“Giving and Receiving”

Worship Script 3


To Give and To Receive

Worship Script (3 of 5)

 

OPENING WORDS

House of Welcoming by Orlanda Brugnola

Here find a house of welcoming
Here find vision and hope
Here be received as you truly are
Unique and beautiful
Your journey acknowledged
Your love honored
Let us rejoice together

 

HYMN  #126 Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

 

FIRST READING 

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. 19 Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.

 

SECOND READING

Excerpts from A Deep Well of Appreciation by Marta I Valentin

This year let us give not until it hurts, but until we can look in the mirror and know that we are reaching profoundly into the wells of gratitude, know that we are sitting in the pure joy of it, tearfully acknowledging the gift to rise each day and make bread or beds, give smiles, elicit laughter, cross the line that is personal space to meet in the circle that is a hug.

Spirit of Compassion, you know that if we were never to give thanks, these gifts would still abound.

You know, we would rise and walk in the dark of emptiness, missing completely the air of humanity the being-ness that is grounded in the awareness, the age-old knowledge that we are all one, and together create the One.

This year, let us commit to always rise above wherever it is we find ourselves.

Let us give thanks for the interdependent web that brought food to our tables, for the spirits that gave of themselves so that we might eat, for the bended backs that labored in the hot sun and all the carriers that reached their destinations.

In this rich well of appreciation, let us stretch our hand across the table of abundance, pressing lifeline against lifeline, giving thanks that we can do so, and gently holding in our hearts those who cannot, and could not from the beginning.

Spirit of Our Deepest Desires, this year, let us commit to truly rising as One Unitarian Universalist voice working for and loving all of humanity.

Que asi sea. So may it be. Blessed Be.

Amen. Ashe. Ho! As Salaam Alaikum. Shalom.

Namaste. Paz.
 

HYMN #403 Spirit of Truth, of Life, of Power

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Thankful Dogs: A Story for All Ages by Naomi King

Once there was and once there was not a family of dogs. Like many dog families, there were dogs that had wandered off the street and dogs with fine pedigrees and dogs from the shelter and dogs who had been born into the family. They ran together. They played together. They tumbled together in great furry masses of tails and snouts and paws. They loved each other very much—even if sometimes they growled at one another, even if sometimes they worried about enough biscuits from the tin on the counter, even if some dog didn’t feel good and snapped at another dog—they loved each other very much.

Each night as the moon rose, the family of dogs went outside and sat in a great circle on the soft grass and watched the moon rise and looked into each other’s eyes and wagged their tails. It was a doggy thing to do. Then, when the moon was a dog’s tail above the horizon, the eldest dog would bay loudly at the moon. And what do you think that dog was baying about?

The eldest dog was telling the other dogs and the moon and the whole world what he was thankful for. He was baying, “Thank you for this day! For the running and the jumping! Thank you for the biscuits and the tasty treats! Thank you little brown dog for nosing the ball my way! Thanks for being able to sing! Thanks for this and everything!”

Then the youngest dog would point her nose to the moon and begin to bay. And she was saying, “Thank you wonderful sun that warmed my back! Thank you fragrant frangipani so sweet! Thank you pack of dogs for wiggly dances! Thanks for the ringing ice cream truck! Thanks for this and all my luck!”

Then one dog after another would join the baying, saying their thanks, until they were singing together and to the moon. But they saved the best for last and howled together: “Thank you mother and thank you father! Thank you sister and thank you brother! Thank you neighbor and thank you friend! Thank you stranger and thank you world! We share our thanks for every being whether near or far, no matter who, no matter where, no matter what you are. THANKS!”

They did this no matter what the weather, no matter how many or how few of the family was home, no matter how they felt. The dog family gathered together each and every night to greet the moon and share their thanks! Let’s share their circle of gratitude:

“Thank you mother and thank you father! (congregation repeats)

“Thank you sister and thank you brother! (congregation repeats)

“Thank you neighbor, thank you friend! (congregation repeats)

“Thank you stranger, thank you world! (congregation repeats)

“We share our thanks for every being whether near or far (congregation repeats)

no matter who, no matter where, no matter what you are! THANKS!” (congregation repeats)

 

MEDITATION

We Create a Web of Life by Sarah Lammert Prayer for Compassion by Elizabeth Tarbox

We create a web of life.
This is finally the time to let go of that crazy notion that we can live separate and aloof from one another.

We create a web of life.
This is the time at last that we can come home to each other, to our mutual belonging.
We create a web of life.
And we create a web of life out of which every single one of us can use everything our stories have given us.
We create a web of life.
Every part of our lives... even the cruelty, even the abuse, even the addictions, even the loneliness, even the failures...
We create a web of life.
A web of life is created within which you can rest in that knowing. Because out of that you can act. Out of that, all power is yours. Out of that, you travel light. Out of that, you can step forward.
We create a web of life.
Let every encounter be a homecoming as we step forward now for the healing of our world. The world is not going to be saved by good people or noble people. The world is going to be healed by ordinary people, like you and me, who are not afraid of pain and who are not afraid of loving each other. 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

The Master Plan by Kate R. Walker, minister, Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church, Alexandria, Virginia

I know the master plan of the universe. Really, I do! I did not figure it out all by myself. I had help from a long-ago TV show, in which one of the main characters returns from the dead after being shot in a dramatic conclusion of the previous season. He had been a lawyer for the hospital before being killed, and he reappears in a hallucination to a hospital administrator who is having his own dramatic health crisis.


The episode focuses on the conversation between the two. The lawyer explains how the universe works in simple terms, but he keeps qualifying himself by saying, “It’s more complicated than that.”


Toward the end of the episode, as viewers are shifting back and forth between an emergency room drama for the hospital administrator and his hallucinatory conversation, the lawyer decides to share the master plan of the universe with the administrator. He writes it on a piece of paper, which is hidden from the camera. The administrator looks at it, shares a puzzled expression, and asks, “That’s it?” The dead lawyer responds, “Yes, it’s that simple—and more it’s more complicated than that.”


Of course, the administrator then takes a turn for the worse, and viewers go to a break. With commercials blaring, the master plan of the universe sits on a piece of paper, hidden from viewers, offering answers to humanity’s long-sought deepest questions. For upwards of 10,000 years we’ve been looking up at the sky wondering what it’s all about, to no avail. For most of us, silence has been the loudest response.


Eventually, the hospital administrator is saved, the lawyer returns to heaven (actually it’s more complicated than that) and the master plan of the universe is revealed. The slip of paper contains these words: Giving and Receiving


It’s that simple, and it’s more complicated than that. Giving and Receiving! There were no trumpets, no clouds finally parting with clarity, coming down in gold letters from the heavens. No loud voices or angels in chariots.


The master plan of the universe is Giving and Receiving. Simple in so many ways, and more complicated because we humans make it more complicated.

Giving and receiving go together. We give because we want to believe service is a form of prayer. And we receive with gratitude—mostly (if we’re having a good day and remember to be open to love and generosity). Religious leaders have been saying this for centuries. They’ve been offering metaphors, images, art, poetry and songs in thousands of languages. The message has always been about giving and receiving.


Yet, pathetic as it is, I didn’t get it, really get it, until I heard it in plain, simple language on a dramatic TV show. It was not the medium, it was the mode. The message was simple, it was clear, it was gentle, and I let it sink in. “Giving and Receiving.” I like saying it. I like hearing it. I like letting it rest on my lips, those three simple words.


We make those three words so complicated with ego, pride, shame and guilt. We are so fearful of appearing weak, incompetent, ignorant; fearful of insulting or offending people.


At the heart of our complications is a fear of the other. We make it complicated because we’re scared of each other. My personal favorite is our absurd attachment to individualism, which at its worst looks too much like isolationism and nationalism. Individualism often undermines our religious community.


The value we place heavily on community requires us to walk with one another, to be with one another in an eternal Giving and Receiving of love, compassion, solace, and celebration. It requires bearing witness to solidarity, to advocacy and to reclamation of human dignity where oppression has forced its way into the world.


If Giving and Receiving is the master plan, we have to do it despite the pain and anger, and in spite of our pain and anger. Not out of protest, but rather for our very survival. When we are deeply hurt we are called to open ourselves to love and compassion in order to heal. When we are angry we open ourselves to letting it transform into action on our own behalf and for the sake of others. For where there is anger, there are the roots of change.


In Genesis, Abraham lives in the desert where hospitality rules because survival is on the line. When three strangers appear before Abraham, who has no clue his life is about to radically change in an act of deity-size generosity, he respectfully bows before the strangers. An exchange of greetings is offered—peace, shalom, salaam—and the strangers’ feet are washed. They are invited to rest under a tree, and a feast is prepared. Life and death are on the line in the hot and arid desert. Giving and receiving is the rule of the land. 


Sometimes it feels like we are living in a desert. We are searching for hope in a world often filled with an empty landscape. Yet it is in our DNA to both reach out to one another for hands to help when we are lost in the wilderness, and to respond with an outstretched hand, ready to grasp, pull in and offer refuge.


Ecclesiastes 5:17 states: All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.


It would be easy in our fear to sit in darkness, feeling frustrated, angry at the universe when things don’t go our way. It is easy it is to make the master plan of the universe more complicated than simply Giving and Receiving. But the text of Ecclesiastes continues:


 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.
 

Ecclesiastes is the book most known for “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” It is a book of questions, of doubt, that often asks more of us than we ask of ourselves. It invites us to offer thanks even when we’re lost in the wilderness. It invites us to recognize that in the end we can’t know God’s or any other master plan…even if the answer is in a well-written dialogue, said by a character in a TV show.


I may not know for sure, but I’m going with Giving and Receiving as my master plan. It’s easy, with two gerunds—active verbs, not passive, not nouns. It is a plan offering something to practice, not items on a list of right and wrong.


The plan calls for reaching out from the depths of our heart and soul. It invites letting go of fears, ego, pride, and sacred individualism. It pushes us to reach beyond our comfort zone, into the unknown, trusting that all will not be lost.


Our lives are full of chaotic energy and mayhem on most days. As we wake each day, we are called to give and receive. You might name it as the gracious cycle of life. From the day we’re born to the day we’re going to die, we are called to give and receive. We are offered moments in time of holy exchange, one soul to another soul, two hearts meeting in true reciprocity.
Giving and Receiving is not about a brokered deal, or an exchange of material gifts or Hallmark cards. It’s about seeing the holiness in the other, being present to that holiness, accepting that holiness, and celebrating the divine relationship between us and the presence of love.


The master plan of the universe begins with one holy gift: You and me. We’re all gifts from, and parts of the universe. We are both from and part of the god of many names and faces, the God of love, of compassion of justice.


I believe we’re here to be present to one another, to be present to and faithful to the holy. I believe we’re here to give and receive in the holy exchange of living. Let’s not make it more complicated than that.
 

HYMN #402 From You I Receive 

 

BENEDICTION

In This Community By Sydney K Wilde

In this community we give and we receive.
May we go forth, now,
to share the bounty of our love.