On July 10th, 2016, in response to a devastating week in the news cycle, the shared leadership of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville decided to change the worship service the day before it happened. Watch and listen to Jason’s sermon interspersed with the readings he asked me to do.
One of the world religions I’ve studied briefly is Sikhism. I keep a copy of Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh’s select translations of the Guru Granth, The Name of My Beloved, on my desk and occasionally flip through it to a random place to get my sacred reading for the day (as is done in Sikh practice). I was so moved by what I was given today that I feel the need to share:
In the company of the faithful, we do not run in circles,
In the company of the faithful, we find peace,
In the company of the faithful, we fathom the Unfathomable,
In the company of the faithful, we bear the unbearable,
In the company of the faithful, we live in an exalted state,
In the company of the faithful, we reach the Mansion,
In the company of the faithful, we resolve to act righteously,
In the company of the faithful, we experience only the Transcendent,
In the company of the faithful, we find the treasure of the Name,
Says Nanak, I offer myself to the faithful.
In the company of the faithful, we liberate our people,
In the company of the faithful, we save our companions, friends, and families,
In the company of the faithful, we obtain that treasure
Which profits everyone.
In the company of the faithful, the god of death is our servant,
In the company of the faithful, we are honoured by the gods,
In the company of the faithful, evil is dispelled,
In the company of the faithful, we sing immortal praise,
In the company of the faithful, we reach our destination,
Says Nanak, in the company of the faithful, our life is rewarding.
This is the Call to Worship I wrote for our Frozen-themed, multigenerational Flower Communion at First UU Nashville on April 10th, 2016.
We gather this morning in worship, one congregation made from many lives, holding each other in joys and in sorrows.
We gather to celebrate our differences, to learn from each other, to live into the promise that we are better together.
We gather to create community that sustains itself by using the power of love and understanding, both in times of conflict and in times of peace.
We gather this morning into a story of a relationship between two sisters, broken apart by fear and misunderstanding, and how they came together again by hearing, seeing, being with each other; how they came to let go of the burdens unfairly placed on them by the mistakes of others.
We gather this morning, so that we may always remember — even when we hide ourselves away behind a door, there will always be someone who loves us knocking on the other side, calling us back to our best selves.
Welcome to this sacred time in this gathered community.
CST Chapel Service, May 5th, 2015
Call to Worship
We gather today under the streams of the Maypole, signifying the arrival of spring, the bonds of friends and family, and the jubilation of harvests to come.
To our altar,
We offer cream to celebrate the richness of divine, creative love
We offer cake to celebrate the sweetness of this beloved community
We offer whiskey to celebrate the fire of our commitment
Chalice Lighting (from Singing the Living Tradition)
We gather this hour as people of faith
With joys and sorrows, gifts and needs.
We light our chalice, this beacon of hope,
sign of our quest for truth and meaning,
in celebration of the life we share together
Scripture Reading: Song of Songs 2:10-13
My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”
The celebration of Beltane is about the waxing cycle of the year. It celebrates fertility, abundance, and recognition of the gifts given to us by the earth, by our loved ones, by our gods, that sustain us through the inevitable periods of waning. Today we are at a unique juxtaposition of Beltane, which asks us to focus on what can do moving forward, and the end of our community’s organizational year, wherein we are all focusing on what we have done in the past. Many of us are graduating, turning in the last of our assignments and preparing to catalog all we have learned for ordination and fellowshipping committees. We have faculty and staff retiring, closing a door on long, productive careers. Our school is getting ready to sleep as the rest of the world enters seasons of activity and creation.
As so many of our are leaving this beloved community — some for good, and some for just a season — how do we keep our fires for justice, love, and vocation alive? Beltane reminds us to look to those closest to us, our beloveds, to remind us of what is worth fighting for. Today is my anniversary. I will not be spending it with my husband, as I have class until late tonight. But my call to service, to religious leadership, is also his call. Instead of being upset at our separation on this special day, he surprised me with this cake on our altar. He baked it from scratch, with the help our two young children, to show his commitment to our life together. We kindle each other’s fires with our love, and hopefully we will pass along that example to our kids.
Again and again I have been moved by the love and abundance in this community over my three years here. I have questioned my call, and been brought back by fellow M.Div.s, who were able to see me in ways I could not on my own. I have witnessed profound hospitality, not just for each other, but for our pets as well. I read emails about grocery support for students’ families who are struggling to get enough food. For all of these things and more, I am ablaze with gratitude. Love is the source of my fire of commitment, and there is no time of year that celebrates love more than Beltane. Love is the source of growth and renewal, of healing, of grace. Love is forgiveness, and inclusion, and the one true act of creation. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, we are made real when we are loved. Our missions, our visions, our change, manifest only when we love the hell out of this world. Take that with you today, for the waning times.
So mote it be.
Please join me in the spirit of prayer, with words adapted from Jackson Browne’s “For a Dancer”:
Keep a fire for the human race
And let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound
Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
Will you choose to let it show?
Passing of the Chalice
For UUs, the flaming chalice symbolizes many things — service, justice, community, the search for truth and meaning — any list with an ending would be incomplete. As I and the other graduates leave this place, we pass the responsibility of its caretaking to you and the continuing students. May you all keep it safe, and strong, and vibrant. May you hold it with loving hands and hearts for those who will come after you. Blessed be.
Please stand and join hands for our benediction from Unitarian minister Theodore Parker:
Be ours a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere;
its temple, all space;
its shrine, the good heart;
its creed, all truth;
its ritual, works of love;
its profession of faith, divine living.