"Persistence"

Worship Script 2


 Worship Script (2 of 4)

Persistence In Times of Struggle

 OPENING WORDS

by Martha Kirby Capo, #31 in Lifting Our Voices

 

As we enter this sacred, silent space,

Let us renew both our commitment and our covenant:

There are those among us who have endured a loss in the past week;

May their hope be uplifted again in this community of faith.

There are those among us who have struggled with hardship in the past week;

May they find renewed strength in this community of faith.

There are those among us who have wrestled with questions that seem to have no answer in the past week;

May they find sanctuary during their search in this community of faith.

There are those among us who have cherished an unexpected joy in the past week;

May their rejoicing be celebrated in this community of faith.

As we commit to continue our free and responsible search for Truth, may we covenant to honor the many paths that have led us to this community of faith.

So may it be.

  

HYMN #5 It is Something to Have Wept

 

FIRST READING
Isaiah 40:27-31

Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.

 
SECOND READING
In Every Death by Marta I. Valetin

 It has been said

that in death

we lose a little

of who we are.

 

A relationship with our

self is severed

and bereft

we are left

to re-discover,

re-imagine,

and re-select

who we came to be.

 

HYMN #354 We Laugh, We Cry

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Two Frogs by Christopher Buice in “A Bucketful of Dreams: Contemporary Parables for All Ages”

Once, two frogs were hopping through the forest when they accidently hopped into a big churn of cream. The sides of the churn were so slick and slippery that there was no place to hold on to, so the frogs had to swim in circles to stay afloat.

After a long time one frog said, “There is no hope. We’re doomed to drown in this churn.”

The older frog said, “Don’t lose hope. Life is a circle. There are bad times and there are good times. One must endure the winter to see the spring.”

The young frog was not so sure and he said, “You’re wrong. We’re going to die, I tell you!”

And the older frog said, “We must keep hope alive! For if hope dies, we, too, will die. But if we keep hope alive, we will live to see another sunrise.”

But the younger frog was already starting to lose hope and he began to sink down into the creamy liquid.

“Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive!” cried the older one.

Then the younger one started repeating, slowly at first, “Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive.”

The more they repeated the words, the stronger they felt. And the more strength they had, the better they could swim in circles.

As they swam and swam, around and around in circles, an amazing thing happened. They realized they weren’t sinking any more. The cream had turned to butter!

The two frogs were able to hop off the butter and out of the churn. They landed on the ground just in time to see a beautiful sunrise. The older frog said to the younger one, “Remember my son, life is a circle. Despair may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” And the two frogs hopped away into the woods.

 

MEDITATION
Meditation on Hope and Love in a Time of Struggle by Alice Anacheka-Nasemann

In a world so filled with brokenness and sorrow
It would be easy to lose ourselves in never ending grief,
To be choked by our outrage
To be paralyzed by the enormity of suffering,
To feel our hearts squeeze tight with hopelessness.

Instead, this morning, let us simply breathe together as we hold our hearts open.

Breathing in as our hearts fill with compassion

Breathing out as we pray for healing in our world & in our lives.

Breathing in, opening ourselves to the transforming power of love

Breathing out as we pray for peace in our world & in our lives.

Breathing in as we hold hope in our hearts

Breathing out as we pray for justice in our world & in our lives.

May we know our strength
May we be filled with courage
May our love flow from us into this world.

Breathing in, we are the prayer

Breathing out, we are the healing

Breathing in, we are the love

Breathing out, we are the peace

Breathing in, we are the hope

Breathing out, we are the justice

May we know our strength
May we be filled with courage
May our love flow from us into this world.

Amen, blessed be, may it ever be so.

 

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

And Not Grow Weary, by Rev. Robin Bartlett

My son learned a song at Village Green preschool that he made me sing with him all the next day. Maybe you know it.

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt.

(We're goin’ on a bear hunt)

We're going to catch a big one,

(We're going to catch a big one,)

I'm not scared

(I'm not scared)

What a beautiful day!

(What a beautiful day!)

 

Uh-oh!

A forest!

A big, dark forest.

We can’t go over it.

We can’t go under it.

Oh no!

We’ve got to go through it!

Stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!

 

So it is with the darkness of our deepest suffering. We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it. We can’t get around it. We’ve got to go through it.

In the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah 40:31 says: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

The prophet is speaking to those who have been suffering for a long time. He is addressing the Judean people who have been in exile in Babylon. They are tired, beaten down, and in the depths of despair.

The prophet is trying to coax them to remember God’s promises to them, using almost a pleading tone. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told from the beginning? Our God created the foundations of the earth, the people are like tiny ants below. The Holy One created all of this, called it all by name, loved it all into existence. Wait on the Lord. He will give strength to the powerless; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

We know what it is to need that kind of reassurance. We are tired. We have endured daily images of people in the news who need our help and protection: from wildfires and floods, mass shootings and white supremacist rallies, refugees and the #metoo movement, hate crimes aimed at Muslims and Jews and LGBTQ folk, the opioid crisis and the health care crisis… And so our empathy triggers are on high alert, and have started to wear out. We get compassion fatigue.

Given our exhaustion, it’s pretty impressive that we can still wake up in the morning and go about our business with some modicum of energy, and even joy.

Speaking for my own local community, and perhaps for yours, I would like to add that we are sick of cancer; tired of cancer; DONE with cancer. Really. Cancer is an indiscriminate dasher of spirits. It is a silent killer of faith. It steals lives and livelihoods, children from their parents and parents from their children.

And cancer has much to teach us about the depths of our weariness, and the depths of our strength.

I talked to a beloved church member, Jen Kalnicki, on the phone when she had just had her first round of chemotherapy, and she was so weak that she said she had to drink from a straw all day because she couldn’t lift her head off of the pillow. She was so weary she couldn’t lift her head. She has these two beautiful little girls, and sometimes she can’t lift her head.

The prophet in the book of Isaiah tells the long-suffering Judean exiles to wait patiently on God, who will eventually give us strength. Patience is a virtue, but it’s not my best. My favorite prayer is: “Lord, give me patience. And hurry.”

But the scripture says, “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Of course, not all of us walk, and many of us don’t run. Personally, I’m more likely to run than I am to mount up on eagles’ wings. To be honest, if a bear was chasing me down the trail, I’d just give up right away, lie down and ask the Lord to take me. I’ve led a good life. My children will be fine; they have good fathers.

But it seems that there is something powerful there in the text, and I wanted to know more. So given that running is not my strong suit, I reached out to two of the marathon runners in our congregation. “I’m writing a sermon on how to ‘run and not be weary.’ I have no idea how that’s done. You two are always running marathons. Do you have any advice?”

And I want to tell you what they said, because it’s pure insight about living a good and faithful life. In fact, they were so convincing it almost made me want to do one of those Couch-to-5K running programs. Almost.

Jennifer Caron said this:

First of all, there is no such thing as long distance running without growing weary. We definitely grow weary! Endurance training, though, is all about how to push our capacity so that we grow weary later on into the run. When you first start running, weariness might be at three miles, but through persistence and extending the mileage slowly each week, pretty soon you don’t grow weary until 12 miles, and so on. Also, taking care of our bodies—eating healthfully, getting rest, getting bodywork, etc., is necessary.

Then there’s what we do WHEN we grow weary. You have to take care of yourself physically:

• EAT! (And drink.) We love snacks—healthy snacks that nourish us and fuel us at proper intervals for what’s ahead.

• Go at a comfortable pace. Tune into your body, and choose a speed that is not too slow or too fast, but just right for that distance.

Most of all, you have to take care of yourself mentally (and this is 95% of it):

• You have to make it fun—run with friends, listen to music, celebrate the crap out of it when you’re done!

• All the people out there supporting you make you feel stronger. Think of them.

• You can’t freak out when the weariness and pain come. An old coach of mine would say, “Get comfortable with the discomfort.” So when the cramping and fatigue creep in, we’re not going to freak out. Instead, it’s familiar and like an old friend. I will often say out loud, “Oh, hello there, groin/hip/back pain, ol’ friend. I thought I might find you right about now.” This helps you keep calm and not despair. Reframing “pain” as “sensations” also helps me.

• It’s also worth keeping perspective about people who are suffering way worse, and what they would give to have the good health us marathoners have. This inspires you to push on when all else fails.

• And of course, using a trusted coach to help prepare you for the way is crucial.

Kate Pietrovito added this:

The question about how to run and not grow weary makes me think of a Gandhi prayer that we recite weekly in the Spirit Play classroom—specifically, this line: “My wisdom comes from within and without.” Endurance and motivation come from both internal and external sources. To finish a long race, a difficult race, you must leverage both.

Internally, it’s the mental and physical training and desire. This applies to everything: the desire to work hard, the desire to achieve a personal goal, the things you tell yourself to keep you going when you feel like giving up. Think about the work you’ve put in that would be all for naught if you quit.

Externally, our world has so many sources of inspiration. Use them! During the Marine Corps Marathon, for instance, there’s a stretch called the “wear blue” mile. It is full of photographs of our fallen soldiers, and lined with volunteers—their families. Jen and I both cried through that mile. Other times, you think of your family. You think of your friends. You think of a favorite phrase at First Church: “We can do hard things.” And you repeat it as a mantra when your energy is slipping away.

Jen Kalnicki gave me permission to share what she wrote about her first week of chemo :

The past few days have sucked. You really take for granted the ability to lift your head, hold your phone, just breathe. There have been moments of doubt (I can’t possibly do this); moments of dread (What if it’s like this the whole time?); moments of anger (Why are we treating this so aggressively? Others are able to work/walk/exist, why can’t I?); and finally, moments of despair (Just hot, hot tears).

But each time those moments appeared, there was something equally glorious happening—Mark’s steady and calming love crashing over me in waves; Ava and Lili’s intrinsic ability to comfort and motivate; friends and family swooping in to carry the burden; and the freedom to cry it out. The messages lift and carry us through those lows, even when I cannot respond.

Today, I bear witness to the scandalous generosity and outrageous love this journey has shown me. Today, I woke up able to move a bit more. Today, I woke up. And tomorrow, I’ll get up and do it again.

Friends, in this long, slow slog of us loving each other, and loving a beautiful and broken world, and as we wait on God to give us strength for the journey, remember these tips from Jennifer, Kate and Jen:

Start by acknowledging that we will definitely grow weary. We are only human, doing the best we can. Normalize that. Pay attention to it. Then, take care of your bodies. Eat good, healthy food, and drink water. Go at a comfortable pace.

Please, make it fun. Celebrate the crap out of everything. Laugh. Go with friends, and let music be the soundtrack to your life. Use the desire within you and the motivation all around you. Remember you are not alone.

Don’t freak out when it gets painful. Don’t retreat. Get comfortable with discomfort. Treat pain like an old friend who reminds you that you’re still alive, that your heart is still tender. Keep calm and don’t despair. Remember who has it worse, what you are grateful for, who you are living for, and why.

Use trusted coaches who will help you prepare the way. Leverage internal and external sources of strength. Your wisdom comes from within and without.

We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we have to go through it. So don’t quit. Swoop in to share burdens and send messages of love. Give the freedom to yourself and others to cry it out.

Together, we can stumble trip through the darkness. Together, we can move on and not grow weary. Together, we can do hard things. Together, our generosity and love keeps people alive. This grace is a scandal and an outrage, and sometimes it is nothing less than the reason people wake up in the morning.

Tomorrow, we can get back up and do it all again.

  

HYMN #346 Come, Sing a Song With Me

 

BENEDICTION
Closing Words for Hard Times, by Maureen Killoran inspired by "Choose to Bless the World" by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker

 

No matter how weak or how frightened we may feel, we each have gifts that can make a difference in the world. In this coming week, may you do at least one thing to support the broken; to welcome the stranger; to celebrate what is worthy; to do the work of justice and love.
Be strong.
Be connected.
Each day, act — so you may be a little more whole.