Ancestors”

Worship Script 1

Our Lineage, Our Legacy


 Worship Script (1 of 4)

OPENING WORDS

By Mark  Belletini, Inspired by David Richo #170 from Lifting Our Voices

 

I am a part of history.

I am connected to a family and forebears.

I am a part of humanity.

I am an heir to all that humans have brought to the world.

I am a part of nature.

I am what the stars are.

 

HYMN #360 Here We Have Gathered

 

FIRST READING

By Linda Hogan (Native American Writer)

 Walking, I am listening to a deeper way.

Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me.

Be still, they say.  Watch and listen.

You are the result of the love of thousands.

 

SECOND READING
 Excerpt from the Introduction to “Zen Light: Unconventional Commentators on the Dekoroku” by Stefano Mui Barragato

 

 There are two major persons in each chapter of the Denkoroku.  First is the current ancestor. Second is the disciple and successor of that ancestor.

The ancestor is the one who represents and “holds” or “contains” the entirety if the Dharma.  The disciple is the one the ancestor “sees” as his successor.

The lineage begins with Shakyamuni himself, who selects Mahakashyapa as his successor, the selects Ananda, and so forth through fifty-three generations to Koun Ejo. These are the Zen masters who embody and preserve the Dharma of the Buddha and completely transmit the Dharma to their successors.

 

HYMN #306 Sing of Living, Sing of Dying

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
“Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyons

 Jo Carson is a Southern writer with deep roots—in her case to the town and even the house in East Tennessee where her grandparents lived before her. Her sense of place and roots led her to write a book of poems based on conversations she overheard around her. Jo Carson's friend George Ella Lyons was inspired by one of these poems. She jotted down her own images of where she came from, and then made the poem "Where I'm From." Since then, the poem has been used around the world as a writing prompt, helping both adults and children write poems made up of images of where they are from.

Here is the poem "Where I'm From:"

I am from clothespins,

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening,

it tasted like beets.)

I am from the forsythia bush

the Dutch elm

whose long-gone limbs I remember

as if they were my own.

I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,

           from Imogene and Alafair.

I'm from the know-it-alls

          and the pass-it-ons,

from Perk up! and Pipe down!

I'm from He restoreth my soul

          with a cottonball lamb

          and ten verses I can say myself.

I'm from Artemus and Billie's Branch,

fried corn and strong coffee.

From the finger my grandfather lost

          to the auger,

the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures,

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams.

I am from those moments —

snapped before I budded

leaf-fall from the family tree.

 

MEDITATION
By Lynn Gardner #176 from Lifting Our Voices, Last line by Emily DeTar Birt

 

Can you hear them?

Can you hear the whispers of the ancestors?

We remember.

Their stories are in these walls, in our bones, in the air that we breathe.

Their stories are in the touch of a calloused hand,

In the Melody of songs that we hum while washing dishes,

In remembered faces.

We hear the whispers of the ancestors

How their stories touch our lives

And call us into becoming.

 

Let us take a moment of meditation to listen to the whispers of our ancestors, and all that calls us into becoming.

  

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

Standing in the Stream of Ancestors, by Maia Duerr

This time of year, with golden aspen and cottonwood leaves falling all around, my heart opens to the truth of impermanence. I feel much more awareness of those who are no longer here with us but who live on within us in so many ways. Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead, observed on November 1–is a time to remember our ancestors. In the spiritual tradition that I practice, Zen Buddhism, there is also a great emphasis on being part of a stream of ancestors–a lineage of wise ones and teachers who came before us and who continue to support us.

What does it mean to stand in a stream of ancestors?

When I was growing up, I didn’t have much of a sense of my biological ancestors. While three of my grandparents –both on my dad’s side, and my grandfather on my mom’s side–were alive when I was a child, they were on the other side of the country and I saw them only once a year. Because I didn’t spend much time with them, I didn’t have a strong feel for how they informed my life.

On the layer of culture and ethnic traditions, I felt a disconnect as well from those who came before me. I believe this is true for many of us who grow up white in America. Assimilation is the name of the game and we are, for the most part, taught to value sameness more than difference. We lose touch with our ethnic roots. I remember a story my mom told me from her childhood as a first-generation daughter of an immigrant family from Slovenia. On her first day at school, the teacher told my mom’s older sister that she would have to change my mom’s name—Stanislava—to something that was more “American” and easier to pronounce. From that point on, my mom was known as Sylvia or Sue. She had to give up her name to be part of this idea of what it means to be “American.”

I grew up in the Los Angeles area and the majority of my friends were Chicano. When I spent time with them and their families, I envied how strongly they were connected to something bigger than themselves—through their foods, language, and way of being in the world. I didn’t have that, and felt a huge void around that. Sometimes I wonder if that need to establish an identity where one has been taken away is one of the seeds of white supremacy. If only those of us who are “white” could do that in a more wholesome way and re-connect with our ethnic roots in a healthy way…

When I started Zen practice, one of the first things I noticed was how much emphasis there is on lineage and ancestors. When we practice Zen we are stepping into a stream that goes back more than 2,500 years, and we are reminded of that in morning chants when we recite the names of the ancestors. The long list begins with Shakyamuni Buddha, moves through the patriarchs in India, then to China, then to Japan beginning with Eihei Dogen, and finally to the most recent ancestors for whatever lineage one is practicing within. More recently there has been an important movement to chant the names of the women ancestors, beginning with Mahapajapati. If you’re interested in learning more about Zen ancestors, The Record of Transmitting the Light: Zen Master Keizan’s Denkoroku is a collection of beautiful stories of warm-hand-to-warm-hand transmission of the dharma, from teacher to student over 52 generations

 
CHALLENGES OF OUR ANCESTORS
Even as we receive many gifts from our ancestors, it is just as true that we can inherit their wounds as well as other problematic aspects. In my own family, I’ve found it painful to acknowledge some of the attitudes that my German grandmother held toward certain ethnic groups. When I heard her making disparaging comments about Jews and people of color, I was too young to understand what was going on from an intellectual viewpoint but I knew in my bones something didn’t feel right.

There are wounds that get passed down to us as well. Historical trauma happens when we come from a people who have collectively experienced some kind of trauma, including genocide, slavery, and having homelands stolen. These kinds of traumas can congeal into racism and systemic economic injustice that continues generation after generation to the present day.

There is growing evidence that this kind of historical trauma is actually physically transmitted from one generation to another. This is something to be aware of whether we are the ones who have inherited that trauma, or when we interact with someone whose ancestors have experienced the impact of racism and hatred over generations.

What would it be like if each time we spoke with another person we held an awareness of this lineage of ancestors that we both come from, as if we could almost see those folks sitting on each of our shoulders, bearing all the strengths as well as all the challenges that have come before us?
 
KARMA
We all have ancestors, and we will all be ancestors.

Even if we don’t have biological children, the deeds that we have done and the energy we have put into the world continues down through generations to affect those who come after us. Our legacy is not limited to after our death—in this very moment our actions and choices are creating an impact that ripples out into future weeks, months, and years. This is the Buddhist teaching of karma, that every action has a consequence. When we start living in awareness of this truth, we often make our choices in a much more intentional way.

As I read through The Record of Transmitting the Light, it occurred to me that in our meditation practice, especially as we unfold it in a relationship with a teacher, we are continually connecting to a source of light both within us and beyond us. This transmission of the light is the intimacy and love that passes between teachers and students, between our ancestors and us. It is the thread that connects us all. May we honor it well.
 

HYMN #1051 We Are

 

BENEDICTION
by Barbara Pescan #680 from Singing the Living Tradition

 

Because of those who came before, we are;

In spite of their failings, we believe;

Because of, and in spite of the horizons of their vision, we, too, dream.

 

Let us go remembering to prase,

To live in the moment,

To love mightily,

To bow to the mystery.