Sunday, November 19, 2017: Do The Best You Can

(photo of the Carteret Islands taken from space by NASA; highest point 1.5 meters above sea level)

THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:

For all that has been, we say amen.

For all that is, we say thanks.

For all that will be, we say yes!

(by Robert L Randall)

 

 

 

 

PRELUDE

WELCOMING WORDS: Garin B.

CALL TO WORSHIP

What a day is today!

Miracle of miracles.

From all our lives we have gathered

Here, to be together.

From homes of peace and comfort

From homes of strife and struggle,

From homes where hearts are filled with joy and those where hearts have known deep sorrow

From places of wonder and of weariness,

Of bubbling hope and anxious worry

We have come to be together.

It is good, so very good.

With gratitude and wonder,

Welcome.

(by Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)

INTROIT

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Ethan W. & Lily R.

OPENING HYMN: “Come Ye Thankful People Come” (#68)

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

to receive,

to carry,

and to give back.

(by Dag Hammarskjold, in “Markings”)

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.

CHILDREN’S TIME: “Guest at Your Table” (GAYT) (click HERE for more information)

Rev. Anita talks with the children about the reason why we collect money to help. She handed out the flattened GAYT boxes. They fold them into boxes together. Each child bring a flattened box to an adult in the congregation and shows them how to fold it into a box.

HYMN: “From You I Receive”

CANDLES OF JOY AND SORROW

MEDITATION AND PRAYER

MUSICAL MEDITATION

READING: “Arrows” (by Shel Silverstein)

I shot an arrow toward the sky,

It hit a white cloud floating by.

The cloud fell dying to the shore,

I don’t shoot arrows anymore.

FACTOID FROM THE UUSC (Unitarian Universalist Service Committee):

Two islands in the Solomon Islands have completely vanished and six more are experiencing coastal erosion (from theUUSC web page)

ANTHEM: “For the Beauty of the Earth”

READING: “Arrows” (by Shel Silverstein)

(Children are invited to come forward)

I shot an arrow toward the sky,

It hit a white cloud floating by.

The cloud fell dying to the shore,

I don’t shoot arrows anymore.

FROM THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST SERVICE COMMITTEE in the South Pacific

The Carteret Islands are part of New Guinea, and they are among the first communities on earth having to relocate because of climate change.

Back in 2006 the Elders there noticed the sea level rising and food sources getting less.

Because the government didn’t seem to be doing anything about it, the elders decided to create a support system of their own and they asked Ursula Rakova, a daughter of the community who was concerned about the environment, to lead the community in moving to higher ground.

Because the island was so much a part of the people’s identity, Ursula knew this had to be done carefully. She founded an organization, “Tulele Peisa”, one of the UU Service Committee’s seven climate-forced displacement partners in the South Pacific.

Together they are helping the whole community move and resettle with dignity in Bourgainville in the Solomon Islands.

The UUSC is helping them move because of this terrible situation. We are collecting money in our Guest at Your Table boxes so the UUSC can continue to help.

I have these coins made out of poster board.I’d like each of you to write or draw on one what you would like to give the UUSC or the people of the Carteret Islands to help. You may do that back at your seats.

Take your time. At the end of the service, you can put them in my Guest at Your Table box, which I will have on the table back there.

OFFERTORY

HYMN: “Thank You for This Day”

FROM THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST SERVICE COMMITTEE in Texas

There is a lot of talk about immigration these days in our country and in other countries. People have always moved around the earth from one place to another for as long as there have been people. Sometimes they move because they think things will be better somewhere else. Sometimes though, they move because they can no longer live in the place that was their home. Sometimes it is because of climate change, as we heard about with the people of the Carteret Islands. But sometimes it is because of war, or is in a land where things are out of control and it is too dangerous for regular families who are not part of the fighting to live there safely.

There are countries in Central America like that, where gangs and fighting make it too dangerous to live there any more, and many of those people whose lives are in danger, travel north, and come to the United States. They don’t have the right papers to come here, because they ran from danger.

So when they get here, they are taken to “family detention centers” which are more like prisons, and kept there, sometimes for a long time, until they have a “CREDIBLE FEAR” interview. During that interview they need to convince the government that they really were in danger and should be allowed to stay here in safety. That is very hard, especially if you fled in a hurry and don’t speak English.

Rosemary Dodd is a college student at Wellesley College, right near here. She went to the UU College of Social Justice and decided to apply for an internship with the UUSC and their partner the Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). She went to Texas and worked helping people prepare for their Credible Fear interview. She said:

“Seeing and working with detained children has solidified my perspective on our global obligation to refugees.”

HYMN: “Do the Best You Can”

REFLECTION:

“Do the Best You Can”

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

I shot an arrow toward the sky,

It hit a white cloud floating by.

The cloud fell dying to the shore,

I don’t shoot arrows anymore.[1]

Unintended consequences. Things happen that we didn’t mean to happen. And sometimes they happened because of us, because of things we did, or things that needed to be done, that we left undone. It is our fault.

Kathleen Norris, poet and author, once observed that America’s two religions are optimism and denial.

Optimism is a hopefulness and confidence about the future.[2] And yes, I know that while there are times when we feel disappointed, frustrated, or even despairing, as a culture and a people, I would say that we usually find a way to pick out the one good thing and build upon it. I know I do. It is often the very thing that keeps me going. Maybe that is true for you too. That’s optimism.

It might be a good tool in your tool box this Thanksgiving. If you are disappointed that the turkey is dry, look forward to the desert, or appreciate the company with whom you are sharing the special day. Maybe it was not about the food after all, but about the gathering. Or if the folks around the table are driving you up the wall, appreciate the food and the generosity of those who prepared it. This optimism can work for you.

But denial. Denial. Denial is something different. Denial means not acknowledging what is hard, or wrong, not acknowledging mistakes or failures, or serious acts of hurt or harm. Denial is pretending the world is the way we wish it, rather than the way it is. Denial is pretending that we are the way we wish we were, rather than the way we are. Denial, is lying to ourselves, and sometimes to those around us. It is hard work keeping up the pretense in the face of reality. And yet, we do it. We do it all the time, each in our own ways, some little and some huge. And the consequences…well, the consequences are like those experienced by our friend the archer. They come as surprises, like clouds falling out of the sky.

I think of all the assault scandals that are swirling around us lately, and how some people are digging in deeper and deeper to denial of the situation, denial that they ever shot those proverbial arrows into the air, that no one was harmed. And I think of others who own it. Who have said, ‘yes, I did that. It was wrong, I hurt someone with my bad behavior. I am sorry.’

With denial we can never walk ourselves back into optimism because there is no opportunity for correction, for the belief that while mistakes are inevitable, correction is possible, healing can happen, reconciliation can repair hurt souls and broken relationships; we can be made whole again.

I think of climate change, and of how many people’s lives and communities are being changed, hurt or even destroyed because the power of denial has allowed the destruction to go unchecked. Not because the people wanted to destroy those homes or environments. They didn’t want to hurt those people. But they wanted other things and those things contributed to the danger; they wanted them badly enough to deny the danger. Sometimes we were those people. And now we feel regret, sorry that we didn’t heed the warnings and worry soon enough, sorry that we didn’t act more decisively, sorry that we didn’t conserve more energy, use fewer disposable paper products, recycle more, drive less. Sorry we took the easy way, and didn’t speak up enough. Many of us feel remorse.

I know remorse doesn’t feel good, but I suggest to you that it is an improvement over denial. It is in fact, the truest, most faithful route to optimism. And we, I believe, are a people of an optimistic faith. We proclaim universal salvation. Salvation for all. For all the people and the earth and its creatures, all precious, infused with worth and dignity. All worthy of honor and care, of nurture and respect. All connected in one interdependent web of life.

Meaningful optimism, depends upon truth, upon knowing the truth to the extent that it is knowable. It means a willingness to back-pedal, to acknowledge wrongs, or mistakes and take corrective action so that we can authentically celebrate life and feel the joy that is grounded in the truth of our existence.

While it is true that at times we need to acknowledge, and address hurtful things we have done collectively, like creating climate change, sometimes it is in more personal ways that we have made choices that hurt our spouses, our children, our friends.

Maybe we didn’t mean to miss so many of our children’s events, or those of our spouse. We were doing whatever it was that we understood to be our primary responsibility – building our career, bringing home a paycheck, making a more comfortable home for our family. And sometimes we forgot why, forgot about making our lives more meaningful. We forgot, for a moment, or a month, or a year of months, that there are some moments for which we should have been there. Yes, uncomfortable as they are, regret and remorse are more helpful responses than denial. When we acknowledge the impact of our poor choices, we are given the opportunity to reconsider, make what amends we might, and heal the trust that was broken. We can feel gratitude for the treasures we have in our relationships,

What we have won’t be perfect; God knows; trust is hard to rebuild, hurt is hard to heal, but it happens. We do the best we can.

Letting truth in, is to allow in the sacred. It might be hard. It might be embarrassing. But it is the gateway to gratitude that sustains, and an optimism that is an everflowing stream.

May it be so. Amen. Blessed Be.

CLOSING HYMN: “How Can I Keep From Singing?”

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] Shel Silverstein, “Arrows’”  Light in the Attic

[2] English Oxford dictionary