Ours is a faith that challenges us to ever do better, to recognize the silenced voices among us, and to lead with the creative and redemptive power of love.
The theme of today’s service is Becoming. It’s idea that resonates this month of April, with the rebirth of life that we witness each Spring, and with the unfolding promise of where we, here at OBUUC, stand today.
Call To Worship Let this Be a Place of Silence By Barbara Stevens
Let this be a place of warm and gentle silence:
the silence that soothes and comforts the wounded,
the silence that yields insights into heart and soul,
the silence that calms,
the silence that listens,
the silence that speaks,
the silence that renews.
Let this be a place of warm and gentle silence.
Prelude: Etude in the Style of Fugue, Antoine Riecha, performed by Anna Kojovic-Frodl
Chalice Lighting:In Honor of First Steps, Rev Scott Taylor
We light this chalice in honor of first steps.
For beginning even when the path ahead is unclear.
For the courage it takes to trust
that the way will reveal itself
that light will come to clarify our vision
that friends will be by our side.
May the words, song, stillness and common breath of this hour,
remind us that every step of the way
Is never one we take alone.
Gesture of Friendship:
Message For All Ages:
Reading: excerpted from Litany for Becoming, By enfleshed
To become is a life long process.
Nothing is constant,
not even the self.
We evolve in the midst of narratives meant only for some
and ways of being made narrow by fear and power.
We must, then, have the courage to listen to the truth of our own lives,
to the wisdom that comes from within—
responding without resistance or need to control,
but with welcome and curiosity.
This is what ensures our becoming is an unfolding
of our truest self.
This lifelong labor cannot be carried out alone. It requires help
from friends, and lovers, family, and creaturely companions
who bear witness to what makes us come alive.
And say to us, “Listen. Look. Feel. Pay attention to that.
(Many): This is loving and being loved.
Hymn: A New World by Lea Morris
First Reflection: by Lynn Orlando
I’ll begin with this:
“Rain is made up of single drops of water.”
The theme of our service today is “becoming”. Becoming as a flower bud opens in its own time, as one drop of water joins with other drops to create rain.
“Becoming” is a journey we begin the day we are born. We will continue “becoming”, unfolding, growing, developing until we take our last breath.
I will reflect on what it is to become the person you already have the potential to be. On unfolding effortlessly. On growing with clear actions, no matter how small, that help others.
Today I will try to persuade you to believe in the power of small actions. I will try to convince you that those small actions help you to become the compassionate being that you actually already are, but don’t always know it.
During my time at the Original Root Zen Center in Racine, Master Teacher Tony Somlai sat with me one morning in the Meditation Room. He explained about the rule of cause and effect. A person acts and there is always a result of that action. Our only role in that equation, he explained, is the “cause” part. We can never depend on knowing what the effect of our actions will be. We can, however, take action anyway. So instead of “cause and effect” it may be clearer to live by “cause and cause and cause”, according to the Master Teacher.
Now I will tell you about Gurdeep, a man who is to me the king of cause and cause and cause.
Rainbow Falls is in the wilderness of Yukon Territory. You get there by turning into the only road for miles and miles off of The Alaska Highway.
Stuart and I visited the falls in 2017. We drove from Haines, Alaska. In the back seat of our rental car were two people, the mayor of Haines, a woman who is a member of the Tlinget tribe in Haines, and Stuart’s son, Ben, both prepared to drum, sing and dance to Tlinget songs.
The occasion of our visit to Rainbow Falls was a celebration of rivers and lakes in Canada. As we drove into that solitary road, we saw Native women beading and leather-working. We saw a woman in a kilt holding bagpipes. There were tribal elders, teenagers, a man with a washtub bass, a fiddler and a few others. And…there was Gurdeep, a man from Punjab, India, a dancer, who was clearly interested in dancing Bhangra style to bagpipe and fiddle music played by his friends.
After a bit of practice, a ceremony began. Prayers were sung for the health and safety of the rivers and lakes. Tlinget dances and songs were offered to the waters. Finally, Gurdeep unfolded his body into a Bhangra dance to Scottish bagpipe and fiddle music. Native drums and washtub bass joined. I was sure world peace was going to break out then and there.
After the ceremony we all came together to eat, share stories and dance. Gurdeep even taught us all how to dance Bhangra style.
Peace and hope overcame me that day. I wanted to stay there forever.
Four years later, a few weeks ago I came across Gurdeep on Facebook. He dances every day with the intention of spreading hope and joy to all beings. What really startles and astounds me is that this man, who lives in the wilderness of Northern Canada, by himself, off the grid with no indoor plumbing…had an idea…like a single drop of water…to dance every day, simply, effortlessly, for the happiness of all beings and post the video on Facebook. He is an inspiration to thousands of people who see his daily videos and share in his joy.
The journey of our “becoming” is a long one. It starts the day we are born and ends when we take our last breath. We can progress on that journey when we take time to sit with our senses and pay attention to what is needed to help all beings. Through trusting our compassionate nature we will understand how we can help, no matter how small or simple the action is.
If we are skeptical of these small actions, we can think of Gurdeep and his dancing videos. We can think of Rosa Parks who sat down, or Malala who stood up, or Ghandi who walked or Greta Thunberg who held up a sign.
Sometimes our ideas seem so small, like a drop of water carried to a forest fire by a sparrow. But through connection with other compassionate beings, our water droplets might just turn to rain and put out that fire. Whether it puts out the fire or not, though, it is still important to act.
Remember…Rain is made up of single drops of water.
Meditation: In the Silence, by Rev. Sara Eileen LaWall
Spirit of life and love,
In the silence
In the stillness
We hear the call of our own heart
Its tender dreams
Its sorrows and its triumphs
In the silence
In the stillness
We hear whispers of days gone by
Of dreams still becoming
The promise of the future
We celebrate together
Our individual journeys and dreams
And our collective ones
Knowing the journey is so much richer
With others to share in it.
In the name of all that is holy we pray.
Offertory: Joc de Leagane Folkdance
Second Reflection: by Lisa Scott Ptacek
The practice of discovering that inside you which wants to be born.
The practice of no longer hiding.
The practice of continual growth.
Becoming – What – an intriguing theme – ripe with possibilities and promise.
The idea of looking forward to what we are becoming, naturally invites us also to look back at where we’ve been.
After sharing a lifetime of service with us,
Tony ended his ministry here in December, 2017.
Which means that we have been in this liminal space, for 3 years now.
Liminal: The “crossing over” space –
a space where you have left something behind,
yet you are not yet fully in something else.
It’s a space of transition.
Collectively, we have experienced many things during this time;
we have grieved the loss of a beloved minister
who brought us comfort and discomfort,
peace and unrest, on a weekly basis;
We have squirmed with the challenge of change,
of being asked to give up what was familiar and cherished,
and to explore new ways of doing things.
We’ve felt impatience for the long time it has taken.
And now here we are, poised on the threshold of change. In a few short weeks, we will meet our candidate for the next settled minister at OBUUC, and I know there are at least 7 people who are really hoping we will be as taken as they are, and will vote to call this candidate to become our new minister at OBUUC
And then, at long last, we might draw a line between what was, and what is, to become.
We can bring closure to the 42-year legacy of the ministry of Tony Larson, and look back at it,
and to release.
With a new settled minister installed at OBUUC, a new future beckons us…
What will we become?
Who will we become?
In the past few years, we have strengthened our connection to the Unitarian Universalist Association. The language of the sermons we have heard from the UUA focuses on our commitment to Social Justice and the creation of a Beloved Community, both within our denomination, and in the larger community.
We may not be aware that the term Beloved Community was popularized by Martin Luther King. These are his words:
Love is creative and redemptive. Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys. The aftermath of the ‘fight with fire’ method…is bitterness and chaos, the aftermath of the love method is reconciliation and creation of the beloved community.
The work of Social Justice has been central to our identity at OBUUC. Tony’s community presence and leadership in this area drew many of us to this church. The heightened attention that Social Justice is gaining nationally, and the language of inclusion and systemic racism is familiar to us;
we have been in training for a long time.
We are ready to become,
to move into a new world,
to make real, the promise of a Beloved Community.
But what about the language of Spirituality? What place does Spirituality hold in the expression and the practice of the UU faith?
How do we define it?
Well, it means different things to different people.
The experience of spirituality is different for all of us
Some seek a spiritual state through the breath, through chanting, or meditation.
Some find a spiritual experience in dance – losing all sense of self and becoming one with the rhythm and the movement of the music.
Others may find a sacred experience in immersing themselves Nature Author Terry Tempest Williams says, Nature quiets the mind by engaging with an intelligence larger than our own.
Ah, there’s a clue – “an intelligence larger than our own.”
A larger life force,
a connection to all of Humanity,
to one another,
to the Universe.
Unitarians love information.
We approach worship through our intellect.
(But) Spirituality is not an intellectual exercise.
It’s not a decision, a choice, or a statement of values.
It’s not a commitment to a cause.
It’s a feeling. It’s a place.
It’s a place of knowing that doesn’t arrive through thought.
Spirituality is a sense of the profound,
Of something much greater than ourselves.
It’s transcendental, a moment when your sense of your individual self, drops away and you are centered, filled with peace, a sense of connection.
Knowing at once your own insignificance and yet your own essential place in this fabric of all existence.
A spiritual moment can happen unexpectedly, spontaneously, an unanticipated gift.
Suddenly you are awash with a sense of love and peace.
If, by its nature, it is unexpected, if it arrives unbidden, can it happen in church?
Should it be happening in church?
Our Unitarian Universalist faith is one of deep conviction, of putting our faith into action.
According to the UUA website,
We are brave, curious, and compassionate thinkers
aligned in our desire to make a difference for the good.
We have a track record of standing on the side of love, justice, and peace.
Action. Thought. Commitment.
We know how to live out our principles.
But do we take as much time to become quiet; to reflect, to explore the joy, the suffering, the universality of human experience?
Do we make space to embrace the questions, the uncertainty, the fear, the deep sorrow that makes us all human?
A few weeks ago, Rev Eric imagined what it will be like when at last we are able to join together again in person.
What a celebration that would be!
But he counseled us to make room for the sorrow of the moment.
He said, “Perhaps we need the catharsis of tears long held, deeply within.
What would it be like if we all cried together over all we’ve lost?”
That would be a spiritual moment.
A moment of connection, and love; a feeling of communion
Our UU faith is based on 7 principles, with a possible 8th to be added.
What is not as well known or talked about is that it is also based on 6 sources of wisdom and spirituality.
This is the first of the six sources which our congregations affirm and promote:
(The) direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
We are here, now, poised on the edge of a new beginning.
What will we become?
Who will we become?
Closing Words: All That We Have Been, All That We Will Become By Leslie Ahuvah Fails
All that we have been separately
and all that we will become together
is stretched out before and behind us
like stars scattered across a canvas of sky.
We stand at the precipice, arms locked
together like tandem skydivers
working up the courage to jump.
Tell me, friends:
What have we got to lose?
Our fear of failure?
Our mistrust of our own talents?
What have we got to lose?
A poverty of the spirit?
The lie that we are alone?
What wonders await us in the space
between the first leap
and the moment our feet, our wheels
however we move our bodies
across this precious earth
touch down softly on unknown soil?
What have we got to lose
that we can’t replace with some
previously unimaginable joy?
Blessed are you, Spirit of Life
who has sustained us, enlivened us
and enabled us to reach this moment.
Give us courage in our leaping,
and gratitude in our landing.
And share with us in the joy of a long
and fruitful ministry together.
Postlude: Siciliano, John Allock, performed by Anna Kojovic-Frodl