Saturday, June 18, 2022

Summer Solstice

 


Order of Service - Script 


for Sunday: 

June 19, 2022 


Summer Solstice 


On Earth we can mark time by observing our position in relation to our day star, also known as the sun. 




NIUU, Jeanie Donaldson, Pastor Fred 


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Fred - Welcome and Announcements: 

Come into this circle of love and compassion,

Come into this community where we can dream and

Believe in those dreams—

Welcome to North Idaho Unitarian Universalists where we accept, we support, we transform:  Ourselves, Our Community. Our world.   



Fred  - Offering Information 


Charity of the Month:

International Eye Institute

"At its origin, our mission is both medical and ethical. We strive to create unity among communities through charity and healing.

By providing adult and pediatric eye care to people of impoverished regions around the world we are restoring their health and empowering them to be self-sustaining."


NIUU

P.O. Box 221

CDA ID 83816






Sue - Lighting the Chalice: 


Faith in Summer

By Ellen Hamilton


In faith, together, we light this small scrap of light,

symbol of Grandfather Sun's enormous power,

whose energy burns so brightly In these days of deep Summer,

catapulting the leaves and vines,

vegetables, flowers and fruits to astonishing size, lengths and heights,

spilling over the tops of cages, walls and trellises,

delighting and nourishing all beings.


We bask in the warmth and the heat of these days,

with lightened hearts and quickened senses,

in gratitude and in faith. 



Shaaron - Opening Words: ­­­


Call from Beyond

By Susan Maginn


From beyond the playful summer clouds,

beyond the earth's thin blue line,

from beyond the bright moon and meteor showers,

we hear the call to look and listen carefully,

to turn away from a world that buys and sells happiness,

to fully experience the luring whisper of your heart's truth.

Why not today, why not now?


We are here and together at home in this evolving place,

home in this ever changing breath and body,

home in this dewy morning even as it reaches toward a hot high noon.


We hear the call from far beyond and deep within and we do not hear it alone.


Come, let us worship together. 






Shaaron - Introduce - Hymn #66: “When the Summer Sun is Shining” 


When the Summer Sun Is Shining

 

1. When the summer sun is shining 

Over golden land and sea, 

And the flowers in the hedgerow 

Welcome butterfly and bee; 

Then my open heart is glowing, 

Full of warmth for everyone, 

And I feel an inner beauty 

Which reflects the summer sun. 


2. When the summer clouds of thunder 

Bring the long-awaited rain, 

And the thirsty soil is moistened 

And the grass is green again; 

Then I long for summer sunshine, 

But I know that clouds and tears 

Are a part of life’s refreshment 

Like the rainbow’s hopes and fears. 


3. In the cool of summer evening, 

When the dancing insects play, 

And in garden, street, and meadow 

Linger echoes of the day; 

Then my heart is full of yearning; 

Hopes and mem’ries flood the whole 

Of my being, reaching inwards 

To the corners of my soul.



Fred - Covenant: 

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law

This is our great covenant:

To dwell together in peace,

To seek truth in love,

And to help one another. 



Fred - Greeting each other  (Those present in person can leave our seats for this, if we wish.) 



Fred - Joys and Concerns (with lighting of candles of caring) 



Fred - Story: 


What the Turtle Taught Theodore

By Gary Kowalski


In his autobiography, Theodore Parker relates that as a child, four or five years old, living on a farm in Roxbury, he was walking through the fields one day absent-mindedly swinging a stick through the tall grass. This was many years ago, in the days before the Civil War. It was summertime. He stopped to watch the water bubble along a creek. Then he noticed a turtle sunning itself on a rock.


He’d seen other boys use their sticks to strike a turtles and other animals. It was part of what children thought was fun, just as some children still like to bully and hit those who are weaker than themselves. Often children and grown-ups too are copycats — mimicking the behavior of others who seem bigger or stronger than themselves. Young Theodore wanted to be like the other, older boys he’d seen, so he raised his stick into the air, taking aim and preparing to knock the turtle into the water.


Then something stopped him. Something seemed wrong about the situation. He looked again at the turtle, quiet, peaceful, enjoying the summer day just as he liked to feel the warmth and light of the sun. Had the turtle ever done him any harm? Was the turtle so different than himself? Slowly he lowered his stick and walked home, thinking about what had happened.


When he arrived home, his mother was there to greet him, and he told her about the incident. She listened carefully to Theodore, and listened especially carefully when he related how some strange force inside had stopped him from hitting the little animal. “Theodore,” she said, “that force inside you was the voice of conscience. Always pay attention to it. Always follow what your conscience tells you. It’s your moral compass that points you in the right direction. And if you honor your conscience, you’ll never go wrong in this world.”


Theodore Parker grew up to become a Unitarian minister, in fact one of the greatest leaders our faith has ever known. He became a champion of the defenseless who needed defending. He was a hero in the fight to end slavery in our country. He prayed to “Father and Mother God” and fought for women’s equality and their right to vote. He and wife never had children of their own — but he felt a sense of kinship with the whole family of creation, people of all sexes and races who had been made in the image of the holy. And it all started one summer day when he was just a child — a child who saw a turtle and decided to do what was right.


 


Cindy - Meditation: 



As we begin our time of meditation, please be comfortable. Be aware of breathing in and out. On this holy day of Mother Nature, we remember that we ourselves are part of nature. We affect and we are affected by the world around us: our planet, our daystar, our whole solar system, the stars and galaxies, and the multiverse itself. We sit near the center of the scale from the smallest to the largest. We are a part of it all. 


The passage of time as we move through it can well be measured by the equinoxes and the solstices. The light and warmth of this present Season can give us all a powerful feeling of being part of it all. 


Our place in the world is no less than the greatest and no more than the least and the smallest. From the quarks and other subatomic particles to the superstructures of galactic groupings, we are a part of it all. 


Please take a deep breath, let it out, and remember that you and I are ourselves an indispensible part of the whole. 


So let it be ... and ... Blessed be! 



Sue - Solstice Fire Ceremony


Words From Our Sources - Fire Ceremony   

As a young child, I did not know anything about the science of the solstice.  I was not aware of the Earth’s tilt, or its affect on our seasons.  Who were the sun gods and what were the solstice rituals?  I didn’t know.    But I knew the power of the sun.  Shivering at my bus stop on Wyoming winter days, I longed for the summer sun’s warmth when the cold seeped deep in my bones.    

In the summer - lying on the ground after a cold dip in the creek near our home, I would soak up the sun’s heat from the earth under me.  I can still feel that warmth. 

Walking through a dry field of grain stubble in August, I would curse the heat, wishing for shade,  and longing for sunset.  

And those sunsets - filling the wide Wyoming sky with color - brilliant hues of red, pink, orange and yellow.  I would stare at the sky until it went dark - filling my head with the beauty of it all.  


Fire Ceremony

Summer solstice, when the sun is at its strongest, is also the time when daylight begins to shorten and we start the slow decline into darkness of winter again. For Wiccan’s the summer solstice is called Midsummer and focuses on this cycle of life. Midsummer for modern Wiccans means the death of the Sun God or Oak King, so the Holly King may reign for the next six months. Large bonfires are lit for Fire Ceremonies or large wheels of fire are rolled downhill into water to illustrate the quenching of the sun’s power. Later in the year at winter solstice, the Sun God or Oak King is reborn again, completing the cycle of life and marking the end of winter’s power and the return of light and hope. 

UU’s believe in the power of “direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life.” Today we are going to have a fire ceremony to attune us to the gifts of this time of year.

We hold our Fire Ceremony to invite in fire’s cleansing power. It is a good time of year to clean out the cobwebs, get rid of things we no longer need and stories and thoughts that hold us back. In order to move forward, it is helpful to make room for new ideas by letting go of the old.  Let’s take a few moments to think of those patterns or habits in our life that hold us back from reaching our goals; those patterns or habits that we no longer want in our lives. Write them down on the papers provided in the baskets near your seat.  Today let the death of the Sun God represent an end to these habits thus making room for a more positive path. As you think of what you would like to release, I invite you to come up in silence and burn your paper in the burning bowl, letting the fire burn away the old making room for the new. Take a few deep slow breaths to sweep out your cobwebs.

After everyone has burned their paper, say:

These fires have burned away the old.




Fred - Sermon: 



The day after tomorrow, 

  Tuesday June 21 at 2:13 a.m., 

    the Summer Solstice will be upon us. 


The Summer Solstice is 

  a wonderful nature-based holy day, 

    and in my mind, it's a wonder 

      because it marks the middle 

        of the year's time of warmth. 


In our part of the world, 

  it's not generally too hot yet, 

    but the warmth is about to be dependable. 


There may still be rain and coolness, 

  but in the Season of Solstice 

    we often experience them as a relief. 


I like to speak of the Solstice Season, 

  whether at the start of Summer or Winter, 

    because the Solstice really is a Season, 

      a period of time, 

        rather than a single day. 


The Season begins when the Sun appears 

  to stand still in the sky, 

    still appearing to move from East to West, 

      but hardly if at all from South to North 

        or North to South. 


Of course, the appearance of movement 

  by the Sun in our skies 

    is an illusion, 

      based on the fact 

        that the Earth herself is moving.


The change in the Sun's position 

  through the days (E-W) 

    and through the weeks (N-S) 

      from our point of view

        offers us a wonderful way to observe time, 

          available equally to us and to the ancients. 


If we think about it, those observations of time 

  offer us a link across the times of our human family. 


The Solstice Season appears to me to last 

  about four weeks, 

    two weeks before and two weeks after 

      the Day of the Solstice itself. 


In that period, the sun hardly seems to change at all 

  in the positions of sunrise and sunset. 


Around the Summer Solstice, 

  the Sun appears to be more in the north 

    at those times.  


There are two more occasions converging today, 

  along with our proximity to the Summer Solstice. 


Today is Father's Day. 


As we think of our own fathers 

  in our hearts 

    whether they are still in this world or not, 

      we remember the importance 

        of nurturing care regardless of gender. 


The Sun as the Day Star is often thought of 

  as having masculine gender. 


Since it is the source of the energy 

  that has enabled life to form and survive 

    on our little planet, 

      we can think of the Sun as our father. 


So it is appropriate to celebrate Father's Day 

  close to the Solstice. 


Today is also Juneteenth. 


Since I was born and grew up in Texas, 

  Juneteenth, also known as June 19th, 

    is at least familiar to me. 


It is the day on which 

  the Emancipation Proclamation was finally read 

    in Texas. 


Although the Emancipation Proclamation itself 

  was implemented on January 1, 1863, 

    it did not take effect in States 

      still under Confederate control. 


The arrival of 2,000 Federal (U.S.) troops 

  in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 

    finally brought freedom to the 250,000 

      enslaved Americans in Texas. 


So our Solstice celebration this year 

  occurs along with two other traditional, meaningful 

    opportunities to remember. 


Surely Father's Day and Juneteenth 

  are both worthwhile occasions. 


At the same time, only the Solstice 

  is a nature based holy day. 


The Solstices have long been 

  an important part of my life. 


I have to warn you: 

  I'm about to get autobiographical on you again. 


In my younger years, 

  on the Winter Solstice of 1972, 

    Karen and Kevin's mother and I were married. 


I remember one year in my parents' back yard 

  in San Antonio, Texas, 

    I actually poured out a small libation of wine 

      as a celebration of a nature festival 

        that was meaningful for me. 


Many years later 

  in 2006 I was helping prepare 

    for another Winter Solstice 

      at the UUCP in Moscow, ID. 


During those preparations 

  I met someone dear to many of our hearts, 

    our dear Beth, known at that time as Beth Miller. 


About a year later, she and I were married, 

  and she came to be known as Beth Toerne. 


As you can tell, and as I’ve said before, 

  the equinoxes and solstices 

    are not only high holy days 

      for nature based spirituality, 

        they are also among 

          the most important observances 

            for me personally 

              and for my own spiritual life. 


Likewise they are deeply important 

  for our UU and NIUU communities. 


In truth, these nature based celebrations 

  are important for the whole human family. 


The spiritual celebrations based in nature 

  can be a powerful tool 

    for us children of nature to care for our Mother, 

      including such difficult matters 

        as climate change. 


We who keep those celebrations 

  are honoring a heritage that belongs to us all, 

    and we are helping us all maintain 

      a view of our lives in this world 

        that will hold all our needs in our hearts 

          and just maybe enable 

            the survival of us all. 


In my not so humble opinion, 

  the celebration of nature 

    as an important part of our spirituality 

      is near the heart of our congregation's mission 

        for the sake of our part of the world. 



Amen 

So let it be 

Blessed Be! 



Congregational Response 



Sue - Extinguishing the Chalice : 


We extinguish our chalice and take into ourselves the light of our Daystar, the sun, whose light is at its apex this week. So we mark our time, our warmth, and our hope of good productive days for ourselves, our congregation, our community, our nation, and our world. 


Shaaron - Closing words: 


Closing Words for Seasonal Transitions

By Andrew Pakula


May you know fully and deeply the blessings of each of your heart's seasons

The inward turning of Winter

Springtime's lush renewal

The effortless, steady growth of summer

And autumn's rich harvest

May your passage from season to season be blessed—

Eased by hands to hold, and by the light of love to guide you on.


Friday, June 03, 2022

Church Politics

 

Order of Service - Script 


for Sunday  June 5, 2022: 



Church Politics 


All politics seek to make things better, sometimes for everyone, sometimes only for a few. 



NIUU, Jeanie Donaldson, Pastor Fred 


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Prelude: "Prelude" by Jeanie Donaldson


Welcome and Announcements: 


Where do we go from here?


NIUU Semi-Annual Meeting


The time has come for us to re-envision how we manage all that is NIUU. How we meet, how we organize, and we move forward. Please join us for our semi-annual meeting on June 12th at 10:30am on Zoom or in person at the Harding Center. We will not be having a Sunday Service prior to this meeting as it will require our full attention and participation. The NIUU board requests that you consider the questions: Where do we go from here? What is required of us as a UU congregation? What does it mean to you to be a member of this beloved community? How do we continue to seek truth in love and support for one another? Together we will explore these questions and share our unique perspectives.


Come into this circle of love and compassion,

Come into this community where we can dream and

Believe in those dreams—

Welcome to North Idaho Unitarian Universalists where we accept, we support, we transform:  Ourselves, Our Community. Our world.   



Offering Information 

Charity of the Month:

International Eye Institute

"At its origin, our mission is both medical and ethical. We strive to create unity among communities through charity and healing.

By providing adult and pediatric eye care to people of impoverished regions around the world we are restoring their health and empowering them to be self-sustaining."


NIUU

P.O. Box 221

CDA ID 83816



Lighting the Chalice: 


A Communion of Heart and Soul

By Bruce Southworth


For the gift of this day and for our community of spiritual nurture and compassion, we give thanks.


We light this chalice as a symbol of our faith.


May our many sparks meet and merge in communion of heart and soul.



Opening Words: ­­­


The beauty of the whole

By Meg Barnhouse


We gather to worship, our hearts alive with hope that here we will be truly seen, that here we will be welcomed into the garden of this community, where the simple and the elegant, the fluted and frilled, the shy and the dramatic complement one another and are treasured. May we know that here, each contributes in their way to the beauty of the whole. Come, let us worship together, all genders, sexualities, politics, clappers and non-clappers, progressive or conservative, may we root ourselves in the values of this faith: compassion and courage, transcendence, justice and transformation.



Hymn #298: Wake, Now, My Senses 


1 . Wake, now, my senses, and hear the earth call;

feel the deep power of being in all;

keep, with the web of creation your vow,

giving, receiving as love shows us how.


2. Wake, now, my conscience, with justice thy guide;

join with all people whose rights are denied;

take not for granted a privileged place;

God’s love embraces the whole human race.


3. Wake, now, my vision of ministry clear;

brighten my pathway with radiance here;

mingle my calling with all who will share;

work toward a planet transformed by our care. 



Covenant: 

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law

This is our great covenant:

To dwell together in peace,

To seek truth in love,

And to help one another. 


Greeting each other  (Those present in person can leave our seats for this, if we wish.) 


Joys and Concerns (with lighting of candles of caring) 


Story: 


God Gave Me a Word

By Amy Petrie Shaw


I was talking with God the other day, ‘cause we’re cool like that.

And God said “Hey, I want you to tell people something.”

And I was kinda busy, so I pretended like I didn't hear.

And God poked me and said, “I’m not kidding. Pay attention,”

(‘cause while we’re cool, we aren’t that cool

And I know when I have pushed it way too far.)

So I put down my coffee cup and I turned around.


And God said, “Let me hang a Word around your neck, so that Everyone can see it. And you better speak it when you’re out, ‘cause I’ll know if you don’t.

And it will be heavy,

So heavy,

On your soul.”


And a Word was hung around my neck to take out to the people standing in the streets.

A Word was preached into my ear and laid into my mouth and burned into my Heart until all I could see was the shape of the Word and the Word was all.

And the Word was Love.


And God said “Now get out because

You don’t have all day, and that Word is gonna get heavier.

And you got some work yet to do.


So I’m taking my Word out into the world.


Love came down on this green earth.

Love came down and turned over the tables and set the world on its end

Love made it clear that it was the Word for the poor and the broken hearted. For the queer boi and the angry girl.

Love was the Word for late night hookers and the long haul truckers, for the

heroin junkie and the runaway cutters.


Love was the Word for all of the screwed up and pushed over and too tired and I can’t take no more.

Love was the Word for the HIV patient and the man with no papers.

Love was the Word for me and for you, for the saints and the sinners and the scramblers in between.


Love came down and made a way

for there to be a way

and then

Love said “We are never going back.”


(he who has ears let him hear)


Love said we are all a part of something bigger and if you cannot rise with us, if you

cannot Love with us

then you should get the Hell out of the way because

We aren’t going anywhere and you

are in the path.


(he who has ears let him hear)


Love came down for the World to know and

I'm holding out this Word so

even when you and God are just like that you can’t pretend you didn't know.


I cannot put it down.


Not for a politician spewing hatred.

Not for a minister vomiting out bile in the costume of a saint.

Not for money or for country or for kin.


I'm holding my Word in my mouth

‘Cause the next time I see God I wanna be able to say “You gave me a Word and I carried it just the way you asked.”


You gave it to me and I took it.

I showed it to everyone I met.


You gave it to me and I showed it to her and gher and ze and him.

I showed it to them and they and those over there.


I never put it down.

(I can never put it down).


I was talking with God the other day, ‘cause we’re cool like that.

And God said “Hey, I want you to tell people something.”

And I was still kinda busy, so I pretended like I didn't hear.

And God said, “I’m not kidding. Pay attention,”

(‘cause while we’re cool, we aren’t that cool

And I know when I have pushed it way too far.)

So I put down my coffee cup and I turned around.


And then God gave me a Word.

And now I've given it to you.


Start moving.


 

Meditation: 


Meditation on Hands

By Christine C. Robinson


I invite you into a space of quiet and peace, to ground yourself by noticing your contact with chair and floor, by sitting straight, by becoming aware of your breathing.


Look at your hands. They've been through a lot, those hands...they have strengths, scars, beauty...I invite you to remember that it is your hands that do the work of love in the world.


These hands may hold another's hands.


These hands may type emails to politicians, sign cards of consolation and congratulation.


These hands may patiently teach, quilt works of beauty or write words urging peace.


These hands may bathe children, feed elders, nurse the ill, work the earth, organize communities.


These hands clasp in prayer, open in release, grasp in solidarity, clench in righteous anger.


These hands are God's hands, your hands, our hands; a great mystery of flesh and intention, a great potential of embodied love.


"Intermezzo" by Mikhail Glinka


Sermon: 


As we slide, albeit reluctantly, 

  down the path into another political season, 

    I believe it's a good idea to reflect 

      about that we are doing. 


Our own UUA is in a serious political season 

  brought about 

    not only by the time of year with GA approaching, 

      but also by controversy about matters 

        that need not really be controversial 

          if only we consider 

            the application of our Principles. 


I spoke and preached 

  about good news last week. 


For our nation, 

  the political season can be good news 

    whether or not "our" side wins. 


If people simply begin to pay attention 

  there are many opportunities for all our lives 

    to improve in a variety of ways. 


For our church / association of congregations 

  the current political season 

    with all its controversies 

      can be good news 

       if we can again learn 

          to disagree 

            without being or becoming disagreeable. 


In both areas of politics 

  that I'm thinking and speaking of, 

    both church and state, so to speak, 

      the matters of race and race relations 

        are important areas of concern. 


Human relations among different races 

  have long been matters of concern 

    in all kinds of politics, 

      and even more than a political matter, 

        they are a spiritual matter. 


Our ways of caring - or not caring - 

  about and for each other 

    are at stake, 

      and that is a spiritual matter par excellence. 


As you know, a spiritual matter 

  is something I consider a matter of breathing, 

    since spirit means breath. 


Even more the spirituality of race relations 

  is a matter breathing 

    because it is a question of survival 

      for nations and for spiritual communities. 


There are many approaches 

  to the question of race, 

    and there are only a few 

      that are completely invalid. 


One is obvious: 

  claiming supremacy for one race over others. 


(Whites do that because of our obvious inferiority.) 


The most important matter to remember 

  is that there is only one race 

    in the final analysis: 

      the human race. 


There is a richness in the variety of kinds of people 

  within this one race. 


There is a variety of gifts, 

  but there is only one race. 


We are all gifts to each other. 


As individuals we have various talents. 


Those are more common within and across races. 


Some years ago, 

  I remember a friend saying 

    that there is no more segregated time in the U.S. 

      than Sunday morning at 11 a.m. 


It is no less true today than it was many years ago. 


Sadly, it is no less true 

  among us Unitarian Universalists 

    than in any other denomination. 


It need not be the result of ill will, 

  but even as a natural occurrence, 

    it can weaken and even disable us all 

      in many ways. 


While there is much separation of the races 

  we still need each other. 


Whether we come together 

  across racial divides or not, 

    there is often controversy on the subject. 


Too much controversy is being fomented 

  by those who cynically use insecurities of people 

    to increase their own political power. 


One of many controversies involves 

  a way of compensating for past errors around race 

    called affirmative action. 


The term refers to a way of acting 

  that gives advantages of people whose groups 

    were previously at a disadvantage 

      because of their race. 


Some of the wisest words 

  I ever heard on the subject 

    were spoken by a dear friend 

      who was an African American Lutheran pastor. 


She said that people of color 

  are sometimes amused by all the controversy. 


They watch quietly, 

  and then move quietly into new opportunities 

    while the melanin challenged among us 

      (white folks) 

        argue over ways of opening the doors 

          that others have already walked through! 


An important lesson for our UUA 

  and for our NIUU group 

    is to be found here. 


While we are not watching, 

  others will take care of human needs 

    that we may be neglecting. 


If we want to move into a better future, 

  we will need to pay attention 

    to the people around us, 

      not worrying too much about disagreements 

        as long as those who disagree 

          can manage to do so 

            without creating so much friction 

              that we ourselves become disagreeable! 


In the beloved community of our UUA 

  we are finding disagreements 

    along with a certain amount 

      of political disagreeability. 


After all, we (whoever we are) know what is right. 


Those who disagree with us

  must not be people of good will. 


Especially in church politics 

  we find this kind of attitude. 


It's one of the reasons I am no longer active 

  in Lutheran ministry. 


The controversy over treatment of LGBT+ people 

  became much too difficult for me to tolerate. 


The settled decision is not entirely unlike 

  our own UU position, 

    but it split the church. 


There are now new denominations 

  who want so much 

    to discriminate against LGBT+ people 

      that they could not remain in community 

        with those who disagreed. 


As I said about politics in the blurb for this service, 

  "All politics seek to make things better, 

    sometimes for everyone, 

      sometimes only for a few." 


Church politics aren't all the different in this regard. 


We seek our own advantage, 

  the advantage of our own denominations, 

    and the advantage of our own congregations, 

      even if that means working against the interests 

        of other people and groups. 


This way of understanding human behavior 

  may tell us a lot about what's really going on 

    in the controversy between a neighboring 

      UU minister and the wider UUA 

        administrative body. 


If you have no idea what I'm talking about, 

  please simply count yourself as lucky. 


Just know that our beloved community 

  at every level 

    is composed of flawed human beings 

      who are not so different from ourselves. 


There is even some controversy going on 

  about our UU principles. 


There is an attempt to add an eighth principle 

  to the Seven Principles that we have long had. 


The Eighth has to do with anti-racist work. 


I have long been trying 

  to avoid sticking my own neck out 

    by clearly stating a personal opinion, 

      but just indulge me for a moment, please, 

        and I will share a little of my own training 

          and experience. 


I have found that human institutions, 

  including church organizations, 

    will work for their own preservation and interests 

      even if that work goes against the very purposes 

        for which those institutions were founded. 


That simple fact can account for 

  a lot of the struggles 

    we find in every aspect 

      of our societies and civilizations, can't it? 


Let me try saying it in a simpler way. 


Self-interest governs a lot - or most - 

  of human behavior 

    at the personal and group levels. 

 

Accordingly, as of now, 

  I'm going to go ahead and stick my neck out. 


I believe that adherence to our own First Principle 

  will go much further toward healing racial problems 

    than the adoption of an Eighth Principle 

      that is too complex for most of us to grasp, 

        especially on a first reading. 


You have probably noticed 

  that I haven't read that Eighth Principle 

    as part of this sermon. 


That's just because I don't want to do so. 


But the First Principle is something that we all need. 


It's easy to remember and understand, 

  even if it's not always easy to put into practice. 


It is 

  "The inherent worth and dignity of every person." 


Now, a spiritual principle 

  doesn't get much simpler than that. 


If we all work toward adherence to this 

  as our First Principle (which as UU's it is), 

    we will also move toward justice 

      in matters of race, ecology, human relationships, 

        and on and on. 


I believe and feel 

  that I have shared good news today. 


We don't have to follow some complex political 

  gobbledegook 

    to be true humanitarians. 


We only have to begin to work toward following 

  the principles we already have 

    and have already agreed upon. 


I hope and believe with every positive feeling I have 

  that we will do so in the long run. 


In the meantime, there may be some church fights, 

  but we can choose to stay out of them, 

    and that's some of the best news of all. 


Amen 

So Let it Be 

Blessed be 



Congregational Response 



Extinguishing the Chalice : 


For the gift of this day and for our community of spiritual nurture and compassion, we give thanks.


We extinguish this chalice as a symbol of the sharing of our faith.


May our many sparks have met and merged in communion of heart and soul.


Now we go forth from this time of sharing in continuing communion of heart, soul and mind. 


We have good news that we can share about the continuing humanitarian faith we practice together, whether we agree on the details or not.



Closing words: 


Life is Political...

By Timothy Snyder


"Life is political, not because the world cares about how you feel, but because the world reacts to what you do. The minor choices we make are themselves a kind of vote, making it more or less likely that free and fair elections will be held in the future. In the politics of the everyday, our words and gestures, or their absence, count very much… The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow."


from On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (pp. 33, 32)


Thursday, May 26, 2022

 

Good News 


All humans need good news to bring hope into hearts and minds. The Greek word for good news is evangelion, and those who bring it are evangelists. The English word for good news is gospel. 


Order of Service - Script 


for Sunday  May 29, 2022: 



NIUU, Jeanie Donaldson, Pastor Fred 


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-



Welcome and Announcements: 


(from Tracey and Fred) 


Where do we go from here? 

  NIUU Semi-Annual Meeting


   The time has come for us to re-envision how we manage all that is NIUU. How we meet, how we organize, and we move forward. Please join us for our semi-annual meeting on June 12th at 10:30am on Zoom or in person at the Harding Center. We will not be having a Sunday Service prior to this meeting as it will require our full attention and participation. The NIUU board requests that you consider the questions: Where do we go from here? What is required of us as a UU congregation? What does it mean to you to be a member of this beloved community? How do we continue to seek truth in love and support for one another? Together we will explore these questions and share our unique perspectives. 


Come into this circle of love and compassion,

Come into this community where we can dream and

Believe in those dreams—

Welcome to North Idaho Unitarian Universalists where we accept, we support, we transform:  Ourselves, Our Community. Our world.   



Offering Information 

Charity of the Month:

Family Promise of North Idaho


"Family Promise of North Idaho is an affiliate of 

Family Promise® which was created in 1986 in response to the growing need to provide shelter, meals, and comprehensive support to families without homes. We are a nonsectarian charity and we welcome all clients who meet our eligibility and admission requirements. Our staff and board of trustees work together with our interfaith and community partners to extend support to the homeless families in North Idaho."



NIUU

P.O. Box 221

CDA ID 83816



Lighting the Chalice and Opening Words: ­­­


Forged in the Fire of Our Coming Together

By Gretchen Haley


We are all connected; stronger together; love's hands in the world; called to create justice; responsible for one another and the Earth.

What's going to happen?

Will everything be ok?

What can I do?

In these days we find ourselves, too often,

Stuck with these questions on repeat:

What's going to happen? / Will everything be ok? /What can I do?


We grasp at signs and markers, articles of news and analysis,

Facebook memes and forwarded emails

As if the new zodiac

Capable of forecasting all that life may yet bring our way

As if we could prepare

As if life had ever made any promises of making sense, or turning out the way we'd thought

As if we are not also actors in this still unfolding story


For this hour we gather

To surrender to the mystery

To release ourselves from the needing to know

The yearning to have it all already figured out

And also the burden of believing we either have all the control, or none


Here in our song and our silence

Our stories and our sharing

We make space for a new breath, a new healing, a new possibility

To take root

That is courage

forged in the fire of our coming together

and felt in the spirit that comes alive in this act of faith:

that we believe still, a new world is possible

That we are creating it, already, here, and now


Come, let us worship together.



Hymn #346: “Come, Sing a Song with Me” 




Covenant: 

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law

This is our great covenant:

To dwell together in peace,

To seek truth in love,

And to help one another. 


Greeting each other  (Those present in person can leave our seats for this, if we wish.) 


Joys and Concerns (with lighting of candles of caring) 


Story: 


A Day At The Lawn

By Erik Walker Wikstrom


Once upon a time there was a girl named Wendy. She loved grass. What can I say? She loved grass—she loved the feel of it between her toes; she loved the smell of it when it was freshly mown; she loved its bright green color. Wendy loved grass more than just about anything.


One day her family decided to go to the beach. Wendy wasn’t too sure about it. “Come on,” said her older brother, “we can go swimming.” “And we can collect rocks and shells together,” said her mom.” “And you can bury me in the sand,” said her dad. It sounded like fun, so they all piled into the car, and off they went.


When they got to the beach it sure looked great. Like nothing Wendy had ever seen. But when she first touched the sand it was way, way, way too hot. “This isn’t cool like grass,” she said. “I wish this sand was grass,” she cried!


Now, Wendy had a good luck fairy who followed her around, and he heard her wish and decided to grant it. With a flash, all of the sand, turned into grass. Now it was her family’s turn to be “not too sure.” (Wendy, of course, was delighted.) “I guess I won’t get buried today,” said dad.” “That’s okay,” said mom. “Let’s collect some shells.”


Everyone went down to where the water lapped the edge of the grass. There were polished rocks and beautiful shells lying all about. They all set to work looking for the shiniest or the biggest or the most colorful. Everyone except Wendy. “Ouch,” she said. “Oooch.” “Eeech.” The rocks and shells hurt her feet. “I wish these rocks were soft like grass,” she thought to herself, and as soon as she did, her good luck fairy—who could hear her thoughts as well as her words—made it so. The rocks and shells turned to grass too!


The family looked at one another. “Well,” they said, “at least there’s swimming.” Everybody laid their beach towels on the grass and changed into their bathing suits. “Last one in is a rotten egg,” Wendy’s older brother cried, and he ran into the waves followed closely by Wendy’s sister, their delighted squeals trailing behind. Wendy followed tentatively. But when her toe touched the water she said, “Yuck! Too wet and cold.”


This time she didn’t even have to think it—the fairy changed the water into grass without her even having to ask for it! Everyone turned to her and said, “Wendy!” but what was she to do? But her family was very understanding—they were, after all, Unitarian Universalists—so they decided to try to make the best of it. “Let’s have lunch,” said mom and dad. So they got out their picnic basket, found a nice spot on the now wide lawn, spread out the checkered cloth, and they all set to it.


Wendy was in heaven. After all, didn’t she love grass more than just about anything? But she had to admit, she was beginning to feel a bit bored and something just didn’t feel right. After all, every where she looked there was nothing but grass. And all of the sounds of the beach—the waves, the seagulls, all of it—they’d gone too. Grass was nice, but maybe not so much when that’s all that there was.


“Well,” said her mom, “we went to the beach and we’re at a lawn. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.” “What do you mean?” Wendy asked.


Her dad said, “You made it all the same—the sand, the rocks, the water. Each was different, and you made them the same because their differences made you feel uncomfortable. But those differences also made them special and beautiful and without them there’s a whole lot missing. In fact, everything that makes this place what it IS, is missing. And that means that you are missing out on everything you really came here for.”


Wendy thought about this for a while. She did want to collect rocks and shells; she’d seen some really beautiful ones. And the water was cold, but her brother and sister looked like they were having a lot of fun, too. And the idea of burying her father in sand was too good to pass up. “I wish it was all back the way it was,” she thought, and the good luck fairy made her wish come true.


Wendy and her family had the best time that day. She still loves grass more than just about anything, but she’s learned to love other things too. And she’s come across some things that she doesn’t like much, and that’s okay too. But she’s never, ever wanted everything to be the same again. Because she knows that things are supposed to be different, each thing as it is, and that exploring new things makes life so much more fun!



Meditation: 


A Buddhist / Taoist Meditation: 


Being Present

By Elena Westbrook


Let every moment be a prayer.

With every sip of tea,

let your lips move in thanksgiving.

Be fully present to every stroke of the hairbrush,

every cup of milk you pour for the children.

Be present, without judgement or regret,

without plans or expectations,

or even dreams,

And every moment

becomes a prayer.



Sermon: 


I love to tell stories. 


Some of my favorite stories 

  include aspects of my own experiences. 


I haven’t gotten too many complaints 

  about my sharing personal stories, 

    so I plan to continue. 


One story that I have told before 

  is relevant to our theme for today. 


I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, 

  and as a result I am (to this day) 

    functionally bilingual 

      in English and Spanish. 


That came in very handy 

  in the first opportunity I had 

    to serve in ministry in a congregation. 


On Sunday mornings, 

  I taught a class in Spanish 

    on the Augsburg Confession. 


I was also the organist 

  for the same Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. 


The pastor was Norb Oesch, 

  who is well known to this day in the Mo. Synod 

    as a leader in church renewal. 


He had a small, hand lettered card 

  taped on his pulpit. 


It said, “Dear Norb, If you have good news, 

  stand up and speak it. 

    If you don’t, sit down and shut up.” Love, Jesus 


The fact that I still remember the little card 

  after all these years (about 50 years) 

    tells us that it’s important to me 

      in life, ministry, and preaching. 


If I call something a sermon, 

  it means that I intend to convey good news. 


If I don’t have or convey good news, 

  I may be giving a talk, a speech, or a presentation, 

    but it would not be a sermon in my view. 


Sermons are important in our times of worship 

  because we all need good news in our lives.


Good news brings hope, 

  and sometimes hope can be hard to find 

    in the world around us. 


We gather here in the hope that we can find 

  some good news to take with us. 


That’s the heart of what I’m trying to do 

  week by week in the things that I share 

    with our congregation. 


Some of the best news for our congregation 

  is that we have been able to stay 

    in community with each other 

      during the difficult times of the pandemic 

        when it has been impossible for us 

          to meet together in person. 


Even better good news will be 

  our holding together 

    in the face of the continuing challenges 

      of our times.


Our spiritual lives and principles provide us strength 

  to cope with our own circumstances,  

    the circumstances 

      of people we love and care about, 

        and the circumstances 

          of the communities around us. 


This is an approach to the Good News 

  according to us Unitarian Universalists. 


The English word for this kind of good news 

  is Gospel, and in its old English form we can see it: 

    Godspel, like the Rock Opera from the early 70's. 


From Greek, the word for people 

  who bring good news is evangelist. 


People who follow the evangelists 

  are traditionally known as evangelicals. 


Enough of the language study, 

  but I want to point out 

    one of the ironies of our time.


When we think of evangelicals, 

  good news would not likely come to mind. 


Combine the term with another word of their use, 

  and fundamentalism would be another example 

    of bad news in the subject of religion. 


Originally, fundamentalists were simply those 

  who tried to be faithful to the ideas 

    they believed were basic 

      or fundamental to their faith. 


Now they are all too often the people 

  who try to impose 

    their religious rules and beliefs on others. 


Our dearly departed Beth 

  sometimes used the words, “funny mentalist” 

    to refer to them. 


That seems all too appropriate, 

  especially in our time. 


In our society today, they seem to be ascendant. 


While their star may appear to be rising, 

  we can be sure that a strong, contrary movement 

    is also forming all around us. 


As Unitarian Universalists, 

  we proclaim a faith that can encompass 

    a wide variety of points of view, 

      in keeping with our 4th Principle.


It advocates, "A free and responsible search 

  for truth and meaning." 


Among the religious movements of our time, 

  ours brings hope of peace and progress, 

    surely some of the best good news 

      we all sorely need. 


In ways similar to our present circumstances, 

  I've often noticed that our own good news 

    may be contrasted with news that is not so good. 


Our UU faith with all the affirmation 

  of different points of view 

    can be contrasted with the ever-narrower 

      religious point of view of the so-called 

        Christian conservatives, the fundamentalists. 


From a certain point of view in history, 

  Jesus of Nazareth was condemned 

    for false teaching and turned over 

      to the Roman authorities for execution 

        by the fundamentalist Pharisees of His time. 


Not all Pharisees were fundamentalists. 


In fact, despite the Pharisees having been often 

  and severely criticized in the New Testament, 

    they were long known 

      for trying to adapt the ancient teachings 

        of their faith 

          to the needs of their contemporaries. 


Ironically, Jesus Himself was probably one of them: 

  a successful Pharasaic reformer 

    who was one of the founders 

      of Rabbinic Judaism as we know it. 


This is surely a wildly alternative view of Jesus, 

  but I believe that He brought a message of hope 

    for all people. 


It would be a controversial view among Christians, 

  especially fundamentalist Christians, 

    but not so much among Reform (Progressive) 

      and Conservative Jews in our time. 


Fundamentalist Pharisees of the 1st Century 

  and Fundamentalist Christians of the 21st C. 

    share something important in common. 


They believed - and believe - 

  that they alone have the truth. 


Those of us who want to be people of good will 

  can rightly disagree that any fundamentalists 

    have the truth all to themselves. 


The good news of our UU faith 

  is that we emphatically do not believe 

    that we alone have the truth. 


We accept the idea 

  that truth may be found 

    in a variety of religious traditions. 


We are open to learning 

  from almost anyone, 

    with the possible exception 

      of those who would claim 

        that they alone believe and teach 

          truth and goodness

            and that all others teach lies and evil. 


In contrast, we have hope and we trust 

  in the possibility of human beings 

    learning from each other, 

      especially in matters of faith, 

        and this hope and this trust 

          is exactly the good news that our world needs. 


Our freedom in matters of faith is one of the gifts 

  that we UU's bring to our world and our times. 


It's one of the reasons that I believe 

  in the importance of our particular approach 

    to religion and spirituality. 


Simply by being ourselves 

  and continuing to find 

    renewal of the mind and heart 

      we are providing an alternative path 

        into the future for our nation and world. 


Amen 

Let it be  

Blessed be! 



Congregational Response 



Extinguishing the Chalice and Closing words: 


Interfaith Benediction

By Gary Kowalski

Gathered in our varied faiths,

We give thanks for the blessings of world community

As we share our common dream:

Homes and schools where children thrive,

Neighborhoods that are safe and clean,

A city rich in colors and cultures,

An economy where no one is expendable,

A beloved community where rich and poor alike have access to the

opportunity for a dignified and productive life,

Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples 

Where our deepest hope is to be of service to a hurting world.

Enable us as we leave this place

To carry forth this prayer into the coming week,

Turning our thoughts toward charity,

Our hearts toward justice,

And our hands toward the work of peace.

Shalom and Amen.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Accountability for God 


The most difficult question for people who believe in God is, "Why?" There is no simple answer to that question. 



Order of Service - Script 


for Sunday May 15, 2022 



NIUU, Jeanie Donaldson, Pastor Fred 


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-


Prelude: 


Jeanie Donaldson



Welcome and Announcements: 

Come into this circle of love and compassion,

Come into this community where we can dream and

Believe in those dreams—

Welcome to North Idaho Unitarian Universalists where we accept, we support, we transform:  Ourselves, Our Community. Our world.   



Offering Information 


Charity of the Month:

Family Promise of North Idaho


"Family Promise of North Idaho is an affiliate of 

Family Promise® which was created in 1986 in response to the growing need to provide shelter, meals, and comprehensive support to families without homes. We are a nonsectarian charity and we welcome all clients who meet our eligibility and admission requirements. Our staff and board of trustees work together with our interfaith and community partners to extend support to the homeless families in North Idaho."

NIUU 

P.O. Box 221 

CDA ID 83816



Lighting the Chalice: 

We light this chalice to celebrate the inherent worth and dignity of every person;


To reaffirm the historic pledge of our open-hearted  faith to seek that justice which transcends mere legality and moves toward the resolution of true equality; And to share that love which is ultimately beyond even our cherished reason, that love which unites us.



Opening Words: 


Amid all the noise in our lives,

we take this moment to sit in silence --

to give thanks for another day;

to give thanks for all those in our lives

who have brought us warmth and love;

to give thanks for the gift of life.


We know we are on our pilgrimage here but a brief moment in time.


Let us open ourselves, here, now,

to the process of becoming more whole --

of living more fully;

of giving and forgiving more freely;

of understanding more completely

the meaning of our lives here on this earth.



Hymn #120 “Turn Back, Turn Back” 


1. Turn back, turn back, forswear thy foolish ways.

Old now is earth, and none may count its days;

yet humankind, whose head is crowned with flame,

still will not hear the inner God proclaim —

”Turn back, turn back, forswear thy foolish ways.”


2. Earth might be fair, its people glad and wise.

Age after age our tragic empires rise,

built while we dream, and in that dreaming weep:

would we but wake from out our haunted sleep,

earth might be fair, and people glad and wise.


3. Earth shall be fair, and all its people one;

nor till that hour shall God’s whole will be done.

Now, even now, once more from earth to sky,

peals forth in joy that old undaunted cry —

”Earth shall be fair, and all its people one.”



Covenant: 

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law

This is our great covenant:

To dwell together in peace,

To seek truth in love,

And to help one another. 


Greeting each other  (Those present in person can leave our seats for this, if we wish.) 


Joys and Concerns (with lighting of candles of caring) 


Story: 


The Shattering of the Vessels

By Amy Petrie Shaw


A Free Retelling of the story from the Kabbalah. 


At the beginning of time, before anything else at all existed, Love was all there was, and it filled up everything in the whole universe.


But Love got bored and lonely. There was no one to be in love with. So one day Love decided to make a world.


First it took a deep breath. Can you take a deep breath? How deep? let me see!

Deeper! A little deeper.


Love got all squished up taking the deepest breath ever, and was sooooo squished that it squeezed out darkness.The darkness was all around: thick and shiny and black. It was beautiful but now Love couldn’t see anything! Love waved its arms and legs around, but the darkness was everywhere.


“I have to do something about this,” said Love. It thought for a minute, and tried to think of the most wonderful beautiful warm thoughts ever. Love thought harder and harder and all of a sudden Love called out “I want light!”


And pop!


All of the warm and wonderful and beautiful thoughts exploded outward in ten different directions and shaped themselves into ten big glowing glass balls. Each ball was filled with a spinning lump of pure light and warmth. Some of the spare good thoughts that couldn’t quite fit in the glass became dust and water vapor and seeds and molecules that could form animals.


And Love said, “This is amazing. I better make something for the light to shine on.” So it waved its arms and kicked its legs and all of the dust and water vapor and molecules that had been scattered around when the glass balls formed began to form into another huge ball, this one of dirt and water and plants and animals. Love called this the Earth.


The ten balls of light started toward the Earth, and if they had made it here in one piece, the entire planet would have been exactly the way Love wanted it. But the glass balls were too fragile to contain such strong, powerful wonderful good thoughts. They broke open and shattered, and all the good thoughts shattered and flew out like sparks and were scattered like sand, like seeds, like stars. Those sparks fell everywhere on the Earth in tiny bits instead of big clumps like Love intended.


“Oh NO!” said Love. “I’m too big. I’ll never be able to find all of those tiny sparks. I have to make one more thing.”


So Love waved its arm and kicked its feet one last time, and people appeared on the Earth. They didn’t know it, but they were created with one job: to find these sparks, these tiny pieces of wonderful goodness, and to bring them together again in big clumps.


“When enough clumps are there, I will recreate the big glass containers to hold them, and this time I will set them down a little more carefully,” Love said.


So all of us, from the time we are born, have a job, and that job is to help find love and more good and warm and wonderful things. If we do that we are reparing the world (Tikkun Olam). 


 

Meditation: 


HYMN TO MATTER by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 

‘Blessed be you, harsh matter, barren soil, stubborn rock: you who yield only to violence, you who force us to work if we would eat. 

‘Blessed be you, perilous matter, violent sea, untameable passion: you who unless we fetter you will devour us.

‘Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth.

‘Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations: you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards or measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God.

‘Blessed be you, impenetrable matter: you who, interposed between our minds and the world of essences, cause us to languish with the desire to pierce through the seamless veil of phenomena.

‘Blessed be you, mortal matter: you who one day will undergo the process of dissolution within us and will thereby take us forcibly into the very heart of that which exists.

‘Without you, without your onslaughts, without your uprootings of us, we should remain all our lives inert, stagnant, puerile, ignorant both of ourselves and of God. You who batter us and then dress our wounds, you who resist us and yield to us, you who wreck and build, you who shackle and liberate, the sap of our souls, the hand of God, the flesh of Christ: it is you, matter, that I bless.

‘I bless you, matter, and you I acclaim: not as the pontiffs of science or the moralizing preachers depict you, debased, disfigured — a mass of brute forces and base appetites — but as you reveal yourself to me today, in your totality and your true nature.

‘You I acclaim as the inexhaustible potentiality for existence and transformation wherein the predestined substance germinates and grows.

‘I acclaim you as the universal power which brings together and unites, through which the multitudinous monads are bound together and in which they all converge on the way of the spirit.

‘I acclaim you as the melodious fountain of water whence spring the souls of men and as the limpid crystal whereof is fashioned the new Jerusalem.

‘I acclaim you as the divine milieu, charged with creative power, as the ocean stirred by the Spirit, as the clay moulded and infused with life by the incarnate Word.

‘Sometimes, thinking they are responding to your irresistible appeal, men will hurl themselves for love of you into the exterior abyss of selfish pleasure-seeking: they are deceived by a reflection or by an echo.

‘This I now understand.

‘If we are ever to reach you, matter, we must, having first established contact with the totality of all that lives and moves here below, come little by little to feel that the individual shapes of all we have laid hold on are melting away in our hands, until finally we are at grips with the single essence of all subsistencies and all unions.

‘If we are ever to possess you, having taken you rapturously in our arms, we must then go on to sublimate you through sorrow.

‘Your realm comprises those serene heights where saints think to avoid you — but where your flesh is so transparent and so agile as to be no longer distinguishable from spirit.

‘Raise me up then, matter, to those heights, through struggle and separation and death; raise me up until, at long last, it becomes possible for me in perfect chastity to embrace the universe ''



Sermon: 



There are many questions 

  that people would like to ask God 

    or ask about God, 

      depending on what and how they believe. 


For believers, an important question 

  would probably be, "Why?" 

    as in, "Why me," 

      or, "Why is this happening to me?" 


For non-believers, the similar question would be, 

  "How can anyone believe in 

    an all powerful, good God, 

      if God allows terrible things to happen?" 


These questions are all similar 

  to the ones that the book of Job 

    attempted to deal with, 

      but the questions are both broader 

        and more complicated

          than anything we can answer from the Bible. 


They apply for people of all religious persuasions, 

  and they may be meaningful for anyone. 


The wonderful book by Rabbi Harold Kushner, 

  When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 

    gives a strong answer, calling into question 

      one of the most popular concepts about God, 

        His omnipotence, or all powerful nature. 


I mentioned the Rabbi and the book 

  in my last sermon, 

    regarding the biblical book of Job, 

      since the biblical book seeks to answer 

        at least some of the same questions 

          as Rabbi Kushner's book. 


Of course, no idea that would weaken 

  a believer's concept of God 

    would pass biblical muster. 


At the same time, 

  it's necessary to entertain the questions. 


The doctrines of omnipotence (all power) 

  and omniscience (all knowledge) 

    are held by most believers 

      in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, 

        but they are not necessarily supported 

          by the traditional scriptures of those faiths. 


Approaching the questions raised by theology 

  with a sense of humor 

    is especially important 

      if we are to think about the subject 

        of accountability for God (theodicy). 


One of my personal favorite ways 

  of applying humor to our understanding of God 

    is the movie, Oh God. 


In that movie, from 1977, 

  the part of God is played by George Burns 

    and his prophet is played by John Denver. 


Having those two at the center of the plot 

  is a perfect setup for comedy. 


Related to our subject for today 

  were several funny statements and interactions. 


God, as portrayed by George Burns, 

  admitted that He had made mistakes. 


My personal favorite was the avocado. 


God said, "I made the pits too big." 


As I see it, some of the greatest signs 

  of God's sense of humor 

    may be seen in the animal world. 


Whether in the understanding 

  of mythology or scripture, 

    the Creator of the giraffe 

      and the duck-billed platypus 

        has to have a sense of humor. 


Similarly, in all of literature, 

  my heart and mind tell me

    that one of the greatest humorists 

      in all of human history 

        was Jesus of Nazareth. 


It's sometimes called a parable, 

  but I think it's a great joke: 

    Jesus once told us all 

      not to be too worried about the speck of sawdust 

        in our neighbor's eye

          until we take the plank out of our own eye. 


Likewise, He was an expert 

  at catching His enemies in their own traps. 


One of my personal favorites 

  among the examples of His humor 

    in the New Testament 

      is the story of questioners whom He trapped 

        in more ways than one 

          because of their attempt to trap Him. 


It must have infuriated them 

  because they thought 

    they really had Him that time, 

      when they asked Him about taxes. 


"Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" 


He asked them to show Him the coin 

  in which the taxes were paid, 

    and then asked whose IMAGE and inscription 

      were upon it. 


Caesar's, they said. 


Their very act of carrying a coin with a graven image 

  of the emperor 

    who claimed divine nature for himself 

      was a violation of the kind of law about which 

        they were trying to trap Jesus. 


They tried to create a conundrum for Him: 


If He told them that payment of the tax was legal, 

  His revolutionary followers would desert Him. 


If He told them that the payment was not legal, 

  the Roman soldiers who were everywhere 

    would likely have arrested Him on the spot 

      for advocating disobedience of Roman law. 


Jesus gave the perfect answer. 


"Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, 

  and give to God what is God's, 

    He told them. 


One aspect of the humor of the situation

  is something we can easily miss in our time.


Jesus created a conundrum for His enemies. 


By even carrying the coin with the image of Caesar, 

  they were shown to be hypocrites, 

    violating the very religious law 

      they demanded must be upheld. 


By paying the tax, which they must have done, 

  they showed themselves to be unfaithful 

    hypocrites twice over. 


Humor doesn't really answer 

  the issues and questions we are looking at today, 

    but at least it gives us different angles 

      from which we may look at them. 


Humor can call us to have compassion. 


Our having compassion for God 

  could be a reflection of the compassion 

    He is believed (by many) to have for us. 


After all, in one of the great moments in history 

  for the people of ancient Israel, 

    a Midrash (commentary) on the event 

      shows God's compassion 

        in a new and different light. 


Pharaoh and his armies were drowning 

  in the waters of the Reed Sea, 

    and the Children of Israel 

      were singing and dancing for joy.


God said, "Stop singing!" 


"Those are my children who are drowning there!" 


This approach to the story 

  brings a view of my own personal faith 

    when it comes to calling God to account 

      for His works and His ways. 


God is far beyond 

  our understanding and knowledge. 


Yet at the same time, 

  God is far closer to us than our next breath. 


God is intimately involved in the multiverse, 

  so much so that what happens to us 

    happens also to Him (or Her, of course). 


This view is called Process Theology, 

  and my description is an extreme 

    oversimplification of it. ‑


To speak of it as I see it, 

  God's sense of humor 

    and God's personal humility 

      are signs of His involvement 

        in the process of the evolution of all things, 

          including us. 


To use a powerful metaphor from popular culture, 

  the Force in Star Wars 

    is a reasonably good descriptor 

      of God in Process thought and theology. 


A theology that sees the presence of God 

  in the processes of evolution 

    is not a perfect answer of accountability for God, 

      but it does enable us to hold God accountable 

        and ourselves as well. 


We all make choices in what we think, say, and do. 


Our choices matter. 


One way they matter is 

  that we drag our concept of God along with us 

    to face the consequences. 


With the words of a song by Joan Osborne, 

  we hear that God may in fact be one of us 

    a part of us, incarnate (in a physical body) like us. 


The song says, 


"What if God was one of us?

... 

  Just a stranger on the bus

    Tryin' to make his way home?" 


There may be more to God 

  than what we think about Him; 

    there may be no more than that, 

      but we know for sure that He is part of us. 


So the best way to understand 

  accountability for God 

    is to understand it 

      as part of our own accountability. 


As we hold God accountable, 

  we also hold ourselves accountable 

    for what we think, say, and do. 


We can then have more effective compassion 

  for God and for ourselves, 

    and that is deeply important. 


If we fail to have compassion for anyone 

  whom we are holding accountable, 

    we are moving toward a truly bad place. 


We can transcend hypocrisy  

  in our self understanding

    by recognizing our own accountability. 


Faith is built on realities 

  that are both within and outside ourselves. 


We can believe or not 

  and yet find meaning in a faith 

    that calls on believers to question 

      and non-believers to hope. 


Amen. 

Let it be. 

Blessed be. 



Congregational Response 



Extinguishing the Chalice and Closing words: 


As we extinguish the Chalice, cherish your doubts, for doubt is the servant of truth.


Question your convictions, for beliefs too tightly held strangle the mind and its natural wisdom.


Suspect all certitudes, for the world whirls on—nothing abides.


Yet in our inner rooms full of doubt, inquiry and suspicion, let a corner be reserved for trust.


For without trust there is no space for communities to gather or for friendships to be forged.


Indeed, this is the small corner where we connect—and reconnect—with each other.


Saturday, May 07, 2022

STATEMENT OF FAITH BY PASTOR FRED TOERNE 


I am a Christian. 


I have tried not to be a Christian because of the evil done by the Christian religion and by the thoughts, words, and actions of Christians. 


I can gladly let go of the Christian religion, but I cannot repudiate Jesus of Nazareth or His teachings. 


Along with other rabbis of His era, Jesus believed and taught that the Law of God is best summarized by the Two Great Commandments: 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and 

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 


His own good example and that of all people of good will have taught me: Love is best expressed by seeking freedom for the beloved. 


Especially in our time and with its issues, I believe we all need to let these thoughts sink in as we contemplate them. 


Saturday, April 16, 2022

 

Easter Flowers 


“[God] has written the promise of the resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” 

—Martin Luther



Order of Service - Script 


for Sunday  April 17, 2022


NIUU, Sue Hansen-Barber, Jeanie Donaldson, 

   Pastor Fred 


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-



personal statement from Fred: 

For many years on Easter Sunday, I have come close to proclaiming that the story itself is a far more powerful sermon than I could ever preach. I've never yet simply said those words of proclamation, but this year I'm coming closer. Sue Hansen-Barber and I have carefully chosen words and readings, mostly written by others, to speak powerfully to us all about the meaning of today's celebration. 


Announcements


Sue: Welcome 


  • The Unitarian Universalist minister Max Coots once wrote:


“We need a celebration that speaks the spring-inspired word about life and death, about us as we live and die, through all the cycling seasons, days, and years. We need the sense of deity to crack our own hard, brown, December husks and push life out of inner tombs and outer pain. Unless we move the seasons of the self, and spring can come for us, the winter will go on and on. And Easter will remain a myth, and life will never come again, despite the fact of spring.”[1]


On this morning when our Christian siblings celebrate Easter, may we open our hearts and minds to all of the “spring-inspired” truths our human kin have found and that we, and our world, so desperately need to hear. 




Fred: Ringing of the Bell(s)


CHURCH BELL SOUN,D EFFECT IN HIGH QUALITY:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c4x9M3v-ug 


After the steeple bell has been rung for a moment,   we will be ringing our Chime

 

Come into this circle of love and compassion,

Come into this community where we can dream and

Believe in those dreams—

Welcome to North Idaho Unitarian Universalists where we accept, we support, we transform:  Ourselves, Our Community. Our world.   



Fred - Interlude



Anne Sexton wrote: “Look to your heart that flutters in and out like a moth. God is not indifferent to your need. You have a thousand prayers but God has one.” [Let us, then] give thanks for those moments when we can feel that we live in a world that is not indifferent to our need.


We all have so many needs—a thousand prayers—a thousand needs—that really only need one answer: let the world not be indifferent. And may we live and be with each other in the way that shows this truth whatever the day brings: that neither are we indifferent to each other.[8]


  • [So] let there [now] be an offering to sustain and strengthen this place which is sacred to so many of us, a community of memory and of hope, for we are now the keepers of the dream.[9] 


Please place your offering in the basket. Please indicate what you want to give to our congregation and what you want to give to Heritage Health, our charity of the month. 


Fred - Offering Information :


Heritage Health

"We provide healthcare from the heart for anyone that needs us and we seek to develop meaningful treatment relationships that focus on preventing and reversing the impact of diseases."


NIUU

P.O. Box 221

CDA ID 83816






Sue - Lighting the Chalice: 


“You who have an eye for miracles, regard the bud now appearing on the bare branch of the fragile young tree. It’s a mere dot, a nothing. But already it’s a flower, already a fruit, already its own death and resurrection.” [2]


Congregational response:  We light our chalice in peace and friendship.



Fred - Opening Words: 

Reader: The Story of Our Lives

The story has been told in so many ways, the story of the seasonal cycle from springtime through autumn to winter: it’s the story of Persephone’s descent into the underworld; it’s the story of Osiris’ death at the hands of his brother Set; it’s the Phoenix dying in a blaze of fire; and it’s Jesus on the cross and in the tomb.


Of course, these mythological stories exist not just to explain how the world works out there, but how it works in here. So these are also the stories of you and me. You and me when our relationships falter, or fail. You and me when worries about making ends meet keep us up at night. You and me when depression clouds our souls. You and me when concern for the world leaves us immobilized. You and me when one we love dies. You and me as we face our own mortality.


These stories of the coming of winter—these stories of death and despair—are not just stories from some far away people in some far away time. They are our stories. And while we may want to rush from cross to resurrection, from the first flurry to the first crocus, it is important that we spend some time here, for each of us has what Sarah Moores Campbell calls a “tomb of the soul” in which “we carry secret yearnings, pains, frustrations, loneliness, fears, regrets, [and] worries.” To gloss over them, to ignore this place and this season, is not to rid ourselves of it but rather to ensure that we come back here again and again and again, like an injury left untreated that flares up each time worse than the last.


Douglas John Hall has written, “It is the propensity of religion to avoid, precisely, suffering: to have light without darkness, vision without trust and risk, hope without an ongoing dialog with despair—in short, Easter without Good Friday.” Perhaps the poet Wendell Berry put it most succinctly: “To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark.” And if we are to honor life—not just the wonder of it but the whole of it, not just its triumph but its truth—then we must learn to honor, even embrace, both winter and the tomb.


Innana goes down to the underworld; Baldur is killed by Loki’s deadly mistletoe; and life brings pain and shocks to you and me—the story is told again and again.




Fred - Covenant: 

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law

This is our great covenant:

To dwell together in peace,

To seek truth in love,

And to help one another. 


Greeting each other  (Those present in person can leave our seats for this, if we wish.) 


Joys and Concerns (with lighting of candles of caring) 


Story: 


Sue - Reader: The Story of Jesus

There once was a little boy born to poor parents from an oppressed people in a tiny backwater village from which no one thought any good could come.[3] Not much is known about his early years except that he was sharp of mind and large of heart and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”[4] It seems likely that he took seriously the religion of his people—so seriously that it set him apart from his earliest days.


As a young man he began to preach and teach and heal. He taught that all people are God’s children and that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do—God loves you anyway and will embrace you with joy if you’ll only turn toward that Love. It is said that this boy—known in his day as Yeshua—was so filled with this Love that when he spoke it was as if God were speaking and when you looked on him it was as if you were looking at God face-to-face.


Crowds began to gather around him, crowds mostly of the poor, the disconsolate, the outcast—those whom others deemed unworthy. A community grew, a community with a welcome more wide and more deep than any anyone had known before. Even some of the scholars, and the priests, and the well-to-do found a home with the itinerant band that followed this wandering preacher and healer.


“When[ever] the crowds learned [where he was], they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing.”[5] He taught that God’s kingdom was not some far off dream to be yearned for but something real within and around each of us, that it was something to be worked for. He taught that each of us, with faith, could “move mountains”[6] and that “if you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you.”[7] He taught that love of God and love of neighbor are inextricably intertwined and that pious words alone are worth nothing.


None of these teachings were well received by the authorities, of course—neither the religious authorities nor the authorities of the state who heard in his description of the “kingdom of God” a decidedly negative comparison with the kingdom of Caesar. Such radical egalitarianism was a threat to the status quo, and the growing crowds were worrisome, too. And so Jesus was arrested, tried, and sentenced to die.


On Friday evening he was taken out, publicly humiliated and brutally flogged, and brought outside the city walls to be nailed to a cross. His closest companions abandoned him and hid in fear. Yet even in the face of all this he refused to return evil for evil—offering only love, as he had all his life—praying to God from the cross for forgiveness on behalf of those who did these things.


In time, and in agony, Jesus died. His disciples removed his body from the cross and placed it in a stone tomb, but as the Sabbath was beginning they could not properly prepare the body for burial. A stone was rolled in front of the entrance, and this man in whom so many had seen God was gone. The “light of the world” was snuffed out, and those who knew him were bereft.



Fred - Reader: The Story of Spring

Some notice first the Snowdrops on our local hills.   For others it’s the Crocus, or the Daffodils; We hear the peepers again, and the birds with their joyful energy seem to be saying, "I'm here and open for business." By the time the lilacs are out, you know that Spring is here for sure.

Everywhere things seem to be opening. Our energy seems to be returning with the colors. Even though we don't know winter at its harshest, we know the return of Spring. This is what we celebrate today: Spring has sprung again!


Hymn #44 - We Sing of Golden Mornings


Reader: The Story of Jesus

On the third day the women of Jesus’ community went to the tomb to wash and care for the body. To their astonishment they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Beside themselves, they asked everyone they met: “Where have they taken him?” A man they supposed to be a gardener said, “The one you are looking for is not here,” but that was hardly helpful. And yet, finding no answer from others they found one in themselves—Jesus’ death on the cross was not the end of the Love-filled life they had known. Jesus of Nazareth, Yeshua ben Miriam, was still alive, and they ran to tell the others.


The companions, still frightened and despondent, were locked together in an upper room. They would not believe the women’s story, would not believe that all was not lost. Yet even though the doors were locked—and, perhaps, their hearts as well—the spirit of their teacher came, assuring them that death is not the end of life. And this is what we celebrate today: that life is stronger than death and that love is stronger than anything!


Hymn: Jesus Christ is Risen Today (SLT # 268) - Jeanie

Words: Charles Wesley

Music: Lyra Davidica 


Fred - Meditation: 


Reader: The Story of our Lives

There is a promise here. And, as Martin Luther noted, the promise is written not just in books but in every springtime leaf. It’s even closer than that. The question is not whether we believe in resurrection but whether we have known it —known it in our own lived experience, seen it in the lives of others, felt it in the world around us.


Persephone returns to the world of light; Osiris is resurrected by the power of the love of his wife Isis; the Phoenix is born anew from its own ashes; Jesus leaves behind the tomb. Snow and ice melts, giving way to new life.


The promise of our Unitarian Universalist faith is the promise of the seasons and these stories—winter is not perpetual, the wheel will keep on turning, the tomb is not the end. We affirm the promise of rebirth, of resurrection; of life’s ultimate victory over death; of hope’s triumph over hopelessness—not just as some abstract concept but as the miraculous reality of our lives. This is what we celebrate today!


Fred - Sermon: 

Flower Power

By Gary Kowalski


When I think of power, strength, sheer physical force, I think of an avalanche.

Tons of thundering snow come falling down the side of a steep mountain with the speed and irresistible force of a locomotive or freight train. In an instant an avalanche can sweep away everything in its path.

But there’s something even more powerful than an avalanche, and that’s a glacier. A glacier doesn’t move as fast as an avalanche. It can be slow, inching forward a few yards in the course of an entire year. But glaciers are enormous.

They can be a mile wide and hundreds of feet thick, a creeping river of ice that can move boulders like matchsticks and grind smaller rocks to powder fine as flour.

Avalanches and glaciers are powerful forces of nature. Very strong. Giants of the natural world. But there is something even stronger in nature. And that would be a flower.

I’m thinking of the Avalanche Lily and the Glacier Lily. Each spring as the snow begins to melt in the high mountains, these tiny flowers push their slender green stalks upward through the softening ice, through the wintry crust and into the warming sun. The Avalanche Lily has white flowers with a yellow center, and the Glacier Lily is all yellow. Neither is very big.

Compared to a glacier, they’re tiny. The flowers are just an inch or two in size. But the bud is inside a growing green stem that pierces right through the cold overlay of February and March and brightens into the promise of April and a brand new season.

Flowers themselves are newcomers on the Earth. For in the beginning, millions of years ago, there were no flowers. There were ferns. There were fungi. There were dull, mossy-colored plants that spread and reproduced by means of spores. But there were no orchids or azaleas, no blossoms of apple or peach or pear, no fields of grass or daisies or brightly colored wildflowers.

It was a monotonous world, not only dull in color but also dull in sense and feeling. For this was the age of dinosaurs, great hulking lizards who ruled the earth through brute force. They were giants of the animal kingdom, big and powerful, but dumb, like an avalanche or a glacier. They were no match for flowers, you understand.

For toward the end of the age of dinosaurs, about a hundred million years ago, something strange and very wonderful happened. Plants learned how to do a new thing. They learned how to reproduce through seeds.

Unlike the spores that preceded them, seeds were actually tiny organisms, embryonic but ready to grow, packaged like meals-to-go with a built-in store of nutrition. And that gave the world an entirely new source of edible and abundant energy—energy that could be converted into heat—that boosted the temperature of the four-legged and flying creatures up a notch, from cold-blooded to warm. Birds and mammals appeared, the limbic system that governs the emotions was laid over the old reptilian brain, and the inner landscape changed. Mothers began to feel a deepened bond with their children, and children clung with affection to the parents. Love appeared, and loyalty, and grief, tears and laughter, curiosity and play, all made possible by the blooming plants that had turned the earth into a botanical buffet of rare fragrances and sweet perfumes.

So with the invention of seeds came all of the birds that feed on seeds, the cardinals and the grosbeaks and finches. And the grass made grasslands and all the creatures that thrive on the grassland, horses and zebras and prairie dogs and antelope and deer. And plants learned how to produce fruit, and the fruit also provided meals for monkeys and chimpanzees and finally for you and me.

And it all started with the rise of the angiosperms, which is the name scientists give to flowers or plants that produce seeds and flowers and fruits. The Earth took on a whole new look. The ferns were crowded out by all the amazing diversity of life we see today, and the slow-moving dinosaurs gave way, replaced by creatures who were not only quick but also quick-witted, warm-blooded and warm-hearted, sensitive and tender, as bright and agile mentally as the flowers were brilliant in all their purples and yellows and blues and crimsons.

No wonder flowers are the symbol of springtime and hope. And no wonder lilies are symbols of Easter. For there have always been empires that established their rule through sheer raw power, kingdoms of this world based on military domination of their neighbors. The Roman empire was like that, its legions like glaciers that slowly crushed everyone who stood in their way. Their rulers were tyrant kings, like Tyrannosaurus. But they were no match for the power of one small man. No match for the purity and simplicity of his vision. Jesus spoke of the lilies of the field because he himself was like a flower. Almost effortlessly, the beauty of his words and deeds captured the hearts of people who listened and became his disciples. He said his kingdom was like a seed that could spread and grow, and that if we nurtured that seed of compassion inside ourselves it could become the greatest force on earth.

It was the simple truth. For there have always been regimes like the Romans. The Nazis were similar, their storm troopers icy cold and unyielding, their panzer divisions like lumbering giants clattering with fearsome armor into combat. They were ruled over by a despot, predatory and bloodthirsty as any Caesar or thunder lizard. But again, they were no match for flowers or the man who shared them.

Norbert Capek was a Unitarian minister who lived in the last century in the city of Prague. His home and his church were overrun by German soldiers in the years of World War II. He gave his life defying their cruel occupation. But before he died, he influenced thousands of people with the beauty of his words and ideals, including the Flower Ceremony that he originated, symbolizing the light and color and fragrance of many creeds, many cultures, and many races joining together in a bright, living bouquet.

The Nazis are now gone, but the Flower Ceremony continues to be celebrated in this congregation and hundreds of others around the world, a testament to the power of love to withstand hate and to the vision of a tolerant faith which sweeps the world, not by persecution or threats of violence, but by drawing people to its principles with the sweet scent of peace and freedom.

So the flowers we share this morning bring us the assurance that warmth and kindness can pierce through frost of cruelty and indifference, that mercy and decency will blossom, that goodness has deep roots and will prevail. What seems most fragile and perishable is most persistent and enduring. Sisterhood and brotherhood, justice and charity, will ultimately prevail.

This is the lesson of the lilies. And this is the message of Easter.


Sue - (At this point, we will invite the members of the congregation to come up and pick a flower to take home. - When all who wish to have a flower, we will continue with the meditation) 




Fred - Meditation

Take a moment now to contemplate your flower.

Notice it has a center, a focal point from which everything radiates.

Ask yourself, where your own center lies.

Flowers stretch up toward the life giving sun.

Ask yourself, toward what lofty aim does your own soul aspire?

Flowers have roots, hugging the earth.

Ask yourself, where do you draw your own strength and nourishment?

As we go forth this day,

May we grow in beauty,

In light,

In cheer and joy,

And share our gifts as freely as these pleasant flowers bloom


Congregational Response  - if time allows


Sue - Extinguishing the Chalice :

We extinguish our chalice as we lit it, in peace and friendship. We receive both the peace and the friendship into our hearts to bring light into our world. 

 

Fred - Closing words: 


There is so much death in our world—literal and figurative. So much pain. So much loss. So many people trapped in tombs—some of their own making and some thrust upon them. Let us go forth from this place determined to roll back those stones, to heal the wounded, and to raise the dead. Life has come again; Love has come again. Alleluia indeed!