“Resilience”

Worship Script 1


Worship Script (1 of 4)

 

Flawed Resilience

 

OPENING WORDS

We open this morning with the wisdom of Rumi.

A mystic muslim poet, he opens a call of faith that embraces

Everyone no matter their mistakes, no matter their shortcomings,

To return again to new relationship with faith.

. . .

“Come, Come, Whoever You Are


Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows
a thousand times.


Come, yet again, come, come.”

 

HYMN #188   Come Come, Whoever You Are

 

FIRST READING

Blessing for the Risk-Takers and Failures by Robin Tanner

 

Today we share in a blessing for losers, risk-takers, all failures far and wide....

Blessed are they who fall in the mud, who jump with gusto and rip the pants, who skin the elbows, and bruise the ego,
for they shall know the sweetness of risk.

Blessed are they who make giant mistakes, whose intentions are good but impact has injured, who know the hot sense of regret and ask for mercy,
for their hearts will know the gift of forgiveness.

Blessed are they who have seen a D or an F or C or any letter less than perfect, who are painfully familiar with the red pen and the labels as "less than,"
for they know the wisdom in the imperfect.

Blessed are they who try again, who dust off, who wash up, who extend the wish for peace, who return to sites of failure, who are dogged in their pursuit,
for they will discover the secret to dreams.

Blessed are they who refuse to listen to the naysayers,
for their hearts will be houses for hope.

Blessed are they who see beyond the surface of another,
for they will be able to delight in the gift of compassion.

Blessed are they who stop running the race to help a fellow traveler, who pick up the fallen, who stop for injured life,
for they shall know the kindness of strangers.

Blessed are they who wildly, boldly abandon winning,
for they shall know the path of justice.

 

SECOND READING
Excerpts from Good Intentions and Incomplete Efforts by Sean Parker Dennison

I preached recently in a building that was a beautiful old chapel in the country. Because it was old, it was one of those buildings where accessibility was a challenge. The congregation had just finished (I think the paint was still wet!) installing an accessible entrance and bathroom. They’d installed a small elevator before that. They were understandably and appropriately proud and I was enthusiastic in my gratitude as they showed me the improvements.

Then they took me upstairs to the worship space and showed me the pulpit, which was up four steps on the chancel. Those steps are not a barrier for me, but they would be for others. And we’d just been celebrating their good work in making the rest of the building accessible. And I choked. I stammered out something like “too bad those stairs are there…” which was neither very polite nor very helpful in reminding them there was still work to be done. And then I preached from their pulpit, even though it was inaccessible and even though I have a commitment to preach only from an accessible place in the room. (In this case, that just would have meant preaching from the floor rather than going up the steps to the pulpit.)

The hardest times to hold ourselves and each other accountable compassionately is when the work has begun but there's more to be done. We want to acknowledge the effort, and it feels a little awkward to say “What a great start! You did something great, but you’re not quite there.” And sometimes, when we’re the ones who have begun to change, it’s hard to hear, “I’m still going to preach from the floor since not everyone can access your pulpit.”

And yet, as Dr. King says, we have to grapple with our incompleteness. We have to understand that we, like everyone else, are always going to be a mix of good intentions and incomplete effort; good results and some things that don’t turn out that well; and yes, even good and evil. We are sometimes selfish, sometimes complicit with systems that do harm, sometimes the cause of pain and injustice. Until we can hold compassion for ourselves and others—until we can be forgiving when we fall short—our love is incomplete.

 

HYMN #1011 Return Again

 

 STORY FOR ALL AGES
By Ashley Spires Adapted by Emily DeTar Birt


There is a girl, who’s best friend and close assistant is a dog. The girl likes to make things. The dog likes to unmake things. On day, the girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!?

So she gathers materials, get her assistant and starts getting to work. She measures, she tinkers, she creates. And when it is finished, she says “It doesn’t look right. It doesn’t feel right.” The magnificent thing wasn’t magnificent. In fact it was all wrong. So she throws it away and tries again.

She smooths, and wrenches and fiddles as she creates it once again. When she is done, she looks at it and it is still wrong. So she tries again, and this times she uses all kinds of materials. She makes it long and short, and fuzzy, and big, and small, and smooth. She does everything, but it never seems to be right. People look on and are inspired by her hard work, but they don’t understand because they can’t see the amazing thing she has in her mind. She gets mad. The madder she gets, the faster she works. She tries to jam pieces together, crunching them to make things work. She hurts her fingers in the process which only make her madder.

“I can’t do this,” she says. “I quit!”

 But her assistant suggest she goes on a walk. At first it didn’t help, but as time goes by she gets less and less frustrated. She notices all the things that she made “wrong”. But this time, she doesn’t see that they are all wrong. There are parts of them that are right. She likes the bolts of one, and the shape of another. At the end of the walk she knows just how to make the thing right. She gets to work, tinkering and creating. She creates the things, and it works. It’s not perfect, it could use some color, and maybe an extra spring, but she shows it to others and knows it really is the most magnificent thing.
 

MEDITATION

Divinity is Our Birthright, by Victoria Weinstein

In the silence that follows, let us pray
that we may notice and accept the Divinity of tiny things
the Divine of ordinary miracles
and even in the awkward mistakes.
In frivolous conversation with friends
in wordless companionship with a loved one—
in the work that seems futile one day
but resonates with meaning the next.
In the shared meal,
and the shopping list
In the peaceful sleep
in the simple procession of the spring days.

We pray this moment to keep tender vigil over our precious, imperfect lives.
To know each one as a vessel, however cracked or broken, of the Holy.
So may we strive to recognize the indwelling presence of God in all people,
in all living things,
and even in ourselves.

In the silence, may we open our hearts. So may it be.

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

FLAWed Resilience

By Meg Riley, senior minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship

Times that are hard require more spiritual practice for me. This past year, I’ve been hard at work strengthening my spiritual systems to create more resilience. For me, stronger resilience requires building flexibility, love, agility, and willingness.

How do I build these component pieces of resilience? Each one takes attention and time.

When it comes to flexibility, I’ve realized that I need to have more of it physically, emotionally, spiritually. It’s hard to admit, but I can get kind of set in my ways. Fluidity can freeze up, often from judgments petty or large which I silently render, ranging from The Correct Way to Load the Dishwasher to What it Means to Be A Good Person.

I was once in a group of teenagers, and they were talking about how much more pliant they are than older people. With kindness, and sadness, they discussed the rigidity they often experienced when they suggested to older people a new way to behave or to make sense of the world. Feeling myself stiffen with defensiveness as they said this, I realized I was behaving in just the way they were describing! Then, as is often true, laughing at myself moved me out of a frozen place and into willingness to shift and be flexible.

In this year of challenge and difficulty, I ramped up my environment to build in more flexibility. I took up physical practices to increase my flexibility—deep-water aerobics and yoga. But more than that, realizing that I was beginning to feel orderly to the point of controlling in my home, I invited in roommates, including a young woman with a baby and a seven-year-old kid. They altered my landscape in many ways, including letting go of neatness and order. What’s wrong with a floor covered in Legos and tables covered with mashed rice? It keeps me flexible.

Love is central to resilience, and I also invited in new housemates to increase the love flowing in my household. What makes you ooh and ahh more than a baby playing peek-a-boo? Well, maybe kittens. So I got a couple of them, too. They mostly get along with another roommate’s dog. Having a diverse household, in terms of species and all kinds of other things, makes love bigger and keeps my heart open. My spiritual practice is to ground myself in love and I don’t get out of bed in the morning until I feel my taproot touching deeply into love.

Some days that is much harder than others. I look at the news in the morning, and afterwards I am often angry at the greed or indifference or cruelty that I see reflected in the world. I do not feel in the least bit loving. I want to strike back. And, though I am committed to taking strategic action to stop greed and cruelty, doing so with the goal of punishment doesn’t work any better in the big world than it does in a family. The retribution of “I want you to feel as bad as I feel so you know how it feels” has never moved life forward. It’s different energy to say, “What you are doing is hurting the world and I am going to do what I can to stop you” than to say “You should suffer for what you have done.”

After reading the news, I meditate on a reading that centers me in love. My taproot of love grounds me with the centuries of resistance, often by indigenous people around the world and poor people, people of color, vulnerable, marginalized people of all kinds. I ground myself in the strength of the massive numbers of people who resist tyranny in large and small ways daily. Only when I am there do I feel the strength to face another day with love, and humility.

Developing agility means that I need to be able to pivot, on a moment’s notice, to adjust to what is happening. Things change quickly. My best weekly practice for this is my improv class, where rule #1 is to say Yes to whatever is happening—whatever the other improvisers offer up. I might be acting under the impression that a scene I’m in is taking place in the middle of a forest in Germany, but when my improv partner indicates that we’re in downtown London—I go to London without looking back! Improv is a way to playfully build agility, but I have many opportunities to do it in other ways each day.

Agility’s pivot may mean offering a sincere apology for making an assumption or using language that is hurtful to someone. It may mean realizing that I am over my edge, so I abruptly turn off media and go to bed. It may mean stopping a conversation I am in the middle of, seeing that it is not useful and I cannot proceed in a way that is kind. Agility allows me to stay awake to the truth each moment offers and not ground my identity in the belief that what is true in one moment will be true forever.

Finally, resilience means being willing. Being willing to get up and try again after being knocked down; being willing to try another door when door after door is locked; asking again when the answer has been no, no, no, no, and no. I do not always feel willing. For me, remaining in a willing posture is an ongoing practice of coaxing myself, sometimes bribing myself, sometimes pushing myself hard, sometimes allowing myself to say Enough and stop.

And if willingness isn’t to be found without violence to myself or others, I respect that. But a simple willingness to show up, day after day, is central to resilience. As Woody Allen said, 90 percent of life is just showing up.

Flexibility, Love, Agility, and Willingness. We’re not going to do any of them perfectly. That’s why it made me laugh to find that the concepts I view as central to resilience spell “FLAW.” Accepting that we are flawed, that we will have days when we don’t want to come out from under our security blankie, and others where we feel we can leap tall buildings in a single bound, gives us compassion not only for ourselves but also for everyone else who is struggling to stay human in an often inhumane world.

 

HYMN #131 Love Will Guide Us

 

BENEDICTION

By Orlanda Brugnola

As we move through life
finding ourselves,

always newly wise and newly foolish,

we ask that our mistakes be small and not hurtful.

We ask that as we gain experience

we do not forget our innocence,
for they are both part of the whole.