BOOK OF THE MONTH: The Unitarian Life – Voices from the Past and Present, edited by Stephen Lingwood 📔
Unitarian Sunday Reflections
(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)
12 February 2023
Rev. John Carter
Musician: Graziana Presicce
“Seasons of Love”
Let all lovers be content
Give them happy endings
Let their lives be celebrations
Let their hearts dance in the fire of your love”
~ Jalaluddin Rumi
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, this candle,
as a sign of connectedness….
of a beloved faith community,
reaching beyond our boundaries…
seeking equity and justice for all creation….
learning what the human spirit can do and be…
“We sing the faith”
words by Andrew McKean Hill
We sing the faith, which gives us confidence
for human dwelling in the vast immense
and finding there within the great unknown
that there’s a cosmic law and order shown.
We sing the hope, which shows us there are ways
for living through our very darkest days
and glimpse beyond a path which leads us on
to find the place where new days have begun.
We sing the love, which is creation’s law,
and in a single whole its parts will draw;
and since parts turn and swerve, collide and move,
forgiveness is the final form of love.
Faith, hope and love: we honour each and three
but there’s one virtue which we all agree
stands out among the others far above
and that ‘the greatest of the three is love.’
We take a moment to reflect on our life and living of this week… as we reflect…. explore and ask of yourself….
For what am I most grateful?
For what am I least grateful?
When did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, others, nature, the universe, God?
As we end these reflections, as we move to worship, may we continue to reflect on the things that make life whole and how we may grow ourselves into them.
May the Great Spirit of the Journey walk with us today.
REFLECTION ON TODAY’S THEME:
“Looking for Your Face”
From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it
Today I have seen
the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace
of the face
that I was looking for
Today I have found you
and those who laughed
and scorned me yesterday
are sorry that they were not looking
as I did
I am bewildered by the magnificence
of your beauty
and wish to see you
with a hundred eyes
My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty
that I now behold
I am ashamed
to call this love human
and afraid of God
to call it divine
Your fragrant breath
like the morning breeze
has come to the stillness of the garden
You have breathed new life into me
I have become your sunshine
and also your shadow
My soul is screaming in ecstasy
Every fibre of my being
is in love with you
has lit a fire in my heart
and you have made radiant
the earth and sky
My arrow of love
has arrived at the target
I am in the house of mercy
and my heart
is a place of prayer”
The Bravery Of Love
by William Stafford
If I should have that bravery of gaining love
I would hold this hand out, level, warm,
for the buffeted snowbound little birds to come and feed for all the years unharmed,
if I should have that bravery of love.
There are many fields where few birds come,
through solitary storms on level land,
without a creature save the hawks that rend,
where scarecrows wait holding an equal hand
out for the little birds to come.
But through a night so parallel with snow
I hold my hand out, steady_so.
“Though I may speak with bravest fire”
words by Hal H. Hopson
Though I may speak with bravest fire and have the gift to all inspire
and have not love, my words are vain as sounding brass and hopeless gain.
Though I may give all I process and striving so my love profess
but not be given by love with in, the profit soon turns strangely thin.
Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control, our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed; by this we worship and are freed.
If Love is the Highest Goal
by Jim Rigby
“Make love your highest goal” (1 Corinthians 14:1)
If the Bible is right and love is the goal of the Christian religion, then a radical reformation is almost 2,000 years overdue.
If the Bible is right and “whoever has love knows God” (1 John 4:7), then a compassionate Atheist is much closer to what Jesus taught than a Christian who is cruel.
If love is the highest goal, then other idols must be removed from the center- false idols such as moralism, dogmatism, ritualism and even the Bible itself.
If love is the highest goal, then the most important question for the church isn’t whether we are Christian but whether we can love.
If love is the ultimate goal of the Christian religion then religion grown cruel is the ultimate heresy.
Love a shared reality
by Richard Rohr
The mystic is not somebody who says, “Look what I’ve experienced. Look what I’ve achieved.” The mystic is the one who says, “Look what love has done to me.” . . . There’s nothing left, but the being of love itself giving itself away as . . . the concreteness of who you simply are. —James Finley
It seems to me Christianity has put major emphasis on us loving God. Yet the mystics consistently describe an overwhelming experience of how God loves us! In their writings, God is the initiator, God is the doer, God is the one who seduces us. It’s all about God’s initiative. Then we certainly want to love back the way we have been loved. As Franciscan Jacopone da Todi (1230–1306) would say, weeping, “Love is not loved! Love is not loved!” I want to love back the way I have been loved. But it’s not like I’ve got to prove my love for God by doing things. My job is simply to complete the circuit!
Mystics experience a full-bodied embrace and acceptance by Divine Love, and then spend their lives trying to verbalise and embody it. They invariably find ways to give that love back through forms of service and worship, but it’s never earning the love—it’s always returning the love. Can you feel the difference? Returning God’s love is almost a different language. It’s not based in fear, but in ecstasy.
God is always given, incarnate in every moment and present to those who know how to be present themselves. It is that simple and that difficult. To be present in prayer can be an experience of being loved at a deep level. I hope you have felt such intimacy alone with God; I promise it is available to you. Maybe we just need to be told that this divine intimacy is what we should expect. We’re afraid to ask for it; we’re afraid to seek it. It feels presumptuous. We don’t trust that such a love exists—and for us. But it does.
Mystics often use erotic language to describe the deep human-divine relationship found in contemplation. I have often wondered why God would give us such a strong and constant fascination with one another’s image, form, and face. I think it’s because all human loves are an increasingly demanding school preparing us for an infinite divine love.
Today we recognise this school of love as the only real training ground for “all the saints,” and it can never be limited to those who have fully graduated. As the entire New Testament does, we must apply the word “saints” to all of us who are in kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, or graduate programs. Love is one shared reality, and our common name for that one shared reality is “God”
“Love knocks and waits for us to hear”
words by Daniel Charles Damon
Love knocks and waits for us to hear, to open and invite, love longs to quiet every fear, and seeks to set things right.
Love offers life, in spite of foes who threaten and condemn; embracing enemies, love goes the second mile with them.
Love comes to heal the broken heart, to ease the troubled mind; without a word love bids us start to ask and seek and find.
Love knocks and enters at the sound of welcome from within; love sings and dances all around and feels new life begin.
“Enough silly ole love songs”
Love, love, love, love,
All you need is love…
Seasons of love,
I will always love you,
Love, love, love….
Throughout various cultural events we are told how we may love…
Novels set up romances, a brief drama, then resolution, and two people kiss…
implying something greater,
something expected….to come to fruition.
Popular music, does the same…
words of devotion,
words of compassion
words of understanding and acceptance of difference…
Popular music, oft time goes to the scary obsessive story….
words about the beauty of the object of their desire,
plantitively sung, almost a whine…
words about injustice of the object loving someone else…
words about watching, every move, every breath….
Popular music, sometimes gets pedantic…
preaching, teaching, brow beating us into Love…
“love will build a bridge”
“we walk (love) on faith, trust in love…”
“all we need is love”
Films and cinema, follow these patterns, and set us up for unrealistic idealised love…
agreeing to meet each other a year later, atop a highest building…
a chance glance that leads to a search…
We have heard all these stories and songs and read the literature, the poetry, and the correspondence, and how do we process it….
What is Love? Really!
Scholars argue different meanings…
many try to ring fence acceptable from unacceptable love….
quoting religious traditions for justification…
Yet one tradition says that all love is a form of divine love….
as do most mystics…to be fair
Paul, whom many of us have troubles with, did write a nice thesis on love…
one that is used often…
But often we find our definitions to be only about emotions and romance….
Looking at the traditions that build our understandings….
we see love in Ruth and Naomi,
not a romantic love, but one of companionship, of honour, of covenant, of belonging, and promise…we could even say compassion….
we see love in Jonathan and David, friendship, deep bonding, service, commitment, and honour….
we see love in many places that are not limit a mere romantic situation but belong to seeing the other beyond one’s needs and desires…
Love calls us to see Thou, the deep other, be they human, or natural, or even divine…
Love is a call, where service and compassion is the response.
MEDITATION AND PRAYER
“For days of Love” by John Carter
We join together to reflect and pray
to love’s meaning or should we say call…
Giving compassion, welcoming service, unconditional relationship…
How often our cries for love,
are plaintive and controlling…
We want a love that never dies,
but give a love that is diminutive and minimal…
We want a love that transcends time and culture
but give a love that is restrictive and limited…
The reality we choose to live, how we love,
often are mere shadows of
Our dreams of love, and our wants of relational love.
How may it speak to us?
How may we bring it into it’s fulness for all?
How do we seek it?
In hours of need,
In movements of our hearts,
In times of grief,
In our struggles of desire,
In these days of war,
In these times we find we can do nought else…
Even in the times of prayer
we recognise our prayers are not enough,
What can we do?
In the stillness of our night,
we sense that elusive hound of love baying for our attention.
we feel our hearts groan and pine in desire to respond.
we choose to sit, still, quiet, silent.
Could this be a….
Pro active passivism,
Stillness is not mere passive waiting…
It has an ache for that divine sense, touch, filling.
So we wait, expectant, and longing…
This waiting is also our prayer….
May we learn from it…
In our stillness may we learn of love,
love in all it’s forms,
love in all it’s delights,
love in all it’s chaotic gifting…
May we learn of love.
And become children of peace, love, joy, human fullness….
May we become Love…
“Be that guide whom love sustains”
by Carl Seaburg
Be that guide whom love sustains.
Rise above the daily strife:
lift on high the good you find.
Help to heal the hurts of life.
Be that helper nothing daunts—
doubt of friend or taunt of foe.
Ever strive for liberty.
Show the path that life should go.
Be that builder trusting good,
bitter though the test may be:
through all ages they are right,
though they build in agony.
Be that teacher faith directs.
Move beyond the old frontier:
though the frightened fear that faith
be tomorrow’s pioneer!
by John Carter
In our walk on this world
we walk with compassion
we walk in relationship to all we meet…
we walk as Love’s servants, caring, sharing, loving all we meet.
As we walk this world
We move in love.
BOOK OF THE MONTH: The Unitarian Life – Voices from the Past and Present, edited by Stephen Lingwood 📔
NEWS: Unitarians oppose erosion of right to protest ✊❤🙏