Worship Script 2
Worship Script (2 of 4)
To Be a Blessing
Inspired from Starr King School for the Ministry, Chalice Lighting Words
As we gather together
We reaffirm our commitment,
To accept life's gifts with grace and gratitude,
And to use them to bless the world,
In the spirit of love
HYMN #361Enter Rejoice and Come
Now, I Love You. Now, I Witness by Theresa Ines Soto
I know sometimes you get cranky,
And sometimes your tea gets cold
Before you can drink it. Sometimes
The news is too much. The resistance
Seems too little. That's real. But we are
Here. Imperfect and together and reaching.
You can hold my hand if you want. I washed
It with soap. It's OK. In this kind of time,
Now is better than later. Now, I love you.
Now, I am sorry it hurts. Now, I witness
Your struggle, and mine. Sometimes
One answer is to be a yes in the face of
Every no. I am a yes for you. Now and again
Later, if you need me.
Choose to Bless the World by Rebecca Parker
Your gifts—whatever you discover them to be—
can be used to bless or curse the world.
The mind's power,
the strength of the hands,
the reaches of the heart,
the gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting
Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
bind up wounds,
welcome the stranger,
praise what is sacred,
do the work of justice
or offer love.
Any of these can draw down the prison door,
abandon the poor,
obscure what is holy,
comply with injustice
or withhold love.
You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?
Choose to bless the world.
The choice to bless the world is more than an act of will,
a moving forward into the world
with the intention to do good.
It is an act of recognition,
a confession of surprise,
a grateful acknowledgment
that in the midst of a broken world
unspeakable beauty, grace and mystery abide.
There is an embrace of kindness
that encompasses all life, even yours.
And while there is injustice, anesthetization, or evil
there moves a holy disturbance,
a benevolent rage,
a revolutionary love,
protesting, urging, insisting
that which is sacred will not be defiled.
Those who bless the world live their life
as a gesture of thanks
for this beauty
and this rage.
The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude
to search for the sources
of power and grace;
native wisdom, healing, and liberation.
More, the choice will draw you into community,
the endeavor shared,
the heritage passed on,
the companionship of struggle,
the importance of keeping faith,
the life of ritual and praise,
the comfort of human friendship,
the company of earth
the chorus of life welcoming you.
None of us alone can save the world.
Together—that is another possibility, waiting.
HYMN #131Love Will Guide Us
STORY FOR ALL AGES
From Huffington Post’s Recap of Oprah’s Interview with Maya Angelou. By Lisa Capretto.
When it looks like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.
“Imagine!” Dr. Angelou marveled. “I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds. I had a lot of clouds, but I had so many rainbows.”
Dr. Angelou said she always carried these “rainbows” with her to her speaking and teaching engagements, whether in a large venue or intimate classroom. “I bring everyone who has ever been kind to me with me,” she said. “Black, white, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American, gay, straight, everybody. I said, ‘Come on with me. I’m going on the stage. Come with me. I need you now.’”
Whether her “rainbows” were living or had long since passed, Dr. Angelou said she always felt and drew strength from their support. “I don’t ever feel I have no help,” she said. “I had rainbows in my clouds.”
She also encouraged people to apply the “rainbow in the clouds” philosophy to their own lives.
“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God — if they call God at all,” she chuckled. “I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”
By Emily DeTar Birt, Inspired by Rebecca Parker
Let us enter into a spirit of meditation and prayer:
Through our sorrow and despair,
Through all the tells us we are not enough.
May we remember we are a blessing.
When our spirit well is dry,
And we are parched and thirsty for affirmation.
May we remember we are a blessing.
Look to each other, lean on each other,
Knowing the warmth of community.
We are each other’s blessing.
And when we are able to feel love,
Welling from within us,
Ready to gift the world.
May we choose to be a blessing.
May we bless the world.
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.
To Be a Blessing by Rev. Dr. Sue Magidson
I love my job. I love driving to the hospital each morning, having no idea of what will happen that day—who I’ll meet, what I’ll do, whether there will be triumphs or tragedies, joy or heartbreak, setbacks, small signs of progress or holding patterns.
The one thing I do know is that there will be opportunities to be of service.
Actually, that’s true for each of us, every day—we never really know what will happen, even when we think we do—and there’s usually something we can do to help someone else. However, that sense of mystery and possibility is heightened in a hospital setting.
Another thing I love is all the different people I get to meet, especially folks I would never get to know otherwise. And since everyone responds a little bit differently to crisis, I learn a lot about people, particularly where they turn in times of trouble.
For many of them, religion helps, and I get to learn how, because my job is to serve people of every religion and no religion, people whose beliefs are similar to mine and folks whose beliefs are radically different.
As you might guess, hospital chaplaincy meshes beautifully with my calling to Unitarian Universalist ministry. Our UU principles guide and ground my work, starting with our beloved first principle—the commitment to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
As hospital chaplain, I serve everyone who steps onto hospital grounds—patients, visitors, and staff—from the custodians to the CEO. I love how spiritual care flattens the hospital hierarchy. To a chaplain, everyone is precious and worthy, regardless of beliefs, finances, language, education, country of origin, skin color, age, gender, class, sexuality, and so on.
But while spiritual care uplifts the divine spark in everyone, hospital work reveals painful societal inequities, like diseases that could be prevented or better managed if everyone had full access to the care they need and the resources to take care of their bodies. These situations break my heart every day.
Unitarian Universalism’s second principle calls us to justice, equity, and compassion. At the hospital, I look for ways to counter injustice directly, such as advocating for folks whose voices are muted or educating staff members about cultural differences. As chaplain, though, I bring another gift that counters injustice. By listening without judgment, by affirming each person’s experience, I let them know that they matter to me, that ultimately we are all equally precious.
I love my work, but I’m frequently asked how I can spend my days surrounded by so much pain and suffering. One answer is that the work itself comes with many gifts—moments of deep connection and meaning, joy and laughter and gratitude amidst the tears, ample opportunities to make a difference.
Another answer is a prayer that welled up in me a few years ago. I say it every morning as I drive to the hospital. It goes like this:
May I be what’s needed.
May I be of service.
May I be a blessing.
May I be what’s needed.
May I be of service.
May I be a blessing.
These simple words remind me of my deepest intentions. They help me return to center when I get thrown. You’ll notice that the three sentences overlap—each offers a slightly different framing. Here’s what I hear:
May I be what’s needed.
It’s not about me. This is not about being brilliant or wise or creative or a model chaplain. This is about being what’s needed. Sometimes that’s a warm blanket, an extra pillow, a box of tissues, a glass of water. Sometimes it’s sitting silently, holding a hand. Sometimes it’s singing. Sometimes it’s listening for a long time, without saying much. Sometimes it’s coming back later.
May I be what’s needed. May I watch and listen and sense what’s needed in this moment by this person. May I honor that and respond as I’m able.
May I be of service.
May I go beyond what’s needed to discern what else might be helpful to this person at this time. Service might involve religious support—arranging communion, bringing electric Shabbat candles, finding a prayer rug. Service might involve taking a risk—asking a difficult question, speaking the unspoken, naming the unnamable. Service might be helping a patient or family think through a difficult decision. And it might be much more basic, such as tracking down some apple juice or helping a patient cut up his food.
May I be of service. May I watch and listen for what might help. May I respond as I’m able.
May I be what’s needed. May I be of service. And then the line that inspired this sermon: May I be a blessing.
A blessing. Seeking to be a blessing shifts something for me. There’s something concrete about being what’s needed, being of service. But striving to be a blessing makes room for mystery, for serendipity and synchronicity, for grace. Desiring to be a blessing reminds me that I’m not in control. It encourages me to hold things a little more lightly.
Being a blessing is an act of openness, an act of love. It connects me to something larger, to that interdependent web of existence in which things can unfold in uncanny and unpredictable ways.
Sometimes being a blessing depends on being in the right place at the right time, and usually, in chaplaincy at least, that’s not about planning. I can’t tell you how many times folks have said to me, “You came just when I needed you most,” leaving me flabbergasted and humbled, having no idea how that happened.
Being a blessing doesn’t necessarily involve doing anything. Sometimes it’s just about showing up. There are times when I sit with grieving families in silence while they do the praying, while they take care of each other. Sometimes I wonder if anyone notices I’m there, but, invariably, when it’s time to leave, the families shower me with hugs and thank yous and I’m left wondering, “What exactly did I do?”
Very simply, I was there—available if they needed something, willing to be with them in their anguish, letting them know that their grief mattered.
Whether my actions are actually a blessing is something I may never know, but striving to be a blessing reminds me of times when others have been a blessing for me, when a small simple action—sometimes just a word or a smile—has made a world of difference.
Now, I’m using the word blessing as if we all know what it means, and I’m guessing that for some of you, blessing is a zingy sort of word—a little too religious or touchy-feely or amorphous, and certainly the word blessing is just a bit vague. My analytical side would love to give you a clear, unambiguous definition. But the more I tried to determine what makes something a blessing, the more slippery the definition became. Unfortunately, religious words are like that sometimes.
I’d like to say that a blessing is in the eye of the beholder, but even that’s problematic. So many blessings slide by without our noticing. Others come in disguise. Who knew, for example, that a rare infection that landed me in the hospital for a week back in 1997 would become a blessing in retrospect? Without that experience, I’d have no idea what it’s like to be a hospital patient—the lack of control, the boredom, the fear, the endless waiting.
In fact, many of the hardest times in my life have become blessings to my ministry since they’ve given me compassion and insight as to what might help others. Blessings come in so many forms.
And so, with the imperfect and unsatisfying assumption that we might know a blessing when we see it, I ask you:
What have been some of the blessings in your life?
Where did they come from? From someone you know? From a stranger? From a situation?
How have you been a blessing—to those you know, to loved ones, to family and friends? How have you been a blessing to those you don’t know?
How has your work been a blessing—both what you do and how you do it? How do you bless your communities? How do you bless the world?
What would it be like to walk through life asking yourself, “How can I be a blessing today?”
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, who served for many years as the president of Starr King School for the Ministry, encourages us to “choose to bless the world.” In Blessing the World: What Can Save Us Now, she writes, “The purpose of life…is to discover the joy or well-being that simultaneously pleases us and blesses our neighbor. Every act we commit is a contribution to the world; the question is whether our actions will be a blessing or a curse. The basic question of life is not, What do I want? but rather, What do I want to give?”
We cannot always be a blessing. Sometimes we need to just be. Sometimes the blessing is letting others care for us. Sometimes, miraculously, there’s a blessing in simply being our messy, weary, grumpy, painfully human selves. Blessings are not about perfection, and they come in many unexpected forms.
That said, what would it be like to walk through your life with the intention of being a blessing? What would it be like, in the words of a Starr King School chalice lighting, to move in the world “accepting your gifts with grace and gratitude and using them to bless the world in the spirit of love”?
May you be what’s needed.
May you be of service.
May you be a blessing.
HYMN #118This Little Light of Mine
Share Your Light With the World by James Morrison
Within each of our hearts there is a most glorious light.
Go forth, and let its spark help you understand what troubles both you and others;
Go forth, and let its light of reason be a guide in your decisions;
Go forth, and bring its ray of hope to those in need of help in both body and spirit, that they may find healing;
Go forth, and fan the flames of passion to help heal our world;
Go forth, and spread the warm glow of love, pushing back the darkness of the world;
Go forth, and share your glorious light with the world.