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.
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.
Chalice Lighting: In This Small Flame Dwell by Jean L Wahlstrom
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: Party Up by John Hall
I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons and other games in the “table-top role-playing game” genre for 5/6th of my life. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from a game that is supremely open-ended with goals that are often nebulous quests that often have surprise twists and turns. It’s a lot like life, and it’s a lot like our seeking for deeper spiritual truth and meaning.
When TSR, the original publisher of the game, was developing the 2nd Edition of D&D they developed a template for an essential adventuring party. There are many different adventuring classes, like career paths for heroes, that are in the game but the core party was built around four classes: Fighter, Cleric, Rogue, and Wizard.
Each of these classes brought something vital and essential to the group dynamic that would enable them to overcome most challenges. The Fighter is direct and resourceful. They face most challenges head-on, use the terrain to their advantage, and create opportunities for their companions to shine. The Rogue had their focus on what isn’t obvious. They find traps, open locks, sniff out treasure, notice secret doors, and use uncanny precision to achieve their goals. The Cleric is the nurturer of the group. They keep everyone motivated, focused, and healed. They banish fear and fatigue as well as provide support and protection. They make everyone better at what they do, and keep them going when it seems impossible. The Wizard is the source of knowledge and clever solutions. Wizards keep their distance so they can maintain a wide perspective. They are academically minded and if there is something the group needs to know, they either know it, or know how to find it. They make uncanny connections, solve fiendish puzzles, and easily push back the limits of what’s possible by using their arcane might to rewrite the rules of engagement on the fly.
Interestingly, those same designers used TV’s The Golden Girls as the ideal dynamic. Blanche was the fighter, Sophia the rogue, Dorothy the wizard, and Rose, portrayed by the recently passed and much beloved Betty White, was the cleric. The lyrics to the theme song even convey the spirit of the idea; “Thank you for being a friend, travel down the road and back again, your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.”
Your spiritual journey can be better with friends.
When we embark on our personal quests to find truth and meaning in our lives, we often try to take on all the challenges by ourselves. We are often using monks are models, meditating and praying, pondering mysterious scriptures, and doing it all alone on some mountaintop. Sometimes there is kung-fu and dragons, but I digress. Monks live in monasteries. They have a support system. One has to have most of one’s physical and emotional needs to devote yourself to pondering life’s most profound mysteries.
What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if we can flip the script on how we take on our spiritual adventures by doing it with companions what we gamers call “partying up?” Are you the blunt and direct one who prefers a no-frills approach and needs to keep pushing forward? Congrats! You’re a spiritual fighter! Are you the one that has to snoop into every corner of a new situation and expose every minute detail? You are the rogue! Do you check on everyone to see how they are doing and provide comfort and support? Are you always checking to see who hasn’t eaten or rested? Voila, Cleric! And are you the know-it-all, who needs to have clear definitions, is always looking for clever solutions, and keeps an open mind and a broad perspective? Boom! Wizard!
Admittedly, some of us are multi-classed, and aren’t exclusively any of those things, and some of us have one of those other variant classes. Maybe you are a ranger, those who prefer to scout ahead, who are always exploring, and can find impossible paths through the most difficult terrain? You might be a paladin with an unwavering dedication to your ideals and an unquenchable thirst for social justice! Perhaps a druid with a powerful intuition, and a deep wisdom that comes from a profound connection to nature? You might be a bard, a bona fide jack-of-all-trades who brings optimism and inspiration to any group with art, acting, music, and a wide range of life experiences!
Any or all of these are useful and valid and open ways forward for any group they find themselves a part of. Our spiritual journeys are a lot more like quests than mere travel. But we’re traveling for a reason. We have goals. We want to unlock the mysteries of truth and meaning. We want to know and to learn and to grow and to discover. We want to break down the barriers, surmount the obstacles, overcome the challenges, and walk out with our pockets full of spiritual treasures. This is the stuff adventures are made of!
Look at yourself! What is your adventuring style? Then look at the folks around you? Who’s got the personality and the skills to aid you on your quest? If we are to make it there and back again, our chances of success are greatly magnified if we are willing to adventure together!
So party up, spiritually explore those crumbling ruins, solve that riddle, sneak past that dragon, and come back to tell everyone else about it over food and drink, and song! Your spiritual adventure calls! Get some companions and go!
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: The Purpose of This Community is to Help Its People Grow by Erik Walker Wikstrom
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