Home Worship Service October 11

Union Church
Biddeford Pool
…a place of peace and Presence by the sea
Union Church Home Service, October 11, 2020
Autumn in New England – Sugarhouse and Barns in Fall Photograph by Joann Vitali
October 11, 2020
Missing the Faces of Love

 

Focus: One God, many faces. One family, many races.
One truth, many paths. One heart, many complexions.
One light, many reflections. One world, many imperfections. ONE. We are all one, But many.”     ― Suzy Kassem

Welcome:

Threshold Moment: Autumn Forest https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw7B1b6YEqY

Music: Face of God (by Phil Wickham/Shane Barnard & Shane Everett)      -Michelle Currie

Call To Worship:
L: Look around at this wondrous world!
P: God’s mighty acts in creation are magnificent.
L: Look around at the diversity of God’s people.
P: Diversity is to be celebrated for we have much
to learn from each other.
L: Come, let us offer praise and prayer to the Holy One.
P: Let us celebrate our Creator’s goodness, for even in the midst of sun and storms, God is with us. AMEN.

Opening Prayer:
O God of all living things, we call upon you this day to open our hearts to your love, our ears to your words, our eyes to see the needs of those both near and far, and our spirits to do what is good. Be with us and give us courage and inspiration for the future of your world, O Lord. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Scripture: 1 Corinthians: 13: 8-13, “The Body of Compassion” by Joyce Rupp

Sermon: Missing the Faces of Love

Meditative Instrumental– Living Hope (by Phil Wickham/Brian Johnson) -Michelle Currie

Musical call to Prayer: (two times)
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: Shower the People (by James Taylor)    -Michelle Currie

Benediction: You have received blessing upon blessing from the Holy One. Now go into the world offering hope and peace to all people you meet.

Postlude: Go In Peace

 

Readings

 

1 Corinthians:13: 8-1
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

The Body of Compassion– Joyce Rupp
I pray to be the face of compassion—
that those who come within my view
find a cordial, kindly reception
written upon my facial landscape.
I pray to be the ears of compassion—
that those who come filled with distress
will experience my attentive presence,
ready to listen without distraction.
I pray to be the eyes of compassion—
that those who lack society’s support
will receive my nonjudgmental gaze,
a look of unbiased, heartfelt welcome.
I pray to be the shoulders of compassion—
that those who come laden with burdens
will be able to set things down for a while,
and have the load lightened when they leave.
I pray to be the heart of compassion—
that those who feel overwhelmed with suffering
will sense my empathic response,
one that forgoes a desire to fix the hurt.
I pray to be the mouth of compassion—
that those whose voice is not heard
will be empowered and supported
by my determined, vocal stand for justice.
I pray to be the hands of compassion—
that those whose life could benefit
from my presence and my actions
will be assisted by the humble offering.
I pray to be the feet of compassion—
that those who long for companionship
will see that I walk beside them,
joined in the strength of a common humanity.
I pray that the Light of compassion shining in my soul
will recognize and receive the Light shining in others,
that together we will care for creation with respect and
have gratitude for all that exists.

Back to top

Sermon

Missing the Faces of Love

Rev. Paula Norbert

 

In Paul’s familiar letter to the Corinthians, we hear the great passage about the fullness of love and the qualities that best express the fullness of love in all of its complexity. And then we hear these lines, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Of course, Paul is speaking about our desire to grasp the face of God, to understand who God is and what God wants for our world. We can spend our lives trying to understand God with our minds but ultimately, it is only through love that we can see God. Who doesn’t yearn to see the face of God? And in these times, who doesn’t yearn to see the face of a dear friend or family member? Let us pray, O Compassionate One of many faces, help us to see you in the love we feel for one another, to feel you in the love shared with us, and to make known your face in the care and welcome we extend to others in our lives. Amen.

Over the summer, I heard from one of our regular summer visitors who told me how much she missed seeing the faces of so many in our church. There is really no replacement for a face to face interaction, is there? Despite how grateful we all may be for the ways in which technology has allowed us to connect, there is nothing like the real thing. And even in person, we wear our masks and so we don’t see the smile of another except as it is expressed through their eyes. We all remember the beautiful words of Victor Hugo from Les Mis, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” ( Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.) As much as the musical was beautiful, the novel was deeply moving and he was a beloved figure in Paris in his day. Over two million people came out on the day of his funeral to honor him. His words had touched them. Two days before he died, he left a note with these final words: “To love is to act.” In his will, he left 50,000 francs to the poor and wanted only a simple hearse. The last words of his will stated, “I believe in God.”

Irish spiritual writer, John O’Donohue wrote, “The human face is the subtle yet visual autobiography of each person. Regardless of how concealed or hidden the inner story of your life is, you can never successfully hide from the world while you have a face. In a certain sense, to gaze into the face of another is to gaze into the depth and entirety of his (or her) life. “ – John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

Back in the spring, when we were in the early months of Covid, I saw a piece on the news about an innovative way that doctors and nurses who were the caretakers on Covid units attempted to make the experience a little more personal for their patients. If you’ve seen any of the images from these floors, the medical care team is typically covered in the personal protective equipment with gowns and gloves and masks and shields such that only their eyes might be visible behind the clear face shield or head covering. It looks like something from a film on outerspace.

Back in the spring, an artist named Lori Justice Shocket, began to make what are called PPE portrait stickers for medical workers on the Covid wings of hospitals. Lori is an artist with a medical degree, married to an ER doctor and she is the mom and the stepmom of two more ER doctors. Doctors and nurses would send her their smiling photo and she printed and laminated them and would send them a sheet of stickers with their smiling faces to stick on the outside of their PPE gear so the terrified patients who couldn’t see their faces could at least have some idea of who was caring for them, and what they look like.

The idea originated during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, in 2014 and 2015. An American artist named Mary Beth Heffernan who teaches at Occidental College was moved by the images of the full space suit-like PPE that health workers were wearing, while caring for people with Ebola in Liberia that she started studying it. She ultimately created the PPE portrait project, subscribing it as an art intervention designed to improve Ebola care. This project was a well researched, grant-funded project, which focused on the psychological effects of isolation on patients and ultimately the beneficial effects of breaking through the isolation by allowing them to connect better with those who were caring for them.

Mary Beth Heffernan, an artist, was invited by the government of Liberia to come work with doctors in the Ebola treatment centers in 2014 and 2015. She said that she always hoped that what she started doing in Liberia, these few years ago, would become best medical practice for all kinds of patients who have to experience the isolation of never seeing people outside PPE, seeing only masked faces for days at a time. She understood how very important it would be for patients to know that there was a human being underneath all of the protective gear.

A research team at Stanford also began to make these PPE portraits as they came to see the fear and isolation for those being treated for COVID. And not surprisingly, they found in their research that a warm and a competent provider, connects with the healing mechanisms within a person`s own body. There are also clear masks that are being made and teachers have found them to be especially helpful in working with students who have hearing issues or other special needs.

One of the great lessons of this time, among so many, is coming to appreciate how important it is to be with others in person, to see one another; to see the faces of ones we love is just too precious. For so many of us, it has and will continue to be hard to be so far from loved ones and not know when we may see them again in person. Our new grandchild is in Chicago and it is heartbreaking not to be able to hold her in our arms and to play in person with the older ones.

As Paul says in his letter to the community at Corinth, ‘first we see dimly.” I’m sure we may all have a sense of what that feels like as we feel at times like we are walking in the dark in this time of pandemic. Such suffering, so many uncertainties, no end in sight. And like so many before us, we have more questions than we can began to grapple with.

Richard Rohr reflected on the passage from Corinthians in a meditation entitled, The Cloud of Unknowing, based on a book by the same title. He wrote, “I know you’ll ask me, “How can I think on God as God, and who is God?” and I can only answer, “I don’t know.” This question takes me into the very darkness and cloud of unknowing that I want others to enter. We can know so many things. Through God’s grace, our minds can explore, understand, and reflect on creation and even on God’s own works [as we should!], but we can’t think our way to God. That’s why I’m willing to abandon everything I know, to love the one thing I cannot think. [God] can be loved, but not thought. [John of the Cross and many other mystics say the same thing. We could have saved ourselves so much fighting and division if we had just taught this one truth!]

By love, God can be embraced and held, but not by thinking. It is good sometimes to meditate on God’s amazing love as part of illumination and contemplation, but true contemplative work is something entirely different.

No matter how sacred, no thought can ever promise to help you in the work of contemplative prayer, because only love—not knowledge—can help us reach God. . . .
It doesn’t matter how much profound wisdom we possess about created spiritual beings; our understanding cannot help us gain knowledge about any uncreated spiritual being, who is God alone. But the failure of our understanding can help us. When we reach the end of what we know, that’s where we find God. That’s why St. Dionysius [5th/6th century] said that the best, most divine knowledge of God is that which is known by not-knowing.”

We do know what love is and how it feels to love another and to be loved. I understand that not everyone has that in their life always, but my sincerest hope and prayer is that you have felt loved in your life and that love, that mirror of full acceptance, has been a path to knowing the love of God. “First we see dimly, and then face to face.” One day, we may see the face of God, however that may appear to us, but in the meantime, let us gaze into the faces of one another, let our light and love shine in our face so that others may know a little about who God is in our world and who we are and hope to be as seekers of faith and practitioners of love. Amen.

1.) PPE Portraits, Rachel Maddow Show, May 2020
2.) Rev. Richard Rohr, Oct. 12, 2018, Center for Action and Contemplation
3.) John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Back to top