[You can watch a video recording of this Call to Worship at the end of this text. To see the entire service, click here.]
Teaching One: Finding the Guidance and Power We Need in this Time—Call to Worship and Herbert Goertz’s Haiku
Hansel and Gretel are lost in the forest and have to escape a witch that wants to kill and eat them.
Frodo and Sam need to find their way through trackless wilderness and obstacles to reach Mordor and end the power of evil.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is locked in solitary confinement in a Birmingham jail, feeling lost and defeated, and has to find a way out to lead his people to justice.
We are in a story like those right now. Everyone I know is struggling on some level. How can you be awake in America today and not feel lost, and not feel grief or anger or fear or depression or despair or all of them together? How can we maintain avoidance and denial when the news is so bad and the injustices are so great and the dangers so terrifying? When it is so devastating to watch the suffering of our children, and people of color, and people who are unemployed or under employed, and people who are experiencing the worst of this awful disease?
We feel lost collectively and individually and are not sure we are going to find our way, so it is important to remember that we are not alone. Not only do we have one another, but we have our ancestors, we have the wisdom of the ages to support us, and we have the same Spirit that flowed through them and created life that is in us all and wants life to keep on living and evolving.
Many of humanity’s greatest stories are about having to find our way when we are lost. We see it in the archetype of the hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell described, from ancient Greek myths to Star Wars films. We see it in great art and literature. The poet Dylan Thomas said, “My poetry is, or should be, useful to me for one reason: it is the record of my individual struggle from darkness toward some measure of light.”
The main point of every religion is to help us find our way through times and places and historical situations where we feel lost and tempted to despair. We see this in the Bible not only in the most obvious stories of Moses or Jesus in the wilderness, but in almost every story. The same thing could be said of the Tao Te Ching or Bhagavad Gita or Koran or Native American vision quests.
My children’s time today talks about stories where a magical power provides maps or signs, messengers or helpers. In the Bible we call that magical force God or the Holy Spirit. The scriptures are a product of that magic working through prophets and poets. But as in all the old stories, in order for the magic messages to be useful to us, we need to be able to read them. We need to know the moonlight that makes the invisible ink appear and be able to read the language of runes.
To understand what these ancient messages are saying to help us save life on earth we need to gain an equally magical power of interpretation, in other words we need to attain a higher consciousness. Jesus talked about “those with ears to hear” because we need spiritually attuned ears in order to understand the Spirit’s message.
Jesus said the entire law and the prophets were summed up in the great commandments to love our neighbor as one with our self and love God with all our heart, mind, soul and body. It could not be stated more clearly: that is the secret to survival and a fulfilled life.
The problem is, in order to understand the meaning of that path, we have to see from his level of consciousness We have to have the ears and eyes and heart and mind of Christ to understand how to apply this teaching to social, economic and environmental systems, how to apply it to governments and corporations and transform human civilization into a sustainable, harmonious realm of justice and mercy on earth—what Jesus would call God’s realm.
We know this can happen—I have seen it happen, haven’t you? I have been in churches torn apart by years of conflict, churches that feel lost and dying, and I have watched with trepidation as a meeting began to descend into negativity that could have destroyed the church when suddenly someone spoke up with exactly the word, exactly the change of perspective needed. I have seen the entire trajectory of a church be transformed by one flash of the Holy Spirit.
The greatest stories are not about people who were born as superheroes, they are about ordinary people and communities that are transformed by opening and rising to a new possibility. That is the magic. That is the power of the Holy Spirit at work.
We can do this, we as a people can rise to this moment of history, we can save our democracy, we can save humanity, we can save all living species, the rose breasted grosbeaks and golden retrievers and little red efts, we can be the heroes who are remembered by our great great great grandchildren, generations that would not have existed if we had not risen to this moment.
I will talk about that in the other two teachings in this service. The next one is aimed both at adults and older children and has to do with the magical power we need and, of course, the role of prayer in that magic. The third teaching is a more traditional short sermon. It will look at two scripture passages as invisible-ink maps or coded messages sent from beyond that contain the wisdom and direction we need.
Herbert Goertz provided the haiku for the day. It is full of magic itself, the magic of nature, wonder, empathy and love, the magic that comes to us when we are still. Here are Herb’s words:
I can taste the milk
as the doe suckles her fawn
undisturbed by me.
Let us worship together continuing on with this service.