Archive | September 2014

Beyond Right and Wrong

 

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A Rumi quote I have always loved:

“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass,the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make sense any more.”

I try to remember this quote whenever I am in the midst of a disagreement.  It is a way to stay spiritually centered, to examine my own motivations, and to remember that we are all connected, all holy, even when we disagree.  As the Unitarian Francis David said back in the 1500’s, “We don’t have to think alike to love alike.”  I think he and Rumi would have liked each other.

 

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Check Your Sources Please

People have asked me about my theology, am I a humanist, a theist, or a pagan. My answer is simple – I am a Unitarian Universalist and I look to all of our sources.

 

Most of us are pretty familiar with the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism. If you are not, they are listed in the front of your hymnal and on the order of service..

 

The principles are guides for living, an ethical framework for how we are called to live our lives. They are what our member congregations have covenanted, promised, to affirm and promote. We care about the worth and dignity of all, about justice, equity and compassion, about spiritual growth, the search for truth and meaning, the democratic process, creating a real world community, and last, but never least, respect for our living planet. The nationwide climate watch is taking place today. The big one is in NYC, but some of us are BARTing over to Lake Merritt after the service to participate in a rally there.

 

But why do we care about those things that are in our sevn principles? What do we use in our searches for truth and meaning? How and why do we work for justice?

 

The answers to those questions are, I believe, contained within our six sources. The sources are also listed in your hymnals. They quite literally define Unitarian Universalism unique place in the world of ideas and world religions. I quote, “The living tradition we share draws from many sources.” Living is a key word here, as well as the word tradition. Our sources are from our history; they are where we came from. But even more importantly, they are what we can use to find out where we are going.

In our reading this morning, Paul Oakley makes a similar point. He says that the sources lead us to specific actions like loving our neighbors and working for justice. I agree with him, but I want to take it a step further. Our sources are not just about our history and they are not just guides for the present, but they are a list of research materials as it were. A reference library we can go to when we have the need, when the world or our lives have changed in ways that we no longer understand.

 

These sources are incredibly rich, every single one of them. I want to encourage all of you to look at them and think about them. Some of you may feel more drawn to some of them than others. Some of the sources may have little personal meaning for you. That used to be true for me. But if you pay a little more attention to those sources that haven’t moved you in the past, I think you may be surprised at what you will discover. It is a living tradition after all. We need to give it ways and room to grow. The sources are the wells from which we draw spiritual water. Sometimes one of the wells can get a little dry. Californians understand about water shortages. A reservoir can be empty or the groundwater from a particular well that has been over used may no longer quench our thirst.

 

The first source is:

Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

 

What does that mean? Several things I think. Revelation is not sealed. We are not a faith that believes that all religious truth was written down in ancient scriptures. Mystery and wonder are all around us. We need to trust our own experiences and our own senses. If we see a rainbow and think it is a miracle, maybe it is.

 

Many of us have had, in our own lives experiences which some would name spiritual. There have been times where a deep realization of an important truth has left us in awe and wonder. It is a knowing that not everything can be understood by the simply rational. It is a sense that there really are forces that both create and uphold life, even if they are forces that are beyond our understanding. This direct experience could be a sense of having a personal connection to God, but it doesn’t have to be exclusively theistic. One of my former congregants who defines himself as a humanist tells a story about the feeling he had when he visited the Smithsonian in Washington DC. He had a moment there when he realized that everything in that fabulous museum actually belonged to him. He was part of something much larger than himself. We should never discount our own experience of the world around us. This source reminds us to think, see, and feel for ourselves. It doesn’t mean we will always be right, but we should not substitute someone else’s judgment about what is right and good for our own. If we aren’t sure, we can check other sources.

 

 

 

The second source is:

Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

 

This is where we could say, “What would Jesus do?” Who are your heroes? Who has inspired you? It could be someone famous, but it could just be someone you know. Many members of this church community have inspired you both with their words and deeds. There are awesome role models here, both in service to the fellowship and in working for justice. This source also leads us to look at our heroes and who they were as well as what they did. Did they confront evil not only to bring about justice, but did they do so with compassion and love? No one is perfect, but those who would lead us to hate others are not those we should try to model ourselves after. Martin Luther King is one of my inspirations as well as Ghandi, both of whom held strongly to love as their guiding force. My namesake, Mother Theresa is not a bad role model either, although I do not share her Catholic theology. This second source is a place we can go to discover more effective ways to bring about a more just world.

 

The third source: Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

 

This one is incredibly varied. The religions of the world are many and varied. What do they have to teach us? What spiritual practices from other traditions can give our lives more meaning?

Yoga, Buddhist meditation practice, the Hindu concept of Namaste, and the daily prayers of Islam, are only a few places we can go for help in our spiritual and ethical lives. This source is a place awaiting our discoveries. Most of us have not looked too closely at what the different world religions have to offer us. It is important to understand context, however. If we simply cherry pick or grab onto the low hanging fruit, we don’t do this source justice and may even be drawn into cultural appropriation.

 

The fourth source is: Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

 

This source is our immediate history and heritage. Both Unitarianism, the belief that God is one, and Universalism, the belief that God loves all of creation and that there is no hell; both have their roots in very early Christianity. Unitarian Universalism arose from Christianity just as Jesus was a follower of the Jewish faith. This history speaks very strongly to those of us who attended exclusively Christian Churches or Jewish Congregations in the past and loved the many inspiring messages contained in both those scriptures. One point, that bears repeating: We are still Christian, we are just not exclusively Christian anymore. It is just like we are not exclusively humanist, agnostic, or pagan. There is so much to learn from study of the Bible. Inspiration is everywhere in the parables of Jesus and the stories of the Hebrew prophets.

 

 

Our fifth source is: Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;

 

This is the one that I think can help keep us honest. Whatever we believe and do must make some sense in the real and rational world. Yes, we can have understandings of mystery that are beyond the realm of the scientific method, but it is dangerous ground to rely on something that is in direct contradiction to what reason and science tell us. Angels might fly, but we humans are subject to gravity. The Bible might say one thing, but if science tells us the world is much older than 6000 years, I am going with science. Science and religion are not in conflict.

They should both be about increasing our understanding of the universe and our place in it.

 

That brings us to our sixth source, the last official one, which is: Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature

 

How can we not live in harmony with nature when we are part of it?   This is the favorite source for many of us who have come to Unitarian Universalism from pagan traditions and practices. There are seasons to our lives just as there are seasons in the year. The need for harmony with nature is also in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures as well as in the various world religions. Sometimes we just need to go up on a mountain and watch the sunrise.

Sometimes we need the peace that can come from sitting by a river or watching a flock of birds fly by.

 

Those are our six official sources, places where we can go for inspiration and for solace. Is anything left out?

What would you add to this list? It is not written in stone, we can add things to it, just as we can rewrite the seven principles. There is a democratic process to do that at our national assemblies. The sixth source was added to the original five in 1995. There was also a proposal to revise the wording of the sources a couple of years ago. It did not pass, but it could have.

 

What would you add?

 

One I might add would be something about the arts, about music and poetry. Beauty and meaning both can come from artistic creativity. It is worth thinking about adding them more specifically to our list of reference materials.

 

Our sources are in some senses a reference library. They aren’t just history and they aren’t just an action plan as Paul Oakley suggested.

 

He said that, “We irrigate the fields not by worshiping the water but by doing something with the water.”

 

He is not wrong, but we also need to go back and drink from the wells the water comes from, again and again. Living is thirsty work.

 

We can’t afford to ignore any of these spiritual wells just because we might like the flavor of one of them a bit more.

 

We are an open minded and openhearted people. Our sources are rich and life sustaining. May we drink deeply and be satisfied.

Shaky Ground

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(My niece’s kitchen after the Napa quake.)

Sometimes

(It doesn’t happen often

Thank God

Or your Lucky Stars)

The ground

Beneath you moves

With such sudden violence

It knocks you down

Upon your knees

And everything

Around you falls

Shatters in an instant

Your foundation cracked

The ideas you have hung

So carefully on your wall

In ruins on the floor

With the everyday plates,

Wine glasses,

And holiday platters

Stay on your knees

A moment

Look up

The sky shines still

And sparrows fly

Let’s follow them.

 

 

 

Why Are We Here?

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Opening Words (here)

Sermon notes:

The words church and God in the reading may have made some of you uncomfortable. Remember what I said the other week? Listen to your discomfort. It can be a good thing. In the story I told the children, I imagine the person who was asked the question about the purpose of the church was more than a little uncomfortable.

So why are we here? Why are you here? Why does the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalist even exist? History could be referred to of course, there were reasons this congregation was formed. There were reasons that some of the founding members mortgaged their homes in order to purchase this land and build these buildings that we enjoy.

I love questions. You will learn that. I think most Unitarian Universalists love questions. One could even say that asking questions is a part of our free faith. We don’t have creeds, but instead we have guidelines for ethical behavior, which is what our seven principles are about. If you don’t remember them, they are on the back of your order of service. This is not a faith tradition where everyone can do whatever they might feel like doing, whenever they feel like doing it. It is an accepting tradition; we do acknowledge our imperfection. We aspire to high ideals and know we will still sometimes fail, sometimes dismally. That is OK, but the demanding part of our faith is that we keep trying. We have goals and visions of the world we would like to create. It isn’t an easy task.

This fellowship has a mission statement. Did you know that? It pretty much answers the question of why we are here. It says what we are supposed to be doing here together, on Sundays and throughout the week.

The mission statement is on the front of your order of service.

“Building character, enriching spirits, promoting community, and serving humankind through spiritual growth and social action.”

It is a pretty great statement, I think. Do you all like it too?

But what does it mean? Building character: this fellowship intends to build the characters of those who participate. Someone from another congregation told me that they came to Sunday services to learn how to be a better person. Is that true for you? It matters how we live our lives and how we treat each other. Character also includes other things like integrity and responsibility, practicing compassion and forgiveness, being open minded, curious, inspired to make a positive difference with our lives, both for the people we are close to and for the wider community and world.

We are also here to enrich spirits, to help people feel whole and to experience joy and sorrow in ways that are real. A religious community needs to provide comfort to those that are hurting. Has this fellowship ever done that for you?

Promoting community – this is what we practice because we know that we are all connected. Our congregations can be places where we can discover how to get along with people who are different from us, who will change us and who we will change, because we are all a part of that interconnected community of life on this planet. We can then take what we have learned out into the world and help others learn about living with both respect and with love.

Our purpose is also to serve, all of humankind the mission statement says. Unitarian Universalism is not a “sit back and enjoy own spiritual understanding. No, we are called to serve, and spiritual growth is what fuels our social action. We can learn to love the whole world, including ourselves.

But why do you come here? Why do we need a congregation like this one here in this town? Why do we need a religion like Unitarian Universalism in the world?

So think for a minute about why you came here this morning. You are here after all, so you must have a reason for coming.

What are some of them? Go ahead and shout them out. I know some of you are not shy.

Robin Bartlett, a Unitarian Universalist Religious educator, in her blog post from which our reading was taken, has heard a lot of people say they come to church for their children, because the children are asking questions about God, or because a neighbor or friend is trying to recruit them into a more conservative religion.

Some people say they come to church because the sermons are entertaining. The crazy preacher can be really funny; you never know just what she will say. You could find much better entertainment, however, on TV, in the movies.

Maybe you come for the music, but you can find great music a lot of places, at concerts, festivals, and even on I tunes.

Some people say they come for the intellectual stimulation, to hear words and ideas that make them think. Of course you could attend a college level lecture for that. There are a lot of other places you can go to stimulate your brain cells.

Maybe you come because you care about social justice. This community works very hard in many ways to bring more justice, equity, and compassion into our world. But if social justice action is your only reason, there are literally thousands of other groups you could join that are doing fabulous work for a wide variety of social causes.

If you are looking for inspiration here, for motivation, for ideas on how to live in this complex world, you could read poetry, listen to TED talks, or join a self-help group.

If you are hurting and looking for comfort or if you are trying to find yourself, you could go to therapy.

Some people come to church to make friends, or even to find a life partner. You could also do that at a bar, a health club, or through social media.

Some people also come to church to find God, the holy, to connect with their inherent spirituality. There are other ways to do that. Go out in nature, watch a sunset, plant flowers, or play with your children. You will surely find the holy there.

Did I cover everything?

I did forget one, which reminds me of another joke. I’d heard it before, but one of our elder’s shared it with me the other week.

It’s Sunday morning and the alarm goes off. A woman turns over in bed and groans. She turns to her partner and moans. I don’t want to go to church today. I know the sermon is going to be boring. People will ask me to do things I don’t have time for. I’d rather just stay home and sleep in today. Her partner turns to her with a sigh. Honey, you have to go to church today. “Why? Why do I have to go to church?”

The answer? “Honey, you have to go to church because you are the minister.”

There are many reasons to come to church, but unless you are the minister, there are many other options. Even ministers can decide on a different career choice. Almost none of us are do it for the money in any case.

But how many places can you go where all of those reasons can apply?

Robin Bartlett tells us to go to church

“for community, for learning, for solidarity, for a good word, for love, for hope, for comfort, even for salvation. Go to church because you can’t imagine not going. Go to church because (of what) your church …demands of you. Go to church because you cry in the worship service at least once a month. Go to church because you look forward to seeing the people.

Go to church because your church forces you to put your money where your mouth is–to use your financial resources to make a statement about what has worth. Go to church because you are known here. Go to church because you want to be known. Go to church because you pray for this same imperfect, rag-tag group of people all week until you meet again. Go to church because you need to in order to get through your week. Go to church because if you miss a week, you feel like something was really missing in your life. Go to church because your church community helps you to go deeper; to risk transformation; to yank you further down a path–to ultimate reality, to truth, to God–kicking and screaming. Go to church because it is a statement to yourself and your children about what has value and meaning. Go to church to find your purpose and live it. Give yourself the gift of church.” http://uuacreligiouseducation.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/dont-go-to-church-for-your-children/

She goes on to say, specifically addressing parents who say they come to church for their children,

“If church is not a gift for you, it won’t be a gift for your children.

You know that old (line) that we borrow from (the) plane instructions we hear read by flight attendants–… apply your own oxygen mask first before you apply your child’s, right? Well, you are your child’s religious educator and oxygen mask. Not our (religious exploration) curricula. Not our volunteer teachers. Not (the) minister. You. That’s a big responsibility, and (maybe) you don’t feel up to the task because (few) of us do.

But if we aren’t getting our spiritual needs met–our religious yearnings satiated; our deepest cries in the night soothed; our need to serve and be served; our God-sized hole occasionally filled, emptied and then filled up again– then we are never going to be up to the task of helping our children do the same.”

She says, “Don’t go to church for your children; go to church for you. You deserve it. Your children deserve it. And this brutal and beautiful world needs you to.”

That last line is worth repeating, “This brutal and beautiful world needs you to.” How important is this congregation, not just to those of us who gather here each Sunday, but also to others in our town, in our state. I think we offer a vital service just by continuing to exist and to thrive. We offer hope to the young person wondering if their life is worth living because they are gay, to the man just released from prison expecting to be shunned by everyone he meets, to the recovering alcoholic, to the person who is homeless,to the eccentric thinker who everyone else thinks is just crazy, to the members of conservative religions who worry that their questions are somehow sinful, and to all the people who are suffering in so many ways from a culture that is far from accepting of differences and difficulties. Even if they never find their way here, even if they never sit in this room with us, if they know about us, we have given them some hope. We have made a difference. We have offered an alternative, a radical alternative, a community based on love.

So if you have been thinking this morning about the reasons you come here, I assume you have thought of more than a few.

I have another question for you. How much would it cost if you went other places to get what you find here at this church? How much more would you be spending on tuition, on therapy, on concert and movie tickets, or on drinks in a bar, if you did not come to church? What about the things that are truly priceless? How could you possibly meet anywhere else the diverse and wonderful people we have here in this religious community? Where else would you be welcomed with such open and loving arms no matter who you are and how you are feeling?   Where else are tears and laughter both not only acceptable, but treated as precious?

One last joke so we can end on a lighter note

Ready?

“If you don’t know what eschatology means, it’s not the end of the world.”

Hilarious right? OK, for those of you who don’t get that joke, eschatology is the theological stance of a particular religion on the end of the world. It isn’t something most Unitarian Universalists worry about much. We definitely don’t take the book of revelation literally. We may worry about environmental disasters or wars ending life on this planet, but our various views of God and the divine do not include the idea that God will destroy the world at some future date.

No, our theology is about life, about continual new beginnings, second, third and fourth chances. It is a life saving, life enhancing theology. We stand on the side of love, and that is why we are here. Amen and Namaste.

Why are we here #BFUU

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Why are we here?

Living at the intersection

Of Cedar and Bonita

This beautiful tree

Has deep roots

Watered by love

And sacrifice

A passion for justice

A yearning for peace.

The branches a shelter

For all who have need.

 

Growing and changing

Stretching tall and wide

Reaching out

Reaching in

Wrapping minds

Hearts and arms

Around a world

Around a vision

Love will win

We can make it so.

This tree will grow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 11, 2011

A reflection I wrote on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11

 

“We are the spirit of God. We are our grandmothers’ prayers, our grandfathers’ dreaming, mothers of courage and fathers of time, daughters of dust and sons of great vision, sisters of mercy and brothers of love.” (Sweet Honey in the Rock)

We need the spirit of God in the world. We need the spirit of humans who are willing to devote their lives to compassion, to work for justice and for peace, and to hold the love of our neighbors, our neighbors here and around the world, as our highest religious value.

This isn’t easy, especially when we are remembering that horrible day when we saw the planes crashing into the towers and so many died. Life has its tragedies of course. People die in floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, in car accidents, and of disease. We grieve at those times, but there is usually no one obviously to blame. These things just happen. When a tragedy is intentional, however, when another human being willingly sets out to cause others immense pain and suffering, it is so much harder to understand.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not the first such events in history, even our own history here in the United States. Oklahoma City and Columbine come to mind. And can we forget the mass lynching of African Americans, the mass murder of the Native American peoples, the shame of the lives lost during the middle passage during the slave trade?

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in NYC in 1911, where 146 workers died because the owners had locked the exit doors was one of the worst disasters in NYC and it is all but forgotten.

The holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Belgian Congo, South Africa, Hiroshima, the Crusades, how can we forget those events and how can we feel alone in our suffering?

How can we forget the murders of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers, of Jesus, and  of John Lennon?

How can we stand silent when people are being attacked and beaten in our own state simply because of who they love and who they are?

How can we stand silent about two wars that seem they will never end, wars where there will be no victory, just continued, pain, sacrifice and suffering? Revenge does not relieve pain, it just creates more.

One of the images that has most stayed in my mind from ten years ago is one that is not often shown on television anymore. Some of you probably remember it. Just before the first tower collapsed, people jumped out of the windows. Certain death, I am sure they knew, but it was an action they could take, something they could do. I was most moved by seeing two people holding hands as they fell. Do you remember that? As far as I know they were never identified. How could they be? Two people, maybe they were friends, maybe lovers, or perhaps they were even strangers. Were they a man and a woman, two women, two men, maybe one of them was transgender?

Were they Muslim, Christian, pagan, Jew or atheist? Does it matter? Whoever they were, they each reached out in that moment and held on tight to the other person’s hand. With courage and with faith, they knew they were not alone. They knew what they were holding in their hand was another human being, just like them, another human soul, precious and rare, fragile and miraculous. At the very last minute of their lives, they were holding on to what matters most. They were caring for each other.

That is what matters most. It is what we need to remember when we think about all the times and places where we humans have committed atrocities. None of us are alone. We are all connected. We all have each other, all the hurting hopeful people of the world. It matters. We matter. We just have to reach out and take that hand. Together we can manifest the spirit of God in the world. May it be so, amen and blessed be.

Gathering of the Waters – 9/7/14 Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists

dry lake

Opening Words: 

Come in peace, come in hope.

We welcome all:

The thirsty and searching,

The steadfast and stalwart,

We welcome the stubborn and the strange.

You are not a stranger here.

First time visitor or charter member,

This place, this time is for you.

Your precious spirit is a blessing to the world.

Your unique gifts, your joys and your sorrows,

Your strengths, your weaknesses,

Your worries and your ideas,

All have a place within these walls.

Come in this morning,

Let the gentle waters of the larger spirit,

Soothe you and heal you.

Shed your tears,

And drink your fill.

We come together

Pausing for a moment

Our busy, separate lives.

We come to worship

In song, in words, in silence, and in ritual.

The river flows on with the force of all our yearnings.

Come in peace, come in hope.

Let our thirst be quenched this day,

That we may have the strength

To carry the water of life to the wider world.

Amen and blessed be.

Reflection:

Reflection:

 

Today is our water communion Sunday; something this fellowship has been doing each fall for quite some time. It is not an ancient tradition, however. It was created in 1980 at the Women & Religion continental convocation and it is a celebration of both community and of what each individual brings to that community.

Over time, the tradition changed from one that contained deep spiritual meaning to one that was fun in some ways, but also quite problematic. People would come forward and add water to the common bowl, saying where it was from. Unfortunately this rather quickly turned into “what I did on my summer vacation.” Sometimes people even competed to bring water from as far away as possible. It wasn’t very spiritual or meaningful at all and tended to privilege those who could afford an expensive summer vacation.

I understand that Rev. Joy did this service a little differently last year and today we are going to try yet another way. See how it feels to you.

This ritual really is for young and old, for rich and poor, for gay and straight, for the able and less able, for people of all backgrounds, races, and situations. It is for founding members and first time visitors. The water will be poured into a common bowl symbolizing that whoever we are, that for whatever reason we have come here this morning, we bring with us something of value, something to be treasured, and something to be shared. Some of the water will be used to water the plants in our garden, but some will be saved both for next year and to use in special ceremonies such as child dedications.  Water is a wonderful symbol, a wonderful metaphor. Single drops of water, over time, can change the hardest stone. The power of water is even greater when those drops are gathered together and flow as one, one stream, one river, and one ocean. Water is essential to life. Without it we would die. People need access to water in order to survive. Community is also essential to our lives as human beings. Without human contact, the soul withers and dies. Times of solitude can be good for self-reflection, but long lasting solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments that have ever been devised.

One of my favorite poems is I’ve Know Rivers by Langston Hughes, an African American poet from the Harlem renaissance of the 1920’s and also a gay man. It is in our hymnal #528. Let’s read it together.

 

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve know rivers ancient as the

World and older than the flow of

Human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

I bathed in the Euphrates when

dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and

It lulled me to sleep.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

I looked upon the Nile and raised

The pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the

Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

Went down to New Orleans and

I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn

All golden in the sunset.

I’ve know rivers:

Ancient dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Our souls grow deep, I believe, when we become more aware of our connections. Souls, like rivers, cannot stand still, movement, change is in their very nature. Just as rivers seek the sea, we humans seek connection with something greater than ourselves. One of our tasks, as human beings, and collectively as a religious community, is to deepen our souls, to increase our understanding, and to move forward toward that transformative moment when we know that we are not alone. That no one is alone. Just like in our opening hymn, the peace, the sorrow, the joy, the pain, the love, the tears, and the strength each of us has within us, fills us and binds us together as we move toward the sea of mutual care and understanding.  All of it, all of the individual drops of our complicated lives come together and create the spirit of life that can both heal and transform. It is then we really feel the power of the river, the power of love. It is a wellspring of the spirit that calls us to drink deeply and be satisfied and renewed.It comforts us when we are lonely and gives us the strength to work for justice.

Some of you may have brought water with you today that you gathered from somewhere special to you. If you have done that, please think for a minute about the moment you gathered that water. What did you feel? Perhaps the water is from a distant place, a river, lake, or ocean. Maybe it is from a drinking fountain or from your kitchen.  If you forgot to bring water or if you simply didn’t know that we would be doing this today, we have some water here for you to use. Think about where you would have collected water; think about what might have been meaningful to you. Water is precious, no matter where it is from. Too many in our world do not have access to clean and safe drinking water. Too many people are hungry.

People are precious. Too many in our world do not have access to a caring and inclusive religious community. It takes many drops of water to form a river and it takes many individuals to form a community, to form a congregation. As we gather the water together this morning, let us remember to share the best of ourselves with each other and to hold each other in tenderness. It is each of us singly and together that create this community, and it is together that we make this ceremony sacred and holy. I invite you each to think for a moment about what you bring with you today, something that is important, that is in your soul, in your heart, something that makes you the individual you are, precious and holy. You don’t have to name this in words; it can just be a feeling, maybe a hope that has rested quietly inside of you, maybe a passion, a yearning, whatever your heart, your spirit suggests.

If you have found something, a feeling, whatever it is, even if is a sense of confusion, consider it as a gift, an offering, a blessing that you bring to both this community and to the planet. If you haven’t found it yet, continue to let your mind and emotions swirl around it. Something will come to you. Each of you has something very special inside of you that can give you the power to bless the world. Maybe it is a type of energy that can feel like a refreshing rain, and perhaps it is the simple tears of tenderness and longing.

Holly will begin playing some music in a moment. First I will add the water in this small vial. It was given to me at the UU Church of Ogden during my last Sunday service there. It contains a mixture of almost 25 years of their water communions. This congregation is now connected to them. They grew me into the minister I am today and those dear souls now minister to you through me.  Then, I will invite each of you to come forward to share your gift of the spirit as you add your own water to the bowl.  First the elders and then the children, and then the rest of you.  Add your water without words if that feels right or, if you want, perhaps whisper a word or two that describes what you are feeling. Holly will be playing while we do this, so not everyone will hear whatever words may be spoken, but we will all be listening to each other, with the fullest attention of our hearts.

 

Got to be Tough

You’ve got to be tough

She said

Or you would not

Have survived

Yes I am

I said

For survive I did

 

Hard headed yes

With few illusions

But tender hearted too

True strength

Is brave enough

To risk everything

For love