simple and mysterious fact of God calling them to be part of this community, fellowship in Christ Jesus. You are not lacking any spiritual gift; you have been enriched as you wait on God. Paul invites them to focus more and more on what is at work for good among them. He gives thanks for this, admires the ways’ common purpose, attempts to reconcile, a desire to stand on shared ground, a desire to make room for others have shown God to be at work among them.
You and I may need to hear this calling of wonder. Notice, let it be, and see in what ways God is at work, leading you beyond yourself and deeper into the mystery of the life you share with others. Wonder might be another guide for CHS to live more and more discerningly in this season. You can’t do everything, do every good deed that beckons for a caring heart. What things call to this community in wonder? Ministry with children, families and people of all ages? Releasing or reconciling past dissatisfactions and conflicts? Working with others to increase affordable housing? Tending the earth and waters, tending your spirit? Working beyond Vashon for a more humane society? Inviting people on Wednesday nights to ponder and listen and speak about spirit and life and living with God every day. You can’t do everything. What sense of wonder is calling you, to trust in the fellowship of others, the fellowship you share in Christ?