These prayers were written to go with the verses of hymn #100 in Singing the Living Tradition, “I’ve Got Peace Like a River”. The choir sang each verse in response to the spoken prayer.
In this sanctuary and beyond its walls are people working for peace in many different ways” peace within in themselves, their families, their communities, and in the world at large. May they find the support they need for this holy work.
I’ve got peace like a river…
In this sanctuary and beyond its walls are people celebrating a multitude of joys in their lives and the lives of others. We happily witness all these moments of gladness with them, living in to a community of abundance.
I’ve got joy like a fountain…
In this sanctuary and beyond its walls are people who love. And, like the ocean, love can take many forms: deep, calm, rocky, fierce – but it is always powerful. May we strive to love ourselves and each other with the power of a love that nurtures, heals, and supports.
I’ve got love like an ocean…
In this sanctuary and beyond its walls are people suffering. Their pain could be physical, emotional, mental. It whatever way they are suffering, it has taken hold, and they need support to survive it. May we always be steadfast and gentle when we witness the pain of others, and work towards caring for all in our interdependent web.
I’ve got pain like an arrow…
In this sanctuary and beyond its walls, people shed tears of both joy and sorrow. These tears are how our bodies share the deep, feelings of our hearts. They represent something within in us that is so profound, so fundamental, that it must be shared with our entire beings. May the tears of our lives always be recognized as sacred.
I’ve got tears like the raindrops…
In this sanctuary and beyond its walls, people discover strength in themselves and in others that they never thought possible. We also struggle with when we find ourselves tired, or weak, and afraid to ask for help in our times of need. May we find here in this gathered community the strength we can offer, and the strength we need.
Community, ingathering, is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Today we have gathered as a community to celebrate the contributions of the labor force, and how they have given strength and prosperity to the well-being of our country.
We have also gathered to remember that our work as a community is not finished. That as we celebrate victories already won in our past, there are still battles yet to be fought for justice, equity, and dignity.
As we walk today, let us put our minds to the steps of our feet, building a new path into a better world.
A world where all workers are valued.
A world where those who risk life and limb are protected.
A world where those who clean houses are also able to buy houses to live in.
A world where those who grow food can also afford to eat their fill.
A world where those who build hospitals can use them when they are sick or injured.
A world where those who build hotels can take time to rest with their families.
A world where those who serve and care for others are, themselves, also served and cared for.
As we walk together today, remember that we can build that world, step by step by step.
Lifted up at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville on August 30th, 2015.
In this sanctuary, and beyond its walls, are people who are trapped in a cycle of systemic racism, built on a legacy of slavery. They wonder, at the beginning of each day, how will they be disrespected, bullied, harmed, erased? How will they be treated as less than they are? They wish for others to listen to their stories, to acknowledge their suffering. They dream of a time when everyone will recognize that they matter… that they have always mattered.
In this sanctuary, and beyond its walls, are people grieving the loss of two journalists. They are remembering the hundreds of others also lost to gun violence just this year, and the thousands in years past. They are angry at leaders who express sorrow at these incidents and do nothing to change why they happen. They are bitter at how some who are lost are remembered better than others.
In this sanctuary and beyond its walls are people who have been taught that they are not worthy of love and respect because of how they look. They live through an onslaught of cultural and media messages that tell us who is too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too dark, too pale, too female, too distracting, too nonconforming… too disturbing. They deprecate themselves, and the next generation witnesses, and the distress continues on.
In this sanctuary and beyond its walls are people who feel stuck where they are. Some have jobs where they feel unfulfilled, or are mistreated by their co-workers, but they cannot afford to quit without risking access to food, shelter, and healthcare. Some want to go back to school, but don’t have the resources to avoid crippling debt. Some don’t have work at all, and spend every day wondering how to survive to the next.
At the same time, in this sanctuary and beyond its walls are people who are saying hello to new schools, new classrooms, new jobs, and new homes. They are immersed in excitement and anxiety. There are people who are saying goodbye, to their children, to their friends, to places, people, and things that have given them comfort and love.
Precious Spirit of Life, of grace, of gathering. Loving Divinity of many names, many faces, many creeds, and of none at all. We seek the strength to defend and release those who are oppressed and marginalized. We seek the wisdom to foster healing and forgiveness. We seek the knowledge of how to use our gifts in ways that we may be worthy of them. We seek these things, knowing how much we have already been given, and we do so with faith in your abundance, and faith in what you have called us to do. We pray for guidance to always live lives of service to our communities, have integrity in our hearts and minds, and create joy whenever and wherever we can. In the name of all that is holy, and precious, and beloved, we pray. Amen and blessed be.
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.