"Making change"

Worship Script 3


 

Worship Script (3 of 5)

Interconnected Transformation

 

OPENING WORDS

Adapted from Rumi, by Leslie Takahashi Morris in Voices on the Margins

 

Come, come, whoever you are

Come with your hurts, your imperfections,

Your places that feel raw and exposed.

Come, come, whoever you are

Come with your strengths that the world shudders to hold,

Come with your wild imaginings of a better world,

Come with your hopes that it seems no one wants to hear.

 

Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving,

We will make a place for you,

We will build a home together.

Ours is no caravan of despair. ,

We walk together;

Come, yet again come.

 

HYMN #359 When We Are Gathered

 

FIRST READING
Quote from Frederick Buechner

Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It's the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.


SECOND READING
Excerpt from “The Marketing of Liberal Religion” by David E. Bumbaugh

We believe that in this interconnected existence the well-being of one cannot be separated from the well-being of the whole, that ultimately we all spring from the same source and all journey to the same ultimate destiny.

We believe that the universe outside of us and the universe within us is one universe. Because that is so, our efforts, our dreams, our hopes, our ambitions are the dreams, hopes, and ambitions of the universe itself. In us, and perhaps elsewhere, the Universe is reaching toward self-awareness, toward self-consciousness. We believe that our efforts to understand the world and our place within it are an expression of the Universe’s deep drive toward meaning. In us, and perhaps elsewhere, the Universe dreams and reaches toward unknown possibilities. We hold as sacred the unquenchable drive to know and to understand

 

HYMN #1019 Everything Possible

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
“The Lily in the Window” by Thomas Rhodes


Once upon a time there was an old man who lived alone with his grandson in a dirty hovel. Everything around them was filthy (you can imagine!) One day a stranger appeared and gave the young child a beautiful lily. The boy took it home and placed it on a windowsill in his house. The grandfather saw the flower and put it in a jar of water. His grandson realized how dirty the window was in contrast to the lily and cleaned it. The grandfather then replaced the jar with a vase, and swept the floor. Over time the boy and grandfather clean up their home, even planting flowers out front. Neighbors stop by to admire them, and they become integrated into the community.

Eventually the original lily dies, but by this time the house is clean and orderly, the boy has friends, and the grandfather is calling on a lady neighbor.

(In Christian traditions, the flower represents Jesus. The resurrection, of course, isn't one of the flower itself, but of the man and boy who found new life.)
 

MEDITATION
#245 in Lifting Our Voices by Chaim Stern

What do I want?

And if I want it, do I need it?

And if I need it, will I get it?

And if I get it, can I keep it?

Do the answers depend on who I am?

Help me to be what I am becoming . . .

Is that “becoming” more than I see right now?

Help me to trust the dawning hour.

Help me to know myself better.

Help me to become myself.

 

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

Transmogrified, by Kimberley Debus, community minister of the arts and worship, Round Lake, New York

I first learned the word “transmogrified” from Calvin and Hobbes.

You may remember the comic strip by Bill Waterston, which ran from 1985 to 1995. Calvin, aged 6, was part Christopher Robin and part Dennis the Menace, and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, regularly came to life in Calvin’s active—and sometimes too mischievous for his own good—imagination. Together, Calvin and Hobbes went on adventures around the universe and considered big philosophical questions of the day. And occasionally annoyed the crap out of his neighbors and his exasperated parents.

One day, Calvin built a transmogrifier. To us, it was just an upside-down cardboard box with a dial drawn on the side. But to Calvin and Hobbes, it was a machine that could turn them into whatever they wished to become—eel, baboon, bug, dinosaur, tiger, toad, and even worm. While everyone else still saw a little boy and his stuffed tiger, Calvin and Hobbes saw themselves transmogrified—transformed in a surprising manner.

I think sometimes we forget that we can transmogrify things—especially in religious communities. We often joke (because otherwise we would cry) about these seven deadly words of the church: “But we’ve always done it this way.” That can be about everything from how coffee is made to how hymns are sung to how we understand the principles and ethics of our faith.

In fact, let’s look at our principles, the organizing statements of who we are and what we believe. They are nicely laid out in a list. We even tend to quote them by number: Our fifth principle calls me to fight for responsible gun control legislation. I’m doing third principle work in learning about Hinduism. I’m a seventh principle guy so I invest in renewable energy.

A handy, step-by-step list. Heck, you could even do a seven-step program, isolating each principle and focusing on them one at a time. Many congregations have experienced a seven-part worship series based on the principles.

There they are. Nice. Neat. Ordered. Isolated. Each principle, an individual.

But that was bugging my colleague Ian Riddell, who wrote, “I’m in a bad mood that our principles are in a list. So I transmogrified them.”

And this is what he devised.

Instead of an ordered list, we have a wheel. No numbered principles, but rather a different pattern of organization. A surprising way to approach them.

As you can see, I hope, the center—the axle—is the inherent worth and dignity of every person. It’s where we start, where everything else moves from. Then, encompassing it all, as the rim, is the interdependent web of which we are all a part. And the spokes are the other principles, the ways we understand ourselves in the world, the ways we act in the world because of who we are and where we are.

So what does this mean? How would we approach our faith, our work, our connection to other human beings, our sense of the divine, if we were willing to transmogrify how we think of them?

Let start with the spoke calling for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Alone, it sounds pretty good; it’s the cornerstone of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and Side With Love and every social justice action we take, both within and outside Unitarian Universalism.

Those values all sound good, are all preached by the major religions—and who doesn’t want justice, equity, and compassion? As a bullet on the principles list, it’s positive and a bit of an “of course.”

There’s something missing, however. 

Unitarian Universalists are good at questioning things, but we can forget to examine what’s underneath our own principles. Often we might ask “What?”—What do they mean? or “How?”—How do we affirm and promote them? But rarely do we ask “Why?”—Why are they important for us to affirm and promote?

But when we change how we see them, we suddenly have a way to question the “why” of our principles, to interrogate the deeper meanings, to see the connection between the individual and the world.

Why are justice, equity, and compassion so important? Because if I as an individual am inherently worthy of dignity, then every other individual must be as well. And if we are all connected, how can I be like the pigs in Orwell’s Animal Farm and say some animals are more equal than others? How can I fail to notice that the compassion I hope you’ll show me might be worth showing to everyone else?

This principle calls us to be in that state of becoming just, equitable, and compassionate. We are never JUST just, but if we remember who we are and where we come from, we are becoming just. The justice, equity, and compassion we get from the world and see in the world helps us become more just—to others, yes, but also to ourselves.

Now I will admit a bit of my own theological struggle here. I don’t always believe that the things I know are true in general also apply to me. In other words, sometimes it is easier to declare that the inherent worth and dignity of every person in this interdependent web of all existence means that there must be justice, equity, and compassion for other people.

But it’s hard for me to accept that I am part of that web and am just as inherently worthy. If that’s the case, then justice, equity, and compassion should also be for me. For you—absolutely. For everyone in the world who faces injustice, oppression, and hatred—absolutely. For me—eh…

And when the principles are in a tidy little list, it’s easy to dismiss myself as not really part of it. It’s easy to apply these things to the people I love, the congregations I serve, the larger community.

But this wheel, Ian’s pesky new way of looking at things… Well, it’s not letting us off the hook. Instead, it is reminding me of what my colleague David Bumbaugh wrote: “In this interconnected existence the well-being of one cannot be separated from the well-being of the whole, that ultimately we all spring from the same source and all journey to the same ultimate destiny.” In other words, y’all can’t grow into harmony with the Divine without me, nor I without you, nor all of us without each other.

It is this connection—from the individual to the collective and back again—that helps answer questions of “why.” Why do we affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations? Because it’s about me and it’s about you, neither of which can stand alone, so it becomes about us. As theologian Frederick Buechner famously said, “It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you, too.”

The question of “why” can apply to any of our principles. Why do we affirm and promote this? “Why,” of course, being the question this wheel seems to ask of us over and over. And over and over we see the need both for affirmation of the individual and for commitment to all of our complicated relationships—including those that reach beyond the human realm.

Each principle connects the self to the interdependent web and back again, in areas of truth, justice, community, connection, process, growth, and compassion—leading us from the familiar form that asks “what” to the transmogrified form, which inquires “why.”

Once you see it, it can’t be unseen. Now we can’t think of the principles without thinking about the wheel and the spokes and the interconnectedness. We have transformed our way of thinking about it. We’ve transmogrified our principles, our ethics, and our faith.

And maybe that’s the real message. Not that we become something new overnight, but that we—and our world and how we act in it—are always in process, always rolling forward on this wheel which carries us to new lands, but always brings the essentials with us as we go: You matter. You are not alone.

 

HYMN #350  The Ceaseless Flow of Endless Time

 

BENEDICTION
By Erik Walker Wikstrom

If you are who you were,
and if the person next to you is who he or she was,
if none of us has changed
since the day we came in here—
we have failed.

The purpose of this community—
of any church, temple, zendo, mosque—
is to help its people grow.

We do this through encounters with the unknown—in ourselves,
in one another,
in "The Other"—whoever that might be for us,
however hard that might be—
because these encounters have many gifts to offer.

So may you go forth from here this morning
not who you were,
but who you could be.

So may we all.