Restoration”

Worship Script 4


 Worship Script (4 of 4)

Restoration as Healing

 

OPENING WORDS

By Rebecca Ann Parker, #184 Lifting Our Voices

Even when our hearts are broken

by our own failure

or the failure of others

cutting into our lives,

even when we have done all we can

and life is still broken,

there is a Universal Love

that has never broken faith with us

and never will.

 

HYMN #1029 Love Knocks and Waits for Us to Hear

 

FIRST READING

“The Legacy of Caring” by Thandeka 


Despair is my private pain
    Born from what I have failed to say
        failed to do
        failed to overcome.
Be still my inner self
    let me rise to you
    let me reach down into your pain
    and soothe you.
I turn to you
    to renew my life
I turn to the world
    the streets of the city
         the worn tapestries of
             brokerage firms
             crack dealers
             private estates
             personal things in the bag lady’s cart
        rage and pain in the faces that turn from me
         afraid of their own inner worlds.
This common world I love anew
    as the life blood of generations
           who refused to surrender their humanity
           in an inhumane world
           courses through my veins.
From within this world
    my despair is transformed to hope
    and I begin anew
    the legacy of caring.

  

SECOND READING

“We Are Here Because We Are People of Faith”, by Kendyl R. Gibbons

 We are here because we are people of faith. Within each of us lives the conviction of a saving faith that could restore our broken planet and illuminate the lives of our sisters and brothers.

Ancient wisdom teaches that we who would save the world must first save ourselves. We who would restore the planet must learn to restore the broken structures of the institutions closest to hand; to illuminate the lives of our companions and friends.

To this end let us center ourselves, acknowledging the trouble of mind and vexation of spirit that accompany us even here.

Let us open ourselves to that creative mystery which is at work in our striving, whose servants we are and seek to be.

 

HYMN #123 Spirit of Life

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Lonely Soul in Community from Taepstry of Faith Stories by Thandeka

Several years ago, I spent an evening discussing Covenant Groups with members of a New England church who were interested in starting a small group ministry program. Part of my ministry is dedicated to helping congregations start and sustain small group ministries of six to twelve persons who meet regularly as a spiritually empowering practice.

Different Unitarian Universalists congregations call small group ministries by different names—covenant groups, chalice circles, shared ministry groups, or engagement groups (in England)—but the different names refer to a common ground of experience: the personal experience of a change of heart, of being loved beyond belief. The usual opening ritual for covenant group meetings calls forth this feeling by creating it. As the members sing a song together, light a chalice, offer a prayer, pay attention to their breath, attentively notice the sounds in the room, hear their own heart beating and so much more, the time when how we do something, the manner in which we say something, the tone of voice we use when speaking become as important as what is said. The time when we will feel loved beyond belief is created by the gathered community. Sacred time begins.

At the end of my formal remarks in the New England church, I asked the members of the audience if they might be willing to simply get together in small groups over a meal and talk about their unmet needs for community in their church.

One of the most respected elder statesmen of the church stood up and slowly walked to the front of the assembly, faced his fellow congregants and said he was interested in joining such a group. He had wanted something like this for years, he said, because he was lonely. "I do not have any friends," he finally confessed.

Waves of shock rolled through the gathering. How could he be lonely? He was a revered and beloved member of the congregation, a pillar of the church. Many persons expressed incredulity.

When the group quieted down, the man spoke again, saying "Every man in this room who is my age knows what I am talking about. Our social upbringing has taught us not to talk about our feelings. We are not supposed to be emotionally vulnerable or close to anyone except our wives."

Something happened to me as he spoke. I felt the man's vulnerability. I could feel his vulnerability because his heart spoke the hidden language of my own heart: loneliness. My own social upbringing had taught me not to talk about my feelings to any one. I had learned to be emotionally invulnerable and closed to everyone. But now, here, in the midst of this gathered community—someone so much like my self—had stepped forward and said "I'm lonely."

He did not step forward as an authority figure, or as someone whose racial identity or class status was at issue. He stepped forward to talk about his own unmet needs for intimacy. His story was my story. My story was his story. He had heard a call and he responded.

All of us in the room were now in the presence of an open space, an opened heart, a change of heart; a call for healing that could be performed only by a religious community because human salvation is not a solo act.

Together, we loved this man beyond belief, beyond our own mistaken ideas and thoughts about who he is. Together, we had created an ethos of care and compassion in which we could simply love him.

I call this atmosphere of care and compassion created by religious community the second major element of personal experience for us as Unitarian Universalists.

 

MEDITATION

“A Prayer of Healing” by Jane E Mauldin

Torn and confused,
lonely and enraged,
I greet the new day with suspicion.
Spirit of Life,
show me the gate to healing.
May I find in my hands the tools
to craft a way through the pain.
When even those tools fail me,
may other hands reach out.
Let me welcome them,
and know them as your hands,
gently holding me,
keeping me from collapse,
shaping me and molding new strength
until I am ready to try again.
Amen.

 

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

Tikkun Olam - To Repair the World

Joseph Boyd

Introduction

Have you ever had a light bulb blow out? I don’t mean burn out, but blow out, explode, like they do in old movies. It’s happened to me just once. I heard a popping sound, and look up to see a flash as the light over the dining room table literally exploded, sending shards of glass all over the table and floor. Bright bits of burning metal fall down, some continuing to burn, and land on the table. The table still bears burn marks from those sparks.

“The Shattering of the Vessels”

In our story, “The Shattering of the Vessels”, God creates a number of vessels filled with primordial light, and sends them to this still dark world. But they are too fragile, and they break, exploding like that light bulb, scattering the light, like gems, like sparks, throughout the world. In the story, humanity is created to gather up the sparks, to complete the task of tikkun olam, or repair of the world. [1]

Among many things I love about the Jewish religious tradition is that Jews are very clear that revelation is not sealed, that spiritual understanding is an ongoing task, and great thinkers can add to the canon of important spiritual texts. So in addition to the books of Hebrew Bible, we have Talmud, including the Mishnah, or rabbinic commentaries, and other texts such as the Kabbala, a collection of mystical teachings.

This particular mythical story is from the Lurianic kabbala, the writings of Rabbi Issac Luria in the sixteenth century. It interprets and expands on various texts in the Torah.

The story offers some important ideas. First, it is God, not humanity, who made the original error in packaging the primordial light in fragile vessels. It was, after all, God’s first day on the job of creation, so no surprise that God messed up. But God is resourceful.

After making this error, God creates us as human beings, as a kind of earthly clean-up squad, and invites us to help correct the error.

So — this is the point — we are not depraved, the source of evil, but have been created as helpers, as healers.

Second, this myth was written shortly after the Jews were expelled from Spain by Isabella and Ferdinand and forced to move to less hospitable lands. The myth gave them a mission, a reason for existence, a holy purpose. They saw that they were dispersed to better do the job of repair of the world.

Finally, the myth has been interpreted in modern times as a call to Jews to work for justice, for social change and environmental restoration. So when most Jews speak of tikkun olam, they mean repairing the world in very tangible ways. They mean getting out on the streets, and in the statehouses, working to heal the world, to make it a better place for everyone. This is a very compelling sentiment, one that beats strongly in Unitarian Universalist hearts as well.

Healing Ourselves and Each Other

And yet. And yet. To heal the world, we must start with healing ourselves and each other. We have to find the sparks within ourselves that may be hidden from us – perhaps occluded, covered over, by events in our lives.

I just read a book,“The Body Keeps the Score”. Two of you, separately, recommended this book to me. So I had to read it! In this book psychiatrist Bessel Van Der Kolk explores the nature of trauma, and how trauma manifests as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, as we call it now.

Now psychological trauma is surprisingly common. Kolk tells us:

“One does not have to be a combat soldier, or visit a refugee camp in Syria or the Congo, to encounter trauma. Trauma happens to us, our friends, our families, and our neighbors. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that one in five Americans was sexually molested as a child; one in four was beaten by a parent to the point of a mark being left on their body; and one in three couples engages in physical violence. A quarter of us grew up with alcoholic relatives, and one out of eight witnessed their mother being beaten or hit.” [2]”

What Kolk, and other therapists are realizing, is that trauma doesn’t just exist as memories in the mind. Trauma is bigger than that. Trauma rewires the brain. Trauma dwells in the body, too. In the case of Marilyn, which we heard in the reading[3], Kolk began to wonder about the connection between childhood incest and the immune system. He initiated a study that showed that incest victims tend to have over-sensitized immune systems, which were more likely to attack the body’s own cells. This is just one kind of the insults to the body that trauma brings. Others include chronic pain, hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular disease.[4]

I think that trauma, like other disorders of mental health, can be seen as running on a spectrum, a continuum from mild to debilitating disorder. In that context, I reflect on the violence that happened in my childhood home, and how it has affected me. Now I admit, my story is nowhere as severe as many of the stories in the book. But like many of the people described, I don’t have complete memories of traumatic events, just moments, random images, as if from a slideshow. Moreover, there are things I don’t remember at all. My siblings tell me I was present, a witness to vicious, bloody fights between my older half-sister and my father. But I’ve blanked it out, erased these memories.

Now I realize that some of you have been through far worse than I’ve experienced. Some of you have shared with me your experiences of trauma, of incest, childhood violence, of abuse. Some of you have even found the courage to share your memories publicly, here, in this space. Whatever your past, I am in awe of your stamina and resilience, to be here now.

So while my own childhood traumatic experiences may be mild by comparison, I do notice that those experiences have affected who I am and how I move in the world. How I still tend to avoid conflict. How it has taken me many years to be in touch with my emotional self.

In the book, Van Der Kolk suggests that trauma is not merely a mental factor.  Trauma is embedded in the body as well as the brain. To heal trauma, we must move beyond merely trying to treat the brain with drugs or talk. We must offer more holistic healing practices for all the mind, the body and the brain.

Van Der Kolk enumerated many therapies and practices that have been shown to be helpful in healing trauma. A surprise for me is how many of these named therapies and practices I’ve experienced as part of my own efforts to heal and grow. Some of these things are clearly therapeutic techniques, like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and tapping (EFT). Others would not be considered therapy as such, but they are healing: yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, and improv theater.

These latter kinds of activities are what I call spiritual practices. They are what I have done — perhaps unconsciously — to heal my own wounds. Over time, I feel that I’ve become, bit by bit, more aware of my body, my emotions, and my greater ease in being in the world.

The Wounded Healers

The great psychologist Carl Jung suggested that a reason people go into the counseling and therapeutic professions is to try to heal themselves of their own wounds — these people are what he called wounded healers. Almost three quarters of counsellors or therapists have experienced psychologically wounding experiences in their own lives that led them into their profession, according to a recent study.[5]

I wonder if this is true across the broad scope of professions beyond therapists: are many of us, indeed, wounded healers? I am pretty sure I fall into that category. Ministry, after all, is a bit more into healing than engineering or writing software.

Moreover, I wonder how many of us find our way into a church community like this, and stay, because of our wounds? We discover that a place like this offers us ways to not only heal our own wounds, but ways to help heal others. In a church like UUYO, we are encouraged to help others, not only in this church, but in the community, and in the larger world.

And let’s be honest, what about those who cannot stay with us because we unintentionally open up their old wounds? People sometimes back off, when asked, they won’t say why.

I make up all kinds of bad reasons in my mind for them leaving. What did I say or do? Did we push some hot button issue too far? But in the end, I realize that we all do the best we can, trying to balance security with growth, and comfort with risk. We, the wounded, do our best to try to heal.

In an interview on the radio show, On Being, Van Der Kolk talks of how people respond to the trauma of natural disasters. The best thing they can do is to do something, anything, to get moving.  He says,

“I get flown into Puerto Rico after Hurricane Hugo, because I’d written a book about trauma. I knew nothing about disasters, but nobody else knew anything either, so they flew me in. And what struck me, I landed in Puerto Rico and everybody is busy doing stuff and building things and everybody’s too busy to talk to me, because they’re trying to do stuff. But on the same plane that I flew in with, officials from FEMA came in who then made announcements to stop your work until FEMA decides what you’re going to get reimbursed for. And that was the worst thing that could have happened, because now these people were using the energy to fight with each other … instead of rebuilding their houses. That’s, of course, similar what happened in New Orleans where people also were kept from being agents in their own recovery.” [6]

In two weeks, on Saturday, November 5, we’ll be holding the next CQE clinic, where we help our returning citizens from prison get a certification for employment, making it easier — we hope — for them to get good jobs. The CQE program is a new one, and we don’t know how it will perform long term. We could spend a lot of time in advance, discussing it, we could wait around until there is more data, we could study until analysis paralysis sets in.

But no, we’d rather act, we’d rather be engaged. Like the hurricane survivors, we’d like to be agents, to move on this program. And so we invite you to talk with Gary Davenport or me, to see how you can help out in this one-day clinic. And in this way, we who may be wounded ourselves can take action, we can offer healing. We can be agents in our own recovery.

As activist and writer Dorothy Day – the same Dorothy Day who is the namesake of the Dorothy Day house here in Youngstown- put it, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” So for us, love emerges out of healing — healing both ourselves and healing the world. Love emerges within a community of wounded healers.

I love the myth of “The Shattering of the Vessels” because it speaks truth on many levels. There is tremendous brokenness in our world, and it is not our fault. Many of us, perhaps without knowing it, carry both the broken shards and bits of primordial light within us. That within us, within our brokenness, there is what the mystic Thomas Merton called a “hidden wholeness”, invisible, a dimmed light. [7]

It is through healing ourselves that we come to be aware of these sparks of light, and bring them into view. It is through our efforts to heal the world that we gather up these sparks, and bring them together.

As an embellishment of the myth of “The Shattering of the Vessels” — didn’t I say I love the ongoing revelation of the these Jewish teachers? — An embellishment by another kabbalist, the Hasidic master, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, tells us this:

“When the task of gathering the sparks nears completion, God will hasten the arrival of the final redemption by [God] self collecting what remains of the holy sparks that went astray.” [8]

In this way we are reminded that we do not have to achieve perfection in our work of healing, we do not even have to find every spark. We simply have to start the work, to do what we can, to our own part in our own time, in both healing ourselves and repairing the world. As we do this work, the possibility of tikkun olam, of repair of the world, will be achieved.

Notes:

1 http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/how-the-ari-created-a-myth-and-transformed-judaism

2 Bessel Van Der Kolk “The Body Keeps the Score”, p. 1

3 Kolk, p. 125-128

4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816923/

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wounded_healer

6 http://www.onbeing.org/program/bessel-van-der-kolk-restoring-the-body/transcript/5826

7 http://www.onbeing.org/blog/a-friendship-a-love-a-rescue/7185

8 http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/how-the-ari-created-a-myth-and-transformed-judaism

 

 

HYMN #1021 Lean on Me

 

BENEDICTION
“Each of Us Ministers to a Weary World” by  Darcy Roake

 

There is too much hardship in this world to not find joy,
every day
There is too much injustice in this world to not right the balance,
every day
There is too much pain in this world to not heal,
every day

Each of us ministers to a weary world.
Let us go forth now and do that which calls us to make this world
more loving, more compassionate and more filled with the grace of divine presence,
every day