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.
Opening Words: It begins now in the imagination… Rev. Gretchen Haley
It starts here
In this moment
In this breath
You feel rising
In your chest
This beat building between us
The healing, the hunger, the hope
The courage, the calling, the commitment
The drawing out
of a new day
It begins now
In the imagination
In this story we weave
this song we sing
we bring into being
from our hearts
to our lips
from our hands
to our life
Our shared life
It starts here
With praise, and thanksgiving
Forgiveness, and this humble
that we could be wrong –
that we make –
to keep learning
to keep trying
to keep our sense
to keep close
that we are all
Come, let us begin,
Come, let us worship, together.
Welcome Song: Sanctuary
Make us aware we are a sanctuary, each made holy loved right through, with thanksgiving we’ll be a living sanctuary anew.
Chalice Lighting: In the soft light of this flame Rev. Scott Tayler
In the soft light of this flame may our lives shimmer anew.
May we notice new possibility in those relationships that seem lost.
May the turning of year give birth to a dream.
May the emerging light pull a new story into view.
May what is, give way to what might be.
May we believe again in the world we imagine.
Story for All Ages:
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.
Lesson: Imagining the “IMDB” of Our Lives by Cricket Hall
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am tired. The last few weeks of the news cycle have stressed me out and exhausted me to the depths of my core. So, today, while there is a wealth of things I could preach about that involve the political situation of the world, I’m going to take a break from all that. I hope you don’t mind.
I got my inspiration for today’s sermon from two places. The first is that my family and I have a very bad habit of playing “where do we know this actor from?” when we are watching new movies and TV shows. It always starts off small with whispers of “I know that voice” or “why do they look so familiar”. This leads to more questions and guesses, some of which are right. But because I am who I am, I have to know exactly where we know an actor from. And so, I have become increasingly adept at using the Internet Movie DataBase or IMDB.
If you have never used IMDB, it is a great resource. The website allows you to search for movies, tv shows, and people (actors, directors, and crew) and then it gives you a detailed list of all of the things they have been in and the parts they played. It is great to help you figure out where you know an actor from, but also allows you to see someone’s body of work and see how all of those actor’s that you haven’t seen in a while turn out.
My second piece of inspiration came from one of my husband’s Christmas presents. His mother found all of their old family home movies. She took them and had them compiled on to DVDs. She delivered Christmas to our porch last week and we spent the evening watching 3 DVDs worth of home movies. It was an adorable walk down memory lane. In one movie, my husband and his oldest little sister were at the beach playing in tide pools with their dad. In the distance of the frame there is a young couple walking hand in hand along the beach. To be honest, it was quick, and I was too busy watching my tiny husband and his adorable little sister play in the sand to notice. But my husband noticed. He backed up the video to watch that part again so we could all see.
Two days later, it was still on his mind. There was no way of knowing who this couple was. There was no way of knowing what happened to them, if they lived a happy life, or if they were still in love. All of this got my husband thinking about all the lives he might have been a cameo in. When he expressed this to me, that’s when this sermon idea popped in my head.
You see, so many of us have pictures stored away, whether digitally or in albums, that have people in them that are not ourselves. Some of those people are family and friends. And some of those people are complete strangers. The family and friends fall into a few categories. We have the family and friends who have gone on to the great beyond. We have the family and friends who we are very close to. And we have the family and friends who we have lost contact with. Maybe we were really really close, maybe we were close for just that one summer, maybe they just happened to be in that one picture that one time. But they made an impression enough that they are in a picture. Sometimes I do look at pictures and I see strangers in them. I have many pictures from when I was young, and my grandmother would take me on adventures. In the adventure pictures, there’s little me and in the background, there are all these people and I wonder what has happened to them. And I wonder where they are and what has gone on with their lives. I wish that there was an IMDB for people. Facebook, in particular, and social media, in general, gives us a little bit of it because we get to catch up with people we haven’t seen or reconnect with people from places we might not want to think about how long it’s been like, you know, high school. But it doesn’t give us everything, it gives us highlight reels. It also doesn’t let us see where we are and where we’ve been cameos in other people’s lives.
Tyler Perry has a character named Madea. She is a very outspoken wonderful black woman, and she has a very beautiful way of describing people coming in and out of your life. And instead of reading it to you, I will let Madea tell you.
I love that because we are each in a different spot on a tree for all of the people that we know and love. For some people we are leaves on their tree. For others we are branches. For others we are roots. And it is really hard when we are roots for someone and they are just leaves for us. Because they are gonna go away, but they know they can always depend on us and we are that person who is always gonna be there. We’re that person that makes cameos in all the chapters and movies that happen. We’re sort of that background character that is always there in each episode, but they’ve only shown up in one or two of ours. And for many people in our lives we have been mutual branches supporting them as they move on their way while they supported us on ours.
We have the ability to keep in touch with people in ways we could not imagine when I was younger. In ways that if you told someone a hundred years ago, they would have laughed at you and told you, you were crazy. We have ways of connecting people and sometimes that trips us up because we think that that connection takes the place of our knowledge of whether we are roots, leaves, or branches. Sometimes that connection does not let us see all the things that people are.
So, we have a couple of choices and they all involve our imagination. We have the choice to really look in and focus on how we’re going to be – whether we are roots, branches, or leaves – whether we are extras or cameos or reoccurring characters. No matter who we are in someone else’s story to be good. So that when they look back on their life, when they look through their picture album or see old home movies and they might see your face, they can go “hey, that person was really cool” maybe “they taught me something really awesome.” We have the ability to imagine who we are going to be in someone else’s memory. And by changing our thoughts and actions and behaviors, we can do that.
One of our other options is to use our imaginations with the people that come into our lives. When we see people, we can see them more as people and less as extras or just people that are there. We can see them as full and wholly as possible. We can look at them beyond the itty bitty bits that we get and we might get to see on a daily basis or see online. We can imagine the “behind the scenes looks”.
I’m going to tell you a story. This is sort of my husband’s story, but I’m going to share it because it’s a beautiful story. When he was four he lived in a little trailer park and there was a young lady who was about a year year and a half older than him. She was a very late in life baby and her parents sheltered her and wouldn’t let her out to play very often. Every once in a while, she got to go out and play, but not very often. So, he, being the kind of human he is, would bring her bugs and sticks and rocks. He would come and bring them to her front door. She would sit on one side and he would sit on the other and he would tell her all about the bugs that he’d seen in brought and show her all the cool things that he had.
Now we’re going to fast forward to when I met my husband in 2002. He was 29 years old, so this had been roughly 25 years. He was a grown man had different color hair because as he aged his hair darkened. We were walking through Eat N Park to our seats and I heard someone exclaim, “Oh my gosh, John Hall!” He stopped and looked at me, and I said, “it wasn’t me.” But he saw someone waving and went back to the person. I went on to our table because I didn’t want to be rude to our Hostess and have them stand there and wait for us. He came back to the table. I said “who was that?” He said, “do you remember when I told you we lived in the trailer park and there was that little girl who I showed the bugs and rocks to? That was her. She remembered me. She recognized me and remembered me from that moment.” He was flabbergasted. So was I.
He hadn’t seen her since he was four years old. All of that time had passed, but she had remembered and held on to that because it was a wonderful thing. Because it was a memory. Because he had made an impact on her life.
We all have the possibility to make impacts on lives. We all have the possibility to change how we are seen, to change how others see themselves. And sometimes it’s as simple as smiling at a stranger because that might be the only smile they see that day. Sometimes it’s far more complicated and in depth. Sometimes we’re a main character and sometimes we’re an extra but in the great IMDb of life we have a list of all the appearances that have been made, maybe we don’t even remember them all, but they’re all there. I’m going to leave you with this quote from Henry David Thoreau, it’s from Walden, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundation under them.”
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.
Meditation: Remembering the Future by Rev. Theresa I. Soto found in their book Spilling the Light
Chalice Extinguishing Words: An ending, or merely prelude to more glorious beginnings? by Michael A Schuler
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