Good morning and welcome to West Fork Unitarian Universalists. I’m Cricket and I feel blessed to serve this congregation as a lay leader. I’m glad to see all of you here today.
Thank you for joining us.
[If guests] I’d like to welcome our guests. Thank you for taking a chance and taking the time to walk through our doors and join us for worship.
Let us use the prelude for centering. We are about to enter sacred time. We are about to make this time and this place sacred by our presence and intention.
Please silence your phones… and as you do so, I invite us also to turn down the volume on our fears; to remove our masks; and to loosen the armor around our hearts.
Let go of the expectations placed on you by others—and those they taught you to place on yourself.
Drop the guilt and the shame, not to shirk accountability, but in honest expectation of the possibility of forgiveness.
Let go of the thing you said the other day. Let go of the thing you dread next week. Be here, in this moment. Breathe, here.
Prelude: Stones in My Pocket by Lena Anderssen
Song: Sanctuary X3
Love prepare me, to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, love right through
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
The Rainbow Principles:
Story for All Ages: Hansel and Gretel
Offering and Response (Unison)
For the gifts which we have received—and the gifts which we, ourselves, are—may we be truly grateful. Yet more than that, may we be committed to using these gifts to make a difference in the world: to increase love and justice; to decrease hatred and oppression; to expand beloved community; to share, and to keep sharing, as long as ever we can. Amen.
Sermon: Touchstones by Cricket Hall
So, I don’t tend to do Spiritual Practices Services very often and having not done a spiritual practices service for a while, I was a little bit at a loss when I started preparing this service. So, I started poking around on the internet for ideas, just to get my mind excited and my juices flowing. I found an interesting article on Huffington Post titled “Inspired by Faith: 7 Spiritual Practices of World-Changing Social Entrepreneurs” It’s all about how we live in a society that some call “post-religious” but spirituality is really important to people, especially successful people, even if they don’t want to admit it or really even talk about it all that much. Out of the seven practices, the one that caught my eye the most was the concept of touchstones.
Not being as much of a spiritual guru as I wish to be, I turned to my friend, Brandon. I asked him what he knew about touchstones. He proceeds to give me this long and complicated definition that went like this “For instance, in Tibetan Buddhism, there are multiple collections of scriptures by various guru’s, that outline the process and stages to reaching enlightenment. It’s described and outlined with scientific accuracy. So, a person who is practicing can use these texts as a guidepost, to help determine if a “touchstone” has been reached. You are able to know the touchstone by having it integrated into your consciousness. Living the teaching as opposed to simply studying it or knowing it in an academic sense.”
I was silent for a minute. Then I said “really, ok, because this is what I read in this article.”
“Touchstones. Activating our physical senses and engaging our memory through tactile objects such as stones, shells, or seeds that can be kept or given away may provide a material connection to the healthy and productive spiritual places we need to be.”
Brandon was quiet for a minute and said, “Oh … that makes a lot more sense.”
Now, my friend was not wrong about touchstones in Buddhism. In fact, I’ve done some more research and the idea and practice of touchstones of spiritual knowledge is a very real thing. But first, we are going to talk about physical touchstones.
Theoretically, a touchstone could be anything. For many Christians their crosses are touchstones of their faith because they wear it on a daily basis and touch them to remind themselves of God’s presence when the need the reminder. I often wear a mala, not always for meditation purposes, sometimes it is just a touchstone, a way of reminding myself to breathe and that I have the ability to calm down. Sometimes a touchstone can be a reminder of the past, such as a piece of jewelry passed down through generations. Wearing Great-Grandma’s necklace makes you feel strong, because you heard stories of her bravery. Checking the time on your Great-Grandfather’s watch makes you feel smart, because he was the first person to go to college in your family. Sometimes a touchstone can be simple, a pebble or a twig you found on a hiking trip when you felt communion with the Earth.
When I was little, I collected rocks. This was not a geology thing per se, but more of an “I like rocks” thing. Everywhere I went, I had to get a rock. My grandmother didn’t like the fact that I just wanted rocks. It needed to be educational. So, I had to make a sheet of rocks. This consisted of a piece of graph paper, glued to a piece of cardstock, and then the rocks were glued to it. Underneath each of the rocks, I neatly printed their names. When I was finished, I proudly showed off my paper and my Grandmother frowned. I didn’t understand. She liked my work up to a point, but she was confused by the bottom. You see, to me ALL of my rocks were important. It wasn’t just that I had different kinds of rocks. It wasn’t just the peacock ore or the tigers eye or the hematite that was important. The stone, the FIRST stone that I had picked up from her gravel driveway was also neatly glued to this piece of paper. And there was a piece of marble about an inch and a half long glued to the bottom. It was a rectangle and it had a hole in it. And I, to this day, cannot tell you what this piece was for, but I had found it on the playground at my school in Charleston, SC and I had carried it home and I loved this rock of mine so much that it made the move with me to Maryland, to my Grandmother’s house. It was every bit as important to me as all of the other stones were and so it had a place of honor on the paper. She didn’t think it was very educational. That didn’t matter to me, because for me it was a touchstone. It was a reminder of that time, the school that I loved, and the friends that I had.
A lot of people carry around worry stones. They are usually small and flat, some of them actually have indents for thumbs. I have seen a few where people have almost indented them themselves with their worry. You rub them when you are worried. I have worry people. This sounds weird. It is not as weird as it sounds; they are not live people. It’s actually a tradition from Guatamala and I was given this gift. It is a little tiny purple bag full of very tiny handmade dolls. And the purpose of the worry people or worry dolls is to tell them your worries. You speak your worries to the dolls and then place them under your pillow and your worries are kept safe by the dolls. The worries get carried away while you sleep and you no longer have to carry them, which is similar to the idea of a worry stone. Unfortunately for me, I live in a house with five cats and I wiggle a lot in my sleep. I no longer have the purple bag, but randomly I find worry people. I currently have one in my box of tools on my school shelf. I have a caddy full of pencils, pens, scissors, and glue. I have a worry doll in there and she is going to sit there, carry me through the school year, and remind me to not worry so much.
In our story for all ages today, we went on an adventure with Hansel and Gretel. Hansel’s first idea to gather the shiny white stone was quite brilliant. They show up in the moonlight. No one is going to see them in the leaves unless they are looking for them. They are not something his father and stepmother would notice, but they are something from home. They were literal touchstones, carrying them all the way back home. But I would like to point out that they made it home without the little white stones, because Hansel and Gretel had each other. They were, in many ways, each other’s touchstone through the whole thing. They kept each other safe. They kept each other sane. They were each other’s reminder of the home and family and safety that they wanted and longed for. They were each other’s reminder of peace.
I would like you for just a moment to close your eyes and take a comfortable breath and imagine a rock, whether it is a fancy rock like a tiger’s eye or hematite or even a crystal, like a piece of quartz, or a simple rock: a piece of gravel or a river stone. But I want you to imagine that rock. And I want you to think about why you imagined this particular stone. Because when we imagine things, we access memories and thoughts of our past and in this, I want you to think about what made this rock that you are imagining important to you. And I want you to think about this. Just take about 30 seconds and think about your rock. Now that you are picturing your rock and thinking about why it is important to you, I want you to imagine how we can use imaginary rocks as touchstones. Because sometimes we have lost things that are very important to us and we have to remember them to hold on to them and sometimes our thoughts can be used as touchstones.
This leads into the other half where we talk about touchstones of spiritual knowledge like my friend Brandon mentioned. For us as UUs, our principles are spiritual touchstones. They help guide us to the truth. They remind us that just knowing these things is not enough. I’ve heard over and over again that the principles are not a creed but instead are aspirations. The principles are our spiritual knowledge touchstones because they remind us to live with intention. They remind us to aspire to these goals instead of just repeating the every day.
The six sources that UUs affirm and promote are also spiritual touchstones. Rev. Kathleen Rolenz said, “Throughout history, we have moved to the rhythms of mystery and wonder, prophecy, wisdom, teachings from ancient and modern sources, and nature herself.” The six sources for UUs both remind us where we have come from and show us where we are going. And it is through those that we see spiritual knowledge and hold it for at least a little while. So, whether our touchstones are physical, held in our hands, or spiritual they help us connect to the Divine or the “that which is not us” and that is the whole point. Touchstones remind us that we are all connected. Touchstones remind us that we need to reconnect with our faith and the divine.
Joys and Sorrows
If you woke this morning with a sorrow so heavy that you need the help of this community to carry it;or if you woke with a joy so great that it simply must be shared, now is the time for you to speak.
For the joys and sorrows that haven’t been spoken, but which remain in the silent sanctuaries of our hearts. These joys and griefs, spoken and unspoken, weave us together in the fabric of community.
Song: Go Now In Peace (3 times)
Go now in peace, go now in peace
May our love and care surround you
Everywhere, everywhere, you may go