These are excerpts from my sermon of 10/8/17. It was such a painful week – again – because of the massacre in Las Vegas. So many people told me that they struggle to balance the moral imperative to know and care about the wider world and their emotional need to limit their exposure to suffering. In some cases, their own lives are full of so much pain, they just don’t have the bandwidth to take on more. And then there are some people who feel a kind of compassionate kinship with others who struggle and suffer, as it strengthens their own sense of connectedness with others. We’re all different. My point in this sermon was to say that being present to reality as it is, with all its pain and brokenness, can be a refuge because truth is always redemptive. And there is holiness in facing it together, singing or crying or just being. Please don’t numb out. You are important. – VW
“The Headlong Rush” Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
The horrible carnage in Las Vegas one week ago has us stumbling around again, trying to find a foundation for our sense of cohesion, sanity, meaning. Of course we are screaming about gun control, continuing to fight about this besetting American sin and obsession that has claimed so many victims. My sermon about gun control – and I don’t mean to be flippant – is that we should bloody well have some!
Why look so hard for Stephen Paddock’s motive when, in the end, he was able to assemble his arsenal and do what he did with easily available arms, ammunition and an easily-available appliance that converted his weapons to semi-automatic killing machines? The debates rage on, and we can hardly believe that this still – and evermore – needs debating at all.
We grieve for the dead, whose names and stories are now appearing in the newspaper, as it has taken a full week of research to compile all of that information. They were schoolteachers, , secretaries, construction workers, a musician, a young mother of four, all gone missing, torn away, bleeding, from life. At least one man died shielding his wife’s body.
Rev. Kathleen McTigue wrote the opening words you heard a few minutes ago. I’ve said these words a lot but this week they kept re-playing in my head :
We come together this morning to remind one another
To rest for a moment on the forming edge of our lives,
To resist the headlong tumble into the next moment,
Until we claim for ourselves
Awareness and gratitude,
Taking the time to look into one another’s faces
And see there communion: the reflection of our own eyes.
The idea that there is a kind of Holy Communion in each other’s eyes when we really see each other, and see our own lives reflected there – has special poignance when I think of these lives so suddenly stolen away, shot down in the (also) holy communion of enjoying music together.
These communal spaces of joy, celebration, recreation – they are so important to protect. Schools, churches, festivals, parks – wherever humans gather, we are in communion. These shootings are a desecration of holy communion of shared spaces and shared experiences, which are so crucial to our ability to bond outside of our own small circles of family and acquaintance.
Where is your rock and your refuge?
This question is as central to our well-being as any, as we are daily shocked and assaulted by upsetting revelations close to home and abroad, and, as I said last week, as we are being trained in callousness by leaders who benefit from conflict among the common folk.
As the Psalmist says, “God, you are my rock and my refuge,” Buddhist practitioners say, “I take refuge in the Buddha, in the dharma (the teachings) and the sangha (the community).” This doesn’t mean to hide in, or to withdraw from within – it means to be AWAKE within the community, AWAKE within the Holy, awake and mindful within the community. Although it is tempting to withdraw, to hide, to take refuge in a bottle of wine or a smoking a joint every night after work, numbing out to hours of gaming or binge-watching Netflix series — when we lose ourselves in those forms of refuge, those are hours our lives we can’t get back. Those hours can become sacrifices we make to the forces of chaos and destruction.
Be aware of how much of your own lives you are giving to those forces. Are you partaking mindfully, with a sense of appreciation, or are they being stolen from you, time given in a kind of stupor of pain and distress? Is there a way you can be present to your own pain and distress – perhaps with some support? Even our feelings of pain – because they are comprised of equal parts truth, honesty and love – can be a place of refuge. Truth is an always-solid foundation upon which we can rest.
I urge you, dearly beloved, not to lose faith even during the moments when you feel that you may lose heart. Take refuge in the reality that there is a greater creative force working than the force of humanity. Take refuge in the beauty of the natural world which we are still daily blessed to see and feel. Take refuge in the reality that love is still a renewable energy source that we may use and renew daily to animate our work and our relationships and our reverence. Take refuge in the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism, our dharma teaching, and take refuge in the community… where we look into each other’s eyes and see there Communion, the shared experience of the human struggle.