Worship Script 4
Worship Script (4 of 4)
"Our Shared Responsibility, Our Common Gift"
By Leslie Takahashi
To worship means to consider that which has worth—today we consider, with gratitude, the many gifts of this community—
The opportunity to be affirmed in who we are and to offer that affirmation to others
The chance to stand up together to help remake the world in the ideal of justice
The freedom to choose one’s own path to truth and to learn from the travelogues of others
The space to expand one’s own spirit and to reconnect after busy –or humdrum--weeks with the sustaining truths of one’s life
Regular reminders that we must see our world through the lens of love
And the aspiration to consider all life as precious for if all of it is made of stardust, how can it not be wondrous?
So this morning let’s welcome all of these gifts with gratitude—for they have been paid for with many currencies
The blood of the martyrs who died so that we can be free in our religion
The sweat of those who persisted in justice’s name against hostility and adversity
The tears of those who struggled to build better lives for those in this life
The questions of our children as they understand the world anew and offer their understanding to us as a fresh lens
The laughter and joy of those giddy with the embrace of community
The dollars and cents of those who gave what they could—and then stretched a little more.
The infinite small acts of service that make the parts greater than the whole, done by those who knew themselves in sympathy with our purposes.
So today we consider with gratitude and humility what it means to pay forward what has been paid forward for us.
And now, with all of this, let us enter into worship with gladness in our hearts.
HYMN #355 We Lift Our Hearts In Thanks Today
Reading from Matthew 6:2-4, 19-21
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Come to Church Anyway!
By Victoria Weinstein
Last Sunday morning I picked up the phone in the office at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, LA. After I said, "Good morning, Unitarian Church," a woman's voice said, "Good morning! Can you tell me what the topic is this morning?"
I thought real fast and said, "The topic is, "COME TO CHURCH ANYWAY!" Come no matter what the topic is, because your church needs you and you need your church, and it doesn't matter what the preacher's going to say!
I was the preacher that morning, and I knew it was true.
The woman patiently waited while I finished my enthusiastic pitch, winding down by lamely adding, "Um, the topic is actually 'On Resilience.' "
"Thank you," she said, and hung up. I'm glad she had a good sense of humor and was nice enough to greet me enthusiastically at the coffee hour after the second service. I had told the story to the congregation as an introduction to the Offering and she was a big enough sport to get a kick out of it, and to thank me for urging her to "Come Anyway!"
Sometimes I wish we could do away with advertising sermon topics in advance altogether and just say for every week, "Today's sermon is called COME ANYWAY." Sermons are living things. They are a response to our life together and may wind up taking a very different direction than what the preacher originally advertised.You never know.
Come anyway. The church needs you. You are, in fact, the church. Worship services are very consistent around here: The Music Director and choir prepare beautiful music, the lay readers are terrific, the Children's Message is adorable and meaningful, the ushers and the flowers gracious and lovely, the coffee hour sumptuous, and your minister does her utmost best to craft a relevant, thought-provoking sermon. But for my money, the most powerful moment that we share comes in the silence right before our meditation. How does that happen? It happens simply by virtue of all those people in all those pews, breathing and being together as one in the spirit of hope and healing, gathered not by common belief (amazingly enough) but by common values and common need. Come be a part of that. Come "Anyway!"
HYMN #288All Are Architects of Fate
STORY FOR ALL AGES
A Story Adapted from Erika Hewitt’s Worship “What Will You Bring to the Feast?”, based on the folktale from Africa and China
The Village Elder had a large crop and a good year, and he decided to share his bounty by having a feast. But he needed help. So he called upon ten council members, and ask them all to bring a jug of their finest wine to the feat. Before returning to their homes, each of the council members in the village had agreed to bring one jug of wine to contribute to the common pot. As soon as they had parted, however, the youngest was already cursing himself for having agreed to part with one whole jug of wine. He didn’t have much wine in his stores, and he didn’t want to spend money. He returned to his wife, and they sat down to discuss the problem.
“An entire jug of wine? Are we to give up so much, when we don’t have as much as others? There must be another way.”
Suddenly his wife had an idea.“My dear, the other nine elders will pour their wine into the common pot. Is that not so? Could one small jug of water really spoil so much wine?”
“Hardly so, my clever wife! What a plan! Thus will we keep our wine for ourselves!”
Finally the evening of the feast had arrived. As the villagers dressed in their finest clothes, so did the youngest council member—and then, as planned, he surreptitiously filled his jug with fresh water from the well.
The village council members each emptied his or her jug into the common pot, including the youngest, and then made ready for the feast. And what a feast it was! First there was dancing and entertainment. Then the bell was rung and the guests were seated. The elders sat together at the head table. Everyone’s cups had been filled with wine, and everyone was anxious to taste the fine, refreshing wine.
After the Village Elder’s blessing, every guest at the feast lifted his or her cup, and then brought the cup to their lips. They sipped, and sipped again. But something was wrong. What they tasted was not wine but water.
Youngest Council Member saidto his wife quietly, “One jug of water cannot spoil a great pot of wine.” So we told ourselves, and so we filled our jug at the well. But clearly, every council member had the same thought! Each of them filled his or her jug at the well! And so instead of sharing our wine to suit this great occasion, we have done nothing but embarrass ourselves.
All of the council members looked at each other sheepishly, avoiding the eyes of the Village Elder, and then continued to drink as if it were the finest wine their lips had ever tasted. The next day a new saying arose among the people of the town, a saying that spread around the world: “If you wish to take wine, you must give it also.”
Words by Thomas Rhoades, Last Stanza by Emily DeTar Birt
Each week we take up an offering for the support of this congregation,
and often, for the support of others who are working for a better world.
To be honest, we need your support—especially in today’s economy,
when pledges are down and the future appears uncertain.
But there is another truth here as well.
Another truth that says: some of us need to make an offering.
Some of us need to make an offering
not only because the congregation needs our support,
but because we need to remind ourselves of our own generosity.
Because the act of giving something away
is a tangible way of acknowledging the gifts we have been given.
If we don't have enough for ourselves, we may be poor in material wealth.
But when we don't have enough to share, then we are truly poor in spirit.
And none of us should leave this place
feeling poor in spirit.
May we do our part to feed each other’s spirits,
In our giving and our receiving
In our caring community of hope
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.
by Michelle Ma, seminarian, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California
I grew up poor, although I didn’t think we were poor. We always had food. My dad drove a car. I was on free lunch, but I figured it was because my dad lied on some form or other so that I could get free lunch. We didn’t look like poor people in the movies and TV shows. We lived in a house, and our lights never got turned off. It wasn’t until I started applying for college that I saw my dad’s tax returns and realized that we were living under the poverty line.
It wasn’t always like that. I think for a while we were middle class; as a little kid I remember taking a vacation to the East Coast once, and eating at nice restaurants. But something happened and we hit hard times. I found out other things later: that sometimes we didn’t have health insurance; that my mother and father got divorced because my mother was taking money from their joint account and investing it in pyramid schemes; that my relatives in the States send ten percent of their gross income back to our family in Malaysia.
I didn’t grow up afraid of money. Actually, all my cousins are accountants! It’s great—I’ve never done my own taxes. (I’m so grateful.) And they and my parents taught me healthy financial habits from a young age. Things like: “Don’t spend money before you’ve earned it.” “Treat your credit card like a debit card.” and “Your rent or mortgage should not exceed 30% of your gross income.” My point is, even though money was this thing that went up and down a lot, nobody in my family has ever been afraid of money, and they didn’t teach me to be afraid of money.
Money wasn’t this mysterious force in our lives that we had no power over. Money was something that we could control—not always, but a lot of the time. And you could also control yourself. Is this thing at the store something that you need, or that you want? Can you ask for a raise at work? Can you take on a little extra work, maybe in the evenings or on weekends? Can you take night classes, increase your skills, get a better job?
I’m not saying that if you’re broke it’s your fault, and that you should stop buying frivolous things like beer or new clothes and that you should take more community college classes and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. I’m saying that I have this attitude that money doesn’t control me. I control the money. I make decisions about the money. I might not have a lot of it. (I made less than thirty thousand dollars last year and flushed a third of it into school, so believe me, I don’t have a lot of it.) But I still make decisions about it. And what guides me in my decisions are my values as a Unitarian Universalist.
I’m actually going to borrow some Christian language for a minute, because I really like the way they put it. (This isn’t all Christians, but a certain subset of Christians who’re really concerned about where they put their money, particularly their investments.) They refer to it as stewardship of God’s wealth. This money is God’s, and they happen to be in possession of it right now. But because it’s really God’s wealth, they use it in service of God, whether that means only investing in companies that share their Christian values or donating to certain ballot propositions.
I like thinking about it that way. Stewardship of God’s wealth. Substitute whatever you want in place of God—Love. Justice. Peace. The Earth.
Money doesn’t control me. I don’t serve money. I serve higher causes. I use the money to serve higher causes.
Money isn’t for us to hoard and keep. You can’t take it with you, and you can’t swim around in a giant vault of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck. Like, you literally can’t, because you would die as soon as you jumped into it. So then, what’s money really for? Well, you can leave it to your children. You can give some to your neighbor. You can give it to a struggling seminarian. You can give it to Amnesty International. You can give it to your church. Just an idea.
It may seem like I’m only talking to people who have money to give. I know that’s not true of everyone. Some of us are living on very fixed incomes—social security or disability payments or student loans. Some of us are living in our cars. Some of us are going to work hard our entire lives and never climb out of poverty. I see you, and I hear your pain and frustration. I might talk about how money isn’t for us to hoard and keep, while some people are thinking, Well, that’s fine for you to say, you have an income!
But wealth isn’t just money, either. It’s also time. And health, wisdom, skills. Those are also your wealth, and also your responsibility, what you should be putting toward a higher service, too, because you won’t have them forever.
It’s an obligation of those of us in this community who are in a better position to give a hand up to the ones who aren’t. Because we are Unitarian Universalists and we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, not just the white and the able-bodied and the rich in money. We believe in justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. We believe in respect for the interdependent web of life of which we are all a part. And that means that the wealth you possess isn’t yours.
That wealth belongs to love, to justice, to goodness, to God. You just happen to be in possession of some of it right now, and for whatever reason, some of us are currently in possession of more wealth than others. But you can’t take it with you when you die.
So remember: this wealth that you are in possession of right now is temporary. Everything you think you own is temporary. Your house, your health, your dog, your church. I have childhood memories of eating at seafood restaurants, but by the time I graduated from high school the only places we could afford to eat out were places like Carl’s Jr. You might be in a good position now, but someday in the future, you might be the one who needs a hand up.
And when that happens, you’ll look to your neighbor. You’ll look to your church. You’ll look to your grown children. And you’ll be glad, then, for those shared values of compassion and generosity and justice, and for the good examples you set earlier.
So what are your values? What is important to you? The church? Your children? Our schools? Our parks? Black Lives Matter? It’s a huge responsibility, isn’t it?—deciding where to put your wealth, especially when that wealth is money. In this capitalist, free market world of ours money is power, and with great power comes great responsibility. The power and responsibility of being a Unitarian Universalist is about discerning your values, and then living them. And like it or not, part of living your values is putting your money where your mouth is. That’s how we can make capitalism work for justice.
I’m not saying this to make anyone feel guilty. I’m not saying that unless you sell all your possessions and donate the proceeds to Doctors Without Borders you’re not living your values. I’m not saying that every time you shop at Wal-Mart you’re letting down the movement for justice and equity and therefore not living your values. You are a being with inherent worth and dignity, and you deserve a spa day, or to go out for a beer now and then, or a Mexican vacation. And sometimes you need lunch to cost less than four dollars.
I’m saying that every dollar you spend is a deliberate choice, and that every choice you make has an opportunity cost. Every time you say Yes to something, you say No to something else. And every time you say No to something, you say Yes to something else.
Because your wealth doesn’t belong to you. You just happen to be in possession of it right now. And you get to choose how to spend it. So spend it as a Unitarian Universalist.
HYMN #1021 Lean On Me
By Michael A Schuler
If you are proud of this church, become its advocate.
If you are concerned for it future, share its message.
If its values resonate deep within you, give it a measure of your devotion.
This church cannot survive without your faith, your confidence, your enthusiasm.
Its destiny, the larger hope, rests in your hands.