Joined: 16 Nov 2006
|Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:07 pm Post subject: Renewal by Phil Silk
|RENEWAL by the Rev Phil Silk
Let there be light. And today let the chalice light remind us that out of darkness comes light, through both nature and culture. Let us feel the light and share the light, now and in the days ahead.
Today is a special day, as is every day. Once again we gather here from different places, with different thoughts and feelings, Enter into this assembly with your whole self as we celebrate life with words, music and silence. And, let us seek insight, inspiration, fellowship and fun.
Let us now take a few moments to reflect on our own thoughts and feelings at the start of our time together today. There are many troubled areas of the world clamouring for our attention, as well as our own private situations. There are also many positive experiences and examples seeking our attention. Furthermore it is that time of year when Winter is giving way to Spring, with mixed results so far. What is on your heart and mind right now.......? Amen
HYMN 8 (G) “O Life That Makest All Things New” read v.1
PART ONE SPRING
Technically, Spring began on March 21 – in northern climes, anyway. But, although it is a permanent feature of our lives, the exact date and conditions vary year on year and place to place- even without the increasing effects of climate change. And whenever it comes, we KNOW it will, which helps us endure the tougher times of Winter, when there is less light and life seems to have gone into hiding.
There are wonders in Winter, too, of course, but that season makes us contract, rather than expand as in spring, which is more empowering. Spring is definitely a time of renewal.
One image of Winter which stands out for me, both in itself and as a beacon of hope, is of a huge tree, with no leaves and a straggly skeleton of limbs, dark against the sky. Striking! Dead? Not really, for within, as if resting, lie the beginnings of buds which will become leaves and then seeds for future trees. Great! Some trees and plants will die out of course, as this year after a very cold winter; but most others will continue the life cycle (as do the dead ones, in a different way).
Day followed dismal day,
Dark and dank and dreary;
Clouds kept me cool, showered and floured;
Dawn followed dawn,
Hidden and forbidding,
Forcing me to make
The longed-for warmth.
Suddenly a new dawn broke-
And so did the clouds
As the sun shouted
An invitation to initiative
Over the declining white,
Shot through with greedy green.
Magic voices chorused in response
Up and round, over and down
The airways and byways,
Individually scaling many barriers
With harmonious even hectic
Avenues of unexpected melody,
Bursting the fetters
With twitter and chatter,
Burbling and cavorting
And bearing my spirit away.
Will I ever be heavy again?
Grips the soul
From ev'n the bold,
Fern fronds, fern fronds,
Sprightly springy green forms
Boldly bringing spirit forth.
Now let us hear more responses to Spring. I have asked various people to read for us. They may come forward or stay where they are and will introduce their readings. If you cannot hear, raise your hand..
“The Springlike Cosmos” by Gretel Ehrlich
Spring means restlessness. The physicist I've been talking to all Winter says if I look more widely, deeply and microscopically, all at once I might see how spring-like the whole cosmos is. What I see as order and stillness – the robust, time-bound determinancy of life – is really a mirage suspended above chaos. 'There's a lot of jiggling going on all the time, everywhere,' he tells me.
Winter's tight sky hovers. Under it hay fields are green, then white, then green growing under white. The confinement I've felt since November resembles the confinement of sub-atomic particles, I'm told. A natural velocity finally show itself. The particle moves; it becomes a wave.
The sap rises in trees and in me, and the hard knot of perseverance I cultivated to meet winter dissipates; I walk away from the obsidian of bitter nights.”
Untitled and Anonymous
“The forsythia bush, as everyone knows
Is sunshine arranged in bright little rows;
You never would dream it could do such a trick!
At just the right moment it bursts through the stick.
The earliest, curliest feather of Spring,
Like clouds of canaries intending to sing;
But whether they sing or just hold tight,
The forsythia is a musical sight!”
“Yes, It Hurts” by Karin Boye, translated from Swedish by May Swenson
“Yes, it hurts when buds burst.
Why otherwise to hesitate?
Why otherwise was all warmth and longing
Locked under pale and bitter ice?
The blind bud covered and numb all winter,
What fever for the new compels it to burst?
There is pain when something grows
And when something must close.
Yes it hurts when the ice drop melts.
Shivering, anxious, swollen it hangs,
Gripping the twig but beginning to slip -
Its weight tugs it downward, though it resists.
It hurts to be uncertain, cowardly, dissolving,
To feel the pull and call of the depth,
Yet to hang and shiver -
To want to remain, keep firm -
Yet want to fall.
Then, when it is worst and nothing helps,
They burst, as if in ecstasy,
The first buds of the tree,
When fear itself is compelled to let go,
They fall in a glistening veil,
All the drops from the twigs,
Blinking away their fears of the new,
Shutting out their doubts about the journey,
Feeling for an instant
How this is their greatest safety,
To trust in that daring
That shapes the world.
“Mud Season” by May Sarton
In early spring, so much like late autumn,
Grey stubble and the empty trees,
We must contend with an unwieldy earth.
In this rebirth that feels so much like dying,
When the bare patches blend into raw mud,
In rain, in coarsening ooze, we have grown sluggard,
Cold to the marrow with spring's non-arrival:
To hold what we must hold is iron- hard
And strength is needed for mere survival.
By dogged labor we must learn to lift
Ourselves and bring the season in;
No one has ever called childrearing easy ,
And this spring-bearing also asks endurance.
We are strained hard with our our own becoming,
Forced to learn ways how to renew, restore
Though we were dazzled once by the perfect snow,
What have not made us what we are.
Those surface consolations have to go.
In early spring, so much a fall of will,
We struggle through muds of unreason,
We dig deep into caring and contention,
The cold unwieldy earth resists the spade
But we contend to bring a difficult birth
Out of lack of talent, partial scope,
And every failure of imagination.
Science and art and love still our hope!
What we are not drives us to consummation.
Untitled by Mark Van Doren
This ground so bare, so beaten by winter
Suddenly sends up delicate green,
Then blue, then yellow and red, then white:
Secrets it was saving for us,
Wealth we did not know we had.
Who could believe in weary March
That the dun slope, bitten meadow,
And here by the house, border and bed,
Would ever again be what they could be:
Flame, flame, wonderful, wordless -
Oh, but their stillness, the standing plants,
Oh, but their coolness, the burning blossoms,
Oh, but the miracle from nowhere,
Light out of darkness, gold out of poverty,
Blessing beyond any thinkable dream.
HYMN 263 (G) “Earth Awakes Again”
Here are some more responses to Spring for us to respond to, with different readers.
“Soundings” by Cynthia Hirni
“ For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone,
The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing is come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.” The Song of Solomon
Like old bears lumbering out of winter caves, we stand at the edge of Spring, roused by an unfailingly familiar sound, the sound of the earth in transit, the ground of our being on the move. We hear the song of the soul. In India, the sound of Krishna's flute is the magical cause of the birth of the world, and everywhere singing represents the natural connection between all things, and the communication link. Out of our sacred canon comes the Song Of Solomon whose imagery is a universal expression of soul-making...
In the long winter nights of waiting, we have wandered around in our own interior forest, separate from the world, like 'a garden locked, a fountain sealed, charged not to awaken love until it please.' Yet hibernation that lasts beyond its time produces a naieve and stubborn independence, and winter that lasts too far into spring often kills what is in bud. Out of the great silence of our cold feet, cold storage, cold war, the ice begins to crack. The earth is at prayer.
The Song of Songs asks: Who is this arising in the dawn? Who is this coming up from the wilderness?
Standing at the mouth of our cave, out of the sounds of silence, comes our own song of songs.
“May the time of bondage be passing, the wandering be over and gone,
May the dawning of truth appear on the earth, the season of singing resume,
And may the voice of justice be heard in our land.”'
“Spring on the Mountain” by Jonathan Stell, age 12 (slight help from teacher, PAS)
The silent mist
Begins to lift its grey paws
Leaving sight to a dead world.
One by one plants come steadily to life;
Shafts of gay sunlight filter stealthily through
The risen mist,
Easing its light
On a host of ravishing crocuses;
The sodden dew like thousands of diamonds
Twinkle in to the clean breeze of fresh air;
The opening flowers bring animals to life like an alarm;
The flowers in full bloom tempt
The humming bees and fluttering butterflies
To enter the bright colourful flowers' dwellings;
The sheep and their bounding frisky new woolen lambs
Walk and run and jump to the neighbouring gushing mountain
Leading to where the snow is still melting
On top of the snow-capped mountain stream;
The birds are now in their full song, telling
'It's a beautiful spring morning' to the few who do not know.”
“The Green Laughter of Spring” by John Cummins
I am struck dumb with wild and wordless wonder
That on this planet, hurtling 'round the sun,
The green laughter of spring rises to clothe
Our earth through cell and seed and birth -
Eternally, in spite of winter storms and cold.
Through ages of fire and ice and the flow of life
In countless deaths and multi-million forms
Has known the confraternity and miracle of birth.
This, my miracle, my 'resurrection of the flesh'
Too vast, too true for little creeds, is spring's unbridled mirth!
“Priorities” by Judith Campbell
Too much for me to do today
Packing clothes to go away
Endless lists to write and check
Clean the bathroom, sweep the deck...
But then...beside the garden gate
My crocuses have bid me...wait.
They call to me amidst the flurry
And ask me what on earth's the hurry?
The socks and undershirts will stay
But we, your crocuses, have bloomed today.
Come and hear the birdsong
Feel the sun
Today the spring and we are one.
Such beauty plays the greater part
And time on earth is fleeting.
So stay your hand, your feet, your heart
Bend close and breathe our greeting.”
“Spring” by Joyce Smith
“There is something improbable about spring. The persistence of life and its strength and power leaves me amazed. When you watch a thin delicate shoot push its way through thick heavy clods of earth or break the very stones around it in order to reach the sun, the urgency and stirring pain of life hits home and become personal. Spring is not something you can take lightly. It is lovely and enlivening. It speaks of hope and promise. But underneath all the delicate beauty breaking out in feathery green is the agonising push of life, to be, against all the odds, to exist, where only death reigns.
Someone once asked why there were so many suicides in spring. I thought that it might be that for some lonely people the joy and beauty of spring find no answering note of happiness in their own lives and they cannot bear to face a world so alien. But now I wonder if it is not partly that the agony of birth is also apparent to those who themselves are in agony and the struggle becomes too much.
Spring is something you cannot ignore. You cannot stop it coming. You can let it carry you on its crest or you can say yes to it and join your life with its restless urge. What you do about spring will matter.”
“It's A Miracle” by Maurice Bonner
Let's face it...it's a miracle,
The resurrection scene.
When all the dirty browns and greys
Are changed to glowing green.
Let's face it...it's a miracle,
When nature's buried voice
Is raised again in melody,
Our drear hearts to rejoice.
Let's face it...it's a miracle
When human spirits – dead -
Find Charity (the best of gifts)
Gives new life, new paths to tread.
Let's face it...it's a miracle,
That life itself should be
A sleeping and an awakening
All thanks, O God, to Thee.”
“O Spirit of Life and Renewal” by Jane Rzepka
(SINGING THE LIVING TRADITION,510)
We have wintered enough. Mourned enough, oppressed ourselves enough.
Our souls are too long cold and buried, our dreams all but forgotten, our hopes unheard.
We are waiting to rise from the dead.
In this, the season of steady rebirth, we awaken to the power so abundant, so holy, that it returns each year through earth and sky.
We will find our hearts again, and our good spirits. We will love, believe, and give and wonder, and feel the eternal powers.
The flow of life moves ever onward through one faithful spring, and another, and now another.
May we forever be grateful.
Untitled by Starhawk (SINGING THE LIVING TRADITION,524)
Earth mother, star mother,
You who are called many names,
May all remember
We are cells in your body
And dance all together.
You are the grain and the loaf
That sustains us each day,
And you are patient
With our struggles to learn
So we shall be patient with ourselves and each other.
We are radiant light
And sacred dark – the balance -
You are the embrace that heartens
And the freedom beyond fear.
Within you we are born,
We grow, live, and die -
You bring us around the circle to rebirth,
Within us you dance
RESPONSIVE READING “The Wonder of Reviving Life” by Robert Weston
Who can resolve for us the mysteries of earth, the wonder of reviving life in Spring!
NOT ALL THE STARS IN THE SKY ARE AS WONDERFUL AS THE BURSTING SEED, OR THE TINY GREEN SHOOT, OR THE FIRST BRAVE FLOWER DEFYING THE STORM.
The birds return, and in the dawn they form cathedral choirs rejoicing in the light.
THE SCAMPERING OF THE SQUIRRELS TAKE UP THE GLAD REFRAIN, SPRING IS HERE.
The trees sing in the wind, and little streams swell into leaping, laughing torrents;
THE DEAD LEAVES NESTLING ON THE EARTH WHISPER A GLORIOUS SECRET TO THE WIND; THE EARTH IS STIRRING WITH NEW LIFE.
Where yesterday the drifting snow covered grey leaves, impetuous green today thrusts upward toward the light.
ALL NATURE SINGS: FOR LIGHT IS LIFE AND WARMTH AND RAIN ARE LIFE.
This is the truth that passes understanding; this is the joy to all forever free:
LIFE SPRINGS FROM DEATH AND SHATTERS EVERY FETTER, AND WINTER YIELDS TO SPRING ETERNALLY.
PART TWO Stories of Rebirth
We have heard much today about the way Spring expresses itself and how people have responded to nature. Quickly now I want to share three major cultural explanations of how life leads to death and then to new life, focused on three characters: Demeter, Osiris and Jesus.
First a brief account of Demeter based on THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORLD MYTHOLOGY, which tells her Greek story; the Roman parallel talks of Circe.p.62)
Demeter, the sister of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, and the goddess of grain and agriculture, had a daughter called Persephone. One day, when out picking flowers, Hades kidnapped her and took her back to the underworld. Demeter was grief-stricken and wandered the earth looking for Persephone. She discovered that her brother had permission from Zeus, which upset her even more. She refused to let grain be cultivated or any crop to grow, so Zeus compromised by allowing Persephone to spend 2/3 of the year with her mother, but she had to spend the rest of the year with her uncle in the underworld. Each year, during Persephone's absence, Demeter mourns and the crops perish. We call this time winter.
That's one way of accounting for the fact of the seasons.
The Egyptians had a broader approach: not only agriculture displays rebirth but so does human life, as reflected in the story of Osiris. As with Demeter, the myth is quite complicated, but briefly, here is a quote from THE GOLDEN BOUGH by James Fraser ( p.362):
“In ancient Egypt the god whose death and resurrection were annually celebrated with alternate sorrow and joy was Osiris, the most popular of all Egyptian deities; and there are grounds for classing him in one of the aspects with Adonis and Attis as a yearly personification of the yearly vicissitudes of nature, especially corn. But the immense vogue which he enjoyed for many ages induced his devoted worshippers to heap upon him the attributes and powers of many other gods; so that it is not always easy to strip, so to say, of his borrowed plumes and restore them to their proper owners.”
The Christian story has its climax in Spring, at Passover, but is not concerned with agriculture; only with overcoming death for humans, Jesus, the second Adam, overcomes the legacy of First Adam by sacrificing his life in atonement for human sin and then rising from the dead, first as a spiritual body and then ascending to join God in heaven. Later he is due to come again to save all the righteous and bring heaven on earth.
Life begets life and nature is the ideal recycler. Spring is a universal experience, interpreted in different ways in different times and places. Let us take a moment's silence to reconsider how we think and feel about life and death...AMEN
HYMN 109 (G) “Life's Rebirth” read v.1.
PART THREE Human Renewal
Humans have seasons, too. Our tides of the spirit cannot be entirely linked to the calendar, although we certainly do respond to the annual natural cycle of earthly seasons. Some even over-respond to the loss of light in Winter; some do the opposite, reacting to strong light in summer. Our responses are both physical and emotional . But the ups and downs – and plateaus – of our moods reflect our reactions not just to seasons, but to the entire internal and external environment. Epictetus, an educated Greek slave, once wrote: It is not what happens to us that matters most, but what we make of it.” Those words have been a big help to me since I first read them at age 18. We can run away; we can sulk and whine; we can give up; we can be stoical; but better still is to at least adjust, if not take positive action. “Make the best of it”, if we can find out what that is. We can take initiative, such as sharing our joys and sorrows, our journeys. All of us need renewal, all year long. And we are capable of being renewed and helping others to do the same. Indeed, helping others is a potent way to promote renewal for ourselves as well as them.
We are not subscriptions, memberships, licenses, rental agreements or buildings, all of which need timely renewing. Instead we are vulnerable, growing, creative persons. Let us feel the urge to life now in the Spring and let us go forth to the coming days with new vigour. Moreover, let us not stop connecting to the life cycle of earth and humanity when Spring is over, but daily appreciate and share the ups and downs, seeking rich and rewarding lives for all.
I shall close this section with one more reading: HYMN 181in the purple hymnbook: “Wake ,Now ,My Senses” by Thomas Mikelson
Wake, now , my senses,and hear the call;
Feel the deep power of being in all;
Keep with the web of creation your vow,
Giving, receiving as love shows us how.
Wake, now, my reason, reach out to the new;
Join with each pilgrim who quests to be true;
Honour, beauty and wisdom of time;
Suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime.
Wake, now, compassion, give heed to the cry;
Voices of suffering fill the wide sky;
Take as your neighbour both stranger and friend,
Praying and striving their hardship to end.
Wake, now, my conscience, with justice thy guide;
Join with all people whose rights are denied;
Take not for granted a privileged place;
God's love embraces the whole human race.
Wake, now, my vision of ministry clear;
Brighten my pathway with radiance here;
Mingle my calling with all who would share;
Work toward a planet transformed by my care.
I know this is not our conventional time for the collection, but it used to be and I am using the freedom of the pulpit to provide a break from words, with action accompanied by music. It also sets up the sharing of voices with vision after sharing financial support for this community and all it stands for.
HYMN 229 (G) “One World This” read v. 1
The service comes to an end, but we go forth to life enriched by having been together.
I'll close with words by Montly:
“Celebrating the renewal of the earth gives an opportunity to become new ourselves – to let go old hurts and failures, to forgive ourselves and others, to get on with life as nature does, to open ourselves to hope and possibilities, to welcome fertility of spirit that gives life its richness”. (Steve Dick review) AMEN