“Miracles”

Worship Script 3


 

Ordinary Miracles

Worship Script (3 of 5)

OPENING WORDS

“Wonders” from Moorings: Moments of Meditation and Prayer by Orlanda Brugnola

 

There is so much more

Than we can comprehend

In the nature of things,

In their beauty,

And in their sadness.

May we be open

To those wondrous moments

When the universe would speak with us

By starfall or storm,

Rock or butterfly,

Leaf or fox,

Bud or snowflake.

May we hold precious

Such strange communions as occur

And know ourselves blessed.

 

HYMN #21  For the Beauty of the Earth

FIRST READING

Matthew 14:15-21  (NRSV)

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.


SECOND READING
History of Habitat for Humanity, from the Habitat for Humanity website  www.habitat.org/about/history

The idea that became Habitat for Humanity first grew from the fertile soil of Koinonia Farm, a community farm outside of Americus, Georgia, founded by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan.

On the farm, Jordan and Habitat’s eventual founders Millard and Linda Fuller developed the concept of “partnership housing.” The concept centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build decent, affordable houses. The houses would be built at no profit. New homeowners’ house payments would be combined with no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fundraising to create “The Fund for Humanity,” which would then be used to build more homes.

Beau and Emma were the owners of the first home built by Koinonia’s Partnership Housing Program. They and their five children moved into a concrete-block home with a modern kitchen, indoor bathroom and heating system, replacing the unpainted, uninsulated shack with no plumbing where they had previously lived.

In 1973, the Fullers decided to take the Fund for Humanity concept to Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. After three years of hard work to launch a successful house building program there, the Fullers then returned to the United States and called together a group of supporters to discuss the future of their dream: Habitat for Humanity International, founded in 1976.

 

HYMN #37  God Who Fills the Universe

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Jericho “A Bucketful of Dreams: Contemporary Parables for All Ages” by Christopher Buice


Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Olympia who had a dream. She dreamed that one day she would grow up to be a minister. But during the 1800s, only men were ministers, so it didn’t seem likely that Olympia’s dream would come true. Olympia, however, continued to dream.

Time passed, and the little girl became a young woman. Olympia wrote a letter to a school that taught people how to be ministers, and her letter said that she would like to study there. The school wrote back and told her that it was not a good idea for her to come because she was a woman. Olympia was crushed. It was like someone had put a giant wall between her and her dream. But then she remembered a story from the Bible about a man named Joshua.

Joshua was leading the Hebrew people out of the desert into the Promised Land. But when they arrived, they discovered they had a problem—somebody else was living there. The Hebrew people were tired and wanted to rest. They had wandered with Moses in the desert for 40 years trying to find a home. After Moses died, Joshua had led the Hebrew people to a beautiful land, but the people of that land did not want to share it with them. They had built a giant wall around the city of Jericho and were prepared to fight to keep Joshua’s people out.

Joshua marched up to the walled city and knocked on the door. “Open the door and let us in!” he cried. But the people of the city replied, “Not by the hair of our chinny chin chins!”

Joshua walked away feeling very sad. The walls of Jericho were very high, and there seemed no way his people could enter the city to find a home there. Feeling stressed, Joshua went to find a quiet spot to meditate.

As Joshua sat in his quiet spot, he got a crazy idea. In fact, the idea was so crazy he was sure it came from God. Joshua ran to tell his people, and all the Hebrew people gathered to hear him speak.

“Let us march around the walls of Jericho and blow our ram’s horn,” Joshua told them.

The Hebrew people were quiet for a moment. They were waiting for the rest of the idea, but Joshua remained silent. Finally, someone asked, “And then what?”

“That’s it,” Joshua said. “That’s the plan. Don’t you love it? We will march around the walls of the city once a day for seven days and blow our horns.”

Now, most people thought that Joshua had lost his marbles, but they went along with the idea. For six days they marched around the walls of Jericho blowing their horns and, in truth, they felt like idiots. But on the seventh day, something incredible happened. As the Hebrew people blew their horns, the walls of Jericho began to rumble and shake. Suddenly, the city walls came tumbling to the ground! Joshua’s crazy idea had worked! The Hebrew people were free to walk right into the Promised Land.

As Olympia remembered the story of Joshua, she began to get her own crazy idea. She decided that she would go to the school for ministers and take classes no matter what anyone else said, and that is just what she did. The men didn’t know what to do when Olympia showed up. They got very nervous and tried to talk her out of her dream. But Olympia wouldn’t let anyone put a wall between her and her dream. Finally, the men decided that they could not stop Olympia. She studied hard and was every bit as smart, if not smarter, than the men in the school.

In 1863, Olympia Brown was ordained a Universalist minister. She was one of the first woman ministers in America. Olympia’s dream came true because she knew that although there is a time to be quiet, sometimes you have to blow your own horn before the walls come tumbling down.

 

MEDITATION
By Francisco X. Alarcon

May our ears

Hear

What nobody

Wants to hear.

 

May our eyes

See

What everyone

Wants to hide.

 

May our mouths

Speak

Our trues faces

And hearts.

 

May our arms

Be branches

That give shade

And joy.

 

Let us be a drizzle

A sudden storm

Let us get wet

In the rain.

 

Let us be the key

The hand in the door

The kick the ball

The road

 

Let us arrives

As children

To this huge playground --

 

The universe

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

"Ordinary Miracles" by Laurie Bushbaum


I love a magic show because the magician appears to do the impossible. But I also know that they deal in illusion and use specially-designed props. Still, I always leave shaking my head just a little, not wanting to miss anything! A magic show pulls me out of my ho-hum daily attitude, jostles me into keener awareness. And perhaps that is what Albert Einstein meant when he said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”

The older I get, the more inclined I am to see everything as magic, as miracle. I know that when I go through my days fully alive and awake to what’s around me, I live a happier, richer existence. I savor my cappuccino, marvel at fresh carrots, enjoy the heck out of a conversation, poem or good book. And what about the human invention of music? It is magical and miraculous. If I practiced diligently for a very long time, I might learn to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but I’d so much rather practice being delighted daily by the ordinary miracles around me.

In general, I think it is easier for UUs to talk about magic than about miracles. It’s easier to keep the magic of fairy tales in perspective, than, say, the miracle stories in Judeo-Christian sacred texts. We don’t feel our belief system challenged by three wishes from a frog in a fairy tale in the same way we may feel threatened by the story of Jesus raising the dead. We know that in fairy tales magic is symbolic. But when it comes to religion, we squirm at the magical and miraculous.

I suspect this is true because religious conservatives take miracle stories as literal truth, rather than symbolic truth. Many of us, in order to distance ourselves from this lack of rationality in religion, remove ourselves entirely from the miraculous in religious stories. Thomas Jefferson was a perfect example. He created his own version of the Bible, which became known as “The Jefferson Bible.” To do this, Jefferson simply removed all the miracle stories.

I understand his desire to affirm the use of reason in religion. But I see this tactic as a particular stage of faith development, not a final answer. It’s true: at some point in our lives we need to understand the difference betweeen a rabbit with a pocket watch sliding down a backyard hole to another Wonderland kingdom and the very skittish real rabbit in the back yard.

But here’s where the rubber hits the road; after we know the difference between the fantastical and the real, we might then discover that the lines between the two are more fluid than what we so carefully delineated.

We UUs can get so hung up on using our rational minds that we forget to look for truth in story and metaphor. So let me tell you a couple stories. First is a Biblical miracle story, which we could easily dismiss as preposterous on a rational level. But I hope you will hang in there with me while we dig a little deeper.

In the Christian Gospels Jesus is tired and travels by boat to a quiet place for some rest. However, he is followed by crowds eager to hear his teachings. The story continues:

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

 “Bring them here to me.” And he directed the people to sit down on the grass.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, Jesus gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand.

 Now, I want you to hold that in one hand while I tell you another story. In 1974 self-made millionaire Millard Fuller and his wife Linda had a change of heart. They had incredible material wealth but were unhappy. Their marriage was in trouble. After much soul-searching, they decided to take very seriously the Bible’s call to them as Christians to share their wealth and help the poor. They literally sold all their possessions and gave the money to the poor and sought a new focus for their lives.

They ended up at Koinonia Farm, in Americus, Georgia, a small Christian community in which people were struggling to understand what it meant to live the teachings of Jesus today. From Koinonia Farm, the Fullers started Habitat for Humanity. With the staggering vision of decent housing for every person on earth, they set out to do impossible magic. What began as a handful of people in Georgia has been transformed into teams of thousands of volunteers in 100 countries building and renovating homes for 6.8 million people.

And what is even more magical about this is that Habitat doesn’t just build houses. It builds community and hope and skills. That’s why it works. Imagine raising three children in a tar-paper shack, say, or a broken bus. Then imagine being told that a lot of people who don’t even know you are going to help you build a house. And in the process, you are befriended and blessed by all the other workers. In the months of work you learn new skills and discover that you have more strength than you imagined. In the end you not only have a house, and hope, you have had the experience of being part of a supportive team.

In a tiny way I feel a part of this magic because every month I send off my pledge money to Habitat. It’s only enough to buy a sheet of plywood or a few bags of nails. But lots of others do the same. And that’s how the multitude builds many houses. On the one hand you have a Biblical miracle story about Jesus’ disciples feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. On the other hand we have a story about one wealthy couple following Jesus’ teachings, and from the seed of their idea thousands and thousands of lives have been touched. Might both be stories that tell us something about abundance created out of compassion and shared commitment?

I don’t think there is any neat and tidy answer about miracles. Maybe the message is only this: We are not supposed to believe the impossible, but every once in a while it shows up anway, just to keep us on our toes, reminding us to keep all the doors and windows of our being wide open. It is not impossible that we, ourselves, might be the ones to make miracles.

 

HYMN #298   Wake, Now, My Senses

 

BENEDICTION

by Richard S. Gilbert, Adapted.

 

We are.

Therefore we love . . .

We love.

Therefore, we are.

 

May we be humble before the wonder

Of what we dare to create.