January 31, 2021 Sunday Service Message: The Beauty of a World without a Why

You are Beloved

Last week, Rev. Joanne correctly pointed out that as a species humans are uncomfortable not having answers to questions we ask ourselves.  Our innate curiosity is what has driven and continues to drive explorers and “natural philosophers,” now known as “scientists” to seek knowledge.  This is not limited to the Age of Discovery explorers we learned about in school, or Nobel Laureates.  Every person from the moment they are born automatically becomes an explorer and scientist.  We learn to crawl, then toddle, then walk unaided.  As we mature our explorations become wider and deeper.

This week, in her fifth talk in a series based on Wendy Farley’s book Beguiled by Beauty: Cultivating a Life of Contemplation and Compassion1, Rev. Joanne brings to us the exploration of the beauty found in relationships.  It is common that when we first begin a relationship with a romantic partner, we often see them through a lens of “perfection.”  She shares a passage from the Song of Solomon:

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes with thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the  washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.  Song of Solomon 4:1-7

The writer was extolling the virtues of his beloved – her perfection.  The realities of relationships, however, are that over time they change.  We hope that our love grows and becomes stronger every day.  But even as our devotion to our beloved grows, we no longer see them as “perfection.”  This is not a criticism of either person.  The ardor of the one who is adoring has not necessarily waned, nor has the behavior or character of the one who is beloved changed to warrant loss of admiration.  As our familiarity with our partner becomes deeper we often find ourselves, either unconsciously or consciously, looking for reasons to see them as “perfection.”

About four and a half years ago, Rev. Joanne tells us, her husband made a seemingly innocent comment about cleaning up the breakfast dishes being “the least she could do.”  In that moment, she says, she was not feeling the “perfection” of his love, or that he was the perfection of her beloved.  Since that time, she has consciously carried this thought whenever it comes time to do the dishes.

Scriptures, however, invite us to see ourselves as God’s perfection without having to do anything to earn it.  Rev. Joanne quotes the Bhagavad Gita – “We have a right to our labor, but not to the fruit of our labor.”  If all we are doing, she says, is laboring to experience certain fruits, and then those fruits do not show up, then we judge ourselves and others, and our work based on that.  We then misjudge how we are perfect and beloved just the way we are.  She explains that this does not mean that there is nothing for us to do, but when we understand that we are beloved, it changes how we show up in any given moment.  It provides an awareness of our expectations of ourselves, our family, friends, even God.

Rev. Joanne offers another bit of wisdom on embracing our inherent perfection from a quote from Unity co-founder Myrtle Fillmore:

Here, in the silence, we shall know the Presence of God, and see clearly just how we are to go about living the life that He is giving us so we may bring forth the order, beauty, and freedom that He has planned and that are now awaiting our understanding use. . . .  The real purpose of your life is to express the creation of God—to unfold the many departments of your mind which God has planned for you, and which will enable you to know and to do His will.  When you know that there is nothing for you to worry about or to fear, you may then relax and feel happy.  When you know that living, as God has planned it, here and now, is beautiful and that you can know just what God’s plans are for you, you will be really interested in living, won’t you?2

Rev. Joanne asks, can we set aside the ideas we hold of how we are not perfect?  Can we come into this moment simply with the understanding that there is a gift here, there is beauty, that the beloved is here?

We are taught not to be conceited, vain, or arrogant.  This is good.  But releasing the idea that we are not perfect and embracing the gift of beauty that is the perfection of God’s love, God’s creation that is us, is not any of those things we are taught not to be – it is accepting that God is always with us, in us, as us.

Now Go and Be the Light.

Scripture

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

Spiritual Practice

This week’s invitation to a contemplative practice based on our message could occur in two ways.  You may want to set a reminder to spend some silent time with your palms open on your lap contemplating further what expectations you are holding about what you “should be.”  Imagine them lifted and released.  In addition, you could also place a note on a mirror you frequent daily:  “Look at you!  So beautiful, Dearest.  So beautiful.”  Believe this voice is the Divine Lover.  How does this practice change the way you move through the beauty of your day? 

Greg Skuderin

1Farley, Wendy, Beguiled by Beauty: Cultivating a Life of Contemplation and Compassion, Westminster John Knox Press (December 15, 2020).

2How to Let God Help You, Fillmore, Myrtle, Unity Press, 1956.