Unitarian Sunday Reflections
(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)
02 July 2023
Musician: Jennifer Young
Worship Leader: John Carter
Musician: Graziana Presicce
Worship Leader: John Carter
Calling & Transformation”
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…..
“Jacob does what all of us must do if,
in the end,
we too are to become true.
He confronts in himself the things that are wounding him,
admits his limitations,
accepts his situation,
rejoins the world,
and moves on.”
~ Joan Chittister
by John Carter
We light our chalice
As we open ourselves to this spiritual journey we call life
We light our chalice
to confess our willingness to be a light to our world,
We light our chalice
to confirm our desire to become
co-creators of passionate life
and of a world of justice, love and peace.
We light our chalice
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
SYF 186 (2/18) “We are travellers on a journey” words by Andrew McKean Hill
SYF 157 “The flame of truth and flame of love” words by D. Elwyn Davies
Today we explore the connections between Call, Calling, Blessing, Conversion, and Transformation.
the message of crazy horse
by lucille clifton
i would sit in the center of the world,
the Black Hills hooped around me and
dream of my dancing horse. my wife
was Black Shawl who gave me the daughter
i called They Are Afraid Of Her.
i was afraid of nothing
except Black Buffalo Woman.
my love for her i wore
instead of feathers. i did not dance
i dreamed. i am dreaming now
across the worlds. my medicine is strong.
my medicine is strong in the Black basket
of these fingers. i come again through this
Black Buffalo woman. hear me;
the hoop of the world is breaking.
fire burns in the four directions.
the dreamers are running away from the hills.
i have seen it. i am crazy horse.
by Langston Hughes
Sweet and docile,
Meek, humble and kind:
Beware the day
They change their mind!
In the cotton fields,
Beware the hour
It uproots trees!
A Litany for Survival
by Audre Lorde
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
Lighthearted I walked into the valley wood
In the time of hyacinths,
Till beauty like a scented cloth
Cast over, stifled me. I was bound
Motionless and faint of breath
By loveliness that is her own eunuch.
Now pass I to the final river
Ignominiously, in a sack, without sound,
As any peeping Turk to the Bosphorus.
SYF 202 (3/22) “When earth is changed” words by Ruth C. Duck
SYF 29 “Deep in the shadows of the past” words by Brian Wren
Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward. Kindle Edition.
22 In the course of the night, Jacob arose, took the entire caravan, and crossed the ford of the Yabbok River.*
23 After Jacob had crossed with all his possessions, he returned to the camp,
24 and he was completely alone. And there, someone† wrestled with Jacob until the first light of dawn.
25 Seeing that Jacob could not be overpowered, the other struck Jacob at the socket of the hip‡, and the hip was dislocated as they wrestled.
26 Then Jacob’s contender said, “Let me go, for day is breaking.” Jacob answered, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
27 “What is your name?” the other asked. “Jacob,” he answered.
28 The other said, “Your name will no longer be called ‘Jacob,’ or ‘Heel-Grabber,’ but ‘Israel’—’Overcomer of God’ —because you have wrestled with both God and mortals, and you have prevailed.”
29 Then Jacob asked “Now tell me your name, I beg you.” The other said, “Why do you ask me my name?”—and blessed Jacob there.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel—“Face of God”—“because I have seen God face to face, yet my life was spared.”
31 At sunrise, Jacob left Peniel, limping along from the injured hip.
32 That is why, to this day, the Israelites do not eat the sciatic muscle that is on an animal’s hip socket, because Jacob’s hip socket was struck at the sciatic muscle.
Conversion and Change in Hebrew Texts
Richard Elliott Friedman, From his Commentary on the Torah. HarperCollins.
“There is little character development in Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, or Rebekah, all of whom remain basically constant figures through the stories about them. But Jacob changes, and the matter of deception is intimately related to that development. As Esau points out, Jacob’s very name connotes deception: to catch. And Jacob starts out as a manipulator. But Jacob is changed after his experiences in Mesopotamia. He has been the deceiver and the deceived. He has hurt and been hurt. He is now a husband and a father, a man who has struggled and prospered.
For the rest of the story he is no longer pictured as a man of action but, more often, as a relatively passive man, like his father Isaac, seeking to appease his brother, avoiding strife and risk. And precisely at the juncture that marks this change in Jacob’s character he has his encounter with God at Penuel.
Is this divine encounter the signpost of the change in Jacob’s character, or the cause? Either way, as his character changes, and he ceases to be the deceiver, just then he sheds the name Jacob (the one who catches) and becomes instead Israel (the one who struggles with God).”
LINCOLN & HULL
SYF 87 (1/13) “Leave behind your bags” words by Peter Sampson
Address & Conversation:
“Ya’acov and Adversary at River Jabbok”
So I went into the Jacob text with a couple of questions. Based on the use of blessing and name change within this narrative.
Blessing was the way the text speaks of calling and charge. So my questions were is this a calling story? What is the nature of call? Is it an individual calling? Is there a communal nature to call?
So Jacob’s narrative is basic and direct.
He is the second of twins. His name means to grasp, or seize another…. In this case, he was born with his hand grasped on his brother’s ankle.
Early on it became clear that Jacob was conniving, devious, and out to get his own. Whereas Esau was actually a dutiful son. It is clear that the author of this part of the text saw Esau as a good man, a victim of his brother’s machinations.
This is evidence in the story where, after Esau inherits the properties of his father, Isaac. Jacob orchestrates a wager with Esau and wins it. Esau accepts his loss.
When the time came for the spiritual blessing, Isaac is blind, and Jacob impersonates Esau, and wins the final blessing. Rightly Esau is aggrieved, and spouts off in anger, and Jacob runs away.
His mother, Rebecca, send him to her kin, family.
Where he is conned by his cousins, he falls in love with the second daughter of the family. And works for 7 years to marry her. Her father tricks him by having the older daughter dress as the younger and tricks him into a marriage with a woman who he does not love. So he also marries Rachel, but has to work for another 7 years.
So he then cons the father in law out of prized animals and builds up a wealthy portfolio….
And now he returns to his home country.
What will his brother do?
Again Jacob comes up with plans within more plans and yet more…..
All this to protect his wealth, but also to placate his brother. The text implies that Jacob has some sense of awareness that he does owe his brother, and that is part of this whole staging of different camps.
And on the evening before meeting his brother he camps at the ford of the River Jabbok…
And he meets an Adversary and they wrestle for the whole night, and at the end of it, he receives a blessing, a new name, and a dislocated hip. These all have deeper meaning…. Dislocated or dislocation is linked to the language of fall, when the Hebrews failed to follow the commandments, the word that is used, is dislocation. That may be a better way to describe sin… being dislocated.
Adversary is also interesting as it links to blessing. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, states that within the Hebrew text, “anyone or anything standing in the way of the completion of God’s will, blessing, of opposing God’s people… is the adversary. So in this story the real adversary is Jacob himself….in his contending with God and others, he continues a change in his life and the way he operates. In essence he ceases his fight against his very blessing.
This is the basis of a change of his name to Israel, the one who contends with God and humans. Now as things progress, for the rest of his part of the hebrew story… his name interchanges between Jacob and Israel often…. It is a long term conversion happening here…..
The power of this story is not it’s mythic structures, but it’s very human nature. We are often our own worse enemy or adversary. We often reflect on how we set ourselves up for failure. Sometimes it is self fulfilling prophecy…. Sometimes it is simply our own pig headed ness at play. We do it as individuals, and as communities. Look at all the political reactions to politicians who have been caught out, and no one listens to these reports and believe in the rightness of said politician.
That is the other power at play here, we always get the chance to change, to turn to a new direction, to a different way of living.
And that leaves us with the question of what do we want to happen now, here in this place, at this time.
The answers we reach are ultimately yours…
By John Carter
On the day of your passing,
I awoke to my shadows…
griefs, disappointments, pain i have caused
Friends, beloved animals, Family all…
not to forget my biological family…
a missed phone call before my mum’s passing
an angry teenaged rebellion argument before my dad’s passing
my failure as a husband, a brother, an uncle and a friend….
AND I FEEL THE GUILT OF IT ALL
So I pause
And I simply feel
Somewhere in the night as I wrestle with my shadow…
Unknown, unnamed, unloved and unwelcome
I find my guilt is equally grief
Equally a myriad of other things
So, not with a broken hip, but a broken heart I greet this day….
And I wonder
Who wrestled by the Jabbok
Who stretched out your hand
And touched fragile flesh
Who fled the tent at the break of day
Will you stay and wrestle with me, awaking my shadow to a new day…a new beginning….
A new name?
Thank you to Graziana for playing for us today
SYF 73 (2/3) “If every woman in the world” words by Karen MacKay
SYF 110 “Now we sing to praise love’s blessing” words by Anna Briggs
We walk in light
We walk in shadows
we meet ourselves in our journeys
we meet the great spirit of life….
We answer our call by walking in shadow
by walking in the night
bearers of that light that shines through and for all.
Spiritual Explorations – Hospitality & Mystery – 25 June 2023 – Rev John Carter’s Sunday Reflections
Spiritual Explorations – Calling & Transformation – 2 July 2023 – Rev John Carter’s Sunday Reflections