Care of the Soul

Prelude:  Jeanie

Welcome/Opening Words: Debbie - Welcome everyone.  It has been a long time since I have been on zoom.  It is wonderful to see you all. The opening words today are by Rev. Lindsay Bates

Come, let us worship together.

Let us open our minds to the challenge of reason, 

open our hearts to the healing of love, 

open our lives to the calling of conscience, 

open our souls to the comfort of joy. 

 Astonished by the miracle of life, 

grateful for the gift of fellowship, 

confident in the power of living faith, 

we are here gathered: 

Come, let us worship together.

Chalice Lighting: (Fred) We will now light the chalice.  The following words are called  Letting Go by Rev. Jay Wolin.

Are we a people of holding on or of letting go?

Holding on to rigid ideas or Letting go and opening our minds and our hearts, to something new;

Holding on to certainty of how things should be or Letting go and living with the uncertainty of new ways of being in the world;

Holding on to what makes us comfortable or Letting go so we may grow which can be uncomfortable;

Holding on to what makes us safe or Letting go to make room to help others feel safe?

With this flame, this symbol of our religion, let it be a symbol of burning up the ties that hold us back from being our true self and reaching our true potential;

Let it be a symbol of lighting a new way for us into a better tomorrow; and let it be a symbol of letting go Because holding on too long and too tightly is never good for the soul.

Covenant: (Shaaron)  Let us now recite the covenant:
Love is the spirit of this church and service its law. This is our great covenant:                                                                                            To dwell together in peace, to seek truth in love, and to help one another

Joys and Concerns:  (Shaaron) At this time we welcome you to briefly share with this community any joy or concern you may have. 

Story:  (Elke) The story today is called Becoming Real by Margery Williams 

     The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

     “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

     “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

     “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

     “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

     “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

     “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

     “I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

     “The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Music- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPn0KFlbqX8   True Colors

Meditation: Debbie - Soul Lifts by Rev. Tess Baumberger 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could take a picture of your soul?

Then when your mother wanted to brag about you she could show people the picture and say, “That’s my daughter, doesn’t she have a beautiful soul, all sparkly and many-colored and flowing all around her?”

 Wouldn’t it be great if we walked around surrounded by our souls so that they were the first things people saw instead of the last things?  Then people would judge us by who we really are instead of how we look.

Imagine no more racism, ageism, sexism, fatism, shortism, homophobia.

Imagine falling in love with who a person is just by looking at them.

It would be a kind of cloaking device, hiding physical faults defects or even perfections.  I’d want it to be mandatory.

Then people would work at making their souls more attractive instead of their bodies and faces.

Imagine people knowing by your soul that you really need a hug.

Imagine people helping each other and their souls changing colors or growing.

Imagine soul gyms with exercises to get your sagging soul in shape.

Imagine the long lines forming for soul-lifts at churches, temples, mosques, synagogues

or nature’s grand cathedrals.

Reading I: Shaaron - All This Talk of Saving Souls by Linda Underwood 

All this talk of saving souls--

Souls weren’t made to save like Sunday clothes that give out at the seams.

They’re made for wear; they come with lifetime guarantees.

Don’t save your soul. Pour it out like rain on cracked, parched earth.

Give your soul away or pass it like a candle flame. Sing it out, or laugh it up to the wind.

Souls were made for hearing breaking hearts, for puzzling dreams, remembering August flowers, forgetting hurts.

These men who talk of saving souls!  They have the look of bullies who blow out candles before you sing happy birthday, and want the world to be in alphabetical order.

I will spend my soul playing it out like sticky string into the world so I can catch every last thing I touch.

Music:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndUCNnhH03Q

Sermon: Deb  In his sermon, Care of the Soul, Rev. Anthony David Makar mirrors many of my own thoughts on soul or spirit.  And here it is goes: 

     “Turn your wounds into wisdom,” says Oprah Winfrey. She’s on the same page as countless others. “Do you not see,” said the poet John Keats, writing hundreds of years earlier,” how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”

     …Wounds become wisdom.

     Our fourth Unitarian Universalist principle that affirms a free and responsible search for truth and meaning—it’s often a wounding way.

     The wound is where the light comes in. That’s …refracted through the fascinating thought of Thomas Moore and his book, Care of the Soul, originally published in 1992 and still going strong.

     Here’s how he echoes the ancient “wounds into wisdom” idea. “A person doesn’t wake up until he or she is forced to deal with something—a major problem, issue, trauma, or life change that causes them to reflect. If everything’s going well the tendency is to just go along unconsciously. But once something happens that is disturbing, then you have to take a look.”

     …It’s fascinating, what Thomas Moore sees when he takes a look at our wounds. What he sees is something he calls “soul.”

     Now we all know that “soul” is a word charged with theological static electricity. Plenty of meanings already stick to it, like lint. We want to try and pick off all that lint so we can engage it as if for the first time…

     …Whatever else the soul is, it is a force that disrupts the status quo. The little town of your life has been peaceful for years but suddenly it’s overwhelmed by an earthquake. Feelings and behaviors come upon you threatening the status quo, and you try to reason them away but they can’t be reasoned away. They are impervious to all your pep talks and all the pep talks of others. Because the earthquake is you, too—an expression of you that may, in fact, be far more authentically you than the current status quo ever was….

     That’s why Thomas Moore uses the word “soul” and not something else. “Soul” connotes something that is fundamentally who we are, larger than ego consciousness, and we can feel like marionettes in its hands. “Soul,” he says, “is the font of who we are, and yet it is far beyond our capacity to devise and control it.”

     An old saying comes to mind: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” Our egos are busy making others plans—our egos imagine themselves completely in control—but then they learn the hard way that they are not in control.

     Soul is the “font”—the abundant source, the living stream, the wild nature of our being….

     But it is understandable how, when our status quo lives are disrupted, the go-to strategy is to want to surgically remove whatever the disrupting thing is instantly. Find what is to blame, cut it out, bludgeon it, remove it immediately.

     …They say that knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is choosing to keep it out of a fruit salad. When we bludgeon ourselves or others, it’s like piling tomatoes on the fruit salad. We are not wise where the human heart is concerned.

     Wounds can be turned to wisdom.

     But the way there is through caring. Care for the Soul.

     One aspect of this is a sheer capacity to bring compassionate and nonjudgmental attention to what is happening. We receive this message from so many sources. Speaking from a Buddhist perspective, Pema Chodron says “The peace that we’re looking for is not peace that crumbles as soon as there is difficulty or chaos. Whether we’re seeking inner peace or global peace or a combination of the two, the way to experience it is to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises. Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth; it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened.”

     Similarly, and perhaps more picturesquely, Thomas Moore says, “Care of the soul begins with observance of how the soul manifests itself and how it operates. We can’t care for the soul unless we are familiar with its ways. Observance is a word from ritual and religion. It means to watch out for, but also to honor and keep, as in the observance of a holiday. The serv in observance originally referred to tending sheep. Observing the soul, we keep an eye on its sheep, on whatever is wandering and grazing—the latest addiction, a striking dream, or a troubling mood.”

     So, we keep an eye on the soul’s sheep. The latest addiction, a striking dream, or a troubling mood—we pay attention to them as they roam through our lives. And then we do something else: we trust that there is more than meets the eye. We shake the habit of literalism. As Unitarian Universalists, we say that we ought to read the Bible seriously and not literally. So why should we not extend this principle to the kind of scripture that is even more sacred: the Bible of our hearts?

     So, we don’t automatically interpret the discomfort we’re feeling as something that is fundamentally bad. We don’t react, cut away what’s offensive. We take a deep breath—we have to, because the whole thing is deeply unsettling!—and we try looking beneath the surface of the disturbance for the healing message that’s there.

     …Ultimately, looking underneath our symptoms and disturbances for some kind of message with helpful intent means trusting what’s going on, trusting our process, even if in the moment things feel confusing and chaotic. “In care of the soul,” Thomas Moore says, “there is trust that nature heals, that much can be accomplished by not-doing.”

     Don’t do. Just look. Just see.

     We are so surrounded by the artificial, and we are so studied in the artificial, that we treat ourselves as if we were artificial too. We don’t know who we are! We must reacquaint ourselves with the nature that is within us, nature that is as wild and strange and surprising as stars and sky and trees and animals.

     This nature within us, which is the soul: pay attention to it long enough—love its sheep long enough—and what you will realize is that it is always uniquely itself and never about adjustment to accepted norms. Imagine Henry David Thoreau, a man who always had mud on his shoes. That is the soul.

     The wild nature within us: it seems to delight in paradox and complexity. It just does. So why are we always surprised when life takes us into paradox and complexity? Ego consciousness wants the world to be flat and black and white. But the soul is multidimensional and shades of grey….

     Nature within us: its preferred process is slow and not fast. It tends to go over the same territory of memory again and again, like a cow chewing its cud. The soulful path through life is a spiral path. We are always going back to old things but with minds and hearts that are new.

     The wild within: when we lose touch with it, when our status quo lives become soulless, earthquakes come—the soul sends them our way, as the gods in Greek tragedy might—so as to bring us back to sanity.

     Nature within: it is the font of our deepest life, it is the absolute richness of our being, and when we are in sync with it, we are filled with purpose and meaning. Not necessarily happiness, though….

     …Joseph Campbell once said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

     

Congregational Response?  (Deb)  If time allows

Offertory -  Shaaron – The charity of the month is Partnering for Progress.  It is their mission to build relationships with villages in Kenya’s Kopanga region to help them create flourishing communities by improving their quality of life in the areas most important to them such as clean water, health, education, economic development, etc.  You can go to https://partneringforprogress.org/ for more information

Welcoming Guests and Announcements - Elke  - At this time I would like to welcome those of you who are visiting us today. If you would like to introduce yourself, please do. 

Elke – Does anyone have any announcements of importance to this congregation?

Extinguishing the Chalice:Fred. We will now extinguish our chalice until we meet again, but it does not go out. As long as we carry its flame in our hearts, the light of Unitarian Universalism warms and brightens the world.

Closing Words by Rev. Frederick Gillis  (Deb)

May the love that overcomes all differences,
that heals all wounds,
that puts to flight all fears,
that reconciles all who are separated,
Be in us and among us
now and always. Amen.