Multi-generational script

Easter with Godspell

Easter with Godspell

A service about the parables of Jesus

and his great lesson of Beloved Community.

 

Note: you will want to secure permission to use the Godspell music. Purchasing the sheet music for your choir/soloists and musician(s) will likely suffice depending on your circumstances.

 

 

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 Jesus’ message of Beloved Community as revealed in his parables and the music from Stephan Schwartz s Godspell.

 

 

Prelude                                                        Save the People       

 

 

Opening Words                by e. e. cummings

(Note: we did this in three voices, it is equally delightful with one dramatic voice)

 

A         i thank You God for most this amazing day:

B         for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;

C          and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 

A         (i who have died am alive again today,

B          and this is the sun’s birthday;

C          this is the birth day of life

A         and of love

B          and wings:

C          and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)

 

A         how should

B         tasting

C          touching

B         hearing

C          seeing

B         breathing

A         any

C          –lifted from the no of all nothing—

A         human

B         merely

A         being doubt unimaginable You?

 

B         (now the ears of my ears awake

C          and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

 

 

*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 Douglas Taylor

We light our flaming chalice, symbol of hope and renewal.

May its light guide our eyes to see and our hears to hear

the movements of the spirit in our lives

 

 

*Hymn                                                                     Day by Day

Day by day, day by day

Oh, dear Lord, three things we pay

To see thee more clearly

Love thee more dearly

Follow thee more nearly

Day by day

(Music Note: Day by Day is a song in the musical “Godspell”. Its refrain follows a prayer ascribed to the 13th century English bishop Saint Richard of Chichester: May I know they more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly.)

 

 

Reflection                           by Douglas Talyor

 

Today around the world, millions of our Christian siblings-in-faith celebrate this Easter holiday proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus as the Son of God. In our Unitarian Universalist tradition we have a nuanced dance with the holiday. While our history is deeply entwined with Christianity, our tradition is no longer considered Christian and it is at Easter time that this is most noticed. As Unitarians we rejected the divinity of Jesus and as Universalists we rejected the salvific necessity of the crucifixion. Instead we have historically proclaimed that we are all children of God and that God’s love will save all. These theological claims go sharply counter to heart of Christianity and the basic premise of Easter!

 

These theological claims, as I indicated, are historical points for us. Today we gather not so much in argument against certain central Christian creeds. Instead, today we are a community of covenanted seekers, each with a unique path, each longing to find wholeness in our own lives and to find our ways to heal the world around us.

 

We are theists, atheists, scientists, skeptics, mystics, and agnostics. We carry connections to Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism, Paganism, Native traditions, Christianity and various mixtures of these traditions and of no traditions. Yet our central gathering focus is on making a community of support and nurture.

 

On Easter, instead of seeking an argument with certain central creeds, we seek a deeper message for our lives and our shared world. So we lift up the archetypal message in the resurrection: the power of Love to overcome despair, fear, trouble, and even the power of death itself. And we lift up the life and teachings of Jesus.

 

Against the backdrop of news and events filled with anger, apathy, fear, and violence, we come looking for the message of hope and of a path through the difficulty into a better way. Today, through music and parables we will focus on the one key aspect of Jesus’ ministry: the creation of the Beloved Community on earth.

 

We begin with several pieces from the 1971 production Godspell by Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz is a well-known composer and lyricist. Perhaps you know his lyrics from the musicals Pippin or Wicked, or from Disney movies such as Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Enchanted. Schwartz grew up in Jewish household. But he repeatedly refuses to discuss his personal religious beliefs in public. He instead refocuses all religious question with answers about ethics and personal responsibility.

 

In the musical Godspell, the music is supported by retellings of some of the great parables Jesus told. Schwartz choose parables from the Gospel of Matthew. We have selected three parables from the Gospel of Luke to share today, perhaps not the three most important or the three most famous, but three that lift up a key message in Godspell and in Jesus’ ministry.

 

The parable of the Great Banquet reveals a message of the universal call into the life of the spirit. The parable of the Sower is a lesson about lessons, proclaiming that messages are there to be heard if you are awake enough to hear them. The parable of the Prodigal Child is a story of forgiveness and restoration, a story about the lost being found.

 

All three parables point back to what Stephen Schwartz says is a key piece of his musical, Godspell: the creation of a community. Our theme today is about Jesus’ message of the Beloved Community. Come! Hear our songs, heed our parables, take heart in the company, and help build the beautiful city.

 

 

Story                         Parable of the Great Banquet; Luke 14:16-24

(Note: We used three voices; Narrator, Servant, and Master – then, just before enacting this we invited three people from the congregation to be the people invited to attend the banquet. We gave them cue cards and asked them to stand up from with us.)

 

Narrator:    A certain woman (or man, depending on your casting) was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet she sent her servant to tell those who had been invited,

 

Servant:                   Come, for everything is now ready.

 

Narrator:                But they all alike began to make excuses.

 

Person one:            I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.

 

Person two:            I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.

 

Person three:                    I just got married, so I can’t come.

 

Narrator:    The servant came back and reported this to her master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered her servant,

 

Master:        Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.

 

Servant:       Ma’am, what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.

 

Narrator:    Then the master told her servant,

 

Master:        Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.

 

 

Offertory                                                                 All Good Gifts

 

 

Story             Parable of the Sower; Luke 8: 4 – 8

(note: For this, we played this animated short video while someone read the parable. There is delightful instrumental music in the background which does not distract from the recitation. We choose to include the on a low volume.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guDeSYcwRYg

 

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.

Some fell on rocky ground, and when the sun came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.

When he said this, Jesus called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

 

 

Special Music                                                        By My Side

 

 

Prayer                                              by Douglas Taylor

 

Eternal Spirit, from whom all things come, and to whom all things return

We who gather this morning are a people of faith in search of life’s deeper meanings and richer blessings. This is a sacred time for our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. We would honor the story and the meaning they find in this season, while striving to uncover resources for ourselves as well.

 

The life and teachings of Jesus are a resource for our ethical and spiritual living. Help us, O Spirit, to better live into the Beloved Community with the transformative power of love. The Easter story of his amazing resurrection is not a historic event that took place once for one man so many years ago. The Easter story is our story and the story of every soul that ever faced the tragic choice of love and hopelessness in the face of the world’s madness.

 

Let us be reminded of the power found in reconciliation and release: that the lost may be found, the least may be lifted up, and that love is more powerful than fear.

When we feel abandoned, visit us and renew our faith

When we are fearful, endow us with courage

When we face painful trials, grant that we may see

the possibility of rebirth within

 

Grant that the blessings of compassion and wisdom fill our days beyond measure.  Encourage us in our times of hardship to discover anew the power within to embrace again the world and the work which yet awaits our attention.  In learning to let go, to trust, may we uncover the hidden reservoirs of hope.

 

This we pray in the name of all that is holy;

May it be so. Amen

 

 

Silence

 

 

Hymn #396 (SLT)           I Know this Rose Will Open

 

 

Story             Parable of the Prodigal Son; Luke 15:11-32

(Note: We performed this as a skit. We had five people: Narrator, Younger Child, Older Child, Parent, and Employer/Servant. Don’t get locked in by the gender – change it based on who you have playing the parts.)

 

Narrator:                There was once a man who had two sons. One day the younger one said to his father,

 

Younger Son:        Father, give me my share of the estate. I want to travel and see the world.

 

Narrator:                This was an odd request, but the father loved his sons and so he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son took all his new found cash and set out for wild adventures.

 

Younger Son:        Woo-hoo! Hashtag: money is awesome!

 

Narrator:                It was a grand adventure. After he had spent everything he had, The whole country fell into some bad times and it got harder and harder for him to find the things he needed to live, life food and shelter.

 

Younger Son:        Oh no! When wilt thou save the people! Or at least me!

 

Narrator:                So he went looking for work.

 

Employer:              Hey kid! You want a job? I’m looking for a CEO for my new startup internet company!

 

Younger Son:        Really? That’d be great!

 

Employer:              JK, I need someone to feed my pigs.

 

Younger Son:        (Sigh) Okay.

 

Narrator:                It was not glamorous work. It was hard and smelly. This job did not even pay him enough to allow him to buy food for himself! He even considered eating the cruddy food pods that the pigs were eating.

Finally, one day he came to his senses.

 

Younger Son:        My father is a rich man and pays his servants well, they have plenty of food and here I am starving to death! I will simply go back to my father and ask him to hire me as a servant. I will say to him: ‘Father, I have done some things I am not proud of and I am returning to you to ask for forgiveness, and to ask you to hire me as a servant so I can earn money to live and eat.’

 

Narrator:                The younger son then set off back to his father’s country. Meanwhile, back at the farm, while the younger son was still a long way off, his father learned that his younger son was returning. Perhaps a neighbor called with the news or saw the change on the son’s facebook status: hashtag: going home. However it happened, the father was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

 

Younger Son:        Father, I have done some things I am not proud of and I am returning to you to ask for forgiveness, and to ask you to hire me as a servant so I can earn money to live and eat.

 

Narrator:                But the father simply smiled and called to his servants.

 

Father:                     Quick! Bring the best robe, the one with the most bling, and put it on him. Reconnect him to the family cell phone plan and give him his old bedroom. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. He is like the flower of my heart. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

 

Narrator:                So they began to celebrate. But that is not the end of the tale. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.

 

Older Son:              What’s going on? Why all the music and dancing?

 

Servant:                   Your brother has come and your father wants to celebrate

 

Narrator:                The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.

 

Father:                     Why are you angry? Come inside and celebrate with us.

 

Older Son:              Look! All these years I’ve been working for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never even gave me the keys to the car so I could party with my friends. But when this son of yours – who has spent all of the money you gave him because he could not control himself – returns, you throw a big party with music, dancing, and a fatting calf!

 

Father:                     My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

 

 

Reflection               by Jo VonRue

 

The parable of the Great Banquet, the Sower, and the Prodigal Son all remind us that we are here on this planet and in this church to create a beloved community of support together. Sure, we come to church to feed our own spiritual needs, but have you ever considered that even though there is a speaker or sermon topic you won’t necessarily relate to, that there is someone, HERE in this building who really needs to see you on Sunday morning?

 

Imagine with me for a moment … (pause)

 

Perhaps there was a time when you were dealing with some really heavy stuff in your heart and you were not going to go to church but you thought the sermon sounded interesting. After worship, you made your way to social hour where you thought that you would grab a quick cup of coffee and make some small talk before heading back home.

 

Then you run into Bobby. You don’t tell Bobby what is going on in your life because you don’t really know Bobby that well, but they start talking with you so you engage in conversation with them. Then Bobby shares something about their day or their week with you. Whatever it was that Bobby said just gave you a glimmer of hope and something to go home and think about. You never realized how strong of a person Bobby is, at this point you don’t even remember what the sermon was about, but you are so thankful you came because of that one thing that Bobby shared with you.

 

You see, friends, Sunday morning is not just about the sermon. Sunday morning is about building a beloved community in which we work to feed EACH OTHER, sometimes in ways that are obvious, and MANY times in ways that are so subtle, you wouldn’t even know. You have probably been the character of Bobby to others more times than you know.

 

The invited guests were too busy to come to the Great Banquet, you see, their busy is building a barrier between them and those they care about. We here in this congregation are in the business of building beloved community, we are here to grow souls. But the minister and the staff cannot do it on our own. We need each of you to remember why you are a member here, to remember that our responsibility on Sunday mornings is not just to ourselves, but to every other person in this community.

 

 

Easter Egg Communion

(Note: We used small plastic Easter eggs for this. Inside, we had a rolled-up slip of paper with one of the 25 different messages; as well as some candy [jelly beans, Skittles, chocolates, …] We made a point of keeping several Skittles eggs aside because they are gluten/dairy-free.)

And now is the time in our worship where we are going to encourage you to take your faith home with you. Our youth (or ushers) are going to come around and pass baskets of plastic Easter Eggs. Inside each egg is a message that relates to our Easter Worship today. The message encourages you to think about a time in your life, and then to share that story with someone you love either at home, at school, or at coffee hour. Easter is a time of rebirth and renewal. Allow these eggs to encourage you to begin sharing the stories of your heart with those you love.

 

Please raise your hand high if you would prefer a gluten / dairy free egg.

 

 

Special Music                                Beautiful City

 

 

Antiphonal Reading                   By Rebecca A Edmiston-Lange (adapted)

Leader: For this, we ask the Children and Youth lead us with each statement to which the whole congregation will respond “We are the light of the world.”

 

Leader:          Some people say that Jesus is the light of the world. We all can be the light of the world if we seek to act in ways that enlarge the realms of love and justice.

 

Children/Youth:      When we comfort someone who is sad,

  • We are the light of the world.

 

Children/Youth:      When we feed someone who is hungry,

  • We are the light of the world.

 

Children/Youth:      When we treat people with kindness and respect,

  • We are the light of the world.

 

Children/Youth:      When we listen to all ideas and try to solve problems peacefully,

  • We are the light of the world.

 

Children/Youth:      When we look for the good in everyone,

  • We are the light of the world.

 

Children/Youth:      When we speak up against hatred,

  • We are the light of the world.

 

Children/Youth:      When we choose to hope even when the world looks sad,

  • We are the light of the world.

 

Children/Youth:      When we act with love for all people

  • We are the light of the world.

 

All:                  We are the light of the world! Amen and amen.

 

 

Hymn #268 (SLT)           Jesus Christ is Risen Today (vs 1 & 3)

 

 

*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 William R. Murry

Now let us go forth with the faith that life is worth living,

that defeat and adversity can be transformed into victory and hope,

that love is eternal, and

that life is stronger than death.

And may that faith inspire us to live our lives

with dignity, love, and courage

in the days and weeks ahead.

 

 

Postlude                  Day by day (Reprise)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creation EveryWhen

Creation EveryWhen

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.

 

Prelude

 

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:

god, goddess,

truth, love,

spirit of life, ground of being,

first cause.

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.

 

Offertory

 

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.

 

Silent Meditation

 

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 flapping
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?

Ananse:                      Yes.

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.

 

Postlude

 

 

 

Prince Five Virtues

Prince Five Virtues

A service about the values we hold dear

and how being open can help better world for all.

 

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 our shared values as religious seekers. Our story “Prince Five Weapons” is adapted by Rev. Douglas Taylor and Ann Kadlecek from a traditional Buddhist tale.

 

Prelude

 

Opening Words                                             by George G. Brooks

All that quickens sympathetic imaginings,

All that awakens sensitivity to others’ feelings

All that strengthens courage,

All that adds to the love of living – belongs to us.

May our spirits be quickened and enriched,

strengthened and enhanced

by our being here together.

 

*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 Alan G. Deale

The light of this chalice is a frail thing.

It can be snuffed out by the winds of cynicism and apathy.

May its little flame be a reminder of the power of the spirit.

Let us rededicate ourselves to providing light

that lifts our hearts and increases the world’s joy

 

*Hymn #86 (SLT)                 Blessed Spirit of My Life

 

Joys and Sorrows

 

Offertory

 

Story   “Prince Five Weapons” (an adapted Buddhist tale)             Part I

 

First Speaker

Prince Five Weapons’ parents were a king and a queen in India, long ago. And when this little boy was born, they asked a fortune teller to predict what his life would be like.

The fortune-teller predicted that the little boy would become an expert with five weapons – that he would become the greatest master of these five weapons throughout India. So the king and queen named their son Prince Five Weapons.

 

Second Speaker

            His parents thought… if he’s going to be an expert with weapons, we’d better get him the best teachers. So they found the best schools and sent him to learn how to use weapons.

And there he learned to use a spear, a bow and arrow, a club, a dagger and a sword.

And when he finished his training, he was the best in his class at every weapon, and his teacher was so impressed that he gave the prince one of each of these powerful weapons to take with him. The young prince was very proud.

 

First Speaker

After graduation, he set out on the long journey back to his home town. On the way, he came to an unfamiliar forest. The people of the nearby village warned him not to walk through that forest because it was haunted by a gigantic, scary monster. And not just any gigantic scary monster, but a really unusual monster that was covered with this horrible, sticky icky goo. He was called the big sticky scary monster. And if he catches you, the villagers told the prince, the monster will eat you up.

But Prince Five Weapons was feeling pretty confident – after all, he just graduated as an expert in five weapons. “I can protect myself.” he said, “I’m not worried.” So, he went into the forest and sure enough – the big sticky scary monster appeared, growling at him.

 

Second Speaker

            But Prince Five Weapons wasn’t scared. He took out his powerful bow and arrow. With his expert skill he launched his arrows, but the arrows just stuck right to the hair of the monster. And when the monster shook himself, the arrows fell harmlessly to the ground.

Then he drew his fearsome sword, and struck the monster with its blade. But the sword just got stuck like it was suddenly glued to the hair of monster. One by one, the prince’s weapons met this same fate – none of them seemed to be able to harm the monster at all.

 

First Speaker

Now the weapons were gone, but Prince Five Weapons was not defeated. He knew he was strong, and could kick and punch and fight with his bare hands! So he punched with his left fist and his right – but they got stuck. Then he kicked with his right foot and his left! But they got stuck too. Finally he butted the monster as hard as he could, with his head. But his head got stuck too. He was completely stuck, and all he could see in front of his eyes was icky sticky gooey monster fur.

(I wonder how he might have felt. Maybe he was a little scared now? He might have felt hopeless, like, “This is it, I’m doomed? There’s nothing I can do?”)

 

Prayer (#519 SLT)                by Rabindranath Tagore

 

Silent Meditation

 

Hymn #1002  (please remain seated)                        Comfort Me (vs 1, 2 & 5)

 

Story   “Prince Five Weapons” (an adapted Buddhist tale)              Part II

 

Second Speaker

We left Prince Five Weapons with no weapons stuck to the big scary sticky monster. Did he feel vulnerable? Was he frightened? Did he think he was doomed? Well, I don’t know exactly how he felt or what he thought, but I do know what he did. The prince did not give up. His courage never failed him.

In that moment, Prince Five Weapons realized he had other weapons he could use. His courage was on the top of that list. His courage was like a weapon he could use to overcome this monster.

 

First Speaker

The big scary sticky monster reached his hand around to pull the prince from his sticky fur and eat him. To avoid the monster’s grasp, the prince quickly wiggled and twisted himself deeper into the tangle of icky sticky gooey fur, so the monster could not pry him free. The prince was resourceful. He was using something that had been a disadvantage before as an advantage now. Resourcefulness was another of the prince’s new weapons.

 

Second Speaker

            Prince Five Weapons thought about his situation. He was deeply entangled in the icky sticky fur of the monster, so he was safe for the moment. But he needed a way out. The prince called out to the monster, “I have weapons that you don’t know about – they are inside of me so you can’t see them. One of my weapons is sharp like a diamond. And if you eat me, you will suffer great pain until finally you die.” Here, the prince was talking about his sharp, diamond-like intelligence; but the monster did not know that.

 

First Speaker

The big sticky scary monster actually paused. He had never met anyone so persistent, who, after losing every single weapon somehow still sounded confident. It made the monster wonder if maybe what the young prince said was true. Maybe the prince really did have more weapons on the inside. Maybe these weapons really would make the monster suffer and die if he ate him. Deep down the monster began to be afraid.

He gently pulled the prince from his sticky fur and set him free. Not only that, but the monster, having met his match, grew to respect the young prince. And the prince grew to have compassion for the monster. His compassion became his next great weapon. His compassion helped him see the monster differently.

 

Second Speaker

            As the story goes, Prince Five Weapons taught the monster the ways of enlightenment, transforming the big sticky scary monster into the peaceful guardian of that forest. In doing so, the Prince discovered his final weapon, wisdom.

After telling the people of the land that the forest paths were now safe, the young prince continued on his journey home. As a young man, the prince had thought he would be known for the five physical weapons he was trained in: the spear, bow and arrow, club, dagger, and sword.  Instead he became a great king known for his five virtues, his five weapons within: Courage, Resourcefulness, Intelligence, Compassion, and Wisdom.

 

Congregational Reflection               “What are your ‘weapons’?”

What are the virtues you have at your disposal when you navigate difficulty in the world? Take a moment to consider and name for yourself a few virtues you would claim. Perhaps you will consider one of the virtues listed in our story like Courage, Compassion, or Resourcefulness. Or perhaps you will pick a different virtue for yourself such as Patience or Kindness. We invite you to think about this question “What are your ‘weapons’?” while you listen to the music.

 

Musical interlude

 

Congregational Sharing

We invite you now to turn to a few people near you in the sanctuary now and share what you are thinking about, listen to the ideas of the people around you. Do you notice any similarities, any surprises?

 

Homily            Part one: Courage                  by Rev Douglas Taylor

There has been a resurgence of Superheroes in popular culture. As a kid I remember when they went from comic books to tv shows and movies. Now, superheroes are everywhere. As a kid I remember wanting to be a superhero. With one group of friends I would play the Flash when we formed our superhero teams.

 

several years back I was at a week-long camp session at Unirondack. I think it was a family Camp session. Each evening the counselors would have a fun activity, one of them was something called “Wish Night.” For Wish Night you would write down a wish and then a few nights later, on Wish Night, someone would grant your wish. As it works, you would have received someone else’s wish to fulfill in the space of a few days’ time.

 

I wished for there to be a superhero comic book with me as the superhero. I waited with anticipation for two days to find out what my wish-granter would do. I built my hopes up quite beyond what is realistic. I imagined the person granting my wish would spend hours drawing amazing pictures of me with whatever superpower they had settled on: Super-strength? Super-speed? X-ray vision, time-manipulation, or simply flying. Whatever it was, it would be awesome.

 

I imagined the person granting my wish would have me saving the world, would create a perfect nemesis, and would have snappy dialogue for this fabulous comic book.

 

This was all very unrealistic of me. My wish granter would need to have been an amazing artist and writer, and somehow have more than just a few hours of free time, as well as access to more resources than our humble camp Art Shop.

 

Wish Night finally arrived and when it was my turn I learned that my wish-granter had created a pretty-good 12-panel stick-figure comic book about our favorite comic book superhero: Listening Man. At first, I was disappointed. Hear me out. My fellow camper had created a very wonderful gift for me, thoughtful and creative.

 

But at the time I did not really understand what superheroes are all about. I was still looking for the super-human powers, the abilities that defy physics but are so awesome. I had not learned the secret, yet, about the real power of superheroes.

 

Here is the secret: The best superheroes, the stories that draw people’s interest, that make people read and watch over and over – the powers they wield are not the point. Sure, the powers are what hook us, the powers are when fire our imaginations. But really, it is the flaws and failures that make the stories compelling. It is the humanity and the basic virtues we really identify with.

 

Superman in indestructible, but he is in love with Lois Lane and can’t tell her. Wonder Woman can do anything, but she trusts the wrong person and is almost defeated because of it. Iron Man tries to make the world a better place, but he keeps getting in his own way with his alcoholism and arrogance. And through it all – the best part of these superheroes is what they do with the powers they have: the virtues of courage and compassion. What makes them ‘good’ is not their power, but what they do with it.

 

Like Prince Five Weapons, the ‘weapons’ he carries within himself prove far more important than the ones he had strapped onto his belt when he ventured into the unfamiliar forest. Like Spiderman, who is told by his Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” What matters is what we do with what we’ve got. What good are all the superpowers in the world if we don’t have the courage to step into the difficulties.

 

So, look out! Listening Man is here. Anyone can ask you how you are doing today, but Listening Man actually cares about your answer! He has empathy for you.

 

Video                          Brené Brown on Empathy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

In this 3-minute video, Brené Brown talks about the difference between empathy and sympathy, and why empathy takes courage.

 

Homily           Part two: Empathy                  by Rev Douglas Taylor

“What makes something better is connection.” If you ae not familiar with Brené Brown, I encourage you to watch a TED talk or youtube clip of her work soon. Dr. Brown is a public speaker, writer, and research professor from the university of Houston School of Social Work.

 

“What makes something better,” she tells us at the end of this clip about empathy, “is connection.” What she is clarifying with that sentence is the same thing I am trying to say with my message about superpowers. Whether we are trying to save the world from Dr. Evil’s death ray or we are simply concerned for a friend who is in a difficult place – the answer is the same. Any special powers we have will be ancillary to the deeper solution. Sure, our superpowers or special knowledge or expertise will be important in some way, but more important will be the virtues we have as our ‘5 weapons within.’ When Prince Five Weapons connected with the monster, a transformation was possible from monster to guardian.

 

The heart of our Prince Five Weapons story and of this whole service is Courage. Courage is the greatest virtue because it allows all the others a chance to arise. I have heard it asserted that the prayer for courage is the only prayer that never goes unanswered. For Prince Five Weapons, his courage allowed him to keep trying to defeat the big sticky scary monster even when all his physical weapons had failed him. His courage kept him trying to overcome the monster, to help the people, and even – though it was not his initial goal – to help the monster.

 

Our courage is the opening to everything else. But think about this for a moment – the reason we need courage is because we are vulnerable. We need courage because we are scared, because we are open and might get hurt, because there is real danger. In some cases, we are choosing to be vulnerable. We are open, and it is through this opening that we can be hurt. And … it is through our openness we can grow.

 

Vulnerability can be a strength. Remember what Brené Brown was saying in the video. Empathy is about sharing in the suffering of another. It fosters connection. It is about being open. It is about being receptive rather than protected, sharing rather than shielded.

 

Do you want to be a super hero? Do you want to make the world a better place? Dr. Brown said, “What makes something better is connection.” What connection are you willing to make? How will your courage lead you to be open, to be vulnerable? What connection will you make? How will you take that step to build trust, to have faith, to act with courage and strength in the world?

 

On Dr. Brené Brown’s website, there is a quote from her about courage in large font dominating the top of her page. I went there looking for particulars about her, where she worked and such. What I found was a large quote sitting boldly at the top of her page, waiting for me. “Courage is contagious.” Brown said. “Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.” Let us move forward together, open and vulnerable to world, ready to serve, ready to be of help – but more than that – ready to connect.

 

In a world without end,

May it be so.

 

*Hymn #1015 (STL)             I Know I Can

 

*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 (#463 SLT)                                            by Adrienne Rich

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:

So much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those who, age after age,

Perversely, and with no extraordinary power,

Reconstitute the world.

 

Postlude