Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
Opening Words We gather in reverence by Sophia Lyon Fahs
We gather in reverence before the wonder of life –
the wonder of this moment,
the wonder of being together, so close, yet so apart –
each hidden in our own secret chamber,
each listening, each trying to speak –
yet none fully understanding, none fully understood.
We gather in reverence before all intangible things –
that eyes see not, nor ears can detect –
that hands can never touch,
that space cannot hold,
and time cannot measure.
Chalice Lighting (you may wish to light a candle in your own home at this point).
We light our chalice flame,
fire touched to candle’s wick, and lo!
the light spreads among us.
May we be mindful of the gifts of fire and light,
without which we should surely perish.
May we be mindful of the gift of community,
which helps us to go deep.
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,
Victims of violence and war,
Suffering in any way,
Reading Go Deep Thought for Today, 14th June 2022
|Most of us think too much, especially about events and people, local and global, famous and not so famous. When we are always thinking about what is happening on the surface of life, the visible, then it is as if we are living a superficial life. And when two people who both live on the surface meet, the exchange, the conversation, is superficial, sometimes totally bereft of meaning. Often it leaves us totally unsatisfied. And as we share news of our surface observations, we come to know our own superficiality, but we are not strong enough to resist it. Deep down inside there is a voice, a longing, a calling to depth. It’s our heart, reminding us to visit, explore and express the depths of ourselves.|
Everyone has depth but we confuse the heart with emotion, and forget that emotion is the result of getting too close to events on the surface. So one of our deepest needs, which is to go in deep, is seldom satisfied. Going deep and being deep requires time spent in solitude, some periods of introversion and a conversation with ourselves. We only know what is at the bottom of the ocean by going there, diving deep and switching on a light and looking through the lens of a camera. The results are images of depth.
How on earth will we ever see what is in our heart unless we dive deep inside, switch on the light and look. Those who do will tell you it changes everything. What do they see? Simple, only beauty and truth. They are always there, waiting for us to return. Waiting to welcome us and to introduce ourselves to our self.
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 Silence: A User’s Guide by Maggie Ross
The choice for silence or noise, for carefulness or carelessness, is ours in every moment. To choose silence as the mind’s default in an accelerating consumer culture – a culture that sustains itself by dehumanizing people through the unrelenting pressure of clamour, confusion, and commodification – is indeed a subversive act.
For the reality is that our lives hang in the balance: between speech and silence, action and reflection, distraction and attention, extinction and survival. We bear responsibility for maintaining this balance, just as our choices for or against silence can affect the choices of everyone around us, choices that have both material and psycho-spiritual consequences. We seem to have forgotten this responsibility, for in the present time we are disconnected from the wellspring of silence and stillness that is necessary for human beings to thrive. These living waters no longer animate the speech and activity of our minds and bodies, lost as we are in a wasteland of our own making. If there is to be a viable ecology, if we are to remain human, if our lives are to have any meaning, if we are to continue as a viable species, it is essential that we restore the flow that enables our everyday lives to be informed by the riches found in silence.
Prayer by Cliff Reed (adapted)
Spirit of Life and Love,
In the quietness of this place and the peace of this hour,
may we come close to our deeper selves.
Fantasies and daydreams too often cloud our minds,
and we use our time and energy pursuing empty goals.
In busy-ness we lose our way.
Let us listen to the deep insistent call within us.
May we learn to love our poor fragmented selves
that they may be healed.
And may we turn that love outwards,
that it might heal the wounds which hate and fear have made.
Let us not be deceived about ourselves or about our world,
so that we neither crash in disillusion nor be twisted by cynicism.
If truth and clear vision be granted us, then let us give thanks.
May arrogance never trap us into thinking that truth has but one aspect.
May we stand face to face with ourselves,
recognising that which is truly ours,
and that which is the imposition of others.
And as we do, may we feel the love which unites us all in the depths of our being.
Reading: from Sabbath: Finding rest, renewal and delight in our busy lives by Wayne Muller.
What makes life fruitful? The attainment of wisdom? The establishment of a just and fair society? The creation of beauty? The practice of loving kindness? Thomas Jefferson suggested that human life and liberty were intimately entwined with the pursuit of happiness. Instead, life has become a maelstrom in which speed and accomplishment, consumption and productivity have become the most valued human commodities. In the trance of overwork, we take everything for granted. We consume things, people, and information. We do not have time to savour this life, nor to care deeply and gently for ourselves, our loved ones, or for our world; rather, with increasingly dizzy haste, we use them all up, and throw them away.
He goes on to say that we have lost the rhythm of work and rest, and explains that “Sabbath honours the necessary wisdom of dormancy … We too must have a period in which we lie fallow, and restore our souls … Sabbath time … is a time to let our work, our lands, our animals lie fallow, to be nourished and refreshed. Within this sanctuary, we become available to the insights and blessings of deep mindfulness that arise only in stillness and time. When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating what the Buddhists would call right understanding, right action, and right effort.”
Time of Stillness and Reflection (words by Thomas Rhodes, adapted)
Let us enter into a time of meditation, contemplation, and prayer.
Feel the earth beneath your feet as it supports you.
Feel the love of this virtual community as it surrounds and enfolds you.
Feel your breath as it flows in
and out of your body.
Listen to your heartbeat.
Listen to your heart.
Take another breath, and hold it.
The air you hold in your body is the most precious thing in the world,
for your very life depends on it.
And yet, none of us can hold on to it for more than a moment,
or else we would strangle and die.
What is most precious to us must be released,
so that we may live, and live fully.
Look into your heart, find what is there, and hold it.
The love you hold within your heart is the most precious thing in the world.
And yet no one can hold on to it any more than your heart can withhold its blood,
or else we would die from loneliness and misery.
What is most precious to us must be shared,
so that we may love, and love fully.
Look into your life, at those things that are most precious to you.
Look again, you will find that their value lies not in being held,
but in being shared.
Life, love, laughter, longing,
may we share these precious gifts
that they may return to us, multiplied beyond measure. Amen
Musical Interlude A Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
Address Going Deep
The starting point for this service was our first reading, Go Deep, which I was sent nearly a month ago. And it has taken me this long to be able to attend to it… which may say something about how hard I am finding it to go deep at present.
As the anonymous author wrote, “Everyone has depth but we confuse the heart with emotion, and forget that emotion is the result of getting too close to events on the surface. So one of our deepest needs, which is to go in deep, is seldom satisfied. Going deep and being deep requires time spent in solitude, some periods of introversion and a conversation with ourselves.”
Going deep involves spending time in silence, alone with yourself and (perhaps) God. If we are constantly rushing from place to place, from task to task, we are running down our spiritual batteries. And that is not good for any of us. In order to be at peace, to live our lives with some balance, it is necessary to take time out to go deep.
Because it is so very easy to spend our lives chasing after the next thing that needs doing, the next goal that presents itself to us, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. As biological animals, we move forwards through time, and it is natural for us to look to the future. But I am afraid that this is often at the expense of appreciating what we have in the present. This is certainly true in my case, particularly this year, when I am combining my District Ministry duties with Presidential ones. I always have a to-do list on the go and have to consciously include a weekly Sabbath day on it, so that I can re-group, let go, and spend some time just being. If I miss that day, for whatever reason, I am noticeably tenser, more easily tired, and more fratchety.
This is why I adore the words of the poem Camas Lilies by Unitarian Universalist minister, Lynn Ungar, which I shared with you a few weeks ago: “What of your rushed and useful life? Imagine setting it all down – papers, plans, appointments, everything – leaving only a note: ‘Gone to the fields to be lovely. Be back when I’m through with blooming.’”
“Gone to the fields to be lovely. Be back when I’m through with blooming.” Such a fabulous reminder that actually, there are other things than the current task, which are just as important, if our lives are to be rich and meaningful and deep, rather than rushed and pressured and superficial.
I have long recognised that many of the pressures in our lives (certainly many of the pressures in my life) are self-inflicted. It is our distracted, superficial selves who chase after material possessions, who need to be in control, who perpetually worry about the next thing, who strive after perfection, and who find it hard to let go of old regrets and grievances. We are doing it all to ourselves.
And the starting point for breaking out of all this pressure, for escaping from all this self-inflicted stress, is Just Letting Go. Choosing to relinquish control, stepping out of the centre, sitting still, and allowing Nothing to happen. It involves trust, which many of us find hard – trust that things will work out without our help, trust that God has got our backs. It is the only way I know of going deep.
Time for reflection and rest is so important, precisely because it enables us to go deep. It is only too easy to rush from task to task, ticking off items on the to-do list, and then straight on to the next thing. Yet there are times when being busy, busy, busy, just gets too much The thought crosses our minds: “Stop the world! I want to get off!” But it won’t stop, so we have to consciously make the effort to schedule some time to step off that treadmill. It may take a little creative selfishness to realise that we are quite entitled to do this, and quite a bit of planning to reschedule our activities, and find a free time-slot, but it can be done. The most important thing is that we commit to it, on a regular basis, and do it consistently.
Because we’re not supposed to live like this. Every person needs to have some time to centre down, to be at peace, to go deep, to recharge their emotional and spiritual batteries. I believe that one of the most important of God’s creations is the Sabbath – a time to rest, to re-group, and come back to our everyday lives refreshed. One reason why my faith is so important to me is that it has taught me that there is another way of living, even if I don’t always follow it.
Choosing to rest in silence, choosing to go deep, is indeed “a subversive act”, as Maggie Ross said in our second reading. She warns us that, “in the present time we are disconnected from the wellspring of silence and stillness that is necessary for human beings to thrive. These living waters no longer animate the speech and activity of our minds and bodies, lost as we are in a wasteland of our own making. If there is to be a viable ecology, if we are to remain human, if our lives are to have any meaning, if we are to continue as a viable species, it is essential that we restore the flow that enables our everyday lives to be informed by the riches found in silence.” Silence enables us to go deep.
So I have come to believe that we all need to find a quiet centre in our lives – a space in which we can let go, and simply be. I find this Quaker Advice a useful reminder, and often read it at the beginning of my morning sit: “Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine, and to find the inward source of our strength. Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life. Do you encourage in yourself and others a habit of dependence on God’s guidance for each day? Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God.”
I love this a/Advice on so many levels. To follow it involves finding our way into silence, a way into that quiet centre, and trusting that God will meet us there. So many spiritual teachers I admire talk and write about the importance of stillness and contemplation, as the surest way to connect with the divine, of going deep. They advise that we just notice thoughts as they arise, then let them go, and return to the silence. Easy to type, easy to say… but so difficult to do! At least, it is for me. Letting go, surrendering control, these are brave things to do, and not natural for any of us.
Sometimes, I still feel a little like Anne Lamott, who wrote in her wonderful book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers: “People… might say jovially, ‘Let go and let God’. Believe me, if I could, I would, and in the meantime I feel like stabbing you in the forehead.” The first time I read that, I laughed out loud in rueful recognition.
But I have found that sticking with it (I have been doing a morning sit more often than not for nearly a decade now) my life does become more peaceful. I do become less reactive, less stressed. It is still, sometimes, the hardest part of the day, as my monkey mind continues to chatter and whoop, refusing to stop, to let go, to be still.
Yet increasingly, I am finding that if I can just be at rest physically, allow myself to relax and sink into the depths of that stillness, mental and spiritual peace will follow. Usually it doesn’t last for very long, but I am beginning to see the benefits. It enables me to step back from the superficial worries of the day, and rest in the depth of God’s love. I have now been doing it long enough to miss it if I have to rush out early doors. Tranquillity and quiet are becoming necessary parts of my life.
What you choose to do with your time of rest and silence, whether it is daily or weekly, will be up to you. Each person has different ways of relaxing. The ideal for me, as I said earlier, is to follow the Quaker advice, and “find a way into the silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength.” That is what I aim for in my morning sit. And I try to keep my rest day screen-free, doing things which nourish my soul.
How will you find your still centre? Which practice will help you to go deep?
Closing Words by St Teresa of Avila (adapted)
Today may there be peace within.
May we trust that we are exactly where we are meant to be.
May we not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in ourselves and others.
May we use the gifts that we have received and pass on the love that has been given to us.
May we be content with ourselves just the way we are.
Let this knowledge settle into our bones,
and allow our souls 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