Humility”

Worship Script 3


 Worship Script (3 of 5)

Humility Needs Community

 

OPENING WORDS

By Marilyn Sewell

 

Come into this circle of love and justice,

Come into this community where we can dream and

Believe in those dreams—

Come into this holy space where we remember who we are

And how we want to live.

Come now, and let us worship together!

  

HYMN #1023 Building Bridges

 

FIRST READING

“Confessing Communities” by Robin Tanner, from Braver/Wiser

 “Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a [sibling]? God is holy... But a [sibling]…knows from... experience.... Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God?.... Our [sibling] breaks the circle of self-deception. A human who confesses... in the presence of a [sibling]...experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

"Uh, where’s the booth?”

 Having been raised by a Christian-on-the-periphery, New Age mom and a Buddhist-leaning dad, I was a little perplexed at my first confession. I was eight years old, attending a Catholic school. That’s a whole different story, but let’s stay with the confessional “booth” for now.

 It was a room, sunlight pouring in through a window with two softly-padded chairs. I sat down beginning with the words we memorized. Funny, the things that stick.

 “Forgive me Father—“

 

The priest smiled and interrupted me. “What have you done that you wish you hadn’t done?" This wasn’t in the script!

 

“Uh.” We sat together in silence for a while. Then, it began like a few drops when you're not certain it will rain but suddenly the clouds open.

 

I shared mistakes, some intentional, some unintentional. I nervously waited for the penance. How many Hail Marys?

 

Instead, he asked in a kind tone: “What could you do to make it better?”

 

I’ve learned since that this is not everyone’s experience of confession, but it's why I became an early advocate for confession. You see, I also grew up with a Granny who reviewed her day every evening. If she found she caused pain, she would call the person to apologize. Even as a young child, I got a few phone calls.

 

The Confessing Church was a movement begun among German Protestants during the Nazi regime. After the government attempted to unite all German Christian churches into one pro-Nazi church, the Confessing Church resisted the takeover. Among their founders was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The confessing church was not entirely successful, in part because many of its members were not all in.

 

I long for progressive religious communities that are confessing communities—places where we admit our wrongdoings, are held accountable, and called back into covenant.

 

More and more, I dream about a community where a liberating love insists on justice and power redistribution — on right relationship; a community where truth flows freely amongst her people.

 

I know it is possible. I once lived in its grace and challenge. I believe it can be, but we are going to have to be all in.

 

Prayer: Beloved, may I know the beauty that can be the full confession unfiltered, one that shatters the shame where I share my sin openly with all siblings. Grant a love that heals to those I harm; free my heart of hatred denial. Call my being to openness, covenant and accountability. Help me to be a faithful member of the confessing congregation. Amen.

 

 

SECOND READING

“The Writing on the Wall” by Ric Masten

 

if we show them at all

most of us who write our secrets down

and call it poetry

prefer to slip it under the door and run,

and if we must be present at the reading,

disguise ourselves

in sotto voice and pale monotone

 

but here was one

who could take us into his personal life

and show us around

as if it were a house for sale

exposing everything the way it was

and never once rushing ahead

to straighten up a room

or kick the dirty linen under the bed

 

how could he do it? —and why?

it was such private property

and we were total strangers

just in off the street — looking,

not necessarily there to buy,

but then toward the end

I realized

that there was nothing in this place

I hadn’t seen before,

and when I told him this at the door

he took me by the hand

and thanked me

for helping him feel so at home

 

outside as we were leaving

I saw where some street philosopher

had taken paint

and tagged a classic on the wall

 

“There are no strangers here,”

it read

“I know myself

therefore

I know you all.”

 

 

HYMN #123 Spirit of Life

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
“Treehouse Rules” from Tapestry of Faith Stories

 

The treehouse was built on the congregation's grounds over three Saturdays in September, using donated lumber and the donated labor of the families who attended the church and other adults who wanted to help with the project. Even the kids got involved—especially those age ten and up—by pitching in and helping in any way that they could during the construction. 

And it was a fantastic place to be once it was completed, with a window that faced the nearby playground, a rope ladder to climb up, and a slide to exit. While everyone was happy that the treehouse was there after all the planning and construction, it soon became a problem. When too many kids wanted to enjoy it at once, their different ideas about how to use it came into conflict with each other. 

The younger kids got a thrill out of running races through it, hurriedly climbing up the rope ladder, rushing through the treehouse to race down the slide over and over again, one after the other. But the older kids wanted to hang out in the treehouse after the worship service ended, playing games like jacks and cards. One day, a second grader racing by interrupted the fifth graders' game of cards for the third time. That was it. A fight broke out, with name-calling, pushing, and some tears. 

Some adults demanded that the treehouse be off-limits until the children learned to cooperate with each other. Other adults protested that their children had special rights to use the treehouse because they had helped to build it. The Religious Education Committee had meetings about a policy for use of the treehouse. They were getting ready to report to the congregation's board of directors with their findings. Meanwhile, the minister considered bringing in a consultant from the District to address the conflict, which had now spread through the entire congregation. 

But while the adults were arguing, holding meetings, and creating policies, something happened. The children who had been temporarily banned from the treehouse started talking to each other and looking for ways they could all use the playhouse together. A few of them remembered the covenants they had created in their RE programs the year before. They suggested a covenant could be created for how the kids could use the treehouse. So they sat down and talked about why they liked the treehouse and what made it fun. They discovered ways they could all enjoy their treehouse in the way they wanted to. They came up with a covenant which laid out how they would be in the treehouse and how they would respect others who were also using the space. 

Just as the adults were starting a congregational meeting to adopt a policy for use of the treehouse, some church leaders looked out the window. They saw the children cooperating with each other and using the treehouse without conflict. A teenager was dispatched to the treehouse to discover what "rules" the participants had come up with, and when she reported back to the adults at the congregational meeting, the announcement came that the participants had created a covenant with one another. 

The adults were humbled. Some sheepishly glanced at their church covenant, framed on the wall—hanging there and mostly forgotten. The congregational meeting was adjourned. The adults went on their way, reminded of the power of covenants, working together to find a solution and the commitment of people in right relationship with one another—all because of the treehouse rules. 

 

MEDITATION
“AI Want To Be Better” by Howard Thurman

 

The concern which I lay bare before God today is my need to be better:

I want to be better than I am in my most ordinary day-by-day contacts:

With my friends—

With my family—

With my casual contacts—

With my business relations—

With my associates in work and play.

I want to be better than I am in the responsibilities that are mine:

I am conscious of many petty resentments.

I am conscious of increasing hostility toward certain people.

I am conscious of the effort to be pleasing for effect, not because it is a genuine feeling on my part.

I am conscious of a tendency to shift to other shoulders burdens that are clearly my own.

I want to be better in the quality of my religious experience:

I want to develop an honest and clear prayer life.

I want to develop a sensitiveness to the will of God in my own life.

I want to develop a charitableness toward my fellows that is greater even than my most exaggerated pretensions.

I want to be better than I am.

I lay bare this need and this desire before God in the quietness of this moment. 

 

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

Humility and Hubris, by Ron, CLF member incarcerated in Texas

My first impulse in trying to describe the essence and practices of humility was simply to say: Look at the current U.S. president and then think about his opposite in personality and behavior—that will pretty well define humility.My second impulse was to know that that wasn’t it, after all. Instead, my own first impulse shows how easy it is to step off the path of humility. For however true my first impulse might be, the very fact that I didn’t automatically consider my own considerable hubris as the opposite of humility, didn’t deal with the plank in my own eye before the mote in another’s eye (no matter how celebrated and big a mote that might be) reveals the challenge it is to receive the promise of humility.

I could have immediately thought of the examples I know of a few physicians who, once they leave the clinic and enter into community life with volunteer work and church membership, are insistent on not being known or called by the title of their profession. They make this choice not only because they don’t want anything to possibly detract from their mission, but also, and primarily, because this is how they see their core identity as one among many.

My instinct is too often to default to the other way, to indulge in the strong desire to elevate my false and immature sense of myself that is defined by status, achievement, the “likes” of people on social media and the desire to be in charge of my own legacy. I can readily be like the self-deluded man in the Bible story who prides himself on not being proud and showy like that other person. How deep can the roots of self-centeredness go? How mired do we become in that limited sense of self, focused on and forged in fear and scarcity, so fed these days by culture? The evidence is there in the fact that I can be in prison, and still be writing on attachment and longing for reputation.

Shedding hubris and becoming more clothed in humility, getting over ourselves for a better self, begins, ironically, with the stance that we take toward ourselves. To move beyond, we move into. If we rarely or ever truly question our life’s actions and inactions, isolating our inner selves from the influences and sight of others, then we have already given our selves over to hubris. Whatever we attain as a result will have diseased roots and will be short-lived.

However, a life with roots in humility, one that depends on the intimacy of relationships and is open to the guidance of others, understanding it is our weaknesses and even our “humiliations,”is a life that opens doorways to cross into ways of being that are sustaining. It is as true now as it was in previous millennia that humility shows the way to disrupt the default of the dominant culture and its flawed definition of a good life.

It is important, though, to note how a false sense of humility can lead to disempowerment instead of strength and solidarity. It is hubris that elevates the isolated self, while humility elevates the communal. Once we adopt this covenantal reality that at our best we are each one among many, then we can see how humility may prompt some to step back, stay quiet, commit to serve as followers, while others step up and speak out and commit to serve as leaders. To know when it is best to do one or the other is a result of living a life that puts itself within the circle of a Greater Life. Which is another way of describing humility.

Prison is full of daily opportunities to lean into either hubris or humility. Becoming a number among so many other numbers can prompt reactions that lead us away from others, to elevate and think of ourselves as better than those around us even here. It can lead to patterns of fear, even fearing feelings, which create an overblown sense of the self, since so much of institutional life denies it. But, especially for one with privileges of ethnicity and education and

gender and sexual orientation, prison’s limits and leveling—even its unjust segregations and stresses and fears—can create growing opportunities to practice humility in life.

As those in recovery know, and as great spiritual traditions teach, humility is self-care. The unbalanced, driven self—both in being too exalting of self and in being too starving and depleted of self—is what the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of AA describes as “constant in its unreasonable demands upon ourselves, upon others.” Humility grounds us. It is no surprise that the word’s etymology takes it back to the earth, our communal home, our one-and-the-same soulfulness with the land. No matter where we find ourselves in life physically and spiritually, in whatever status, life’s gift can be more than enough. As author and teacher Jill Filopovich wrote recently in a Time magazine column about those celebrities in many fields who have been exposed in the #MeToo movement, and who have lost positions, work and possibly more as a result of their actions, their futures may still teach them that “a quiet, kind life can be a good life.” That is humility’s promise in return for the hard work—for some of us especially—that it requires.

HYMN #1011 Return Again

 

BENEDICTION
“Only Begun” by William Sinkford, in Voices from the Margins

 

Spirit of Life and Love, dear God od all nations:

There is so much work to do.

We have only begun to imagine justice and mercy.

 

Help us hold fast to our vision of what can be.

May we see the hope in our history,

And find the courage and the voice

To work for that constant rebirth

Of freedom and justice.
That is our dream.

Amen