“Resistance”

Worship Script 3


 

Faithful Resistance

Worship Script (3 of 4)

 

OPENING WORDS

By Anonymous, Reading #434 in Singing the Living Tradition

May we be reminded here of our highest aspirations,

and inspired to bring our gifts of love and service to the altar of humanity.

May we know once again that we are not isolated beings

but connected, in mystery and miracle,

To the universe, to this community and to each other.

 

HYMN #113 Where Is Our Holy Church?

FIRST READING

Transcript of Michelle Alexander, on "People Were Resisting Before Trump": Michelle Alexander, Naomi Klein and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in Conversation, an article by Haymarket Books on Truthout, www.truth-out.org

I have been having some trouble with the frame of "resistance" for some time. I understand completely why the term, the phrase, the rallying cry emerged following Trump's election -- it makes complete sense to me. But I think we've got to think beyond resistance. Resistance is inherently defensive.

As I see it, we are part of a bold and beautiful revolutionary movement that aims to rebirth this country. This movement isn't new -- we can trace this movement in some ways to the nation's founding, the first runaway slaves and the Native people who fought for their land and their territory. There has been a yearning for freedom for all people since this nation's founding, and there have been great revolutionaries -- Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Ella Baker and Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Braden and Cesar Chavez -- and we could go on and on, naming the incredible revolutionaries who have helped to remake America. As I see it, Trump is the resistance. There is a revolutionary spirit alive and well that is trying to birth a new America, and Trump and his cronies are resisting, wanting to take America back.

If we are going to do the work that is required to build truly transformational movements in which there is any hope of us building a multiracial, multiethnic, multifaith, multi-gender democracy, in which every voice and every life truly matters, we are going to have to connect and tap into, embrace that revolutionary spirit and the spirits of the ancestors, the freedom fighters who came before us, and say: "We're not about resistance. We're about building a revolutionary movement for the collective liberation of us all."

 

SECOND READING
Excerpts from Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer (192-193)

If we are to stand and act with hope in the tragic gap and do it for the long haul, we cannot settle for mere “effectiveness” as the ultimate measure of our failure or success. Yes, we want to be effective in pursuit of important goals. But when measurable, short-term outcomes become the only or primary standard for assessing our efforts, the upshot is as pathetic as it is predictable: we take on smaller and smaller tasks—the only kind that yield instantly visible results—and abandon the large, impossible but vital jobs we are here to do.

We must judge ourselves by a higher standard than effectiveness, the standard called faithfulness. Are we faithful to the community on which we depend, to doing what we can in response to its pressing needs? Are we faithful to the better angels of our nature and to what they call forth from us? Are we faithful to the eternal conversation of the human race, to speaking and listening in a way that takes us closer to truth? Are we faithful to the call of courage that summons us to witness to the common good, even against great odds? When faithfulness is our standard, we are more likely to sustain our engagement with tasks that will never end: doing justice, loving mercy, and calling the beloved community into being.

 

HYMN #300 With Heart and Mind

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
David and Goliath By Christopher Buice

Once there was a little girl who worried about a very big problem—world hunger. She read in the newspaper about children all over the world who did not have enough to eat. She wanted to do something about it, but she was only a little girl and this was a giant problem. What could she possibly do that would make a difference?

One day, when she was feeling sad about the situation, she told her father what was on her mind. After listening to her problem, he was very quiet. Then he scratched his head and rubbed his chin. He cleaned his glasses with a handkerchief and then he said, “Young lady, maybe it’s time I told you a story,” and began to tell her about David and Goliath.

David was a little boy who had a very big problem—Goliath. David lived in a land called Israel and the Philistine soldiers were threatening to invade his country. The very biggest Philistine soldier was named Goliath who told the people of Israel, “If you can find one person who can beat me in a fight, then we will not invade your country.”

But there was no one in all of Israel who thought they could beat Goliath. “He is much too tall and strong,” the people said. “This problem is just too big for us. There is nothing we can do about it.”

David was surprised that no one would fight Goliath, so he went to the King of Israel and told him, “I will fight Goliath.”

The king looked down at the boy. He did not want to send such a small fellow to fight such a big man. Because no one else had volunteered, he said to David, “I admire your courage, young man. I will give you the best armor in my kingdom.”

But when David put on the armor, he fell straight down to the ground. After all, David was just a little guy and the armor was very heavy.

And so David said, “Thanks, but no thanks . . . I think I’ll just use my sling.”

The king was surprised by the boy’s courage and he said, “Go forth and may God be with you.”

David went out onto the battlefield and, facing Goliath, he said, “I am ready to fight.”

When Goliath saw this little guy standing before him he began to laugh. “You are only a boy!” he chuckled, and then he began to roar with laughter. While Goliath was laughing David put a rock in his sling, twirled it around, and let the rock fly. The rock hit Goliath in the head and the giant came crashing to the ground. David was a hero.

“That’s a great story, Dad,” said the little girl, “but what does it have to do with me?”

“David lived a long time ago,” said her father, “but the world still has giant problems—hunger, pollution, wars. We can do something about it.” He got up from his chair and walked over to the couch and began tossing cushions everywhere.

“Dad, what in the world are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m looking for spare change. You know how it always falls down in the cushions.”

“But why do you want spare change?”

“I’m putting all my spare change into a box and I’m going to give that money to a charity that helps feed the hungry.”

“But what difference will that make?” asked the girl.

“Well, see for yourself,” he said and he lifted up the cushions. What she saw gave her a surprise. Scattered underneath the cushions were dozens of coins, and how they shined and glimmered.

“Wow!” she said, “I never realized how much money was in our couch.”

“It can add up,” said her father. “The world has a giant problem and too few think to throw stones that are close at hand. These coins could feed many or save a child’s life. And if everyone used their coins to fight hunger, then we might just throw the stone that would send this giant problem crashing to the ground.”

The little girl smiled and then she got down on her knees. Together, father and daughter gathered coins from underneath the cushions.

 

MEDITATION.
Now, I Love You. Now, I Witness. By Theresa Soto

I know sometimes you get cranky,
And sometimes your tea gets cold
Before you can drink it. Sometimes
The news is too much. The resistance
Seems too little. That's real. But we are
Here. Imperfect and together and reaching.
You can hold my hand if you want. I washed
It with soap. It's OK. In this kind of time,
Now is better than later. Now, I love you.
Now, I am sorry it hurts. Now, I witness
Your struggle, and mine. Sometimes
One answer is to be a yes in the face of
Every no. I am a yes for you. Now and again
Later, if you need me.

 

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

For the Long Haul Rev. Emily Wright-Magoon, Unitarian Universalist Church of Midland, TX

So folks, here’s my challenge for this sermon. Last week, I was at the Festival of Homiletics (homiletics, being a fancy word for preaching.) One of the many messages that stuck with me came from the Christian preacher Nadia Bolz Weber. (I’ve mentioned her before.) She said that she tries to make sure her sermons don’t just give people one more thing for their “to do” lists. Instead, she says, she tries to find a way to bring them “Good News.” It’s a phrase with a Christian tradition, and a phrase I think all UUs can translate and embrace in some way.

Especially given the topic of my sermon today: “Staying in it for the Long Haul” – I really don’t want to give anyone who is already worn out by the work of justice just

one ... more ... thing ... to do.

 So here goes, let’s see how I can do… bringing Good News. …

But I’m not starting from a very easy place. See…today I’m talking about “the work” – the work to which we are called by our principles. And every day we seem to hear on the news about some fresh assault against our principles. And every day, especially if you venture onto social media, you are probably urged to sign this petition, call this legislator, go to this march, attend this event, resist, and struggle, and work and fight.

Unitarian Universalists have put out a series of statements and resolutions that name so many evils in the world that we are called to resist, so much change we need to help bring about.

Here are the titles of some of the last two years’ resolutions:

(as a side note: these are created and voted upon democratically  - the process starts in the congregations and then continues into the process of General Assembly, the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalists).

Build Solidarity with our Muslim Neighbors

Protect and Support our Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Family

Legislate Appropriate Gun Restrictions

Reaffirm Commitment to Racial Justice

Support the Black Lives Matter Movement

Act for a Livable Climate

End Immigrant Child and Family Detention Now

Support Reproductive Justice

 

Phew…that’s a lot! Talk about a “to do” list!

Add to that everything we do in our daily lives to hold down jobs, to care for our children or our aging or ill family members, to care for our own health, to eat well and exercise… and no wonder many just want to check out.

But our framing of “the work” really makes a difference in how we experience the work…

I’m going to talk about three ways we might need to change our frames.

I thought I was referring at first to this kind of frame, but I think it’s actually this kind of frame.

Because this frame holds a lens through which we see the world, and thus experience the world. But then again, any artist knows the first kind of frame also affects how you experience and view a work of art. Imagine the Mona Lisa – or a Monet framed with this.

So here’s the first reframing:

Let go.         

Not too long after the Presidential Election, I participated in an online web call with about 40 other Unitarian Universalist ministers – all of our faces up on the computer screen in live time. We gathered to discuss this post-election time in which we now live. Maybe like us you were then or still are now, feeling a fresh urgency, a deepened commitment, a profound need … to work harder and perhaps differently for justice, reason, and peace. We asked one another: How do we keep ourselves resilient and courageous for the long haul? How do we keep from dropping back into business-as-usual? …How do we resist the pendulum swing from anxious hysteria to shut down NUMB?

So Rev. Sean Denison provided a framing that I found helpful. He said that this work we must do is not new, but it does require us. So his question was: If it is feeling like a lot,

What are you going to let go of? What do you need to give up? Here are two of his suggestions of things to let go of:

1) Excellence. Sometimes in this work, we are muddling through, figuring it out as we go. That means we might make mistakes. It won’t go as we expected. It won’t be…perfect! Our culture has mostly defined excellence in ways that stay in the lines of the status quo… That don’t take risks. What if we let go of that kind of excellence if it means we can take more faithful risks?

2) A second thing to let go of: Comfort. It’s related to that first one. Because messing up makes us uncomfortable. Talking about things, doing things… that push us into new places often makes us uncomfortable. Listening to voices from outside of our typical circles – might make us uncomfortable.

Okay, let’s check in. Have I given you Good News or just more on your to do list? Well, I just told you that you’re going to mess up a lot and be uncomfortable. Does that feel like good news?

Let’s see if I can get closer…

 

Here’s my second reframing. Effectiveness to Faithfulness.     

This frame comes from the Quaker Parker Palmer.

Too often we judge ourselves, our work, by whether it is effective. A major strand in our culture praises effectiveness. The temptation is to measure our work against a certain definition of success. Because so much of this work is unmeasurable, we tend to take on smaller and smaller tasks because it is easier to gauge our effects in the short-term. Because that tricky demon “perfection” seems more reachable. …Because we will stay more comfortable. But we cannot stay in it for the long haul if we are only attuned to effectiveness. So what does it mean to reframe our work to “faithfulness”?

I think about something our treasurer Tom Hull said once when we as a congregation were talking about our reliance on our endowment, which will not hold out if we keep drawing from it at the speed from which we are drawing from it. The temptation in these circumstances – which face so many churches of almost every denomination – is to draw our circles tighter, frame every question from a belief in scarcity, start to count every member as a number, praise every dollar as a resource, center ourselves solely on growth and money – for the sake of growth and money. Of course, we need to have the money to pay our staff fair wages, from the cleaning company to our child care providers. Of course, it’s good to grow, if it means more people who need this community are finding it. But if, in our attention to effectiveness, we lose sight of our mission, where are we?

So, I remember what Tom said. He said something to the effect of: Even if our story as a church, inevitably, is to only last another, say, ten years…for those ten years, let’s be the truest, deepest, biggest version of ourselves for those ten years. And he wasn’t talking about effectiveness. He was talking about faithfulness. …A church that goes out of its way to care for one another. A church that does the work in this community that only it can do. A church that celebrates and models a community of diverse beliefs, and radical love. Not a boring, superficially effective church. But a deeply faithful church.

As Parker Palmer says, “When faithfulness is our standard, we are more likely to sustain our engagement with tasks that will never end: doing justice, loving mercy, and calling the beloved community into being.”

[Pause]

So am I getting closer to Good News, or does it still feel like work? Still a little like work, right?

So here’s my third reframing:  (It’s not about “Resisting”) 

The other day my ears perked up when I was listening to an interview with Michelle Alexander. She said that she’s had some trouble for a while with this language from fellow progressive types urging us to resist, calling what we are doing the Resistance. My ears perked up because she was naming something I’ve been feeling in my bones….

We are not the Resistance. These forces in our culture that are trying to take America ‘back” to a time when it was supposedly Great – They are the Resistance.

When you look not at the news, but at all the increasing beauty of humanity, don’t you also feel it…? ….That the momentum of our culture is actually ushering us toward greater celebration of diversity, toward greater collaboration, toward deeper community. Especially with our 24-hour news cycles, we tend to focus a lot on the negative: the hate, violence, and bigotry. But there is so much good going on in the world, and what if these negative surges simply represent the death throes of a divided, superficial way of living? Don’t get me wrong; we are not “there” yet – perhaps we never will be. For as long as humanity exists, we will need to evolve. And don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people who will get out those paddles to jolt that dead body back into life.

We cannot be complacent – we must still answer the call of love – but our framing of the call really makes it a difference. And framing it as Resistance may be not only unhelpful but also pleasantly inaccurate!

BUILDING….

As the Unitarian Theodore Parker first said: the arc of history bends toward justice.

 Along that arc there have been so many people, both the singular celebrated heroes, and the billions of ordinary heroes throughout the centuries. They have worked to bring us closer and closer to that bold and beautiful world of love, justice, and peace. We are not the Resistance – we are allowing ourselves to be pulled into that momentum, that powerful arc of history. And in doing so, we are contributing our own weight, our own little nudge, as we continue to bend the arc.

Are we getting closer to Good News?

You see, when we talk about this bending of the arc toward justice, we do tend to use the language of work. Think of it! We say: the work, the tasks, the struggle, the fight. But then I think about my daughter’s Montessori classroom. In Montessori classrooms (like our own classrooms here at church, which use a program inspired by Montessori!) we use the language of work. But it is a reframing of work. The children are encouraged from the moment they step in the door, not to be “effective” or “excellent” – but to pursue their own creativity, their own sense of purpose. Independence and curiosity are privileged. So, when I ask my 3-yr-old daughter before school what “work” she wants to do that day: she lights up – she wants to do bread baking work – and, boy, can she! She wants to do Sticker work. Sewing work. Table scrubbing work. She loves that work!

So, here’s the Good News: Our work does not have to be perfect; our work is not about instant results; our work is not about resistance: not about holding back some DAM with the black, fiery rivers of MORDOR behind it.

So, no – we are not the Resistance.  

Our work is a light breeze gently pushing forward the current of a long, deep, beautiful, life-giving river – a river that has been fed by many springs before we were even born, a river that will nourish life not yet imagined.  A river with a great and deep momentum. A river that will lift all boats. We need only stay faithful to the cool, clear water…the water we know as the calling of radical love, that steady urging in our hearts to peace.

(I’ll keep working at bringing you the Good News – )

May that be Good News for you. For us.

(And I’ll keep working at it! J )

 

HYMN # 1028 Fire of Commitment

 

BENEDICTION

By Nancy Wood

Hold on to what is good

Even if it is

A handful of earth.

 

Hold on to what you believe

Even if it is

A tree which stands by itself.

 

Hold on to what you must do

Even if it is

A long way from here.

 

Hold on to my hand even when

I have gone away from you.