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Kate Whyman's Service 5th July 2020

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:05 am    Post subject: Kate Whyman's Service 5th July 2020 Reply with quote

Sunday 5th July 2020 – ‘Being ourselves’

led by Rev Kate Whyman


You are welcome here. Whether you’ve become a regular participant in these
services, or this is your first time here. Whether you come seeking shelter from the
storm or inspiration for living; as someone who is full with joy, or perhaps feeling lost
in grief or loneliness. You are welcome with your talents and your foibles, your beliefs
and your doubts, your strengths and your insecurities.
You are welcome, just as you are.

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 please light it now.

We keep this flame alive as a sign of our Unitarian witness, in company with others around the world who are doing the same. May this flame be a symbol of our diverse selves, each one of us shining our own unique light into the world, and bringing our potential for love in our own particular way.

PRAYER by Sue Monk Kidd

To be fully human, fully myself,
to accept all that I am,
all that you envision,
this is my prayer.
Walk with me out to the rim of life,
beyond security.
Take me to the exquisite edge of courage
and release me to become. Amen

You are invited to take a minute or so of silence for your own prayer and reflection.

STORY: Why were you not? – Traditional Chassidic story

There is a tale of a chassidic rabbi named rabbi Zusya. Zusya was a timid man, a man who lived a humble life.

One day Rabbi Zusya stood before his congregation and he said, ‘When I die and have to present myself before the celestial tribunal, they will not ask me, “Zusya, why were you not Moses?” because I would say “Moses was a prophet and I am not.”

‘They will not say “Zusya, why were you not Jeremiah?” for I would say “Jeremiah was a writer, and I am not.”

‘And they will not say “Zusya, why were you not Rabbi Akiba?” for I would tell them, “Rabbi Akiba was a great teacher and scholar, and I am not.”

‘But then they will say “Zusya, why were you not Zusya?” and to this I will have no answer.’

What resonances does this story have for you? Consider this before reading further.


The importance of ‘being yourself’ is certainly not a new idea. As you may know, the character of Polonius in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet spoke that much-quoted line ‘To thine own self be true’.

And Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was such an influential figure in Unitarian heritage, is possibly best known in the wider world for his essay ‘On Self-Reliance’ in which he wrote: ‘To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.’

But why, I wonder, should the idea of ‘being yourself’ be so remarkable? Why would it even need saying? Who else could we possibly be? You’d think it would be natural enough to ‘be ourselves’. To attempt otherwise sounds like awfully hard work, an endeavour that would surely see us twisting ourselves in to all sorts of knots – and to what end?

Yet, it seems, to some extent or another, and in one way or another, that’s what most of us do. And according to the story, Rabbi Zusya’s greatest fear – and he was a Holy man, after all – was that at the end of his life he might be asked to account, not for what he’d achieved, or what he’d believed, or for his good deeds or kind thoughts, but simply for why he had failed to be himself!

I’m sure many of us recognise that nagging feeling that there is a ‘real me’
somewhere hidden deep inside, that’s struggling – and somehow failing – to get out. To be properly seen or heard. What’s going on? And what do we mean by our ‘self’ anyway?

Is it our outer self – the one we present to the world and maybe even to ourselves?

Is it our inner world – our stream of consciousness, our thoughts and feelings? Is that the ‘real me’?

Is it our subconscious, hidden from us but perhaps showing up in dreams and imagination? Is that where the ‘self’ lurks, in the shadows?
Or is it what I’ll call our Godself, that ultimate connection we each have with the divine?

Or are we all of the above?

And is our sense of ‘self’ a constant thing? Or does it change with age, experience, and circumstances, and also perhaps as our culture changes? Are we even, I wonder, the same ‘self’ now that we were before lockdown, let alone when we were toddlers or teenagers? Seems that ‘being ourselves’ might be quite a slippery concept. Perhaps Rabbi Zusya’s fear is quite understandable after all. And yet I suspect that being ourselves is actually quite simple. That it is not a distant land, only reachable through years of studying Jungian psychology, or practising meditation or undertaking Gestalt therapy, fascinating and worthwhile all those may be. Rather ‘being ourselves’ is our natural way, the way we were born. And in fact we
almost certainly do still experience it, at least part of the time. You might recognise it as moment in which you feel completely at home in yourself, or
lose yourself while doing something you love, or when for a moment you simply forget to be worried or self-conscious, defensive or self-doubting. Being ourselves is a state that’s actually available to each of us right now. You can drop into it – you DO drop into it – without even noticing, even if only for a few moments at a time. But how would it feel to ‘be ourselves’ more consistently? And here a spiritual practicecan definitely help. Gradually we might find ourselves feeling more grateful for what we have, rather than lamenting what we haven’t; smiling affectionately at our foibles instead of berating ourselves for them, forgiving ourselves our mistakes and gently
learning from them. We may find over time that we start to relax into ourselves, and give up the struggle to be somehow better or different from how we are. We may come to know and experience, without words or need of any proof, that we are indivisible from the whole, which we may call God, and that we are perfect just as we are.

I don’t know in what way Zusya feared he hadn’t been Zusya. Perhaps, like many people, he’d lived his life according others’ expectations, maybe he’d been afraid to speak up for himself or others when it mattered, or he thought he’d somehow let down God by not being honest or truthful enough in his prayers.

Perhaps he’d realized, late in the day, that he’d just not seen or believed his own innate worth and had spent his life needlessly caught up in self-doubt and regret, shame and guilt, thoughts and feelings that had prevented him from being – or at least feeling – fully and truly himself.

Perhaps his outer, inner and subconscious selves were out of kilter with each other, and not as in tune with, or flowing from, his Godself as they might have been. Who knows?
But what insight might we glean about our own selves, now? That our life is a wonder and a privilege in its own right, and for its own sake. That
there is nothing we need to prove, nor achieve. That while our lives may pan out according to our plans, or more likely be a mixed bag of joys and disappointments, or really not go at all how we’d hoped, that doesn’t matter. That the only judgment of us is our own, or other people’s, real or imagined, all of which we are free to let go of. For there is no blame or judging coming from where it matters. From God and the Universe there comes only love and acceptance, compassion and understanding, and the desire for us to be free, to be at ease in ourselves, and to be fully alive, just as we are.


SONG: 165 (Purple Book) The spirit lives to set us free

The Spirit lives to set us free,
walk, walk in the light.
It binds us all in unity,
walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light of love.

The light that shines is in us all,
walk, walk in the light.
We each must follow our own call,
walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light of love.

Peace begins inside your heart,
walk, walk in the light.
We’ve got to live it from the start,
walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light of love.

Seek the truth in what you see,
walk, walk in the light.
Then hold it firmly as can be,
walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light of love.

The Spirit lives in you and me,
walk, walk in the light.
Its light will shine for all to see.
walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light, walk in the light of love.

CLOSING WORDS by Howard Thurman, who was an African-American author,
philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader.

‘Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’
So be yourself, do what makes you come alive, and live fully. May it be so.

Extinguish chalice
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