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Preparing for Gifts

Funny how sometimes the universe says that things are not ours to do.

Last summer when everyone was gardening, I took a lot of enjoyment from the gifts of zucchinis, so this year at our plant sale, I was sure to grab some and plant them. Many things are doing well in my garden and yet, oddly, zucchinis, which people assure me are easy to grow, are not!  Though initially disappointed—after all, I only recently learned that zucchini “noodles” are actually good—I am dusting off my prime 2020-21 skill of readjusting expectations….

So it appears to me that for me, zucchinis are supposed to be in the gift category. Now, that doesn’t mean people HAVE to give them to me—however, it does look as if growing zucchinis is not my work to do.  Perhaps that is the trick—to figure out what in the great mass of things that can be done and must be done are actually ours to do and which ones are not.

Zucchinis will be part of the gift economy for me, with me as a receiver and not a producer.  Which is fine with me.

Our Humble Place In the Universe

As we get near the end of our [planned] outdoor services, I was reminded of how much in life is beyond our control. Last Wednesday was our vespers service and rescheduled because it was too hot and still. That was a service designed to celebrate the joyful wind that has greeted us and serenaded us from the treetops during other vespers services. With the hot day of cancellation in mind, I conceived of a service about SUN. I wrote this to gather us :

The rays of the sun extend their reach, the warmth of these days endures.

In this lasting light we behold one another with joy.

How good it is to gather in spirit—to bask in our ability to share space and spaciousness.

We gather not only with one another, also with the spirit of the wind and the sun and the rain—

All those elements which create life, life which we celebrate.

For the length of these rays and the warmth of this time and gathering, we are grateful.

As last Wednesday progressed, the evening did something unusual: turned cloudy. And cool. And then colder. And windy.

So as it turned out, the service about wind was a virtual service with no wind because the day was hot and still. And the service about sun and warmth was windy and cold.

If ever there was a time to be reminded of our humble place in the universe—this is it.

The Revelations of A New Perspective

One morning this week, my car went into the shop and I took that opportunity to walk to work from Parkside Drive. Walking along roads I have driven so many days over the last 13 years, I found that my perspective as a pedestrian was very different.  I noticed yards with little magical spaces carefully cultivated that I would never have seen from my car. I was awed by the amazing spread of some of the older trees who are merely shadow-casters when I am driving through. I saw little signs and messages to neighbors pinned to the sides of porches and I found myself oddly nostalgic at the sight of cracked blacktop atop tree roots—a sight very reminiscent of the neighborhood where I spent my childhood. And at one point, two turkeys and a gaggle of adolescent offspring stepped out of the ditch and crossed the road right before me—a much more intimate experience even though I witness turkey crossings many times a week.

I felt as if I was on a magical journey across a new and wondrous terrain and I was filled with the beauty and wonder of a terrain through which I drive as part of an almost daily commute. Being on foot gave me a completely different perspective, a new lens with which to see the whole place anew.

Often in the summer, we try on a new perspective—and a little change can help us see much in a new way. I am grateful for my chance to see the every day as such a rich palette and invite you to journey with new eyes in these summer days.

Between Flag Day and July 4, Democracy Needs Us!

Flag Day was my grandfather’s birthday. Born as he was in the last years of the 1890s, he lived to 102 and to see a world of horse-and-buggy to an age of space exploration.  We too are experiencing an amazing pace of change. My grandfather also lived through the Depression—and now we will be able to say we lived through the Pandemic of 2020 and an insurrection in 2021. As glad as we are that our news has calmed down again, we know that the times we are living in are not without their conundrums.

One of the stories that slipped into our feeds this week was the one about how 100 scholars of democracy had signed a statement that spoke to their fears about threats to US democracy.  They suggest that we cannot afford not to watch the incursions on democracy which are more ongoing and not tied to a limited set of incidents. Democracy and its fragility was very much on my heart as I thought about our service on July 4th weekend. It seems to me that time spent thinking about our flawed and yet precious form of governance needs not to be reserved for holidays.

Just as some religious traditions entertain particular periods for contemplation such as Lent or Ramadan, perhaps we who care so deeply about democracy should spend some of the space between Flag Day and July 4th reflecting on what we are willing to do to preserve voting as a right of all.

You can read more about this statement here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2021/06/01/more-than-100-scholars-issue-warning-that-american-democracy-is-in-danger-call-for-federal-reforms/?sh=3ec0043026f7 and a link to the actual statement is here.

Church On The Go–Yay!

I find myself happy when people tell me that they’re not coming to church these days. The conversation often goes something like this: “I just wanted to let you know how important it’s been to me to be at church almost every week for the last year and a half, because you all were there and so consistent. And I’m going to miss this week because I’m going to be with family/friends in person.” It just makes me so happy to know that people are starting to connect with those nearest and dearest to them whom they haven’t had an opportunity to be with for such a long time. And then to hear the stories of what those reunions also have been a great joy as we go into this time of re-emergence from our shared pandemic experience.

This summer, unlike last, many of us hope to be traveling with many taking off in July and August. One thing to remember is for all of our services, we have the capacity to watch all our services virtually no matter where we are, as well as later in the week, since we keep the full service on-line for a week (sermons, meditations and other elements live longer than that in our archive which you can access through our website at www.mduuc.org.). This is one of those new “traditions’’ that we will take forward. So when you need some quiet respite in the middle of the week, you can watch the service or when you have something you really wanted to hear or to hear the music, you can listen to it again.  You can also listen to our Friday meditations and our vespers services as well. How fortunate we are to have these ways to keep in contact with each other and stay connected to what’s going on in our community.

Just another way we can show up for one another.  This is one of the gifts of community.

I am so grateful to serve as your minister.

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