Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
Opening Words from the Sanskrit
Look to this day –
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all the verities
And realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action, the splendour of beauty.
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
Chalice Lighting (you may wish to light a candle in your own home at this point. I will be lighting my chalice for worship at 11.00 am on Sunday morning) words by Cliff Reed
In kindling this perishable flame,
we invoke the imperishable flame
that was kindled at the beginning
to enlighten the human spirit.
Spirit of Life and Love,
Be with us as we gather for worship,
each in their own place.
Help us to feel a sense of community,
even though we are physically apart.
Help us to care for each other,
as we come out of lockdown,
keeping in touch however we can,
and helping each other,
however we may.
We hold in our hearts
all those who have helped us
to come through this difficult time,
and all whose lives have been touched,
in whatever way,
by painful events, in their lives,
and in the wider world,
of which we are all a part. Amen
Reading Take Time, quoted in Pray Your Way by Bruce Duncan
Take time to think –
It is the source of power.
Take time to read –
It is the foundation of wisdom.
Take time to play –
It is the secret of staying young.
Take time to be quiet –
It is the opportunity to seek God.
Take time to be aware –
It is the opportunity to help others.
Take time to love and be loved –
It is God’s greatest gift.
Take time to laugh –
It is the music of the soul.
Take time to be friendly –
It is the road to happiness.
Take time to dream –
It is what the future is made of.
Take time to pray –
It is the greatest power on earth.
Alternative Lord’s Prayer
Spirit of Life and Love, here and everywhere,
May we be aware of your presence in our lives.
May our world be blessed.
May our daily needs be met,
And may our shortcomings be forgiven,
As we forgive those of others.
Give us the strength to resist wrong-doing,
The inspiration and guidance to do right,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
We are your hands in the world; help us to grow.
May we have compassion for all living beings,
And receive whatever life brings,
With courage and trust. Amen
Reading from Finding Time & Other Delicacies by William F. Schulz
I chose to call my monthly column “Finding Time” because those two words signalled for me the most primordial religious imperative.
First, and most simply, I took “Finding Time” to be an encouragement to look beyond the busyness of the everyday into the eye of life’s blessings. If you are at all like me, you are perpetually tempted to substitute weariness for wonder, to miss the magnificent in the midst of the mundane. But before all else, religion calls us to be attentive, to keep our eyes open…
Second, I took “Finding Time” to be a reminder of our responsibility to history and to the future. … For Unitarian Universalists, if history is to be redeemed, it will be redeemed in time, not beyond it. For us, Time is no mere illusion, something to be escaped. It is something to be beheld, learned from, cherished, and gladly spent….
Third, I took “Finding Time” to be a call to live in the mystery of Creation, birth, distance and death. To Find Time means to come up against the limits of Creation, to front decay, to know that all that I love will die, and yet still to make a joyful noise… We who are temporal are neighbours to that which is eternal. Religion teaches us to cherish that which is temporal exactly because it is so fleeting and to cherish it even through our tears. [and] religion teaches us also to offer praise for the eternal and blessings on those things which never change: death, distance, birth, Creation, glory.
Prayer At Every Moment from Spirit of Time and Place by Cliff Reed
you are with us at every moment of our lives.
You are with us in the womb’s warm darkness,
you are with us in the rude shock of birth,
you are with us in childhood’s Eden.
In the turmoil of youth, you are with us,
in the transition to adulthood and its duties,
in the search for a life-companion to share the journey.
You are with us in the fearful responsibility of parenthood,
and in the letting-go of our children as they grow,
you are with us as we take our place among the elders
of family and community.
In the coming of the twilight, you are with us,
and in the return to the Great Mystery.
You are with us at every moment,
you are with us in our worship here, now.
Help us to know it.
Reading from Opening Doors Within by Eileen Caddy
Relax and know that there is time for everything. Everyone has an equal amount of time, but it is how you use it that matters. Do you use it to the full and enjoy every moment of it, or do you dissipate time by failing to put first things first? Cease being a slave to time. Why not make it your servant instead? … Accept that you can only do one thing at a time, do it perfectly and then move on to the next. Never try to look too far ahead. You can only live one moment at a time. If you try and plan too far ahead, you may be very disappointed when things do not work out as you had planned. Many changes can take place and in your planning you cannot account for them. It is best to live fully in the moment and let the future take care of itself.
Time of Stillness and Reflection In One Direction by Cliff Reed, from Carnival of Lamps (adapted)
Our lives move in one direction, but we need not fear the destination. There are worse things than journey’s end, if end it be…
Worse things, like living without purpose, living without love, living without ever having seen the gossamer in autumn.
Spirit of Life, we are grateful for the things we need for our existence – our food and drink, our shelter from the storm, the clothes on our backs; the basics that everyone on earth should have.
But, as Jesus said, ‘life is more than food’. Help us to receive with gratitude the things we need to live: the loving touch, the word of comfort, the vision of earth’s glory, the sense of your presence in all Creation.
Above all, help us to know you in ourselves and in those we meet – though sometimes we make it hard.
Our lives move in one direction, there is no going back. May joy be ours on the journey; joy in sharing it with those who share the Way. However long the road, however hard, help us, amid the tears, always to find reasons for laughter, song, and praise as we travel together.
May it be so, Amen
Musical Interlude A Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
Address Finding Time
Yesterday evening, my husband and I were catching up with last week’s episode of Gardener’s World on BBC iPlayer and, as that works, while the credits were rolling, it took us to a Brian Cox programme called What is time? And it was fascinating. I thought, “That’ll preach.”
This morning I remembered that I had done a service on Time last year, so that was a wash-out. I was browsing along my study’s shelves for inspiration and came across a collection of articles by William F. Schulz, former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, entitled, Finding Time and Other Delicacies. You heard an extract from his introduction as our second reading. He calls “finding time” the “primordial religious imperative” and gives three reasons for this. He sees it as “an encouragement to look beyond the busyness of the everyday into the eye of life’s blessings; a reminder of our responsibility to history and to the future; [and] “a call to live in the mystery of Creation, birth, distance, and death.”
Recognising our blessings, doing what we feel called to do to make a better world and living in the mystery, seem to me to be wonderfully nourishing ways of spending our free time.
But where do we find our ‘free’ time? A day is twenty four hours long. How we spend those hours is a mixture of necessity and choice. Presuming we spend seven or eight hours out of those in bed, resting and sleeping, and a further seven or more (if we work full-time) earning a living, that leaves up to eight hours for the rest. But we also have chores and duties to do – housework, shopping for food, cooking and eating, and so on.
So realistically, how much does that leave us to nourish ourselves, to enjoy life’s blessings, to try to make our world a kinder, happier place? If we lose ourselves in what Schulz calls the “busyness of the everyday,” it may be precious little. But what we do with the time that remains is vitally important, if we are to lead rich and full lives.
My first conscious recognition of the grace of God came in the early noughties, during a service at Northampton Unitarians, when the worship leader, Jon Small, led us through a guided meditation which took us on a spiritual journey to “Meet the Wise One.” Towards the end of it, he said, “Your Wise One, smiling, lays the book… on the desk before you and opens it at a specific place and points to a paragraph perhaps, or maybe a diagram or illustration – maybe it’s a detail in a picture or a photograph. You must now look at what is indicated by your friend and absorb what it says or seems to be.”
And I received a clear message, “There is always enough time.” And I realised that it was up to me to spend my “free” time wisely, in a way that would nourish my soul, make me a better, happier person. Ever since then, when I’m getting lost in the busyness, I bring myself back by repeating that phrase. “There is always enough time.” There is always enough time, if we choose to prioritise spending it on what nourishes us.
This might include exercising, spending time on our spiritual selves, having some quality time with our partners and children, whatever. Each of us will be nourished by different things.
How often have we heard someone say, or said ourselves, “Oh, I’d love to take up karate / writing / painting / crochet / whatever else we may find nourishing, but I can never seem to find the time.”?
Conversely, how much of our precious and limited “free” time do we fritter away, playing games or mindlessly browsing on our phones or tablets, or watching re-runs of old TV programmes which we already know by heart?
When the urge to start writing came to me, some years ago, I read some books about writing, by wise authors like Stephen King and Anne Lamott. And started to subscribe to a monthly writing magazine. And they all had the same message: you must carve some time out of each day and dedicate it to writing, whether this is for twenty minutes, an hour or until you’ve written a specific number of words (300, 500, 1000).
And I thought, eek! How can I find the time to do that? Then I remembered my old adage, “There is always enough time” and thought again. I am a natural Lark – I rise early and go to bed early. At that time, my alarm went off at seven. “What if,” I thought, “I set the alarm for six instead? That would give me a whole extra hour each morning, which I could spend writing.”
So this is what I do. I rise at six, Winter and Summer alike (although it’s easier at this time of year when the mornings are light). I shower, have breakfast and do my morning sit. That takes me to about quarter past seven. Which leaves a whole hour and three quarters to fit in a walk in the woods and time to write. Then I start work at nine. By which time I have spent three whole hours doing things which nourish my body and soul.
But choosing to do this means I have to be in bed by 9.30 and turn my light out at 10.
Of course, I am very lucky in that I work from home, so my commute is the time it takes me to sit down in front of the computer and turn it on. But the time we spend commuting need not be “dead” time. We can listen to music or audio books or even, if we are travelling by train, working on something we enjoy or doing a portable craft such as knitting or crochet. I did most of the research for my MPhil on the train from Bishop’s Stortford to Liverpool Street and home again.
If the thought of doing so much early in the day horrifies you, if you are the kind of person who crawls out of bed and is unable to function properly until at least mid-morning, you are probably an Owl, rather than a Lark. You will do your best work later on in the day and may prefer to stay up until the small hours. In which case, the evening is yours… you can choose to spend it doing anything you like, working on something that nourishes you. As Shauna Niequist once wrote, “Today, tonight, after the kids are in bed or when your homework is done, or instead of one more video game or magazine, create something, anything.”
Because our lives are not supposed to be spent doing only what we see as duties or chores. The advice given by the anonymous poet in our first reading is so wise, “Take time to think, read, play, be quiet, be aware, love and be loved, laugh, be friendly, dream and pray.” All those activities sound pretty nourishing to me. So why don’t we spend as much of our free time as possible doing those things?
Eileen Caddy, co-founder of the Findhorn Foundation, suggests that we “Relax and know that there is time for everything. Everyone has an equal amount of time, but it is how you use it that matters. Do you use it to the full and enjoy every moment of it, or do you dissipate time by failing to put first things first?”
So maybe the trick is to work out what our “first things” are, or ought to be. Some of those will be the things we have to do, as I said earlier, but among those first things should be ones that we actively want to do, rather than feeling we have to do. Ones which we see as playful, nourishing, enjoyable, fun. They need to be prioritised in the same way as essential housework and earning a living are prioritised. So that we have some fun in our lives.
Sometimes, though, we also need to learn to stop doing them when they cease to be playful, nourishing, enjoyable, fun. Because our lives, our circumstances, change. Playing the piano was a case in point for me. I learned as an adult, when my daughter decided she’d like to learn, and got along quite well until I reached Grade 4. I was ill on the day of the exam and only managed to scrape a pass. And I knew that moving up to Grade 5 would be a huge step. But I tried, for a while. Then I found that, rather than enjoying the time I spent at the piano, doing my scales and learning new pieces, it was becoming a struggle, a chore. Becky had left home and I no longer had to set her a good example by doing regular practice. I struggled to find the motivation to practice each day and of course my proficiency suffered. So I thought long and hard and quit. Part of me regrets it, but it was the right decision for me. Because I knew that I only had limited free time and wanted to spend it doing something I actively enjoyed.
How do you find the time to do activities you enjoy, that nourish your soul?
Closing Words by St Teresa of Avila
Today may there be peace within.
May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.
May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content with yourself just the way you are.
Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us Amen
Postlude Lady of Lewesdon Hill by Elizabeth Harley