Sunday, May 28: Living Into Our Covenant


“Listen quietly to the longing in your heart for love and justice and you may hear an echo of the holy word that addresses you. Hush for a while. Be still and know.”

(by Sam Keen)



CALL TO WORSHIP:Finding What You Didn’t Lose” (by John Fox)

When someone deeply listens to you

It is like holding out a dented cup

You’ve had since childhood

And watching it fill up with

Cold, fresh water.

When it balances on the top of the brim,

You are understood

When it overflows and touches your skin,

You are loved….

When someone deeply listens to you,

Your bare feet are on the earth

And a beloved land that seemed distant

Is now at home within you.



Chalice of light

Awaken our vision,

Chalice of warmth

open our hearts,

Chalice of flame

Rekindle our faith.

(by Anita Farber-Robertson)

OPENING HYMN: Come, Come Whoever You Are” (# 188)


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.



Love is the doctrine of this church, What is a doctrine? (discussion)

It is the basic teaching of the church, what we believe to be true and important.

The quest for truth is its sacrament, What is a quest, a sacrament? (discussion)

A quest is a search. A sacrament it a practice that strengthens our relationship to God and to each other.

And service is its prayer. What is prayer? (discussion)

Prayer is a way of lifting up what is most important. When we engage in service we are up what is important.

To dwell together in peace, What might that mean, to dwell together in peace? (discussion)

Listening, even when we disagree, and caring even when someone does something we don’t like.


Go now in peace, go now in peace;

may the love of God surround you,



you may go.




READING:There Will Be Things You Do” (by Kim Dower)

you won’t know why.
Maybe waiting to tie
your shoelaces

until everything else
is in place.
Could be you’ll slide

your egg yolks aside
eat every bit of bacon,
toast, whites while the forsaken

yellow orbs stare at you
from the side pocket
of your empty plate.

People will ask
why do you save
your yolks for last

and you won’t know –
won’t recall
the cousin from the south

came to visit one summer
ate his eggs so odd
your family said

stuck with you
like the way
you love to be kissed

on the back of your neck
can vaguely recollect
your mother’s kisses

after your bath
too gentle for memory.
There will be things you do

you won’t know why
like the way you look
up at the sky

when anxious or blue
it’s what your father
used to do

every family trip
when nothing else
was right

except those clouds
moving north by northwest
through the night

he showed you
what pilots knew:
factors for safe flying

are visibility
and how low
and mean the clouds are.



Living Into Our Covenant

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

One summer when Sam Keene was a little boy, and played for hours in the woods, a promise was made to him.

His father was sitting under the shade of a peach tree carving on a seed he had picked up. With increasing excitement and covetousness Sam watched amazed while under the magical hands of his father, a small monkey emerged from the peach seed.

Sam was mesmerized. If only he could have it he would own the greatest treasure in all the county.

He screwed up his courage and asked his Dad if, when the monkey was finished, he could have it. His father replied,

“This one is for your mother, but I will carve you one someday.”

The days and weeks and years passed. Sam grew up, as boys do. He went away to school, and then on to life, never thinking about the peach seed monkey.

His father grew older, as fathers do, and then developed emphysema. In the waning of his father’s days, Sam came back to visit. In the dry heat of the afternoon he and his father sat under a juniper tree. His father was taking stock of his life, the measure of his success and failure. They sat in silence together. Suddenly Sam remembered the peach seed monkey, and heard the right words coming from himself to fill the silence.

“In all that is important you have never failed me. With one exception, you kept the promises you made to me- you never carved me that peach seed monkey.”

Not long after that conversation when Sam was back home he received a small package in the mail. In it was a peach seed monkey and a note:

“Here is the monkey I promised you. You will notice that I broke one leg and had to repair it with glue. I am sorry. I didn’t have time to carve a perfect one.”

Two weeks later, his father died. For Sam that little peach seed monkey became a symbol of all the promises made to him and the energy and care which nourished and sustained him,

“a symbol of that which is the foundation of all human personality and dignity.”

Powerful. Sam holds this story deep inside of him as a symbol of what is good and right with the world, and with we, the people who inhabit it; the foundation upon which trust and relationships are built. One story of a promise made and kept.

Only it was not kept. The promise was broken once by the father who’d made it, and who never bothered to fulfill it. And again, when reminded of it, and he offered something flawed and broken.

Yet Sam accepted it, accepted it as a full and complete fulfillment of the promise made. Because the intent was there, and because we are human. Imperfect. To live in honest and meaningful relationships, we have to insist on accountability, and allow for fault, for error, and for forgiveness, because there will always be fault and there will always be error. If there were not a way to repair the breach when we fall short, then we would have to deny that it ever happened. Pretend that we are perfect, that we have not breached trust, or broken faith. And if there were not a way to acknowledge the breaches, there would be no way to approach the repair. We would be locked into denial and defensive routines, relationships in which none of us could safely be our authentic selves, always covering up, watching our backs. And that doesn’t feel good.

“Love is the doctrine of this church, the quest for truth is its sacrament, and service is its prayer. To dwell together in peace…This is our great covenant, one with another and with our God.”

We say it every Sunday. I watched Lily saying it last Sunday, standing next to me in her pretty flowered dress, proud and serious. Lily who just turned nine, who finds it hard to stay still, when saying our covenant, was still, attentive with her whole being. She held her hand on her heart, like she was saying the pledge of allegiance, like what she was saying really mattered. I felt tears in my eyes.

“Oh Lily,” I thought. “This is how I want it to be, how I want it to be for me and for each of us each and every Sunday. Focused. Engaged. Committed to love as our doctrine. Committed to dwell together in peace. Bound by our great covenant, one with another and with our God.”

Oh, I know, with poet Kim Dower, that

There will be things you do

you won’t know why.
Maybe waiting to tie
your shoelaces

until everything else
is in place.

There will be things you do
you won’t know why

The poet talks about mundane, innocuous things, like leaving your egg yolks on your plate to be eaten last. Things you do that you don’t know why.

But there are other things we do, that sometimes surprise us in ways not so pleasant. Like Sam’s father who made a solemn promise to his little boy, and then ignored it.

There will be things you do
you won’t know why 

It was a small thing to him. But a big thing to his little boy.

We do things, maybe small things, to us. We pay them no mind. We don’t know why. But maybe to someone else, they are a big thing, a broken promise, a broken trust.

And I think of Lily. And of how I want it to be, for each of us each and every Sunday. Committed to dwell together in peace. Bound by our great covenant, one with another and with our God, called back to it again and again, because love is the doctrine of this church.

May it be so. Amen.



At the many meetings I attend, committees, the Board, the Council, often aa subject will come up and someone says, “Yes, we ought to have a conversation about that,” and everyone nods. We need to have a conversation. But we never do. Maybe it is because we don’t know how, are afraid that differences may be destructive. Yet, we all know these are conversations we need to have.

So I thought that today I would share with you a way to have a conversation that does not hurt or be destructive of people, even if they disagree quire deeply.

You have the rules on the insert in your order of service.

Some of them may seem familiar to those of you who have been in covenant circles:

Welcome to a Listening Circle

Ground rules:

* Speak for yourself. Trust others to speak for themselves.

* Do not respond to what another has said. Speak out of your own experience only.

* Speak only when you have the talking stick.

* This is a listening circle. Your most important responsibility is to listen, with an open mind, heart and spirit. Please do not rebut, discount, or disagree with another – if possible, even in your mind. They are telling you how it is for them.

* Respect the right to pass.

* Be mindful of time. To insure that everyone has a chance to speak, it is important each person be succinct.

I invite you to think about the questions below. There are pencils scatterd in your pews. You can use the other side of the insert to jot down what answers come to you.

(time for thinking and writing)

The questions to be addressed:

* Can you remember a time when you were held accountable? What did it feel like?

* What would happen if we thought of accountability as love?

We will cover as many questions as time allows.

Use the other side of this paper for your notes

Thank you for participating!

Now, I invite a few volunteer to come up and become a listening circle. Answer these questions using the timeline provided. In the interests of time, we will go around twice, once for each question. Normally we would go around more times than that.

(Volunteers come up, ,using the microphone as their “talking stick.” We all listen.)

Thank-you for your trust of us and for your courage. You may return to your seats.

CLOSING HYMN: “How Could Anyone Ever Tell You?” (# 1053)

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.