Unitarian Sunday Reflections
(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)
26 March 2023
Musician: Jennifer Young
Worship Leader: John Carter
Worship Leader: John Carter
“Wandering the edges of Holy Drama”
Reflections on Lenten Practices
Palm & Passion Week
“He set an example
by washing their feet,
commanding them to do unto one another
the very same feat.”
~ Chiradeep Patra
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
to release that which needs to be released.
to incorporate that which we now need for growth.
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.
“May the spirit of life, guide us today” AMEN
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 177 (CD SYF 2/TRACK 16)
“To you who would as pilgrims go”
words by Janet H Bowering,
“To you who would as pilgrims go with eager steps and hearts aglow, when on the holy city bent be not deterred from high intent.
For people need triumphant days with ample reassuring praise, and palms extol while thorns do not and none would choose the martyr’s lot.
So easy now to join the throng with flowering branch and palm and song.
So hard to see on such a day the beggar’s hand beside the way.
How fine to do the pleasant deed, to serve the current favoured need, but hop needs those who think and choose uphold a cause they well may lose.
For those who would as pilgrims go both scorn and failure well may know, and high intent can lead to pain and gifts must never be for gain.”
Today we gather not for history lecture, or the assumptions of orthodoxy related to the last week of Jesus’ life but to in our own way to participate in his story. Through reading, reflection, and hymn…. We explore and reenact sacred and ironic drama… from a path of palms to a teacher bending to wash the disciples feet we become part of the turning upside down the ways and privileges of the status quo and those of prestige and celebrity.
May this time inform us and guide our explorations of life and spirit.
Palm Sunday: Satire as Protest
by Rev Jeremy Smith, from blog site Hacking Christianity
Framing the Palm Sunday narrative in Mark as a lampoon, as street theatre, is the ultimate form of non-violent protest.
Putting this scene as theatre turns the meaning for us, doesn’t it? This doesn’t sound like a protest parade or a march in solidarity or a reception of a king that we often think of as Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday wasn’t a military parade, it was a drag show, it was burlesque street theatre, mimicking and mocking the governing authorities by acting like them in flamboyant ways, a jester making fun of the king. It was not a protest parade or a celebratory reception of a winning team. It was a pressure release valve, an outlet of satire in the midst of the horror that the week would become.
I think we lose sight of the drama of the moment when we read it as a static story instead of seeing it in motion as a drag show parody.
When we imagine Palm Sunday in this way, we unlock the elusive meaning of the last line in Mark. A theatre framework helps make better sense of the text. when you act it out like an over-the-top drag show we’re doing, we see Jesus get past the gate to the temple, and a hush falls over the crowd. They wait. Will he destroy the temple like Pilate would like to? Will he claim his rightful place as king of the Jews? Will he cleanse the temple as Judas Maccabaeus did 150 years before?
No. Jesus gets to the door, shakes it, and then shrugs his shoulders and says “I guess it is closed; we’ll try again next year” and retreats. He was playing a king on a tiny horse defeated by a simple door, and the crowd gets the final dig at Pilate, who with all his armies can’t seem to pacify Jerusalem. So amidst the shaking of the heads of the crowd, the disciples and Jesus slip out the way they had come, staying the night in Bethany outside of Jerusalem.
The whole scene in Mark, the first gospel, is so weird, so much so that other gospels remove the weird parts and make it more like the traditional frame we know. But the original story makes more sense to me if we see the drag show satire in it, a sting to it because there’s truth-telling in it by a people long despised. Understanding who Jesus was in this scene helps us see the satire of the moment that is lost when we look at it from serious, dignified viewpoints.
by Sandra Thurman Caporale
There was a moment when Moses had the nerve to ask God what his name is. God was gracious enough to answer, and the name he gave is recorded in the original Hebrew as YHWH.
Over time we’ve arbitrarily added an “a” and an “e” in there to get YaHWeH, presumably because we have a preference for vowels.
But scholars and Rabi’s have noted that the letters YHWH represent breathing sounds, or aspirated consonants. When pronounced without intervening vowels, it actually sounds like breathing.
YH (inhale): WH (exhale).
So a baby’s first cry, his first breath, speaks the name of God.
A deep sigh calls His name – or a groan or gasp that is too heavy for mere words.
Even an atheist would speak His name, unaware that their very breathe is giving constant acknowledgment to God.
Likewise, a person leaves this earth with their last breath, when God’s name is no longer filing their lungs.
So when I can’t utter anything else, is my cry calling out His name?
Being alive means I speak His name constantly.
So, is it heard the loudest when I’m the quietest?
In sadness, we breathe heavy sighs.
In joy, our lungs feel almost like they will burst.
In fear we hold our breath and have to be told to breathe slowly to help us calm down.
When we’re about to do something hard, we take a deep breath to find our courage.
When I think about it, breathing is giving him praise. Even in the hardest moments!
This is so beautiful and fills me with emotion every time I grasp the thought. God chose to give himself a name that we can’t help but speak every moment we’re alive.
All of us, always, everywhere.
Waking, sleeping, breathing, with the name of God on our lips.
SYF 204 (CD SYF 2/TRACK 24)
“When I am frightened”
words by Shelley Jackson Denham
When I am frightened, will you reassure me?
When I’m uncertain, will you hold my hand?
Will you be strong for me, sing to me quietly?
Will you share some of your stories with me?
If you will show me compassion, then I may learn to care as you do,
then I may learn to care.
When I am angry, will you still embrace me?
When I am thoughtless, will you understand?
Will you believe in me, stand by me willingly?
Will you share some of your questions with me?
If you will show me acceptance, then I may learn to give as you do,
then I may learn to give.
When I am troubled, will you listen to me?
When I am lonely, will you be my friend?
Will you be there for me, comfort me tenderly?
Will you share some of your feelings with me?
If you will show me commitment, then I may learn to love as you do,
then I may learn to love.
Creation Story from Hopi Native Nation
Creator gathered all of Creation and said, “I want to hide something from humans until they are ready for it. It is the realisation that they create their own reality.”
The eagle said, “Give it to me. I will take it to the moon.”
Creator said, “No. One day they will go there and find it.”
The salmon said, “I will bury it I the bottom of the sea.”
Creator said, “No. They will go there too.”
The buffalo said, “I will bury it on the Great Plains.”
Creator said, “They will cut into the skin of the earth and find it even there.”
Grandmother mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said, “Put it inside them.”
And Creator said, “It is done.”
Monuments For A Friendly Girl At A Tenth Grade Party
by William Stafford
The only relics left are those long
spangled seconds our school clock chipped out
when you crossed the social hall
and we found each other alive,
by our glances never to accept our town’s
ways, torture for advancement,
nor ever again be prisoners by choice.
Now I learn you died
serving among the natives of Garden City,
Kansas, part of a Peace Corps
before governments thought of it.
Ruth, over the horizon your friends eat
foreign chaff and have addresses like titles,
but for you the crows and hawks patrol
the old river. May they never
forsake you, nor you need monuments
other than this I make, and the one
I hear clocks chip in that world we found.
Palm Sunday Reflections
by Benjamin Cremer
We want the war horse.
Jesus rides a donkey.
We want the bird of prey.
The Holy Spirit descends as a dove.
We want the militia.
Jesus calls fishermen, tax collectors, women, and children.
We want the courtroom.
Jesus sets a table.
We want the gavel.
Jesus washes feet.
We want to take up swords.
Jesus takes up a cross.
We want the empire.
Jesus brings the Kingdom of God.
We want the nation.
Jesus calls the church.
We want the roaring lion.
God comes as a slaughtered lamb.
We keep trying to arm God.
God keeps trying to disarm us.
SYF 83 (CD SYF 1 / TK 11)
“Just as long as I have breath”
words by Alicia S. Carpenter
Just as long as I have breath,
I must answer, “Yes,” to life;
though with pain I made my way,
still with hope I meet each day.
If they ask what I did well,
tell them I said, “Yes,” to life.
Just as long as vision lasts,
I must answer, “Yes,” to truth;
in my dream and in my dark,
always that elusive spark.
If they ask what I did well,
tell them I said, “Yes,” to truth.
Just as long as my heart beats,
I must answer, “Yes,” to love;
disappointment pierced me through,
still I kept on loving you.
If they ask what I did well,
tell them I said, “Yes,” to love.
“Marching to Jerusalem”
One of my favourite times of the church year is Passion Week.
Not because of the way are supposed to celebrate, the subtle or overwhelming moans of Mia Copa Mia Copa…. But the beauty that is beginning to explode around us. Both within the natural world and in my home congregations in which I was raised.
As I mentioned with the celebrations of Ash Wednesday, we didn’t do them, not a collective part of our liturgical tradition. But during this week we go all out….
Depending on where the congregation was located, Palm Sunday was treated more as Passion Sunday. One congregation would do essentially the good friday passion remembrance today, with or more often without much note of the entry into Jerusalem being a part of the narrative. But we did what was for us the most important ritual.
In my home congregation in California, Love Feast happened on maundy Thursday….. In Chicago we did it on the last sunday of Lent or today, Palm or Passion Sunday.
It was a simply elaborately moving ritual.
After a short worship of reflection around the events of Jesus’ life and death… we gathered into two circles, one for the women and one for the men. Text read, prayers said… and while we sang hymns traditional…each of us in turn washed the feet of the person seated to the right of us. Dried them and then greeted each other with the holy hug (originally it would have been a kiss).
Now there was always ettiecet, expectations etc…
In California you did not show up with dirty feet… even though the youth in my youth group did push the boundaries with this…. Whereas in the last night celebration of work camp, with volunteers from around the states, even beyond, it was natural to the setting… in SW Chicago, attempts at already clean feet were made, but realistically they weren’t….funny thing is the feet I washed in Chicago I tend to remember because of the realism of it all…
Speaking of Chicago, after we washed feet we all would then gather at a common table and after texts read and prayers said we ate a light meal, traditional, beef broth and bread, called sop…. Looked disgusting but glorious to eat. In the Eastern US sop was lamb or beef broth but with rice….for me not as satisfying…by the way for foot washing was more formal with two to three elders of the congregation that would go down the row of members and wash everyones feet, one who washed and two who dried…quite a production.
Back to the Agape Meal, there would be other food items to go with the meal, and polite quiet conversation. Though in Chicago we did have an argument break out during the meal.
Then we would again read the text, say the prayers and we shared the bread and the cup, remember the life and teachings of Jesus as a communion of the community of Jesus followers.
And then we would have a rolling exit, where say in California each person present greeted, and hugged and I even had a couple ask my forgiveness for something the other did (which by the way should had happened before the service) Chicago was easy as there weren’t that many of us, in Pennsylvania it was more formal leave taking…
Yet in all these moments of Love Feast, I still came away with a sense of being a part of a community in a way I didn’t with traditional christian communions or eucharists.
The ritual of Love Feast was a conclusion of a day of reflection for me. Especially in California. The congregation prepared months in advance, that was it’s emotional energy. In the older congregations of the east, the leadership of the congregation would meet and decide if it were time for the community to gather at love feast…
And so for a time, each family in the congregation were met and three questions asked… is all right between you and your neighbour? Is all right between you and God? Is there someone you feel exhibits the grace and authority to become minister in our congregation?
After the visits the leadership would gather, and if all was right the Feast would be called, if not it would be postponed until things were made so…. In California, at some point there would be a day of preparation, where the broth would be made and communion bread baked…
The thing with the communion bread was they had a local tradition, in one of the manual I got over my years with them, as well as cookbooks, there are a multitude of communion bread recipes….
It is not thin, nor regular bread… it is more akin to a Scottish short bread, similar in look, not as sweet, but actually really lovely. The children always were allowed to eat the left overs…
The preparation didn’t just end with the work day… normally on the day of Love Feast we all went our own way to reflect on our live and our living… In California for me I drove into the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas to look at the wildflowers in bloom and enjoy the beauty of the landscape….
And that for me was my yearly highlight the chance to reconnect with the beauty of the land about me… here I find as I drive between Lincoln and Hull, seeing the budding of the trees, the sense of life returning, creations ongoing drama and my soul sings….
Life, death, beauty and passion this time of year is a time for us to find our ways of connecting and communing with each other and with that which we might call the transcendent, or the interconnectedness of life, beauty, compassion, or even God.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC (Hull)
As we enter the streets of conflict, pride, and prestige…
we enter a holy time,
a scary time…
a time that overturns all our cherished long held assumptions
and beliefs about the world and life.
In riding a humble beast of transport…
we learn to see the empowering nature of simple humility,
In the shouting of hosanna…
we are swept up in the moment of liberating desire,
carried along with the crowd,
lost in the moment,
will it be true for us or merely momentary?
In the course of this week we are overturning not only the tables,
but our long held traditions and limitations
And in the water and basin we find a simple call to serve, to care, to minister…
And in the darkness of a Friday afternoon drama….
A trauma of injustice…
that propels us in an examination of our life and living…
how do we live with suffering?
how do we live with our pain of our own making?
how do we live with the pain imposed upon us from outside?
how do we live our life?
giver of life
mover of the ground of our being
may we so move in the ground of your transcending
topsy turvy passion….
may we be so passionately empowered.
SYF 2 (CD SYF 3/TRACK 1)
“A promise through the ages rings”
words by Alicia S. Carpenter
A promise through the ages rings,
that always, always, something sings.
Not just in May, in finch-filled bower,
but in December’s coldest hour,
a note of hope sustains us all.
A life is made of many things:
bright stars, bleak years, and broken rings.
Can it be true that through all things,
there always, always something sings?
The universal song of life.
Entombed within our deep despair,
our pain seems more than we can bear;
but days shall pass and nature knows
that deep beneath the winter snow
a rose lies curled and hums its song.
For something always, always sings.
This is the message Easter brings:
from deep despair and perished things
a green shoot always, always springs,
and something always, always sings.
May we walk this week of passion being challenged
life in full on divine upheaval,
being tossed by the stability of this sacred topsy turvy calling.
becoming more than we ever dreamed…
May the divine breath carry us, transform us, and challenge us
so we may become the Living sustaining hands of life, compassion, and love.
Wandering the edges of the Desert – 5 Mar 2023 – Rev John Carter’s Sunday Reflections
Wandering the edges of the Forest – 12 Mar 2023 – Rev John Carter’s Sunday Reflections