Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
Opening Words by Andy Pakula
Come into this circle of community. Come into this sacred space.
Be not tentative. Bring your whole self!
Bring the joy that makes your heart sing.
Bring your kindness and your compassion.
Bring also your sorrow, your pain.
Bring your brokenness and your disappointments.
Spirit of love and mystery; help us to recognize the spark of the divine that resides within each of us.
May we know the joy of wholeness.
May we know the joy of being together.
Chalice Lighting (you may wish to light a candle in your own home at this point). (words by Stephen Lingwood)
We light this chalice, symbol of the Light within us and around us.
May this gathering for worship enlighten our hearts and our minds and our souls.
And may the Inner Light of the Spirit be kindled by our time together.
Spirit of Life and Love,
Be with us as we gather for worship,
Each in our own place.
Help us to feel a sense of community,
Even though we are physically apart.
Help us to care for each other,
In this world in which Covid has not yet gone away,
And the clouds of war hover.
May we keep in touch however we can,
And help each other,
However we may.
May we remember that
caution is still needed,
that close contact is still unwise.
Help us to be grateful for the freedoms we have
and to respect the wishes of others.
May we hold in our hearts all those
Who are grieving, lost, alone,
Suffering in any way,
A prayer for all who are suffering, because of war or other conflicts… by Sue Woolley and Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell.
Spirit of Life and Love,
God of peace and justice,
Let us pray for not only the people of Ukraine,
Whose suffering fills the news,
But also for people the world over,
Who are suffering because of war,
terrorist action or other violence.
The people of Afghanistan, Algeria, Burkina Faso,
Cameroon, Chad, Colombia,
The Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Mali,
Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar,
Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan,
Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia and Yemen,
To name those suffering the most at present.
We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,
that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or peace,
for wisdom, discernment and compassion
to guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk or in fear,
that you would hold and protect them.
We pray for peace.
Reading: The First Parent by Bill Cosby
Whenever your kids are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God’s omnipotence did not extend to his kids. After creating Heaven and Earth, God created Adam and Eve. And the first thing he said to them was: “Don’t.”
“Don’t what?”, Adam replied.
“Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.”
“Forbidden fruit? Really? Where is it?”
“It’s over there,” said God, wondering why he hadn’t stopped after making the elephants.
A few minutes later God saw the kids having an apple break and He was angry.
“Didn’t I tell you not to eat that fruit?” the First Parent asked.
“Uh huh,” Adam replied.
“Then why did you?”
“I dunno,” Adam answered.
God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus the pattern was set and it has never changed. But there is reassurance in this story. If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give them wisdom and they haven’t taken it, don’t be hard on yourself. If God had trouble handling children, what makes you think it would be a piece of cake for you?
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 Benedictus by John O’Donohue
There is nothing as un-neutral as a home. Even the most ordinary home is an implicit theatre to subversive inner happenings. It is the most self-effacing laboratory of consciousness quietly shaping belief, expectation and life-direction. Parents are invisible creators. Quietly, day after day, their care and kindness nurtures and fosters the unseen landscapes of their children’s minds. On the life-journey of each individual, the nature of the mind determines what is seen and valued. In The Symposium, Plato said so beautifully that one of the highest human privileges is to ‘be midwife to the birth of the soul in another’. This is the precious and eternal work that parents do; they do this unobtrusively and continuously. Next to birth, bringing a child physically into the world, this is the greatest gift that one can confer on another. It is a gift that once given can never be taken away by anyone else, an inner gift that will inform and illuminate their journey.
There is no such thing as perfect parents. All parents make mistakes and inevitably leave lesser or greater trails of damage. In later life, it is often a painful and difficult task for a person to discern and integrate what occurred in childhood; this can be slow work, but it can yield great fruits of forgiveness, freedom and tranquillity of heart.
Prayer For Parents by Derek Smith.
Spirit of Love, whom we have come to know through the affections we have for each other, we give thanks this day for the love of parents.
Over the years they have fed and sheltered our bodies, and encouraged us in our schooling and our games. They have often understood us when we were hurt or afraid, and at times been angry or displeased when we did what they thought was wrong (for they too were capable of being hurt in their feelings), and yet they never ceased to care for us. For our parents we give thanks.
We, who are mothers and fathers, would learn to distinguish between loving and possessing. May we free our children to live their own lives, and not burden them with living our lives. May we provide them with opportunities for fresh explorations, as well as giving them havens of security. May we understand their sensitivities and fears, and not laugh at them. May we allow them to discover and to hold their own values, and not expect them to adopt ours. For our children we give thanks,
Then as our children step out to meet life with confidence and joy and excitement, may we all know the true bond of a mutual love and a mutual caring. For each other we give thanks.
Reading My Father’s Things by Ken Nye, from UUA Worship Web
My dad died 28 years ago. I still have some of his things:
A red, plaid Pendleton bathrobe. (I look like Dad in that thing now). An old Sears table-saw, bought, used, in 1950. I still use it (but for rough cuts only). An old grinding wheel, noisy as sin, but sharpens mower blades in no time. Trays and trays of screws and nuts, sorted in biscuit tins by size (just stir and search). His gold watch, given to him in ’57. It hasn’t worked for years. It’s going to cost too much to fix it, so I keep it in my drawer. I had his pocket knife but lost it (I always lose my pocket knife).
There are other things of his I have as well:
I have his feet. I swear, my feet look just like his. I have his eyes (they’re big and brown). I have his gait (knees kicking out like bow-legged cowboys). When I walk in front of storefront windows, it’s my dad.
I have some other things of his too:
A love of animals, especially dogs, one of God’s greatest inventions. His value system and code of conduct, the dos and don’ts of being a man.
Some might say, “Bathrobes and saws and codes of conduct are not exactly jewels to take to the bank.”
I answer, “Jewels don’t shine as brightly as my father’s things.”
Time of Stillness and Reflection A Father’s Day Prayer by Kirk Loadman-Copeland, from UUA Worship Web (adapted)
Let us praise those fathers who have striven to balance the demands of work, marriage, and children with an honest awareness of both joy and sacrifice.
And those fathers who, lacking a good model for a father, have worked to become a good father.
Let us praise those fathers who, by their own account, were not always there for their children, but who continue to offer those children, now grown, their love and support. And those fathers who have been wounded by the neglect and hostility of their children.
Let us praise those fathers who, despite divorce, have remained in their children’s lives.
And those fathers whose children are adopted, and whose love and support has offered healing.
Let us praise those fathers who, as stepfathers, freely chose the obligation of fatherhood and earned their stepchildren’s love and respect.
And those fathers who have lost a child to death and continue to hold the child in their heart.
Let us praise those men who have no children but cherish the next generation as if they were their own.
And those men who have “fathered” us in their role as mentors and guides.
Let us praise those men who are about to become fathers: may they openly delight in their children.
And those fathers who have died, but live on in our memory and whose love continues to nurture us.
May all fathers be praised. Amen
Musical Interlude A Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
Address Father’s Day 2022
“Father” is one of those emotionally-charged words, like “mother”, “love”, “hate” and “God”, which means different things to different people. Everyone has (or had) a father and stands (or stood) in a particular relation to him. To begin this address, I would like to share three things that sum up my father for me. Then, I would like to invite you, in the short silence which will follow, to do the same.
When I was a little girl, I thought my father was the fount of all wisdom – if I needed to know something, I’d go and ask him. (Come to think of it, this hasn’t changed much in sixty years!) Second, he is someone for whom I have enormous respect, and whose approval is important to me. The third thing is less serious – it is the smell of Gold Block pipe tobacco. I only have to catch a whiff of that to think immediately of Dad.
Fathers are not the same as mothers. Most children have a different relationship with each. As Libby Purves writes in her splendid book How Not To Be A Perfect Family, “’mother’ is not so much a sex-linked word as a job description. Like accountant. Or MP, or doctor. Some fathers do indeed carry out a lot of mothering: cuddling to sleep, listening to worries about school, physical care, sorting out socks. But … fathering [is] a parallel – and distinctly different function. … He stands in a different relationship to his children: less like an extension of themselves, and more like a benevolent patron. He does different things, plays rougher games, and is less ready to identify and sympathise with every bump and worry. He laughs not only with the child, but occasionally at her. He does silly things to make her laugh, not least at herself. He is a sort of advance guard of the rough, bluff, outer world which the small child will have to meet one day: a halfway house between the utter cosy commitment of nursery life, and the world of strangers which lies beyond.”
Being a good father (or standing in that role) is one heck of a responsibility, as we saw in the words of our Time of Stillness and Reflection. If you have a son, he will constantly measure himself against you. If you have a daughter, she will need your approbation in order to grow up confident. You represent strength and mastery to them, an example that they will wish to follow.
Which makes the popular image of The Father in the media quite confusing. On the one hand, ancient ideas of power and wisdom cling around the word, but on the other hand, “the prevailing cultural cliché which has grown up in the last few decades is of ‘Dad’ as a lovable but rather inept [character]” – I can remember watching children’s sit-coms when my two were small and seeing this in action. The mothers were feisty and hard-working, the Dads were inept old codgers. It doesn’t seem fair. And as Libby Purves points out, “Father’s Day cards depict the poor man exclusively in terms of carpet slippers, golf clubs, big, macho dogs, fishing equipment and football scarves. A few gestures towards [the present] are made by the inclusion of cards showing motorcycle scrambling, TV snooker-watching and windsurfing.” How unfair is that on all the hard-working, sensitive, creative fathers there are in the world today!
It’s a complicated business, being a parent. Becoming a parent is one of the biggest and far reaching life changes that can happen to you. Until that point, you have been a free-wheeling adult, able to make choices about your life, such as when to eat, when to sleep, where and how long to work, what type of holiday to go on, and so on. Above all, you could decide to do things more or less spontaneously, as in let’s go to the pictures / out for a meal / stay in bed all morning at the weekend.
Becoming a parent changes all that. At a stroke you are responsible for looking after a baby and meeting all their varying needs – food when they’re hungry, changing when they’re wet, cuddling when they’re upset, amusing when they’re awake, and sleep when they’re tired. And you have to work out which of these needs is uppermost at any particular time, which can be difficult when the said baby is howling their head off, you’ve just fed and changed them and they’re not due for a nap for another hour! Your judgement is skewed because you love this little creature to death and can’t bear to see it sad.
Children continue to have a huge impact on their parents’ lives for as long as they’re around. When they’re little, doing anything has to be planned around meal and nap times, favourite toys and so on. Going anywhere becomes a major expedition. And when they start school, dropping off and picking up times and school holidays become all important – it is not until they reach their teens really that you can start to give them some independence (and, incidentally, get some back for yourself!). Even then, you worry about where they are, who they’re with, what they’re doing, are they all right and so on.
The thing that doesn’t change, no matter how young or old they are, is your love for them. The strength of my love for both my children is unlimited – when my son was born I was quite taken aback by the sheer instinctive ferocity of it. And it never stops – at various times I have been incredibly annoyed, frustrated and fed-up with the behaviour of one or the other of them, but underneath it all, I have always loved them. Even though they are now grown up and are making their own lives, I know that if they needed me, I would be there for them at the drop of a hat and I know their father would say the same.
Of course in Christianity, the image of God the Father is central. He is the all-loving Father of humankind. He is the merciful Father who “forgives our foolish ways”, to quote the popular hymn. He is the caring Father, the good shepherd who seeks after each straying lamb, and brings him or her home, rejoicing.
One of my favourite stories in the Christian Bible is the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke. We all know the story: there was a man who had two sons. The younger one asks for his share of his father’s inheritance early, and goes off and spends it on wine, women and song. Eventually he is so poor that he hires himself out as a pig-herd and realises sadly that even the pigs are better off than he is. So he decides to go home and beg for his father’s forgiveness and ask whether his father will hire him as a labourer. Let me read you the rest: “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe – the best one – and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.”
I know that this parable is an example of God’s love and forgiveness, but it is also a parable of good human fathers, who never quite give up on their children, no matter what they do. And I’ve always found the end of it interesting, when the older son, who has stayed at home and worked hard for his father, not surprisingly feels slighted when he gets back and finds them all celebrating: “For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours comes back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him.”
On the face of it, you can’t blame him for feeling this way. The father’s reply is a wonderful example of fatherly love and tenderness, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” In two sentences he reassures the older son of his special place in his heart and explains why he must rejoice in the return of a lost son, however prodigal.
So let us praise all fathers, whether human or divine – they have a hard job of it and deserve our love and respect and gratitude.
Spirit of Life and Love,
May we hold all those who father in our hearts.
May we return to our everyday world refreshed,
May we share the love we feel,
May we look out for each other,
And may we keep up our hearts,
Now and in the days to come,
Postlude Lady of Lewesdon Hill by Elizabeth Harley