Home Worship Service July 19

Union Church
Biddeford Pool
…a place of peace and Presence by the sea
Comet over Solon, Maine

 

July 19th, 2020
Cultivating a Life of Contemplation and Compassion
We are Made For the Beloved

 

Focus: “Time is the best salve for heart wounds. Reminding oneself of the small joys and comforts that can still be found in the world. A voice in the dark, a friend, the smell of fresh apples. All of those, over time, can help.”― Robin LaFevers, Courting Darkness

Welcome:

Threshold Moment:  (Video)

Music: Everything Is Beautiful (by Ray Stevens)  -Michelle Currie

Call to Worship: (Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-15a)
Leader: We are people longing for comfort.
People: Longing for the stones of anxiety to be cleared from our hearts.
Leader: We don’t know when or how,
People: God’s comfort is patient with our uneasiness.
Leader: So we wait with the promise,
People: and trust that our God is with us always.

 

Opening Prayer:
Divine Goodness, Holy One,
Pause us for this moment,
bear us up in this time, hold us for eternity.
We open to your warming presence.
We remember we came from you.
We affirm all beings are your beloveds.
And all the people say, “Amen.”

Lord’s Prayer

Children’s Time:  See Below

Scripture: Psalm 16: 7-11 (Video)

Sermon:   Don’t Forget                                             Rev. Paula Norbert

Contemplative Moment:  (Video)

Music:  Now Thank We All Our God (by Johaan Cruger)

Hush Now In Quiet Peace:                                                 -Michelle Currie
Hush now in quiet peace, be still your mind at ease.
The Spirit brings release, so wait upon the Lord.

Prayers of the People:

Closing Music:  Worldwide Beautiful (by Kane Brown)  -Michelle Currie

Benediction:
The world is so varied and beautiful.
Seek wisdom wherever it is to be found.
And may the goodness of the Creator,
the companionship of the Christ,
and the insight of the Spirit,
infuse your life now and always. Amen.

Postlude:  Go In Peace

For The Week Ahead:   With each week’s message, we will find a way to integrate contemplative practices into our daily lives as a way of opening to the Divine in deeper ways, thereby training our spirits for compassion in all things. This week’s ritual action is a time of feeling warmed by God’s love. Set a reminder to spend some time “warmed” by sitting/walking in the sun or sitting/lying while wrapped and cradled in a soft blanket. As you do so, allow your mind to slow, your heart to open, your eyes to drink in your surroundings. You may want to put a note nearby, “Your very essence is warmed by the presence of divine love. Be reminded to offer that warmth to others… for the beauty of the earth.”

 Psalm 16: 7-11

 I praise YHWH, who guides me;
 even at night my heart teaches me.
Im always aware of your presence;
you are right by my side,
and nothing can shake me.
My heart is happy and my tongue sings for joy;
I feel completely safe with you,
because you wont abandon me to the Grave;
you wont let your loved one see decay.
You show me the path to Life;
your presence fills me with joy.
[Beautiful things are always in your right hand.] (a)

 Ref: CEB

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Searching for Beauty:
A Time for Children

Have a blanket(s) ready at home. We are talking for the next few weeks about how beautiful the world is and everything and everyone in it? “Remembering” is part of today’s message.  In our “search for beauty” we are going to remember how lovely and warm God’s love is!

This week the Bible tells us that God is present with us all the time–that the One who loves us even more than we can imagine, is “right by our side” 24/7 helping us feel safe. So this week’s search is for something that can wrap us up and help us feel safe and warm… like a wonderful blanket! Let’s find one right now. See if you can find one!

Great! Let’s wrap up in the blanket (invite the children to wrap their arms around themselves like a blanket [or a nearby parent could do this]–and then to find their own blanket as soon as they can). Are you beginning to feel warmer and cozier? The scripture today is from a Psalm poem that calls God a “refuge,” which means a safe place when we are feeling alone or scared. When people are feeling scared or cold after something like a storm, one of the first things we want to do is wrap them up in a blanket because it not only helps their bodies, it helps their hearts feel better. So this week we are going to wrap up in a blanket whenever we feel like it and remember that we are never, ever alone. Like that blanket, God’s love is wrapping us up. And when we wrap others in love, we create a more beautiful world of warmth and goodness.

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Join me in this repeat-after-me prayer:

God of Goodness

Thank you for your love…

that I can feel around me…

Help me…

help you…

to give warmth to all…

for the beauty of the earth…

Amen…

 

Worship Materials: “Beguiled by Beauty,” Worship Design Studios, Dr. Marcia McPhee.

 

 

Sermon-July 19, 2020

 

Don’t Forget…

Psalm 16: 7-11

I praise YHWH, who guides me;

even at night my heart teaches me.

I’m always aware of your presence;

you are right by my side,

and nothing can shake me.

My heart is happy and my tongue sings for joy;

I feel completely safe with you,

because you won’t abandon me to the Grave;

you won’t let your loved one see decay.

You show me the path to Life;

your presence fills me with joy.

[Beautiful things are always in your right hand.] (a)

Ref: CEB

Many of you have likely heard of Julian of Norwich, a Christian mystic of the 14th century who  lived during one of the worst centuries of human history, including the black death pandemic that wiped out millions of people, famines, floods, war, and corruption. In her writing, she shared what she believed to be at the root of suffering–the misplaced idea of God’s rejection. We know that suffering is part of being human, but what makes suffering so challenging is that we forget that our God is with us. Emmanuel, our God is with us. Without a core belief in our intrinsic and sacred worth, we too may find ourselves caught up in negativity or behaviors and beliefs which injure us or others which just lead to more suffering. We may forget that our God is truly with us and that we are connected to one another and we may feel despair or hopelessness.  Contemplative practices invite us into union with our God and help us heal the wounds of forgetfulness.  Let us pray, O God of comfort and mercy, we need to be reminded of your Presence in these days.  Be with us, stay with us, help us to feel the comfort of your loving presence and care.  Amen.

As our Psalm today says, “even at night, my heart teaches me.  I’m always aware of your Presence. You are always at my side.”  Researchers of the brain and behavior say that human beings have a negativity bias. We typically focus on and remember more easily the negative encounters and interactions that we experience in our lives. From an evolutionary perspective, such thinking can keep us safe in avoiding that which we understand to be harmful. Focusing on negativity is especially true for so many of us in times of pandemic. Our negativity bias can keep us safe, but it can also make us worry all the time.  It can be one of the things that really gets in the way of our relationship to God and to one another.

The contemplative life helps us keep our negativity bias in check. It invites us to rest secure in the knowledge that we are beloved children of God. The psalmist reminds us that one of the practices that leads us toward Goodness is the practice of worship. Even in the midst of real suffering, we praise God; we remember the One who holds us, stays with us, fills us with the fullness of joy. It is in the security of this place, in the arms of the Beloved, that we can find the strength to remember that we are loved and that God is always present to us.

Dr. Wendy Farley writes, “[Julian of Norwich] likened humanity to someone who has fallen into a ditch and cannot see where they are. Their body is full of pain and distraction. They feel isolated because they cannot see that they are intimately connected to God and to all beings. Julian says that the worst part of all of this is that such a person has forgotten God’s tender and unconditional love for them and for all creation.”  Julian, like other contemplatives, acknowledges that there is a great deal of suffering that is simply part of being human.  We don’t always remember that we are cherished by God. If we could reconnect to God’s love for us, we would still suffer, but it would not be so overwhelming.”

Forgetting who we are does not mean we do not “believe in God.” But we may get so wrapped up in our day to day worries and distractions that we lose sight of the bigger picture or we forget some of the practices that have provided comfort and spiritual sustenance in the past.  Who are we really? What is this depth that stirs in our deepest loves and delights, in the anguish of human affliction, in our secret restlessness?

“Teresa of Avila considered the absence of self-knowledge to be the root of our spiritual crisis. She describes the soul as a wonderful, beautiful, diamond-like structure with many chambers winding toward a center of inexplicable beauty. We hold the divine within us all the time, even if for the most part we do not know or remember it. For Teresa, our deepest problem is that we have forgotten the great beauty of our soul and who dwells there.  We lack self-knowledge. The important moment of awakening is to relocate this identity in a larger context. We wake up to the beauty of our soul and to the unspeakable joy that it is Holy Goodness dwelling within us. For Teresa, true self-knowledge is true humility. It is not self-hatred or unworthiness but a recollection that we are lovers of the divine. Who we understand God to be is deeply related to who we believe ourselves to be.

Writer Bruce Goldfarb shared some reflections years ago about a camping trip he took with his nephews and what it taught him about the comfort of memories.  He wrote, “Every time I smell the fragrance of lilacs, I am transported to the glorious white blossoms outside the bedroom window of my childhood. The smell of lilacs will always connote the security and comfort of home.” The writer and his son, Max, had gone camping one summer with his brother and nephews, ages 9 and 12.  He said, “One evening, as we sat talking around the campfire, my brother gave each of us a plastic-wrapped translucent mint. It was the same kind of mint that our Grandmother kept in a blue enamel covered dish, like a hidden treasure we kids found in the study. I hadn’t eaten one in years.  At the first taste, I was unexpectedly flooded with memories — not just of Grandmother and the distinct grandmotherly smell of her house, but of putting my arms around her frail frame in a gentle hug, and running circles around the massive oak tree in her back yard with my brothers. For a moment, it was almost as if she were alive again, smiling as she opened the door to welcome us to her home.

We hear of people speaking about comfort food and people have come to understand that sometimes, it’s not that we’re hungry but that we long for the memories or feelings associated with that kind of food. The taste and smell of a certain food can bring back beautiful memories of people with whom we shared the food.  Comfort food can make us feel less alone or instill in us a sense of belonging.

When French writer Marcel Proust bit into a madeleine at his mother’s house, he was overwhelmed by a feeling of love and nostalgia. “I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal,” he wrote. Where had this “all-powerful joy” come from? He sensed that it was connected to the taste of tea and cake, “but that it infinitely transcended those savours.”  In Proust’s case, the taste he experienced took him back to childhood experiences with a beloved aunt and memories of the places he belonged as a child.  Dec 5, 2016 (Comfort Foods Aren’t Magic, But Memory Might Be, Smithsonian Magazine, Kat Eschner)  Last week’s wonderful speaker, Ann Hood, shared special memories of foods that evoked important memories in her life and for those of us listening, she brought back some long forgotten and special memories as well.

How may we tap into the memories of the comfort and presence of the Holy?  I’d like to invite you to remember a time in your life when you truly felt a sense of oneness with the Divine, when you may have felt something sacred surrounding you, when you felt a sense of comfort and peace in an unexpected moment that you truly believed was of God.  Perhaps there are smells or tastes that you associate with such a time…the smell of candles or incense, the taste of a meal with dear family members, the sound of special music that touched a deep place in your heart, perhaps a sight of something so beautiful in nature that it touched you in a very deep place?  We can revisit those moments in our memories; we can take the time to be reminded of the Presence of God then and of the Presence of God now, with us, holding us, wanting us to just be and find what measure of peace we may at this time.

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