Good morning and welcome to West Fork Unitarian Universalists. I’m John 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.
Opening Words: Call to Worship and Action by Sharon Wylie
Welcome Song: Come. Come Whoever You Are
Come, Come whoever you are, wanderer worshiper, lover of leaving, ours is no caravan of despair. Come, yet again, come.
Chalice Lighting: Another World is Possible Written for UU the Vote by the Rev. Ashley Horan
Another world is possible.
We say it, again and again,
even when the proof lies somewhere beyond the horizon,
beyond our reach,
beyond our imagination.
This is our faith:
Another world is possible.
Not somewhere else–
another world, another lifetime– but here, and now,
for us and for all.
Another world is possible. There is no single path toward that world;
no one strategy or approach that will restore balance, heal brokenness,
There are many routes toward liberation;
But the abundance of options does not absolve us of
the responsibility of acting.
Another world is possible.
The call–the duty–
of each moment in history Is to discern:
Who are we, and what can we bring
with humility, integrity, faith?
What is the context, and how can we address it with agility, resilience, skill?
What is the vision, and how can we realize it with accountability, relationship, joy?
Another world is possible.
In this time of despair, of fear, of collapse– this time that is both like every other era and like no other time in history–
It is audacious
to declare our faith
and to commit our work to a world that is
But we are an audacious people in good company, with many kin, and we are ready to show up and work hard
and stay humble
and make friends
and hold the vision
starting here, now, today, with us and persevering–
however long it takes– until that other world Is not only possible, but
Another world is here.
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.
Reading: Remembering the Future by Rev. Theresa I. Soto
“Can we develop the skill of remembering the future? Can we commit to build the community that will extend into a time that we only know by memory because it will outlast us? Memorize the compass points of the day yet to come: the truth, the love, the fire, the endless yes of the horizon. Shake the scales from your imagination: Reach. Stretch. Rise. There is no more time for pretending that everything can be all right without your care, without your attention…”
Lesson: Sitting with Discomfort by John Hall
Today’s service is about “spiritual practices.” The best definition of “spirit” I heard in recent days is one from Rev. Amanda Witherspoon. She defined “spirit” as all the intangible things that are a part of who we are that aren’t our bodies. In other words, our personalities, our habits, our likes and dislikes, our relationships, our coping mechanisms, our values and our prejudices.
It is based off that definition that I want us this week to spend some time sitting with discomfort. Before I delve any deeper into that idea, I think I need to make clear what I mean by “sitting with discomfort.” If we seek to grow in spirit, to branch out, to mature, develop and have those intangible parts of ourselves bear fruit, then we have to examine them critically and honestly.
Let me be clear though, by critically, I don’t mean the nitpicking voice within us that tears us down and tells us we aren’t good enough. I mean “critical” as in with an eye toward clear analysis and rational assessment. The goal is to identify and improve.
The problem is not everything we find within ourselves will be thigs we are comfortable with. Some of those things will be a source of pride like our kindness, our diligence, or our tenacity. Other things may not sit so well, like our selfishness, our fears, and our prejudices. These are the things we aren’t proud of. There are the things that we have been taught to hide from the world. We learn early to never expose our faults because like a crack in a stone wall, those are weaknesses that can be used to breach our social defenses and hurt us.
We hide those faults. To continue the wall analogy, we paint over them, we plant bushes in front of them, maybe hang some colorful banners over them all in a effort to hide them from the world. Sometimes we even do such a good job hiding them, we forget they are even there.
They often resurface in times of stress, those cracks and breaks spreading and slowly growing worse. Tempers flare. Words of biting sarcasm escape our lips and fall like daggers upon whomever is unlucky enough to be close by. We cross the street to avoid walking to close to people we have been taught to distrust and fear on sight.
Sitting with discomfort means finding those faults. Sitting with discomfort means studying and analyzing those shortcomings. It means looking hard at all those places that we are ashamed of. It means enduring the shame. It means getting past the pain or fear or resentment attached those flaws.
In my own life, I have done this many times. To be honest with all of you, I hated it every single time.
I grew up being taught a great many prejudices, and these things were internalized by my developing mind. From my family, my community, my news, and even my entertainment, I learned a great many things that I now know are terrible.
I learned that black people are more prone to crime than other races. I learned that gays and lesbians are unnatural and depraved. I learned that latinx people are backward and lazy. I learned that immigrants in general were devious and untrustworthy.
I learned that women were a status symbol and proof of a man’s worth to have a good one bound to him, that they were first and foremost to be wives and mothers, to support men’s emotional and physicals needs and to put those above their own.
I learned that men were only worthy if they were fit, masculine, aggressive, confident, and stoic. That men were could not be expected to control their sexual urges in the face of strong temptation. I learned that violence was a virtue for men and hesitation and doubt were unforgivable sins.
I learned that physical violence to misbehaving children was a essential part of good parenting.
I have, over the decades of my life, sat with each of these and done my best to unlearn them. Every time it was painful. Every, last one was a demon to wrestle with. Every, last one was a cave to crawl out of. Every, last one was a cancer to cut out of myself.
The hardest part of all of this is the work is not done. I still have parts of myself that need improved. I have splinters that need sanded, cracks that need mended, and leaks that need sealed.
I need to sit with how I react to criticism. I need to sit with procrastination. I need to sit with self-doubt and self-loathing. I need to sit with carelessness and arrogance. I need to sit with avoidance. I need to sit with discomfort.
I sit with discomfort because if I don not identify and understand all the places I need to do better, why would I even be motivated to do better. I would sit in my own ignorant bliss over my deliberate lack of introspection and never think I needed to be improved over who I am right now.
January is the month of imagination. Before I can imagine a better me, I need to know that I can, in fact, can be better.
It is the time of year when we memorialize the life of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. We spend a lot of time each year with his “I Have a Dream” speech, but I prefer the ones like “Letters from the Birmingham Jail.” Those are the ones that invited a nation to sit with our collective discomfort. Dr. King urged his fellow Americans to sit with the fact that the USA was built on the backs of kidnapped and enslaved peoples and generations of their descendants.
Dr. King also asked us to sit with the fact that though slavery was gone, there were terrible systems of oppression still in place that held the descendants of those enslaved people back from full participation in this society and that people of European descent benefitted from those systems and continue to do so.
Recent events show us clearly that we still have to do the hard work of sitting with discomfort as a society and as a nation.
That work begins at home. It begins within each of us as we sit down and honestly assess what we feel and why we feel that way. It begins with a desire for growth and compassion toward ourselves. The compassion is important, because we may feel like we are bad people for having bad beliefs or bad habits.
We may beat ourselves down for not doing better. We may feel shame for every having these beliefs and behaviors, for remaining ignorant for so long because we lacked the will or the courage to do the hard work.
The old saying goes, “When you know better, do better.” Like our opening words say, “let go of the guilt and shame, not to shirt accountability, but in honest expectation of forgiveness.”
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.
Chalice Extinguishing Words: A Prayer for Unfinished Business by Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson
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