Worship Script 4
Worship Script (4 of 4)
Our Power To Bless
Framing words by Emily DeTar Birt, quote by Ma Theresa Gustilo Gallardo
We welcome each other
Into this place
As a gift to one another,
Inspired from these words
By Rev. Ma Theresa Gustilo Gallardo:
“It is a miracle that no one is ever empty-handed; there is enormous power in having no possessions but the self to give and to receive what can be and become.”
May we give and receive what can be and become together.
HYMN #1 May Nothing Evil Cross this Door
Excerpts from the Introduction of To Bless the Space Between Us byJohn O’Donohue
It would be infinitely lonely to live in a world without blessing. The word blessing evokes a sense of warmth and protection; it suggests that no life is alone or unreachable. Each life is clothed in raiment of spirit that secretly links it to everything else. Through suffering and chaos befall us, they can never quench that inner light of providence.
In the parched desert of postmodernity a blessing can be like the discovery of a fresh well. It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless one another. I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighborhood of loving kindness. In the light and reverence of blessing, a person of situation becomes illuminate in a completely new way. In a dead wall a new window opens, in dense darkness a path starts to glimmer, and into a broken heart healing falls like morning dew. It is ironic that so often we continue to live like paupers though our inheritance of spirit is so vast. The quiet eternal that dwells in our souls is silent and subtle; in the activity of blessing it emerges to embrace and nurture us. Let us begin to learn how to bless one another. Whenever you give a bless, a blessing returns to enfold you.
By John Gibb Millspaugh, Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, Adapted from the Karaniya Metta Sutta (Sunna Nipata 1.8) of the Pali Canon
In our religious tradition, it is not just ministers and religious professionals who have power to bless. Each of us has the power to bless another, and to bless the world. Therefore I invite everyone here to participate in this blessing. The words are ordinary words, but we make the blessing real through our shared intention.
[Invite congregants form physical connections, hand-to-hand or hand-to-shoulder, throughout the congregation.]
As we have been blessed, so we bless one another to be a blessing. Breathe in, breathe out, this breath we share with all that breathes. Feel the love of the universe flowing through this community, into you, and out into the universe again. Let the love of all the universe—your love—flow outward, to its height, its depth, its broad extent. You are more than you know, and more beloved than you know. Take up what power is yours to create safe haven, to make of earth a heaven. Give hope to those you encounter, that they may know safety from inner and outer harm, be happy and at peace, healthy and strong, caring and joyful. Be the blessing you already are. That is enough. Blessed Be; Amen.
HYMN #123 Spirit of Life
STORY FOR ALL AGES
Got Room for Love By Erika A. Hewitt
We carry bags with us throughout the week for many reasons. (If you have a bag with you, and you want to have it blessed, please bring it forward, send it forward with a helper, or lift up your bag when you hear me describe you.)
Some of us take books and homework to school
Some of us bring our lunches to school or to work
Some of us take computers and other supplies to the places where we work
Some kids carry overnight bags from one parent's house to their other parent's house, and back again
Some people bring things like books or yard and knitting needles to places where they might need to wait patiently
...and some people even have special bags for their dogs (and other animals)!
[By now, there should be a crowd up front and/or people lifting their bags from their seats.]
For this blessing, then, we're going to add something to your bag —but don't worry! It won't add any weight, and it won't take up any room.
Would any of you like to have some of our congregation's love to take with you to school, or to work, or on your travels? If you feel love here on Sundays, wouldn’t you like to know that our love is with you on the other days?
[To the congregation:] Let's do that. Please bundle some love up from wherever you're storing it [you might rummage through your pockets or look up your sleeves] and make a nice little pillow of love [use your hands, as if making an invisible snowball] and... are you ready? Those of you with your bags, make sure they're open and hold them up to catch the love!
That was fun, so let's add some more to your bags. Sometimes we get nervous when we go to school or work. Sometimes we wish we felt braver. I think it would be nice to know that our courage is with you on other days when you need it.
[Again, invite the congregation to "pull out" some courage, to pat it into a "bundle," and then to gently toss it toward's someone's open bag.]
What do you wish we could put in your bag, to take with you? Name it, and we’ll take it from our heart-supply, and we’ll toss it into your bag!
[Once or twice more, ask those with bags what they'd like to carry with them. Feel free to combine requests, like "peace and joy." When you're done:]
Your bag might not look any different or feel any different, but the next time you use your bag I hope you'll remember that we've added our blessings. Remember that:
- the Spirit of Life is with you at school or at work
- this congregation cares about what happens to you at school or work
- if you need more love or courage, you can ask us for more.
Shantideva was an 8th century Indian Buddhist monk. This was his prayer.
May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector of those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need
For as long as space endures,
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of 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.
Calling On Wholenessby Elea Kemler, minister, First Parish Church of Groton, Massachusetts
I decided early on in my work as a minister that if someone asked me to bless something, I would say yes whenever humanly possible. That is what ministers do, I thought. We bless things—that is one of our important jobs. And I have blessed many things over the years: houses and barns and art studios, babies and elders and pregnant bellies. And of course I have blessed people who are dying and people who have died and people who are very much alive.
One of the best blessings I ever did was for the women’s biker club of central Massachusetts, who called themselves with pride and humor Dykes on Bykes. Apparently it is fairly common for Catholic priests to do a blessing of the bikes for motorcycle clubs but this was 15 or 18 years ago in a small country town, and the local priest, whom they asked first, did not feel it was the greatest of ideas for him to bless the Dykes on Bykes.
Luckily, he sent them to our congregation instead, and we set up a time. They roared up to the church one Sunday afternoon just toward the end of coffee hour, about 25 women on motorcycles and it was very, very loud and very, very cool. The congregation came outside and two of the teenagers carefully put holy water on the handlebars of each of the bikes. I asked each rider to tell me quietly what she felt she especially needed a blessing for and they were such tender things—healing from breast cancer, the repair of broken relationships, the well-being of families.
The whole congregation said a blessing that was something about May you ride safely and may there be joy and freedom and gladness in your journeying, and the women started up their bikes again and roared off down the street. It was pretty great.
I have never once regretted the decision to offer blessings when asked. But the other thing I have learned, and this is probably even more important, is that I don’t bless alone. All of us have the capacity to bless. It is something all of us can do.
I think my congregation is perhaps a little unusual in this tendency of ours to bless so much. I remember how our sabbatical minister was a little surprised to discover, when I showed her around my office, that I keep little vials of holy water in my desk drawer. Other colleagues have been surprised to learn I carry a vial of holy water in my bag at all times. What do you do with it? they ask me.
I give it away. I give it to people who are struggling or facing surgery or some other hard thing so that they can give themselves a blessing when they need it. Pour it on their heads or rub it on their hurt places or sprinkle it on their door steps or sleeping children. Or maybe just keep it and carry it around to help them remember they are loved or not alone or whatever they need to remember. I know someone who keeps his in his pocket most days. He just likes to have it there.
I suspect some of my colleagues think this is a little quaint or superstitious or weirdly religious for UUs. Maybe you think the same. But I don’t believe it is. I believe we bless each other all the time, and in a thousand different ways, and the only thing different here is that we use the word blessing to talk about what we are doing. And we use water to help us be more aware or more conscious that we are already doing it, to make what we are already doing clearer.
So what, then, does it mean to bless someone, to offer a blessing, to be a blessing?
To bless something or someone is to invoke its wholeness, to help remind the person or thing you are blessing of its essence, it sacredness, its beauty, and to help remind yourself of that, too. Blessing does not fix anything. It is not a cure. I always remind people of this when the animal blessing services comes around and people want the blessing to help make their dog not be afraid of thunder or to stop barking every time the door bell rings.
A blessing does not fix us. It does not instill health or well-being or strength. Instead, it reminds us that those things are already there, within us. A blessing is a way to remember strength, to invoke the capacity to grow and heal and change, to resist giving up. That is all a blessing is, but that is so much.
The poet, theologian and former priest John O Donohue wrote extensively about blessing, about what it means to bless, about how we bless one another. In his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, he talks about the need to recover what he called the lost art of blessing. He says:
When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plentitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighborhood of loving kindness. In the light of blessing, a person or situation becomes illuminated in a completely new way. In a dead wall a new window opens, in a dense darkness a path starts to glimmer, and into a broken heart healing falls like morning dew . . .
Let us begin to learn to bless one another. Whenever you give a blessing, a blessing returns to enfold you.
So much of the blessing we do is to help people cross these crucial thresholds, to help us navigate new experiences and the strange and sometimes difficult passages of every human life.
This is a lot of what religious community is for—to offer each other blessings, to remind each other of strength in times of illness and recovery, birth and death, grief and joy.
John O’ Donohue believes that whenever one person takes another into the care of their heart, we are blessing each other. So the matzoh ball soup for the sick neighbor is a blessing. The hand on the shoulder of a crying friend is a blessing. The gentle word spoken in love to an angry or hurting child is a blessing. As O’Donohue says, perhaps we bless one another all the time without even realizing it.
Think about the last blessing you offered someone, perhaps without even knowing you did so. Was it the blessing of touch, the blessing of cooking and serving food, the blessing of folding the clean laundry? Think about the last time you felt blessed—when you felt taken into the care of someone’s heart. Think about how it feels to be blessed. Think about the blessings you can give today, right now.
I offer you these words of blessing by John O’Donohue for this moment:
May I live this day
Compassionate of heart
Clear in word
Gracious in awareness
Courageous in thought
Generous in love
HYMN #299 Make Channels for Streams of Love
By Eric Williams
May you be filled with the blessings of this covenanted community.
May you carry them with you as you depart from here.
May you discover the places in the world where these blessings are needed.
May you have the courage to share them.
May there be an open place within you to receive the blessings of the people whom you will meet along the way.