Recording of our April 18, 2021 online worship service
Food waste is one of the largest contributors to climate change. And while many of the problems happen before it gets to the individual consumer, personal habits still account for 43% of that waste. As we work to influence our lawmakers and corporations to change their ways, we can have an impact by changing ours. BUC’s Environmental Action group invites you to attend “Let’s Eat! Easy Earth-Friendly Cooking” with Anne Calomeni and Donna Larkin Mohr this Thursday, April 22, at 7:00 pm. We’ll view a short video, followed by discussion of ways to minimize our own personal food waste, from shopping and preparing, to storing and discarding waste. The Zoom link is on the BUC calendar, and in the BUC Community Facebook group.
Climate-friendly agriculture and justice for Black farmers is on the agenda for April at Write Here, Write Now. Our UU friends in Washington DC make it so easy to have a big impact. They deliver our letters to Senators Stabenow and Peters en masse, creating a much greater impact than individual letters. Please consider writing a letter on this important issue. Check out the BUC Community Facebook Group or contact Jane O’Neil for more information.
by Laura Wallace
read by Rev. Aisha Ansano
As frozen earth holds the determined seed,
this sacred space holds our weariness, our worry,
our laughter and our celebration.
Let us bring seed and soul into the light of thought,
the warmth of community,
and the hope of love.
Let us see together, hear together, love together.
Let us worship.
Rev. Aisha Ansano
Spirit of life, who is a piece of everything that is and everything that will be, we feel your presence in our midst as we gather in community, even while we cannot be together physically.
Hold our tender hearts as news from the global to the personal tears at them. There is so much to hold in these times, so much to help each other carry. We hold in our hearts all who are sick, and all who have lost loved ones in these times. We carry the sadness of people and events we have missed, yearning to be with those we love. Help us to remember that it is okay to grieve, to mourn, to recognize that which is changed and difficult in the world today. May we hold these for one another, to help make the weight lighter.
And holy one, we know that even in the midst of difficult times, even when so much feels heavy, there are moments of joy. Help us to recognize these moments when they come, whether they seem small or large, and to take the time in our lives for gratitude even amidst it all. For sunbeams pouring through our windows, a bite of something delicious, the smiling face of a friend on our screen, and all the bright moments we encounter, we give thanks, and we lift them up to hold onto in the moments when joy is harder to wrap around. May acknowledging each other’s joys help to sustain us.
In the midst of it all, spirit, we take these moments to be together, to hold one another in our hearts, to hear each other’s voices and see each other’s faces, and to know that we are a deep community, held together with love. May our love for one another sustain us and carry us through, until we can be together again. Amen.
"A Seed Knows How to Wait," excerpted from Lab Girl by geo-biologist Hope Jahren
read by Ed Sharples
A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temperature moisture-light and many other things is required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance — to take its one and only chance to grow.
A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it. Neither the seed nor the old oak is growing; they are both just waiting. Their waiting differs, however, in that the seed is waiting to flourish while the tree is only waiting to die. When you go into a forest you probably tend to look up at the plants that have grown so much taller than you ever could. You probably don’t look down, where just beneath your single footprint sit hundreds of seeds, each one alive and waiting. They hope against hope for an opportunity that will probably never come. More than half of these seeds will die before they feel the trigger that they are waiting for, and during awful years every single one of them will die. All this death hardly matters, because the single birch tree towering over you produces at least a quarter of a million new seeds every single year.
When you are in the forest, for every tree that you see, there are at least a hundred more trees waiting in the soil, alive and fervently wishing to be.
A coconut is a seed that’s as big as your head. It can float from the coast of Africa across the entire Atlantic Ocean and then take root and grow on a Caribbean island. In contrast, orchid seeds are tiny: one million of them put together add up to the weight of a single paper clip. Big or small, most of every seed is actually just food to sustain a waiting embryo. The embryo is a collection of only a few hundred cells, but it is a working blueprint for a real plant with root and shoot already formed.
When the embryo within a seed starts to grow, it basically just stretches out of its doubled-over waiting posture, elongating into official ownership of the form that it assumed years ago. The hard coat that surrounds a peach pit, a sesame or mustard seed, or a walnut’s shell mostly exists to prevent this expansion. In the laboratory, we simply scratch the hard coat and add a little water and it’s enough to make almost any seed grow. I must have cracked thousands of seeds over the years, and yet the next day ’s green never fails to amaze me. Something so hard can be so easy if you just have a little help. In the right place, under the right conditions, you can finally stretch out into what you’re supposed to be.
After scientists broke open the coat of a lotus seed (Nelumbo nuci fera) and coddled the embryo into growth, they kept the empty husk. When they radiocarbon-dated this discarded outer shell, they discovered that their seedling had been waiting for them within a peat bog in China for no less than two thousand years.
This tiny seed had stubbornly kept up the hope of its own future while entire human civilizations rose and fell.
And then one day this little plant’s yearning finally burst forth within a laboratory. I wonder where it is right now.
Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.
by Rev. Aisha Ansano
*homily as delivered may not match script exactly
What a time.
What. a. time.
We are in the midst of so much--globally, locally, nationally, internationally, personally--it feels like things just keep happening.
We are missing those we love, yearning to be together, grieving those we have lost, anxious and nervous and worried.
And I am here to tell you: hold onto hope.
I imagine that it is not unlikely that you are rolling your eyes at me right now - maybe just internally, but really?? I’m telling you to hold onto hope at a time like this?!
As I’ve been thinking about this reflection, sometimes I’ve rolled my eyes at myself, too. All it takes some days to make me feel extremely disheartened is a few minutes of reading the news—or even just a notification popping up on my phone. Local news, national news, global news, even what’s happening in the lives of the people I care about hurts my heart. And now I’m going to tell you to have hope?!
But this is not a naive, sweep everything under the rug, pretend it’s all fine sermon. It’s not a sermon that’s going to tell you to put all your energy into hoping things magically get better just like that.
Instead, I want to remind you of your tenacity, your resilience, the strength you have even when you feel like it is totally gone--I promise it is there. I can tell.
I can tell because you are here this morning, choosing to gather in community even when it is different from the ways it used to be. I can tell because of the joys and sorrows that you shared, the trust you have in this community and these people to hold the tender parts of your heart. I can tell because you are human, wonderfully, complicatedly, frustratingly human, with all that this brings, and somehow, you are not giving up.
Historian Howard Zinn is the author of A People’s History of the United States, a retelling of American history that includes the stories of those who have often been marginalized and overlooked in the telling of our history. Zinn’s work went a long way to change the ways many of us think about and teach history, asking us to remember not just those with power, but all who helped shaped this country over its history. In his autobiography You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Zinn captures the question of hope in hard times:
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
Let me say that again:
The future is an infinite succession of presents. To live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
Now, Zinn isn’t telling us to ignore bad things, to live as though they’re not happening. He certainly isn’t telling us to pretend that we’re not in the midst of a pandemic, to go about our lives as if the pandemic doesn’t exist.
What he is telling us is that human history is full of stories of resilience, of strength, and of hope, that we can live in the realities of our time and hope and dream about a world that is better and work to create that world, now.
The future isn’t some far off distant thing with no connection to who and where we are now. The future is being made and built, moment by moment, in our lives. We never wake up and realized, wow, we’re in the future! Only from where we are now can we look ahead and think of it as the future. When we are in it, it is always the present.
You may have heard that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” a quote attributed to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King in fact borrowed it from Theodore Parker, a Unitarian minister from the 1800s. Parker was a Transcendentalist, an abolitionist, and a scholar, and I find the original Parker quote to be much more interesting, and much more in line with my own beliefs about the world, than the way in which King used it. In a speech given to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Convention in 1858, Parker said,
I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
So much preamble, so much explanation, before we get to Parker’s belief that the arc bends towards justice. He does not pretend to understand the moral universe—its arc is long. His eye can only see so far, not far enough to calculate its curve, its final resting place. From what he can see, he believes that it bends towards justice. He can’t know. We can’t know.
But we can believe that it does.
And out of that belief - conviction, and intention, and deep, abiding hope, that allows us to be willing to try again, one more time.
On the heels of such a difficult year — and so many difficult years — it can be hard to have hope. I struggle with hope a lot. I often feel resolve, and determination, and perseverance, but these days, hope can be really hard to find. The world around me doesn’t usually give me much faith in hope. It can feel naive to feel hope in the face of everything that is going on.
Sometimes we hope in spite of it all. Sometimes we hope because things are tough, because we want a better world for ourselves, or the next generation, or the next. Sometimes our hope comes not from what is happening around us, but instead from deep inside our hearts, our souls, our yearning for what can be. Sometimes, hope is our way of actively moving toward the better.
Like the acorns in the story from earlier, on its own, our hope isn’t going to magically change the world around us.
Our hope often gives us strength, and courage, and something to draw upon. The hopes of those around us remind us that we are not alone, that we are surrounded by communities that are also dreaming about the world that can be, and working to make it happen.
So I invite you to take a deep breath, and to listen to that quiet voice deep in your heart, deep in your soul. What hopes does it hold? Let yourself soak it in, these tiny, tucked away hopes that you are usually moving too quickly to hear. Can you draw strength from them? Can they inspire you? Can you hold onto them when things are particularly hard, to have a moment of joy and gratitude and dreaming about the future?
And how can this community help nurture that little seed, that little acorn of hope? How can you share those hopes with those around you, so that they can help them grow bigger and stronger, so that they can, in fact, change the world?
At first glance, this may not seem like a hopeful time. But if we take a moment to listen to our hearts, to share our dreams and fears with one another, to remember that human history is full of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness... we can be filled with hope, and help one another bring those hopes to fruition.
I believe in you. I believe in us. I believe in the power of all our hopes.
by theologian Rienholdt Neibuhr
read by Rev. Aisha Ansano
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.
May we all be saved by hope, both our own and that of those around us. Go in peace, and go in hope.