"Beauty"

Worship Script 1


Beauty As Well As Bread

Worship Script (1 of 4)

 

OPENING WORDS

By Orlanda Brugnola

 

We come to this time and place

Leaving the old week behind

Seeking promise from the week to come

 

Knowing our faults

Seeking to overcome them

 

Remembering the faces of past days

Hoping for new friends

 

Struggling with our daily tasks

Looking forward to tasks done

 

Though we look back

Though we look forward

Yet we are here

In this moment

In this place

With these people

 

It is our time

Let us share it

 

HYMN #21 For the Beauty of the Earth

 

FIRST READING

Excerpts from The Yosemite, by John Muir
 

The making of gardens and parks goes on with civilization all over the world, and they increase both in size and number as their value is recognized. Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks--the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc. -- Nature's sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.


SECOND READING
Excerpt from Art and Religion by Von Ogden Vogt

It would seem that humanity permanently values truth, goodness, and beauty. These values are essential to religion. But there is a cleft between the popular religion of our day and all these three. There are many persons engaged in healing the breach between religion and science; equally many concerned with a new ethical seriousness in religion; few seem to be aware of the cleft between religion and art.

 

HYMN #76 For Flowers That Bloom At Our Feet

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
The Gift of the Raspberry, by Martha Dallas


This was created as a Message for All Ages for a service honoring Yom Ha’Shoah, the Jewish holiday for Holocaust Remembrance. In 2016, Yom Ha'Shoah begins on the evening of Wednesday, May 4th and ends on the evening of Thursday, May 5th.

Once there was a place that was very bleak and dreary. All the colors there were only shades of gray and brown. Nothing grew there: no grass, no flowers, no trees. And this place was surrounded by walls and fences.

People lived in this place. Every day they were forced to work digging holes, and then shoveling the dirt they’d dug out, back into those same holes. This work made them feel tired and their bodies ached. And they felt hopeless, for their work never amounted to anything.

The food they ate was just a little bread and some broth. Their bellies were never full, and they were always hungry. Plus, they got sick a lot, for this food wasn’t nutritious enough to keep them healthy.

At night, they slept, if they slept, on hard wooden beds. They had no pillows nor blankets, so they were cold and they shivered much of the night. When they did sleep, they had bad dreams, and when they woke up, they were just as tired as they’d been the night before.

One morning in this place, a girl went out. And suddenly, she saw something on the ground. Something special and precious. It was...a red raspberry!! Quickly, she picked it up and slipped it into her pocket. She kept it safe there all day, and that night, she found a leaf that had blown in from the outside. She put the leaf in her hand and placed the red raspberry on the leaf, and went to her friend, and presented it to her friend as a gift. And her friend received it.

I tell you this story, not only because it reminds us that in the most sad, hopeless, bleak and dreary places, we can – if we keep our eyes open – find miraculous surprises – treasures that are bright and sweet and delicious, like that raspberry. But more importantly, when we find these treasures, we can give them up, give them away, give them to—a friend.

This story is true. It actually happened. And I want you to remember this story. So today I brought...some raspberries. And I invite you to come take one. Take it and hold it, and when everyone who wants one has one, I’ll tell you what to do next…

Now, holding your raspberry, imagine that your world is dreary, sad, hopeless, and bleak. And imagine that your friend has just given you this raspberry. This raspberry was the one thing your friend truly owned, and she chose to make it a gift for you. And when you’ve imagined that, I invite you to enjoy your raspberry, to eat your raspberry, and to always remember.

 

MEDITATION
By Emily DeTar Birt

“Beauty as well as bread.”

We all need beauty.

Just as much as we need

Food to sustain us

We need beauty to sustain

Our spirits and selves

May we all perceive the beautiful

In our lives, in ourselves, in each other

May we all receive the beautiful

Even on the dreariest of days

May we all rejoice in the beautiful

Knowing that part of the reminder

And miracle of this extraordinary existence

Is the beauty of our existence itself.

May we ground ourselves in the beautiful

Reminding ourselves and each other

Of the life we have and the life we aim for.

 

May it be so and 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

Beauty As Well As Bread, by Lissa Anne Gundlach, senior minister, Neighborhood UU Church, Pasadena, California


For many years, I spent most Monday evenings in the basement of All Souls Church in New York City, where their coffee-hour fellowship hall, nicknamed “Friendship Hall,” was transformed into a dining room for over 300 guests.

Some of the guests were experiencing homelessness or had marginal housing. Some were couch surfing with friends or family or living in shelters, with little privacy, harshly regimented schedules and constant threats of violence or theft. These guests were largely invisible to most members of the wealthy Upper East Side congregation, though some of them lived side-by-side in crowded, rent controlled apartments, or close by in single room occupancies.

All Souls was famous for having the best soup kitchen in town. I once got in a cab across town and started chatting about where I worked, only to have the driver share rave reviews about the chicken they served and the jazz pianist who frequented the dinners. This positive reputation wasn’t based only on the abundant, freshly prepared food and drink, but also in the radical hospitality that the volunteers, many from the congregation, provided.

At the end of every Monday night, guests spilled out into the All Souls courtyard to smoke and chat. Many lingered in the garden as long as they could. Others went their separate ways and began to blend back into the city landscape once again.

I always took the subway home. On the platform, I started to recognize our guests. I remember the first time I noticed a gentleman who had recently dined at the church. He was dressed in tattered clothes and set himself apart from the crowd. What first caught my eye was a yellow plastic bag bulging with the take-out containers provided for leftovers that each guest was offered.

What I noticed next was a bouquet of flowers, stems carefully wrapped in another plastic bag, the same kind that held the take-out containers. Not just any flowers, but unmistakably the church chancel dedication flowers, beautifully varied in color and texture and arranged by a loving hand and careful eye.

I remembered that on Monday afternoons, along with ensuring that each table was meticulously set, an All Souls volunteer creatively disassembled the two enormous vases of Sunday chancel flowers, rearranging them into two dozen smaller vases, one for each table.

I’m not sure exactly why, but frankly, I was surprised. I’m not proud to say that at first a question arose in my mind, “Why would a hungry homeless person want to take flowers home with him? What would he do with them?”

As quickly as that thought came and went, heavily laden with my own judgments and assumptions, another feeling overtook me. Once I could set aside my class-based prejudices I was moved that the guest had taken time to wrap the flowers to enjoy and bring home. Everyone needs beauty, I said to myself. Of course, everyone deserves beauty.

Beauty makes a difference in people’s lives, if only for a few brief moments. I imagined the bouquet somehow providing a balm against the harshness of the life to which he returned. Just as the food nourished his body, the beauty of the flowers nourished his soul.

After that day, I began to see that many of the guests treasured the flowers as much as the food each week. Two young sisters delighted in taking the flowers with them at the end of the meal, quarreling over who got the prettiest ones. Another woman with long beautiful hair took azaleas and tucked them into her braid.

Each week I watched as, like clockwork, an older woman stayed until the last moments of the evening, then traveled from table to table gathering the remaining bouquets together into one large arrangement. I asked her if she liked to have the flowers in her home. “Of course, what else would I do with them?” she replied curtly in a heavy German accent. What else, indeed, but enjoy them? Why did I even need to ask why?

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.

These words were written by naturalist John Muir in his 1912 book, The Yosemite. He described beauty as a “hunger” shared by every person, from wealth or poverty. He said:

This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks—the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc.—Nature's sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.

Muir was right. Beauty is fundamentally a human need. We seek out beauty, delight in beauty and need to create it in our lives. Beauty is as nourishing to our souls as bread is for our bodies. I know this is true in my own life. I come from a long line of gardeners, farmers and florists, men and women. Every spring in New York City, I would haul pots of flowers and herbs and vegetable starts up three flights of stairs up onto my tiny fire escape to make a garden. I rushed to the farmers market every Saturday to buy fresh flowers, and delighted in my walks to the Botanic Gardens. Beauty is not a luxury, but a necessity I cannot live without.

I think this is what Unitarian minister Norbert Čapek was thinking about when he created the flower communion nearly a hundred years ago in Prague. Most of his members had come from the Roman Catholic Church, and while they were eager for a new religious community, they did not feel comfortable with the bread and wine of the Catholic communion ritual. Still, Čapek felt that the bread and wine ritual bonded members to their faith and to each other.

In a time not unlike today, with extremism and authoritarianism on the rise, he looked for a substitute symbol in the peace of the pastoral countryside, undisrupted by human conflict. No wars were fought in the name of the flower, no hatred or oppression, no bigotry or harshness. To Čapek, flowers represented pure, boundless innocence, and the temporary but vivid pleasure of color and fragrance.

Čapek felt that beautiful flowers would challenge his members to discover the same sense of beauty in each other, even and especially because of their differences. While it is easy to see beauty in a flower, seeing the beauty of another person is more difficult. And yet that is what our task is as a religious community—to bring out one another’s beauty and to celebrate it. 

Von Ogden Vogt, 20th century Unitarian theologian, knew this well—he called beauty one of “three liberal religious absolutes, alongside truth and goodness.” Beauty was a fundamental spiritual need, an aesthetic end in itself, but also a calling to understand that trinity of absolutes together as necessary for the flourishing of human love. Truth begets beauty, which begets goodness, and vice versa. He wrote:

Anything beautiful is an end product, and the joy we have of it an end in itself. But our satisfaction is not enough. The sense of beauty calls us to look and see the object in itself. It says, See this flower…, see this person, they are beautiful in themselves. It says, See this person—not see this voter, this customer, this employer, this saleslady—but rather, see this person, as (s)he is in and for herself.

All those Monday nights spent at the All Souls soup kitchen taught me this well. As we chatted about the flowers, I began to really see the beauty of the guests as they were nourished in body and soul. Our common humanity eclipsed the separateness of our lives.

Our charge is not only to see beauty in the flowers, but also to see beauty in one another—friend, family and comrade, sometimes obscured by the common rhythms of our day-to-day. The thing about beauty is that it is meant to be shared. I think about our members who gather up the beauty of their yards every week to create flower arrangements for church every Sunday, or those whose ministry is to make incredible bouquets, and then give them away only for the pleasure and delight it brings others.

Beauty is not meant to be kept to ourselves. We must take the beauty of our beloved community out into the world to share it with others who so badly need deep and soulful nourishment. We must take it to the polls as we exercise our role as citizens advocating for a return to civility and politics of human rights and human dignity. We must take it out into the sanctuaries of nature as we celebrate and revel in the brief but bountiful blossoming of summer.

 

HYMN #77 Seek Not Afar for Beauty

 

BENEDICTION
Reading from Navajo Indians of North America

 

Beauty is before me, and

Beauty is behind me,

Above me and below me

Hovers the beautiful.

I am surrounded by it,

I am immersed in it,

And, in old age,

I shall walk quietly the beautiful trail.

In beauty it is begun.

In beauty, it is ended.