Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
Opening Words Each day by Andy Pakula
With each new day, we are offered another step in life’s sacred journey, an invitation to join in the flow of life that streams around us.
Today, we may face a barren desert landscape to cross,
parched as our reserves of hope dwindle.
Some days, a lush oasis appears, offering its succulent gifts of joy to delight our hearts.
Each day, we arrive, but not to stay.
We travel on…
Pilgrims in search of the holy land that glistens in our dreams.
Journeying toward a destination that we must seek,
and that none ever reach.
Spirit of the journey, God of many names.
May we step out boldly,
venturing eagerly forward,
accepting all that each mile has to offer.
May we know that within the journey itself lies our destination,
and that the holy city waits to be discovered in every heart.
Chalice Lighting (you may wish to light a candle in your own home at this point).
words by Joy Croft
As is our custom here, we light the chalice – and see!
The flame of truth burns bright,
fed by the vision of each of us,
rising from the heart of us all.
Let its light shine out as our lives shine out,
brightening the dark places of the world,
bringing wholeness and peace.
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 and climate change overshadow us.
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, Amen
Reading Patience, Part One, from Inner Beauty: A Book of Virtues by the Brahma Kumaris
One of the principal aims of all spiritual people is to eradicate barriers. Yet patience is the creation of a barrier: a gentle but implacable barrier dividing feeling from expression. It is not a dead barrier, a brick wall, but something live, built systematically over a long space of time. It is also a protection.
On one side, there is a feeling. Feelings run deep and fast. They would flood life, given half a chance. Swim along with them and whilst there can be exhilaration, there can also be drowning. Without any barrier, feeling finds instant expression. Life is simply a series of actions done with spontaneity and words are the same.
For someone with any sense of beauty and control, there has to be patience in between. Patience doesn’t do anything, any more than a wall does, it simply slows you down. Slowing down expression is the first way to speed up spiritual progress. It also, unlike a wall, opens up your vision, gives you time to assess the future; gently, to think.
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 Patience, Part Two, from Inner Beauty: A Book of Virtues by the Brahma Kumaris
One of the forces most challenging to patience is not other people, but simply one’s own body. Watch to what extent verbal expression is dictated by the state of the body: the body feels heavy, the mind feels heavy and the words fall like lead on the air; the body is well and life follows suit.
Patience lets ill health bounce off it. It comes in between, does nothing, just is, like the wall, or the traditional form of the protective mother whose very presence offers refuge. And just as a child can sit on a mother’s lap, so too you can sit on the “wall” of patience and just watch. It is often dangerous to do anything else.
Sometimes patience makes you persist, to go on with something you’d rather see finished. The wall, ever still, turns its back on feeling and simply faces the future. Keep going. Keep going. If a mother stopped pushing a child to walk, we’d still all be crawling. And sometimes we are, in our minds. So patience is a wonderful measure against indiscretion, but it is also a means of encouragement.
Means and measures are temporary. One day the wall will be knocked down. When feelings have grown up sufficiently to be worthy of instant expression, there will be the moment of freedom. For anyone pursuing the life of spirituality, it is a natural aim. To become whole. No sergeant majors of self-criticism, not even patience, just joy.
Prayer by Matthew Smith
Spirit of Life and Love,
In this moment let us be conscious
of the free gifts of air to breathe
and solid ground beneath our feet.
Conscious of these natural realities,
Let us likewise recall the importance
of interpersonal trust in our lives.
While being open to others
Carries its risk,
We know our hearts will shrink and wizen
If we live mainly by suspicion.
As persons of inherent worth and dignity –
Each and every one of us –
Let us claim the right to demand
Justice and accountability
From those in positions of power.
Let us also be willing to open ourselves
To love and trust –
For our own dear sakes.
There is good in the world,
And there is good in people.
Sometimes we need to look deeply –
But it is there.
We know there are tens of millions of hearts
Yearning for the same things that we do –
Fairness, love, care for the earth, compassion.
As we reach out
Let us have resolute faith
That we will connect with those
True hearts – the companions
We really need for life’s journey.
So it is that we recognise and celebrate
This hard but invaluable work
Of trusting and reaching out –
In our own personal lives,
And in the practise of spiritual community.
May it ever be so. Amen
Reading from The Hebrew Bible: Psalm 37, verses 1-9, 23-24.
Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land….
Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
when he delights in our way;
though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand.
Time of Stillness and Reflection Let us be still and listen by Sydney H. Knight, from Songs for Living
Let us be still and listen… listen for all the sounds around us…
The noise of passing traffic, the steps of passers-by, a distant train or a barking dog, an aeroplane overhead or someone working…
The wind in the leaves, the rattle of branches, the singing of birds, the patter of rain, the rustle of autumn leaves or the quiet of winter snow…
The creak of a chair, the tick of a clock, the sound of our own breathing, the beating of our own hearts…
Let us listen to the sounds within us, sounds known only to ourselves…
The unspoken noisiness of our own tumbling thoughts, the silent shouting of our own feelings…
The cascading pictures in our minds’ eyes – all disturbing our quiet. Let us be still within…
Let us listen to a stillness deeper within us. Let us listen to the voice of inner silence…
Let us be still and know that God is here. Amen
Musical Interlude Clouds by Elizabeth Harley
Address Patience: A very useful virtue
Patience is, perhaps, an old-fashioned virtue. The consumerist society in which we live preaches instant gratification – one click and this can be yours. Why wait, when you can have it (whatever “it” is) now, this minute – or at least the next day, thanks to the hyper-efficient logistics network that keeps our economy spinning. When we do have to wait for some consumer item, we feel aggrieved. This attitude is epitomised by the character Veruca Salt, from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with her constant refrain, “I want it now!”
It is a rare person who is immune from this impatience – I can remember, when we ordered a new three-piece suite a few years ago, being most taken aback to learn that it was going to take four months to arrive. Four months? That’s ages. And yet it all worked out perfectly – we decided to go the whole hog and choose a new carpet and new curtains while we were at it, and by the time those things were in place, the suite was due to arrive in a couple of weeks. There’s a lesson in that, somewhere!
Another phrase for the virtue of patience is “deferred gratification”. I believe it used to be far more common in the “old days” when I was a child. I was brought up to think that if you wanted a new book / toy / whatever, you had to save your pocket money until you could afford to buy it. No shortcuts. If you were very lucky, you might have a birthday or Christmas coming up, which would shorten the time you had to wait, but otherwise, deal with it.
I do sometimes wonder whether having to wait for whatever it was meant that I enjoyed and appreciated it more when it did come into my possession? I think it might have done. I valued my new possession more, because I had had to wait for it.
I found the Brahma Kumaris take on patience, which I shared as our first two readings, fascinating. They speak of it as a “useful wall” – “Patience doesn’t do anything, any more than a wall does, it simply slows you down. Slowing down expression is the first way to speed up spiritual progress. It also, unlike a wall, opens up your vision, gives you time to assess the future; gently, to think.”
In other words, it can be a refuge from negative feelings, from being driven by our emotions. Being patient allows us time to assess our situation, whatever it is, to think about it carefully, with detachment, rather than instantly reacting.
I have been practicing patience over the past few weeks, since my foot operation on 5th December. Five weeks on, my foot is still heavily bandaged, and I have to wear a special built-up sandal to protect it. I have to walk with the aid of crutches, and am only allowed to exercise by walking around the downstairs rooms of our house once an hour. Apart from that, I must sit with my leg elevated and do whatever I do in this chair.
When I went to get the dressing changed a week ago, I was hoping that I would be allowed to sit at my desk again and do some work. But no, it was not to be. I was firmly told that the extra two weeks of rest would be important for my foot to have the time to heal properly. So I’ve “got round it” by bringing my work laptop into the lounge and balancing it on a lap tray, so that I can work from here.
This enforced period of rest has done me no harm whatsoever. I have, of necessity, slowed down, and have really appreciated the time to be at leisure. In the first couple of weeks, I was still feeling a little fragile, a little sorry for myself, and did very little except read, write and crochet. Then it was Christmas. But since then, I have felt the need to get back to work, to be more mentally and spiritually active again. I count myself blessed that I am fortunate enough to be able to “work around” my temporary disability. And likewise blessed that my husband has taken on more of the daily tasks which were usually mine.
It has given me a deeper insight into what it means to be dependent on another person, which has been good for me, as I am far more accustomed to being, in Kipling’s words, “the master of my fate… the captain of my soul.” It has helped me to realise that old age and infirmity will come to all of us in the end, and at that point, the cultivation of patience may mean the difference between contentment and resentment. I know which state of mind I would rather be in.
The Brahma Kumaris also have this to say about patience: “Sometimes patience makes you persist, to go on with something you’d rather see finished. The wall, ever still, turns its back on feeling and simply faces the future. Keep going. Keep going. If a mother stopped pushing a child to walk, we’d still all be crawling. And sometimes we are, in our minds. So patience is a wonderful measure against indiscretion, but it is also a means of encouragement.”
So in this case, patience can be another word for persistence. It keeps us plodding on when the going gets tough, enabling us to trust in the process, that we will get there in the end. The Austrian writer, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, once wrote, “Whoever says patience, says courage, perseverance, strength.”
Because more often than not, it would be better for us if we could find the patience to take the time needed to do a good job, rather than a rushed one. And also time to appreciate what we have just done. A breathing space.
In her wonderful book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes about “the new cultural belief that everything should be fun, fast and easy [which] sets us up for hopelessness. When we experience something that is difficult and requires significant time and effort, we are quick to think, This is supposed to be easy; it’s not worth the effort or This should be easier: it’s only hard and slow because I’m not good at it. Hopeful self-talk sounds more like, This is tough but I can do it.”
This attitude requires patience, courage, perseverance and strength. Brown goes on to write, “We develop a hopeful mind-set when we understand that some worthy endeavours will be difficult and time-consuming and not enjoyable at all. Hope also requires us to understand that just because the process of reaching a goal happens to be fun, fast and easy doesn’t mean that it has less value than a difficult goal. If we want to cultivate hopefulness, we have to be willing to be flexible and demonstrate perseverance… Tolerance for disappointment, determination, and a belief in self are the heart of hope.”
So when we are getting bogged down in and/or impatient about whatever we’re working on, or our present situation, let’s try to remember that we’re here for the long haul. I find it helpful to ask myself, “Will this matter in a month? In a year? In five years?” Which helps me to regain some perspective and to be sufficiently patient and persevere with whatever it is.
Another important aspect of cultivating patience is this: if we try to rush ahead with something, without taking the time to do the groundwork first, it will usually fail. Fall flat on its face. New ideas can inspire us, and we want to implement them straight away, but unless we take the time to bring other people with us, it is very possible that we will end up at the end of a very narrow branch, with someone sawing it off near the trunk.
In the context of Unitarian ministry (with a small m), this is especially important to remember. It often happens that a minister (or lay leader or committee member) has a wonderful new idea, then rushes off to make it happen, or to lay it before the committee, only to be met by lukewarm reactions, if not negative ones. Our ministry, which is all our work in our congregations, must be collaborative. The leaders in our movement must learn the patience to consult other people, to explain new concepts with patience, in order to help those others to feel their own enthusiasm for the project. This applies not only to BIG IDEAS, like removing the pews from a chapel, but also to small ideas, like moving the chalice from one place to another.
Change is difficult for most people – we are naturally resistant to it. Very, very few people embrace it wholeheartedly, at least, not at first hearing. So patience is needed to do the groundwork first, to carefully explain the reasoning behind any new proposal, and to allow people time to mull the new idea over in their minds, so that they can ask questions about it. It is better to get people used to a new idea, by drip, dripping it slowly, rather than flooding their minds with it or attempting to bounce them into agreeing with you. Leaders also need to be open to adapting new ideas, because someone has pointed out a better way to do whatever it is. This takes patience too, and also humility.
Learning to cultivate patience, learning to wait, learning to let go and trust that everything will happen in God’s own time – all these are important spiritual lessons for us to learn. Patience is the companion of wisdom.
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