Hunger”

Worship Script 4


 Worship Script (4 of 4)

OPENING WORDS

We Speak the Language of Love by Erica Hewitt

 We arrive from many different experiences and backgrounds. Some of us have trouble speaking; others are so young that they’re still learning to talk. Some of us speak English as a second language, and others of us can speak several foreign languages. All of us share this in common:

(congregation:) We speak the language of love.

In the moments before worship begins, and again when we return to the service of life, we greet one another with kind words; we chat about the days behind us and days to come, and

we speak the language of love.

We lift our voices in song — not to sing perfectly or in tune, but to hear and feel our voices form a life-giving sound; and

we speak the language of love.

We form a web of compassionate listening when individuals among us, embodying vulnerability, name the fears that grip their hearts, the joys that buoy their spirits.

We speak the language of love.

At times, our voices clash. We disagree. Tension enters our voices as we make room for different beliefs, different opinions, different perspectives. Through it all, it's our intention that...

we speak the language of love.

In this congregation, we welcome a multiplicity of truths, and invite them to be named out loud. We prophesy, summoning the age when justice and peace will be evident all around us, and

we speak the language of love.

Let us worship together, making room for one another as whole beings, tender hearts, hungry spirits, and curious minds. With our actions and with our words, let us

...speak the language of love.

 

HYMN #34 Though I May Speak With Bravest Fire

 

FIRST READING

“Food for the Spirit” by Mary Wellemeyer

 

In one church it was meals,

prepared and frozen

to be shared with those in need.

Food was handed out at the door,

or taken to where it was needed.

 

In another church it was casseroles,

brought to families

whose strength was consumed

by illness or disaster.

 

Small gestures, these,

little hairs on the roots

of community, reaching into the soil,

drawing the nutrients of earth.

 

When we sing together,

share a meal together,

make soup together,

the hairs on the roots

reach out then, too,

nourishing us in ways beyond the ways

we may think we know.

 

The dark soil is full of nutrients.

We feed without knowing.

  

SECOND READING

“Meditation of Goodness”, by Samuel A Trumbore

 Goodness is a means, not an end.

 Look within.

 Who can stop the hunger for more than we deserve?

 Who can prevent a jealous thought from urging us to protect our hearts?

 Who can ward off all the uncertainties that disturb the mind before we decide to act?

 Were perfection required to be good, all human existence would be a living hell.

 Believe otherwise.

 Embodying love is the endless means to be good.

 In each moment, love stands at our side ready to be chosen.

 Choose wisely.

  

HYMN #127 Can I See Another's Woe?

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
The Mouse and the Crow by  Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

There was once a crow who was very hungry. Flying over the tops of the trees, it spotted a large, tasty-looking walnut growing from one of the tallest branches below. Seeing the makings of a fine supper, the crow swooped down and plucked the dangling walnut and held it triumphantly in its beak. The crow flapped its wings happily, and began to think about how best to break open the shell of the walnut. 

Meanwhile, on the ground below the crow, an equally hungry mouse saw everything that had happened, and decided that it wanted that same walnut for itself. With a plan that was clever, though not particularly nice, the mouse called up to the crow high in the tree, "Say there, friend crow, what’s that you have in your beak?" 

The crow, who was hungry enough by now that it wasn’t thinking all of its decisions through very well, called back, "I've found a very nice walnut, and am going to eat it." When the crow opened its mouth to say all that, the walnut fell out of it, and dropped to the ground, just as the mouse had hoped it would. But the mouse didn’t count on where the walnut would land when it fell: it hit the ground and rolled into a shallow hole. 

The mouse ran to the hole, and reached in to pull out the walnut, so that it could crack the shell and eat it. But the hole was just small enough that the mouse could not pull it out. With both its paws wrapped around, the walnut was too wide to get back up out of the hole. The crow, meanwhile, was unhappy at having been tricked out of its supper, and began to shout at the mouse down below, who couldn’t leave because it was still holding on to the walnut, trying and failing to pull it back out of the hole in the ground. 

Now, if the two of them had worked together, they both might have gotten to enjoy some of that walnut: the crow could have pecked its sharp beak down into the hole and broken up the walnut into smaller pieces. Then the mouse could have reached in and picked each piece out one at a time. But instead, the two of them were stuck there, arguing with each other and both still hungry: the mouse because it couldn’t let go, and the crow because it couldn’t hold on. 

 

MEDITATION

“Spirit of Life and Love” by Amarette Callaway

Spirit of life and love, thank you for the gifts of life and love.

 Help us to embrace fully the sweet and the bitter moments of our days.

 Help us to treasure the times of abundance and to find meaning in the times of emptiness.

 Help us in our abundance to reach out to those who hunger—

 and help us in our times of hunger to admit our neediness and to accept the caring hand of our neighbor.

 

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

Feeding The Hungry AUTHOR: Rev. Joesph Boyd

 It’s possible to be surrounded by abundance and be blind to it. It’s hidden in plain sight, and we miss it in the day to day grind – burdened by responsibility, endless to-dos, meetings, traffic, waiting for vacation, waiting for some kind of relief. We miss it as we go about our usual way of thinking and doing, playing the role we’ve been cast in, or the one we’ve cast ourselves in. Often the roles we’re cast in lack imagination. We’re cast as the parent, or the child, or the employee, and we’ve barely scratched the surface what these roles could mean for us – not for an abstract someone, but for us, personally. Too often we just accept the script that is handed to us by our parents, our society, even our churches without much thought for what’s truly possible. Instead we sigh, and concede to limitations, limitations that are embedded in the script we’ve been given. There are always limitations – but the limitations that are most deadly are limits on our imagination.

Robert Desnos was a surrealist poet who based his entire life’s work on the possibilities of the imagination. He believed that by freeing our mind, poetry as well as life could take on dimensions, colors that could puncture the limited story we have been trained to buy into, and allow for something fresh, something unexpected, something life giving. He proved this on a cold day months after he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent with other Jewish captives to Auschwitz. He was loaded on a train and his role was clearly defined. He was a Jew, and this was the part of the story where he would be packed on the train like chattel and grimly contemplate his impending death. That was his role and assignment within the Nazi german narrative. And the guards had their part to play. They were to stand by and watch in silence as persons like Desnos were shuttled in their grimness to the gas chambers. But Desnos knew that reality is only a shared story we’ve all decided to buy into, and it can be shifted at any moment. He shifted it by doing something kooky and unexpected, playful actually.

He reads people’s palms on the train, and he tells them they have long life line. He tells a woman she will have 3 children. He tells all these people who have been assigned certain death that they will live. He tells all these people in their unfathomable despair that they will have abundance. He tells these people frozen with fear that he sees joy in their lives. These people who have been crowded on this train probably don’t know what to think about what Desnos is doing. It probably just doesn’t compute. But then something amazing happens. One person decides to go with it. “What the heck, they probably thought, I’m going to die anyway.” They go along with it, and let themselves get carried away to a different story for just a moment. And a moment is all it takes. One after another people allow themselves to imagine a future of abundance, a future of joy, a future beyond the train they’ve rode in on. And it impacts the guards who are assigned the role to stand by silently. They break. They can’t help themselves but imagine abundance for all these people they are supposed to silently watch go to their deaths. And they can’t do it. They’re in a different story now, and in the new story they’re forced to see possibilities that none of them have the heart to stop. Desnos and everyone on board is sent back to the camp away from certain death on that cold day. A few weeks later the war is over, and the allies come and rescue all the people in the camp who once rode that train including Robert Desnos. Desnos is so sick he dies a month after he is released from the camp, and yet his life lived on through this story, through all these people’s lives he saved.

Desnos’ story is an exceptional story in every sense of the word. It’s not common. It’s much more common to feel caged in by limitations, by responsibility, by fear. It’s more common to feel stuck, and feel like you’re going through life in slow motion, always getting weighed down by forces out of our control.

We hear “scarcity man” warning us to be conservative with ourselves – to protect ourselves from hurt, from loss, from vulnerability. If we listen to this kind of advice too often we can feel cold, lifeless, alone – we can start to feel like a ghost. We yearn to take in the world, to love and be loved, and this is so hard sometimes. It takes a level of trust we can hardly imagine.

The Buddhist tradition understands this painful predicament. The tradition teaches about a malady where we can be surrounded by life’s abundance, and yet we lack the ability to take it in – to let it touch our heart, our soul. We can lack the ability to digest the beauty and possibility that is surrounding us at all times. The tradition refers to these creatures who can’t take in and digest life’s greatest gifts as “hungry ghosts.” Hunger is a painful thing. It’s horrible to hunger for something that is not available. It is even more painful to hunger for something that proves to be right in front of you, but it can’t be taken in, digested. It gets missed. These hungry ghosts are depicted with these long necks and distended bellies, showing the limitations of  what they can swallow, and showing the toll a narrow neck or a narrow perspective can have on us. Life is hard to swallow. Whether we’re talking about the holocaust or what is happening now, we are guaranteed to come across many things that are hard to swallow and fully digest.

It’s part of the reason I think we come to church. We want to live, and we know living can feel small and limited, and we have a sense that perhaps there is a way to live with more freedom, more courage, more love. Perhaps we can find ways of seeing which show us the abundance that is waiting for us, but we’ve been so busy and bogged down to notice. We need help to get fed. In our shared hunger, our shared plight, even our shared sense of scarcity, we have a chance to stumble across something that truly satisfies.

Buddhism holds teachings on re-birth, and tradition says that these hungry ghosts will continue to be in a state of constant hunger until the day they find a way to allow in some kind of satisfaction and be re-born. I have thought a little bit about re-birth and this is what I’ve come to. Every day is a chance at re-birth. We may feel we were born into a certain kind of life, a certain kind of story, cursed with a certain kind of malady, and yet re-birth is possible every waking moment of our life. We have a chance to wake up and see the life we’re actually living, a life that is expansive, mysterious, and connected to every living thing. This is possible, and it’s not based on belief. It can be your experience or mine, at any minute, on any given day. And I think this kind of re-birth has the potential to show us something radically simple. It has the potential to show us a truth that is incredibly obvious but commonly missed – by feeding others, we too are fed. We can’t find satisfaction by stubbornly trying to feed and satisfy ourselves. This is what our culture teaches us, and it’s a lie. It’s not true. And the spell can be broken. All it takes is a little imagination. All it takes is the willingness to give what we fear we need to hold onto – ourselves. Our sense of who we are, and how we fit. We begin to develop the ability to listen to the growling stomachs in the world, and see something truly awesome and ordinary – our own hunger. And instead of wallowing in our own dissatisfaction and failed attempts for fulfillment we reach out and we touch another. And we dare to imagine something that no one can see at all times, and that we can barely comprehend ourselves. We reach out to touch another and say with all the enthusiasm we can muster – I see you have a long life line. I see abundance in your life. In your life, I see that you will find joy. And before we realize it, we’re in a different story now. And the ghosts find what they were hungering for, and we are reborn.

HYMN #131 Love Will Guide Us

 

BENEDICTION
“Loving Spirit, Be Our Guest” by Gary Kowalski

 

Loving Spirit,

Be our guest,

Dine with us,

Share our bread,

That our table

Might be blessed

And our souls be fed.