Opening Words for Guest Sermons

by Rev. Michael Dowd or Connie Barlow


  • Choices for opening words for Dowd's sermons with key words "Climate, Future, or Ecology" in the title:

    By writer Terry Tempest Williams, from her 1991 memoir Refuge: "The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come."

    By poet Drew Dellinger from his 2003 poem "Hieroglyphic Stairway": "It's 3:23 in the morning and I'm awake . . ." Read the rest of the poem online here.

    By Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of the 2014 "Cosmos" television series: "We just can't seem to stop burning up all those buried trees from way back in the Carboniferous age, in the form of coal, and the remains of ancient plankton, in the form of oil and gas. If we could, we'd be home free climate-wise. Instead, we're dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate the Earth hasn't seen since the great climate catastrophes of the past — the ones that led to mass extinctions. We just can't seem to break our addiction to the kinds of fuel that will bring back a climate last seen by the dinosaurs, a climate that will drown our coastal cities and wreak havoc on the environment and our ability to feed ourselves. All the while, the glorious sun pours immaculate free energy down upon us, more than we will ever need. Why can't we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us? The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What's our excuse?"

    By Thomas Berry, a scholar who self-identified as a "geologian", not a theologian, and whose call to honor Earth inspired a reverence for Nature both within and beyond his Catholic tradition. Thomas Berry said, "Our present situation, I think, can be summarized by the following three sentences: The glory of the human has become the desolation of the Earth. The desolation of the Earth is becoming the destiny of the human. Therefore, all human activities, professions, programs, and institutions must henceforth be judged primarily by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship."

  • Choices for opening words for Rev. Dowd's "Thank God for Evolution" (or, indeed, ANY sermon by him):

    By astrophysicist Joel Primack and cultural history Nancy Ellen Abrams, from their 2006 book, View from the Center of the Universe: "Without a meaningful, believable story that explains the world we actually live in, people have no idea how to think about the big picture. And without a big picture, we are very small people."

    By astrophysicist Joel Primack and cultural history Nancy Ellen Abrams, from their 2006 book, View from the Center of the Universe: "Integration of science and meaning is considered by many scientists to be a danger to science, but a science that doesn't consider its own meaning can be a danger to everyone else. Interpreting modern cosmology is — if anything is — a sacred responsibility."

    By theologian Elizabeth Johnson: "The world is almost mind-numbingly dynamic. Out of the Big Bang came the stars. Out of stardust came the Earth. Out of Earth came single-celled creatures. Out of the evolutionary life and death of these creatures came human beings with consciousness and freedom that concentrates the self-transcendence of matter itself. Human beings are the Universe become conscious of itself. We are the celebrants of the Universe."

    By Sister Mary Southard, an evolutionary artist and writer: "How important it is that we learn the Sacred Story of our Evolutionary Universe, just as we have learned our cultural/religious stories. Each day we will begin to do what humans do best: Be amazed! Be filled with reverence! Contemplate! Fall in Love! Be entranced by the wonder of the Universe, the uniqueness of each being, the beauty of creation, its new revelation each day, and the Divine Presence within all!"

    By evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, from his 2007 book, Evolution for Everyone: "The most extraordinary fact about public awareness of evolution is not that 50 percent don't believe it, but that nearly 100 percent haven't connected it to anything of importance in their lives. The reason we believe so firmly in the physical sciences is not because they are better documented than evolution but because they are so essential to our everyday lives. We can't build bridges, drive cars, or fly airplanes without them. In my opinion, evolutionary theory will prove just as essential to our welfare and we will wonder in retrospect how we lived in ignorance for so long."

  • Choices for opening words for Connie Barlow's "Passing It Forward" or "Stories Big and Small" guest sermons:
    By writer Terry Tempest Williams, from her 1991 memoir Refuge: "The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come."

    By poet Drew Dellinger from his 2003 poem "Hieroglyphic Stairway": "It's 3:23 in the morning and I'm awake . . ." Read the rest of the poem online here.

    By Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of the 2014 "Cosmos" television series: "We just can't seem to stop burning up all those buried trees from way back in the Carboniferous age, in the form of coal, and the remains of ancient plankton, in the form of oil and gas. If we could, we'd be home free climate-wise. Instead, we're dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate the Earth hasn't seen since the great climate catastrophes of the past — the ones that led to mass extinctions. We just can't seem to break our addiction to the kinds of fuel that will bring back a climate last seen by the dinosaurs, a climate that will drown our coastal cities and wreak havoc on the environment and our ability to feed ourselves. All the while, the glorious sun pours immaculate free energy down upon us, more than we will ever need. Why can't we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us? The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What's our excuse?"

    By Thomas Berry, a scholar who self-identified as a "geologian", not a theologian, and whose call to honor Earth inspired a reverence for Nature both within and beyond his Catholic tradition. Thomas Berry said, "Our present situation, I think, can be summarized by the following three sentences: The glory of the human has become the desolation of the Earth. The desolation of the Earth is becoming the destiny of the human. Therefore, all human activities, professions, programs, and institutions must henceforth be judged primarily by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship."

    By Michael Dowd, from his 2008 book, Thank God for Evolution: "No cultural moment — even our own — should be burdened with the responsibility of shaping humanity's understanding of and relationship to Ultimate Reality once and for all. Rather, the generations will describe and relate to the world and the divine as best they can for their time and their conditions. Each generation will honor its ancestry by taking from the past only that which is still life-giving. Each generation will provision posterity by remaining open to new discoveries, new teachings, and by advising those who shall follow to do the same."

    By John Brewer, an independent scholar and Universe Story enthusiast in Kansaas: "Our true ancestry is the emergent creativity of the universe. Our forebears were the great inventors who learned how to coalesce hydrogen and helium into stars, to form planets, to sustain life first from mineral nutrients in the sea and later to capture photons, to exploit oxygen for energy rather than be exterminated by it, to diversify via sexual reproduction, to form social groups for greater security and protection of offspring. We are the beneficiaries (and, admittedly, also the victims) of this narrative of emergence. Our companions — abstract as this must sound to the uninitiated — are all of these progenitors. Indeed they are more than companions; they are family. From them we have inherited our corporeal shapes and movements, our body chemistry, and even some of our behavioral agendas."

    By astrophysicist Joel Primack and cultural historian Nancy Ellen Abrams from their 2006 book View from the Center of the Universe: "From a cosmic perspective, our larger identities are bound equally into the past and future of our species and our planet. To discount the future, as though consequences that will only hit a later generation are insignificant for present calculations, is a crime against ourselves, not just against our descendants, because it distorts and truncates our concept of who we are."

  • Choices for opening words for Connie Barlow's "Evolution Now" guest sermon:
    By philosopher Loyal Rue from his 1999 book, Everybody's Story: "The universe is a single reality — one long, sweeping spectacular process of interconnected events. The universe is not a place where evolution happens; it is evolution happening. It is not a stage on which dramas unfold; it is the unfolding drama itself. If ever there were a candidate for a universal story, it must be this story of cosmic evolution. This story shows us in the deepest possible sense that we are all sisters and brothers — fashioned from the same stellar dust, energized by the same star, nourished by the same planet, endowed with the same genetic code, and threatened by the same evils. This story, more than any other, humbles us before the magnitude and complexity of creation. Like no other story it bewilders us with the improbability of our existence, astonishes us with the interdependence of all things, and makes us feel grateful for the lives we have. And not the least of all, it inspires us to express our gratitude to the past by accepting a solemn and collective responsibility for the future."

    By cosmologist Brian Swimme, from his 1984 book, The Universe is a Green Dragon: "The creation story unfurling within the scientific enterprise provides the fundamental context, the fundamental arena of meaning, for all the peoples of the Earth. For the first time in human history, we can agree on the basic story of the galaxies, the stars, the planets, minerals, life forms, and human cultures. This story does not diminish the spiritual traditions of the classical or tribal periods of human history. Rather, the story provides the proper setting for the teachings of all traditions, showing the true magnitude of their central truths."

    By astrophysicist Joel Primack and cultural history Nancy Ellen Abrams, from their 2006 book, View from the Center of the Universe: "Without a meaningful, believable story that explains the world we actually live in, people have no idea how to think about the big picture. And without a big picture, we are very small people."

    By Unitarian Universalist minister Marlin Lavanhar: "We have all heard some fundamentalist-minded person say something like, 'Don't tell me I'm related to monkeys!' The fact of the matter is that now that we have discovered DNA and its code, we know that we are not only related to monkeys, we are related to zucchini. So let's get over it!"

    By evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, from his 2007 book, Evolution for Everyone: "The most extraordinary fact about public awareness of evolution is not that 50 percent don't believe it, but that nearly 100 percent haven't connected it to anything of importance in their lives. The reason we believe so firmly in the physical sciences is not because they are better documented than evolution but because they are so essential to our everyday lives. We can't build bridges, drive cars, or fly airplanes without them. In my opinion, evolutionary theory will prove just as essential to our welfare and we will wonder in retrospect how we lived in ignorance for so long."

  • Choices for opening words for Connie Barlow's "Your Brain's Creation Story" guest sermon:
    By evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, from his 2007 book Evolution for Everyone: "Our unique attributes evolved over a period of roughly 6 million years. They represent modifications of great ape attributes that are roughly 10 million years old, primate attributes that are roughly 55 million years old, mammalian attributes that are roughly 245 million years old, vertebrate attributes that are roughly 600 million years old, and attributes of nucleated cells that are perhaps 1,500 million years old. If you think it is unnecessary to go that far back in the tree of life to understand our own attributes, consider the humbling fact that we share with nematodes (tiny wormlike creatures) the same gene that controls appetite. At most, our unique attributes are like an addition to a multiroom mansion. It is sheer hubris to think that we can ignore all but the newest room."

    By religious naturalist Loren Eiseley, from his essay "Starthrower" in his 1972 book, Unexpected Universe: "We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings who have slept in wood nests, or hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians. We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been human."

    By Carl Sandburg, from his 1918 poem, "Wilderness": "There is a wolf in me, fangs pointed for tearing gashes, a red tongue for raw meat, and the hot lapping of blood. I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go."

    By astrophysicist Joel Primack and cultural history Nancy Ellen Abrams, from their 2006 book, View from the Center of the Universe: "The history of the Universe is in every one of us. Every particle in our bodies has a multibillion-year past, every cell and every bodily organ has a multimillion-year past, and many of our ways of thinking have mult-thousand-year pasts."

  • Choices for opening words for Connie Barlow's "Celebrating Evolution" guest sermon:

    By astrophysicist Joel Primack and cultural history Nancy Ellen Abrams, from their 2006 book, View from the Center of the Universe: "Integration of science and meaning is considered by many scientists to be a danger to science, but a science that doesn't consider its own meaning can be a danger to everyone else. Interpreting modern cosmology is — if anything — a sacred responsibility."

    By science writer Edwin Dobb: "As language-using organisms, we participate in the evolution of the Universe most fruitfully through interpretation. We understand the world by drawing pictures, telling stories, conversing. These are our special contributions to existence. It is our immense good fortune and grave responsibility to sing the songs of the Cosmos."

    By theologian Elizabeth Johnson: "The world is almost mind-numbingly dynamic. Out of the Big Bang came the stars. Out of stardust came the Earth. Out of Earth came single-celled creatures. Out of the evolutionary life and death of these creatures came human beings with consciousness and freedom that concentrates the self-transcendence of matter itself. Human beings are the Universe become conscious of itself. We are the celebrants of the Universe."

    By Sister Mary Southard, an evolutionary artist and writer: "How important it is that we learn the Sacred Story of our Evolutionary Universe, just as we have learned our cultural/religious stories. Each day we will begin to do what humans do best: Be amazed! Be filled with reverence! Contemplate! Fall in Love! Be entranced by the wonder of the Universe, the uniqueness of each being, the beauty of creation, its new revelation each day, and the Divine Presence within all!"

  • Choices for opening words for Connie Barlow's "Death through Deep-Time Eyes" guest sermon:

    By Australian deep ecologist John Seed, "We call upon the power which sustains the planets in their orbits, that wheels our Milky Way in its 200 million year spiral. We call upon this power to imbue our personalities and our relationships with harmony, endurance, and joy. Fill us with a sense of immense time so that our brief, flickering lives may truly reflect the work of vast ages past and also the millions of years of evolution whose potential lies in our trembling hands."

    By evolutionary biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, "Life spirals laboriously upward to higher and even higher levels, paying for every step. Death was the price of the multi-cellular condition. Pain was the price of nervous integration. Anxiety was the price of consciousness."

    By evolutionary evangelist Michael Dowd, from his book Thank God for Evolution: "An evolutionary understanding of death in no way diminishes the grief we suffer when a loved one dies. That is not its purpose. What this perspective does offer is a solid and trustworthy 'cosmic container' in which grief can fully manifest, while protecting the bereaved from the risk of falling into an abyss of anger and despair. More, if we acknowledge that there is something profoundly right with death, with the fact that we grow old and that we must die, it will be easier to clean up unfinished business before it is too late. Meaningful conversations with family and friends will ensue — including expressions of gratitude, apologies, and forgiveness."

    By Tom Atlee, author of The Tao of Democracy: "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, worn out and proclaiming, 'Wow! What a ride!'"



    WWW www.TheGreatStory.org