A Capricious Anomaly in the Sea of Space

Entrance music – Selection of reflective music

Opening words

Love all of God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, love every ray of light. Love the animals, love the plants, love every kind of thing. If you love each fragment, then everywhere, God’s mystery will reveal itself to you. Once you perceive it, you will begin to understand it ever more deeply with each passing day. And finally, you will be able to love the whole world with an all-embracing universal love.

Those were the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, from his 1879 work, ‘The Brothers of Karamazov’.


So, good morning, to you all. As has become almost habitual in each of these services you entrust me with leading, I’d like to start by extending to you all, the very warmest of welcomes as we gather here this Sunday. Welcome to those familiar faces, and to those new faces, and to those who cannot be with us here this morning but are with us in our thoughts. Welcome to your feelings of happiness and hope. Welcome to your worries, concerns, and anxieties. No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what you believe, no matter what you don’t believe, no matter what accompanies you this morning: you are welcome. You are welcome in this space. This space of reflection and contemplation. This space of humility and vulnerability.

As you walked through the doors this morning, you entered a sanctuary. A sanctuary where you are safe to be yourself. A sanctuary where, no matter what joys, sorrows or concerns you brought with you, the warmth of our welcome remains constant.

Chalice lighting

As is customary to our denomination of Unitarianism, I would like to light the flame of our chalice, the symbol of our movement. As the sun is to planet Earth, may we see this chalice as the beacon of light, hope and warmth to the world that is our humble congregation this morning. We see our chalice. We focus on its flame. We acknowledge the for the time it is lit, we are together in this space, free of judgement, free of sorrow and free of pain. For in this space, we support and comfort one another as we come together, just as every Sunday morning, in friendship and companionship, to worship, to reflect, to meditate.


Moment of mindfulness

So, here we are again. The end of another week. You made it. This week may have been one that you relished, one that you embraced and tackled head on. Or it may have been one that you survived. If that is the case, then I’d like you to know that no matter challenges you’re experiencing, you are now one week closer to the resolution, and whatever feelings of pain and sorrow you are feeling, have crossed off one more day on the countdown to them checking out of your life.

In what has almost become another tradition of our time together, I’d like to invite you to just take a moment to sit in your chair and relax. Take a deep breath and notice the movement of your chest as you inhale, and then gently exhale. Focus on the sensations of your body, starting from your head and your neck, and working slowly down through your chest and out to your arms, through your elbows and wrists to the very tips of your fingers. Focus on each and every sensation you feel; move back along your arms and further down your body and into your legs, right down to the tips of your toes. As you do this, take note of how your body feels. It might be energised; it might be tired; it might be relaxed; it might just simply…be. Take 30 seconds to be still.

30 seconds of quiet.

And, in your own time, I’d like you to bring yourself back into the room.

I would like to invite you to listen to, or join in with if you wish, our first hymn of the day, number 216 in your purple hymn book: Wide Green World.

Hymn 1 – Purple Book 216 Wide Green World

So, as it was Earth Day yesterday, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to spend some time this morning thinking about and reflecting on the giant floating ball of rock that is our home: Earth. Whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, us being here right now, gathered together on this Sunday morning, is entirely dependent on the existence of our planet. And, I know it sounds ridiculously obvious to say that, of course, without the planet, we wouldn’t be here. But when it’s put in such obvious terms, you have to ask why so many people around the world fail to grasp the importance and urgency of the climate crisis. If it really were so obvious to people, that our existence is so intrinsically and inextricably linked to that of this, the third rock from the sun, then surely, we’d all take much better care of our home?

For this morning’s service, I’d like to go right back to the beginning. To the genesis, if you will, of our planet’s story. And yes, that means that this morning’s story comes from the Book of Genesis from the Jewish Torah and Christian Old Testament. This is Genesis Chapter 1 through Chapter 2, verses 1 to 3.

Reading – Genesis 1-2: 1-3

It’s a story most if not all people know. The creation of the universe at the hands of God. And while its every word was probably understood literally many centuries ago, it is now accepted by the vast majority of scientists that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago after the Big Bang, when everything that exists and ever will exist, came into being in a split second. We see evidence of the Big Bang as we look into the depths of space. The cosmic microwave background radiation, which is the residual light created in its wake; the red shift wavelengths we see as we gaze through complex radio telescopes at distant objects that are getting further and further away from us – the aftermath of an explosion, the effects of which will continue until the end of time.

There is so much about our world that we now understand that makes the idea of believing every word of the original creation story seem silly. But let’s just pause for a minute. Is it so silly?

Of course, as I’ve already mentioned, we can look at the Genesis story as being purely allegorical. But there is something I’ve always found rather fascinating about it, particularly when we look at the order in which God created the universe as compared with the order in which modern science tells us things happened.

Firstly, God created heaven and Earth, which is described as a “vast waste” with “darkness cover[ing] the deep”. Okay, maybe not quite so accurate, but the description of a vast darkness is a good attempt at describing space, wouldn’t you say? And given that more than 4,000 years ago the shared knowledge of space among everyday folk was fairly non-existent, I think we can forgive the slight inaccuracy.

Then God creates light and separates night from day. Could we understand this to be the creation of the stars and the moon? Again, not entirely accurate, as we know that in the case of our nearest star, the Sun, it existed long before the Earth. But the moon was certainly a later edition to our celestial backyard. So, again, we have to take what we can get when looking at the story.

It’s the next bits that interest me the most: the order of the creation of life on Earth. First, it’s vegetation: plants, trees, fruits etc. Then it’s the creatures of the sea, and the most commonly accepted scientific theory is that life began in the depths of the oceans. Then, it’s the birds and the land animals. And last, but by no means least, it’s the humans. Our species is the culmination of God’s handywork in the creation of the world, just as we (currently) understand our existence to be the culmination of the process of evolution by natural selection. It’s by no means perfect, but I’ve always found the parallels between the scriptural account and the scientific one to be quite thought-provoking.

I’ll touch on why a bit later. 

But I think I’ve done enough talking for a little bit, so why don’t we sing our next hymn? It’s number 79 in your purple books: In This Time on Earth We’re Given.

Hymn 2 – Purple Book 79


So, if you may have noticed, the title of this service is “a capricious anomaly in the sea of space”. I’ll come onto the meaning behind that title and the reason I chose it a little on this morning, but as for the theme of our time of reflection here this morning, it’s all about the Earth. As I’ve already mentioned, yesterday was Earth Day.

Every year, on 22 April, the world comes together to mark the anniversary of the modern environmentalist movement, which, according to the official Earth Day website, began in 1970. I think that that in itself is remarkable. The fact that as, relatively speaking, far back as 1970, people were beginning to ask questions as to the human impact on our planet. It was all kick-started by a series of environmental disasters, culminating in 1969 with an enormous oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.

A young US senator, Gaylord Nelson, along with a number of student activists, organised a campus teach-in event, to educate the next generation and raise awareness of the deteriorating state of the environment, and the implications that would have on the future of our planet. He realised there was huge potential for this sort of thing to inspire all Americans, and so he worked to set up events across the country. In this endeavour, he managed bring together groups of individuals that had been separately protesting environmental disasters, uniting them behind a common cause: to change public opinion, lobby government, and influence law making.

But it wasn’t until 20 years after the first Earth Day, in 1990, that the event went global. After mobilising 200 million people across 141 countries, Earth Day 1990 paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which saw the environmental crisis brought to the fore of political discourse in any serious capacity for the very first time. Senator Nelson was eventually awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton, for his role as the founder of Earth Day.

I think it’s important to reflect on this incredibly brief history of Earth Day, not only because before researching for our service this morning I had no idea about its origins and genuinely found it quite interesting. But also because it highlights the power of the individual to make a real change when they put their hearts and souls into something. It demonstrates the power of the collective to take on the world’s powers to affect real and meaningful change. It shows us that, although admittedly, as a species, we have made massive strides in reducing our impact on the planet, sadly, the fact we still celebrate Earth Day, the fact we’re still having debates – not conversations, but actual debates – about the human impact on the environment, we still have so much more progress to make.

Think back to our story this morning of the creation as told in Genesis. I said I’d always found the parallels between the scientific understanding and the creation story interesting. Let me explain why.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”. Dominion is just a fancy word for control or sovereignty. We’ve heard a lot in recent years about how sacred and important sovereignty is. And to be fair, the people saying that are right, it is important. But perhaps we’ve taken the idea of dominion over the Earth a little too literally. Have we misunderstood its intended meaning? Or have we deliberately twisted its meaning to suit our own purposes?

Sadly, I think it’s the latter. Having control over something, exercising sovereignty over it means you are responsible for it. Think back to what Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker: “With great power, comes great responsibility”. Yes, we have power and control over the Earth, but we seem to chosen to forget the part that is unwritten in scripture; the part that says “and do so responsibly, caring for the Earth and maintaining it as a paradise for all living things, no matter how big or small”.

I’ve said it before to people here and to people when I was studying: just because a story isn’t literally true, does not mean that its significance is somehow weakened. And, given the parallels between the creation story and our scientific understanding, I think the concept of stewardship is awarded even more importance.

As humans, we are entrusted as the stewards of our world. Not to discredit the intelligence of people from more than 4000 years ago, but even the folk who compiled the Old Testament understood this. They expressed the notion that God had made humankind the stewards of the Earth. God had given humans the responsibility of looking after all of existence on this planet. Yet, despite the obvious, as a collective, we have thus far failed. Whether our mission is one given directly by God or not, is irrelevant. If we boil it all down to the bare bones, it is simply in our own interests to take care of our world. In the same way we wouldn’t deliberately set fire to homes, why is it, as a species, we see fit to take an oil drill to our seas, a chainsaw to our rainforests, a bulldozer to our natural landscapes?

Now, I’m not going to stand here and pretend that I’m holier than thou. I’m acutely aware of the cognitive dissonance that I suffer from. In fact, I think the vast majority of us suffer from it as well. I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan. I love sausages and bacon and fish finger sandwiches. I drive a petrol-powered convertible car, and love going for long and unnecessary drives with the top down in the spring and summer months. I’ve recently travelled by aeroplane more than 3000 miles for my honeymoon. So, am I just being a massive hypocrite? Am I just admitting that all hope is lost and that we should all give up?

Well, no. Because there are things I do and can do, and there are things we all do and can do, that can make a significant difference. I walk to work. I recycle. I don’t eat meat every day. I make conscious choices about the companies I buy from, making sure that their environmental practices are ethical and in-line with what I expect. I work for a business that has sustainability and its commitment to the environment at the very heart of its business model. Sure, there’s more I can do. There’s more all of us can do. But no one is suggesting we all have to up-end our lives overnight. There is still hope. There is still a chance. Humans are a selfish, violent and destructive species. But they are also a caring, kind, compassionate and wonderfully intelligent one.

Think of all the advancements in science we have enjoyed in recent years. Think about the power of the collective mind when it came to fighting Covid with vaccines. I believe that, whatever God is, it gave us the power of intelligence. And it is that intelligence that will help us to overcome the environmental challenge. With our intelligence and our technology, we will finally be able to take the responsibility of our stewardship seriously, and fulfil the very first task we were entrusted with as a species.

Before we spend some quiet time reflecting on whatever it is you yourself would like to reflect on this morning, as is customary for our church, I’d like to invite you to light a candle, or as is common for our congregation, candles, for any hopes, joys, thanks or concerns you may have. You may wish to vocalise your thoughts as you light your candles, but as always, you are more than welcome to light them in silence. There is also no obligation to light a candle at all. Instead, you may use this time to pray, meditate or reflect in your own space.

Candles of hopes, joys and concerns

Let us take some time to reflect and gather our thoughts. You may wish to listen to the music, or you may wish to let your mind wander.

Music for Reflection – Vigil by Jack Wall

Planet Earth, my home, my place

A capricious anomaly in the sea of space

Planet Earth, are you just,

Floating by, a cloud of dust

A minor globe, about to bust

A piece of metal bound to rust

A speck of matter in a mindless void

A lonely spaceship, a large asteroid

Cold as a rock without a hue

Held together with a bit of glue

Something tells me this isn’t true

You are my sweetheart, soft and blue

Do you care, have you a part

In the deepest emotions of my own heart

Tender with breezes, caressing and whole

Alive with music, haunting my soul.

In my veins I’ve felt the mystery

Of corridors of time, books of history

Life songs of ages throbbing in my blood

Have danced the rhythm of the tide and flood

Your misty clouds, your electric storm

Were turbulent tempests in my own form

I’ve licked the salt, the bitter, the sweet

Of every encounter, of passion, of heat

Your riotous colour, your fragrance, your taste

Have thrilled my senses beyond all haste

In your beauty I’ve known the how

Of timeless bliss, this moment of now.

Planet Earth, are you just

Floating by, a cloud of dust

A minor globe, about to bust

A piece of metal bound to rust

A speck of matter in a mindless void

A lonely spaceship, a large asteroid

Cold as a rock without a hue

Held together with a bit of glue

Something tells me this isn’t true

You are my sweetheart, soft and blue

Do you care, have you a part

In the deepest emotions of my own heart

Tender with breezes, caressing and whole

Alive with music, haunting my soul.

Planet Earth, gentle and blue

With all my heart, I love you.

That was a poem written by Michael Jackson. Yes, I apologise – somehow that’s two of my services he’s ended up in. But, you know, when I had picked the topic for this morning’s service, I knew instantly that I wanted to include this poem. I love how it describes the Earth as capricious, which means unpredictable, changeable. It conjures images for me of the Earth as being susceptible to the sort of mood swings we all experience as teenagers, and that we should all be grateful that we’re allowed to continue to exist because at any moment, the Earth could change her mind and cast us off into the cold and dark depths of space.

That’s the another image I love from this poem: “anomaly in the sea of space”. I’ve said it before when talking to you. The mere fact of our existence is the greatest miracle of all. Whether you believe we are here by intelligent design, divine will or scientific coincidence, it matters not. Of the eight planets and all their moons in our solar system; of the thousands of other worlds we’ve discovered; of the trillions of stars we’ve seen and the countless worlds they host in their orbit, this place, the one we’re sitting on right now, is the only one we know of that is home to the miracle of life. The only place in the entirety of existence that has allowed for the development of things so complex in nature, that they can contemplate the very fact of their own being here.

Aside from the anomalous and almost insignificant nature of our world, Jackson’s poem also paints the earth as fragile and vulnerable. We know that she is. We’ve all seen the David Attenborough documentaries, and we’re all now starting to feel the effects of climate change: the heatwave and drought last year, the extreme weather patterns we’ve seen in other parts of the world. And when we see something that is fragile and vulnerable, the human instinct is to care for it. So too, must we care for the earth. “Gentle and blue. I love you”. It all comes back to the service I gave a few weeks ago, about agape and love, and the example Jesus set for all of us. Unconditional love doesn’t just apply to people, it applies to all of creation. And by loving all of creation, we can look forward to a better world.

Think back to the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky that I read at the beginning of this morning’s service:

Love all of God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, love every ray of light. Love the animals, love the plants, love every kind of thing. If you love each fragment, then everywhere, God’s mystery will reveal itself to you. Once you perceive it, you will begin to understand it ever more deeply with each passing day. And finally, you will be able to love the whole world with an all-embracing universal love.

Shall we sing again? Our third hymn comes from the Purple Book and is number 90: Let Us Give Thanks and Praise.

Hymn 3 – Purple Book 90

“Let us give thanks” indeed, for this world truly is a gift. From the beautiful landscapes and amazing creatures to the wonderful people we share our time here with. “Give a shout amazement at what life can bring” – as I’ve already mentioned, the human species has the ability to achieve truly remarkable things, and it is in this ability I place hope to help us solve the climate crisis. But of course, ability alone does not mean anything, for we must have the desire and motivation: “Help us to live with a love for each other”.

Let us pray, reflect, or meditate together.


Spirit of Life, spirit of earth, spirit of all that breathes

and all that is: we love you.

We love this planet and its people and its beings.

We love this interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.

We love it all and we want it all to be well and blessed and healthy.

But we are human, and as a people, our hearts are still small.

So often our love and our sincere desire for the well-being of all

is not yet enough to restrain our collective desire for more for ourselves—

more money, more power, more things.

So often we act in the service of that desire for more

in ways that harm our fellow humans,

and the countless beings with whom we share this earth.

And so often, even when we would do otherwise,

we feel powerless. The problems are so big, the scale so enormous.

What can one person or one small group really do?

But, today, let our prayer be for hope,

and commitment to stay in the struggle,

to do what is right as best we can, each day,

and to love you, spirit of earth and ocean, stars and rocks,

beings of every kind, not least our human neighbors—

to love this glorious whole as we love ourselves—

for we are you and you are us, blessed be.


That was a prayer written by Laura Horton-Ludwig.

Before we sing our final hymn of the morning, I just want to check to see if there are any notices.


Now, I’d like to invite you to join in with or listen and follow the words to, our final hymn of the morning. It’s number 147 in your purple hymn books: Spirit of Earth, Root, Stone and Tree.

Hymn 4 – Purple Book 147

As always, after the service, please join us for some light refreshments, there’s always an abundance of beige goodies and sweat treats, as well as tea and coffee. Also, if you would like to pop something into our collection tray, any amount will be humbly appreciated. Although, please do not feel obliged to put anything in at all. The donation of your time here this morning is more than enough.

Closing words

As we come to the end of our time together this morning, let me now extinguish our chalice. And as I do, I’d like to leave you with a sense of hope. Hope that we can all make a difference. Hope that every action we take, no matter how grandiose or seemingly insignificant, can play a huge part in helping our planet to heal. Whether you decide to walk to work just once next week, or you give up petrol cars completely and go all-electric, we all have our part to play, and together, we still can save and heal the world.

Extinguishing of the chalice

And we will, as is the tradition of our congregation here, finish our service with the words of God Be In My Head. And if you wish, you may substitute the word God, for love, or another word that you feel is more appropriate for you:


God (Love) be in my head,

And in my understanding;

God (Love) be in mine eyes,

And in my looking;

God (Love) be in my mouth,

And in my speaking;

God (Love) be in my heart,

And in my thinking;

God (Love) be at mine end,

And at my departing.

Exit music – Planet Earth – Prince