As I was writing I had Luke Concannon’s “All around the world” as a companion ear-buzz : All around the world Luke Concannon
I am indebted to Rev’d. Warick Turnbull for helping my thinking about this service.
Opening words: Jeremiah 29 12-14 Jeremiah 33:
Chalice Lighting: International Council of Unitarians and Universalists
Let this flame symbolize the divine spark of light embedded in all living beings. May its flame lead us to greater knowledge and tolerance. May its warmth lead us to deeper love and compassion. And may its light lead us toward greater wisdom and understanding. Yes, each of us is but a tiny flame. But together we can enlighten the world!
Lene Lund Shoemaker – Danish Unitarian Church read by Sony Simon
Welcome to Mill Hill Unitarian Chapel. The congregation which gathers here was first formed in 1672.
Freedom of thought, rational integrity and tolerance of differences are not the goals, but are the means of arriving at our goal of participation in the life of the spirit.
We hold that the truth is best served where the mind is free and we trust that through open hearts and minds we will all grow in knowledge of the Divine.
We gather in love to reflect, to contemplate, to meditate and to pray, we gather together to sing so lets rise as we are able to sing
Hymn: We plough the fields and scatter…
In prayer it is a matter of being present where we are…
To pray is to pay attention to the deepest thing that we know…
Prayer is the space in which we become truly human. Let us pray
Holy one of us, to you we come, to listen to your voice to hear as quietly as you speak; the burning bush within ourselves, the still small voice in the hurricane. May we, although we be unfaithful, offer a prayer to you in time of distress. we know that you are with us still, residing with us and never leaving from us. we know that you are our light a light which will not be extinguished though we know not how the light will prevail. we know that light shines despite darkness, and joy comes despite sorrow, so let us be of good courage
& Candles of prayer; joys and concerns
Two women (Sony Simon, Stephanie Bisby) speak these lines from the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures) – Mishlei Shlomo 8 – “Wisdom cries out” adapted from Proverbs 8 Revised English Bible
Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand,
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the gates she cries out:
“To you, O men, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
O simple ones, learn prudence;
acquire intelligence, you who lack it.
Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right;
for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips,
All the words of my mouth are righteous;
there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
They are all straight to one who understands
and right to those who find knowledge.
Take my instruction instead of silver,
and knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is better than jewels,
and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
I, wisdom, live with prudence,
and I attain knowledge and discretion.
I have good advice and sound wisdom;
I have insight, I have strength.
By me kings reign,
and rulers decree what is just;
by me rulers rule,
and nobles, all who govern rightly.
I love those who love me
and those who seek me diligently find me.
Riches and honor are with me,
enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,
and my yield than choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
endowing with wealth those who love me,
and filling their treasuries.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when God had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first plots of soil.
When God established the heavens, I was there,
when God drew a circle on the face of the deep,
and made firm the skies above,
when God established the fountains of the deep,
and assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not overflow,
I was there
when God marked out the foundations of the earth,, …
and I was daily God’s delight,
rejoicing in the inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
And now, my children, listen to me:
happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
Happy is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life …
The Cure (Read by Erik Schelander)
We think we get over things.
We don’t get over things.
Or say, we get over the measles
but not a broken heart.
We need to make that distinction.
The things that become part of our experience
Never become less a part of our experience.
How can I say it?
The way to get over a life is to die,
Short of that, you move with it,
let the pain be pain,
not in the hope that it will vanish
but in the faith that it will fit in,
find its place in the shape of things,
and be then not any less pain
but true to form.
Because anything natural has an
inherent shape and will flow towards it.
And a life is as natural as a leaf.
That’s what we’re looking for:
not the end of a thing
but the shape of it.
Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life without
obliterating, getting over, a
single instant of it.
— Albert Huffstickler (1927-2002)
I want to say a little about communion in relation to our tradition: Four times a year we, like our ancestors in faith the Socinians of the Polish Minor Church, share a communion. This marks moments in the liturgical year, and the liturgical year is more than the calendar, in words spoken from the soul, we call out of time – and into the eternal.
Ours is an open table – but more than that ours is an inclusive open table: you don’t have to be Christened baptised or confirmed to participate, you can be from any faith or have no faith. It makes no difference what you believe or don’t believe, how you struggle, how free or unfree you feel, no matter what guilts or shames you may be carrying.
Everyone is welcome at this table. Everyone here is precious and worthy, as you are, right now, to share a symbolc meal, which affirms our commitment to transformation, to trying again to live as we know in our deepest heart we should perhaps must live.
And so we re-covenant with one another before that Other which is always becoming, and ever-present throughout all life.
Jesus said “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. Give to everyone who asks you, and do to others as you would have them do to you.
Everyone is welcome at the communion table. But there is no pressure to participate or rather all are equally welcome to participate by witnessing. If you wish to take water, just ask, if you dont want bread that is fine and if you want neither bread nor wine but would like to take a blessing please just ask.
The bread of Life for you
The cup of Blessing for you
and may your life be blessed, your work be blessed your family and your love be blessed for here we re-covenant to one another to encourage our transformation from life to life …
We come at harvest with the gifts of all that we are: we give of ourselves; this is the meaning I think of these powerfully resonant rituals of giving; that our gift to one another is given with the value of all that we have. This is more than than a gift, it is a sacrifice, the gift is sacrificial, our giving costs us.
I don’t rely on the lectionary; (the list of scriptural readings apportioned to be read at each Sunday service) but I gathered that today’s reading is the story found in the three synoptic gospels (that is the three gospels which support one another’s telling of the story of the life and ministry of Jesus), its one of the difficult stories, the hard sayings. Its a toughie. That it is found in all three gospels lends weight to the idea that it really happened: a young man comes and asks what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell everything he owns, give the money away and come and follow him. The man departs. We assume that the task is beyond him. He doesn’t show up again.
In order to gain eternal life (that’s not life after death by the way – subtle distinction there – eternal life can happen right now) you have to give everything.
We come with lifetimes of experience good and bad. We’re asked to give it all. “refusing the false shelters of resentment, shame and guilt.”
And that is the price of eternal life, lives of meaning which are beyond the temporary.
The price of our lives bought with experience, sometimes bitter experience, and so we are invited to the table with our woundedness, in our brokeness. Not in expectation that we are righteous or whole but in the knowledge that we are human. (My friend Rev’d Warick Turnbull pointed out to me that in the Gospel of Mark during the conversation with the young man and before he flees, Mark tells us that Jesus loved him).
The lines of our second reading the poem entitled the cure which Erik read for us say:
Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life without
obliterating, getting over, a
single instant of it.
We don’t get over our losses, our hurts we move with them grow through them bring them at last to the table as gifts and offer them up. Our truest prayer is the prayer of our whole life.
Our communion like our harvest recognises this: the sheaf is a gathering of cut corn, the scythe has done its work. The grain is broken in the mill, and the flour is beaten again, kneaded and shaped into a loaf which is broken and shared.
A week ago we were witnesses to dramatic news footage as two women intervened dramatically in the seemingly corrupt proceedings in the highest court of the worlds super power; holding open a lift door one woman, a survivor of sexual violence challenged the republican politician to look her in the eye and tell her that her experience wasn’t valid. Her voice was the voice of wisdom, calling out, insisting that its truth be acknowledged. Her woundedness, transformed into courage, her survival committed to creating change, her wisdom her witness.
To give everything is not an easy path:
“what is the price of experience, can wisdom be bought for the price of a song – Oh no it is bought with the price of all that a man hath, it is bought at that desolate market place where no one comes to sell Blake tells us
Like the young man in the parable we are sent packing in the main to find accommodation within lives of compromise.
The common goal we share, the goal symbolised by our shared meal, is to transform our experience, from the temporary, into the eternal, to participate in the greater life, of presence and of love.
We re commit to this life, failing, returning, perhaps failing better; returning to love, and being loved.
Hymn All People 64
Benediction reveal for us the ways of compassion
and presence we seek to live out in our own lives.
Blest are you, Love, as you nourish us day by day. (From “A Socinian Communion” by Rev’d. Dr. Mark Belletini)