Kahlil Gibran said, "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." On this Sunday after All Souls Day, we join with many other Unitarian Universalist congregations to honour the losses in our lives, both recent and longer ago; this year, we also celebrate the joys and new beginnings that complete the circle of life and loss. You are invited to bring mementos that represent the significant joys and sorrows you carry with you this year.
Oprah Winfrey shares a story from a Jewish friend:
A man asks his rabbi, "Why does God write the law on our hearts? Why not in our hearts? It's the inside of my heart that needs God." The rabbi answered, "God never forces anything into a human heart. God writes the word on our hearts so that when our hearts break, God falls in."
She concludes: Whatever you hold sacred, you'll find that an unguarded broken heart is the ideal instrument for absorbing it.
Living with an unguarded broken heart is no easy feat. It’s much easier to ignore the cracks, or use crazy glue to patch them together, however feebly, or to put up one or even many guards at our heart’s door, or simply pretend our heart is whole. To be “fine”, or even cheerful and positive, are rewarded qualities among us.
But it is the unguarded broken heart that invites grief as a familiar — if not always comfortable — companion. And it is an unguarded broken heart that has enough room for joy. Not just enjoyment or fun or even happiness, but that sun-breaking-through-the-
clouds, exquisite heart-song that is true joy.
And so today I speak to your hearts in their broken places, in both their grieving and joyful manifestations.
Each Canadian Unitarian Council Annual Conference, the last thing I do is participate in a now annual ritual: in a circle of friends and strangers, we sing “Down to the River to Pray” and offer hands-on blessing to one another. This past May, Curtis and I entered
the circle together, and with loving hands embracing us and our babe yet unknown and unnamed, people sang: “Oh, Baby, let’s go down, down to the river to pray.” And then a second verse “Oh, Parents.” And a third, “Oh, Family.” When I reflect on my continued
commitment to Unitarian Universalism and ministry, I remember that this is a community where my family and I can be held in that kind of love, and our babe, now with us, was welcomed before he was born.
Today, I invite you to the figurative river, and my singing to you is in the — slightly less lyrical — style of a sermon. May your joy and sorrow mingle in the waters as you hold multiple feelings and stories, perhaps even about the same event or relationship.
To all who are grieving:
May you know deep in your bones that your grief is a testament to your love.
May you know gentleness - with yourself as well as from others.
May you ride the tides of your grief with grace in both the crests and troughs.
May you feel held and comforted as often and as long as you need.
May the spirit of love abide in your remembering.
To all who feel guilty:
May you find peace with words said or withheld, actions taken or not taken,
Peace that remembers that even the best of intentions, the best planning, the best decisions,
Do not always bring the results we hope.
And not one of us lives every second of every day from our best.
May you find strength from that deeper well within and beyond you,
And befriend your regret as a window to who you are and whom you love.
That it becomes woven not with hardness but with hard-won wisdom.
Know that you are not alone,
And that your honesty with yourself is a testament to your humanity.
There is life for you beyond “what ifs.”
And your abiding love is needed in our world.
To all who are angry:
Let your anger wash over you.
Feel it - whether directed at others, or at your own self.
Remember that anger and sadness are sisters,
Often one hiding behind the other.
Shame not your anger; rather, learn from it.
It points to values beyond its veil of rage; values of justice and kindness and fierce love.
Allow the anger to re-ground you in those values.
And to help you act if and when your gifts are needed
To tend the hurting people and places all too abundant.
To all who are living in anticipation, be it joyful or fearful:
Take the space you need to discern
The next right thing.
Be it letting go,
Or taking charge,
Or summoning yet unseen fierceness
And remember that you are the planter of seeds that grow to their own tunes.
That may be more beautiful than your wildest hopes.
And if not, or not yet, trust that you will find your way, even when you stumble.
There will be unexpected beauty in those moments, too.
For all who wonder ‘why me’ - or why not me:
In your sorrow and loss,
Your dashed hope or collapsing dreams,
You are no less a child of the universe.
Not one of us passes through this life unscathed.
When it could be easier, so, too, could it be harder.
Hold your why only so long as it serves you;
As long as it helps you care for yourself and others.
And find new meaning and purpose.
And then whisper your ‘why’ to the wind,
Wash your ‘why’ in healing waters,
Sing your ‘why’ to the stars.
As it drifts away, remember again that your life, your love, is sacred.
To all who are joyful - joyful in memory and joy alive in this moment:
Bask in your joy.
Set aside cameras and diaries, (Most of the time)
To keep your soul unfettered by lenses between you and your joy.
Hide not your joy from others,
Even though you may fear it will be met with skepticism or envy.
Your joy is best experienced lavishly
And then shared tenderly.
So that we can all taste its beauty,
And remember that it may come again to us one day.
To all who fear losing what or whom you love:
Love, love, love with abandon.
It is the only thing you can do.
Don’t feed your fear.
But if you must, feed your fear with love.
For if your greatest fears come to pass,
(Though I pray they don’t)
Your solace will be
Your fierce loving.
To all who seek a life of meaning:
May you find ways to hold
Both sorrow and joy
Your own and others’.
May you remember that there are many faces to sorrow
And to joy.
And also within us.
Alive and competing
For the final say.
Learn to hold the strands,
Weaving them together,
Not picking one over another.
Forming instead a tapestry.
Your life will be more beautiful:
The imperfections in your heart which is always whole and always broken, make it so.
* * * * *
A year ago I shared this story of Rabbi Simcha Bunem:
He went about his living with a slip of paper in each of his pockets:
In his right hand pocket the piece of paper read,
“For my sake was this world created. I am one with God.”
In his left hand pocket read,
“I am but a speck of dust, existing for but a moment in time.”
In your joy and in your sorrow, remember you are both whole and broken. And reach each day, each hour, into whichever pocket you need most. You are but a speck of dust for whom was this world created.
Kenneth Collier says:
“The song once sung cannot be unsung,
And the life once lived cannot be unlived,
And the love once loved cannot be unloved.”
Oh, speck of dust,
Your life is sacred.
Your heart — your love — is a gift.
And you are beautiful, now and always.
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