Unitarian Sunday Reflections
(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)
26 February 2023
Worship Leader: Chris Carr
Musician: Andrew Palfreman
“Road to Discovery”
Reflections on Lent
“We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.”
~ Madeleine L’Engle
WORDS OF WELCOME
Welcome to each and to all:
seekers, journeyers, questing, and content.
May our time of reflection and worship,
fill our desire for wholeness and belonging.
In this time together we are made worthy…..
by John Carter
We light our chalice to open ourselves to a Lenten spiritual journey
We light to release that which needs to be released.
We light to incorporate that which we now need for growth.
We light to transform our lives into avenues of health and hospitality.
We light to become co-creators of a life and of a world of justice, love and peace.
SFY 75 (CD SYF 4/TRACK 11)
“In quickening streams”
In quickening streams and warming earth,
in buds and rootlets groping blind,
the world awakens and brings to birth
eternal hopes to humankind.
The aeons pass in cadence slow,
ideas through the centuries roam,
but all life forces blend and flow
we harvest thoughts by others sown.
Each generation tries anew
and people venture to explore
old wisdom clad in raiment new,
fresh insight found in ancient lore.
A beacon from a far-off star
may touch a light-year distant soul.
A deed unmarked can travel far
and work to make a stranger whole.
Great good was wrought in ages past
when love and faith at wrongs were hurled:
so dare to change while life shall last,
take hold and shake a dormant world.
GATHERING EXAMEN (OPENING PRAYER)
Once again we gather, and we take time to reflect on our lives and living….
May our reflections continue in this time together, as we join to reflect on the deep things of the divine, and so we pray…
“May the spirit of life, guide us today” AMEN
So we are now in the Lenten season, I have already seen, heard, and read various people’s way to approach lent. In what I read it mirrors the thoughts of Matthew Fox, writer and student of the Spiritual Arts.
He says there are four paths we can use, most likely all of them to some degree or another, but four that are often spoken of….
The first and most familiar is the Via Negitiva, or the way of subtraction. Where we fast, or abstain, limit something in our lives. One practice within this is to sit in silence, the removal of words, ideas, even noise, that is silent meditation or contemplation.
The second is the Via Positiva, or the way of addition, where we may add a practice into our daily living. Such as reading a lenten Reflection book, or to take up something. Or using guided meditation or contemplation.
The next two in a way are ways of approach spiritual practice, and also ways in which our practices are known, or seen in how we approach life.
The Third is the Via Transformitiva, the way of transformation, where we actively as a spiritual practice work at transforming our life and living. With the effect of working for a just transformation of society, and how we work and relate to the world around us.
And the fourth is the Via Creativa, that is the way of creativity, where we reflect through our creative actions. Like using photography, art, painting, writing sermons, etc….Madeline L’Engle says it this way….
“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”
I invite you in our time together to simply reflect on your way of spiritual development and practices.
Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward.
4 :1 Then Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit, to be tempted by the Devil. 2 After fasting for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry. 3 Then
the tempter approached and said, “If you are the Only Begotten, command these stones to turn into bread.” 4 Jesus replied, “Scripture has it, ‘We live not on bread alone
but on every utterance that comes
from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Next the Devil took Jesus to the Holy City, set him on the parapet of the Temple 6 and said, “If you are the Only Begotten, throw yourself down. Scripture has it, ‘God will tell the angels to take care of you;
with their hands they will support you
that you may never stumble on a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus answered, “Scripture also says, ‘Do not put God to the test.’ ” 8 The Devil then took Jesus up a very high mountain and displayed all the dominions of the world in their magnificence, 9 promising, “All these I will give you if you fall down and worship me.” 10 At this, Jesus said to the Devil, “Away with you, Satan! Scripture says, ‘You will worship the Most High God; God alone will you adore.’ ” 11 At that the Devil left, and angels came and attended Jesus.
“Into the Wilderness”
Commentary and Reflection by John Nichols, A Wind Swept Over the Waters, Skinner House, 2007.
Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River. In that instant, the heavens opened and he heard God accepting as “my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” It would have been a moment to savour, but Jesus was immediately “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tested. Apparently there was some reason why Jesus needed to live out his calling immediately, rather than wait around to enjoy his moment of blessing.
Life is full of test, it seems, and they often come at inopportune times. When we were children, we thought we would outgrow the need for exams, but the challenges to our sensitivity and courage just keep coming. Unlike childhood tests, adult test are unscheduled. There isn’t much time to prepare, and preparation wouldn’t help anyway, because the most significant tests throw us back on our most fundamental resources. They illumine who we are. That was precisely why Jesus was led on a wilderness journey immediately after he was “ordained” by God.
He needed to find out who he was and where his strength came from, for the temptations he found in the wilderness were fairly attractive. He was starving: He could be given food. He was powerless: He could draw on the power of God. He was poor: He could become wealthy. To get out of this predicament all he needed to do was to give away his soul — his integrity, his independent judgment, his relationship to God. Comfort and security are very important to most of us, so the sacrifice of some principle or other can seem like a small price to pay to get us out of a jam. We never know what we will sacrifice or what we will hold on to until we are tested. That is why the wilderness journey is important in nearly every religious tradition.
When we begin a real mountain top or desert wilderness trip, guidelines are critical to the outcome. The success of the journey will rest on everyone’s effort, so we must value and trust our companions in a way that we don’t normally trust most people. Honesty and compassion are critical in this. We give up some of our natural reserve and privacy to become part of the group.
Because our foremost responsibility to ourselves and others is to stay involved in the work of the group, we must also discover our own abilities to keep going even against challenges that seem impossible to meet. We give up the luxury of complaining and walking away from the job at hand. We must become good friends with whatever it is that keeps us moving forward physically one step at a time. Because depression is a luxury we cannot afford in the wilderness, we must reach out to whatever strengthens our spirit and cultivate it as the sign of a vital spiritual resource.
In any wilderness of the landscape, of the mind, or of the spirit, these qualities are important. We must value others for what they do best. We must give up personal advantages for the sake of the group. We must be able to find beauty and light that will break through the gloom of our fatigue, our depression, even our despair.
Perhaps sacrificing our pride, privacy, and personal advantage is a way of finding God. Clearly it was important for Jesus.
Nicole L Johnson, from Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: Year A, WJK, 2013.
In the Genesis, we followed the coming of sin and injustice into the world as a result of human failure to stand against evil. In the Gospel, we find a different story, one of moral courage and victory over and against temptation by Satan.
In Jesus’ example, we can find courage to stand against evil.
Matthew tells us that Jesus fasted forty days and nights. Satan then offered him the chance to prove himself by turning stones into bread; Jesus refused, despite his hunger. Then Jesus was asked to verify his identity by flinging himself from the temple’s pinnacle to see if angels would arrive to protect him; again, Jesus refuse. Finally, Jesus was offered all the power and wealth he could imagine in exchange for his allegiance. Again, Jesus refused —and afterward, he received help.
Looking at this reading through a social justice lens, the path of one who seeks to follow the Anointed One very often begins with the third temptation. Before we can pick up the cross, we need to reject all that the cross is not: a symbol of prestige, wealth, or power. Jesus chooses obedience to the of God over fame, fortune, and political power. His allegiance is clear and radical, and the allegiance of the community that claims to be his body in the world today must have a similarly clear and radical allegiance.
When our allegiance to God becomes confused with loyalties to flags, political parties, economic systems, and other structures of power, we fail to reject what Jesus did in the desert. Theological ethicists Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon suggest that “christians” “have an opportunity to discover what has been and always is the case — that the church, those called out by God, embodies a social alternative that the world cannot on its own terms know.”
If we want to follow Jesus, we must do so radically by first saying no to all that the cross is not, and then saying yes to all that the cross is: justice, mercy, and compassion.
SYF 131 (CD3 / TK16)
“Out of the depths I call to you”
words by Norbert Capek
Out of the depths I call to you;
God give me power today.
In this dark time let me be true,
Till storms have blown away.
From everything and everyone,
From all life left alone;
Alone, despairing, faith undone,
My heart has turned to stone.
Beside me only you remain,
My comforter and friend;
Your faithfulness my heart sustains,
“I know this night will end!”
The struggle of my life and pain
Fade in the cosmic scheme:
A glimmer in a drop of rain,
Lost in the battle’s dream.
Again, I come to pray in haste,
O God, thanks be to thee;
May all who suffer find your grace,
And may I faithful be.
For Lent, 1966
by Madeleine L’Engle
It is my Lent to break my Lent,
To eat when I would fast,
To know when slender strength is spent,
Take shelter from the blast
When I would run with wind and rain,
To sleep when I would watch.
It is my Lent to smile at pain
But not ignore its touch.
It is my Lent to listen well
When I would be alone,
To talk when I would rather dwell
In silence, turn from none
Who call on me, to try to see
That what is truly meant
Is not my choice. If Christ’s I’d be
It’s thus I’ll keep my Lent.
“Garden of Our Soul”
by Joan Chittister
from Wisdom Distilled From The Daily
“One of the most interesting spots in our monastery is its inner courtyard. Exotic flowers grow there in every season and very few people notice them.
Most of the windows that border the courtyard belong to private workspaces. The few public vantage points are in narrow corridors where people need to keep moving by, rather than being able to gather and look.
Yet, the courtyard is one of the most life-giving places we have. It gives light to the inside of the monastery. It breeds beauty. Much like a Japanese garden, it centres the house in peace.
And everybody knows it.
And few people see it.
But without it the house would be a completely different place.
The inner courtyard of our monastic community is seen by few but depended on by many
for that glimpse of beauty we need in life to always see it anew.
It seeps into our bones and our subconscious like the fine art of humility. It is there nourishing us quietly and calling us to something more worthy than the distractions of the day. It calls us to reality.”
SYF 142 (CD SYF 3/TRACK 17)
“Shining through the universe”
words by Roger Mason based on the Tao Te Ching
Shining through the universe
runs the golden thread;
woven in along with white,
black, yellow, green and red.
Cooling water, burning fire,
metal, wood and clay,
in the earth’s five elements
the gold thread marks the Way.
If we try to pick it out
from the fabric fair;
when the threads are pulled apart
the gold’s no longer there.
Under heaven, over earth,
north to southern pole,
if you trace the golden thread
the Way will calm your soul.
“Turn your feet along the Way”,
sages taught of old;
live life well and tread the path
marked by the thread of gold.
Lent is a time for us to step back and reflect…
we may do so by withdrawing something from our lives and living,
we may do so by adding a new practice,
we may do so by working for justice, or peace, or any work of compassion,
we may do so by being creative in the way we approach life and work.
It is a time for us to reflect upon our faith,
what it means for us,
what it calls us to do,
how it informs our living.
We may sense a desire to understand our faith in a deeper way.
To commit ourselves to authentic living out of these new understandings.
To celebrate the ways we have been doing so.
Lent is a time for our deep reflection
actions that are deeply personal,
actions that call us to be transformed for the health of our world.
O’ Sweet Night of Desolation
by Rev John Carter
I sit still, in silent waiting,
I am a prayer unarticulated and unknown.
Run through me,
Tie me, connect me, unravel me,
and yet, I cry, not yet,
not yet to be,
I am yet to be.
Deep within me is the hollow of existence,
no, it is my existence…
it is my sense of place…
it is my direction…
I am truly hollow.
Deep within this silent space
there hums, softly, almost silent
an echo of divinity
a connecting roar of divine creation….
In my raveling and unraveling
I am drawn to Thou.
The amber times of life
the soft warmth of autumn,
my glowing in Your touch
being swept away
being cleared of my morning fog,
becoming and accessing life….
There is an iciness that forms in my soul,
thick as a slab,
whirling about me
whirling me about….
And I have become a house
rigid and unable to breathe,
dark from lights blinked out too early….
I am learning to walk in Bonelight.
All I feel is Desolation
And in that I am consoled…
This sense of Desolation
is akin to the downtime month of winter,
bleak, snow turned to grey….
And all I feel,
Is the Beloved One has left me.
There is no meaning,
I find no purpose,
I sense a hidden thread weaving with in this silence.
A clarity calling out from the fog…
A song desiring to be sung..
One which enlivens and awakens me from my slumbers.
“Singing to me, come awaken, sing to me of the Beloved and I shall sing to you!”
Thus I was in prayer…
And the Night gently spoke to me…
“What Joy there is”
I was standing,
I was truly Myself.
O’ Sweet Night of Desolation…
Awaken my imagination…
Give reality to my dreams…
Joy to all my days….
we may imagine
such a long complex and wondrous journey that awaits us.
We may yet
Dream of a world of justice, peace, and belonging.
As we walk the golden thread
Of Divine Life
SYF 219 (CD SYF 4/TRACK 25)
“You are the song of my heart”
words by Kendyl Gibbons
You are the song of my heart in the morning; you are the dawn of truth in my soul; you are the dew of the rose’s adorning; you are the woven whole.
Yours is the grace to be steadfast in danger; yours is the peace that none can destroy; yours is the face of the need-riven stranger; yours are the wings of joy.
You are the deep to the deep in me calling; you are a lamp where my feet shall tread; your way is steep, past the peril of falling; you are my daily bread.
Yours be the praise of my spirit uplifted; you are the sea to each flowing stream; yours are the days that are gathered and sifted; you are the deathless dream.
May our time together,
May our time apart,
May our time move us to live with creative powers.
Let Us Party For Tomorrow – 19 Feb 2023 – Rev John Carter’s Sunday Reflections