Sermon, April 15, 2018: “Saying Goodbye to Make Room for a New Hello ”, Rev. Sara Hayman

There’s a story that been living with me as I’ve prepared for this Sunday.
It’s a story about a little boy living in a village.
Every day he goes out into the woods and forest.
His parents worry about him – there’s danger out there,
thieves, possibly; something could happen?
“Why do you go?” his father asked.  “To find God.”
“Don’t you know God is everywhere the same – here, in you, in me,
in the temple and at home; you don’t have to go to the woods
to find God.  God is everywhere the same.” “Yes, father,
I know that, but I am not everywhere the same.”
 
                                                            *****
Very soon, it will be my time to go to the woods, so to speak!
What a gift you are giving me in letting me go and take sabbatical;
What a journey it will be to bring myself—to walk myself—
into new experience of time and places and landscapes and
relationships that will help me to find (and feel and be
nurtured more readily by) the presence of God,
by the Spirit of Life within me, by the Holy Spirit
we each wish to serve and bring more and more to life
as we understand it.
 
I am the luckiest minister I know at the moment!
 
                                                            *****
In a sermon she titles, “Not Your Grandmother’s Sabbath,”
UU minister Ana Levy-Lyons says this about the importance of
taking and making “Sabbath time” in our lives: A brief aside, it’s been
interesting to learn that that word sabbatical comes from the
word Sabbath, which in Hebrew is related to the word shabbat,  
meaning “to cease, desist, or rest.” Ana writes, “…our world desperately
needs a “pause” button. And not just any pause button, but a spiritually
charged, heart-opening space that’s set apart from our regular lives.
We need sacred time. We need time outside of the cycle of
work and consumerism. We need unplugged time. We need time
alone and we need time together. We need time to dream and
think and pray and meditate. We need time to play.
We need time in nature – to sit under a tree,
to climb a mountain, to take a long walk…”
 
Going on Sabbatical, being on Sabbatical will help make this
possible for me…I’m more grateful than I can say…
grateful, too, to be leaving you for a short time –
6 months will go by quickly, I’m sure— knowing, seeing
and feeling that we are in a good, healthy place together
as minister and congregation right now.
 
                                                            *****
 
For these past seven years, we have been working hard
at walking faithfully together—what a blessing it is to know that’s true!
 
We’ve have shown up for one another to companion each other
through times of difficult tender losses, and we’ve dedicated
ourselves to the children we love who are growing up among us.
We have celebrated your marriages and tried to be there for you
as relationships have changed and health and well-being have been challenged…
 
You are a loving community that knows how to weave people into
the fold and really mean it, really include them and I love that about you!
 
Together, these many years, we’ve taken actions to care
for our building, this beautiful place where we gather—
we’ve paved the parking lot, and installed a state of art fire safety system;
we’ve renovated the Community Room and put down new carpeting;
did you see the new stoves in the kitchen? And we’re using technology in worship…
who’d ever have guessed we’d get here?!
 
Together, we’ve been building systems to strengthen
our church and how we work—we now have a PM&M Committee,
and Fiscal Matters Committee; we have a SGM Coordinator.
Our Safety Committee has come back to life and is working on
big, timely dreams and plans. We have equipped more people
to be Pastoral Visitors and as such to be ready and willing to visit
and be there for others, particularly when things are hard.
 
I’m still excited that have a Mission Statement, one infused
with the genius and ethos of this vibrant community—
I feel  your presence in it—“Celebrating the sacred, we gather in
loving community to nourish souls and live justice into the world.”
 
In January of 2011, we were 87 adult members of this congregation.
Today, there are 127 adult members!
 
We have had two incredible Ministerial Interns, Lane and now Amy.
Very soon Amy will be with us as Student Sabbatical Minister.
 
And we have a Congregational Covenant—words we’re agreed upon
(thank you, Margaret Thurston!) that call us to the disciplined
and faithful practice of purposefully walking together in the spirit
of love and trust and kindness, and to come back from conflict
when it arises, and to nurture health in ourselves, in our relating
to each other, in our shared congregational life.
 
We have 28 solar panels on our sanctuary roof, and
new members among ready and willing to revive a Green Team—
people who will help us walk the walk of more sustainable living
and help us care for the earth which is our home.
 
I don’t have to tell you that we now know how to make egg rolls,
and we pull off miracle Service Auctions, and more and more
we believe together in our ability (our agency and strength)
to try and do just about anything we dream up and set our mind to.
 
YES, we have been working hard together,
walking faithfully together, learning side by side, growing together,
bringing our mission and ministries more and more to life—
not just to benefit our selves or meet our own needs alone,
but to be able to reach out, and to sincerely welcome others in;
to be able to affirm and celebrate the dignity of every person and being—
I think of the high school kids of the GSDA at Ellsworth
who get your cookies and a loving note each week;
I think of the work our Welcoming Congregation
Renewal Taskforce…how they’re calling us to see & celebrate
and stand up for the rights and dignity of transgender people…
I think of our Mid Maine YoUUth Service and Learning Projects,
the pilgrimages we’ve taken together that our youth might
see and experience more of the world around them
and be called more deeply to loving and serving others…
 
We have been working hard together…
And we are in a good place, a strong, healthy
and vital place, and that is all the more reason
why it is right and good to begin our Sabbatical
Journey together now…
 
                                                            *****
Bill Clark, long time member and chair of our Sabbatical
Committee, is the one who said it months ago, maybe even
a year ago: In taking Our Sabbatical, we the one things we cannot expect
to happen is that we will stay still or be unchanged…that’s not the way life works.
It will be impossible to be exactly the same or exactly where we are
Now, as good and hopeful as that is, when come back together.
We will change, and grow, and remember again,
I hope and trust, the strength and beauty of our separate
selves as minister and congregation, two entities who love and walk together,
and who each have their own ministries to grow and share.
 
While I’m on sabbatical, I pledge to you, with joy
and a deep breath and a keen knowing that it’s right,
I pledge to you that I will be doing my work.
I will be letting go of you…knowing in my heart of hearts,
that you are and you will be so fine;
that without me, you’ll have a chance to come to life in
ways I haven’t yet imagined because you’ll be needing
and caring for each other, and for our church community;
needing and caring for all who arrive with more
of a sense of ownership, agency and space to do it.
 
Doing my work on sabbatical will not look like being busy
all the time; writing emails and going to meetings and being
in the usual grind of things. Doing my work on sabbatical
will mean living my life in a ways that will help me to rest and grow,
to refill my reserve and attend to my health and my relationship,
while being disciplined about showing up to each day
and being grateful for the gift it is. My Sabbatical journey
will be about making time to write, and pray, and listen,
and put myself in the way of beauty that I might
find and feel more rooted in and nourished by
the presence of God, that I might come back to you, my beloved people,
with new imagination and clarity about how to be your minister;
about how better to partner with you in more helpful ways;
about how to continue growing and throwing roots down with you,
that will support and sustain this congregation and our
shared ministry together hopefully for years and years to come.
 
                                                *****
Before I became a parish minister serving in this congregation,
I was a hospice chaplain.  In that ministry, I learned the importance
of acknowledging beginnings and endings and the truth of our
finite-time together.  You may have heard me say, please do not
die while I’m gone and that request still holds, AND we know
life will happen as it will happen. 
 
So as we prepare in ourselves to let go of each other,
that we might come back and enter into a new part
of our journey together, I want also to say these five things…
I love you.  That’s just true. I thank you…for being my people.
I forgive you and ask that you forgive me for all the times
and ways I’ve let you down.  In this moment, though it’s hard to do,
I say goodbye….what a gift you are in my life…
and what a way we are making…
 
Buen Camino, my beloveds.
God speed, too.
Amen and Blessed Be…

April 1, 2018: Wait with Me, Rev. Sara Hayman

EASTER READINGS & REFLECTIONS   

Molly Housh Gordon is a Unitarian Universalist minister who serves our UU Church of Columbus, Missouri. This past week, while preparing for this service, I came across a reading she’s written in three parts—three poems, actually, that invite us to imagine what it was like at three particular moments in Jesus’ ministry among us, near the end of his life. She calls these poems “At the Gate,”  “At the Cross,” and “At the Tomb.”

I’ve asked three different people to read them, one at a time. In lieu of a sermon at the end, these readings will be interspersed with brief reflections I humbly offer and other elements of worship service…joys and sorrows, a pastoral prayer and silence and our meditative hymn.

May some bit of wisdom (hope and love) find us in our listening and taking it in.

First Reading      At the Gate        

He came in on a donkey,
but we greeted him as a King.

The crowd was huge that day.
As though all of Jerusalem’s poor, tired, downtrodden
had flooded into the streets.

Had risen up from the streets, where we lay.
Had risen up waving palms.
Had put down our only coat to shield him from the mud.

We had heard about him, you see.
His miracles of healing. His acts of love.

We heard how he had touched the lepers, eaten with the poor.
Turned over the tables in the temple.

We knew he had come to preach peace and justice.
We thought he had come to save us.

Can you imagine a hope like that?
You are desperate, you are starving, you are praying for relief.
And here he comes.

Here he comes, and he is everything.
He is loving and kind.
He is righteous and angry.
He is humble and powerful.

And he cares.
About us…
The outcast, the prisoner, the lowest of the low.

Can you imagine a hope like that?

*****

SARA:

Can you do it? Can you imagine a hope like that?

Have you, personally, ever experienced the power of someone seeing you when you feel invisible, when you feel you’ve been cast aside? Someone valuing you; someone walking, sitting, staying beside you when all is seemingly lost, when no way forward will reveal itself?

*****

I have been thinking about Easter, the sacred story re-told at this time of year and the arc of Holy Week in the Christian tradition that precedes it, Lent before that. Palm Sunday, observed last week in many churches. Jesus of Nazareth riding a donkey into Jerusalem, herald a king, the prince of peace by his followers. 

He knew what he was doing, he knew the risks he was taking, knew, even at that time that he’d likely be executed by the authorities; Jesus of Nazareth, a good, holy man, a great teacher and prophet who challenged the status quo, he knew his devotion to God and his love for the People—for all people and beings would cost him his life, and still, he chose to ride into Jerusalem; to be resolute in his commitment to love and justice for the people—all of them and to live the Gospel truth—the Good News—that no one is cast outside the circle of God’s love—that all are worthy and deserving of love; 

that building beloved community here and now—at that time and today—is our work, our call, our faithful charge.

It’s not hard for me to imagine the multitudes of people he loved and companioned; the ones he stood up for in his ministry two centuries ago; people who experienced first hand the hope and promise of his radical ethic of love, his radical religious practice of inclusion, of offering care and dignity to all those cast out or deemed disposable by the powers that be and society at large.

In my mind’s eye, I can picture Jesus processing into Jerusalem riding on his lowly donkey. People, all kinds of people, running out to meet him, carrying palms, shouting, 

“Hosanna!” which I’ve learned means, “I beg you to save!” 

“Hosanna!” they’d shout on that festival day, in that moment before the gruesome days to come… 

and Jesus of Nazareth would give the hopeless reason to hope.

Jesus, in his life, through his ministry and teachings here on earth gave HOPE to the hopeless; Hope to those on the margins, the lepers, the lame, the strangers. Hope to the prostitutes, the homeless, the sick. Hope to the children and the teenagers,the hypocrites and adulterers, the drunk and sober, the scoundrels and thieves, the blind and deaf.

With Jesus at their side, proclaiming their worth, their dignity,their place at the table, the hopeless began to have hope.

“Hosanna! I beg you to save!” they’d cried out,

and they believed he could and he would do that…

*****

 

Reading “At the Cross”

No. This cannot be.
The man who came in like a king, our hero.
Trudging forward like a common thief.

Spat upon. Insulted. Betrayed.
He carried our hopes, our dreams, our need.
And now he carries a cross.

Bruised, bloodied, weak.
How could he be beaten?
How could he fail us?

How could we fail him?
Standing by, helpless.
or urging them on.

No, it cannot be.
We are not to blame!
We are too powerless. Too small.

We watched them mock our hope.
With a crown of thorns.
And then they brought out the nails.

That is when I turned away.
I couldn’t watch. But I could hear.
“Father forgive them,” he said as he died.

That was what broke me.
“Father forgive them” with his last breath.
Father, forgive us!

And now he is gone.
The hands that healed us. The ears that heard us.
The heart that beat for us.

He is gone.
He gave us hope. He gave us purpose.
He loved us. And He is gone.

SARA:

Twenty-seven years ago, I still remember opening the front door to our house that night on Grove Street back in Lewiston, ME where I grew up. I’d been away over April vacation break—saved my money to be able to go on the 10th grade class trip to London and Paris.

I was 16 years old at the time.  My mom and dad had picked me up at 10pm that night at the turnpike exit just like we planned, and as we drove home, I told them all about my adventure…some of the places I been, the gifts I’d brought home. 

Only when I opened the front door to the house and I noticed the kitchen and living room were set up differently—more chairs and tables along the walls, more room to move about— only then did I know something had happened, 

that someone had died.

“Is it nana?” I asked, seeing the worry and sadness on my mom’s face as I looked at her.

“Is it Marybeth or Dana?” my sister or brother?

“What is it? Who is it? What happened?”

And that’s when my mom took my hands and knelt down in front or me,  her eyes meeting mine, and she told me the news:

my beloved Uncle Jimmy, James Harold Swan, her only brother,had been shot and killed while I was away—the ex-husband of his girlfriend had done it. Jimmy’s Memorial Service was the next day…I fell asleep that night listening to my mother cry quietly while she ironed in the next room .           

*****

They are different things, I know…losing a loved one in your family to a tragic, violent death and imagining what it must have been like for those who loved Jesus and watched him suffer and die a brutal, demeaning death, knowing, too, their silence, their turning away had also made them complicit somehow.

They must have wondered ‘is this really happening?’ 

They must have been dumbfounded. Devastated. Numb—

And how could it have been or be otherwise? 

*****

We each know that if you live long enough, 

if you love other people, you will know your own intimate experiences of devastating loss.

Live long enough, and the unimaginable will likely happen.

Love other people, as we’re each called to love other people, and your heart will break…at some point, or at many points in your life, this will happen and you will wonder how and if you’ll ever go on…

It’s my hope and my want that you will go on, though understandably not right away; though not without first feeling the hard stuff, coming through it…

It’s my hope and my want, for each one of you, and for all people, that you will go on; that the strength of loving community, this very community of faithful people perhaps, would and will be there for youin your hour of need,  helping you to believe that thing the great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer calls us to believe: 

that we can (and we must) be the light of love and hope for each other… that we are the ones who must rise for Him, for love and for life. 

*****

Just a week earlier in Jerusalem, in Jesus’ life, people had celebrated their beloved teacher, their Prince of Peace, one who lived among them  and walked beside them, affirming their dignity and worth though others scorned and dismissed them;

Jesus, who challenged the powers that be, on this different day, this man, both beloved and despised, would suffer and die and they would watch, some disbelieving, some cheering it all on…the hope they’d felt, gone.

*****

One miraculous bit of the story that I hang onto, that I admire and mean to bring more and more to life in my own living is this: hearing and believing that Jesus did not abandon or curse them. He did not give into the pain and suffering and scream out in agony and anger. 

No, we’re told he didn’t do any of that. Instead, he whispered, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.”

Nothing in my theology, in our various UU theologies, condones or sanctifies violence as redemptive, as required somehow, that we might know  and live into life more fully.  To suggest such a thing is offensive to me.  And still, there is the call to forgiveness, to not giving into hate and vengeance and anger and resentment, however easy, however understand that might be…

*****

I have not yet forgiven the man who killed my uncle, though this Lenten season, and in this thinking about  Jesus and the life he lived and the stories we tell about this, all of this calls me to that sacred, grief transforming, heart-liberating work…  

*****

 

Third Reading   “At the Tomb”   

Weeping may last for a night.

Weeping may last for a thousand nights.

But joy comes in the morning.

That morning we went to our beloved teacher’s tomb.

We went to anoint his body.

We carried oil and cloths.

We came to the tomb in sorrow, 

heads bowed low.

But hope does not die so easily.  

It flickers inside, buried somewhere deep.

Hope grows, blossoms like a rose
even through stone,

even in hearts frozen by grief.

When we arrived at the place where he lay

We dropped all that we carried, in wonder, in fear,

to see the tomb laid open, and our beloved gone.

Do not weep, said the man.

This morning we rejoice.

Love lives. Hope lives.

Jesus is not here, he said.

Come and see.

He is risen.

Our beloved is risen. 

Our hope is risen.

Can it be?

Can it be?     

*****

On this Easter Sunday Morning, where do you see love and hope emerging, like a phoenix out of the flames of devastation or despair?

I see it (and feel it) in the good news you share about your child making her way again.

I see it (and feel it) in the way you are hanging on to being your best self, to knowing your priorities, to breathing your way into what’s coming, hard and uncertain as it is…

I see it (and feel it) in the wave of people who flooded the streets of Paris earlier this week to condemn the death of Mierelle Knoll, an 85-year old French woman, who survived the Holocaust but was killed in her apartment, the likely victim of a hate crime. I see it in the love and hope birthed in the presence of people who will not remain silent, who will bear witness and participate in building a more just and inclusive society.

I see love and hope rising in the voices of young ones—students—who are leading us, youth who are calling us to do our part to help keep them (and all others) be safe and less risk from the harm and devastation of gun violence, their courage in naming and challenging our moneyed interest over the safety and well-being of people a call to conscience, to engagement, to doing better than we are.

I see love and hope in the people protesting in Sacramento; non-violently levying the pressure they can to insist that the death of Stephon Clark be investigated…an African American man, just 22 years old, shot multiple times in the back though he was unarmed and in his grandmother’s back yard.

I see hope and love and strength and endurance come to life in the naming of such tragedies and the working, and walking and weeping we must do togetherto try and ensure it does not happen again…

not one more.

*****

Earlier in our service, Eileen reminded us that it takes time to emerge, to be born, or born again after loss, after the death of our beloveds. 

It takes time, and our intentional effort, it takes our Believing that it’s possible to slowly awaken again,

To feel and trust once more the vitality of life at work in us

However buried or far away it may feel.

 

*****

“Do not weep, said the man.

For this morning we rejoice.

[This morning,] Love lives. Hope lives…

Our beloved is risen. 

Our hope is risen.

Can it be?”

And let us answer, YES, it can be…

and we will believe it is so…

Amen and Blessed be.

20151025 UUCE Adds Two Ministers Emeriti

Oct 25, 2015: Sermon: “Guiding Us Upon Our Way” by Rev. Sara Huisjen

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of our church in 1865 in Ellsworth. Over the years, we have been blessed by the leadership and service of many ministers.  During this worship service, we will revisit some of that history, and we’ll celebrate two beloved former ministers, the Rev. Mark Worth and the Rev. Charles Stephens, by honoring them as Minister Emeritus of our congregation. With Bob Dickens, Worship Associate, and special music by Heidi Powell & Richard Hsu. This is a Plate-Split Sunday – half of the offering will go to a local charity.

A special reception will follow worship to celebrate Rev. Charles Stephens and Rev. Mark Worth becoming Minister Emeritus of UUCE!

Nurturing Your Spirit During the Holidays

Tending your soul looks like lots of different things for different people. And in this season, surely it looks like finding time for quiet, and rest, and listening within. Perhaps it looks like sitting near a warm near a fire in your home, or having a silent meditation practices that invites you into a time of expectant waiting in darkness.

My wish for you: that there be spaces and community to support your seeking and your experience of beauty and presence in this season. On the worship page and other places on this website are invitations that might help you tend your own spirit & fire. – Rev. Sara Huisjen

Sermon, Mar 16, 2014: “There is Only the Whole”, Rev. Sara Hayman

In his book One Story, One Song, Ojibway writer & story-teller Richard Wagamese suggests that humility is “the foundation of everything,” and that nothing can exist without it.  Humility, in his estimation, is the ability to see ourselves as an essential part of something larger. How, I wonder, is cultivating an authentic sense humility a part of our spiritual growth & understanding?  Rev. Sara Hayman

Click here to read this sermon.
 

Sermon, Feb 2, 2014, “We are here to learn…”, Rev. Sara Hayman

Wisdom is something we can hope to gain and grow within us throughout our lifetime.  Choosing how we will respond to adversity is a part of what’s required of as we aspire to become wiser, more compassionate people.  How do you persist in love when times are hard? What wisdom about life & living guides the way you make decisions?

Click here to read this sermon.
 

Sermon, Jan 5, 2014: “It’s Not the Critic who Counts”, Rev. Sara Hayman

In her book, Daring Greatly, sociologist Brene Brown suggests that being vulnerable, taking risks and daring to be our most authentic selves is part of what helps create a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. On this first Sunday in the New Year, we’ll consider what this kind of courage looks like and how it calls us to act with integrity and compassion in the world.

Click here to read this sermon.

 

Sermon, Feb 24, 2013: Spiritual but not Religious, Rev. Mark Worth

A growing number of Americans answer “None” when asked about their religious affiliation. Many say the are “spiritual, but not religious.” Spirituality is often understood as something we express individually, while religion is something we express in community. What does it mean to be “spiritual, but not religious?”

Rev. Mark Worth has been full time minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine since 2006. From 1991 to 2006 he was 3/4-time at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth, and 1/4-time in Castine. He has announced that he will retire from the Castine church on April 30. Mark and his wife Michelle (“Mickey”) live in Penobscot.

Click the link below to download a text of this sermon.

02.24.13 Spiritual But Not Religious – Mark Worth
 

Sermon, Jan 20, 2013: We Are Tied Together

On the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we celebrate his legacy as a great & courageous Civil Rights leader by thinking about we’re called to do, in our continuing efforts to dedicate ourselves to, what he called, “the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world.”

Rev. Sara Hayman

Click the link below to download a text of this sermon

1.20.13 MLK Sunday

 

Sunday, July 15, The Third Step, Rev. Eliza Galaher

Rev. Eliza GalaherIn the world of 12-step recovery, the third step states: “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” For mainstream Christians as well as people of other explicitly theistic religions, such a step is central to living out one’s faith. But how might it be relevant to such an eclectic bunch as we Unitarian Universalists? Where might we butt heads with this step, and why? And what might we do to transcend semantics to get to the heart of this step?