Posts Tagged Hallmark

One Week After

This Sermon was preached at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Huntington on 4/23/17. It explores the role of doubt and faith in light of living into the message of Passover and Easter.

 

Unitarian Universalist congregations have a lot that go on this time of year – religiously speaking. Passover and Easter meant we were celebrating two, difficult yet ultimately joyous holidays, in quick succession. Saturday night had song, and food, children pantomiming rivers of blood and hosts of frogs. And if you can’t imagine what pantomiming rivers of blood what might mean, don’t worry, no red crepe paper was actually harmed in the celebration of the holy day. And the following morning, our children enjoyed an Easter egg hunt, in our Memorial Garden, in what might have been the most perfect Easter weather I have ever experienced. One of the things I love about our Fellowship is how the community designed a memorial garden that would be warm, lovely and welcoming enough that our kids would enjoy an Easter Egg hunt there – and that our folks would want to craft spaces that were welcoming to all ages.

Being so open to play, being willing to shake the norms, or shake worn expectations, sometimes leads to some odd places. A few years ago, when I was serving another congregation, I think I saw the envelope pushed a little further than I might have been ready for. Easter morning, I was sitting on the chancel of a UU church with a very traditional Neo-Gothic style architecture; stain-glassed windows, wooden pews, solid stone walls. I was looking out at all of the gathered’s Easter finery. I was mentally preparing for the service to begin when our latest guest walked up the aisle and sat in about the 4th row of pews in the front and center just off to the left…. Now I knew the 6 foot tall (counting ears of course) Easter Bunny was coming; but I thought she was going straight to the children’s party downstairs. Now – this is true for us here too, so please try to take it to heart. You see, in the first few years of ministry at a congregation, there are so many wonderful facts like this that get left unmentioned because everyone else kind of knows, so people assume I must too. (Like even this morning, I knew a dragon was coming to the service, but until last week, I didn’t know we even had a dragon that I could call upon. Someone should have told me we had dragons…). So you can imagine my … joy… at seeing the Easter Bunny decide to worship with the UU’s for our then very traditional Easter service. Add in my very formal Catholic upbringing, this was a rather unexpected challenge. (So please hear me, if anyone is getting any rabbit ideas for next year… [shakes head no].)

That famous guest reminded me of my childhood expectant Easters. I more or less got the religious meaning of the holiday at the time as a kid but to be very honest I was just as focused on the candy. I wanted the fun of the egg hunts and the sugar-induced coma of the sweet-tarts. (Remember when we could eat a punchbowl of candy without getting sick? Oh the good ol’ days.) The deeper appreciation of Holy Week would come later, but I do recall the period of “great waiting” that was the hallmark of this time.

That’s the sugar-coated stories I remember – “The Very Hallmark Easter.” (This might be a little less pronounced for those who were raised Jewish, or maybe not since commercialized Easter knows no bounds in the modern US.) But both the Jewish story of Passover and the Christian story of Easter are coated in blood, not sweetness. They culminate in hope but they are rooted in pain and sorrow. They speak directly to an all too uncomfortable fact of the lives of so many people on this earth. In the U.S. we are very fortunate to not have to live daily under the realized threat of military violence from foreign powers, although many of our people are increasingly feeling unsafe from legal changes and practices.  So it may, or may not be difficult, to imagine how just the repercussions were that we hear of in the scriptural stories. But enjoying the privilege of relative safety, with the notable and rare tragic exceptions like here in NYC 16 years ago, I will personally withhold judgment. I can’t imagine living under the yoke, that Exodus speaks of, where God brought the Jewish people out from under.

 

Ex 12:12-15 reads, “It is the Passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” Verse 51 goes on to conclude, “That very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, company by company.”

 

The act of sacrifice and covenant culminated with protection for those who were violently oppressed and brutal punishment for those who were guilty of their abuses. But what then? Years of oppression over? Sacrifice followed by hope? No, we pause in the story of Exodus where freedom from bondage is won; but it’s not too long before the people succumb to uncertainty. Doubt arose even after miracle. Fear of what might be, led the people to hold onto what they could touch, erecting golden calves that promised the certainty of old bondages, rather than the promise of what they carried in their hearts. And that doubt held the people back another 40 years to wander, before the promise was finally realized.

Faith and doubt are the counterpoints on the scales of liberation in the Jewish story; which is also the human story. We hold onto the hopes of a way through whatever crisis, stress, or fear that plagues us – whether it’s emotional, or financial; our health, or our heart. We wait for the news, we wait for the resolution, and then the day comes. Sometimes it’s the way through we hoped for, or the message that the promise land is out of reach, for a time, or maybe it seems that it’ll be out of reach always.

I believe the Jewish story of Passover, and what follows after, is a reminder that how we handle what comes before usis what determines whether we feel like we’ve found our way home, or we’re lost in the desert that is the pit of our despair. Sometimes we may be the source of what causes our suffering, and sometimes the suffering that befalls us would be there regardless of anything that we could do differently. That tragic health prognosis for ourselves, or our loved one, is not our fault, but at some point we need to choose whether in light of it we’ll find our way or we’ll be lost.

In this story, the God of Israel seems to be saying to us that the path ahead is possible, despite it all, if we stay true to our hearts and keep our integrity.

The Christian story is similar. The Rev. Dr. Christopher Morse of Union Theological Seminary, now retired, famously said, “The cross would cast no shadow were it not for the light of resurrection morn.” Jesus, a teacher of non-violence, compassion, forgiveness and hope suffered the cruelest corporeal punishment the Roman Empire executed. Crucifixion was reserved for insurrectionists and highwaymen. The saving message of building that beloved community on earth; the message of turning us back to our humanity through these virtues he extolled, is tempered by the painful reminders of worldly suffering. The way forward must ever remember the difficult truths of our world if it can ever be followed. Transformations, and resurrection, have no meaning if they don’t honestly accept the reality of human experience and suffering.

Some say that suffering is redemptive…. I would not be one of those people. Suffering can be crippling, or suffering can be transcended, but any redemption that occurs through suffering is only in light of that suffering, not because of it. The moment of resurrection in our lives, in our hearts, in our relationships, brilliantly reflects back like that light of Easter morning. We do not need to suffer to be reborn, but many of us only choose rebirth when it gets too difficult not to…. Even then, it’s not too late.

What of the week after the Resurrection that is central to the Christian story? A woman, Mary Magdalene, was the first to witness Jesus and begin to spread his gospel. His other apostles, the men as it happens, were huddled hidden in a room upstairs – fearful. In the Christian lectionary, the readings that are given a week after Easter are found in, John 20:19-31

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews (which I would clarify were their own people), Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” This is the microcosm of the perennial story of liberation and imprisonment. The greatest moment of Christian salvation has occurred and the apostles of that movement are hidden away upstairs with their doors locked. Whether you believe this story is metaphor or fact, imagine for a moment being those apostles. You’re terrified of your own people. You’re scared that the government – the Roman Empire – might be coming for you next because you were part of some fringe movement that was supposed to end with his execution. We’re supposed to be free, but we lock ourselves away, scared of all those people who seemed familiar and safe a moment ago. The story tells us that liberation and resurrection has just occurred, and for the life of us, we can’t see it. We haven’t even gotten word yet.

That’s what we see with the apostle Thomas. Scripture continues, “Now Thomas (called the twin), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I’ve always found this scene in the story very curious. It seems to be suggesting that those who require proof in order to have faith are less blessed than those who have not seen and yet still believe. Centuries of Christian interpretation can be summed up with the critical phrase, “Doubting Thomas.” The Agnostics and Atheists among us might have cringed at some point in their lives over this imagery – (or maybe they may have been proud of it.) I find this scene curious because a week later, one week after the resurrection moment, the door to the room the apostles were hiding in was still locked. They’ve all seen their risen Lord, and claim to be overjoyed in response to Jesus’ acclamation of peace. They are saved, and are the rock of the church to come. And yet, a week later, the door is still locked.

It leads me to think they’re all still scared, and they don’t yet have that sense of liberation, of redemption, of freedom we’re often led to believe. It’s very human. They’ve been led out of Egypt and yet can’t walk out of their bedroom. So what does this mean for us? We’ve gotten word that the prognosis is good, or that our kids made it home from the war, or we got into the school we really wanted to, but we can’t let go of the fear of what might have been. I remember healing from the time I was hit by a car as a pedestrian – I’m coming on that 7-year anniversary in a month. It took me me a while to walk on my own without a cane or splint. But even though I got the seemingly miraculous news that nothing was broken even though I was thrown 10 feet in the air, it would be months before I would believe I could do much with my leg. I was fine in body, considering the seriousness of the accident and the couple of weeks where I really couldn’t walk, but I was literally locked up in my second floor apartment, up a flight of stairs, that I scarcely thought I could climb back down. More than half of that recovery was a matter of the heart not the body. If the prognosis had been bad, any recovery that could of occurred would have been entirely a matter of the heart, not just half of it. What are you locking away in a room up a treacherous flight of steps you can’t seem to find a way back down from? And the teacher and prophet reminds us, “Peace be with you!”

My childhood cravings told me these times of year were coated with sugar and sweet. They led me with great excitement to the moment of celebration, the moment of fun, the moment of beauty in all it’s finery and splendidly colored eggs. There were giant 6 foot tall bunnies aplenty to bring a smile to my face – and I was very glad for it. The hard work though, begins some point after that moment. All the information is in, the facts seem set, and we now have to do something with it. One week after, life continues on, whether or not we’re ready for it. The news can be liberating or mesmerizing or terrifying as we huddle in the corner. When you catch yourself putting the blood on the door in the hopes of the Angel of Death passing over, or you find yourself feeling in your body like you’re truly hanging from the cross – stop. Take a breath. It might be all you feel you can do, so you might as well do it with intention. Come back to that moment. Fill the way forward with intention as often as you can.

Some of us will doubt no matter what; others will say they are overjoyed with their lips, but remain trapped in their hearts; and others will find a way to keep ourselves imprisoned in action, when all signs had pointed toward liberation. But like these scriptural stories, there is always another opportunity to let go, to get out, to accept or to heal, if only in the heart and not the body. Beyond or despite the facts of whatever situation we find ourselves in, what is most crucial is how we deal with the moment, and not what the moment told us. One week after is when the difficult work begins.

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The Art of Peace

This sermon was preached at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Huntington on Mothers’ Day 5/8/16. It hearkens back to the origins of the holiday as a women’s movement for peace.

Happy Mothers’ Day to all our mothers, and to all those hoping to some day be mothers. Since Fathers’ Day is rarely celebrated here in the Summer months, let me extend the same to all our dads, and dads-to-be. And for those of us who are mourning our parents, or mourning our kids, may we hold them in our hearts this hour so that the memories that are good may echo on in our own living actions.

As some of you may already know, before there were Hallmark cards, Mothers’ Day was started as a day of peace. It was a political activist call for Mothers to stand united to call for the return of their sons and daughters home from war. It’s grown into a secular holiday that celebrates motherhood, but it’s rooted in a peace movement.

A peace movement may seem a bit quieter these days than it did generations ago, but it’s no less important. As I remind us from time to time, my generation, and the generation that came before me and the generation that’s coming after me, have never really known a time when the U.S. wasn’t at war. Even if it might seem to most of us that war doesn’t really affect us. Some of us have family that are abroad, or have friends who have died in war. I personally haven’t felt that loss close to home, although I do have a lot of family on both sides who have served, or are serving right now. For most of us who don’t know anyone serving in active duty, war is a thing that’s far away, or just in video games. We don’t have to put ourselves at risk. We don’t have to ration butter like they did in World War II. We don’t have to risk being drafted by the military against our will, like folks had to in the Vietnam War.

For many of us, we can kind of forget about it. And that’s a sad thing. It’s not sad because we’re not really affected. It’s sad because some Americans are very, very affected, but most of us don’t have to share that burden. A few people are asked to accept huge risks to their safety and quality of life, while most of us don’t have to shoulder anything at all. It’s sad because it makes it easy to think war’s not that big of a deal, when it’s a huge deal for some people. It makes me wonder if bringing back the draft weren’t a good idea after all – at least everyone would realize that war might affect them, and maybe we would go to war less frequently or with more reservation. I do recognize that sometimes defending ourselves is necessary. By less frequently – I mean – “not being at war all the time.”

Now, I’m not going to solve the problem of war and peace in the following 10 minutes, but I would like us to look at the idea of peace in a possibly different way. I think there’s kind of an art to it. I remember a Buddhist proverb that I’ve mentioned from time to time, that says, “If you want peace, smile.” I recall that the first time I heard that I thought the Buddhist teacher was a little crazy, and probably minimizing the idea of peace. I’ve come to see it a little differently. Let’s do a quick experiment.

Everyone here – try something with me for just 10 seconds. On the count of 3, smile. And not a half-hearted smirk. I want a real, full-blown, smile. Pretend your happy – just for 10 seconds. Ok, ready… 1…. 2… 3…. :::smile:::

Alright everyone, you can stop smiling now. If you need to go back to frowning, feel free. Although you may want to bask in the waves of niceness coming off everyone for a few more minutes first. Did anything bad just happen? Did anyone break out into a fight? No, good. By a show of hands, did anyone actually feel better, you know, happy?

That’s what the Buddhists are getting at. With some rare exceptions, if you smile, a sense of peace does break forth. I learned this smiling trick had some real-world work applications too. In a former career, I ran a computer helpdesk for 5 years. I would tell my staff that the more someone on the other end of the phone was driving them crazy, the more they should force themselves to smile. It’s hard to sound mean while you smile. I’m sure you can do it, but it’s tougher. … (smiling) “When you say that your computer crashed, and you went to your email, and then nothing happened… what sort of nothing actually happened…?”

So where does the “art” piece come in that I mentioned? Let me tell you the story of Vashti and “the Dot” by Peter. H. Reynolds.

… “She handed him a piece of paper and said, ‘show me.’… and now.. ‘please …. sign it.’” I think that’s where the art comes in when we’re talking about crafting peace in our lives. It’s not about being perfect, or doing it all, or having all the answers. It’s not always about diplomacy, or bigger muscles, or smarter brains. Sometimes it’s about being willing to make our mark, even when we can just muster a smirk on our faces. It’s about play, and experimentation. But it’s also about being willing to “sign it.” To put our name, or our commitments, to the things we care most about.

You notice how Vashti realized that she wasn’t the only person who could learn how to make art? I love this story because it reminds us that even when she’s kind of the hero of the tale because she learns to be an artist, she extends that gift upon someone else. She finds another classmate who was feeling all down because he was really bad at drawing a straight line (a fellow after my own artistic heart – a ruler doesn’t always help me either.) (In fact, I had to ask Starr to help me with setting up the easel and

especially the straight lines that were pre-drawn on our canvas for this morning’s story. Yes, sometimes’ I’m that bad.)

So Vashti finds that other classmate, and she inspires him to bring about his own talent, to make his mark, and to sign his name onto what he just crafted.

That’s the art of peace. It’s about coming to accept we can do whatever small thing we can do – even if it’s just making our mark in a small way at one time and place. Then owning our efforts for what they are. And most importantly, helping to inspire another person after us to be creative in their own way.

During our service this morning, we crafted mosaics out of many differently colored squares (were there any peace mosaics made?) Each was just one little bit of color, that on its own didn’t do much to create the colorful symbol of peace. But when many of us each made our own mark, over and over again, it became a lot easier to make out the symbol of peace that was lying there waiting to show vividly in color.

For those of us who believe in God, we often see God’s presence in things like this. Individual acts of compassion or care, over time, seem to paint a pattern that’s hard to see if you only look at the one act. We all benefit from so many acts of kindness that have allowed us to live as we do, too many to see by themselves, and there is a sense for some of us that they’re leading to something more.

When we leave this service, what can those marks of peace look like? Let’s hear some ideas, I’ll repeat them back if I can hear you so that we can all hear…. what can those marks of peace look like?

Those are all great. We can start even before we leave this room. Go back to that exercise we had earlier in this homily – the smiling one. Start there. Go up and speak with someone you don’t know – whether they’re new to us, or you’ve been ignoring them for 20 years. Take this day to deepen your connections with a friend or a stranger. It’s the foundation for peace.

It’s also the art for building a more effective ministry in this congregation. To paraphrase a colleague, “To be welcomed, is to be welcoming.” When we haven’t been reached out to, we can always be the one to reach out. I think of Vashti and her teacher. Vashti had no interest in making art. Her teacher didn’t accept Vashti’s lack of excitement for an answer, and kept meeting her halfway till she came along. Sometimes we all have to do that in community, or in our playgrounds. When others aren’t meeting you where you are, sometimes you have to meet them where they are. There’s no rule for it, but there is an art to it.

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Secure in our Insecurities

This sermon was first preached on May 10th, 2009 for Mothers’ Day. It’s not your typical Hallmark card.

Happy Mothers’ Day! … I make this brave assertion with some trepidation though. I never know what to presume from days fraught with such weighty expectations. We’ve navigated the complex family systems annual gauntlet of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover and Easter and can see the light at the end of the tunnel that is Memorial Day weekend. And then wham! May has yet another potentially awkward-sit-down-for-a-big-meal holiday too! And this one I somehow have responsibility for.

I long for the simple days where my relationship with mom shifted between wonderful and fitful, based solely on how tired or hungry either one of us were. Depending on what lens I use, that ended somewhere between five years old and twenty eight. Although, I’m suspicious that these patterns still undergird all of our conversations.

I’ve never been truly satisfied with Hallmark’s extensive series of suggestions on how to adequately express one’s gratitude for being brought into this world; in my case raised well with more opportunities than either of my parents have seen, while honestly lifting up the tensions, challenges, and short-comings along the way. I’m more inclined toward humorous cards like the Snoopy one that reads, “You’re the glue that keeps this family together, That’s a nice way of saying you’re stuck with us! …” because it’s at least accurate. But it doesn’t capture the entirety. The curve of my smirk holds appreciation for a mom who staved off the costs of childcare by going to work nights after dad came home so I would never be alone, yet who was absent at my ordination this year. I imagine that we have as many equally varied stories this morning as we have people here today. I know some of these stories are memories of our mothers who since have died, or the joy of being a new mother.

Our reading this morning is another such story, from the mindset of a mother of five, who was contemplating divorce and navigating rehabilitation from cancer. It’s an intense story of cascading difficulties that far exceeds the everyday. Yet, many of us will know people facing similar and sudden challenges. Some of those people will be us. Everyday. …

I know many of us have Tim Barger, fellow congregant and UU seminarian, in our prayers as he recovers and rehabilitates from sudden spinal surgery in Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, in Philadelphia. I am not myself in conversation with Tim, but the frequent Facebook updates, comments and discussions are looking up. Some of us may be thinking of Marge Odessky, who’s memorial was last Sunday. I could see from the many who shared their stories of Marge, that she showed us how one could be a mother to many in this congregation who are not her children.

I can barely imagine what it would be like to be faced with the prospect this anonymous mother was challenged by. Challenged is probably not even the right word; what she was threatened with. Able to deal well enough with the daily stories of relationships, children, work and community service, this mother reflects, in the extreme, the tentative nature of our security.

She gives us a vision of a street corner where we all reflect on our lives to this point. At times still feeling like children, but with far many more responsibilities to bear. Working with children as I do, I often see the hearts of kids in the faces of grown adults. It makes me wonder how different we actually are, despite what we like to convince ourselves. I sometimes think that’s what makes it harder for some adults to relate to children – we’re not willing to admit how similar we still are.

I believe this mother offers a path of hope in the face of the absurd. I see how she teaches us both to be a little more insecure in our security, and to be more secure in our insecurity. The suddenness of her situation is the classic reminder of how precious health is, and how easy we go about forgetting just how delicate, and how little controllable, it is. How she rises to cope and prosper is remarkable. It’s also very ordinary.

She recalls, “Finally, I said to myself, ‘Well, here you are and there’s no place to go. It’s time you brought a little help into your life.’”

In twenty small words, this mom summed up the entirety of religion, of what it is to be human, the very heart of all the ministry we will ever do. Whatever our individual situation is, we too are standing with her on that street corner. For some of us, unlike our story’s narrator, our loved ones will in fact come down to meet us. Whether we stand alone or in the midst of dozens, the task of religion is to help us all to be willing to let others in.

In many ways, living in New York City sends out the opposite message. In the midst of millions, we try to stave off the stranger because it’s simply just too much to take all in at once. The irony of the City dweller is that many of us choose to live here because we seek the density, or the diversity, or the intensity of human connections and opportunities; and still we so often push against the depth of our human connectedness. Insecurity, shame, or a particular sense of propriety all serve to buttress our isolating walls. As Unitarian Universalists, this communal and covenantal faith seeks to help rebuild those ties that remind us of our human relatedness and our very human need.

Her little prayer, “that the Lord will send me someone to help me along the way on my subway journey every day… and that He’ll send someone that I can share my faith and my strength with too. Both things…”

is far from little. How healing a prayer this is! It acknowledges that we are in need of one another. It is full of hope. And it is within this need, that we recognize that we too have faith and strength to share. Some of us will struggle will the outward reach for help. Others will prefer to help as many as they can, so long as no one notices their own hidden needs. And there are those who can not see that they have anything to give. This prayer is medicinal for all of us who find any of these statements too close to home; whether you pray to God, or you change the words to reaffirm your relationship with the living world.

There’s another thread in her story that I feel we rarely lift up. So often we speak as though blindness equated with ignorance. Her parable of the birthday cake, and the blind boy who stopped being attracted to a girl when he was told she was unattractive is quite telling. “…When you begin to see with that inner eye, that inner eye everyone has, it all changes. Everyone is human, everyone is God’s child. Everyone is helpless, one way or another, and everyone is helpful too. We’re all here for each other….”

The bodies we are born into, or the circumstances that change them, are both limiting and instructive. This woman who lost her sight for a time learned to see people differently – and I would contend that from her writing she learned to see them more clearly. She has known the difference. These lessons are not limited to disabilities. Anyone who was less than popular in childhood or youth, was given a firm yet difficulty opportunity to extend the kindness to others that they did not receive. They have known the difference. Anyone who has experienced the injustice of oppression, whether it be because of gender, race, sexuality or gender expression, have a different lens in which to view the injustices perpetuated on others. They have known the difference. The list could be exhausting – class, wealth, weight, health, or education to name even more. “Everyone is helpless, one way or another, and everyone is helpful too…”. We remain helpless and unneeded only so long as we choose to pull back our hands. We are not alone.

There’s a poem by Jill-Beth Sweeney Schultheis that I find to be a powerful reminder of this message called “Fragility/Divinity.” It reads: “We are fragile. We are not broken. We are imperfect. We are not flawed. We are curious. We are not confused. We are vulnerable. We are not weak. We are of this earth, and yet the divine lives in us. When I feel as if I’m going to break, I am the most human. When I embrace my fragility, I let you into my imperfect world.” This is the liberal religious tradition of which we are a part. This is my faith. Fragility, imperfection, curiosity, and brokenness are what make us human. We are not weak because of these qualities – we are alive because of them.

Coming to terms with our insecurities deepens our security. Security, in the spiritual sense of the word, is not the ability to control our circumstances. It’s not what makes us safe; it’s what makes us whole. Security is achieved when we hold in tension the lessons of our first and seventh principles. The first principle is where we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person – and I should clarify that every person here does in fact include ourselves, but it is not limited to just ourselves. The seventh is where we appreciate how we stand in relation to the living world. We are all connected and interdependent. Held in tension with each other, these principles point toward a living web that can catch us when we are falling, and strengthen us as we build up community. As our anonymous mother tells us, “There are ups and downs, of course. You start blind and you reach out. Sometimes there’s nothing to hold onto, but you still reach. Then you learn to hold onto whatever you get. Then you find someone’s hand and you take it. Then you see you can reach and hold onto someone else.”

The mother in this story started out seeing herself as independent and she ended up seeing herself as interdependent. I struggle to see myself like she does.

The words from the African lullaby prayer we heard for our offertory are beautiful. “Oh God of the sunrise, as I have given of myself to my babe, wilt Thou watch over and protect him through the night. If he awaken when the sun greets the earth, he will grow to be a man and will take upon himself the responsibilities of a man in the world.” I pray that every day we awaken to this earth and this sun, may we each grow to be human. May we take upon ourselves the responsibilities of a people in this world. May we know that this stewardship entails a reaching outward and a letting in. That we hold ourselves up as we hold and lift one another. May we know that we are living into our responsibilities when we choose to live more fully with our neighbor; when we choose to open our hearts and lives to another. I pray that we can accept a sense of security that focuses less on control and more on relation. In so doing, may we all be surprised by a newfound joy, that can not be found on our own.

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