Sunday, March 26, 2017: Giving Sunday

 

THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:

The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future.”

(John Maynard Keynes)

PRELUDE

WELCOMING WORDS: Erin H-A.

CALL TO WORSHIP:

(adapted from a Jewish Prayer Book)

May the door of this house be wide enough

To receive all who hunger for love,

May the door of this house be wide enough

To receive all who are lonely for friendship.

May this house welcome all who have –

cares to unburden,

hopes to nurture,

prayers to whisper or sing.

May the door of this house be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity.

May its threshold be too high to admit selfishness and harshness or complacency.

May its threshold be so low that it be no stumbling block

To young feet, or old feet,

or broken or tired feet.

As it has welcomed us, each one,

may this house be a home for all

who would enter –

with doors open wide

and windows shining welcome.

INTROIT

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Will M.

Each morning we must hold out the chalice of our being,

to receive,

to carry,

and to give back.

(Dag Hammarskjold)

OPENING HYMN:Allelu, Allelu” (not in hymnal, Choir Director Tara leads)

OUR COVENANT:

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.

SONG OF ASPIRATION:

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.

Amen.

WHAT MUUC MEANS TO ME: Jane R.

CHILDREN’S TIME: Rev. Anita

Have some of you been learning how to clean up your room? Take care of your toys?

I wonder why we do that. Why would it be important?

(listen to children’s answers…)

And for those reasons it is important that we also take care of our church meeting place and the things we use in it.

Have some of you been learning to share? To practice that?

I wonder why that might be important.

(listen to children’s answers…)

For some of those reasons, it is important that we share what we have with the church, a way for us to share with each other and with the wider community. It makes it possible for us to feel close to one another and do important things together

Some of you know that we have been taking a collection of money each Sunday from you in the classrooms. And some of you know that every Sunday up here in the big church, we take a collection from the grownups after you leave.

So we have decided to change that, and let you have your collection up here in the big church, just like the grownups.

So, because I like to practice sharing, I decided to take my collection of dimes and share it with you. But I also want for you to have the experience and practice of sharing. So after I give each of you one of my dimes, when you leave to go to your classes, the ushers will be there with the collection plates, and you can share by putting the dime in the collection plate. It will give you practice at sharing and because I think taking care of our church is important, it will give you the chance to help in one small way, with taking care of our church.

On Sundays after this one, you will have the chance to help take care of the church by sharing some of your money with it as you leave to go to your classes.

SINGING CHILDREN TO THEIR CLASSES:

Go now in peace,

go now in peace

may the love of God surround you,

everywhere,

everywhere

you may go.

CANDLES OF JOY AND SORROW

MEDITATION AND PRAYER

MUSICAL MEDITATION:Dream” Alistair M. (cpoyright)

OFFERTORY

ON GIVING SUNDAY: Erin H-A.

ANTHEM:I Am the Very Model of a Modern Unitarian” Dan G., soloist

READING:

(from “Blessing the World“, by Rebecca Parker)

…there is a deeper, more fundamental spiritual reason to tithe.

I realized it listening to a member of the first congregation I served. It was pledge drive Sunday, and people had been asked to talk about why they give to the church. One congregation member stood up and said, I first began to tithe because I was taught to do so by my church and my church taught me to obey its teachings. I tithed because I saw obedience as the heart of faithfulness. But as I matured in my faith, I began to understand that obedience was not all that important and could even be destructive. I continued to tithe, however, the people I most loved and admired tithed: my parents and leaders of the religious community whose lives really challenged me by their goodness. I wanted to be like them so I tithed in imitation of those that I loved.

He went on, But as my faith matured further, I came to my own reason for tithing. This is why I do it now: I do it because to tithe is to tell the truth about who I am. If I did not tithe, it would say that I was a person who had nothing to give, a person who had received nothing in life. A person who did not matter to the larger society or whose life’s meaning was in providing for his own needs alone. But in fact, who I am is the opposite of all of these things. I am a person who has something to give. I am a person who has received abundantly from life. I am a person whose presence matters in the world, and I am a person whose life has meaning because I am connected to and care about many things larger than myself. If I did not tithe, I would lose track of these truths about who I am.

HYMN:There’s a River Flowing in My Soul” (#1007)

A Rock in Your Pocket

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

MELROSE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH

March 26, 2017

I want to tell you about Bobby. Bobby is a cashier in a large discount store. One of his duties is to take care of the “self check-out” registers. There is only one cashier for four registers, which can be very stressful for that one cashier. The registers are fairly easy to use, but the customer must follow written instructions. Spoken instructions begin if the sequence of events isn’t properly followed. Often they aren’t followed, and the customer becomes angry – with Bobby.

Maybe you’ve been there, annoyed and frustrated at the self check-out register which you hoped would be faster, but isn’t. I have. When I read Bobby’s story I resonated, and felt the tugs of guilt. It went like this:

It was one evening in early spring that was particularly trying, many customers each purchasing many items through these self-check lanes. Bobby found himself having to force a smile. His hands were clenched into fists in his vest pockets. As he dashed from one “crisis” to another, his feet hurt and his head began to ache.

He says:

“All I could see was how stupid my customers were. Why couldn’t they simply follow the directions?? “Scan the item and place it in the bag.How tough is that? I was ready to scream!”

Suddenly, a small hand tugged at his vest. He looked down, his smile still forced, and was greeted with a genuine smile from a little boy, maybe four or five years old. Unlike many of children who pass through his lines, this child had stayed close to his father and older brother, and wasn’t “getting into” things. He held out his hand and said, “This is for you!” and gave him… a rock.

Bobby remembers:

Nothing special, just a piece of gravel, slightly smaller than a golf ball, gray and a little dusty, and very warm from being clutched in this small child’s fingers. I gave him a real smile in return. I thanked him, and he went back to his father.

When his father was putting the last bag in his basket, and busy with his older brother, Bobby asked the boy if the rock was special and if it needed to be returned. He shook his head and smiled. “It’s just a rock from our driveway. We’ve got a million of them.” The family finished their transaction and left.

As he held that rock in his hand, Bobby noticed:

I began to relax, and was able to look at my customers in a more charitable light. My smile was real, and my tired feet didn’t hurt as much. I finished the long shift in a much better mood than I had started it.

I keep that rock in my vest pocket. Any time I feel frustrated, I still clench my fists and put them in my pockets. Where I encounter: The Rock. It always makes me smile, and I can go on much more easily.[1]

Do you have touch stones, objects, pictures, people, places that call you back to your better self, often turning things around just when you need it? Can you remember them? The words, the thought, the smile that helped you reframe what had disturbed you. The touch that reminded you that you are not alone, that you are part of a community? Have there been words spoken here, something shared, that assured you, even when you were sad, or angry, disoriented or discouraged, that there is a place that can hold you, here, in all your complexity? Hold your private self, as well as your public self? Hold you, while you sort yourself out? Can you feel it? Hold on to it – your rock.

Martha Munson is a Unitarian Universalist minister, ordained at her home church, First Unitarian, in Providence, RI. She tells this story about her life and her church:

Shortly after I started attending grade school, my father abandoned my mother and me. When I was in the third grade…we began to attend the First Unitarian Church in Providence. …I went to the minister with my increasing hurt and disbelief over what had become of my world. He responded warmly and genuinely to this little girl who felt frightened and alone….There were seemingly always willing adults at the church to listen to me, to take me seriously and to care for me. I am in earnest when I say that they saved my life.

Largely because of the trauma at home, I was a lonely child, hurt and angry….I remember vividly my first day (in Sunday School) the warmth of the teacher and the acceptance of me in the class by the other children. I don’t remember the curriculum for that year, but I remember clearly how wonderful it felt to be in that class.[2]

Church became the touchstone for Martha, the touchstone for a child in need of a place, a place of safety, a place she could trust. Don’t we want that for every child? Every child should have a place of safety, a place trustworthy, a place that will hold them and nurture them, and grow them into caring and compassionate adults. First Unitarian in Providence was that place for the child Martha, and we here, are positioned to be that place for the children who enter. What a blessing, that we have that opportunity and that awesome responsibility.

Martha grew up to be a beautiful person, a healthy adult, a Unitarian Universalist minister, now part of our cadre of Accredited Interim Ministers. First Unitarian’s gift to that child, became a gift to us all.

And aren’t we all that child, Martha sometimes? Don’t we all need that rock that Bobby has, calling him to his better self sometimes? And don’t we all sometimes want to be that person who was able to turn someone’s day, or week or life around with words that offer hope and courage?

We are, and we can be. Sometimes it is a word or an act of kindness that we personally can do. Sometimes it is the person in the pew behind us or beside us who has the opportunity and capacity to act, to say a word, or pat a shoulder. And it was we in the collective, Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church, which created the space, the community and the capacity to reach out, to touch, to change a life or a story, and make the world better.

It is no small thing, this work we do of embodying our values, a spiritual practice both personal and communal. And like Bobby, we all need to be reminded. We are the rock in each other’s pockets, that rock that calls us to our better selves. And as with Martha, we are the hand that reaches out and says, “You belong here.”

I think that is important…worth supporting in every way we know how. Together we can be the people we mean to be, inhabiting a world we love and cherish. Together. That’s how it happens. Each giving what we can, receiving as we need, together. Together.

Amen.

CLOSING HYMN: “Come Sing A Song With Me” (# 346)

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.

BENEDICTION

CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE:

May the long time sun shine upon you,

all love surround you,

and the pure light within you

guide you all the way home.

POSTLUDE

[1] The Rock, Heroic Stories # 624, Story editor Joyce Schowalter

[2] Bruce Marshall, A Holy Curiosity