Strength in the Service of Vision – 10/05/20

Welcome everybody to this Sunday morning message from Essex Church, podcasted for our Kensington Unitarians’ community and for friends around the world. This message began with the hymn tune known as Slane, based on a fine, traditional Irish melody. Much gratitude goes to Abby Lorimier, our music scholar, currently over in the States, who created today’s cello arrangements for us. We are fortunate to have your support Abby.

The first line of the hymn often sung to this tune starts ‘Be thou my vision O God of my heart’ but we Unitarians sometimes sing another version that starts:

‘Wake now my senses and hear the earth call;
Feel the deep power of being in all;
Keep with the web of creation your vow,
Giving, receiving as love shows us how.

These Sunday messages are intended to keep us connected as a worshipping community and to help us, individually and collectively, through the remarkable times our global community finds itself in. A brief look at news from around the world reminds us of what we already know – that when troubles arrive it is the poorest and those living in greatest need who tend to suffer the most. Yet I’m aware that even the most fortunate of us are at times finding these disrupted lives a real challenge. In this message I’m encouraging myself, and all of you listening in or reading, to consider what sources of strength we can call on in our lives. I’m also inviting everyone to get writing – a piece of writing short or long that can be part of our lockdown chronicles, a record of our responses to this unusual experience. There’s more information about this writing project in the Sunday email that goes out each week – do give it a go.

Before starting this recording I lit our chalice flame, knowing that some of you are doing the same, lighting a candle and sending its light out to all those in need of brightness and good cheer, connecting us with Unitarian and Unitarian Universalists the world over. Sometimes when we hear news that overwhelms us, when the sufferings of individuals are almost too painful for us to hear, this simple act of love, of lighting a candle and focusing our loving attention, can help us bear the unbearable. Let us imagine holding the pain of our world community in our hands as we simply sit and breathe, acknowledging our connection with all that has been, with all that is and all that shall be. We know ourselves to be just one part of the great stream of life itself, a tiny aspect of the whole and yet with a remarkable power to make a difference, to light a spark, to influence perhaps our small sphere and through that – start to change the world, by changing how we relate to all that is.

Thank you to whoever drew my attention to a piece of visionary writing that is doing the rounds on social media at the moment. It’s by writer Haroon Rashid and apparently he had written a version of it last year before the Covid -19 pandemic brought about such a dramatic change in so many lives. But he then realised that its message needed to come to us humans from the earth herself, from the very elements of which all life emerges and he adapted this piece for the times we live in now. I wonder if it holds a message for you today.

‘We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another.
Suddenly Disney is out of magic,
Paris is no longer romantic,
New York doesn’t stand up anymore,
the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, and Mecca is empty.
Hugs & kisses suddenly become weapons,
and not visiting parents & friends becomes an act of love.
Suddenly you realise that power,
beauty & money are worthless,
and can’t get you the oxygen you’re fighting for.
The world continues its life and it is beautiful.
It only puts humans in cages.
I think it’s sending us a message:
“You are not necessary.
The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine.
When you come back, remember that you are my guests.
Not my masters”.’

And so I invite us all into a time of reflection and prayer remembering that here in Britain and in other parts of the world we have been marking VE Day, Victory in Europe day when 75 years ago the European part of the 2nd World War came to an end. Whatever our feelings about warfare let us give thanks for all those who helped to bring us peace, acknowledging their courage and their vision of a better life for all.

As the end of that war brought new vision to individuals and governments the world over so may we too now, in the midst of oppressive measures that limit our freedoms, keep our vision alive and nurtured that we might discover new ways of living, new ways of being, ways that preserve the health of our entire planet and allow each person a life of dignity and justice. May the freedoms we so often take for granted never be the cause of oppression for others.

And as our nations’ leaders consider how best to control the pandemic assailing us, may they be inspired to work together, to move closer rather than apart. And in a shared moment of stillness may we each pray for those who are frightened, those who are ill and close to death, those who are grieving and all heath and care workers who are being asked to give everything to save others. May they know our gratitude and respect.

And may each of us remain alert to any messages the earth may have for us in these altered times. What do we need to hear? What new vision of life can we envisage? What would we like to be different, how might life on earth be re-imagined for the greater good of all?

And may that query stay with us in the days that lie ahead, and so may it be, amen.

For many of us the emergence of the Covid-19 virus has been a frightening occurrence, me included. Perhaps that’s why I felt drawn to this quotation from Audre Lorde that I read the other day. Audre Lorde was a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” She was a civil rights activist, and for me she was a thoroughly inspiring woman.

Audre Lorde wrote ‘When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid’.

So my question to us all concerns our particular sources of strength – what is helping us in these times, what resources are we working with? Once we know our sources of strength, once we understand our particular versions of empowerment, then we can harness them in support of our vision.

Audre Lorde clearly pointed out the inter-locking nature of oppression, and if she was alive today I reckon she’d be warning us all to pay attention, pay close attention to what is going on. The economic crisis facing our global community can take us in different directions. We could sleep walk into a new world community ever more fear-fuelled and oppressive. We could stand and watch as hatred shapes world interactions rather than love. We might miss a once in a life time opportunity to change the economic direction in which we are all moving. Will we put on our blinkers and ignore the threat of climate change or will we awaken our senses and hear the earth call, reminding us that the damage our economic lifestyle does is destroying life on our planet earth home.

I’m grateful to everyone who’s been telling me what’s helping them get through these days of lockdown, of quarantine and isolation. It’s heartwarming to hear the same simple sources of strength that we share – our gardening and our reading, our phone calls and our cooking, our singing and our art work, our writing and exercise videos, our gentle observations of the natural world busily doing what it usually does as we slow down – nest building, feeding the young, buds and blossom, greening and growing. There is such great pleasure to be had in simple living, in living simply. Let’s use our sources of strength to empower our visions of how we all might live well here on our shared planet earth home where we live together even when we are alone, when we are all truly related.

Our closing words come from Mark Belletini and the line ‘Do not forget your power in the days of your powerlessness’ could be written surely for us all.

Go in peace. Live simply by Mark L. Belletini
Go in peace. Live simply, at home in yourself.
Be just in your word, just in deed.
Remember the depth of your own compassion.
Do not forget your power in the days of your powerlessness.
Do not desire with desire to be wealthier than your peers, and never stint your hand of charity.
Practice forbearance in all you do. Speak the truth or speak not.
Take care of your body, be good to it, it is a good gift.
Crave peace for all peoples in this world, beginning with yourselves, and go as you go with the dream of that peace set firm in your heart.
Amen. Go well and blessed be.

Rev. Sarah Tinker

10th May 2020