Identity”

Worship Script 4


 Worship Script (4 of 5)

An Age of Identity

 

OPENING WORDS

#419, in Singing the Living Tradition; Attributed to Kalidasa

 

Look to this day!

For it is life, the very life of life.

In its brief course lie all the verities

And realities of your existence:

The bliss of growth,

The glory of action,

The splendor of beauty;

For yesterday is but a dream,

And tomorrow is only a vision;

But today, well lived, makes every yesterday

A dream of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day 

 

HYMN #361 Enter Rejoice and Come In

 

FIRST READING

“This Body” by Kayla Parker

 

This body is not what it was

I got shin splints from running today

    Ten years ago all I’d get was smelly feet

My back aches just from sitting these days

    In my youth, all my pain came from climbing trees

 

This body is not what it was

Not some alien thing thrust upon me

    So clumsy, always in the way

I know it and move it like it’s mine

    Didn’t say I never walk into walls from time to time

 

This body is not what it will be

When the sagging of old age sets in

    And ­simple backaches are fond memories

So I’ll take and enjoy what it is right now

    Not yet frail from old age but sometimes awkward and weak

(Really, it suits what’s inside quite nicely)

 

This body is not what it was

Or what it will be

And thankfully, right now

It seems to just fit me  

 

SECOND READING

“Beyond Borders” by Rick Hoyt

 

Go forth

Because we are always going forth from somewhere

 

Going from our homes, our childhoods

Going from our cities and countries

Going from innocence to experience to enlightenment

 

Going into mystery and questions

Going into the desert

Getting to the other side.

 

Go forth,

Leave behind the comfort and community of one place

Head into the anxiety and loneliness of another.

 

Carry with you the love and laughter of this place

And let it light your way

Carry with you the wisdom you learned

and the good memories

May they give you strength for your journey

 

And when you have been away long enough, far enough,

Done what you’d set off to do

Been there so long

That place too, starts to feel like home

 

Come back

Come back to the one, universal

Everywhere and every when and everyone inclusive home,

This beloved community of all creation

That you can never ­really leave. 

 

HYMN #94 What Is This Life

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES

The Brementown Musicians  by Gail Forsyth-Vail

The story, "The Bremen Town Musicians," was told by the brothers Grimm in Germany, in the early 1800s. This session comes from Gail Forsyth-Vail's book, Stories In Faith: Exploring Our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources Through Wisdom Tales (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2007). 

A farmer once had a donkey who was growing old and unable to work. Thinking that it was no longer worthwhile to feed the old donkey, the farmer became determined to put an end to that donkey. The donkey, sensing that something was amiss, ran away. The donkey was thinking they would go to Bremen and become a musician. The donkey was:

On the road to Brementown.

A musician they would be.

After traveling a ways, the donkey came upon a tired dog lying beside the road and panting. "What are you doing lying there, my friend?" the donkey asked.

"Alas, I am old and weak and can no longer hunt, so my owner decided to do away with me. I ran away, but now I don't know how to make my living. The only thing I can still do is bark."

"Well," said the donkey, "you and your bark can join me. I'm off to become a town musician in Bremen ." And when the dog joined the donkey, they were:

On the road to Brementown.

Musicians they would be.

It was not long before the two came upon a cat sitting in the road, looking mournful. "What's the matter with you?" said the donkey. "Why are you looking so sad?"

"Oh," meowed the cat. "How can I be cheerful when my life is in danger? I am growing old and would rather lie about by the fire than chase mice, so my owners resolved to drown me. I ran away from them, but I don't know what I shall do to earn my food."

"Well," said the donkey, "you are certainly a good singer! Come and join us. We're going to Bremen to become town musicians." The cat quickly agreed, and they were:

On the road to Brementown.

Musicians they would be.

Soon enough, they came upon a rooster perched on a farmer gate, screaming for all he was worth. "Cock-a-doodle-doo! Woe is me! Tomorrow they will put me in the soup pot. Whatever am I to do?"

"You can certainly add something to a concert," said the donkey. The donkey invited the rooster to join the group. In short order, they were:

On the road to Brementown.

Musicians they would be.

The animals could not reach the town in one day, so they decided to settle in the forest for the night. The donkey and dog lay under a tree, and the cat in the branches. The rooster flew to the topmost branch and had a look around. "There must be a house not a far way off," said the rooster, "for I can see a small light."

Hungry and cold, all four agreed to go and see if they might find food and shelter. When they arrived at the cabin, they arranged themselves to peek in the window. The donkey put their front hooves against the side of the cabin; the dog climbed on the donkey’s back. The cat sat on the dog's shoulders and the rooster flew up to sit on the cat's head. When he looked inside, the rooster reported seeing some robbers sitting and making merry in front of the fire. There was a table spread with all manner of good food.

The foursome made a plan for getting rid of the robbers. At the donkey's signal, all four of the Brementown musicians began to sing. The donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat meowed, and the rooster screamed. The frightened robbers ran from the place, leaving the wonderful feast to the four friends, who happily ate their fill and settled down to sleep.

After a time, the most courageous of the robbers decided to come back. All was quiet now. Maybe the robbers had left too hastily. The robber crept cautiously into the dark cabin. There the robber saw the cat's open eyes, looking like two live coals. The robber took out a match to strike, and the cat sprang at the robber’s face and gave it a big scratch. The robber ran for the back door, and the dog jumped up and bit that robber in the leg. The donkey helped the robber cross the yard with a hefty kick, and all the while the rooster screamed, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

The robber returned, shaken, to their companions and hastily explained what had happened in the cabin: "A horrid witch scratched me with their bony fingers, then a killer with a knife stabbed me, a monster with a club beat me, and the devil sat on top of the cabin crying all the while calling, 'Bring the rascal here!'"

The robbers never dared to go back to the cabin again, and the four friends remain together to this day, making music in the woods.

 

MEDITATION

“Spirit of Creative Good” by Virginia P Knowles

Spirit of creative good, be with us when we are afraid.

Grant us the courage to do what we have to do.

Grant us the peace that passes understanding.

 

When we fail to find courage, or peace,

May we find compassion for our brothers and sisters who also fail.

May we sometimes win the prizes that we fight for,

And may we then know both pride and compassion.

May we be open to the candor of old age,

And to the freshness of childhood.

May we give good memories.

May we receive good memories.

 

May we have faith, O God.

Be merciful to us and help us to be merciful

To one another and to ourselves. 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

Age and Identity

by Meg Riley

Some identities, like being a student or a resident in a particular place, come and go. Others are with you for life. Still others you find yourself easing into and becoming more and more familiar with. For me, right now, aging is one of those gradual ones I find myself thinking more about. I’m in my 60s now. People in their 60s used to be old in my mind—but I find that the word “old” really tends to mean people who are older than me. It’s not a fixed identity. Suddenly 60s seem like the prime of life!

I hated turning 50. My women friends wanted me to have a croning ceremony, but that was annoying to me. I adopted a child at 40 and I was tired of people thinking I was the grandmother. At the urging of a friend who insisted I should have some kind of ritual, I honored the date in the most honest way I could: I gathered a circle of friends and then climbed under a table with a tablecloth over it and said, “I don’t want to be 50! Tell me why I should come out!” Friends in their 50s then began to tell me what they liked about it—the increased confidence, the sense of not worrying so much about what other people thought. Finally, bored and sweaty, I emerged, still ambivalent but willing to face facts (and some late arrivers who looked stunned to have walked in on the middle of this).

I had no such difficulty turning 60. Rather, I felt invigorated and excited about it. For one thing, there were discounts attached to the number, and I’m cheap. For another thing, my kid was pretty much grown up and avoiding me anyway so no one thought we were related at all on a daily basis, and so I wasn’t hearing all those grandma comments.

And I’ve loved my 60s. The confidence remains, and the sense of having nothing left to prove. There is an ease and self-acceptance which is a blessing I wish I could have received earlier, about everything from my body to my inevitable blunders and errors.

But being old…this is kind of a new identity that’s creeping up on me, and it seems to be getting stronger. For one thing, no one is left in my family who is older than me. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents—no one of the older generations serves as a barrier between me and death. For another thing, conversation at parties and social gatherings among my longtime friends is beginning to turn to their retirement plans.  Things like Medicare and Social Security are no longer just social issues, but rather are practical topics, as people compare and contrast options and plans. And, then there’s the matter of my body, which is no longer remotely drawn to late night dances or parties or even movies. Sleepy now, thank you very much.

And I’m beginning to wonder and fantasize about my next stage of life. Growing old is an exciting prospect to me because I have great role models for it. Though my mother died ridiculously young from ovarian cancer, my grandmother lived to 106 and enjoyed every minute of it. She eloped at 76, and promptly bought a trailer truck with her new love and hit the road. She continued to travel into her 90s, and planted gardens and got a 30-year mortgage at 82. (She had temporarily moved into a retirement home but found the people there politically incompatible.) She wrote fiery letters to the editor and otherwise behaved in ways I intend to imitate. When she turned 105, she said sadly to me, “Oh, to be 100 again!”

I was reminded of her recently talking to longtime CLF member Jeanne Beatty, who lives up in Alberta, Canada. At 98, Jeanne has been a member of CLF for 50 years. When I told Jeanne I’d be camping in Jasper Park this summer, she said it was only about 4 hours from where she lives and she’d drive over to see me. I was taken aback. “But Jeanne, I said, you can’t camp at 98!” “Why not?” she demanded. “I’ve got it on my calendar!” We’ll see if it works out, but I love her spirit!

With great role models like Jeanne and so many of you, “old age” becomes something to look forward to. But not for everyone. I was talking recently with another friend who, at 95, said he wants only to die. He said he’s not in pain, just tired, and he feels like “a waste of space.” I will admit that this upset me. My immediate, blurted out response clearly surprised him. “I didn’t know you were that much of a capitalist!” I said. “Like you’re only valuable because of what you produce? I thought you knew better than that! You’re valuable because so many of us love you!” He laughed and said he didn’t believe me, but that it was a kind thing to say.

But I wasn’t kidding; I meant it. I love that man dearly, and his loss on the planet will be a sad day for me. Still, I know that the death of his wife and other beloved friends has left him feeling alone. I hear from many of you about the loss of your “other half” and I know that the blow this deals is immeasurable.  And aging, grief and loss do seem to come as a package deal.

And yet. My grandmother, and Jeanne, and so many of you inspire me about the possibilities of old age precisely because despite so much loss all around you, you find new ways to love and be loved, new people and places and relationships. I can only hope that I embrace my old age with a fraction of the zeal you show for it.

 

HYMN #6 Just as Long as I Have Breath

 

BENEDICTION
#685, by T.S. Eliot, in Singing the Living Tradition

  I.                   

What we call a beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

II.

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And known the place for the first time.