“Blessing”

Worship Script 1


Worship Script (1 of 4) 

Blessing Each Other

OPENING WORDS

By Barbara Hamilton-Holway


We gather here as individual people:
young and old;
male and female;
temporarily able and disabled;
gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight people,
all the colors of the human race;
theist, atheist, agnostic;
Christian, Buddhist, feminist, humanist.

We gather here as a community of people who are more than categories.

We gather here—each ministering to the other, meeting one another's strength, encouraging wholeness.

We give thanks for this extraordinary blessing—the gathering together of separate, unique individuals as one whole, one body, our church.

Here may our minds stretch, our hearts open, our spirits deepen.

Here may we acknowledge our brokenness and be ever stirred by love's infinite possibilities.

Come, let us worship.

 

HYMN #346Come Sing a Song With Me

 

FIRST READING 

Blessed by a Stranger By Erika A. Hewitt


I have an eye for spotting vanity license plates. My fellow Mainers are wicked clevah, and I often chuckle out loud when I see their displays of wit drive past:

WHY W8
GEEZA
RSOX ROX
LVSMBDY

One year ago, at a red light, I found myself behind a car with a Breast Cancer Awareness plate — its border pink, bedecked with the familiar awareness ribbon — and the message: SAV THM. “Save them.” Save the ta-tas, the breasts, the women who are dying of this most common cancer.

This time, I didn’t chuckle. I began to weep. As I raised a hand to wipe my tears, I absent-mindedly scratched my bald scalp through my itchy wig.

Three days earlier, in the careful hands of excellent nurses and the gentle company of friends who love me, I’d sat in the chemotherapy treatment room of my local hospital, allowing a drip of toxins to move through my veins. I was fatigued and nauseous. I was learning that chemotherapy is a form of soul-loss: I hadn't just lost my healthy body and my hair; I'd lost a part of myself that I wouldn’t find again until months later. I did not yet know — because how can we know the full weight of loss at once? — that some of what I lost would be lost forever.

There we were, two strangers idling at the red light. I wondered who was in the car. Was it a breast cancer survivor? Or was it someone who had watched a family member undergo the medical onslaught that cancer unleashes? Had they survived? No matter: they knew. Whoever chose that plate knew a piece of my story, and had shouldered a portion of my loss.

I felt seen, and blessed, by a stranger.

The light turned green and we were both on our way.

Sweet All-That-Is, I don’t believe in “signs.” But I don’t have to believe in them to have experienced one. Thank you for your mysterious ways of reminding me that I’m not alone. Help me be that sign — of hope, of assurance, of witness — to someone who needs it today.

 

SECOND READING

Acts Of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Colour, by Iyanla Vanzant

I wish I would knowed more people. If I woulda knowed more, I woulda loved more.
- Toni Morrison from Beloved.

We have an unlimited capacity to love. Actually, loving is not something we do to or for other people. It is a blessing, a gift we give to ourselves. Love opens us to endless possibilities. It increases our resources and our capacity to give. Love fine-tunes our vibrational frequency, which enables us to crates. Loves keeps us alive long after we have departed and gives meaning to who we are, what we do and how we do it. The only thing that limits our capacity to love are the conditions we place on loving. When love is based on what we get or how we get it, our love ability is stunted. When we love under circumstances rather than in spirit of them, our love is limited. Whe we loved what was rather than was is, we have no real idea what love is about. When we love just for the sake of it, giving who we are without excuses or apologies, taking what comes and making the best of it. We open our souls to the abundant blessings of the strongest forces of love.

Today I will pour love into everyone and everything.
 

HYMN #124   Be That Guide Whom Love Sustains

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Give Yourself (a story about Ralph Waldo Emerson) Story By Denise Tracy


"What do you want for your birthday?" the father asked his daughter. "Do you want a doll?"

She wrinkled her nose and scrunched her eyes and thought. "No."

"A tea set?"

"A pony?"

"No, Father, I have a year to think. I want this year to be a special year, to remember."

"All right. You think and let me know."

Ellen thought. She thought of bonbons, chocolate, new dresses, hats, kid boots, books, gloves, lace collars, but none of these were what she wanted. What would be special?

Each day her father asked her, "Ellen, do you know what you want for your birthday yet?"

And Ellen would shake her head, "No, Father, I’m still thinking."

After four days her father said, "Ellen?"

"Yes, Father, I’ve decided."

"Well?"

"I have a riddle. It will tell you what gift I want for my birthday. The riddle is this: You cannot buy it, for it is worth all the money you have, but only you can give it."

"I need to repeat this riddle because it will tell me what gift you want for your birthday—I cannot buy it, because it is worth all the money I have, but only I can give it. Is that right?"

"Yes, Father."

"Well, now it is my turn to think about your riddle. I have to find the perfect present in the mystery."

Her father paced and pondered. He repeated the riddle over and over. "I cannot buy it, but only I can give it." He paced and pondered. Finally, he smiled, "I know what it is! I know what it is!" Now he had to think about how to give it.

When Ellen’s birthday came there was no present from her father. She didn’t expect one. After she had opened the presents from her brother and sister, from her mother and grandmother, and after the cake was all gone and the celebration over, Ellen’s father said, "It is now time for Ellen’s present from me. Ellen, come and sit with me."

So Ellen climbed into the armchair and sat on her father’s lap. "My present to you is very special. I hope it is what you wanted—for it is not a book, or a toy, or clothes, but instead it is a present that is for all seasons and for each day. This year your birthday present from me is that we will spend time together every week, just the two of us. For you are my very special daughter and I love you dearly."

Ellen hugged him. "Oh, Father, I knew you would figure out the riddle."

Her father said, "You cannot buy it, for it is worth all the money you have, but only you can give it. It took me a long time to figure out the answer, but when I did I knew what gift you wanted. The answer was simple—give yourself."

"Oh, Father, I wanted a gift to make this year special. Time together with you will make this year the very best year of my life!"

Ellen looked at her father’s eyes. "Why Father, you are crying!"

"Yes. You teach me more than any book I’ve ever read or written. By giving you time, I will gain more than I give."

It was Ellen’s turn to figure out this riddle. How could her father, by spending time with her, get more than he gave? She thought she knew, love multiplies. But perhaps she would only understand when she was older, when she had children of her own.

But her father understood. And when he wrote an essay on Giving, he wrote "Give yourself." For he knew the wonder of this gift. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 

MEDITATION

Only Begun by William G. Sinkford

Spirit of Life and Love, dear God of all nations:
There is so much work to do.
We have only begun to imagine justice and mercy.

Help us hold fast to our vision of what can be.
May we see the hope in our history,
and find the courage and the voice
to work for that constant rebirth
of freedom and justice.
That is our dream.
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

Bless You, by Rev. Daniel S. Schatz, Minister Unitarian Congregation of West Chester

 

What does it mean to bless one another? Is it an invitation to the divine? Is it an expression of good wishes? Is a blessing something we say or something we do—a religious ritual or a way of living our lives?

For years, blessings baffled me, and I think other people could tell.

Two decades ago I was one of an interfaith group of summer chaplain interns at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. One of the things I appreciated about our group was the effort everyone made to respect each other’s diverse religious paths—even my Unitarian Universalist humanist path, about which I was a lot more defensive and absolutist at 23 than I am today. Then, one day, it happened.

I sneezed.

Sister Antonia, the Franciscan nun in our group, automatically said, “Bless you!” and then she blanched. “Oh,” she said, “I mean, if that’s okay.” I told her I was happy to receive blessings in whatever theology anybody wanted to give them, and in that moment I made a commitment to myself to relax more about religious language. By the end of that summer, I had learned to pray with patients in the words they needed to hear. Learning to appreciate the act of blessing became part of my growth in religion and ministry.

It’s such a simple thing to say. “Bless you.” But I used to think that outside of a sneeze, it was something only a priest might do, bestowing some kind of divine authority and intention that I didn’t believe worked that way. Saying “Bless you” felt either very awkward or very Southern, until I came to learn how important the act of blessing can be, and that there doesn’t have to be anything magical about it.

When we bless children in our congregations as part of a dedication service, our blessing is both a prayer and a promise. We pray that they will grow healthy and wise and full of wonder, that they will know hope and peace in their lives, that that they will be comfortable within themselves. We promise to love them, to care for them, and to pay attention to their needs, not only as parents but as a community.

That is what a blessing should be—a prayer and a promise.

I believe that Unitarian Universalists are thirsty for blessing.

A blessing is food for the soul—a way of nurturing one another that goes beyond platitudes and becomes the way that we choose to live. We might not always use the word, but when we reach toward one another with an offering of care, support, or simply the presence of our hearts, we bless one another, and we become blessings in each other’s lives.

I once served a congregation that made a point to send valentines to members who had been ill, or who were homebound or in nursing facilities. I will never forget the member who told me, with tears in her eyes, how much difference that simple act made in her life. “Thank you,” she said. “It was incredibly nice to be thought of.” She talked about how hard it is to be away from the community which means so much to her, and how the cards brought connection and hope. It was a blessing.

We are thirsty for blessings.

When we are grieving, or when we are going through a difficult time, or wrestling with a hard decision, the blessings we find in community, the blessings we give to one another, bring us courage and give us hope, keeping us grounded in reality and in the goodness of life.

We are thirsty for blessings.

When we are filled with joy, there are few blessings greater than to be part of a community in which we can share the fullness of our hearts, knowing that there are people who care, and who walk with us in celebration as much as in sorrow.

We are thirsty for blessings, and so I ask of you this. Bless one another. Whatever form your blessing might take, whether you use the word or simply bless with your actions, be a blessing to the people around you.

Listen to them. Let your love and compassion come through. Stand with one another, a presence without judgment, a comfort and an encouragement. You don’t need to solve all of the problems or make everything better; that is probably beyond your power. Just bless one another. And mean it.

This is the simplest way that I know to live a spirit-filled life, and you may never know the impact of your simple blessing—your words, your patience, your moment of remembering and caring for another soul. Bless one another.

 

HYMN #6Just As Long As I Have Breath

 

BENEDICTION

By Lauralyn Bellamy

If, here, you have found freedom,

Take it with you into the world.

If you have found comfort,

Go and share it with others.

If you have dreamed dreams,

Help one another,

That they may come true!

If you have known love,

Give some back

To a bruised and hurting world.

Go in peace.