Worship Script 2
Sitting with Resistance
Worship Script (2 of 4)
From the Fragmented World by Phillip Hewett
From the fragmented world of our everyday lives we gather together in search of wholeness.
By many cares and preoccupations, by diverse and selfish aims, are we separated from one another and divided within ourselves.
Yet we know that no branch is utterly severed from the Tree of Life that sustains us all.
We cherish our oneness with those around us and the countless generations that have gone before us.
We would hold fast to all of good we inherit even as we would leave behind us the outworn and false.
We would escape from bondage to the ideas of our own day and from the delusions of our own fancy.
Let us labor in hope for the dawning of a new day without hatred, violence, and injustice.
Let us nurture the growth in our own lives of the love that has shown in the lives f the greatest people, the rays of whose lamps still illumine our way.
In this spirit we gather.
In this spirit we pray.
HYMN #391 Voice Still and Small
Long Road to Freedom By Nelson Mandela
I have walked that long road to freedom.
I have tried not to falter;
I have made missteps along the way.
But I have discovered the secret that
after climbing a great hill, one only finds
that there are many more hills to climb.
I have taken a moment here to rest,
To steal a view of the glorious vista
that surrounds me, to look back
on the distance I have come.
But I can only rest for a moment,
for with freedom come responsibilities,
and I dare not linger, for my long walk
is not ended.
Folded Lie by Maureen Killoran
All I have is a voice
to undo the folded lie.
—W. H. Auden
One of the fads that swept my school when I was in 4th grade was a simple type of origami we called “cootie catchers,” the purpose of which was to predict your fortune – 97% guaranteed! A series of banal choices (do you like chocolate or vanilla? two or twelve?) caused the folds of this intricate creation to shift, and tension mounted until, finally, the heart of the matter was revealed. “You will be happy forever!” “Expect a big surprise!” Or, ominously,”You will have 17 kids and die young.”
These days, “cootie catchers” have been commodified. For a small sum, you can purchase a template that will deepen your spirituality or help you win the favor of your latest crush. Some will purportedly help you perform random acts of kindness, and one even promises to be an ersatz Harry Potter sorting hat.
Back in the day, though, the “cootie catcher” was simply a cheap and easy game. We knew there was no truth in it which, by definition, made it a gentle but shared lie. So why was that, as we folded and chose our way through the layers, a quasi-magical power sometimes grabbed us? Even though we knew better, there was that almost-wish that maybe – maybe! – this time the game would yield a happy surprise.
Except . . . not. In this post-playground world, we’ve learned to our peril that the folded lies are serious, and their outcomes seldom bring happy surprise. We learn that lies have consequences. Life is not a no-fault game.
What if the poet is right, and our voices really are all we have? We have choices, of course, but only one path is morally acceptable, for we are the grownups, and life is neither a playground nor a game. The folded lies are real. With our voices, we can and will undo them.
Spirit of deep Hope and Love, I ache to live the faith I claim to believe. I ask for courage to be fully present in these chaotic days. I ask for wisdom, that my voice may be an agent of resistance and my words add strength for those whose pain has been so long denied. In the name of all that is Holy, this I pray. Amen.
HYMN #1040 Hush
STORY FOR ALL AGES
Wake Up to Injustice By Gail Forsyth-Vail
This story was created collaboratively by several religious educators. As you prepare to share it, read the 1966 Ware Lecture "Don't Sleep Through the Revolution," by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Hollywood, Florida, May 18, 1966.
There was a man named Rip van Winkle who liked to share stories and was kindly to children, but he avoided hard work or anything he thought unpleasant. One day, as the story goes, he found a nice grassy place on a mountain and he fell fast asleep. But this was no ordinary nap. Rip Van Winkle slept for over 20 years!
Twenty years!!! What do you suppose he missed [take several answers]. As a matter of fact, the most important thing that Rip Van Winkle missed was the American Revolution. When he went up the mountain, he lived in a British colony. When he came down 20 years later, he lived in the new United States.
This is an old and famous story, but would you be surprised to know that it was a favorite of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King? It is one he told a lot. As a matter of fact, he told it to a huge crowd of Unitarian Universalists in 1966, about 50 years ago. He talked about the Civil Rights movement, and urged all those who heard him to wake up, to not sleep through the big changes that were happening all around as Black people and their supporters worked to gain equality rights. He asked white people in particular not to be asleep and ignore injustice. He urged people to Wake Up!
Well, in the last few months a new set of leaders from the People of Color community are sending the same message Dr. King sent 50 years ago, "Wake Up! Many of the injustices- much of the unfairness- is still here. And there are some new injustices. Wake up!"
So I’m going to ask you to help me deliver this message to the Unitarian Universalists who are sitting right here in the sanctuary with us. Can you help me wake everyone up? Let’s practice saying, “Wake Up to Injustice!” [Say this with them a couple of times, and invite the children to be loud! On the third try, invite the whole congregation to join you.]
And many people who have not been paying attention, who have been "asleep" are waking up to injustice thanks to the new young leaders. We'll talk more about waking up in our RE groups, and perhaps you may want to talk with your families about times when they have "woken up" to injustice- and perhaps are "waking up" even today.
Excerpt of “With Hearts Broken” by Kristin Grassel Schmidt
Lead us, Great Spirit of Love,
into lives of deeper gratitude,
Fill our hearts with a thirst for justice,
a hunger for righteousness,
and help us be those in, with, and through whom
our world is transformed
into the one we hope and pray and dream for.
These and all things we pray for love’s sake.
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.
Awake In the Dark by Cecilia Kingman, Minister for Faith and Justice, Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Washington
I have been lying awake in the dark a lot lately. I lie there, really hoping to go back to sleep, wishing there was some way to forget what I know. But the darkness keeps calling me.
In these long winter days, it can be hard to keep faith. In the hours of the night, fear and despair can come creeping into our hearts. But there are gifts to be found in this winter season, if we will wait. And yet it is so hard to watch and wait in the darkness.
Perhaps the darkness scares us, and we want to hurry into the light. Or perhaps we want to go back to sleep, want to lull ourselves back into a kind of not-knowing. The darkness around us is deep, and if we are not watchful, we will sedate ourselves with material things in order to quell our anxieties.
For me, every winter requires a spiritual discipline to sit in the gathering dark and notice my impulses to stuff material things into the aching places of my heart. I have to watch my desire to rush away from any uncertainty or despair. I feel desperate to fill that empty, often aching place inside myself.
Some people call this empty place within us the God-sized hole. Buddhists call it a hungry ghost.
I face an annual struggle to keep myself from stuffing the mouth of that hungry ghost. Every year I have to tell myself to stay awake in the dark, and see what I might learn. It is never easy, but it brings me gifts of understanding and clarity. I learn about my deepest anxieties. I also learn that the imagined realities of my fears can be transformed into deeper wisdom—and sometimes into action.
It is always very difficult to keep myself awake in the dark, to sit in the quiet, rather than rush to fill January with the busy self-improvement scurry our society lauds as necessary. It is always hard to keep myself in the stillness—always hard, and always worth it.
But this year is different. This year it is even more important to stay awake.
This year, certain powers are at work to distract us from the current reality. Powers of hate and greed know that the despair and anxiety we feel is nearly unbearable, and they are counting on that, counting on our weakness. They will stoke our fears so that we cannot bear it, and they are certain that we will forget to keep watch in the dark.
So I suggest several practices for these winter days. These are spiritual practices that will help us to stay awake and aware in the days ahead.
I call these practices the four R’s: Reflection, Repentance, Resistance and Resilience.
The first is Reflection. In this season of stillness, we must begin in silence. Let us keep quiet, be still and listen inside ourselves, and see what wisdom rises. We must take breaks from the constant distractions and noise of our lives, and create moments of reflection. Yes, our modern lives make this hard. But it is imperative that we ground ourselves in these days. Meditate, pray, just sit quietly with your tea and let the hubbub inside you quiet down. Feel your feelings. All your feelings. Cry if that is what comes. We need reflection in the stillness if we will be clear in our actions.
After we have listened to what is inside us, we must listen deeply to the quiet voices around us, the ones that are buried. How do things look through the eyes of the poor, the young, the immigrants, the persecuted minorities? Our faith also asks us to see from that angle. In these weeks of quiet, let us reflect on what our society looks like to those who are most vulnerable.
The second practice I invite you to engage is Repentance. Sometimes we struggle with repentance; it is hard. In a culture that hates failure, that sees the admittance of wrongdoing as some kind of weakness, repentance can be very difficult for us. And yet, we do have some things for which we should repent. When we glimpse the story of our society from the underside, we begin to grasp the limits of our own vision. We can see the things we failed to understand before, and places where we failed to act.
Once we see where we failed, we can decide how we will change. We can decide we will act in new ways. For example, when I listen to the voices of people of color, I see where I failed to act against racism and bigotry. My heart aches to see how unaware I was of the suffering of others. Though I am embarrassed and ashamed, I repent of my previous ignorance and inaction.
In the quiet darkness, what can we admit to ourselves? Can we admit that we did not listen enough to those who were crying out in pain? Those of us who are male, can we admit that we did not fully grasp the reality of misogyny in our society? And those of us who are white, can we admit that we were unaware of the depth of racism in this country?
Can we admit that we failed to adequately care for our fragile democratic institutions? Can we all admit that we have not struggled hard enough to protect our planet from climate disaster? Can we confess, quietly, in our own hearts, that we have not really resisted the forces of autocracy and repression that threaten our nation?
These are painful and hard admissions, aren’t they? I lie awake in the night and weep, for the things I did not do and the warning signs I ignored. In this season of quiet, may I repent of these errors.
It would be so much easier to gloss over our errors. It would be so much less painful to stuff some food and drink and Netflix into the aching emptiness within us.
And yet, that is how we have done things for so long. The powers are counting on us to do it yet again. We cannot give them what they want. We cannot go back to sleep.
Therefore let us repent, so that we stay awake.
And after we repent, let us engage this third practice: Resistance.
To begin, we ask an important question: What are we resisting? Resisting begins inside of ourselves. We are resisting our own shallow longings to hide from the painful things. We are resisting distraction and numbness. We must try to resist despair.
We must also resist the temptations of hatred. It is easy to succumb to hatred in these hours. But hatred feeds off itself. Hatred is a parasite that consumes its host.
Instead of hatred, in these days we must practice a revolutionary love, the love that Jesus taught and Gandhi, Romero and so many martyrs practiced. We must love our enemies, as fiercely as we can. Now, I am talking about a revolutionary love, a love that demands justice. This is loving with our eyes wide open. Our love declares that all beings are within the vast circle of love, even those who oppress others. Because we love all beings, including those who do evil, we will demand that the powerful repent their ways. This is a courageous and ferocious love. And this love is always more powerful than hate.
Revolutionary love also gives us the strength to resist forces of hatred that are outside of us—that surround us. There is much to resist in the days ahead. Revolutionary love will concentrate our minds on the most useful actions. We must not flail about, but continue to center ourselves and clarify our purposes.
In these days, we must resist the attempt to normalize things that we know are wrong. We must raise our voices against every erosion of civil society, and every attack against the personhood of another group of people. We must keep alive the structures of resistance we have built, and continue to strengthen the ties between us in this struggle.
These are difficult days. We are being tested. We will be tested ever more greatly. My friends, I do not know if we will succeed. But I do know we must try. As writer Chris Hedges says, “We don’t fight fascists because we think we can win. We fight fascists because they are fascists.”
This will be a long struggle. We must gird ourselves for a long effort. But when I grow weary in this struggle, I think of my friends in Eastern Europe, particularly my Unitarian friends in Transylvania, Romania. The Unitarians in Romania are a double minority—they are part of the ethnic minority of Hungarians in that country, and they are also a religious minority as Unitarians. Under communism the Hungarian Unitarians were bitterly persecuted. Ceausescu’s dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s was one of the most brutal in Eastern Europe.
And yet, though they suffered terribly through decades of a totalitarian regime, the Hungarian Unitarians survived by using tactics of resistance. First, they managed to keep their faith and their communities intact under the dictatorship. They did so in spite of great peril. And one of the ways that they survived and endured was by deepening their practice of our Unitarian faith. Though they were persecuted, they continued to tell their stories and teach enduring truths to their children. They concentrated their efforts on passing on traditions to the next generations.
So they taught, surreptitiously, freedom of conscience, compassion, and the value of reason to each new generation. They often used Bible stories like codes, to pass on ideas that were otherwise too dangerous to talk about openly. The churches were places of quiet resistance.
Indeed, the revolution that finally toppled Ceausescu’s regime in 1989 was born in a church, not Unitarian but a Reformed Protestant church, where a congregation was courageous enough to name out loud the evil that ruled the land. Dictators hate and fear religious people because they know that the enduring message of compassion and freedom is a threat to their powers. They know that religion calls things by their true names and unmasks evil. Dictators know that when people have their hearts set upon the deepest truths, courage abounds.
The Hungarian Unitarians clung to another important religious practice: Resilience. They cared for one another and their communities with deep practices of resilience. They kept up their common life and practiced joy in the face of oppression. They celebrated the seasons. They cooked and ate meals together. They grew food in small kitchen gardens. They preserved the old ways—like farming and food preservation. They passed on the old skills—woodcarving, weaving, and other crafts—in order to remember their own culture, and thus remember that they were not just citizens of a dictator. They remembered that they were a people, together, with a history that transcended any particular historical moment.
They even preserved the old folk dances, and taught them to their children. Much of folk culture was suppressed under communism. Identity and diversity is a threat to totalitarianism, and so the dictatorship tried to get rid of all forms of folk culture. And yet the folk dances and folk arts were taught, and even revived in the last years of that regime.
In the face of totalitarianism we must remember who we are. We must ground ourselves in our faith. We must cherish our children and tell them our beloved stories. We must practice daily acts of resilience.
These are the four practices I commend to you: Reflection will help us see the whole picture. Repentance will keep our hearts and eyes clear. Resistance will move us into action for the greatest good. And Resilience will keep us strong for the long fight ahead.
In this winter season, don’t go back to sleep. In all the seasons to come, don’t go back to sleep. Stay awake in the dark, my friends. Stay awake. I am awake, too. Let us be awake together.
HYMN #304 A Fierce Unrest
We end with these words from Howard Thurman:
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
May we find what makes us alive, and keeps us awake and resilient.