Led by Rev. Katie Kandarian-Morris, Darcy Baxter.
Today we’ll welcome the youngest among us as we dedicate our babies and young children, then consider how “we time-worn folk renew ourselves” as we grow through the years of our lives.
Come to worship this morning to share hope, peace and love in community. Come for healing prayer. Come for a hug.
Calling to worship
Words that call us to worship come from Jacqueline Beauregard
Before I came I was in the birdsong
in globes of dew
on needles of the spruce
dropping onto fallow fields.
I could hear gulls
spread sound over the sea,
colored blue by dawn light,
and feel swelling water
bounce off the ocean floor.
There in shafts of light
the bones of my ancestors
began to drum an echo,
and to that beat
stone pounded stone upon the shore.
Out of the rock came life,
Animals ground seeds;
I inhaled life
in the first breath
that blew through a reed.
Stillness for Advent
We light these candles to spark the “hope, peace, love and joy” of Advent. Today, on this third Sunday of Advent, we illuminate ourselves in “Love.”
Let us enter into a spirit of prayer:
Love is always patient and kind, never jealous. Love is not boastful or conceited, never rude or selfish. Love does not take offense and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s wrongs, but delights in the truth. Love is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.
Today we light candles for love—love as patience, kindness, as generosity, as courage. Love is the antibody for hurt, offers strength and trust for healing.
Today we remember those who grieve the most, those families in Connecticut who have lost their young children, those teachers and leaders who cared for and protected them, we pray too for the families of all of those in that town, who have been stuck by this violent tragedy, and for the family of the person who inflicted this great harm on so many. For all them, and all in their wake, we pray.
We pray, too, for the two people who lost their life in Oregon just this past Tuesday, while shopping at the mall.
And we add to our deep prayers the men, women and children who have lost their lives closer to home in places that to some may be not so “surprising,” but nonetheless just as evil, just as painful, just as tragic.
Let us remember the works of Martin Luther King, who told us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Love. The great big power of love.
Let our words, our stillness and this candle remind us of the presence of Love in our lives during the coming week.
Words from James Baldwin
For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.
The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.
Today we are in deep grief, for so many reasons. The most obvious being our care and concern for the folks in Newtown, Connecticut. It can feel so helpless to be so far away: Way oh way on the other side of the continent. Yet we are with them. We have other grief as well. It’s layered. Layer upon layer. The very first Sunday I stood behind this pulpit and preached to you was the week of the shooting at Columbine, the very place from where I had come, the congregation where part of my internship had been served, and the neighborhood where my three children’s father still lives, just down the street from the main entrance of that school. I know well, how grief works, how it can impact a community, how it gouges out its cuts to leave scars upon us.
I remember that Sunday, my first one here, people saying to me, “but that wouldn’t happen here,” trying to imagine what the place that was my home must be like. This past Friday I heard the same incredulous expressions from residents of Sandy Hook, of that bucolic, wooded village, where the elementary school has a sweet little New England swinging white wooden sign on a square-edged post, saying “visitors welcome.”
These are the days where the list of places of mass gun violence are eight deep—eight, just since April of this year. We know well that gun violence isn’t limited to one town, one kind of place, one kind of neighborhood or that it only affects the marginalized. I really don’t mean to speak hyperbolically when I say I believe we all have some degree of post-traumatic stress. After so many of these events, how could we not?
Still, we’ve got a number of sources of support for today, all of which to me feel like some measure of comfort: at the center of the circle, we hold close our children with ceremony and ritual, an honoring of their importance in this community; we encircle them with today’s Advent theme of Love. Love with a capital L—not only our love but divine love; and finally the last stanza of a poem from Cecil Day-Lewis, “we time-worn folk” who are renewed again by the precious springs that well up from our children—in other words, we can find comfort in the preciousness that our children bring to our lives.
I’ve noticed on social media that the wisdom of Mr. Rogers has been of solace to many this weekend. This lesson is attributed to him: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” Not surprising that Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister.
There are caring people in this world who reach out to help and lead the most vulnerable among us, namely our children, and the helpers do all they can to create a safe and just world. And then there are those of us who help the helpers, to stand as allies to know that justice and action can be of wise help, that as our UUA president Rev. Peter Morales shared, “We must rededicate ourselves to creating a society where differences are resolved without violence, where the mentally unstable do not have ready access to lethal force, where violence is not glorified, and where we can live, love, and work in safe places. Our task as a religious people committed to compassion and to peace is to show a better way.”
We time-worn folk we are called upon for a lot! To be the protection for the youngest, most vulnerable, the mentally unstable. We are called upon to make the hard choices, the unpopular ones, to, at many times, be a corrective in the world. Marion Wright Edelman suggests it as “compassionate action.”
Our grief today is also in part the grief that comes from the more fine grooves cut into our lives. The ones that leave the crick in our neck and the ache in our back, the twinge in our heart and the painful poke in our solar plexus. It’s that part that wisdom has given us in our status as veterans of this life. At some point, we must come to spiritual maturity, to learn to hold in common these things:
- frustration for injustice and at the same time a sense of gratitude for what is
- the busyness surrounding us and a ability to be a container for peace
- the great joy of birth and an appreciation for the sagacity of aging.
I might sound like a broken record when suggesting yet another spiritual practice. But Zen Buddhist priest Lewis Richmond suggests aging as a spiritual practice. It comes when hitting that acknowledgment that “this is my life, I have no other.”
The dharma of Buddhism offers the perfect antidote to the attempt to hang on to something that is no longer there. We can reach out for a lot of things in an attempt to avoid time, but the principle of letting go and looking at our fears actually gives us a sense of peace.
I love this metta prayer suggested by Richmond to begin a day of meditation:
As I grow older, may I be kind to myself;
As I grow older, may I accept joy and sorrow;
As I grow older, may I be happy and at peace.
Later in the day, he asks us to expand the prayer:
As everything ages and passes away, may each of us be kind to ourselves;
As everything ages and passes away, may each of us accept joy and sorrow;
As everything ages and passes away, may each of us be happy and at peace.
On Friday morning, after learning of this latest horrific violence, I began to cry. I thought of those young families—the parents, looking for their children. The school kids, having to be frightened of something that even the adults didn’t understand. A bit later I found myself getting angry—about guns, about a culture of violence, about cuts in budgets that provide for those struggling. By the late afternoon, I had turned to naming the many things on my gratitude list. Of course I listed my children and husband. But then I lifted up that green sheet of paper with our children’s names and birthdates (to be dedicated in worship today), and I felt an even deeper sense of peace. When I considered that their parents trusted us enough to bring them here, I felt humbled, when I thought of the congregation holding them in a covenant of love and care I felt appreciation for the many gifts of this tradition, the long history of this faith, and the loving kindness of the holy…all that any of us consider to be the Ultimate.
The President of the United States called upon the ancient words of the sacred text that assures God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. We must do this for each other, too. Bring healing and wholeness where we can, wrap the wounds with the fastening ties of Love.
We shout our “whys” at the sky, we construct untold attempts at solutions, we search prayers and poems for orders of words to serve as soothing balm. But we know that connection with each other, with making and finding meaning, with honoring our precious lives and sharing them with each other, with lighting candles for our grief and our joy, simply being together makes the world a better place.
“New life has a story to tell, and we shall listen.” (George Kimmich Beach) We time-worn folk would do well to listen to new life, how it challenges us to look at our old ways, to renew ourselves with beauty, with energy, with hope for the future, with candles lit for peace, with a reminder that love is stronger than hate, and that despite our new wounds, our old scars, and our time-weary hearts, that joy will come again. Joy will come again.
Harlem born poet June Jordan gives we elders some advice-
“To rescue our children we will have to let them save us from the power we embody: we will have to trust the very difference that they forever personify. And we will have to allow them the choice, without fear of death: that they may come and do likewise or that they may come and that we will follow them, that a little child will lead us back to the child we will always be, vulnerable and wanting and hurting for love and for beauty.
from Frederick Gillis
May the Love which overcomes all differences,
Which heals all wounds,
Which puts to flight all fears,
Which reconciles all who are separated,
Be in us and among us
Now and always.