Sep 30 2010
We have launched an exciting new process for preparing and presenting worship this year, expanding the worship planning team to include not just ministers and Worship Associates but also chancel decorators and visual artists, musicians, storytellers, and Worship Hosts. We want to create worship every week that delights and inspires all the senses—worship that invites us into an experience of transcendence.Transcendence—what does that mean? The word literally means “climbing across” something, such as a boundary or an obstacle. Transcendence, then, means going beyond our usual limits. All of our Six Sources can lead us to this experience of “something more,” whether we find it in awesome moments of mystery and wonder, inspiration by prophetic women and men, wisdom from the world’s religions, Jewish and Christian teachings, the guidance of science— “Wait, Rev. Nancy,” you may be tempted to interrupt. “This is all very interesting, but … where’s the key to being ‘100% happy 100% of the time’?!” Well, have you ever felt the opposite of “transcendent” during a worship service? Have you ever felt critical, impatient, unmoved, or left out during worship? My guess is that 100% of us can answer, “Yes, we have!”Yet I can also promise you that the very worship element that is bugging you is simultaneously feeding someone else. What drives you crazy is actually offering another person an experience of transcendence. Similarly, your favorite parts of worship—moments when you are being fed in mind, heart, body, and spirit—are leaving somebody else totally cold. In Unitarian Universalist worship, we can be assured that we will have each of these experiences in turn. So, if we really want worship to offer us a sense of connection and inspiration, then perhaps we need a spiritual practice to bring us into worship itself—a spiritual practice that takes us beyond our usual limits. Let us imagine … what if … What if, instead of feeling judgmental or frustrated when something in worship is not working for us, instead we turn our thoughts toward those folks around us who are being spiritually fed? What if we then shift our thoughts from disgruntlement to gratitude? We might think: “This really isn’t working for me—and yet I know it is working for someone else. And hey, I am truly glad for them. And I know my turn will come.” What if we then rest for a moment, feeling connected to others at the very moment when we least expected it? And what if, when we are feeling moved and inspired in the midst of worship, we turn our thoughts away from our own satisfying experience and toward those who may be feeling left out? “Wow,” we might think, “this is so powerful for me—and yet I know that some folks around me are having a very different experience. I offer them my compassion and my gratitude, because by showing up this morning, they have helped to make this experience possible.” What if we then rest for a moment, having made a connection with others that goes beyond our usual limits?
With all of us bringing this Spirit of Gratitude and Generosity to worship … and to other parts of our lives … we just might climb over some of the barriers that separate us—the barriers of our own ego, our own limited experience of the world, our own pain.
So you know what? I’m going to give this spiritual practice a try this season. Won’t you join me? It may not make us absolutely, positively, “100% happy 100% of the time,” but it just might be … transcendent!
With profound gratitude for all that you are and for wherever you may be on this journey of transformation that we call Life,
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