Humility”

Worship Script 5


 Worship Script (5 of 5)

The Blessing of Humility

OPENING WORDS

“Each New Day” by Kristen Harper

Each day provides us with an opportunity to love again,

To hurt again, to embrace joy,

To experience unease,

To discover the tragic.

Each day provides us with the opportunity to live.

 

This day is no different, this hour no more unique than the last,

Except .. Maybe today, maybe now,

 

Among friends and fellow journeyers,

Maybe for the first time, maybe silently,

We can share ourselves.  

 

HYMN #126 Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

 

FIRST READING

Matthew 5:1-10 (NRSV) The Beatitudes

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

 

SECOND READING

The Ravensback Prayer

Written on a piece of wrapping paper found near the body of a dead child in Ravensbruck where 92,000 women and children died in the Holocaust.

 

O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill

but also those of evil will.

But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us;

remember the fruits we have borne thanks to this suffering –

our comradeship,

our loyalty,

our humility,

our courage,

our generosity,

the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this;

and when they come to the judgement,

let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

Amen.

 

HYMN #123 Spirit of Life

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
“The Best Meal” Inspired by a story in Tales for the Seventh Day: A Collection of Sabbath Stories by Nina Jaffe (New York: Scholastic Press, 2000). 

Once a there was a great chef who was famous throughout the land. She was so good she taught other people how to cook and their food was almost as tasty as hers. Just for fun, she would throw fancy dinner parties once a month. Everyone wanted to be invited to these dinners. For these dinners, she would instruct the student chefs to cook new and extravagant dishes. The dinner guests, in awe of the chef’s skills, would spend the dinner savoring each bite. All you would hear would be quiet little “ooohs” and “aaahs." 

Because she wanted to always feature new goodies to eat at all her parties, she would travel far and wide all over the land to experience new food. Everywhere she went, the town would honor her. The best cooks would create dishes unique to their region. The great chef tasted them all and requested the recipes of the dishes she liked best. As you can imagine, she ate a lot of food and knew a great deal about how to prepare the best meals. 

One evening, while traveling home, the chef stopped at a small country house to ask for directions to a hotel. The family insisted that she spend the night with them. Happily, she was in time for dinner. The mother took a casserole out of the oven. Brother tossed a salad with different vegetables. Sister sliced the bread.  

“Let me help,' said the chef, so she set the table for the four of them. 

When everyone was seated at the table, the family held hands. The chef felt the young sister’s hand slip into hers and the chef, in turn, reached out for the brother’s hand. 

The mother said, “To have food upon the table” and the children replied “Is a blessing!” 

The mother said, “The sunset and the possibility of another sunrise tomorrow…” 

“Is a blessing!” the children replied. 

“The love of family, the warmth of friendship, and the grace of the Spirit…” 

“Is a blessing!” the children and chef replied together. Then they laughed, happy that the chef had joined in their grace. 

They ate and during the meal everyone told stories about their day. The chef could not believe how delicious the food was. She didn’t want dinner to end. All things must end, however, and off to bed the children went. 

“May I have the recipes?” the chef asked the mother, who was flattered that the chef had so enjoyed their simple meal. 

In the morning, the chef rode on towards home. When she got home, she went straight to the kitchen, gave the young chefs the recipes, and told them to start preparation for a dinner party tomorrow night. 

Tomorrow came, the guests arrived, and the casserole, salad, and bread were served. The chef took a bite and chewed. Something was wrong. Something was missing. This was not like the meal she had at the farmhouse. She ordered the students to explain what they had done differently, but they promised they had only followed the recipes. So she sent someone to go to the farmhouse to bring the mother to her house. The mother came and the chef asked her what missing ingredient had she left out of the recipe. 

“What’s missing cannot fit into a recipe,” she replied. “Did you and your guests make the meal together? Did you hold fast to each other while giving thanks? Did you share your stories during the meal?” 

“No,” the chef replied. None of that had happened. Then the chef realized that sharing a meal together – what we call “breaking bread together” – was about more than just eating good food. It was about working together, sharing lives, and sharing laughs. It was about being thankful for the food not because it was fancy or the best, but because being together to enjoy the food would nourish you, your family, and your friends. 

After that, the chef decided to give small, intimate dinner parties. She and her guests would work together with the student chefs and they would all sit together, give thanks, and enjoy the very best of meals. 

 

MEDITATION

“A Blessing for Risk Takers and Failures” by Robin Tanner 

Today we share in a blessing for losers, risk-takers, all failures far and wide.... 

Blessed are they who fall in the mud, who jump with gusto and rip the pants, who skin the elbows, and bruise the ego,

for they shall know the sweetness of risk.

 

Blessed are they who make giant mistakes, whose intentions are good but impact has injured, who know the hot sense of regret and ask for mercy,

for their hearts will know the gift of forgiveness.

 

Blessed are they who have seen a D or an F or C or any letter less than perfect, who are painfully familiar with the red pen and the labels as "less than,"

for they know the wisdom in the imperfect.

 

Blessed are they who try again, who dust off, who wash up, who extend the wish for peace, who return to sites of failure, who are dogged in their pursuit,

for they will discover the secret to dreams.

 

Blessed are they who refuse to listen to the naysayers,

for their hearts will be houses for hope.

 

Blessed are they who see beyond the surface of another,

for they will be able to delight in the gift of compassion.

 

Blessed are they who stop running the race to help a fellow traveler, who pick up the fallen, who stop for injured life,

for they shall know the kindness of strangers.

 

Blessed are they who wildly, boldly abandon winning,

for they shall know the path of justice. 

 

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

Blessed Are The Peacemakers, by Robert Schaibly


Momentarily inundated by a tidal wave of meaninglessness, this is no time to surrender our religious ideals! When meaninglessness threatens, we turn to what is meaningful. This is a time to reassert in our individual hearts and minds the best that our civilization has that speaks to us. In a time of trial only what is best will hearten us.

[Text: Matthew 5] Those words of Jesus are among the most famous spiritual teachings in the world. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are those who seek peace, for they shall be called children of God."

Blessed are these? Blessed? But where, Jesus, is the blessing? When does it come?

And Jesus says, the blessing is in the work itself. The blessing is in the ability to attain that state of just being. To be able to do any work to bring about peace and justice is a blessing. It is seen most easily in the teaching, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." All of us have mourned this week, but we have mourned before this week; for all have lost persons we cared for; and we found that in grieving the deaths of loved ones we did finally attain that state of being comforted.

Those who hunger for righteousness shall become "satisfied" not because they will live to see perfect justice triumphant. They will not and we will not! But we can find satisfaction even by our ragged attempts to do justice. We can find some satisfaction by trying very hard to be fair, because we have known since childhood how uneven the most honest effort can be. We can find satisfaction in giving human beings their dignity, and by simple acts make the concept of justice a spiritual reality in one's life all along the way, so that by the end of one's life, one is "satisfied."

So these words of Jesus are descriptive; whenever we do them, we attain a better level of divinity, or holiness, and are blessed by our efforts. To the extent that our efforts are satisfying, that is our experience, that we enjoyed stopping a conflict, bringing peace among our children or our neighbors, the words of Jesus are prescriptive-they tell us to do more of that in the future.

And we age and come toward death freely admitting, "It isn't here yet, the kingdom has not been attained, racism is everywhere, war and violence are as common as prejudice and scapegoating. Yet we may say, we had ideals and values and we worked away at it. If we need to apologize, we do. As one mother, a child of the 60s, said, "You don't know the kind of world we would have given you if we could." (Fifth of July, Lanford Wilson)

Momentarily inundated by a tidal wave of meaninglessness, this is no time to surrender our religious ideals! When meaninglessness threatens, we turn to what is meaningful. This is a time to reassert in our individual hearts and minds the best that our civilization has that speaks to us. In a time of trial only what is best will hearten us.

I remember a movie about an English theatre troupe during the Second World War. The troupe toured Britain putting on a Shakespeare play every night in a different town. It was second rate because it was wartime and the younger actors had been drafted, so the only actors left were elderly and infirm. Audiences attending the theatre were dishearteningly small. Sometimes Hitler's bombers threatened, and the lights flickered and even went out. Sometimes the bombs could be felt, and dust was seen sifting down from the ceiling. But the play, King Lear, went on. And I could see that the barbarians are at the gate, but to that little theatre troop performing Shakespeare reminds them that this is why we fight for our civilization to exist-for the best that is England. And simply hearing their story reminds us that is the truth.

When I once visited Coventry, I came upon the Old Cathedral before I saw the New Cathedral. The Old Cathedral has no roof, it has no pews, it is a medieval building of only walls of stone and brick with ivy growing on them. The Germans bombed it, and you can see many reasons it was preserved: it is beautiful even in ruins. But second, it is a symbol that says, "This is what they did to us; and we never let them get us down." And in the early 1950s the Queen dedicated the New Cathedral in Coventry for use. It is the best, the most beautiful, the loveliest, that reminds us why we live and what it is we work to sustain as the human race climbs its evolutionary ladder.

When Tuesday left me emotionally drained, listening to Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber on the radio assuaged my spirit. The forces that destroy the spirit, or at least wear away at our spirits, are actually present every day. We forget the prescription for renewal: it is to be in touch with the best we know of in our society, the most beautiful thing that will speak to our condition right now. It may be gardens or Johann Sebastian Bach; it may be American spirituals or museum paintings. Our self-care requires such renewal when our emotions are besieged. Will you do something to take care of your spirit this weekend? "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

I think putting ourselves in touch with the best of our civilization can bring out our most mature and religious response. The Dalai Lama wrote President Bush a letter: "It may seem presumptuous on my part, but I personally think we need to think seriously whether a violent action is the right thing to do and in the greater interest of the nation and people in the long run. I believe violence will only increase the cycle of violence. But how do we deal with anger and hatred, which are often the root causes of such senseless violence? This is a very difficult question, especially when it concerns a nation and we have such fixed conceptions of how to deal with such attacks."

I think that says it. We have a conceptual response in mind, which is bombing the enemy. We take that posture because it seems called for, but rather than resort to the old paradigm, which is not working this time simply because our enemy is so hidden, why not do something different? What might advance the human race would be to end posturing and to express authenticity with a calm mind. It would require the religious virtue we struggle with the most to summon up: humility. Such rage must give us pause. Do our enemies have something to say that we refuse to hear?

Humility would mean saying to those everywhere who profess to hate us, "This is the moment you definitely have our undivided attention. Can you articulate your complaints?" Those among us who can speak for them, need to sensitize us to their situation.

Finally we remind one another that in America it is not fair to group people together. Every person is innocent until proven guilty. We have grievously made mistakes in the past, driving the native American Indians off their lands, forcing Japanese Americans who had not been to their nations for decades and even generations to live in concentration camps in the desert during the second world war. Let us say we learned our lesson. The last time we were enraged and blaming Islamic terrorists we came up with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Surely not again shall we hold Arab-Americans responsible for what some Arabs in the world are alleged to have done. One ideal that must not be violated is the sanctity of each person, the physical safety of every person. When it is violated may we be personally moved to say, "I am sorry this happened. Every American is not so ignorant. We know you are not responsible for what has happened." If you know a way we can reach out to Muslims in Houston, I would like to see us do it. Some already feel welcome at this church by programs we have held here.

I know there will be terrible sadness in us. I have it, too. I too, have anger about the cruelty. We who get hurt easily often try to protect ourselves, try to build an intellectual shell, by becoming cynical. We are in danger of believing that what has happened is in the nature of the human race. Well, the nature of the human race is also to be found in the turnout of people of good will. Blood donors. People bringing supplies to rescue workers. The police. The Mayor of New York City who showed presence and leadership. Medical people who volunteered. Firefighters who carried on in spite of losing friends, and did not give in to feeling demoralized. Construction people who worked without rest.

Foremost, we who lived through this story must remember the true heroes, the people hijacked on the jet over Pennsylvania. They heard by cell phone the nature of the hijacking scheme, and though of course they were without arms, they voted nonetheless to overpower the hijackers. They must have known the likelihood that at least some of them would die, and maybe they knew that all of them would die, but they voted-it is a hallmark of civilization to be able to vote-and chose to save the nation from worse by their sacrifice. People, we who lived through this must never allow their act to become a footnote! Sadness, yes, of course, but may it be balanced by memories of heroes.

I hope we will consider not retaliating. Vengeance would mean the real victor is meaninglessness. More innocent people should not get killed. Destructiveness should not be made the lord of creation. An eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind.

You know I would comfort you, but healthy spirituality requires that you be challenged. This challenge may be too much to ask some of you, but I ask as always that you simply hear it out and consider it thoughtfully in the weeks ahead.

Humanity can yet develop high and noble ideals. Since we are humanity that means those ideals would have to simmer in our hearts. One such seminal idea comes from the concentration camp at Ravensbruck. It is a Jewish prayer, written on a piece of brown paper sack. The author lived in the women's quarters and that is all that is known about her. The title of the prayer is "Prayer for Tormentors,"-no, not a prayer for those who are tormented, but for the tormentors. With her words I end my sermon and begin the meditation.

 [Prayer for the Tormentors]

Peace to the people who are not of good will,

And an end to all revenge and to all the talk

About punishment.

Deeds of cruelty to beggar all that's gone before

Are beyond the limits of human understanding,

And countless are the numbers of the martyrs.

Oh God, do not weigh their sufferings

In the scales of your justice

And do not demand repayment in cruelty.

Let the suffering benefit all executioners,

All betrayers and all bad people,

And forgive them for the sake of the courage

And the inner strength shown by the others.

The good should count and not the evil,

And in the minds of our enemies

We should not live on as their victims,

But come to their aid instead, so that

They can let go of their delusion.

This alone will be asked of them:

That when all is over We be allowed to live as fellow human beings,

And that there shall be peace again on this our poor earth

For those who are of good will,

And that this peace shall also reach those others.

Amen.

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are closer to God.

May those blessings be ours. 

 

HYMN #16 ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple

 

BENEDICTION
“As We Listen to the Blessing of Music” by Maureen Killoran

 

As we listen to the blessing of music,

May we know this ending

As more than a time of goodbye.

May the warmth of this community

and the memory of our chalice flame

sustain our hearts and encourage our minds,

as we engage the blessings

of life's challenges and joys.

 

The service has ended.

Your service has begun

Go in peace. Go in joy. Go in love.