A service about creation and creativity,
about the stories we tell about ourselves and the world we live in.
Welcome and Announcements
Good morning. Welcome to the _____ Unitarian Universalist Congregation where we join together in the search for deeper meaning and richer connections. Our service today is about how our myths help us define who we are as a people. Today we offer a series of diverse creation stories from around the world.
Opening Words The Way to Start a Day by Byrd Baylor
(Done as a three-voice reading)
The way to start a day is this –
Go outside and face the east and greet the sun with some kind of blessing,
Or chant, or song that you made yourself, and keep for early morning.
The way to make the song is this –
Don’t even try to think what words to use until you’re standing there alone.
When you feel the sun, you’ll feel the song too.
Just sing it.
But don’t think you’re the only one who ever worked that magic.
Your caveman brothers knew what to do.
Your caveman sisters knew too.
They sang to help the sun come up and lifted their hands to its power.
A morning needs to be sung to. A new day needs to be honored.
People have always known that.
Didn’t they chant at dawn in the sun temples of Peru?
And leap and sway to Aztec flutes in Mexico?
And drum sunrise songs in the Congo?
And ring a thousand small gold bells in China?
Didn’t the pharaohs of Egypt say the only sound at dawn should be the sound of songs that please the morning sun?
They knew what songs to sing.
People always seemed to know.
And everywhere they knew what gifts the sun wanted.
In some places they gave gold.
In some places they gave flowers.
In some places, sacred smoke blown to the four directions.
Some places, feathers and good thoughts. Some places, fire.
But everywhere they knew to give something.
And everywhere they knew to turn their faces eastward as the sun came up.
Some people still know.
When the first pale streak of light cuts through the darkness, wherever they are, those people make offerings and send strong mysterious songs to the sun.
They know exactly how to start a day.
Their blessings float on the wind over Pueblo cornfields in New Mexico, and you hear their morning songs in villages in Africa, and they salute the sunrise ceremonially in the high cold mountains of Peru.
Today, long before dawn they were already waiting in Japan with prayers,
and they were gathering at little shrines in India with marigolds in their hands.
They were bathing in the sacred Ganges River as the sun came up.
And high on a mesa edge in Arizona they were holding a baby toward the sun.
They were speaking the child’s new name so the sun would hear and know that child.
It had to be sunrise. And it had to be that first sudden moment. That’s when all the power of life is in the sky.
Some people say there is a new sun every day,
that it begins its life at dawn and lives for one day only.
They say you have to welcome it.
You have to make the sun happy.
You have to make a good day for it.
You have to make a good world for it to live its one-day life in.
And the way to start, they say, is just by looking east at dawn.
When they look east tomorrow, you can too.
Your song will be an offering –
And you’ll be one more person in one more place at one more time in the world saying hello to the sun, letting it know you are there.
If the sky turns a color sky never was before, just watch it.
That’s part of the magic.
That’s the way to start a day.
*Doxology (#381 SLT) Composite based on Isaac Watts
From all that dwell below the skies
Let songs of hope and faith arise;
Let peace, goodwill on earth be sung
Through every land, by every tongue/
*Covenant (#473 SLT) by James Vila Blake (adapted)
Love is the spirit of this congregation, and service is its life.
This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace,
To seek the truth in love, and to help one another.
*Chalice Lighting by Donna Morrison-Reed
At the heart of life is fire
We recognize this fire.
It is the light of truth,
the warmth of love,
the heat of passion,
the creative spark that bears many names:
spirit of life, ground of being,
For Unitarian Universalists, it is the essence of life itself.
We light this flame,
which burns at the core of our chalice,
which rests among us as we worship together.
*Hymn #38 STL Morning Has Broken
Reflection Creation Everywhere by Douglas Taylor
In the culture around us when we talk about a creation story, most people call to mind the versions from Genesis in Christian and Hebrew scripture. [Genesis 1-2:3New International Version (NIV)]
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
From there, the seven days of creation proceed. God separates the waters into waters under and waters above creating sky and ocean on the second day. Day three, God gathers dry land and calls from the land plants and trees that bear seeds and fruit each according to their kinds. Day four is for the sun and the moon and the stars. Day five is animals in the sea and birds in the sky. Day six God creates land animals including human beings.
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
And then on the seventh day God rested.
Many people in our culture will think of this story when the topic of creation comes up. But ours is not the only culture, and this is not the only version of how things occurred. All the world over, there are stories of how the world began. There are a multitude of creation stories.
Marcea Eliade and Charles Long, history of religion professors in Chicago from the mid-1900’s developed a classification system of creation myths based on the common motifs that reappeared in stories. They named five basic types.
The creation story in Genesis is an example of “Creation ex nihilo.” Ex nihilo is Latin for ‘out of nothing.’ In these stories, the world is brought into being by speech, dream, breath, or pure though on the part of the creator. But there are other categories as well. This morning we have put together several creation stories for you.
Listen for the motif of the “Earth Diver,” usually a bird or amphibian sent by a creator, plunges to the bottom of the sea to bring up mud for the creation of land. “Emergence” myths talk about creation as an earlier version of humanity passing through a series of worlds or versions of our world before reaching the present world. Another common theme is creation by the “Dismemberment” of a primordial being – those are always interesting. And the final version is the “Cosmic Egg,” in which you would hear of a primordial unity splitting into the diversity of life we now experience. I invite you to listen for eggs and divers, dismemberment and emerging versions of how it all came to be.
Responsive Reading #530 SLT “Out of the Stars” Robert Weston
Story Sky Woman and Turtle Island (Iroquois)
(This story comes from the Haudenosaunee people. We had a reader share the story from the pulpit while a member of the congregation acted the part of Sky Woman. We also had children with stuffed animals acting out the parts of the animals.)
In the beginning, the world was not as we know it now. It was a water world inhabited only by animals and creatures of the air who could survive without land.
Up above, Sky World was quite different, Human-type beings lived there with infinite types of plants and animals to enjoy.
In the Sky World, there was a Tree of Life that was very special to the people of the Sky World. Thy knew that it grew at the entrance to the world below ad forbade anyone to tamper with the tree. One woman who was soon to give birth was curious about the Tree and convinced her brother to dig up some of the roots of the Tree.
Beneath the Tree was a great hole. The woman peered from the edge into the hole and suddenly fell off the edge. As she was falling she grasped at the edge and clutched in her hand some of the earth from the Sky World.
As she fell, the birds of the world below were disturbed and alerted to her distress. The birds responded and gathered a great many of their kind to break her fall and cradle her to the back of a great sea turtle.
The creatures of the water believed that she needed land to live on, so they set about to collect some for her. They dove to the great depths of the world’s oceans to gather earth to make her a place to live.
Many animals tried to gather the earth from the ocean floor, only the muskrat was successful. With only a small bit of earth brought onto the turtle’s back from his small paws, Turtle Island began to grow. Sky Woman added the dirt she had grasped while falling from the Sky World, which was rich with seeds of many kinds. And that is where it all began.
Reading “In The Beginning” by Roger Descher (adapted)
In the beginning God created music. The earth was without form and void, and silence was upon the grace of the deep; and the breath of God was moving through the mists quietly.
And God said,
“Let there be sound.”
And there was sound. And sound found God’s ears, and God’s ears were unstopped.
And God said,
“Good. Not let there be silence and let there be sound.”
And God separated the two and the end of the first day.
And God Said,
“Let there be high sounds and low sounds”
So, God created a scale, and everything above middle C God called ‘high’ and everything below middle C, God separated off from the sings above and called them ‘low.’
And so it was
And there was evening and there was morning: the second day.
And God said,
“Let the high sounds and low sounds be gathered together into small groups and let tunes appear.”
And it was so.
God called the tunes ‘Melody,” but the notes without form God called ‘Noise.’
And God said,
“Let melody put forth different forms each pleasing in its own way, and let variations spring forth from seed motifs and develop into fruitful trees of tunes in which is their own seed, each according to its kind.”
And it was so.
And there was evening, and there was morning: the third day.
And God said,
“Let there be rhythm.”
God made different lengths of notes. And God then mixed the short and the long notes together around steady pounding beats.
And God got rhythm. And God said,
“I’ll tap my foot on the floor of the universe.”
And the thunder of God’s tapping foot rolled all creation to rhythms each of its own kind.
And God said,
“This feels good.”
Story Pangu and the Creation of the World (Chinese)
(This story is from China or possibly somewhere in Southeast Asia. It has Taoist and Buddhist undertones. We an accomplished storyteller retell the this story from memory.)
In the beginning there was darkness everywhere, and Chaos ruled. Within the darkness there formed an egg, and inside the egg the giant Pangu came into being. For aeons, safely inside the egg, Pangu slept and grew. When he had grown to gigantic size he stretched his huge limbs and in so doing broke the egg. The lighter parts of the egg floated upwards to form the heavens and the denser parts sank downwards, to become the earth. And so was formed earth and sky, Yin and Yang.
Pangu saw what had happened and he was pleased. But he feared that heaven and earth might meld together again, so he placed himself between them, his head holding up the sky and his feet firmly upon the earth. Pangu continued to grow at a rate of ten feet a day for 18,000 years, so increasing the distance between heaven and earth, until they seemed fixed and secure, 30,000 miles apart. Now exhausted, Pangu went back to sleep and never woke up.
Pangu died, and his body went to make the world and all its elements. The wind and clouds were formed from his breath, his voice was thunder and lightning, his eyes became the sun and moon, his arms and his legs became the four directions of the compass and his trunk became the mountains. His flesh turned into the soil and the trees that grow on it, his blood into the rivers that flow and his veins into paths men travel. His body hair became the grass and herbs, and his skin the same, while precious stones and minerals were formed from his bones and teeth. His sweat became the dew and the hair of his head became the stars that trail throughout heaven. As for the parasites on his body, these became the divers races of humankind.
Hymn #163 SLT For the Earth Forever Turning
Prayer by Douglas Taylor
Gracious and Loving God,
Great Spirit, Mother Goddess, Spirit of Life and Love
Thou, who art known by many names though contained by none
We gather this hour to consider creation and our own creative spark within
We gather as around a campfire,
listening to the stories of the people,
seeking and searching
O Spirit, we long to find our way in the ofttimes difficult days of our living
We long to know and be known amid the good and bad we walk through each day
For so many things we offer our thanks
Help us, O God, to not take for granted sunlight and friendship,
beauty and the ten thousand things
We give thanks, we say ‘thank you’, we give thanks.
Help us, O Spirit, to see the way forward when we have trouble and feel lost
Help us remember that we participate in creation
and can lend our own spark to make life sweeter
Remind us to honor creativity as holy work
Remind that our stories help us know ourselves and know what matters in our lives
May the presence of the holy touch each of us in ways that bring us closer to the life-giving power of creation and creativity.
In the name of all that is holy
May it be so.
Hymn #123 SLT Spirit of Life
Reading First Sabbath by Nancy Shaffer, Instructions in Joy
Tell me: did you really rest?
You who made day and night
and sky that separated
waters above and below,
you who told the waters
below the sky
to stay in one place
and out of them
asked dry land,
who told the earth
to send out growing things
and then made sun
and moon and stars,
who made birds that fly
and everything that swims,
and cattle and all creeping things
and every animal untamed
and then made man and woman
and finally, supposedly, rested:
tell me: how —
in the midst of all that buzzing
and slithering and stepping,
all that bursting forth of leaf
and fruit and stem
that never had known themselves
before — tell me:
how could you possibly have rested,
after seeing what no one
ever had seen before:
beak, hoof, pebble,
after losing yourself
in a thousand versions of blue:
water in sun,
sky against sky,
the horizon where
sky and water meet:
how did you shut your eyes,
how not keep
turning and looking?
Didn’t you long to caress
each small thing — notice
how toes work, and
stamens, and fingers?
Weren’t you hollering out in amazement?
Weren’t you so filled up glad
you couldn’t sleep?
Story Spider Ananse Finds Something (West Africa)
Ananse (Ah-Nan-See) is a trickster character from West Africa. We dramatized this story with a Narrator and two actors playing Wulbari and Ananse
Narrator: In the beginning, God was Wulbari. And God Wulbari was heaven – spread not five feet above the mother, earth.
The God was very upset. There was not enough space between Him and earth. The man who lived on earth kept bumping his head against God. It didn’t seem to bother the man, but it surely bothered Wulbari. An old woman was making food outside her hut, her stirring pole kept knocking and poking Wulbari. The smoke from her cooking fires got into his eyes.
Wulbari: I’ll rise up a bit
Narrator: thought Wulbari. And so He lifted the blue of his heavenly self just a little higher.
Wulbari: There, that’s better.
Narrator: But still, being so close to women and men, Wulbari was useful. He became a perfect towel for everybody. And people used Him to wipe their dirty hands. There was even one woman who took a piece of clean blue to make her soup taste better.
“Ummmmm,” she murmured. Wulbari couldn’t believe it. Wulbari moved up higher and higher until He was out of the way of everyone.
He was on high, and high above. He set up his court. They of his court were the animals and also his guard. Spider, Ananse, was their captain.
One day Ananse asked Wulbari for a corncob.
Wulbari: Of course. But what do you want it for?
Ananse: Master, I will bring you a bushel of corn if you give me the corncob.
Narrator: Wulbari laughed, and He gave Ananse the corncob.
Ananse made his way down the heaven road to earth. He found a place to stay with a chief and asked where he could put the cob to keep it safe while he slept.
Ananse: It is the corn of God Wulbari, and I must guard it.
Narrator: So the people showed Ananse a good place in the roof for safekeeping. During the night when all of them slept, Ananse took the corn and fed it to the chickens. The next day, he made a great fuss about the missing corn. So the chief gave him a whole bushel of corn.
That was the way it was with Ananse. He could trick all of the people. He did it many times. Naturally, Ananse started to boast that he had more sense that God.
Wulbari heard this and called his captain to him
Wulbari: You must go and bring me something
Narrator: Ananse had no idea what something was. That evening Ananse went to God for more information, but Wulbari only laughed
Wulbari: You say you are as good as I, so now prove you are My equal.
Narrator: Next day, Ananse left the sky to find something
Down on earth, he called all the birds to him. And from each one he took a fine feather. Then Ananse made a handsome robe of feathers, which he put on. He took the sky road back to heaven and climbed to a top branch of a tree by Wulbari’s house.
When God came out and found the strangely colored bird He called the animal people to him.
Wulbari: Do any of you know the name of this large, rainbow bird?
Narrator: None knew, not even the elephant, who knows all. Someone said that Ananse might know. But Wulbari said he had sent Ananse to find something.
Everyone wanted to know what the something was. Wulbari told them
Wulbari: The something I wanted is the sun, the moon, and the darkness.
Narrator: Everyone roared with laughter. They left then, smiling over Wulbari’s cleverness and Ananse’s difficulty. But Ananse, dressed as the bright-colored bird, had heard it all. Now he knew what something was. He took off his feathered coat and went far away. No one knows where Ananse went. But wherever it was, he found the sun and the moon, and he found darkness as well. He put them in his bag and went back to Wulbari.
Wulbari: Well, and did you find something, Ananse?
Narrator: And he reached into his bag and drew out darkness. All went black, and no one, not even God, could see. Next, he drew out the moon, and all could see just a bit. At last he brought out the sun. Those who looked went blind. Those who had been looking somewhere else were blinded only in one eye. Some who had blinked right at the moment Ananse pulled out the sun were lucky and kept their eyesight.
So, you see, that is how blindness came into the world. That is because Wulbari had to have something and Spider Ananse had the sense to get it for him.
Reflection Creation Everywhen by Douglas Taylor
Creation stories are not meant to be literal events. We call them ‘myths’ to help us see that they are real and true at a level deeper than facts. Creation stories serve to define who we are as people by showing us where we have come from and what was important as we began. A creation story is the cornerstone of meaning. They help orient us as human beings in the world, offering a sense of our place in the grand scheme of everything.
The other exciting thing about stories of creation is that they tell us not only about beginnings but also right now. Creation is not something that happened once at the beginning of everything. Creation is always happening. We can talk about each new day, as Byrd Baylor does from our opening words or about the birth of a child into a family. Creation is always happening.
There is one version of the creation in which God said to the recently created human beings, “I’ve done most of the work, but there is still more to do. It is your turn to create the rest.” We become co-creators with God in that version.
And if you think about it – that is what life is like. We talk of creating a great work of art. Authors and painters, sculptors and poets – they create something that did not exist before: ex nihilo, from nothing, or as a series of progressively improving iterations, or as divers swimming down to the depths of experience to bring up something important for us to work from. We are creators. Our monthly worship theme has been Creativity. Creativity is the bringing forth of something new. We are doing holy work when we bring something new into being. It is an act of creation.
Each morning arrives new, “like the first morning” our opening hymn reminds us. It is important to sing to the sun and greet each day. It is important for each of us to honor and sing to the creativity we offer the world. Do you sing or paint? Do you draw or sculpt or make collages? Do you work with new ideas and concepts? Do you write poems or stories? It is holy work.
Just having new experiences each day can be part of how this happens. Every moment is a new moment of creation. It is all holy work. It happens everywhere, and it happens everywhen. Every day is a new day. You are a new day. You are part of creation and part of the creating.
Today is a new day, open and waiting. Come let us sing the day into being.
*Hymn #203 SLT All Creatures of the Earth and Sky (verses 1, 3, and 4)
*Chalice Extinguishing (#456 SLT) (unison) by Elizabeth S. Jones
We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,
The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment
These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.
Benediction by Marjorie Newlin Leaming
Remembering that the universe is so much larger
than our ability to comprehend,
let us go forth from this time together with the resolve
to stop trying to reduce the incomprehensible
to our own petty expectations,
so that wonder, that sense of what is sacred,
can open our minds
and light up our lives.