Sunday, October 15, 2017: The Ducks

THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:

“We do not need to think alike to love alike”

(by Francis David)

PRELUDE

WELCOMING WORDS: Wendy M.

A WORD ABOUT ORGANS AND ORGAN MUSIC: Paul R.

CALL TO WORSHIP

Come in,

from wherever you have come, and know welcome.

Come in,

with what joys and sorrows you carry, and feel the comfort of community.

Come in,

To be alone with your thoughts,

Yet together with others

Come with us,

From isolation to connection,

From distraction, to intention

From fragmentation, to wholeness.

Come, let us honor what is sacred in our lives.

(by Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)

INTROIT

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Theodore T.

Let the light of this chalice be for wonder

Let the warmth of this chalice be for love

Let the glow of this chalice be for connection,

One to the other, until we are One.

(by Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)

OPENING HYMN: “O Life That Maketh All Things New” (#12)

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: Our guests today are Megan Kennedy, Ras the hearing service dog, and Lanie Cantor from Canine Companions

SINGING CHILDREN TO THEIR CLASSES: (Megan, Ras, and Lanie will be joining the children)

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

UNISON AFFIRMATION: “The Mission of Our Faith” (#459)

ANTHEM: “The Gift of Love”

EXPLORING ABILITY: “Why It Matters to Me” Janice B.

Last Sunday, when David B. spoke so eloquently about the physical barriers that someone in a wheelchair faces, I started to think about the invisible barriers or challenges that so many deal with.

Many of you remember when we adopted our second daughter, Leah. She did not have the benefit of a nurturing prenatal environment, in fact, quite the opposite. Leah just turned 18 and has struggled much of her life with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and a nonverbal learning disability.

She often misinterprets what people say or how they feel about her, which has caused a great deal of pain for her and the people who love her.

Someone once told me that Leah was being a brat when she wouldn’t stay at the dinner table and converse with people – because it makes her anxious to be with lots of people. Imagine living with me, who loves to invite people into our home?

Sarcasm and joking can trigger Leah and she has a hard time maintaining relationships. Don and I were so disappointed when she dropped out of the yootes group because she felt the kids were mean and didn’t welcome her.

Now, meeting Leah (she can be quite charming) or hearing her play piano and sing songs that she composed you may very well be impressed by her talents… but not know of her struggles.

This is true of so many people we meet. I’ll never forget talking to a friend about our challenges with Leah and she replied, quote, “Janice, everybody’s got s**it.”

There’s a song we sing in church called “here we are gathered” which I love. But, I admit to crying on more than one occasion when we get to the line “we who are gathered, know each other’s pain.” Do we really? Sometimes, yes, but very often, no.

I have a friend in this congregation who breaks out in a cold sweat if the minister utters the words: “turn to the person on your left and share…” Another that shudders at the thought of lighting a candle to share a joy or concern or shaking the hand of anyone during flu season.

Another good friend often chooses to listen to the service outside of the sanctuary, because she gets sensory overload with too much noise. Now, these may not be classified as mental health issues, but are challenges nonetheless.

At our annual women’s retreat we can participate in activities as much or as little as we want, with no judgment. I encourage every woman in this church to experience this welcoming environment.

If you look around now and scan the congregation you may see one person with a walker… maybe someone using a cane or crutches. What you can’t see is how many are struggling inside- about being here or things going on in their lives.

We know how to fix our building to remove physical barriers. But making our space more welcoming and comfortable to those who struggle emotionally is a much harder fix.

I’ll end with a quote from Socrates:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

OFFERTORY

HYMN: “Mother Spirit, Father Spirit” (#8)

SERMON

The Ducks

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

Think of a duck. Any duck.

What was it like? Was it making a sound? Could you hear it quack? Was it splashing? Having fun?

Maybe it was a little yellow rubber ducky that squeaked.

Or maybe, maybe it was a roasted duck sitting on a platter, brown and crisp on your holiday table, smelling warm and wonderful?

Maybe it was flying high up in the sky with a flock of ducks.

Or was it in the water, graceful, diving in and swooping back up? Bobbing on the waves, unsinkable, resilient?

Or was it waddling on the ground, kind of funny, awkward even – made you laugh?

Did you touch it? Your duck? In your mind? Stroke its feathers? Was it warm? Was it tame? A pet held close? Or wild and free? What color was it? Or many colors?

So many ways to know a duck, to represent a duck, to experience a duck. So many situations possible, yes. And each of those scenarios were made more rich and accessible in our minds, by the use of our senses. Did we imagine something we saw? Something we felt? Something we heard? Something we smelled? Was it loud, soft, rough, scratchy, noisy, quiet, flapping, still? Could you hold it? Watch it? Hear it? All of those? None of those? From what memories of duck were you drawing? Experience? Stories? Pictures? Books? Movies?

How does your memory work? Do you store your memories in pictures? In sounds? In feelings? Tastes? Smells? Colors? Some of these? All of them? None of them – something entirely different? What comes up first for you, then bringing with it the other senses? Or does it?

How Interesting. Was there anyone here who could not think of a duck? Some kind of duck? Yet we all did it differently. Here we all were, sharing an experience of ducks, and yet, each one of us alone in our experience, deeply personal. Our world. Our truth. Our reality. Ours alone.

We forget that. We often forget to what extent the world in which we live and move and have our being is a construct of those things of which we could be aware, those things we notice, of those things we have the capacity to take in. If our world has no sound, we construct it differently from those for whom sound is central, the musician. If our world has no colors we construct a world that is monochrome, quite different from the world of the graphic artist who revels in color. If I have a neuropathy and cannot feel the softness of your skin in my hand, I still may be able to experience the softness of your voice in my ear, or see the tenderness in your face as you gaze upon me and listen. If I cannot see you weeping as you hear of my loss, I can feel the tears on your cheeks. And when you share with me your sorrow, I can feel the tremble in your shoulders, as I hold you.

All the ways to experience the world, to share it, to love it and be loved by it, to love you, and be loved by you. Sometimes though, the way you say it, I can’t hear it. I might need a picture when you offer me a sound. I might need a fragrance when you offer me a feeling. Oh dear ones, how carefully must we attend to one another, to learn the messages of joy and sorrow, of love and fear and longing, learn how to send them, and how to receive them.

The poets know it. So cherished is the poet’s wisdom of deep connection it is passed down to us from as long ago as ten centuries before the Christian Era. Listen to these words of love:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!

For your love is better than wine.

Your anointing oils are fragrant,

Your name is perfume poured out.

(Song of Solomon 1:2-30)

Kisses are touch, wine is a full body experience, oils are touch and fragrance, the beloved’s name, speech, is perfume.

I am a rose of Sharon

a lily of the valleys.

As a lily among brambles

so is my love among maidens.

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood;

so is my beloved among young men.

With great delight I sat in his shadow,

and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house,

and his intention toward me was love.

Sustain me with raisins,

refresh me with apples; 

for I am faint with love.

O that his left hand were under my head,

And that his right hand embrace me!

(Song of Solomon 2:1-6)

The voice of my beloved!

Look he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle…

(Song of Solomon 2:8-9a)

My beloved speaks, and says to me:

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;

For now the winter is past

The rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

The time of singing has come,

And the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.

(Song of Solomon 2:10-12)

Can you see it, feel it, taste it, touch it, hear it, and rejoice in the love that is like apples and raisins; that is leaping upon mountains, graceful and eager like a gazelle, sings like the turtledove, love that is precious and special, like a lily among the brambles?

The Song of Solomon, preserved by our not-so-prudish after all, not-so-squeamish forbears, preserved in all its sensuous lustiness for us over thousands of years and still we can feel and smell, touch and taste and hear and be moved by a love so rich and full-bodied, that we want some of that too. My, my. Isn’t it wonderful being human? So many ways to be human, ways that are being human in harmony with the divine.

Oh, this being human is not all sweetness and light. I know that. Surely you know it too. That is why we have the prophets in our tradition, assuring us that while it is true that the world is good, it is also true that it is broken, assuring us that while it is true that humans are beautiful and precious, it is also true that we are sinful, and have wreaked great hurt upon one another and our earth.

We need to repair – to repair our world, yes, and more basically, personally, to repair the relationships we have broken, or abandoned, or never even ventured to enter, because we were afraid, or confused, distrustful, or unable to understand. Avoidance is rarely a solution, and in my experience is never the road to repair. Neither is blaming, or dismissing or attributing intent. No one can truly know what it is like in another’s experience, any more than we can know what kind of duck you created in your mind, unless we ask, and then listen, listen because we want to know to truth of you.

These are things we have not done well, for sure, collectively and individually, but we are capable of learning, of doing better, of knowing better and allowing ourselves to be known better. Knowing each other better, and allowing ourselves to be known. Imagine it.

We will find out that we are not alike. And we will learn that that can be okay…even necessary. That we are not alike may be the important truth to accept and embrace, the truth about being alone, together. It is not a sorrow. It is a start, a start to approaching more authentic relationships, and a deeper understanding of our dazzlingly different, fully human being together, alone together, like ducks on the sea of life.

For surely Francis David was right. We do not need to think like, to love alike.

May it be so.

Amen.

CLOSING HYMN: “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (#126)

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