Posts Tagged Small Group Ministry

SGM #35: Resurrection for the Rest of Us

#35 Small Group Ministry Session Written by Rev. Jude Geiger, MRE, First Unitarian, Brooklyn – Based on the sermon, “Resurrection for the Rest of Us” preached by Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons at First UU on Easter 3/31/13. This session explores the meaning of resurrection in our own lives.

Welcome & Opening Chalice Lighting  (Please read aloud) An excerpt from Rev. Ana’s sermon.

“Death and taxes are supposed to be life’s two inevitabilities and in the Christian Scriptures, Jesus weighed in on both. Taxes, he agreed, are a given. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” he said. Death, however, he contested.”

Statement of Purpose:  To nurture our spirits and deepen our friendships.

Brief Check-In: Share your name and something you have left behind to be here.

Covenant Reflection

Reading: An excerpt from Rev. Ana’s sermon.

“It’s a truism that death is part of life. Parts of ourselves die every day. The process of entering adulthood necessitates the death of part of our childhood. We lose the comfort of breastfeeding or lose our fascination with dinosaurs or our childhood best friend drifts away. Relationships die, identities die, beliefs die, dreams die.

Most of these deaths happen to us, we are passive; we have no control over them. But the wisdom of this season suggests that for resurrection to occur, to awaken into new life, we need to be active participants in letting a part of ourselves die. Painful as it may be, we have to be accomplices to the killing.

We all cling to our selves as they have been. We cling to our fears, cling to our feelings, cling to our rationalizations for why our lives have to be as they are. Letting parts of ourselves die is one of the hardest things in the world. And actually collaborating, actively participating in the death of parts of ourselves is even harder. This is what the Phoenix does when it builds its own funeral pyre and this is what Jesus did when he carried his own cross on his back and this is what the earth does when it blows cold wind and snow onto its own back every winter, killing the grass and leaves and sending all creatures into hiding.”

Discussion Questions: Reflect on the many endings and beginnings in your own life. Which stand out the most as major turning points in your life where rebirth happened? It’s often easier to focus on the endings that brought us difficulty and regret. Were there times that seemed impossible in the moment, but healthy and transformative in hindsight? What grew from them in your life?

After this session, consider writing up a short version of this to share with Rev. Ana. She is seeking to collect these stories all month to be an on-going discussion in our community.

Closing:   (please read aloud ) excerpt from Rev. Ana’s sermon

“The teaching of this season is that there is a force in the universe that makes resurrection possible for all of us – for those of us struggling, feeling stuck, feeling powerless, feeling alone – there is a force in the universe that makes it possible for us to be reborn into freedom, empowerment, and love. We are given little deaths if we are willing to die them and then we awaken.”

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SGM #35: Where the Desert Meets the Ocean

#35 Small Group Ministry Session Written by Rev. Jude Geiger, MRE, First Unitarian, Brooklyn – Based on the sermon, “Where the Desert Meets the Sea” preached by Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons at First UU on 3/3/13. This session explores the role of heroes in our lives. The sermon it’s based upon is found here: http://www.fuub.org/home/clergy/sermons/?sermon_id=104

Welcome & Opening Chalice Lighting  (Please read aloud)  excerpt from the sermon by Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons

‘“We are each the joining of two worlds.” We stand at the place where the desert meets the sea. We stand at the place where absolute absence intersects absolute presence. And as much as we hunger to declare ourselves just one or the other, the fact is that we have a dual nature. We are dust and ashes and at the same time for our sake the world was created.”

Statement of Purpose:  To nurture our spirits and deepen our friendships.

Brief Check-In: Share your name and something you have left behind to be here.

Covenant Reflection

Reading: Excerpts from Rev. Ana’s sermon.

“This is what I call our desert consciousness. Dust, ashes, sand, rock. Our consciousness of ourselves as defined, like a desert, by what we lack. It’s an ethic of scarcity and humility. Like a desert, where you can see the bones of everything that came before baked white in the sun, it’s a vision of our mortality. We become like the human Jesus who was said to have prayed in the desert for 40 days, preparing for his own suffering and death. If you’ve ever been in a desert at night, you may remember the feeling – the visceral feeling of clinging to a dry planet that’s spinning through outer space. From the perspective of desert consciousness, we are decidedly not God, we are small and vulnerable and utterly dependent on the universe for every breath we take.”

and

“This is what I call ocean consciousness. Wavelike, surging, abundant energy, teeming with life. It’s the consciousness of ourselves defined by what we have and all that we are, rather than by what we lack. It’s a vision of grandeur, even of ourselves as the substrate that supports a thousand life forms. In ocean consciousness, humans are heroic. It is the awareness of our God-self, like the ocean that will always be crashing on the shore, impervious, immortal, and infinite.”

 

 

Discussion Questions: We often make heroes of the people who excel in what Rev. Ana would call Ocean or Desert consciousness. Extreme success or extreme sacrifice. Why do we choose to look up to the people we choose? Who are your personal heroes? Who are the ones you might be afraid to admit you admire? What do these choices say about ourselves? Do you feel more drawn to the Desert or the Ocean? Where have you found that balance, and where have you fallen short?

Closing:   (please read aloud ) Serenity Prayer

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 

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The Virtue of Character

The Virtue of Character

#30 Small Group Ministry Session Written by Rev. Jude Geiger, MRE, First Unitarian, Brooklyn – Based on the sermon, “The Real Dirt” preached by Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons at First UU on 4/22/12 found here:

http://www.fuub.org/home/clergy/sermons/?sermon_id=69

Welcome & Opening Chalice Lighting  (Please read aloud) #484 In Singing the Living Tradition by William Henry Channing

Statement of Purpose:  To nurture our spirits and deepen our friendships.

Brief Check-In: Share your name and something you have left behind to be here.

Covenant Reflection

Reading: An Excerpt/Edit from the sermon, “The Real Dirt.”

The producers of the modern french fry seem to believe that nobody will appreciate the integrity of good soil or of the potato that grows unseen underground. Likewise, nobody will appreciate or even know if you do good unseen, underground. The social Capitalist, the voice that’s always running the cost/benefit analysis, argues with Jesus on this point, saying, “I mean, if you’re going to do a good deed anyway, why not get the benefit of having people know about it? If you give all your money away to charity and you do it anonymously, no one’s going to think you’re a good person, they’ll just think you’re poor.”

Here is where I disagree. From what I’ve observed, the deep truth of a person or thing eventually seeps out and becomes legible. No one can pretend to be something they are not forever. Any kind of façade that does not integrate with what’s behind it ultimately crumbles. Conversely, if you focus on being the person you are even in ways that are not visible to others, people will get it, even if they don’t know why.

Discussion Questions: Our founding American Unitarian minister, William Ellery Channing once said to a classmate, “In my view, religion is another name for happiness, and I am most cheerful when I am most religious.”[1] The larger context for this quote was a discussion around the notion of ‘making America a better country.’

How does Rev. Levy-Lyons’ notion of “the deep truth of a person” relate to your sense of character? Where are you in the continuum between the ‘social Capitalist’ and ‘Jesus?’ Can you share a story of a time when someone’s hidden character shined brightly? How did it move you? What about religious living brings you inner satisfaction, or happiness as Rev. Channing spoke of?

Closing:   (please read aloud – responsively if you have several copies) #568 “Connections are Made Slowly” by Marge Piercy In Singing the Living Tradition)

 

 


[1] “The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion 1805-1900,” Dorrien, Gary. P.15

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