Sunday, April 2, 2017: Just A Tiny Thing



“Forget the wall. Build a deck. Invite everyone over.”

(Sign at a Milwaukie, Oregon, lumber company)





Come into this circle of love and justice.

Come into this community of compassion, holiness and health.

Come, just as you are,

For surely that is enough,

and you shall know peace and joy.

(A F-R adapted from Israel Zangwill)



At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.

Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

(Albert Schweitzer)

OPENING HYMN:Building Bridges” (#1023)


Love is the doctrine of this church,

The quest for truth is its sacrament,

And service is its prayer.

To dwell together in peace,

To seek knowledge in freedom,

To serve humankind in fellowship,

To the end that all souls

Shall grow into harmony with the Divine.

This is our great covenant,

One with another, and with our God.


From all that dwell below the skies,

Let songs of hope and faith arise,

Let peace, good-will on earth be sung,

Through every land, by every tongue.



CHILDREN’S TIME: Anne Principe


Go now in peace,

go now in peace;

may the love of God surround you,



you may go.





READING:The newspaper guy” (by Brian Doyle)

Four days a week the newspaper guy drives by at dawn or dawnish

And flips the paper toward our house from the shadow of his Olds.

It lands in a different spot every single time. This fascinates me no

End. I mean, he’s flipped it hundreds of times and not once that we

Remember did it ever land in the same place twice. My lovely wife

Is fascinated by how wide the range of landing sites is-the garden,

The path, the rosemary bushes, the annual booming dandelion farm,

Once the welcome mat by the door, once amazingly on the chair by

The door-a spectacular shot, when you think about it. Twice I have

Been unaccountable up early enough to see the thing done. He slows

Infinitesimally from about twenty miles per hour to nineteen and out

Flies the paper. He’s an older guy, from what I can see. Probably this

Is his second job, or he’s retired and picking up a little cash. The day

When the paper was delivered by a boy is gone. I was that boy, once.

Now it’s the guy in the Olds. We take the little astonishing things for

Granted. People make the paper, and manufacture it, and distribute it,

And four mornings a week a man calculates lift and arc and parabola

With a fine and experienced eye and whip of the wrist. It’s just a tiny

Thing, but it isn’t small at all, is it? All the attention is on economics,

The decline of papers, the man forced to take on a second job, the old

Battered car held together by spit and tape. But he’s great at the thing

He does every morning, even if sometimes his throw causes a ruckus

Among the tomato plants. The whole essential point of every religion

And all forms of genuine love is to see the morale of what is right in

Front of you, isn’t that so? Attentiveness is the first food, the overture

In the unimaginably intricate gracious symphony: something like that.

HYMN:Love Knocks and Waits for Us to Hear” [v. 1&4] (#1029)


“Forget the wall. Build a deck. Invite everyone over.”

(Sign at a Milwaukie, Oregon, lumber company)

Just a Tiny Thing”

The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson (copyright)


April 2, 2017

Someone from the local newspaper drove past a sign outside of a Milwaukee, Oregon lumber company, read it, thought about it, and then wrote an article in their newspaper, the Willamette Week, probably a paper like our Melrose Free Press.

I don’t know how many other people in Milwaukee, Oregon read that sign, and thought about it. But I know that the little piece in the Willamette Week got picked up by others. I read about it in this week’s Christian Century. And now I’m thinking about it too.

Just a tiny thing. One sign in one small town by one single lumber yard.

“Forget the wall. Build a deck. Invite everyone over.”

I was bowled over. The creative reframe.

“Forget the wall. Build a deck. Invite everyone over.”

What a great way to challenge the established ways of framing our situation and the perceivable alternatives. This lumber company, in addition to reminding people about the opportunity to build decks, thus creating business for themselves in Milwaukee, Oregon, this lumber company created an image, a compelling image of an alternative way to conceive of responding to our immigrant population and the polarizing our rhetoric has created. They did it by humanizing it.

Arguing ideologies can go on all day and all night, with the lines getting draw harder and harder, no one really listening, a lot of heat and very little light. But when instead of ideologies, it is unceremoniously suggested to:

“Forget the wall. Build a deck. Invite everyone over.”

The images change. At least they do for me. Instead of thinking about force and regulations, about history and jurisprudence, about legislation and justice, I am imagining my parent’s yard in summer time. It was a raised yard, kind of like a deck, and I cannot remember a time when my mother was out in the yard, that if someone walked by, she did not invite them up. That raised yard, that deck, was not a symbol of hospitality, it was hospitality, and it made me feel good, and it made me feel safe. There was not a friend I could bring by who would not be invited over. Funny, how that truth made me feel safe.

Remember the saying, “There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met yet.”? Sounds trite…maybe naïve. But I suggest that maybe it is only the naïve who think it is trite. For surely those of us who have had the opportunity to extend ourselves beyond our comfort zone, extend ourselves to meet, or talk with, work with or get to know someone whose story is quite different from our own, discovered as well that while there were differences, there were also commonalities, and that the differences were not necessarily barriers to relationship, but were often the intriguing invitation to get closer and learn more.

Have you ever found that to be true? Some of my friends are very much like me. But, I also have friends who are very different from me. Friends whose responses to life, to situations, or to politics, surprise me. Confound me even. The meanings they make of situations in which they find themselves, or that happen to them, and their conclusions, often seem outlandish to me, from my perspective. I shake my head in wonder and disbelief when they relate the conversation they had with the doctor or a friend, and then tell me what they made of it, what they took away. Has that happened to you?

But when I have an interaction that has upset me, or that I cannot make head or tail of, or which has me really angry or distraught, that is the very friend with whom I might share it, because that friend is likely to suggest another way to understand what happened. It may still seem off the wall to me, what they say, might even annoy me, but it reminds me that mine is not the only possible interpretation. It confirms that my knowledge is limited, and that I need to step back and look at the larger picture, look at the context, consider what the other person’s perspective or experience might have been. And that is one big pause on the rush to judgment, a pause that has often saved my emotional life, and important relationships.

It might have saved our Unitarian Universalist Association from its current situation, and possibly many of our churches, if we had been willing to drop “would make a good fit” from the hiring criteria. Some of you are aware that the controversy that led the president of the UUA, the Rev. Peter Morales to resign, was the revelation that the senior staff positions in the UUA are held by and large, by white people, most often men, and very often ministers. The controversy was kicked off when the UUA was seeking a new lead person for our Southern Region. The search narrowed to two candidates, a white male minister and a woman of color, a Director of Religious Education. The white male minister was deemed the person who would make the best fit for the organization.

Of course he would! He was less likely to ask difficult questions. More likely to make the same assumptions the people already there made. Less likely to trouble people with considering a perspective not their own. Yes, he would fit in well. And the more we surround ourselves with people who fit in well with our organization, the more likely we are to become static, closed to learning, a fortress against change, a protection of those in control. That’s what happens. And the UUA has been called out on it. We have been called out on it. Uncomfortable as it is, it is a blessing. We are reminded that decisions have consequences, for the institutions we serve, and for the people whose lives are impacted. Surely it impacts those of us in the majority identity, who are offered the possibility of moving out of our comfort zone, and into a richer, more honest, more meaningful environment. And hopefully this has consequences for the people who do not get preferential consideration when they are looking for work, and who might now, be willing to reconsider, and apply.

These are the conversations and changes that are necessary on the macro level, on the level of systems that shape and misshape our lives. And then there is the micro level, the personal level, the one that we live day to day.

And four mornings a week a man calculates lift and arc and parabola

With a fine and experienced eye and whip of the wrist. It’s just a tiny

Thing, but it isn’t small at all, is it? All the attention is on economics,

The decline of papers, the man forced to take on a second job, the old

Battered car held together by spit and tape. But he’s great at the thing[1]

He’s great at the thing. Sure it is important to pay attention to unjust economics and unnecessary hardship. And it is important to recognize the real people and real lives within them. It is the humanizing, that surfaces as empowering.

And four mornings a week a man calculates lift and arc and parabola

With a fine and experienced eye and whip of the wrist. It’s just a tiny

Thing, …

But he’s great at the thing[2]

He is great at the thing. Can we celebrate that? Could we take down the wall we often put up between us and those who provide services, the one who pumps gas, or collects the carriages at Shaw’s, the one who waits on our table or delivers our pizza, the one who hands us a traffic ticket, or tells us we cannot wait in front of arrivals to pick up our guest at the airport? Can we admire that they are great at what they are doing?

Maybe it is your baffling cousin, or in-law. Maybe it is the person who sits or stands near you at work, or waits for the same train with you at the train station, who you never really see, let alone acknowledge. Can we build a deck and invite them on over? Over the chasm from stranger to acquaintance. It’s just a tiny thing.

Who might there be who would heal and flourish in a church community, if we could only think to invite them to join us? It is just a tiny thing. One tiny thing at a time. An opportunity perceived and an opportunity taken, person by person.

It is said that “Love doesn’t change the world…But it changes the lover.”[3]

And isn’t that what we want? A world full of lovers, people changed by loving others. And truthfully, isn’t it what we want for ourselves? For our hearts when they are hard, to be softened, for our minds when they are closed to be opened, and for the safety and beauty of the generous soul, to be ours, day in and day out.

It is a tiny thing; for one to be changed by love. And it is huge. It may be the only reason to come here.


CLOSING HYMN:When Our Heart Is In a Holy Place” (#1008)

EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE (read by the congregation):

We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,

the warmth of community,

or the fire of commitment.

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.



May the long time sun shine upon you,

all love surround you,

and the pure light within you

guide you all the way home.


[1] Brian Doyle, The newspaper guy

[2] Brian Doyle, The newspaper guy

[3] John Dufresne, Deep in the Shade of Paradise