Sunday, July 10, 2022: Abundance and Hope

Welcome before Prelude

Good morning and welcome to West Fork Unitarian Universalists. I’m Lisa 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.

Prelude: Appalachian Psalm

Shawnee Press Church Choral – Tom Lough from Psalm 23 arr. Jon Paige

Welcome: Look To This Day by Kalidasa

Look to this day: For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of beauty
Are but experiences of time.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today well-lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day.

Song: Find a Stillness

First Unitarian Church of Baltimore Choir

Chalice Lighting: by Christine Robinson

We gather this hour as people of faith
With joys and sorrows, gifts and needs
We light this beacon of hope, sign of our quest
For truth and meaning,
In celebration of the life we share together.

– Reading 448, Singing the Living Tradition

Principles of Unitarian Universalism

Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Story – A Chinese Farmer told by Allen Watts

Let us now take our offering

Epitaph of Seikilos Petros Tabouris Ensemble

While you live, shine have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while and Time demands his due

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.

Reading: Psalm 23 (King James Version)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Music: Psalm 23 (Dedicated to My Mother) Bobby McFerrin

This is another version of the 23rd Psalm. McFerrin says the song was inspired after he and his choir were rehearsing in a church and began discussing the many male images in the Bible.

He said in an interview “It just seemed to make sense. People forget, you know: a father’s love and then there’s a mother’s love, which complements the father’s love and they fit together, you know, nicely. So that’s why I wrote it.”

Reading: Matthew 6:25-34

Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Hope and Abundance – Lisa deGruyter

“These studies are outcomes rather than realised objectives. In making the journey, I have no aims. These studies are intellectual footprints, not blueprints”

– Herbert Fingarette

I am open and I am willing
For to be hopeless would seem so strange
It dishonors those who go before us
So lift me up to the light of change

— Holly Near “I Am Willing”

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil

Psalm 23

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

― Frank Herbert, Dune

I’m going to start with a bit about the meaning of the word comfort. Today we often think of it as meaning making us “comfortable”, physically at ease, something like sitting in an upholstered chair, being tucked under a down comforter, or sitting in front of a warm fire, snug in a warm and safe home when it is cold out. We often speak of “the comfortable” as smug, not just snug, and somehow even undeserving of being unafflicted, or less afflicted, when so many are.

But what are we to make of “thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” – how would a rod or staff make someone cozy? And what about treason as “aid and comfort” to the enemy?

The answer is that “comfort” has a fort in it – as in forts, fortification, forte, force – and effort. To comfort was to make more forceful – to strengthen – not to make life soft and pleasant. The 23rd Psalm, which is one of the best known and loved of the Psalms, often used for funerals and other times of distress, talks about ease and pleasantness, but also about walking in the paths of righteousness.

As does one of the core scriptures of Buddhism, the Metta Sutra

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace: Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.

But then it goes on to say, what we are always to do is wish ease and comfort for all beings – which includes ourselves.

Wishing: In gladness and in safety, May all beings be at ease. Whatever living beings there may be; Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, The great or the mighty, medium, short or small, The seen and the unseen, Those living near and far away, Those born and to-be-born — May all beings be at ease!

And Jesus, in the famous lilies of the field passage, tells us not to worry, to expect that everything we truly need is available to us.

And, of course, one of the contemporary definitions of “comfort” is freedom from anxiety.

We all walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death – at some times it is more apparent, but as Robert and I often say to each other, in various shades of alarm and irony, “We’re all going to die”. What matters is what we do with that knowledge. I – and he – have come to the (always tentative) conclusion that the purpose of life is life – if there is any meaning in the universe, it is only that – that life arose, and that the purpose of life is to perpetuate life – that seems to us to be self-evident.

Besides the Buddha, the Psalmist, and Jesus, many people, from the Stoic philosophers to modern psychologists, theologians, and philosophers, have said the same in many ways. Here is a sample:

“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” – Marcus Aurelius

“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.” – Marcus Aurelius

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

“Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.” – Seneca

“How does it help…to make troubles heavier by bemoaning them?” – Seneca

“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well.” – Epictetus

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…” – Epictetus

Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

– Reinhold Niebuhr

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

As I was preparing this service, many relevant things showed up in my inbox and feeds, but the most relevant was probably a report of neurology research on mindfulness and pain which identified what parts of the brain seem to be quieted by mindful meditation during pain. The researcher says “”One of the central tenets of mindfulness is the principle that you are not your experiences,” said senior author Fadel Zeidan, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “You train yourself to experience thoughts and sensations without attaching your ego or sense of self to them, and we’re now finally seeing how this plays out in the brain during the experience of acute pain.”

They found that people who were meditating during applied pain reported significantly reduced pain – and that two areas of the brain in particular showed less activity.

“One of these default mode regions is the precuneus, a brain area involved in fundamental features of self-awareness, and one of the first regions to go offline when a person loses consciousness. Another is the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which includes several sub regions that work together to process how you relate to or place value on your experiences. The more these areas were decoupled or deactivated, the more pain relief the participant reported.”

So we have evidence for a physical explanation of how our mind/brain works that validates what the Stoic philosophers, the Buddha, the Psalms, Jesus, right up to modern theologists and psychologists have said. We can’t control pain – all of the many things in the world that harm the welfare and happiness of ourselves or others, including the actions of other people. But we can control our own thoughts and actions and avoid suffering. Of course, we want to do what we can avoid physical harm and to secure happiness, health, safety, and peacefulness for ourselves and others. But to do that, we also need to not act from fear or anxiety.

Pink Floyd, in my youth which was another time of great distress – but also great progress, said in their song “Brain Damage”

The lunatic is on the grass
The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path
The lunatic is in the hall
The lunatics are in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day, the paperboy brings more

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

But what we must do is, even though the paperboy, now our phones, bring more news of what seems to be lunacy, what we must do is keep our heads from exploding with dark forebodings.

The last few weeks have been yet another wave of bad news, and we have, as we have over many years, responded with dark forebodings. I think we need fewer Jeremiads and lamentations, and more of the 23rd Psalm, the lilies of the field, the Stoics, and the Serenity Prayer.

Much of what where we are today has been driven by fear, the little mind killer – fear of change and loss and I think what we must do is not be driven by fear ourselves. And, like the Chinese farmer in this morning’s story, we need to not judge what is good and what is bad. Not dwelling on the awful, fomenting fear, fixing blame, vilifying others. When we react in fear and loathing, no matter how justified it seems to us, we make the world a worse place.

We are here, so we all woke up this morning, and are alive and relatively well. There are woods and hills, green pastures, still waters, blue skies, art and music, families, friendship, community. What threatens them, and our happiness, health, safety, and peace of mind is not only the grasping and greed of others, but our own, and what we have the power to change is only our own mind. The good news is that changing our own mind changes our behavior, and makes the world just a bit better place, as well as alleviating our own suffering.

I’ll close with a bit of an essay that arrived in my email just this morning, although it was written in 2005, by Daisaku Ikeda.

Hope is a flame that we nurture within our hearts. It may be sparked by someone else—by the encouraging words of a friend, relative, or mentor—but it must be fanned and kept burning through our own determination. Most crucial is our determination to continue to believe in the limitless dignity and possibilities of both ourselves and others.

Mahatma Gandhi led the nonviolent struggle for Indian independence from British colonial rule, succeeding against all odds. He was, in his own words, an “irrepressible optimist.” His hope was not based on circumstances, rising and falling as things seemed to be getting better or worse. Rather, it was based on an unshakable faith in humanity, in the capacity of people for good. He absolutely refused to abandon his faith in his fellow human beings.

Keeping faith in people’s essential goodness, and the consistent effort to cultivate goodness in ourselves: these are the twin keys, as Gandhi proved, to unleashing the great power of hope. Believing in ourselves and in others in this way— continuing to wage the difficult inner struggle to make this the basis for our actions—can transform a society that sometimes seems to be plummeting toward darkness into a humane, enlightened world, where all people are treated with respect.

Let us recite our mission and covenant together

Mission and Covenant


Be a beacon and a refuge for all
Worship joyfully
Grow in spirit
Touch our community


Love is the doctrine of this church, The quest of truth is our sacrament, and service is our prayer. To dwell together in peace, To seek knowledge in freedom, To serve others in community, To the end that all souls shall grow Into harmony with creation, Thus we do covenant with one another.

I think a good part of the work of our congregation in our meetings each week is to help and encourage each other in serenity, in courage, and in wisdom. Besides acceptance and lack of anxiety there is one other way recommended by the sages and philosophers and as we say prophetic people – that of working together and supporting each other

Alfred Adler said, and I believe it to be true, that the core of happiness – comfort, freedom from anxiety – is to feel that we are of use. The next song is a reminder that we do nothing singly.

Waldemar Hilles, who was music director at the Highlander School and then at First Unitarian in Los Angeles for 35 years, found the words of this song in the preamble of the American Mineworker’s constitution, and his friend Pete Seeger set it to an Irish tune.

Let’s rise in body or spirit and sing with Pete.

Step by Step

Waldemar Hille and Pete Seeger

Joys and Sorrows

(Please save announcements and comments until the end of the service)

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.

Silent Meditation

The line that struck me most in this next song was “For to be hopeless would seem so strange, It dishonors those who go before us”

It seems to me that we do often dishonor those who came before us these days, when we are despairing, when we discount the progress that has been made, and when we judge our predecessors as if they were our contemporaries.

Song: I Am Willing – Holly Near

Video from Cascade UU Fellowship

Benediction: Traditional Irish Blessing

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been

the foresight to know where you’re going

and the insight to know when you’re going too far.

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

Closing: The Work Continues by Martha Kirby Capo

Our time together is finished, but our work is not yet done:
May our spirits be renewed and our purpose resolved
As we meet the challenges of the week to come.
The chalice flame is extinguished
Until once again ignited by the strength of our communion.

Go now in peace.

Announcements, Shameless Self-Promotions, Etc.

Today we have a postlude which we can listen to as we move to the coffee hour

Postlude: Step by Step

Sweet Honey in the Rock

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

― Frank Herbert, Dune

In a time when much is driven by anger and fear, this service will consider the teachings of the Buddha, the Stoics, Jesus, and modern psychologists and theologians such as Alfred Adler and Reinhold Niebuhr about the cause of suffering and how we can find strength and comfort. Lisa deGruyter will be the service leader.

Our services are Sundays at 10:30 a.m. at the Progressive Women’s Association Event Center, 305 Washington Ave. in downtown Clarksburg, behind the Courthouse.  A coffee hour, a time for discussion and socializing, will follow from the end of the service until 12:00 noon.

Classes and worship are replaced by Spiritual Outings on the first Sunday of each month during the summer, with brief worship, a potluck picnic, and outdoor activities. The schedule is in the sidebar.

We would love to have you come worship with us.

Children are welcome. 

The building is wheelchair accessible, with an accessible restroom.


The schedule for the current adult religious education class is here.

Email or use our contact form for more information

or write to us at PO Box 523, Clarksburg WV 26302