Home Worship Service October 18

Union Church
Biddeford Pool
…a place of peace and Presence by the sea
Union Church Home Service, October 18, 2020
Photo by Jake Colvin
you are welcome here
October 18, 2020
The Blessings of Autumn


Focus: “It was when I was happiest that I longed most…
The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the
place where all the beauty came from.” – C.S. Lewis, 20th century


Threshold Moment: Video Aerial Autumn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeBqvcKfvS4

Gathering Music: An Autumn Morning Has Broken     -Michelle Currie

Responsive Call to Worship
Leader: Quiet your mind, still your restlessness.
Come before God.
People: Like a bird that lights on a branch,
we come to the pause of God.

Leader: Warm your heart, stir up your spirit.
Come before God.
People: Like flame dancing on a candle’s wick,
we come to the dance of God.
Leader: Open your hands, meet the eyes of your neighbors.
Come before God.
People: Like rustling leaves blowing in autumn wind,
bright with color, deep when gathered,
we fall into the presence of God.

Invocation Unison: An Autumn Prayer
O God of Creation, you have blessed us with the
changing of the seasons.
As we embrace these autumn months,
May the earlier setting of the sun
Remind us to take time to rest.
May the crunch of the leaves beneath our feet
Remind us of the brevity of this earthly life.
May the steam of our breath in the cool air remind us that
it is You who give us your breath of life.
May the scurrying of the squirrels and the migration of the birds
Remind us that You call us to follow your path.
We praise you for your goodness forever and ever. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Awakening: From A Distance (Julie Gold) -Michelle Currie

Readings: Isaiah 18:4-6, Autumn Psalm of Contentment

Sermon: The Sacred Season of Autumn    -Rev. Paula Norbert

Meditative Music: “Autumn Leaves” (Joseph Kosma) -Michelle Currie

Musical call to Prayer: Hush now in quiet peace, be still your mind at ease. The Spirit brings release, so wait upon the Lord. (two times)

                                   Prayers of the People

             Silent Prayers                             Pastoral Prayer

Sermon Response:

Closing Hymn: It Is Well With My Soul


Recessional: Go in Peace
Go in peace and the peace of God be with you this day.
Go in peace and the peace of God be with you always.
Celebrate and share the joy. Celebrate new life.
Go in peace and the peace of God be with you always.

An Autumn Version of Morning Has Broken (Bunessan)

Morning has broken, like the first morning.
Geese have awoken, distant but heard.
Praise for the winging, praise for the morning,
Praise for life springing fresh from the Word.

Sweet is the autumn, golden before us
As the bright leaves shine, and fall from the trees.
Praise for the beauty of pumpkin and harvest,
Praise for God’s whispers on the cool breeze.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the moonrise.
Dawn sky and sunset- palette of play.
Praise with our rising, praise with our resting;
God’s hope and blessing for every day.

Lyrics by Rev. Maren Tirabassi
(with permission)


Isaiah 18:4-6

For thus the Lord said to me:
I will quietly look from my dwelling
like clear heat in sunshine,
like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.
5 For before the harvest, when the blossom is over
and the flower becomes a ripening grape,
he will cut off the shoots with pruning hooks,
and the spreading branches he will hew away.
6 They shall all be left
to the birds of prey of the mountains
and to the animals of the earth.
And the birds of prey will summer on them,
and all the animals of the earth will winter on them.

Autumn Psalm of Contentment

O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher
For I wish to learn the virtue of contentment.
As I gaze upon hour full-colored beauty,
I sense all about you
An at-homeness with your amber riches.

You are the season of retirement,
Of full barns and harvested fields.
The cycle of growth has ceased,
And the busy work of giving life
Is now completed.
I sense in you no regrets:
You’ve lived a full life.

I live in a society that is ever-restless,
Always eager for more mountains to climb,
Seeking happiness through more and more possessions.
As a child of my culture,
I am seldom truly at peace with what I have.
Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received;
May I know that it’s enough,
That my striving can cease
In the abundance of God’s grace.
May I know the contentment
That allows the totality of my energies
To come full flower.
May I know that like you I am rich beyond measure.

As you, O autumn, take pleasure in your great bounty,
Let me also take delight
In the abundance of the simple things in life
Which are the true source of joy.
With the golden glow of peaceful contentment
May I truly appreciate this autumn day.

~Edward Hays

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Sermon – October 18, 2020

The Sacred Season of Autumn in Our Spiritual Journeys

Rev. Paula Norbert

We are now a few weeks into the Autumn Season here in New England. As unbelievable as it seems, it has now been seven months since we were last together for Worship in our lovely Union Church. We have moved through the seasons of spring, summer and now into fall. Along the way, we have sought out ways to stay connected, to be prayerful and to extend our compassion and love to those beyond our church community. We have walked together in faith, although distant, and we have sought to care for ourselves and one another in these very challenging times. Each season reminds us of the gifts of God’s creation and autumn has been no exception. Despite the drought, the colors of the leaves have been spectacular; the evening skies and cool days have allowed so many of us to spend time out of doors and to be comforted and lifted up in the beauty of this lovely season. Let us pray, O God of Wonder, we thank you for the many ways you care for us each day, for the lessons of the seasons and the lessons of our lives. Draw near to us and give us hope and comfort now and always. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

There is something about autumn that invites contemplation. In the seasons, we are reminded that life unfolds in cycles and not only in linear ways and that there are abundant ways in which the Holy One is present to us in the moments of our days. Much has been written about spirituality and autumn and I would like to share some today for our reflection.

We often refer to autumn as fall and I have read that it is called fall not only because of the leaves falling from the trees but because this is the season when our planet Earth slowly falls away from the sun and light rays are lessening. We know that this lost light will return to us in springtime as the seasons unfold. The amount of sunlight which reaches the surface of our Earth is what affects the kinds of changes that take place in nature each season.

We know that autumn is a time of harvest which invites us to consider the gifts that come from the earth and provide us sustenance for growth and health. This is a season of gratitude as generations before us would take time out after the harvest to give thanks for the bounty of their fields. Of course, it is a time to put our gardens to bed, to allow things to return to the earth and provide food for the soil and it is a time of decay and dying. It is a season of surrender, where we ‘find large spaces left where something beautiful once lived. As one by one the leaves let go, a precious emptiness appears in the trees” and things are visible that we had not seen before.

We know that when we gaze up at the stars through the trees in fall, we can see the sky in a way that we hadn’t when the branches were full. “This is an important autumn lesson, when certain things fall away, there are other things that may be seen more clearly.” (Joyce Rupp) As we clear the leaves and plantings from our gardens, we are often compelled to clear the clutter from our homes in the tradition of fall cleaning. We may also be inspired to consider what we need to let go of in our personal lives or daily routines. Can we take a new view and see in a new way that opens our hearts and spirits to new life and growth?

I recently read a piece that explained the amazing colors of fall foliage.
“Many leaves contain yellow and orange pigments all year round, but in the spring and summer they’re masked by the vivid greens of chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for the absorption of light to provide energy for photosynthesis. But as the days shorten and the temperature falls, the chlorophyll breaks down and drains away – and those yellows and oranges begin to shine through. They were there all along, quiet and unnoticed, but now they emerge as the green curtain fades. If God is a painter of autumn trees, what we see is an art not of addition but of subtraction. It’s an art of revelation, of revealing the hidden beauty of what was always already there.

But what about those stunning reds? Those pigments appear when the leftover sugars in certain leaves are transformed into red and purple pigments. The transformation is most brilliant where there is the most light — which is why the leaves (or even the parts of leaves) most bathed in sunlight are the most deeply red of all. Apparently, the same as true for apples on the side which faces the sunshine. As it turns out, the Divine Artist paints not only by revelation, but also by transformation.

When we venture outdoors and enjoy the changing of the colors, we are invited to remember that this amazing spectacle is a “sheer riot of glory for glory’s sake. It’s a tide of splendor spilling over the world’s brim, flooding the forest for no biologically advantageous “reason” other than its own radiance. The beautiful oranges and gold colors arrive by way of revelation, disclosing what’s been there all along; and the reds and purples, by a transformation of leftovers. These may be seen as a divine sermon in pigment and light, shimmering for all who have eyes to see.” SALT Project

The writer Parker Palmer composed a wonderful piece on autumn back in the 1990’s, drawing upon his experiences of living in the upper Midwest. He wrote, “Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? She scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring—and she scatters them with amazing abandon.

In his experience of autumn, he was “rarely aware that seeds are being planted.” Instead, his mind was on “the fact that the green growth of summer is browning and beginning to die.” He added, “My delight in the autumn colors is always tinged with melancholy, a sense of impending loss that is only heightened by the beauty all around. I am drawn down by the prospect of death more than I am lifted by the hope of new life.

As he explored the paradox of dying and seeding in Autumn, Palmer shared his evolving appreciation of such metaphors, “I am easily fixated on surface appearances—on the decline of meaning, the decay of relationships, the death of a work. And yet, if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad possibilities being planted to bear fruit in some season yet to come.

In retrospect, I can see in my own life what I could not see at the time—how the job I lost helped me find work I needed to do, how the “road closed” sign turned me toward terrain I needed to travel, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed to know. On the surface it seemed that life was lessening, but silently and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sown.”

This hopeful notion that living is hidden within dying is surely enhanced by the visual glories of autumn. What artist would ever have painted a season of dying with such a vivid palette if nature had not done it first? Does death possess a beauty that we—who fear death, who find it ugly and obscene—cannot see? How shall we understand autumn’s testimony that death and elegance go hand in hand? For me, the words that come closest to answering those questions are the words of Thomas Merton: “There is in all visible things…a hidden wholeness.”

In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight: diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites. They are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.”

In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other—they cohere in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, as my body needs to breathe in as well as breathe out. But in a culture that prefers the ease of either-or thinking to the complexities of paradox, we have a hard time holding opposites together. We want light without darkness, the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, and the Faustian bargains we make fail to sustain our lives.

When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the clock, there can be only one result: artificial light that is glaring and graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more terrifying as we try to hold it off. Split off from each other, neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. But if we allow the paradox of darkness and light to be, the two will conspire to bring wholeness and health to every living thing.

Autumn constantly reminds us that daily dyings are necessary precursors to new life. If we try to “make” a life that defies the diminishments of autumn, the life we end up with will be artificial, at best, and utterly colorless as well. But when we yield to the endless interplay of living and dying, dying and living, the life we are given will be real and colorful, fruitful and whole.” Parker Palmer

What will this autumn mean to you? What is God whispering to you amidst the falling of the leaves, the brilliant colors of the season, the harvest of the crops and the plants returning to the earth? The sights, the sounds, the flavors and scents of autumn are calling us home to ourselves and to our beloved Creator. Amen.

1)SALT Project, Week of October 12, 2020
2) Fetzer Institute-Parker J. Palmer is a writer, speaker, and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality, and social change.)
3) The Circle of Life, Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr, “Autumn: Season of Surrender”

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