Sunday 24 April 2022: Second Sunday of Easter
Awe and Wonder
Revelation 1:4-8, John 20: 19-31, Psalm 150
Context: a Eucharist for a suburban, small, traditional, older congregation, in a church struggling to survive
Aim: to highlight the power and importance of the mystery of God
I am an awe and wonder girl, brought back to Church through listening to preaching on the transfiguration and captivated by images of the glory of God seen through ‘a glass darkly.’
The love of God is wonderful, and I am often fed by it, but if I am feeling down or despairing if the world has lost its lustre and I can’t see past the blocks in the way, passages like the ones we have heard today, bring back my excitement. They inspire me to find a way forward, rekindling my curiosity and joy. It is the unfathomable mystery of God that stirs me and gives me hope that with God’s help, I can be part of a different future, no matter how bleak the present seems.
The Gospel reading is filled with wonders. We know from reading the previous verses in John’s gospel that Jesus has been raised from the dead, but the disciples don’t all know, so in a blaze of mystery:
- Jesus came and stood among them through a locked door, having just been raised from Jesus breathes out the Holy Spirit and the disciples breathe it in, taking in the special ability to forgive sins
- Later, he allows Thomas to challenge his doubts by putting his fingers into the holes where the nails were hammered in from the crucifixion and where he was pierced in the side
- John goes on to say that many other signs were available for the disciples to show that Jesus had risen — it would be wonderful to know what they were
Steve Morris describes wonder and mystery as a ‘conversation between the world we cannot quite see and the world that we can’ and Jesus as the bridge between the worlds, both man and God. This echoes the words in Revelation: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. He is coming with the clouds connecting all worlds. A transfiguration experience indeed.
OUR SECRET INGREDIENT
Awe and wonder are strong experiences, which the disciples shared as they preached the Gospel. In this secular age awe is a powerful element of our faith and worship. It is our secret ingredient, something that this world needs and looks for. It is the one experience that many in this world of technology, scientific advancement and secular unbelief cannot airbrush out. Awe creeps in when the experience we have of something is beyond our limited comprehension. Experience of the numinous impacts our whole being.
We can connect with awe through the wonders of the vastness of the universe, the galaxies that keep incarnating, and in the beauties of nature, even in the tiniest creature. We feel it through beautiful music and fabulous sunsets, plants we grow ourselves and those that grow despite us through concrete paths and out of walls. We experience awe through the many small coincidences that happen in our lives and the chance conversations that make such a difference.
Our experience of prayer and the Eucharist can also be places we connect with the awe of God and the wonder of Jesus. Church buildings too can contain awe which enables people to feel peaceful and calm.
These atmospheres were built through years of prayer and worship, and for us, it is in the personal experience of being here, of being in worship together that the sense of mystery and transcendence can help us to a deep encounter with God.
We can also build a place within us where awe and wonder can live, where inner and outer space meets, like a small child watching something beautiful with her whole being. Prayer can hollow out a place in buildings and in our hearts, inviting God to begin to do what he needs to in and through us, until he comes in glory in the clouds.
There is so much awe and wonder in these readings, that we can do no more than pray the Psalm set for today — Psalm 150— as the feeling of wonder bubbles up within us and overflows into praise and worship.
(Suggestion - read Psalm 150 at this point, if it is not used in the service elsewhere, or read it again anyway)
Morris, S. (2021) Lost in Wonder. Glimpsing awe, God and the good life. Authentic Media
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