Restoration”

Worship Script 2


 Worship Script (2 of 4)

Restoration as Living Tradition

 

OPENING WORDS

by James Luther Adams

A living tradition is not bequeathed through some law of inheritance; it must be earned, not without dust and heat, and not without humbling grace.

 

HYMN #114 Forward Through the Ages

 

FIRST READING

To My Haggadah by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat 


Over the years your staples have slipped
and pages loosened. Here a faded purple crescent
of ancient wine, there a smudge
from bricks of date paste.
But when you speak I swoon. Tell me again
how we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt
but the Holy One brought us out from there
with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
Sing to me of unleavened bread, of parsley
dipped in bitter tears. Remind me
if I wait until I feel fully ready
I might never leap at all. Waltz me giddy
through psalms of praise. Promise me
next year a world redeemed.

  

SECOND READING

Adapted by Roger Jones #177, Lifting Our Voices

 

The living tradition from which we share draws from many sources:

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;

Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;

Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and enables our faith, we are inspired to depending our understanding adn expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

 

HYMN #113 Where is Our Holy Church?

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
A Lamp in Every Corner  From Tapestry of Faith Stories

By Janeen K. Grohsmeyer, in her book A Lamp in Every Corner: Our Unitarian Universalist Storybook (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2004).

Many years ago in the land of Transylvania, in a mountain valley watered by quick rushing streams and shadowed by great forests of beech trees, there was a village of small wooden houses with dark-shingled roofs. The people in the village were of the Unitarian religion, and they wanted a church of their own. A church set on the hillside, they decided, looking down upon the village as a mother looks down upon her sleeping child.

So all the people of the village labored long and hard to build themselves a church. The stonemasons hammered sharp chisels to cut great blocks of gray stone, then set the stones into stout and sturdy walls. The glaziers made tiny glass panes and fitted them neatly into the windows with leaded lines. The foresters sawed tall beech trees into enormous beams and laid the trusses for the ceiling, then covered the roof with close-fitting wooden shingles that wouldn't leak a drop of rain. The carpenters carved wood for the pair of wide-opening doors, setting them on strong pegs so that the doors hung straight and square. A bell was brought from a faraway city, then hoisted by ropes, with a heave and a ho, to the top of the tower. The weavers wove fine cloths for the altar table, cloths embroidered with flowers and edged with lace. The smiths hammered black iron into tall lamp stands and hammered thin bronze into shining oil lamps.

Finally, when the building of the church was done, the painting of the church could begin. The painters mixed bright colors: royal red and shimmering gold and brilliant blue, and everyone in the village—old and young, women and men, boys and girls—came to decorate their church. They painted flowers. They painted trees. They painted designs around the windows and different designs around the doors.

And at the end of the day, when it was finished—when their church was finally done—all the people of the village stood back to admire it... and then to sing, a song of happiness and praise. Their village had a church now, a church set on the hillside, looking down upon the village as a mother looks down upon her sleeping child.

"We will eat now!" announced an elder of the village, because everyone was hungry after their long day's work. "And later tonight, we will come back to pray."

So the people of the village went down the hillside to their homes and their suppers, all except one little girl named Zora and her father, who stayed behind. They had brought their own bread and cheese. They ate their food slowly, sitting on the grass on the hillside and admiring their new church with its strong stone walls, its tall tower, and its magnificent bell.

After they had eaten, they went back inside, opening those carved wooden doors to go into the gloriously painted sanctuary inside. "Oh, look, Father!" Zora cried, running from picture to picture, with her footsteps echoing off the stone walls. "See how grand!"

"Yes, it is," said her father, looking around and nodding with pride. "Yes, it is."

"But Father," she said suddenly, "we have not finished!"

"What do you mean?"

"There are tall iron lamp stands all along the walls, but there are no lamps! The church will be dark when the people come back."

"Ah no, little one," said her father. 'The light of the church comes from its people. You shall see!" He rang the bell to call the people to worship, then took his daughter by the hand and led her back outside. They waited on the grassy hillside, next to their beautiful church of strong gray stone.

The sun had set behind the mountains, and night was coming soon. Yet in the growing darkness, tiny points of light came from many directions and moved steadily up the hill.

"Each family is entrusted with a lamp, little one," her father explained. "Each family lights its own way here."

"Where is our family's lamp?"

"Your mother is carrying it. She will be here soon."

The many lights moved closer together, gathering into one moving stream, all headed the same way, growing larger and brighter all the time. Zora's mother arrived, bearing a burning oil lamp in her hands. The father lifted Zora so she could set their family's lamp high in its tall iron stand. All around the church, other families were doing the same. Soon the church was ablaze with light in every corner, for all the people of the village had gathered to pray and to sing.

All through the worship service, Zora watched the lights flicker and glow. She watched her family's lamp most of all. When the service was over, her father lifted her high. She took the shining bronze lamp from the lamp stand. Its curved sides were warm and smooth in her hands. Her mother carried the lamp home, with the flame lighting the way.

The lamp flame lit their house when they returned home. Zora washed her face and got ready for bed by the light of that flame. "Mother," Zora began, as she climbed into bed and lay down.

"Yes, little one?" her mother asked, tucking the red wool blanket around Zora's shoulders.

"Father said the light of the church comes from its people."

"Yes."

"But also, the people take their light from the church!" Over on the table by the fireplace, the shiny bronze lamp was still burning. "And we have that light every day."

"Yes, indeed," said her mother. "And even when we are not in church, even when the lamp is not lit, we carry the light of truth in our minds and the flame of love in our hearts to show us the right way to be. That light—the light from truth and love—will never go out."

"Never?" asked Zora.

"Never," said her mother. "And this bronze lamp will last for many, many years. When you are grown, we will give the bronze lamp to you, and when your children are grown, you will give the lamp to them, and all of you will carry it back and forth to church every time."

"But there is only one lamp," Zora said.

"So make another, and let the light grow. And someday, tell your children to make more lamps, too. And now goodnight," her mother said and kissed Zora once on this cheek and once on that cheek and once on the forehead. Zora closed her eyes and drifted into dreams, while her mother looked down upon her sleeping child.

The years passed; Zora grew. The bronze lamp came into her care. She kept it polished and clean, and when the bell rang out across the valley to call the people to worship, she carried the lamp back and forth to the church on the hillside, the flame always lighting her way.

When the time came, she made more lamps and gave them to her children, who made more lamps and gave them to their children, and so it went, on through the years, even until today.

And always, the light of truth and the flame of love from that Unitarian church on the hillside continued to grow and show them—and us—the way.

 

MEDITATION

by Leslie Takahashi, #180 Lifting Our Voices

We bring into our hearts all those who have gone before us:

all those whose living in this world

has prepared the soil for our living,

all those who being has enabled our being.

 

Let us also remember those whose

existence is needed in our lives today,

not only those who are our physical decendants

but also those who spirits inheritance the love we so,

the hope we real, the promise we harvest.

 

And may those of us who religious

inheritance is freedom

never rest until all who wish

to be it's children are sheltered.

 

 

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

“Restorative Justice”

In a scene from the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof a villager calls out, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” And Tevye in his infinite wisdom says, “Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.”

Justice is sort of a relative term with broad implications.  Justice for an oppressed people could mean having equal protection under that law so that the same rights are equally applied across all populations.  The civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the quest for marriage equality, these are all examples of the desire of a group of people for justice whose rights have been impaired or denied by others. 

Another example of justice could be economic justice. This is a concept of what is fair between the haves and the have-nots.  This is the constant give and take process of unfettered capitalism and a regulated economic system.  Far from an economist, today the only comment I have about economic justice is how it just doesn’t seem fair that some people make gobs of money when using up other people and the world’s resources. 

There is of course biblical justice, Hebrew bible, Old Testament vengeance, wrath of god type stuff.  This discussion can lead us down a very slippery slope, like this question; is the law the law because God says so, or does God say so because the law is the law?  Long debates have taken place over that one. In a bible story that we will talk about in a few months around the Passover, it seems like justice is handed out when the red sea collapses on the Egyptians, although I am guessing there was a question about whether or not that was really just from the Egyptians’ perspective.

Justice also can be thought of as a what is known as a “moral imperative” a thought originally put forth by philosopher Immanuel Kant, not a philosopher very easy to understand, but with the help of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy we are told that Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality” or in other words, at the heart of Kant's moral philosophy is a conception of reason…Moreover, it is the presence of this self-governing reason in each person that Kant thought offered decisive grounds for viewing each [person] as possessed of equal worth and deserving of equal respect.”  Sound familiar, our first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of all people.  So, Kant thought there was a voice inside of us that helps us with knowing what is right and what is wrong.  Some called that conscience, others called it the divine voice, no matter what it was called, it is thought to be an inner knowledge, born in all of us, with rare exception, of what is just and fair based on our ability to reason. 

However we describe justice, and wherever that sense of justice is developed and placed in the world, when we think about justice, what outcome is it that we are hoping for?  When we see acts of terror, or mass injustice, we can call for retribution, like when one of our Presidents said “And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”  When someone has stolen from us, or vandalized our home or property, we can get angry and want the person found and punished.  I have one of those kind of things that challenges me, I can’t stand graffiti.  I think it is a personal affront to society.  I think that nothing gives anyone the right to deface another’s property.  I perceive it as a totally senseless act and when I see it I wish that I would have been there to witness it so I can call the crime in to the police. So yes, sometimes we get angry and whether terrorism or vandalism, we want retribution. 

 What about when this happens between two people. What happens when we are wronged by a boss or coworker or a friend and we are angry?  We don’t always admit it, but sometimes we wish for punishment, we want retribution.  We want someone to pay somehow for something we think is wrong.

Walter Wink is the theologian that I have studied, quoted often and have deeply appreciated since beginning my ministerial formation. Unlike some notable others figures in 20th century justice movements like Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, or Dorothy Day, who were activists in a more direct sense of the word, Walter Wink has been a potent voice of a generation of religious leaders who has influenced many in their activism.  For this, he was honored as a Peace Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.  It would be difficult to discuss anything Wink, without beginning with the Myth of Redemptive Violence.  Wink believes that violence, in essence, is the religion of America and the prevailing mythology of the world.  In the book Engaging the Powers, he states: “The roots of the devotion to violence are deep, and we will be well rewarded if we trace them back to their source.  When we do, we will discover that the religion of Babylon—one of the worlds oldest, continuously surviving religions—is thriving as never before in every sector of contemporary American life, even in our synagogues and churches.”

According to Wink, the religion of Babylonia taught that enemies were supposed to be exterminated. Most of this myth is from around 1250 B.C.E. but is based on god and creation stories and myths that are considerably older.  To Wink, the implications of the myth are clear, “humanity is created from the blood of a murdered god. Our very origin is violence.” Wink simply states his understanding of this Myth when he writes, “The story that the rulers of domination societies told each other and their subordinates is what we today call the Myth of Redemptive Violence. It enshrines the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace, the might makes right.  It is one of the oldest continuously repeated stories in the world.”    Retributive Justice is in part based on this myth.  Can it really be that if we punish the perpetrator, the wrong will be right and the act of injustice will be avenged?   

South Africa struggled with this decision at the end of apartheid. In his book, No Future Without Forgiveness, Bishop Desmond Tutu wrote about how some wanted to impose “Victors Justice” much like that which took place at the Nuremburg trials at the end of WWII.  In the end he said they had to make a decision, they had to “balance the requirements of justice, accountability, stability, peace, and reconciliation. He writes, “we could have had justice, retributive justice, and had a South Africa lying in ashes—a truly Pyrrhic victory if ever there was one.”  A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with devastating cost to the victor.

In the constitutional documents that served as an underpinning for the eventual establishment of the now renown Truth and Reconciliation commissions in South Africa, these words were written, “there is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for Ubuntu but not for victimization.”  Just as a reminder ubuntu which I have spoken about before is the African concept that we all belong in a bundle of life where harmony, friendliness, community are great goods and social harmony is the greatest good.  

The process set forth in South Africa was restorative justice. Restorative Justice is defined by the Center for Justice and Reconciliation as being, “a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. They also say there are “Three principles that form the foundation for restorative justice: 1. Justice requires that we work to restore those who have been injured. 2. Those most directly involved and affected by crime should have the opportunity to participate fully in the response if they wish. 3. Government's role is to preserve a just public order, and the community's is to build and maintain a just peace.
Restorative programs are also characterized by four key values:
1. Encounter:  Create opportunities for victims, offenders and community members who want to do so to meet to discuss the crime and its aftermath.  2. Amends:  Expect offenders to take steps to repair the harm they have caused.  3. Reintegration:  Seek to restore victims and offenders to whole, contributing members of society.  4. Inclusion:  Provide opportunities for parties with a stake in a specific crime to participate in its resolution. 

So now I ask again, when we want justice, what is the justice we are looking for? Our prisons are full to the breaking point. Our states and federal budgets are struggling with law enforcement dollars for things like fighting the war on drugs, fighting terrorism, and fighting Wall Street excess, well, maybe not so much that last one. We can’t fight each other on this planet forever.  And let’s make that a little more personal.  Ok, so we are mad.  Something has really ticked us off.  Someone has done us wrong. What is it we want?  This wrong could have be perpetrated at work, or at home, or here at the fellowship, but I ask again, what is it we really want.  Over the next year as a congregation we are going to begin working on dealing with conflict through healthy and direct communication but a big part of that is restoration. It is about letting go of the need to punish and to embrace opportunities for transformation.  In other words, how can we as human beings shake our training in the myth of redemptive violence and learn that there are other ways to deal with conflict and to define justice.  This is a huge choice. At some point in my anger of graffiti, I realized that there are many causes of graffiti in communities and I need to address those causes if I am ever going to impact the problem.  I also have thought about helping with one of the programs that brings offenders together with those whose property they have defaced.  You see it is more difficult to tag a wall when there is a face behind the building.  

Conflict in this world is a given, we are not going to be in relationship in this in society or in the Fellowship without conflict.  But what is our willingness to engage with compassion and restoration, how can we be the ripple effect? The practice of being in right relationship isn’t about practicing who is right.  Authors Mary Sellon and Daniel Smith in their book about Practicing Right Relationship  state it well when they say, “Without relationship, we perish. Without loving relationships, we rarely thrive.  We long for our relationships to be positive.  We want them to connect us with other people in and life-giving way.  We feel a sense of appreciative awe when we truly “see” someone. . . and are seen by them. Positive relationships support us and nurture us.  They connect us, letting us know we’re not alone.”  The practice of being in right relationship is base on restoration not on retribution.  True, we need to work together for transformational justice, or justice that addresses the root cause of the problems that cause breaks in right relationship, but when there is a break, when there is conflict, the question remains, can we forgo the Myth and move on to restoration? 

On this day of my official installation as the minister of this congregation, I want to make known that this is a cornerstone of my ministry.  This is a foundational spiritual practice of mine and one I hope we all we work on together as a religious community.  To me this is spiritual because it is about how we work on who we are at our core, about truly knowing ourselves by becoming more self-aware.   Then bringing the whole self-aware person into connection with others in the world and where conflict exists, taking the path of love, compassion and actions that lead to right relationship.  And, when that right relationship is compromised, doing what we can to lead ourselves and others to restoration.   

 There is a reason why we say spiritual practice.  This takes practice.  And although we will stumble along the way, we can help each other learn to overcome the myth and live together

 

HYMN #1028 Fire of Commitment

 

BENEDICTION
by Barbara Just. Pecan, #680, Singing the Living Tradition

 

Because of those who came before, we are;
in spite of their failings, we believe;
because of, and in spite of, the horizons of their vision,
we, too, dream.

Let us go remembering to praise,
to live in the moment,
to love mightily,
to bow to the mystery.