Vigil for Healing and Peace in the Spirit of Taizé

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick
December 31, 2011, 7 p.m.

This worship service combines the contemplative spirit of Taizé chant with the Celtic liturgy of the Iona Community.

Taizé (“Tayzay”) is a tiny village hidden away in the hills of Burgundy in the eastern part of France, not far from the town of Cluny.  Since 1940 it has been the home of an ecumenical community of brothers whose prayer, three times each day, is the center of their life.  Today, Taize is a place to which visitors of all ages and backgrounds come on pilgrimage to participate in international meetings of prayer and reflection.

The Iona Community, on the Island of Iona off the coast of Scotland, is a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community, and the renewal of worship. The Iona Community leads daily worship in the restored Abbey church, which was originally a medieval Benedictine foundation.

Both of these communities represent places where the veil between the material and the spiritual world is thin.  You are invited into that same spirit with this liturgy.

CHINE SOUNDS

Opening Reading

The Invocation of the Graces (Carmina Gadelica)

One:    This is the joy of all joyous things,
the light of the beam of the sun
the door of the chief of hospitality
the surpassing star of guidance
the step of the deer of the hill
the step of the steed of the plain
the grace of the swan of swimming
. . .
Another:    The best hour of the day be thine
The best day of the week be thine
The best week of the year be thine
The best year in the Son of God’s domain be thine.

CHIME SOUNDS

Chalice Lighting

One:    Encircle us, Giver of Life
All:    Keep safety in, keep danger out
One:    Encircle us, Giver of Light
All:    Keep brightness in, keep darkness out
One:    Encircle us, Giver of Grace
All:    Keep peace within, keep conflict out.

All:    May you be a bright flame before us, A guiding star above us, A smooth path below us, A  loving guide behind us, Today, tonight and forever.
Mara Freeman, Kindling the Celtic Spirit

Song    Spirit of God (Iona Community)

Spirit of God, unseen as the wind
Gentle as is the dove,
Teach us the truth and help us believe,
Show us the Savior’s love.

You spoke to us long, long ago
Gave us the written word;
We read it still, needing its truth
Through it Love’s voice is heard.

Reading Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Chant
Laudate omnes gentes
Laudate dominum.  (All people praise the Lord)

Silence

CHIME SOUNDS

Reading Inspired by Love and Anger (Iona Community)

Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by need and pain
Informed of God’s own bias, we ask him once again:
How long must some folk suffer? How long can few folk mind?
How long dare vain self interest turn prayer and pity blind?

From those forever victims of heartless human greed
Their cruel plight composes a litany of need:
Where are the fruits of justice? Where are the signs of peace?
When is the day when prisoners dream and find their release?

From those forever shackled to what their wealth can buy
The fear of lost advantage provokes the bitter cry
Don’t query our position!  Don’t criticise our wealth!
Don’t mention those exploited by politics and stealth!

To God, who through the prophets proclaimed a different age
We offer earth’s indifference, its agony and rage:
When will the wronged by righted?  When will the Kingdom come?
When will the world be generous to all instead of some?

God asks, Who will go for me?  Who will extend my reach?
And who, when few will listen, will prophesy and preach?
And who,when few bid welcome,will offer all they know?
And who, when few dare follow, will walk the road I show?

Amused in someone’s kitchen, asleep in someone’s boat,
Attuned to what the ancients exposed, proclaimed, and wrote,
A savior, without safety, a tradesman without tools
Has come to tip the balance with fishermen and fools.

Chant Vieni Spirito Creatore (Taizé)

Come and pray in us, Holy Spirit, Come and pray in us
Come and visit us, Holy Spirit.
Spirit come, Spirit Come

Silence

CHIME SOUNDS

Reading  Micah 6:6-8

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Chant Bless the Lord my Soul (Taizé)

Bless the Lord my soul, and bless God’s holy name
Bless the Lord my soul, who leads me into life.

Reading (from “118 Days: How I survived captivity in Iraq,” James Loney, Sojourners Magazine, December 2006)

Peacemakers, who are bound by brick-and-mortar conceptions of peace, inhabit not an enclosed façade, but instead a gateway that offers not only a view to the human scene, but also allows responsible dialogue with it.  This open, accessible, and overarching perspective of peace crafts – out of each of us – the will to seek the means to act. – Harmeet Singh Sooden

Tom Fox became the prophet of the present moment.  “All we have is the now,” he would say, “The past is a fiction and the future doesn’t exist.” . . . He strained with his whole being to let go of everything – even the hope of release – and just be present to the present. . . . Each day, each hour, each minute I was confronted with a choice: Withdraw, clench my heart into a fist and conserve my widow’s mite of emotional energy, or open my heart, inhabit the moment, be generous with acceptance and conversation and listening . . . This, I began to see, is what it means to be born again. The present moment is the birth canal of incarnation. – James Loney

Chant: Stay with me (Iona Community)

Stay with me, remain here with me.
Watch and pray, watch and pray

Silence

CHIME SOUNDS

Chant: Domine, Dona nobis pacem (Taizé)

Domine, Domine, dona nobis pacem

Reading (from Singing the Living Tradition, #588)

One:    Is not this the fast that I choose:
All:    To loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
One:    Isit not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see them naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
All:    Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly;
One:    If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
All:    You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58

Silence

Chant: Domine, Dona nobis pacem (Taizé)

Domine, Domine, dona nobis pacem

Reading (Singing the Living Tradition #602)

All:    If there is to be peace in the world
There must be peace in the nations
If there is to be peace in the nations
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
Lao-Tse

Chant Live in Charity (Taizé)

Live in charity and steadfast love
Live in charity, God will dwell with you.

Reading (Singing the Living Tradition #505)

One:    Let us be at peace with our bodies and our minds.  Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves.
All:    Let us be aware of the source of being, common to us and to all living things.
One:    Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion, let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – toward ourselves and toward all living beings.
All:    Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be the cause of suffering to each other.
One:    With humility, with awareness of the existence of life, and of the sufferings that are going on around us, let us practice the establishment of peace in our hearts and on earth.
All:    Amen.   (Tich N’hat Hanh)

Chant Live in Charity (Taizé)

Live in charity and steadfast love
Live in charity, God will dwell with you.

Silence

CHIME SOUNDS

CLOSING

One:    This is the time of year, when the Universe is reaching its third trimester, and moving toward the birth of light. Just as a woman tends to nest toward the end of her pregnancy, so do we tend to draw in, to attend to our homes and those within, to yearn for the birth of light, color, and new life. Possibly, this is the time of the year when our greatest fears and sorrows are highlighted and therefore it is also the moment when we have the greatest opportunity to reach for and fulfill our true potential. As humans, we can birth new life and light into this dark world. Out of our fears and our darkness we are being invited – by the Universe, by God, by all mothers who have birthed new life, by our children who are born as light, by our prophets of time passed, by our current spiritual leaders, and by the future voices of those to come – to give into the birthing pains and bring to light a new world. This Winter, let us birth the kingdom of heaven both within and without.  (Fred Plumer, President, Progressive Christianity.org)
All:    Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you. (Fiona MacLeod)

Extinguish the Chalice

One:    If here you have found freedom, take it with you into the world.  If you have found comfort, go and share it with others.  If you have dreamed dreams, help one another, that they may come true.  If you have known love, give some back to a bruised and hurting world.    (Lauralyn Bellamy)

Go in peace.

All:    Go in Peace

CHIME SOUNDS

Leave in Silence, taking peace to the world.…

Toward a New Cosmology: Advent 2011

Progressive, non-theistic Christians may wonder what is the point to Advent in the 21st century. There were no angels bringing astounding news to an unmarried girl; there was no “virgin birth.”  But in Luke’s story, there was a subversive undertone.  As foretold by the Hebrew prophets, and prayed for by Luke’s contemporary Jewish friends, because God is just, and the world belongs to God (not Caesar) God took direct action against the oppression of the Roman Empire.  In a parody of the story of Caesar’s birth, Jesus of Nazareth was heralded by angels, and born of a virgin.  We can still hope for direct action against oppressive Empire and for distributive justice-compassion; against a greed world and for a share world; against zero-sum gaming of every system devised by humanity, and for a radical abandonment of self-interest.

In a series of essays (Coming Back to Earth: From gods, to God, to Gaia) Lloyd Geering describes a spiritual and religious progression in human consciousness.  Pre-modern people lived in what might be called an enchanted world, in which everything from the rocks, the rivers, the trees, to animals, birds and humans – embodied spirit.  This was followed by the so-called “axial age” when people realized there was a difference between living creatures and inanimate objects, which gave rise to the paradigm-shifting concept of one god.  Geering brings humanity full circle from the enchanted world of pre-modern people living a seamless existence, not separated from the natural world, to the possibility of a re-enchanted world, in which“secular” means –once-again – earth-centered.  He concludes: “We came from the earth.  We remain creatures of the earth.  The hope of our species for a viable future depends on our mystical re-union with the earth.”

In The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, Matthew Fox writes:

        It is not enough to celebrate the Cosmic Christ as “the pattern that connects” and the “bearer of coherence” as expressed in Jesus.  There is a real sense in which the Cosmic Christ is not born yet.  Even in Jesus the Cosmic Christ has yet to come to full birth, for those who say they believe in Jesus have scarcely brought forth the Cosmic Christ at all on the mass scale that Mother Earth requires.  One might speak, then, of the already born Cosmic Christ (realized eschatology) who we see only “in a mirror and darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12) and of the not-yet-born Cosmic Christ (unrealized eschatology) who is the Christ of justice, of creativity, of compassion in self and society that yearns to be born and is eager to be born in us.  “What good is it to me,” Meister Eckhart asked, “if the son of God was born to Mary 1400 years ago but is not born in my person and in my culture and in my time?” . . . The name “Christ” means “the anointed one.”  All of us are anointed ones.  We are all royal persons, creative, godly, divine, persons of beauty and of grace.  We are all Cosmic Christs, “other Christs.”  But what good is this if we do not know it? . . . We are all called, like the Cosmic Christ, to radiate the divine presence to/with/from one another.  pp. 136-137.

So here is the raw material from the natural world for a 21st century cosmology that can apply to Advent and Christmas 2011 – We will not see this sequence again for many earthly years:  The Full Moon December 10 wanes to Dark December 23, is “void of course” and sun-synchronous so still invisible at the New Moon 1:06 p.m. (U.S. EST) December 24 – Christmas Eve.  The Sun wanes, the light vanishes, the Earth pauses in its eliptical swing out, pivots, and starts around the other side of our life-giving star.  The Winter Solstice – when the Sun stands still – happens at 12:30 a.m., December 22 (mid-Atlantic U.S.) and seems to last until early January.  Here’s why (from EarthSky.org):

The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and longest day in the southern hemisphere. But the earliest sunset – or earliest sunrise south of the equator – seems to defy logic when it happens before the solstice.  The key to understanding is to focus on what is called true solar noon – the time of day that the sun reaches its highest point, in its journey across the sky, not the clock time of sunset.  In early December, true solar noon comes nearly 10 minutes earlier by the clock than it does at the solstice around December 21. With true noon coming later on the solstice, so will the sunrise and sunset times.  This discrepancy between clock time and sun time occurs primarily because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun. Because Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle, when Earth is closest to the sun, our world moves fastest in orbit. Our closest point to the sun (perihelion) actually comes in early January. So we are moving fastest in orbit around now, slightly faster than our average speed of 18 miles per second.
The precise date of the earliest sunset depends on the latitude. At mid northern latitudes, it comes in early December each year. At northern temperate latitudes farther north – such as in Canada and Alaska – the year’s earliest sunset comes around mid-December. Close to the Arctic Circle, the earliest sunset and the December solstice occur on or near the same day. The latest sunrise also comes in early January.  The exact dates vary, but the sequence is always the same: earliest sunset in early December, shortest day on the solstice around December 21, latest sunrise in early January.

This may be why our human ancestors – tied to an earthly point of view – thought that the sun stands still at the Winter Solstice.  Fires were lit, sacrifices made, to make certain the sun would continue its journey, and the light would return.

Progressive Christians can use our 21st century, post-modern, post-enlightenment sophistication to find earth-based metaphors for a kenotic god, whose presence is justice and life, and whose absence is injustice and death.

LITURGY FOR CHRISTMAS EVE

WELCOME – Explain the evening.
INVOCATION
Four altars will be established at the cardinal directions.  Room is set in a quartered circle, with four pathways and a center open space.  In the center will be a Central Candle.  A hooded figure enters, riding a hobby horse (a broom horse).  The Hobby Horse goes to each of the four altars and invokes the directions, beginning with the North:  Tune played with recorder and/or violin: Abbot Bromley’s Horn Dance.  As the hobby horse arrives at each altar, the tune stops while the spirit is invoked, then starts up again until the hobby horse arrives at the next altar . . . etc.
ONE: [Approaches the North portal
Spirit of the North Stone
Ancient One of the Earth
I Raise You and Call you to attend this Circle
ALL: Charge This by your Powers, Old Ones!
[The North Candle is Lit]
ONE: [Approaches the East portal]
Spirit of the East Stone
Ancient One of Air,
I Raise you and Call you to attend this Circle.
ALL: Charge this by your Powers, Old Ones!
[The East Candle is Lit]
ONE: [Approaches the South portal]
Spirit of the South Stone,
Ancient One of Fire
I Raise you and Call you to attend this Circle
ALL: Charge this by your Powers, Old Ones!
[The South candle is lit]
ONE: [Approaches the West portal]
Spirit of the West Stone,
Ancient One of Water
I raise you and call you to attend this circle
ALL: Charge this by your Powers, Old Ones!
[The West Candle is lit] – the Hobby Horse takes a seat
INVOCATION OF THE GODDESS AND THE GOD [from the central altar]:
ONE: Gracious Goddess You who are the Queen of the Gods, the lamp of night, the creator of all that is wild and free; Mother of woman and man; lover of the Horned God and protectress of all the People, Come to us and bring your Lunar ray of power upon our Circle here.
ONE: Blazing God You who are the King of the Gods, Lord of the Sun, master of all that is wild and free, father of woman and man, lover of the Moon Goddess and protector of all the People, Come to us and bring your Solar ray of power upon our Circle here.
PROCESSION (9 people, each carrying an unlit votive or tea light come in, and take places in the front rows, surrounding the central altar)
Congregational Hymn: On This Day Earth Shall Ring (Personent Hodie)
CELEBRANT: Think of a time, not so very long ago, when all you knew was what you saw happening around you. The seasons come and go; the moon waxes and wanes; the sun rises and sets; the stars circle the heavens above, the earth sits solidly below, and under the earth is the realm of the dead. The Druids tell us that the fires we light on the hilltops call the Sun into its journey through our skies. As the Winter approaches, the Sun retreats as the God sends his power elsewhere. Perhaps he visits the Underworld? Perhaps he will not return. In the very early times we turned to the Moon Goddess for light to hunt the deer and the boar. Their rich fatness kept us warm as we waited to see if the God would return.
SONG: In the Bleak Midwinter (Verse 1)
CELEBRANT:We gather in the early morning darkness to watch where the light will fall as the Sun rises this day. The Druids tell us that the SunМs first ray will fall precisely in the center of the Temple we have dug into the Hill. Listen to the Story:
READING: “Sun” from The Universe Story (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, Harper SanFrancisco, 1994) pp. 63-79
When the universe flared forth it was capable of a particular spectrum of activities. When the laws for the fundamental particles were stabilized, the universe’s capability for creative action advanced to a new set of rich possibilities … In the Milky Way galaxy four and a half billion years ago, the disc of stars was relatively rich in all the elements. Rushing through this sea were two great spokes of density… whose velocity at the edge of the Milky Way was 20 miles per second. As these invisible waves spun, they drew forth millions of star bursts, each new star with its own particular destiny. But now we focus on one branch of this galactic evolution, the one leading to our Sun. In the area of space-time where the sun emerged, the density wave passed through every one hundred million years. The most massive stars exploded as supernovas and enriched the interstellar matter. By the time of the Sun’s birth, perhaps one hundred passes of the star-making wave had occurred. Eventually a wave swept through that triggered the burst of some ten thousand stars all at once. … One of these subclouds was destined to become the Sun of our solar system … This formation would be finished in five hundred thousand years. The subcloud, freed from interactions with the others, gathered itself into a state of increasing nonequilibrium; matter fell into a center, creating a great deal of heat that radiated out from the collisions. After several hundred thousand years, the central core became thick enough to trap its own light and began to heat up even more rapidly. … The pressure of the plasma core grew to match the gravitational pressure. When the temperatures reached ten million degrees, the hydrogen at the center began to form helium. Our Sun was born….
[Light the Central Red Pillar Candle]
The vast majority of the gas that did not make its way to the Sun’s core … was blown off, but not all. Spinning around the Sun was a disc of the original subcloud just large enough to resist these cosmic rays from the Sun.…

Bible Reading Breeds Liberals!

It’s official.  Independent Bible reading – without benefit of clergy or religious dogma – makes you more liberal.  Frequent Bible readers are more likely to reject the death penalty; more likely to work for social and economic justice.

Of course, reading the Bible on your own can also lead to those infamous right-wing political and moral attitudes toward guns, gays, and god, but the Baylor Religion Survey found rays of hope for peace in the 300-year war between science and religion.

Frequent Bible reading is more likely to lead to the erosion of the infamous Bush Era Patriot Act, recently endorsed by Barack Obama . . . Did he read the Bible he laid his hand on while taking the Oath of Office?

Passive Resistance

In today’s Dilbert cartoon, (December 5, 2011) Dogbert plans to become an iron-fisted dictator, and Mousebert wants to fight for social justice. But “in the long run,” Dogbert says, “I’ll be a billionaire, and you’ll be a stain on a tank tread.”  The only hope for Mousebert is looting.

The parable of the talents comes to mind.  In the end, looting the boss’s treasure is the ultimate passive resistance to empire’s oppressive economic game.…

Westar Institute Bible Seminar 2011: Gregory Jenks — Taking the Bible seriously, not literally

On the final day of the conference, Gregory Jenks  conducted a seminar of his own in honor of the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible.  Jenks cautions that there are 4 ways to abuse the Bible:

  1. Treat the Bible as a Bible – a book of answers; a “manufacturers manual”; better to see the Bible as a set of trial questions – practice for the final exam.  (For example, what does it mean in a non-theistic context to “shape holy lives”?)
  2.  Divine mandate for conquest, especially for English-speaking people.  Zionism is a current example – the Bible justifies a Jewish presence in Palestine as well as ethnic cleansing of Arab inhabitants.
  3.  Anti-Semitism.  Underwritten by supercessionism.  Christian Zionism; Islamophobia– xenophobia both invokes and betrays scripture.
  4.  Apocalyptic fantasies – There is a specific apocalyptic eschatology throughout the Bible, the New Testament, and Paul.