Work of the People

Worship was “the work of the people” this past Sunday

Here’s what our friends and members shared when asked to bring their worshipful view on Gifts

Be sure to be with us in worship next Sunday as we begin our worship theme, Promises, by celebrating Children’s Sunday at First U

 

Call to Worship Mariana Tupper reading her original poem, “Voices in the Meadow”

 

Time for All Ages Stew Guernsey – reading “These Are the Gifts” by Gregory Djanikian

 

These Are The Gifts –

For my daughter, 2 ½

 

They are her signature:

Sea shells in our boots and slippers,

Barrettes under each of our pillows,

Marbles and flecks of clay

In the deep mines of our pockets.

Some we find quickly, others

Are lost to us for weeks or months,

And when we come upon them

In our daily disorder, we are struck

By her industry, this extravagance

Which secretly replenishes

Our cupboards, baskets and drawers

With gifts from the heart.

O she ranges far and wide for her riches,

Returning with tales to astonish:

Of danger spilling like a jar of coins

Over the landing and down the stairs,

Of crabs in the graveled pathway,

Alligators in the flower beds,

And Mr. McGregor in all the gardens.

But she is undaunted, risking

Life and limb to retrieve for us

What the world mislays:

Surprise! she says, as she gives

Her mother a bouquet of sticks,

Happy birthday! she croons and squeaks

And pours into my hands a cupful

of pebbles, gum wrappers, leaves.

What can I hope for her

As she slips into my lap full of play

And laughter, squiggling her toes

While I count them, this pig, that pig,

The one who goes to market,

The one who starves,

The one who has luck,

The one who hasn’t any?

 

May she hold on to her courage always.

May she keep filling the world up

With the sweet presence of her mischief.

May she put her trinkets

In all the right shoes.

 

 

Morning Message

Opening – read by Rev. Jennifer

“This pause in time, within time … When did I first experience the exquisite sense of surrender that is only possible with another person? The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship …”  ― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

Nancy Austin reading her original reflection

Then the heavens broke open and it began to rain, lightly at first then with more gusto.  The absurdity of keeping my feet dry on a hike hit me! I looked at my feet and the puddles I had been trying to avoid, and began to laugh and laugh hysterically.

Peter Titcomb reading “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly off the blue walls of this room, moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano, from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor, when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist could send one into the past more suddenly— a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake learning how to braid long thin plastic strips into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard or wear one, if that’s what you did with them, but that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand again and again until I had made a boxy red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts, and I gave her a lanyard. She nursed me in many a sick room, lifted spoons of medicine to my lips, laid cold face-cloths on my forehead, and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim, and I , in turn, presented her with a lanyard. Here are thousands of meals, she said, and here is clothing and a good education. And here is your lanyard, I replied, which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart, strong legs, bones and teeth, and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered, and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp. And here, I wish to say to her now, is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother, but the rueful admission that when she took the two-tone lanyard from my hand, I was as sure as a boy could be that this useless, worthless thing I wove out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

 

Joanna Landsman reading her original reflection

I look at this book when I’m missing her, which is often. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I smile, but always I am thankful that I have these simple declarations, written in her own hand, and to know that she also read what I had written to her. This silly little gift to her has become so much bigger that I ever anticipated and more valuable to me than anything else I have.

Sarah Witte and friends reading “In the Japanese Garden” by Charmaine Aserappa

 

Be the still pool.

Let your face reflect the glory, the wonder.

Be the dragonfly, silent but joyful.

Be the bud. Prepare to blossom.

Be the tree. Grant shelter.

Be the butterfly.

Accept the riches of the moment.

Be the moth. Seek the light.

Be the lantern. Guide the lost.

Be the path.

Open the way for another.

Be the wind chime.

Let the breeze blow through you.

Turn the storms into song.

Be the rain.

Wash away, cleanse, forgive.

Be the grass.

Grow back when you are trod upon.

Be the bridge.

Reach in peace toward the other side.

Be the moss.

Temper your strength with softness,

with mercy.

Be the soil. Bear fruit.

Be the gardener. Create order.

Be the temple. Let the spirit dwell in you.

Be the seasons. Welcome change.

Be the pebble. Let time shape and smooth you.

Be the leaf.

Fall gracefully when your time

comes to let go.

Trust in the circle. To end is to begin.

 

 

Moment of Silence/Candles of Joy & Sorrow

Brenda McKee reading “I Wandered Lonely” by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

 

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

 

Extinguishing Our Chalice

Mariana Tupper reading her original poem “One of My Jobs”

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The lovely and powerful words of Eva Thompson….

Reading:

Please Call Me By My True Names (Thich Naht Hanh)

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow-

even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving

to be a bud on a Spring branch,

to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,

learning to sing in my new nest,

to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,

to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,

to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death

of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing

on the surface of the river.

And I am the bird

that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily

in the clear water of a pond.

And I am the grass-snake

that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,

my legs as thin a bamboo sticks.

And I am the arms merchant,

selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,

refugee on a small boat,

who throws herself into the ocean

after being raped by a sea pirate.

And I am the pirate,

my heart not yet capable

of seeing and loving.

My joy is like Spring, so warm

it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.

My pain is like a river of tears,

so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can wake up

and the door of my heart

could be left open,

the door of compassion.

Sermon:

“By Their Right Name” — Eva Thompson

On our recent travels, my husband and I have been keeping ‘trip lists’ of all the birds and wildlife that we see.

I’ve always informally done this, but lately I’ve become a bit obsessed with keeping a more accurate tally.

I’ve had in my head a quote by Boris Pasternik, which goes like this: “For a moment she rediscovered the purpose of her life. She was here on earth to grasp the meaning of its wild enchantment and to call each thing by its right name.”

If this quote sounds familiar, it could be that you remember it from the film “Into the Wild” – Christopher McCandless quoted this as he hunted for edible plants in the wilderness of Alaska.

Our lives did not depend on our identifying edible plants on our trip; we were only identifying birds and animals and listing what we saw, but somehow it seemed important to get it right.

There is power and understanding, in knowing things enough to call them by name.

Throughout history and literature and religion,

there is a common theme of the importance of names, starting with the biblical version of God creating the world and all the living things, and giving Adam the task of naming all the creatures in the Garden of Eden.

In the Muslim faith there are 99 names for God, and the Sufis believe that through their rituals, they may learn the 100th name; thus achieving a full and complete understanding of God, and of even merging with God.

In the Jewish tradition, one letter of the name of God is often left out or unspoken; for we cannot know all.

In her Earthsea series, the author Ursula Le Guin

wrote that knowing another man or dragon’s name

gave you power over them; sharing one’s true name with another was an act of complete trust.

And we’ve seen an echo of that ‘power of withholding ones name’ in more recent literature — in the Harry Potter series we have “He Who Shall Not be Named” and the belief that The Dark Lord could trace anyone who uttered his name.

It gave him a tremendous amount of power – power that Harry Potter tried to take back, in part by not being afraid to use his name.

Sometimes saying a thing out loud is the hardest part.

 

 

You already know the wisdom that says that identifying our problems is the first step in changing them — I don’t need to convince anyone of that.

For some of us it might mean facing the reality of a major illness and the brevity of life; for others it may mean standing up for the first time in front of a room full of people, admitting that you have an addiction. Or it could mean declaring out loud that a marriage is not working, or that a job is not working – and what can be made different about it, to keep it from failing?

We all have our own things that we struggle with, but there’s a common need, I think, to define what’s going on so we can tame it.

We need to know it by its right name.

 

 

 

One young person that I know has been struggling with depression and self-image. Bullying not being limited to school playgrounds, he has had unkind things said to him, and he has taken to social media to spread the word that we should all try to be kinder.

I admire his attempt to be open about his struggles, and his hopes that by talking about it we can lift some of the stigma of depression and mental illness. Hopefully he, along with all the rest of us, learn that although we cannot avoid all the nastiness in our world, hopefully we CAN control the volume knob. We can try to turn down the negative influences while turning up the volume of the positive influences in our lives.

So I’ve been thinking about my recent obsession with knowing the proper names of things, and the gist of it seems to be this: if we haven’t named it, we cannot tame it (as in, our problems) nor can we claim it (as in, our strengths).

There’s a Buddhist thought that whenever we’re feeling happy we should remember to say “HappyThankYouMorePlease,” to invite more of the same into our lives.

But we e cannot do that, if we haven’t taken time to recognize and name our own emotions.

Of course, we’re quick with our opinions about all that is wrong with the world and with other people; but much slower to recognize and name our own behavior.

How often do we find ourselves expressing anger, when it’s actually fear underlying the anger, which we should be paying attention to?

How often do we try to “protect” each other by using euphemisms, especially around the topic of death? In our society, death is still one of the big taboo subjects; one of the more difficult discussions to be honest about. I saw a quote the other day that 90% of us think we should have discussions about our own deaths, but only 30% of us actually do so.

And then we wonder why so many people get funneled into treatments at the end of life that they didn’t need or didn’t want.

In other cultures, the whole issue of death is not quite as scary.

The great Mexican poet Octavio Paz has observed that, “The Mexican is familiar with death; jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it;

— it is one of his favorite toys and most steadfast love.”

And Africans have a proverb, which roughly translated says “The ladder of death is not climbed only by one person.” For Africans, death traditionally is “not an individual affair,” but “binds up relationships in society, revitalizing the living and underscoring their sense of community.”

What a difference, between that sentiment of death binding us together as community — and our society’s tendency to avoid the whole topic as much as possible, lest we make each other uncomfortable.

And so I’m talking here about naming our own emotions and behavior; for taking responsibility for being authentic about what we’re feeling, even if does make us uncomfortable.

If we are paying attention to what is happening, and being flexible in our attitudes about it, we can re-name, and re-frame, certain ideas.

Thereby, what was once known derisively by some as “Death Panels” can now be seen simply as fair compensation to doctors who spend time discussing end of life care with their patients. These discussions are important for many of us who are aging or ill, and now that we’re re-naming and re-framing the issue, Medicare may be able to compensate doctors for their time, thus encouraging more discussions.

I’m pretty sure that this will be a win-win for everyone.

It’s pretty obvious that what we call something is important, and that we can sway public opinion just in the way that we phrase things.

*** So there’s a knack, maybe, to knowing how to name a thing for ourselves, which helps us know and understand our position – to “claim it and to tame it” and yet not make the mistake of lapsing into generalizations.

All of this is what I’ve been wrestling with, lately.

Recently I came across James Fowlers “Five stages of faith development,” which are loosely based on the psychological stages of growth and development done by Piaget and others – but this time focusing on faith development.

The early stages are the age-appropriate views that you’d expect. Being of middle age myself, I was struck mostly by Fowler’s 5th Stage, often experienced at middle age, involving what he calls

“the sacrament of defeat.”

But his words make sense: at mid-life we are facing the consequences of choices that we’ve made in our lives, that can’t be undone. Yet, he says, there is lots of “undoing” at this stage. Strangers and strange thoughts (especially paradoxical ones) might no longer frightening, but compelling.

Fowler says that at this point in our lives, we are (quote) “ready to be spent; emptying our pockets in one last ditch effort to make meaning.” (unquote)

That last-ditch effort to make meaning out of our lives;

to face that fear of that one big unknown:

 

What did this life of mine mean?

 

 

 

I understand that fear, and that urge, and maybe you do, too.

If all we were concerned about was earning our living and getting by, we wouldn’t be here together on a Sunday morning.

There’s more to learn here, than that, and we’re here for such a brief time, to help each other do that.

I’ve become convinced lately that it’s important to find ourselves in that state of being “ready to be spent;” — to find meaning in our lives even if it means taking back the power that the unknown can have over us.

Life is short and fragile, and we’re all missing out if we’re not paying attention to the beauty all around us. Not just simply that it’s “a nice day” out; but noticing the details, and asking the Universe for more of the same.

Turning up the volume on the beauty, to counteract all that is not beautiful.

I’m not saying you all need to start keeping bird lists on your next adventure – I’m not even sure what to do with mine, once I’ve made them – but I would suggest that we all pay attention to what’s out there – and to teach our children to appreciate all the critters that we share space with.

If we’re quick to make assumptions that some creatures are dangerous or bad, it becomes all to easy for us to justify killing them: all snakes, for instance — or all the wolves. And then it becomes all too easy to extend those kinds of thoughts further: to categories of people, or anything we don’t personally agree with or understand.

To not know things, by name and by habit, is to allow misunderstandings and prejudices to grow; a dangerous and limiting way of living in this world.

It’s expansive, when we honor and respect the creatures around us by taking time to learn their names and their natures.

We respect one another and ourselves, when we are clear about who we are and what our needs are. Parker J. Palmer said it best when he wrote:

“I can’t think of a sadder way to die than with the knowledge that I never showed up in this world as who I really am. I can’t think of a more graced way to die than with the knowledge that, as best I knew how, I showed up here as my true self — able to engage the world in freedom and with love because I had become fierce with reality.”

Maybe that idea of becoming “fierce with reality” is what this has all been about, for me: at midlife, and at life’s end, to feel like I have finally been real.

Maybe that’s why Fowler’s 5th Stage, that “sacrament of defeat” takes on somewhat of a double meaning: not just the experiencing of some defeats in life thanks to choices we’ve made, but a more victorious defeat: the defeat over fear,

in the face of our becoming stronger in who we are.

In Corinthians it says “For now we see through a glass, darkly;

but then face to face:

now I know in part; but then shall I know

even as I am known.”

Interpret that how you will. For me, right now, that verse speaks to me in my quest to both know more of this world – to know things by their right names — and to be known more honestly, before I go.

Maybe it’s a little bit of heaven right here on earth, when we can shed our fears about how others see us, and to tame and to claim our whole selves.

May we leave here today with the goal of seeing more clearly what is going on around us; of being awake and alert.

May we find ourselves willing to be “spent,” in our search for meaning.

May we honor our fellow creatures, as well as our own emotions

in all their variety, and know them by their right names.

Amen.

The Antidote – The Worship Blog of the First Universalist Church of Yarmouth

This year our Themes support us in replacing fear with hope, celebration, and the ability to lead transformation in our families and our nation. Along with Religious Education, our worship conversation and spiritual practices equip us to embrace our Unitarian Universalist identity in every aspect of our lives.

Says Worship Council member, Sarah Witte: We want to find strength, beauty, meaning, resolve, fellowship for the work ahead. And we want to celebrate. Did you see the photo I posted on the church FB page? It says, “Until further notice… Celebrate Everything!” 

It is the tradition of our faith to comfort the challenged and challenge the comfortable. Our worship services are a means of finding solace in a hurting world. As poet David Whyte writes:

candle“Solace is not an evasion, nor a cure for our suffering, nor a made up state of mind. Solace is a direct seeing and participation; a celebration of the beautiful coming and going, appearance and disappearance of which we have always been a part. Solace is not meant to be an answer, but an invitation, through the door of pain and difficulty, to the depth of suffering and simultaneous beauty in the world that the strategic mind by itself cannot grasp nor make sense of.”

They are also meant to call us to be the church – to be of service to the world. Worship, and our religious education conversation for all ages, equip us with “The Antidote” to fear-mongering, exclusion and the push to quantify those on the margins and somehow qualify the inequities that put them there. Our Antidote is a very small handle on a huge box of love and light that together, as a community, we can open and use.