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Kate Whyman's Service 21st June 2020

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2020 5:50 pm    Post subject: Kate Whyman's Service 21st June 2020 Reply with quote

Sunday 21st June 2020 – ‘Waiting at the turning point’
led by Rev Kate Whyman


Welcome on this first official morning of Summer following yesterday’s Solstice.
Welcome to this virtual and yet still sacred space, which we create between us by our shared intention and attention. Here we are invited to bring the whole of ourselves.
Our hopes and fears, our loves and yearnings, our pain and loss, our humanity and our divinity.
We gather to reconnect with each other and with the divine and to reach out to each other across the ether.
We gather here to share - in song, in story and in prayer - and to find inspiration for the journey ahead.

Let us mark the beginning of our time together, as is our custom, by lighting our chalice as a symbol of our free religious faith.

If you have a candle then you might like to light it with me now.

We keep this flame alive as a sign of our Unitarian witness, in company with others around the world. Today may it rekindle the light in our eyes and the warmth in our hearts.

SONG by David Kent

O chalice flame unite us
O chalice flame unite us
O chalice flame unite us
And inspire us to shine.


Today I invite you to breathe with me, in time with the following words, adapted from Alice Anacheka-Nasemann.

Breathing in, may our hearts fill with compassion
Breathing out, we pray for healing in our world.
Breathing in, may we open to the transforming power of love
Breathing out, we pray for peace in our lives.
Breathing in, may we hold hope in our hearts
Breathing out, we pray for justice in our world.
Breathing in, we are the prayer
Breathing out, we are the healing
Breathing in, we are the love
Breathing out, we are the peace
Breathing in, we are the hope
Breathing out, we are the justice
May it be so.

STORY: The Woodcarver by Chang Tzu, based on a translation by Thomas Merton

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand of precious wood. When it was finished, everyone who saw it was astounded. They said it must surely be
the work of spirits.

The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:

"What is your secret?"
Khing replied: "I am just a workman: I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded I guarded my spirit, did not spend it on trifles, that were not to the point. I fasted in order to set
my heart at rest. After three days fasting, I had forgotten about gain and success. After five days I had forgotten praise or criticism. After seven days
I had forgotten about my body with all its limbs.

"By this time all thought of your Highness and the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work had vanished. I was collected in the single thought of the bell stand.

"Then I went to the forest to see the trees in their natural state. When the right tree appeared before my eyes, The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt. All I had to do was to put forth my hand and begin.

"If I had not met this particular tree then there would have been no bell stand at all.

"What happened?

My own collected thought encountered the hidden potential in the wood;
from this live encounter came the work which you ascribe to the spirits."

What does this story mean to you? Consider this before reading further.


I have never been commanded by a prince to create a bell stand, and I’m guessing you haven’t either. But I have felt pressure ‘to come up with the goods’, so to speak, in other ways. Whether it’s been performing a piece of music, organizing a funeral for a friend, or even just trying to write an uplifting service during lockdown. Though more often it’s been the everyday demands, of making what feels like a tricky decision, pondering how to respond to our ever-changing situation, and generally trying to work out what to do for the best. If you’ve ever felt anxious about fulfilling what’s been asked of you – perhaps worried about whether you’re up to the task, or whether you’ll meet other people’s expectations (or indeed your own) – then you’ll know what I mean. I reckon the woodcarver must have experienced similar feelings of apprehension in his life, too. But part of the business of becoming a master carver was, for him, learning how to overcome them, or rather let go of them.

In the story, after first insisting there is no secret to his success, he actually then goes on to describe his ‘secret’ in quite some detail. Charged with the heavy responsibility of making a bell stand – for the Prince no less – his response is not to flap or fret, panic or procrastinate, nor doubt either his artistry or his skill. Rather he first carefully guards his spirit by making sure he doesn’t waste it on trivial matters. Then he fasts to gradually calm his heart, his mind and his body. And as he does this, he lets go of any thought of gain or success, praise or criticism. He forgets all about the Prince. Instead he focuses entirely on the task in hand: the bell stand. His attention is ‘collected in this single thought’. And at this point of stillness, and focus, and quiet his intuition seems to open like a flower, and there is a turning point.
And he seems to become effortlessly in tune with the task before him. He walks into the forest and sees the right tree in front of him. In his mind’s eye he can even see the bell stand, already there within it, and knows that all he has to do now is to reach out and begin.

Of course the woodcarver knew he already had all the skills he needed to make a beautiful bell stand. He just had to surrender himself – to let fall away any self-doubt, or desire to impress, or fear of failure, or attempts to second guess what would please the Prince – all of which would only have got in the way – and then simply the allow the bell stand to appear in its own time; to emerge from the right tree, under his skillful guidance, as surely as day follows night, and summer follows spring.

Fasting for seven days wouldn’t help many of us make a bell stand. Most of us are neither master carvers, nor necessarily practised in the art of fasting. But if we can find our own way to let go of fear, doubt and vanity this would surely free us up to face each of our own life’s challenges as they arise. The ‘secret’ the woodcarver describes is essentially ‘be still, let go and trust’. Trust yourself. Trust your intuition. Trust the process. Trust life. Trust God.

Right now, while we are neither in lockdown nor out or it, when we may feel we are hanging in limbo, when our nerves are perhaps beginning to jangle and our tempers fray, when potentially seismic changes in our society are in the air, and when the right response may seem elusive, it is easy to become anxious and increasingly impatient for answers and solutions, which paradoxically only makes them less likely to appear. And yet within ourselves, just like the woodcarver, we know we have all the skills we need to move forward. We are master ‘livers’, or at we least certainly can be. Our lungs already know how to breathe, our hearts know how to beat, our feet know how to take one step after another. We already know how to listen, and to watch, and to wait. We have the capacity to open ourselves up to hear wisdom and to allow inspiration. And if we can only find it within ourselves to trust, to have faith, then we will see the way unfold ahead of us. Not perhaps as a complete vision, but as small steps, taken day by day, little by little, moment by moment. We may not end up with a beautiful bell stand fit for a prince, nor the answer to all life’s problems. But if we can find our way to a still and receptive place, by whatever means works best for us, we can rest there for a moment, knowing that nothing needs to be rushed nor forced. Like the solstice sun appears to hang in the sky for a time before the earth begins to tilt away once more, when our minds are quiet and our hearts open, a turning point will come and the answers will be revealed in their
own time. As Chang Tzu put it, when ‘my own collected thought encountered the hidden potential in the wood; from this live encounter came the work.’
May it be so for us all.

SONG: 175 (Purple Book) To seek and find our natural mind
arranged by David Dawson, words by Richard Boeke

To seek and find our natural mind,
and suffering let go,
awake from night, behold the light,
find every life aglow;
awake from night, behold the light,
find every life aglow.
To seek and find compassion’s law
and share the holy quest,

awaken to the cosmic awe,
find peace and be at rest.
To seek and find community,
the love that will not cease,
begin today the joyful way,
walking the path of peace;
begin today the joyful way,
walking the path of peace.

CLOSING WORDS: Ecclesiastes 3

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

If you’re wondering what time it is for you right now?
The answer is within you.

Go well, and have a good week.

Extinguish chalice
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