Hugh Anderson - "Wonderful Revival" (January 24, 1960)
|In the name of God the Father, God the Son
|and God the Holy Spirit.
|Each one of us who has turned into this chapel this morning
|is different in many radical
|and basic ways from everybody else.
|In some of the most fundamental things of life,
|no two offers are alike.
|Each of us here this morning has his own her own
|particular background in life.
|We have all our own individual hopes and fears
|and ambitions and sorrows and joy.
|We have each of us, all our own problems and anxieties.
|These anxieties more numerous,
|that some seasons of life than others.
|But we are all in so many ways
|different one from another.
|If this is true of life in general,
|it seems to me to be particularly true
|about the religious life.
|As we look back to this morning
|at the deepest moments of insight,
|each one of us has had into the mysteries of the universe,
|the mysteries of God and the mysteries of man's existence,
|we know that our pilgrimage has been essentially
|a lonely one.
|We have seen things in our own way.
|We have felt things in our own way
|and in the religious life at its deepest level,
|no two of us can come to God by the same road.
|It is significant that in the seers great vision
|of the New Jerusalem in the New Testament,
|there are 12 gates leading to the Holy City.
|And if there are 12 gates,
|there are obviously dozens of different roads.
|And one of the most shameful things in religious life
|of any people or any country is when one particular group
|imagines and believes that everybody should conform
|to their specific path on of the religious life.
|This is so fundamentally wrong because in this, most of all,
|we are all different.
|I have begun this morning by emphasizing our differences
|in life in general, and particularly in the religious life.
|I have done this precisely because I want to go on
|to emphasize that in spite of all our differences,
|there must nevertheless be certain elemental qualities
|of life that we should share in common
|if our life is to be rich and full and abundant.
|And I think one of the most essential qualities
|that all of us must possess to have the full life,
|the good life, the great life is the instinct of wonder,
|the ability to be amazed that life's mysteries.
|If a man or a woman has ceased to possess that
|they've lost one of life's greatest blessings
|without which life cannot be rich or abundant
|For centuries, the greatest minds of the ages
|have wrestled with the problem of trying to formulate,
|to describe and to define the meaning of religion.
|Kant tended to describe religion in terms
|of the moral conscience of man.
|Hego tended to define religion in terms
|of the human reason.
|Schleiermacher tended to define religion in terms of
|human feeling and emotion.
|But I believe with all my heart
|that no description or definition of religion
|has ever been adequate,
|which has not left room for the instinct of wonder
|for the sense of awe and reverence in man's heart
|as in the presence of in calculable mysteries
|and indescribable wonders.
|I think to the truly dynamic religious life,
|to any full kind of life,
|the instinct of wonder is absolutely vital on the central.
|Certainly biblical religion is full of wonder,
|full of amazement, full of that tremulous sense of awe
|which man possesses in the presence of inscrutable mystery.
|If you turn to the Old Testament,
|you find this everywhere.
|Even nature itself is convulsed with wonder
|in the presence of the creator, God.
|The mountains skip light little rhymes
|with astonishment in the morning sunshine,
|before the glory of the great God,
|the creator of the universe.
|The God of the Old Testament is the God who stretched out
|the ends of the earth.
|The God who created the heavens,
|the august one before who men fall in homage
|and reverence feeling the mystery of the universe,
|the mystery of God and the mystery of man's tremendous
|existence under God.
|What is true of the Old Testament is certainly true
|also of the New Testament.
|Jesus of Nazareth is followed everywhere by men's wonder
|You remember what they said of him?
|"Never a man spoke like this man.
|This man speaks with authority." they said.
|And the people marveled in his presence.
|They were some times almost terrified in his presence,
|terrified in the presence of a fascinating
|and tremendous mystery of the Christ.
|This is certainly true also of many of Christ's disciples
|in the New Testament.
|Some of them went out to heal.
|And when they healed in Christ's name
|as Peter and John did the lame man
|at the gate of the temple called Beautiful,
|men were astonished and marveled
|at the power which Christ had given them.
|Everywhere in the New Testament too
|it's wonder, wonder, wonder, and mystery all the way.
|I think the Negro Spiritual has it right when it says,
|were you there when they crucified my Lord?
|Some times it causes me to tremble,
|There is a tremulous awe
|in any real and dynamic and vital religion.
|Saint Brendan, one of the great saints
|of the early church was once asked
|what it was about his Christian religion,
|which so captivated his heart.
|And his immediate reply was why?
|It's the wonder off it.
|It's the wonder off it.
|Wonder of wonder and every wonder through the wonder of it.
|I believe that one of the greatest tragedies of our day
|and generation is the decline of wonder in men's heart.
|We have been losing the instinct of wonder.
|We have been losing the sense of mystery
|in the presence of life since crucible death.
|There are more tragedies in human life today
|than the tragedy of the Cold War
|and the tragedy of man's divisiveness within society.
|There is this tragedy also, which happens to all of us,
|caught up as we are demonically in the trends of the times,
|this loss of the instinct of wonder and when wonder goes,
|the spirit of man is squinched
|and when the spirit of man is squinched
|life loses its fullness and its richness.
|I want this morning to look together with you
|at some of the greatest enemies of wonder in modern times,
|some of the things that stifle and choke
|the instinct of wonder and mystery in us
|in the hope that by looking at least together,
|we might see that we have a struggle on our hands
|if we could keep the instinct of wonder alive in us.
|It is my belief that one of the greatest enemies of wonder
|in our time is the prevailing scientific outlook.
|You know, as well as I,
|that the scientific method is to analyze things.
|Science proceeds analytically.
|It breaks down things into their constituent parts.
|It formulates general laws,
|which are operated in the universe
|by observing material cause and effect.
|Now, of course, science is great
|and science has a right to imply its own methodology,
|but it is a sad day when modern science gives the impression
|that when it has broken down things
|into their constituent parts,
|when it has formulated in the light of its observations,
|the laws that are operative in the physical universe,
|it is a sad day when the scientist believes
|that after he's done these things,
|he said everything possible
|that can be said about the nature of human being
|and human existence and human life.
|The truth is that after the scientist
|has had his say,
|there still is a large margin of mystery left.
|Still many things unspoken about,
|science does not describe the nature of being itself.
|It's more of description is limited.
|And I want you to see this today.
|We have not said the last word about life
|in all its mystery.
|When we have reduced it to scientific proportions
|and try to describe it in material terms.
|Montaigne, the cynical Frenchman once came home
|from a journey to find his wife in tears.
|He was a hard hearted scientific kind of fellow.
|And you know what his reaction to that situation was?
|He said to his wife,
|"What's in a tear woman,
|a little mucus and some salt water."
|This reduction off the giant agony of the world,
|the tears and sorrows of the human heart
|to a little mucus and some salt water.
|How cruel can the scientific description
|of the physical universe become?
|It is the same when the modern anthropologist says
|that human love is simply the result
|of certain glandular secretions in the human animal.
|Dr. Paul Schilder recently,
|interestingly subjected Lewis Carroll's
|beautiful fantasy "Alice in Wonderland"
|to scientific cycle analysis.
|His conclusion was that nonsense literature
|is the expression of particularly strong
|destructive tendencies of a very primitive character.
|Apparently Lewis Carroll was the member of a large family
|of brothers and sisters
|and he had written Alice precisely because
|he had missed the full love of his parents.
|The animals in Alice and Wonderland
|are always threatening Alice.
|And apparently the animals are the brothers and sisters
|of Lewis Carroll,
|who are always threatening him with destruction
|by making him profoundly jealous.
|What Luna say,
|what Luna say is this
|that he's perpetrated today
|in the august name on the great name of science.
|It's like the wit it's like the halfwit who once said,
|when he was asked, he was asked, what is violin music?
|You know what he said?
|"Violin music is the scraping of the outside of a horse
|on the inside of a cat."
|I ask you,
|can you reduce the ineffable beauty
|of her Beethoven violin Sonata
|to horsehair and cat dot?
|But you know really the scientific method describes things
|in analytical material fashion.
|It tends to destroy wonder by reducing all life
|to material and physical proportion, but in the last resort,
|it's the immature scientist who has this outlook.
|It's the second year university student
|who tends to be cynical and skeptical and materialistic.
|The sophomore scientists, because the truth is,
|and gentlemen I once passed through this stage myself,
|the stage of materialistic cynicism and skepticism,
|we all do it sometime in our university pilgrimage.
|We like to do it because we feel it makes us stand aside
|from orthodoxy and gives us an aura of difference
|and we are rather proud of it.
|But it's a mark of immaturity
|and thank God most of us get past that stage
|because the truth is,
|the truth is that in all history,
|the greatest scientists themselves
|have been ready to admit
|the amazing wonders of the universe.
|They've been ready to admit
|that life has in the last resort,
|a tremendous margin of mystery and wonder
|on things that science leaves unexplained.
|Remember how Sir Isaac Newton,
|after a great lifetime of discovery
|said at the end of his days,
|that he felt that all the way through,
|he had just been like a little child gathering pebbles
|on the seashore of an infinite universe.
|And again the truth is that modern science
|when you begin to look at it with close scrutiny,
|it's not a closed book.
|It leaves the universe open for mystery and wonder.
|There is the indeterminism of modern quantum mechanics.
|There is also Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
|There is the indeterminism too
|of higher energy physics today.
|The best scientists of the modern age are aware
|that there is mystery, the inexplicable, the wonderful.
|The universe is not a closed shaw.
|There is the possibility of the wonderful and the marvelous
|and the miraculous taking place in it.
|And I plead with you this morning,
|not to let the sole popular scientific outlook,
|which has prevailed with so many modern men,
|not to let that kill the edge of wonder in you today
|for it's so important to keep the instinct of wonder alive
|Another great enemy of wonder in our time
|is what I would call the urbanization
|and the mechanization of life in our time.
|Isn't it true that 90% of our life today,
|at least 90% is the life of the great indoors.
|We nearly always seem to have a roof over our head.
|If it's not the roof of a dormitory,
|it's the roof of a reading room.
|If it's not the roof of a reading room,
|it's the roof of our home.
|And if it's not our home,
|it's our automobile.
|Our forefathers, you know,
|used to go out into the wind and the rain and the sun.
|And they used to let the good earth,
|run through their fingers.
|And they looked up and marveled that God had given them
|a life, which was at once so hard
|and that one so challenging and that one so wonderful.
|But today we live the life of the great indoors
|by the urbanization of modern existence
|and by its mechanization.
|Lord Kinross great British statesman and traveler
|recently visited the United States.
|A week or two ago
|he published a fascinating book about his travels
|called "The Innocents at Home".
|I commend it to you.
|It's very interesting.
|But he tells, I think I hope jesting,
|that in Los Angeles,
|he was arrested by the police
|for that outdated obsolete 19th century,
|quite un-American activity of merely walking.
|There is a measure of truth in this,
|that living the life of the great indoors
|we cease to be amazed at the unfathomable horizons
|of the universe, at the mysteries of God.
|We read about it in the newspapers.
|This is the space age,
|but we don't become involved in it ourselves
|because it's so seldom we look up and see the stars.
|I think it would be good for us to remember
|what George Borrow, Romani gypsy once said,
|and he was blind.
|He said, there's night and day, brother,
|both sweet things.
|There are sun moon and stars brother, all sweet things.
|There's likewise a wind on the heat
|all the wonders of life
|if only our eyes were open to them.
|Let me pass on another step.
|Will you come with me?
|I think a third great enemy of wonder in our day and age
|is what I would be pleased to call this morning
|the reduction of God.
|You know, there is a persistent tendency
|in much modern religion to reduce God
|until he saw Lilliputian in stature
|has to be no God at all.
|There is the persistent tendency in many areas
|of American religion, particularly to act
|and speak as though God were the glorified patron
|of a psychiatric clinic.
|The good old kind benevolent gentleman
|who can deal with all manner of psychiatric
|and psychological problems.
|The one to whom we say,
|let's have a little pet, help us please.
|Give us some energy for life.
|Help us along.
|Give us a little air.
|God reduced to the status of the benevolent patron
|of a lets pet it up boys clinic.
|This is unworthy.
|When God's status is thus reduced,
|he is so small that we cannot wonder before him,
|but there are other even more sinisters ways
|in which God is reduced in our societies today.
|You know, there are some denominations of the church
|which give the impression that God is the patron.
|Also, if they have denomination,
|there are some who speak as though God
|were a glorious Baptist, the glorious Methodist,
|a glorious Presbyterian
|to say nothing of God's being a glorious Roman Catholic.
|This is to reduce God.
|But God of the wide world,
|the creator of all men,
|the creator of the ends of the earth,
|the God who sends his rain to fall
|upon the just and the unjust.
|We reduce God also,
|when we break down fellowship with our fellow men,
|when we think that God is the God, only of one race,
|one class, one color, one creed,
|we reduce his status and we make him small.
|He ceases to be the biblical God, the great God,
|the creator God
|and before the little God of too many men today,
|we cannot wonder anymore.
|Yet another enemy of wonder in our time
|is just, I think the familiarity
|that breeds contempt.
|Would you agree that one of the saddest spectacles in life
|is the spectacle of a marriage between a man and the woman
|in which the years have waged a war of oppression.
|So let know they simply take each other for granted.
|Unfamiliarity has bred a measure of contempt.
|You know, this is precisely how it is
|with the Christian religion and the Christian Church.
|We've grown, vaguely familiar with it.
|It's been there all the time.
|We've never known any other situation.
|The church has stood through the centuries.
|We have accepted with a big kind of neutrality
|as something familiar.
|That is what led here to God in Denmark in his day
|to plead with his fellow man for God's sake,
|Christianize your Christianity,
|wrestle with its problems,
|see it's wonders for yourself,
|don't half accept it
|because it's always been familiar to you.
|And there is great need for us today also to do this.
|We've grown half familiar with it.
|We accept it.
|It's there, but the wonder of Christianity
|doesn't come home to us until in our own minds
|we've wrestled with it ourselves,
|until on our own hearts we've agonized with it.
|It cannot become wonderful for us.
|The last enemy of religion,
|as I understand it in our day and age,
|as an enemy of wonder is the sense among so many multitudes
|of people that religion has lost its romance,
|Do you think religion has lost its romance and its glamor?
|Do you think that all the brave exploits and deeds of daring
|do for religion sake were done 2000 years ago
|and that no further wonders are taking place
|under the sun in God's name and through Christ?
|I ask you to think again,
|for those of us in the ministry of the Christian Church
|have seen with our own eyes, miracles of God,
|taking place in the mid 20th century,
|we know that religion hasn't lost its romance.
|We look to the far east and we see new churches being born
|and gathering strength.
|We come home to our own doorstep and some of us know
|with rapture in our hearts that men's lives are still being
|changed by the touch of the divine,
|that their paths are being made straight and the rock places
|playing through the glory of God in men's lives.
|Some of us have seen the light
|in a young man's eyes when he's confessed
|that his life was made new
|by the wonder of God in his heart.
|Religion hasn't lost its romance.
|The angels keep their ancient places
|calm but astone or start a wing, to he,
|to you estranged faces that miss the many splendor thing.
|These are some of the enemies of wonder in our day.
|We have a backlog on our hands to fight against them
|because I think we believe and recognize
|that the full life is only possible
|where the instinct of tremulous awe
|and reverence for life,
|the instinct of wonder and the instinct of mystery,
|where these things are kept alive only
|is the full and the abundant life possible.
|But really, you know, really in the last analysis,
|it shouldn't be too hard
|to struggle for those who call ourselves Christians
|to keep the sense of wonder alive in us
|for we have many wonderful things to contemplate.
|There is particularly the mystery of the cross of Christ.
|When you look at that, you may feel skeptical,
|cynical and hard of heart
|but the cross has a part to change that.
|Somehow, mysteriously and wonderfully
|the cross works some miracle with men,
|it stirs the sense of wonder as in the presence
|of the mysteries of life.
|I had a story once about the funeral of Abraham Lincoln.
|The great man was being carried to his last resting place.
|The crowds along the route
|where the cortège had to pass were very great
|and very multitudinous.
|At one part of the route,
|there was a tall Negro woman with a little child with her.
|And that us the cortège drew near
|the little child was whimpering,
|crying that she couldn't see.
|And the tall Negro woman took her bam
|and put her on her shoulders.
|And as the coffin with Lincoln's body passed
|she said, "Take a long look, honey.
|Take a long look, honey.
|He died for you."
|I say to you this morning, man and women, younger and older,
|take a long look at the cross of Christ.
|I don't say that it will answer all life's problems.
|But it will challenge us all to penetrate deeper
|into the heart of the mystery of life.
|It will challenge our intellect, our minds,
|and our spirits,
|and the sense of wonder will come more alive in us.
|I hope God will give us grace to recapture in our time
|the sense of wonder, wonder upon wonder,
|and every wonder through because life is beyond all hope
|of telling wonderful.
|I have called this sermon,
|simply because I believe with all my soul,
|that one of the most wonderful revivals we could ever have
|in our day,
|whether in the Jewish community here or in society at large
|would be a revival of wonder.
|God, give us grace to wonder.
|Let us pray.
|Almighty and ever blessed God,
|revive in us again the instinct for wonder and reverence
|for life in all its incalculable and inscrutable mystery.
|Kindle our hearts with an enthusiasm divine
|for we know that life is mysterious,
|that there are many things beyond our explanation.
|Give us then the grace to wonder
|and unto the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit
|be all honor and glory,
|dominion, majesty and praise
|World without end, amen.
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