Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton
Rev. Douglas Taylor and Aileen Fitzke
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.” (John 13:34) We light our chalice to remember the call to serve love. May the fire within our chalice cup inspire us to fill our own cups with mercy, peace and love.
Call to Worship O Come You Longing Thirsty Souls
(1st vs only, sung acapella)
Invocation -by Ruppert Lovely
O, Spirit which commends us to the world and it to us, make known to us the many varieties of human aspiration; open our eyes that we may see beyond the obvious, through the might of worldly powers, and find guidance in the many ways you are revealed. Bend our compassion to all who suffer because of greed and arrogant pride. Help us to find still the work in the world which restored hope to the hopeless, courage to the fearful, and trust to the betrayed. Amen.
Hymn #47 Now on Land and Sea Descending
Foot Washing An Invitation
Maundy Thursday re-creates the Passover meal celebrated by Jesus just before he was arrested and crucified. Traditionally, before a ritual meal in the first century, when the guests entered the home, a servant washed their feet. In the passage from the Gospel of John, which we are about to read, we will hear about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. It is symbolic of the idea of servant leadership; that life is about service and about love of neighbor. In these times, when authoritarian leadership is dominant in our consciousness, it is important for leaders to model this kind of service. In traditional Christian churches the priest or minister takes on the role of Jesus and washes the feet of select congregants to welcome them to the Maundy Thursday service. Tonight, immediately following our opening readings, we will be inviting you to come forward and allow Douglas and me to wash your feet.
Foot Washing Scripture
John 13:4-17 (NRSV)
4[Jesus] got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Foot Washing Reading
by Amy Jill-Levine (Commentary) from Entering the Passion Of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week
Washing takes on different symbolism depending on whose feet are being washed
and who is doing the washing. Foot
washing…is a sign of humility. It’s a
sign of service, and it is an action regularly in the first century performed
by slaves. Jesus’ point: No one is to
lord it over another, and that those who claim to be his followers should do
what he does in service to others…More this service involves intimacy…service
is up close and personal; service is something others can see and appreciate;
service means getting down off one’s high horse and manifesting meekness and
humility. It teaches us that we are not
the important ones: the ones we serve are the ones who are important. And, we, in turn, might receive that same
service when we need it. The foot
washing may be a singular event, but its meaning should permeate one’s life.”
Instructions for Foot Washing
We invite you to come forward and be seated in the front row. Please remove your socks and shoes and place them next to you. Aileen will hand you a towel which you will place on your lap. Then Douglas and Aileen will kneel before you, pour water on your feet and dry them with the towel. When we are finished washing everyone’s feet, you can put your shoes back on and return to your seats.
(People come forward for the foot washing ritual)
Responsive Reading by Robert Eller-Isaacs (based on Matthew 25)
I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me.
I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
Here is the bread of life, food for the spirit.
Let all who hunger come and eat.
Here is the fruit of the vine, pressed and poured out for us.
Let all who thirst now come and drink.
We come to break bread. We come to drink the fruit of the vine. We come to make peace.
May we never praise God with our mouths while denying in our hearts or by our acts the love that is our common speech.
I come to be restored in the love of God. I come to be made new as an instrument of that love.
I know I am worthy. I know that I am welcome.
All are worthy.
All are welcome.
Come into the embrace and remembrance of this communion.
Affirmation by Douglas Taylor
What sacrifices would you make for freedom?
The Seder meal commemorating the flight of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt is a meal of remembrance. It is a meal to remember the sacrifice and the loss and the journey and the promise. The Jewish people to this day share this Passover meal to remember and be renewed.
What discipline do you share that renews your
The meal Jesus shared with his disciples was a Seder meal. As these thirteen Jews sat and ate, the meaning of the meal shifted and grew into something new. And Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Thereby taking the suffering and the promise upon himself. We find the word Maundy, for so this service is named, comes from the Latin root Mandatum commandment, in reference to the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.” The Christian people to this day share this meal to remember the call to love and the promise of connection to the divine.
Do you feel the connection that binds you to all, that binds you to freedom?
Unitarian Universalists see and respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. The meal we now share together is a communion meal. Again as a group of people gather and eat, the meaning of the meal is shifting and growing into something more. Communion shall not be contained to eating and drinking, communion shall not be limited to this small hour. As you take food and drink into yourself, the food and the drink become a part of you, and you become part of the food and the drink. As we share the meal, we also share of each other. You become the bread, you become the juice or wine. You become your neighbor, and shall love your neighbor as yourself. I become you and you become me as we share together this food which is us. We are the universe eating universe.
We become one with the poor
and the dis-empowered, we become one with the suffering and the promise. We become one with all who share food
together and we become one with all who have none. We become one with the trees and the hills
and the vines and the fields. And we
become one with our God.
Hymn #406 Let us Break Bread Together
We gather at this table to
celebrate our community, and our communion with sacred sun and soil and the
Spirit which sustains all. The breaking
of bread is a sign of our community. The
sharing of juice or wine is a mark of our communion. We enact a model of action which can redeem
the world. We share this food and drink
as a visible sign beyond the spoken word, as an act of power and
empowerment. We partake of this food and
drink as a sign of our covenant with all humanity, as an expression of our
sacred concern for one another, as a symbol of our commitment to live in peace
with all beings. As we prepare this
table of life and unity, may we join our hearts with those who have so loved
the world that they have been willing to live and die in its behalf. All are welcome at this table, without regard
for class or creed, belief or unbelief, for the community we share is larger
than these. Let us render thanks for life,
and let us keep the feast.
I invite you to read with me the Unison Thanksgiving printed in the order of service:
For this gift of life,
we give thanks
For the opportunities to sow the seeds
of love and justice, we give thanks
For our hunger and thirst that spurs us
into deeper understanding, we give thanks
For all that sustains us in our search of
the good and the holy, we give thanks
You are invited to come forward and up to the table one at a time to receive the bread or gluten free cracker as well as the wine or juice. You may then partake here at the front or return to your seat to partake in your own time.
Let the people come forth and receive the gifts of the earth and of the spirit
(People come forward to receive communion)
“The bread of life broken open for you”
“The blood of
life poured out for you”
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Gracious and loving God
From Whom all things come
And to Whom all things return
We who gather this hour,
sharing in the blessings of life and love,
give thanks to all that is holy
that we are at one with thee.
As we partake of the good earth,
may the good earth become one with each of us.
As we share together this meal of blessings,
may we each become one with each other.
As we eat and drink
may the God that is known by many names
though contained by none of them,
become one with each hungering, thirsting, longing, loving, searching soul.
May this hour give this people
and indeed the whole world
a greater abundance of
life-giving truth and goodwill.
In the name of all that is holy, may it be so.
Hymn #123 Spirit of Life
Benediction by Marcel Duhamel
The feast is now ended, let us depart in peace. May we go forth from our time together with willing hands and honest minds, with faith in the power of goodness, ready to take our place in the world. May it be so. Amen and blessed be.
As we lead up to the 2018 Mid-term elections (remember to vote!), I struggle with the violence and hate I see in the news. A white, right-wing terrorist sent bombs through the mail to the political ‘enemies’ of our current president. Two African Americans were shot at a grocery store in Kentucky. There are continued threats against the legal protections of our transgender and non-binary siblings. There is relentless misinformation and threats spreading about immigrants and asylum-seekers. And on Saturday, October 27th, a gun-loving anti-Semite opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh during their worship service killing 11 people and wounding several others. As Unitarian Universalists, these incidents (and culture that breeds them) threaten our values. We are called to speak out, to challenge the hate, to make a difference.
Resistance fatigue is a concept for activists dealing with an overload of stress, of being in an unending cycle of fighting against injustice. With so much happening and so many cries for support and attention, people are beginning to feel overwhelmed as the abnormal slowly becomes normal.
How do you stay engaged? How do you combat resistance fatigue? I have been thinking about this a lot (and listening a lot, and reading a lot, and feeling a lot.) Here are some tips I have found.
First: if you want to stay engaged, you need to occasionally back away. But it is a two-part process. Take a break as you need to AND don’t give up. I’ve seen the reminder of how a choir can learn to stagger breaths so the notes are sustained but everyone can rest. You don’t need to attend every rally, re-post every news story, and work every phone bank. In the Pirkei Avot, a collection of rabbinic teachings, it says “It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Take a break so you can stay engaged for the long haul.
Second: Be mindful of what you consume. Think of the news like food. It is the nourishment your mind needs to survive. Sensationalized news is like candy, it will cause rot. A balanced diet is best, fill your plate from different news sources and different perspectives. Seek out news about art and science if you feel inundated by politics and social issues. Seek out a deeper version of the headline that upsets you. Be aware of the impact news has on you.
And Third: Listen more. Give a little extra attention to the voices of vulnerable people. Listen to people’s fears; try to hear the unspoken fears behind the news. Amplify the voices from the margins. Part of what you’ll gain is an appreciation that you are not alone and that your part matters.
As Unitarian Universalists, our values lead us to engage with the world, to support the vulnerable, and to speak out for truth and for justice. It is not easy or simple. It can be overwhelming. But we are in this together. And together we will persevere.
Chalice Lighting for Ingathering 2018 (in four voices) “Carrying the Flame Forward”
Voice One, Elder (with chalice)
Across the generations we have carried the flame.
We fought the injustice, sang the songs, spoke for truth, and built something lasting.
We join in the line and we carry the flame forward.
(pass chalice and mic to next speaker)
Voice Two, Active Leader (with metal candle lighter/snuffer)
Across the generations we are tending the flame.
Hand in hand together we share in the work of fighting injustice, singing the songs, speaking the truth
And we are here to build something lasting.
We join in the line and we carry the flame forward
(pass the chalice, candle lighter, and mic to next speaker)
Voice Three, Young Adult (with candle)
Across the generations we have been nourished by this flame.
We are singing new songs, breaking old barriers, sharing in the work
And as we find our own space in what has been, we are here to make space for the next person as well
We join in the line and we carry the flame forward.
(set up the chalice and candle on the table, pass the lighting stick and mic to next speaker)
Voice Four, Family with Young Child (with fire)
Across the generations, this flame comes to us.
We are here for the songs, for the justice, for the community sharing the work
We are here now, too, to build something new and lasting. We are ready for a new day together.
We join in the line and we carry the flame forward.
(Light the chalice)
Asking deep questions together
We stood in a room together, a bunch of spiritual seekers asking question about God and life, love and death, meaning and the things that matter most. We stood together in the room and started to move. This is what we do around here. We move around the room together, asking deep questions. Do you believe in God? We moved along the lines between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and asked each other what we meant by the word ‘God.’ This is just something we do from time to time.
Do you believe people are basically good or basically bad? We shift ourselves around the room; and explore the realities we each know of life. Where do we fit in? And how do we respond to the events of our day?
What about your values? Which value is most important: Truth, Goodness, Beauty, something else? We move around the room together and wonder at this life we are living. How can you be on the opposite side of the room and yet agree with me? How can you be in my corner and yet not see my point? Some people circle the room, not ready to stay in only one corner, with only one answer.
This is what we do around here. We move around the room together, asking deep questions. We stand, we speak, we listen, we move. What happens when you die? With whom or what have you made your biggest promises? What is the line between justice and forgiveness?
Then at the end of the day, we let those deep questions rest a while and we just live our lives. We dance, read poems, sing, and tell stories. We check in with each other about relationships and health concerns. At times we sit alone or in pairs silently. And sometimes, love holds us close as we cry. But mostly we just go about the day.
Then, another morning comes, perhaps today is one of those mornings, and we find ourselves in a room together asking questions. This is what we do around here. We move around the room together, asking deep questions.
by Rev. Douglas Taylor
Alone in the world, I was beset with frustration and anger at the world around me: so much injustice and hatred, so little peace and freedom. I longed to make a difference; I struggled against the powers and institutions. But my actions seemed insignificant and my words were drowned out.
Then I came into community, a religious community of hope and love. Here I found support and energy, vision and power, and the authority of shared witness.
And together we changed the world.
Alone in the world I was beset by sorrow and hurt in my life: so much loss and emptiness, so little hope and understanding. I wept for the pain in my heart; I ached from hardships I bore. But my tears brought little relief and my burdens grew unwieldy.
Then I came into community, a religious community of hope and love. Here I found support and compassion, wisdom and grace, and the power of shared suffering.
And together we made life sweeter.
Alone in the world, I was beset by confusion and vapidity in my soul: so much busyness and pettiness, so little depth or connection. I shriveled inside for want of real spiritual bonds and my soul cried out for meaning.
Then I came into community, a religious community of hope and love. Here I found support and encouragement, depth and diversity, and power of sharing the journey.
And together we saved my life.
For all the varied reasons that brought us out of loneliness and into community, we give thanks. For the blessings we each bestow on one another with our energy, compassion, and prayer, we give thanks. For the blessings we become to others in need we give thanks, and remember that we are not alone.
This meditation was published in the Skinner House 2005 meditation Anthology, For All That is Our Life