Worship Script 3
Worship Script (3 of 4)
Restoration as Bringing New Life (Easter)
“Our Souls Speak Spring” By Evin Carvill Ziemer
If we lived in another climate
Our souls might speak other languages
We might speak oasis or permafrost, dry season or monsoon
But our souls speak spring
Our souls speak green shoots pushing through last year’s leaves
Our souls speak flower buds stretching to sun
Our souls speak mud puddle and nest building, damp earth and worm castings, tiny green leaves and frog choruses
We speak spring because spring sings in us
We gather to nurture our faith in our own growing
Our own courage to push through
Our own blossoming in beauty
Our own small part in the spring of this world
Come, let us worship together
HYMN #361 Enter, Rejoice, and Come In
“What happens when we stop living?” by Nathan Walker
The question is not,
“What happens when we die?”
Nobody really knows.
The real question is,
“What happens when we stop living?”
The stoicism we face on a daily basis
is a symptom of a larger illness
called a dually-dulled life.
Our lives can be hypnotized
by the monotonous commutes,
multiplied by the flickering florescent light
that falls upon the micromanaging boss
who thinks everything you do in your cubicle
is an extension of his or her power.
Who here is dying a slow and numbing death?
There’s no time to be lulled by monotony.
There is no time to be blaming
other people for our own feelings.
If you don’t like it, change it.
There’s no time for crying, or complaining,
or gossiping, or clinging to that fashionable grudge bag.
No. It is time to wake up, to rise up,
and to carry ourselves into a day worth living.
Let us live one day—this day—
with passion and a sense of collective synergy.
Let us live one day—this day—
by asking questions that truly challenge us
and make us feel alive.
For today’s question is not
“What happens when we die?” it is
“What happens when we stop living?”
“Life Calls Us Out of the Tomb”, by Lisa Doege
Rejecting literal readings of what we insist is only a myth, we look to nature and religions close to the earth for alternative stories of the season.
Explaining away troublesome details—the empty tomb, Jesus' appearance to the women and the disciples—we tell a story that appeals to reason.
Surprised nevertheless by the call of the season waking an ancient longing in our heart, we pause from our explanations to ponder the stirring.
Unwilling to quiet the voice crying for rebirth, fresh starts, new life,
We remember times we have been as if dead, yet still our hearts beat and we moved upon the earth.
So we set our disbelief aside, if only for a moment, in a day, in a season.
Reason tells us life precedes death and death itself is final. But our experience of second chances, cures, recovery, forgiveness and reconciliation tell a different story.
Even when life as we have known it is destroyed forever and hope has abandoned us, somehow how Life has held us and breathed us into new being;
Life has called us to rise in fullness: triumphant, humble, grateful.
Insistent Life who will not let us go, who even at our most broken, most wretched,
Call us out of the tomb,
Now the stories merge, myth and science, history and experience, and we whisper alleluia. Alleluia that You are. Alleluia that we are. Alleluia life-everlasting. Amen.
HYMN #270 O Day of Light and Gladness
STORY FOR ALL AGES
Lily In the Window by Thomas Rhodes
Once upon a time there was an old man who lived alone with his grandson in a dirty hovel. Everything around them was filthy (you can imagine!) One day a stranger appeared and gave the young child a beautiful lily. The boy took it home and placed it on a windowsill in his house. The grandfather saw the flower and put it in a jar of water. His grandson realized how dirty the window was in contrast to the lily and cleaned it. The grandfather then replaced the jar with a vase, and swept the floor. Over time the boy and grandfather clean up their home, even planting flowers out front. Neighbors stop by to admire them, and they become integrated into the community.
Eventually the original lily dies, but by this time the house is clean and orderly, the boy has friends, and the grandfather is calling on a lady neighbor.
(In Christian traditions, the flower represents Jesus. The resurrection, of course, isn't one of the flower itself, but of the man and boy who found new life.)
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.
Rev. Jan Christian
I’ve told the story about years ago going to visit a friend in a gated community and struggling over the keypad due to the glare of the sun. I was vaguely aware of a voice in the distance but didn’t really pay attention until it grew insistent. When I finally looked up, a guy was saying, in a very emphatic way, “The gate is already open!” And indeed it was. I was so fixated on the key pad, I hadn’t realized that the gate I was trying to open wasn’t even closed.
About five years ago, I repeated this entering into a property development that had a long single bar across a dirt road. My son and his girlfriend were in the car and I went immediately to the key pad. They asked what I was doing, which I thought was obvious, but I explained patiently. Then my son said, “The gate is open.” We laughed and I told him that I had that happen before and I had used it in a sermon. He asked, “Was the point of the sermon that we miss what is right in front of our faces?”
I told him the sermon was more about the good news of Universalism. The gate is already open. We are more than your worst deeds. We are worthy of love regardless of our worst deeds. We are already saved and loved. And yet, we have trouble going through that gate don’t we? We have trouble accepting that we are worthy and deserving of love. We have trouble forgiving ourselves.
So I think of that today as I preach this third sermon on forgiveness. In Karen Armstrong’s book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, she suggests that we begin by practicing compassion on ourselves. A number of you have remarked this month that it is forgiving yourselves that you find most difficult.
If you want some magic formula, I don’t have it. I do, however, have a suggestion. Richard Rohr has said, "We don't think our way into a new life; we live our way into a new kind of thinking." Perhaps we might think about what would be possible if we forgave ourselves and then go act in accordance with that vision. Here is what it comes down to. We need to quit using our unworthiness as an excuse not to be worthy. We need to live our lives as though we are forgiven.
Proving our worthiness is a losing proposition. Trying to earn the love of another or our own love is futile. What we are really after is approval when we do that and approval is based on judgment and that is not the same as love.
So we live our lives as though we are already forgiven, already loved, already worthy. And out of that mix, some really transformative things are possible.
We need to “act as if.” Imagine it. What would be possible in your life if you loved yourself just as you are? Possibly you would have a whole new self to get to know. This is why some people describe this experience of being loved by God as being ‘born again.” When we say we are not worthy of something, we are preparing the way to not be all we can be and all we already are. We are saying why our own light will not shine.
Rabbi Kushner tells a story about when he was “a young, inexperienced rabbi.” A woman came to him feeling guilty about not properly observing a Jewish holiday. She had visited her husband’s grave on a day when that was forbidden. He tried to talk her out of her guilt. Her reasons seemed compelling and he gave her rational arguments. Suddenly it occurred to him to use an irrational cure for her irrational guilt. Her offense had occurred on the 17th day of the month. He suggested she pay $17 to a charity in her husband’s memory. She was relieved. He writes, “If guilt results from what we have done, the cure is to do other things, better things: random acts of thoughtfulness…At the rational level, giving charity doesn’t undo the selfish or thoughtless thing we did to prompt the guilt feelings in the first place. But at the irrational level, where our souls live, it does introduce us to our better nobler self.” Rabbi Kushner says this isn’t about balancing the books. And this is important to remember. It’s about living out of our better natures.
Years ago, I worked in Arizona’s so-called justice system. There was a woman Kathy McCormick at the Attorney General’s Office who did victim-offender mediation and she told of a particularly meaningful mediation. A woman’s house had been horribly vandalized with damage in the thousands and thousands of dollars. She met with one of the young men who was responsible. She knew he could not undo the damage. He could not pay for it either. The books could not be balanced. She wanted something else. She wanted to be able to think of him as a good person. So she asked him to take pictures of himself being good. When he read to his little brother, when he helped a neighbor, he was to take a picture. Months later they got together again and he shared his picture album with her. She had introduced him to a side of himself he didn’t know existed and she was able to think of his goodness as well. Some time after that mediation, the boy’s mother called to say he was headed for college. She believed that mediation was the turning point in his life.
When we live out of our best selves, our saved selves, our place of worthiness, we can say we are sorry. We can practice confession because we know that being wrong does not mean that we are not worthy. It means we are human. We can say we are sorry. We can work to make amends. We can take steps so it doesn’t happen again. This being human means we will be wrong. It means we will be wrong in the way we are right. It means that we are complicit with structures of oppression and evil. It means our relationships will go kaflooey. That’s a theological term. Knowing our essential worth, we need only to get back to that place when we lose our way.
And to practice confession, to own our part is the first important step. I used to think that confession or saying I was sorry was just for when I thought I was wrong. But it’s not. Because I am often wrong in the way I am right. Know what I mean? And sometimes my relationships go kaflooey and I have no idea why and I can say that I’m sorry that things are the way they are and that I want to do whatever it takes to have them be some other way. I have a long-time friendship that just seems to have hit the skids. I have been trying to figure out what it’s about instead of simply going to her and saying, “I miss you and I’m wondering if I have done something that is keeping our friendship from flourishing right now. I am sorry about the way things are between us.”
Let us find ways to introduce ourselves and others to our better selves. We can find real ways of saying we are sorry and of making amends. We can ensure that we don’t make some of those mistakes again. We can make real and symbolic gestures to introduce ourselves and others to our better selves. Love means working to repair the harm we have done. It means taking steps to make sure we don’t do it again. It means changing our way of being in the world. It means recognizing the importance of our actions and taking responsibility for them. Love means saying we are sorry.
And love means bringing this sense of humility (not unworthiness) to all that we do. I think this is the quality most often missing in our work for social justice. In this congregation, Kristen Rohm will be helping us think through what makes social action “faith-based.” How is our activism different than the activism of some community organization? I think it has to do initially with humility.
The “Occupy Wall St.” movement gives me a new hope for my beloved country. Finally we might be looking at the fundamental inequities in our economic system. And as we do that, there is great room for humility. I thought of that this last week when reading a very thoughtful blog by Nichola Torbett.
Here are excerpts:
This morning I saw a Photoshopped image on Facebook that caught my attention. The photograph captured protesters at Occupy Wall Street, but superimposed over parts of the photo were captions like “Video camera by Panasonic,” “Camera by Sony,” “Black marker by Sharpie,” and “Posterboard by Weyerhauser.” Underneath the photo was a longer caption that ended with something like “Meet me at Starbucks after we finish protesting those greedy corporations.” As you might have guessed, the photo, originally posted by Midnight Trucking Radio Network and clearly intended to discredit the protests, was drawing the ire of my radical left-wing social network.
But the creator of the image has a point, right? The truth is that we are implicated in everything we indict. Just by virtue of living embedded in a network of social structures that privilege some at the expense of others, we end up participating in oppression, violence, and exploitation, and to the extent that our protest movements ignore that, opting instead to present an image of us as the righteous good guys and “them” (in this case Wall Street stockbrokers and corporate execs) as the bad guys who done us wrong, we perpetuate a lie and make ourselves the targets of snide and cynical discrediting…
So all this has me thinking that we need a confessing movement. We need a movement in which we start by confessing our part in the suffering we have perpetuated in our efforts to escape suffering ourselves. “Not my banker brother, not my stockbroker sister, but it’s me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”
Or maybe I should model this by starting with myself. I need a confessing movement. I need a place where I can go to confess my complicity in the very systems and structures I protest against. I rail against the crimes of the big banks and help to organize Occupy Oakland while maintaining an account at Wells Fargo out of convenience that feels necessary to my harried life.
I long for a place to say: “Sometimes I am greedy. Sometimes I put my personal profit above the good of the community. Sometimes I seek status at others’ expense. And I am not sure I can stop on my own. “
I long for a movement in which I can cultivate my ability to sit with the anguish of my both my complicity and my captivity, and do it in community, until in our midst some new creative freedom projects emerge. I long for a movement that transforms me as it transforms social structures. I can’t do any of that alone.
And so, I need you, and I need a confessing movement, so maybe it’s okay to say that we need a confessing movement….
The confessing movement is a place for confession, yes, but it is also a place for radical repentance. It is a place to cry out to God for deliverance, a place to seek God’s face in each other and in the Spirit of change that seems to be gripping us, and a place to recommit to cultivating the disciplines of love, generosity, honesty, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude.
The confessing movement is for ordinary people—imperfect and no less lovable for it, deformed by our experiences of social trauma, at once yearning and tentative—people of all colors, classes, abilities, genders, sexual orientations, immigration statuses, and ages, who are coming to understand that we have benefited (albeit to vastly different degrees, depending on our social locations) from the suffering of others, who are starting to recognize the ways in which we’ve compliantly played out the roles assigned to us by a brutally exploitative set of interlocking death systems, and who are committing ourselves to each other in a movement of healing, social change, and solidarity. We need a movement where it is safe to look honestly at ourselves, acknowledge our true histories, make mistakes, be forgiven, and keep moving forward together.
Amen, Nichola. Confession is good for our soul, for the human family, for the planet. It comes out of our failure to live out of our inherent worthiness and a sense of our interdependence. Let us find new ways to live out of that place and to begin again in love.
HYMN #12 O Life that Maketh All Things New
Easter by Orland Brugnola, From Moorings: Moments of Meditation and Prayer
Oh resplendent earth
whose secret harmonies and visible rhythms
are our very life -
may we learn to care for you
and for all beings,
great and small, that call you home.
May we learn your wisdoms
of change and return
that we may known how to struggle
and how to endure;
how to seek clam, how to be exuberant.
May we learn the deep connectedness of all life,
seeking not to control
but to celebrate and protect
that which is good,
and that which is beautiful,
and that which shall be peace
not only in our own hearts
but also in the world
and may we heard the words of life
both from afar of but now,
our of our own mouths.