Prelude – “Simple Gifts” arr. Jason Tonioli, performed by Anna Anna Kojovic-Frodl
Call to Worship
One of the new things Rev. Marlene brought us when she came to OBUUC was the Soul Matters program from the UUA. Each month, the UUA choses a different theme around which services may be organized. This month’s theme is Abundance. This Call to Worship is adapted from the words of Angela Herrera:
Today, we come together “to see the abundance of love, generosity, and meaning overflowing in our lives.” We come “to transcend our either/or, limited, scarcity thinking about gender, ability, nationality, culture, and race, to see that there are myriad, abundant ways of being, and that they are beautiful in their spectacular array.”
Come, let us worship together.
Chalice Lighting – Rev. Dr. James Kubal-Komoto:
“As we kindle this flame, may we be open to that spirit within us and amidst us that inspires us to a deeper, fuller, richer, more abundant experience of life.”
Peace (Love) Be With You … And With All Living Things
Message for All Ages
We are blessed…
We are blessed by being…
We are blessed by being here…
We are blessed by being here together.
Meditation and Reflection
While I can’t say I’ve tried Marie Kondo’s precise instructions for folding clothes so that they are “happy” and everything is neat and easy to find, I did find a wonderful concept in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She said that when going through your way-too-many possessions, the idea is not to decide what to get rid of, it’s to decide what to keep.
If you think, “I have to get rid of things,” you are putting yourself in a position of scarcity – “I won’t have this thing anymore,” and you find your hand closing and clutching so nothing gets away.
If you think, “What do I want to keep so that my home – my life – only contains the things – the people, the ideas, the values – I find useful or beautiful, and so I feel happy,” then you are putting yourself in a position of abundance and your hand relaxes and opens. You can see some things as superfluous to your needs or wants and it’s easier to pass them along.
We live in abundance. We have enough.
Our musical reflection is a mantra: I “Easily Find Abundance” by Beautiful Chorus
As I mentioned at the beginning of the service, the Soul Matters theme for this month is Abundance. At the same time, we all know, yesterday was July 4 – the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That is always an occasion to be marked – especially by an American History major, like me. So, my task today is to weave those two ideas into one short Reflection.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “abundance” as “1. An ample quantity; 2. Affluence or wealth; and 3. Relative degree of plentifulness.”
There is no question that we are a nation of abundance – no matter how you look at it:
As a nation, we have a plenitude of resources and wealth. We also have a plenitude of people in need.
We live in a land of incredible natural beauty, and tend to take incredibly poor care of it.
We have immense power, and sometimes an immense scarcity of wisdom in how to exercise it.
We are known for our openness and optimism – and for our racism and cruelty.
We are lavishly proud of our rights, and lavishly callous about denying them to some among us, as well as lavishly forgetful that those rights come with accompanying responsibilities.
We are incredibly generous – and incredibly thoughtless and uncaring.
If there is one thing we in this nation have in unquestioned abundance, it is contradictions about who we are and how we want and need to be.
We know we’ll never get everyone to agree on everything. There will be no great “Kumbaya” moment. After all, if, as the saying goes, you find 4 UUs discussing a subject, you’re likely to find at least 6 differing opinions – then getting 350+ million people to agree on anything is more than highly unlikely. Still, we have to find a way to get closer.
I believe the two greatest stumbling blocks to us being the abundantly great nation we ought to be are these:
First, too many of us believe that we exist in a zero-sum world; and
Second, not enough of us really believe (although we say we do) in the Golden Rule.
Too often, we see everything as a zero-sum proposition: there is a limited amount of anything. Once someone takes something out of that pot – whatever it is – there is less remaining for everyone else. Since I don’t want to have nothing, I should, when given a chance, take as much out of the pot as I possibly can. People understand this because, in so many ways that they can see, it is clearly true. There are only so many scoops of ice cream in the package. Once they’ve been taken, they’re gone.
The trouble comes when we extrapolate that out to every possible thing in our lives, because, One, not everything in our lives is zero-sum, and, Two, thinking this way leads to being greedy and grasping, selfish and inhumane, and, Three, no matter how much you get by acting this way, it will never be enough and you will never be satisfied or content.
Some things are not zero-sum by their very nature. We all know this. We do not have, at any time, a quantifiable amount of love, so that giving that love to one person means we have less for someone else. What we learn about love is that the more we give, the more we have – and that’s not even counting the love we are given back. No zero-sum here. The same goes for admiration and respect, kindness, humor and laughter, creativity and joy.
What about the physical requirements for life? I suppose there is a limit to how many people can be supported by the oxygen supply in the air, but we haven’t come close to that yet. There’s plenty of water, too, and we can still grow and raise more than enough food for everyone on earth. The issue with these resources isn’t their available quantity, it’s safety and distribution. Those are the kinds of problems human beings are uniquely qualified to solve, if we have an abundance of will.
And then, there’s that Golden Rule thing. Too often, in practice, it gets twisted into: Treat me the way I feel I should be treated, while I treat you as poorly as I can get away with. Unless, of course, I want you to give me something, in which case I’ll treat you like you’d like to be treated while you can treat me just about any way you want.
Behaving like that just shows is that you have no respect either for yourself or anyone else.
There’s a reason the Golden Rule, in different variations, but the same meaning, is found in just about every religious tradition: It works. It greases the wheels of life, so that – ideally – everyone is cared for, respected, encouraged to contribute. And it’s easy to understand. As the Dalai Lama has said: “The first step toward living a happy life is to treat every other human with kindness. There are several steps after that, but I can’t remember right now.”
In the United States, however, the Golden Rule seems to come up against another ideal: rugged individualism. There’s an idea that “I’ll take care of me and mine. You take care of you and yours. You don’t tell me what to do, and I won’t tell you what to do.”
Rugged individualism is fine for some rugged individuals, but has never been the basis for a successful civilization. There may be some few people out there, totally off the grid and living like hermits, but human beings are, of necessity, social animals. To produce adults with human brainpower, our babies need to be born years away from being able to care for themselves in any meaningful way, which means we have to be able to care for them. We live in groups because we have evolved to need each other in order to do this.
One of the most interesting things I’ve read recently was that someone once asked Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, what she thought was the earliest sign of civilization. The questioner expected her to say something about taming animals or growing crops. What she said was the earliest sign of civilization from her point of view was an ancient human femur that showed a healed fracture. When an animal cannot walk or run because of a broken femur, it usually dies, because it becomes easy prey or because it can no longer procure its own food. The other animals of its kind do not – cannot – care for it until it heals. At some point, a human being, in a pack, broke a femur. Instead of leaving that person to die, the pack cared for the person, feeding them from what others had procured and protecting them from predators, until the fracture healed and the person could join the work of the pack again. The other members of the pack didn’t have to do that. They did it because the person was valuable to them no matter their ability to contribute at that moment. They did it because they expected the pack to do the same for them if they needed it. They treated the injured person the way they would want to be treated under the same circumstances. The Golden Rule.
The United States Constitution says, in the Preamble, that it was developed “in order to form a more perfect union.” It was clear then, as it is now, that the union we have not only isn’t perfect at this moment, but that it can only be made “more perfect.” Perfection is the goal, constantly attempted but never achieved.
What we can do as our contribution toward making this a “more perfect union,” is to realize that the abundance of our nation is not a zero-sum proposition. If we all contribute our best to the whole, the sum will be greater than what we have all added to the pot. We can also realize that the best way to contribute is by using the Golden Rule as our guide and acting in the knowledge that none of us is greater or lesser than any others of us and that all of us have something of value to add to our nation’s abundance.
Benediction and Chalice Extinguishing by Susan Karlson
“We leave blessed by our connection to one another and to the spirit of life.
Walk lightly that you may see the life that is below your feet.
Spread your arms as if you had wings and could dance through the air.
Feel the joy of the breath in your lungs and the fire in your heart.
Live to love and be a blessing on this earth.
Go in Peace, gentle people,
Go in Peace – and Unrest.
Postlude – “America The Beautiful” performed by Anna Kojovic-Frodl