What I have learned about love is this: it doesn’t come easy. It isn’t a happily ever after riding into the sunset with a prince or princess by your side. Soul mates aren’t magic mirrors reflecting back how you want to see yourself or them. Reach through the mirror, pay attention to the cracks. They are how the love – and light gets in. Leonard Cohen taught me a lot with that line. You aren’t royalty either, just a frog like other frogs. Life is the swamp can be lovely though. It is not necessary to sing every song in tune or dance in time with a perfect rhythm.
Marriage means so much more if you have been engaged for decades. I know this from experience. Because engagement is the thing, one of them, that makes a marriage, a partnership, work. Be real and honest and yourself. Listen carefully. Pay attention. Hold your lover’s hand, but don’t hold them back, and try to catch them when they fall. You will stumble too. Stay engaged even after you are married. I think that might be the key. If there is one. If it isn’t all just luck. In any case be grateful. If someone really loves you, it is a miracle
It can be awkward, if your family does not approve. Time can heal that. Not always, but often enough that it is worth some effort.
It can be hurtful if your church won’t bless your love or even calls it sinful. If that is true, then find another church. God hangs out in a lot of different places and the real God – not someone’s mirror image – just loves love, even more than the color purple, (another book that taught me a lot.)
It can be wonderful if the people where you live support you, if they recognize your family. If they vote for it or if their legislature approves it, that really rocks. A judge deciding in your favor is pretty cool too. Take what you can get, but it is OK to ask for more. Love, like justice, does not come easy, but with enough grace, with enough effort, it comes.
Let the wind blow
The harsh desert sand
Will scour any pretense
Howling in the night
Like a lonely wolf
Don’t go to sleep
Unless the sun is shining
And the sky blue
Scorpions are scattered
Under red rocks
Sometimes there can be moments
When we stop breathing
When time stands still
So to speak.
It can be shock
Surprise awe wonder
Or even fear.
A flash frozen image
Will last forever
Behind our eyes
If we would only linger
One extra second
Close to that edge.
The well is deep
A bush is burning
A bright star shines
A friend is home again.
Sometimes on a Christmas morning
Before sleep has left my side
Tears just come to fill my eyes
Somewhere a small child wonders
What the coming day might bring
Shining tinsel sugar plums
Or angry words and sirens
Mothers passed out on the floor
Fathers riding home
In the backseats of police cars.
Uncle Ernie cannot keep
His nasty hands away
Aunt Ellen talks too loud
As she watches him.
Cousin Carl calls Doug a fag
While Susan screams at Carl
How we mourn our loved ones
Who have died and gone away
How we yearn for simpler times
If they ever were
We’re all lucky we’ve survived
For all that spend this day in grief
For all who live in fear
It is right to shed some tears.
Pray for peace and blessings
For safety and warm homes
For each and every child today
Pray that love will be reborn
And hope light up their eyes.
It has felt very strange to be out of the state while history is being made in Utah. I would have loved running down to the Weber County Courthouse to help officiate the long awaited weddings that took place there yesterday. Someone asked me on Facebook if I would have been first in line if I were there. My answer was, of course: “No, I am already married and marriage is forever.” Yes, I know, people can get divorced, but they will still have been married – forever. It is amazing to me that some of my friends have been married to each other multiple times, in different countries and in different states. I don’t think it is considered bigamy if you keep marrying the same person over and over again, but it does seem odd to me. It nothing else, it is a lot of anniversaries to remember.
My life partner (now wife) and I have only two anniversaries. One is July 12. We were legally wed on July 12, 2013 in San Rafael, CA. The other is January 3. We began our relationship as a couple on Jan. 3, 1975. Since then, we have owned 3 different homes, lived in three different states, had three biological children, and cared for three foster children. We will have a big wedding ceremony and reception on January 3, 2014, also in San Rafael. We will exchange vows and rings, cut a cake, toss bouquets, and dance to a DJ’s music. The minister who is officiating is the Reverend Janie Sparr, the first minister we met as a couple and one of the most courageous and loving people I know. She has been working within the Presbyterian Church for decades, trying to promote love and acceptance for all.
I followed her into the ministry, but as a Unitarian Universalist minister, not a Presbyterian. Unitarian Universalists have a very long history of support for equality for LGBT people, so the work I have done in that area has largely been in the wider community.
If we had been in Utah this week, rather than in California preparing for that big wedding ceremony of ours, we would have been been at a Utah courthouse. I would have signed a lot of marriage licenses and we both would have cheered all the newlyweds. Love is sweet. It is worth celebrating. If we hadn’t done the legal thing in California last July, we would have been in the line to be married as well.
But marriage is forever and that fact is recognized and understood here in California. In Utah that is still not true as the governor there is fighting to have all those sweet marriages declared null and void. He calls it chaos. Utah County continues to defy the court order and is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same gender couples. That is chaos, I suppose, but it is a chosen chaos. I do understand that much of Utah is in shock at the court’s decision. I am in shock too. Who could have imagined before this week that Utah would have marriage equality before a state like Oregon? Who could have imagined that this would happen in a state where people can be fired or evicted simply because to their sexual orientation or gender identity?
Utah never took any steps down that so-called “slippery slope,” but this week, more than a few hang gliders were able to fly free, catching the updraft of a brand new day. Hand in hand, their marriages, too, will be forever. Blessed Be.
What do we do
When a miracle happens
One that had hardly been dreamed?
How do we feel
On the darkest of nights
When a star appears in the East?
Love’s tender blessings
Rain down in the desert
As mountains rejoice in the snow
Kiss me my darling
Let’s dance with our friends
This moment is glory
The miracle real.
A hand slapped
Your naked butt
When first you came
Alive in this world
It was the first time
But not the last
There is a reason
You are here
I am flying back to CA today to be with my wife, spend the holidays with our children, and get ready for our January wedding. We had a friend perform a legal marriage for us there in July. Then we came back to Utah and were unrelated, our relationship not recognized by our state. This afternoon, when I arrive in the Bay Area, or maybe even as I fly over the Sierras, we will be married again. We will soon have a big wedding ceremony and reception, and our relationship will be blessed by a fabulous minister and affirmed by 100+ family and friends. Afterward, we will drive back to Utah. Once we cross the boarder into Nevada, we will again be legal strangers. It is not fun living in a so-called “family values” state that doesn’t recognize our commitment to each other. After 39 years together, our lives are completely entwined. “Families are forever” is an LDS slogan that refers to eternal marriage or marriages in the afterlife. Mormon men can have more than one wife once they get to heaven. I’d be just fine having my one marriage recognized in this world, all the time, wherever I might be and wherever I might travel.
Maybe the Supremes will sing again.
Video of the sermon (click here)
Call to Worship (click here)
It is the dark time of the year. Each day grows shorter as we approach the winter solstice. So often we use light as a positive symbol. Our flaming chalice is only one example. Light is a good thing, but we need the dark too. We need the night as a time to rest and to sleep, and we need the winter as a time to rest and recover before we begin yet another year. This week we have changed to the winter colors here in the sanctuary. We change them four times a year as a reminder that our lives are of the earth and the changing seasons affect us in ways that are not always obvious.
This week is the winter solstice. The celebration of the winter solstice is an earth-centered tradition, a very ancient one. Christmas celebrations have always incorporated some of the solstice rituals, of food, of holly, and of fire. We are so connected to this earth. Our planet spins through space and tilts on its axis giving us seasons and changes in light and warmth.
The changing of the seasons can sometimes seem to mirror the changes in our lives. We grow older, we change jobs or we retire, we move up a grade in school, we make new friends. Very little in life stays the same for very long. We are always saying hello to something new, and we are always saying goodbye to things that we thought might be with us always. There is loss in life. There is grief. Loved ones die, we lose touch with good friends, relationships and things break and cannot be repaired.
Life is not all about the future. We carry our past within our hearts and minds. We carry our experiences in our bodies too. Many of the lessons we have learned from living are much too valuable to cast aside. We have to learn to add and subtract before we can learn multiplication and long division, much less calculus.
There are lessons from the earth as well, if we let ourselves feel them. The earth in winter takes in all the brown leaves and the plants that have died in the fall, buries them beneath the snow, and changes them, making a rich loam from which new life might grow in the springtime.
Sometimes we need to let some of our old leaves fall to the ground so that new ones can be born. Yes, that is a metaphor.
In a few minutes we will do a ritual, common in various forms among those who celebrate the solstice for its darkness as well as for the promise of the coming light.
All of us have things we carry that we have outgrown, that no longer serve us, and that prevent us from moving forward. Sometimes we carry these for years. It can be anything.
The dry brittle twigs of old hurts and resentments can prevent us from reaching out to others in friendship or in love. Old failures can prevent us from trying again.
A bad grade on a science test, a fumbled fly ball, some mistake or disappointment that happened long ago might be keeping us from discovering a new invention or the joy of a game of soccer well played.
I invite you to ponder for a few minutes about what you have been holding within you that no longer serves you well. For the adults and youth, try to think of things that happened a year or more ago that still plague you, things that you turn over again and again in your mind. Events you relive, perhaps in pain, perhaps in regret, perhaps in anger.
You also might want to consider some of the hopes or desires that you may be still holding on to, even though you know they will never happen, things that might prevent you from appreciating what you have.
Don’t worry now, if you can, about the fresher stuff. Sometimes, most times, we need to process serious events for at least a year, to let them simply swirl within us just as our planet turns and circles all the way around the sun. Some things also can take longer just because they are very hard. Violence and betrayal are two things that can take years to heal, and if you have experienced that, you might not be ready yet to let them go. That is OK. But try now, if you can, to set all of those newer and all those still very difficult things aside for now, just for the rest of the hour.
Focus instead on something older, something you might be ready to put away, to bury in the healing darkness of the winter night.
For our younger people in particular, it might be difficult to think back to something that happened a long time ago. If that is true for you, just think of some feeling, some hurt, some regret, some wish even, that you don’t want to have anymore. Even if it is something that happened yesterday, that is OK.
Mary, with some help from some young volunteers, will now begin passing around a basket of pieces of tissue paper. I’d like each of you to take a piece of that tissue paper.
This ritual is sometimes done with fire, but today we are going to use water as we have done here in the past. We will have some time for you to settle on one thing that you would like to leave behind you, something that needs to be transformed or simply composted, thrown into the trash.
Then, when you are ready, write a word or two or draw a picture that represents what you want to leave behind. It only needs to make sense to you. No one else will read them.
We have done this before, and each time afterward, although the writings and drawings disappeared, the paper remained. It was transformed. I will lay this tissue paper heart near the bowl so you can see what can come from a ritual such as this.
After the musical reflection I will ask you to come forward as you are ready. Just drop your piece of paper into this bowl. Nic will play some music while we do that. It isn’t necessary, but if you want to whisper a word or two naming what you are leaving behind, either to me or directly into the bowl, that is also fine.
After all who want to have had a chance to add something to the bowl, we will prepare it for composting.
Does everyone have a piece of paper? There should be pencils in each pew. Share if you need to.
Now just listen to the music, think quietly, and then write or draw whatever comes to you. Don’t feel rushed. There is plenty of time.
Please come forward when you are ready. Try not to form a long line – just 3 or 4 people waiting at a time would be great.
We bless this bowl containing so many troubles, so many heartaches. Feeling them, living through them, has made us who we are and we are grateful.
They have served their purpose, however, and it is time to let them go. In this dark time near the winter solstice, when the sun seems to stand still in the sky, we give them back to the water and to the earth. (Pour water)
We also add some of the water gathered by this community each fall, symbol of the healing power of love, of friendship, and of faith. (pour water)
There is beauty in this bowl. There is beauty in all of us. We also add some snow, putting whatever pain and fear contained here safely to rest. This cold blanket as it melts will drain these things of their power to harm us in the coming days and years.
Spirits of the darkness, the air, the fire, the water, and the earth, we thank you for being with us.
We now turn toward the sun, a little lighter, ready for the new day, new life, as we are born and reborn again. May our lights and our lives shine a bit brighter from this day forward. Blessed Be.
My i’s are sometimes dotted
My t’s are most times are crossed
So many rules to follow
My commas do get lost
Grammar is a fine thing
If it helps us understand
Just a tool like any other
Not sacred in itself
Much of life can be like that
Getting trapped within the form
Reach out to the spirit
Read between the lines
Follow your heart’s knowing
Use a dash and not a semicolon
If that is what works best
I can’t stress that enough