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“Insights” on Hope

Posted by on Dec 6, 2017 in General News, Minister's Column

by Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty, Minister, First Parish of Sudbury UU

I struggle with hope even though I remind us on a weekly basis to find or create a place for hope in our lives. My rational mind wants to sit next to, Friedrich Nietzsche who explained that, “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man.” I agree that hope can be a dangerous emotion because it pulls our attention away from the present moment and coping with what is real in this moment. Hope can blind us from the truth of a situation, stall us from moving into, and in some cases, beyond this moment. Yet, in my heart of hearts, I believe that, “hope is also an emotion that gives us the energy to live despite challenges, to love despite uncertainty, and to embrace both who we are in the moment and what we may become.”

This month as we enter into the shorter darker days of winter it can be harder to find hope, harder to create joy in our lives. I think that is why we have the traditions that we do this time of year–the bright lights, the smell of pine, the festively wrapped gifts, the food, the music, the reveling these traditions remind us of the possibilities and opportunities that exist in this life, the possibilities that exist in the birth of a child and the expansive hopes that one must have when raising children come what may.

At times, the messiness of life, the challenges, losses, and fears that we face in this moment are great motivators and at other times they can cause a sense of paralysis. Hope can be either a salve to ease one’s suffering just enough to keep one bound in chains, or hope can be seeded inspiring us to take action in this moment – to live beyond our expectations. As we turn inwards during this time of expectant waiting, as we tend to our preparing, tend to our concerns or maybe even tend to our pain, let us turn to thoughts of hope. What do we hope for? How can we turn our hopes and dreams into action and reality, create and cultivate our biggest joy?

I encourage us to hope and to let our hopes inspire us to face this moment charged with the energy to carry on, to make change, to turn our hopes and dreams into reality. I have heard in many recovering circles that one needs to “fake it to make it” and in a way I believe that is what hope helps us to do.

The holidays bring a mixed bag of emotions for many of us… are we willing to change what we expect from these darker introspective times, are we willing to take a chance on hope, are we willing to alter what we choose to cultivate moving forward?

Dearest ones, I share this poem with you as I lovingly invite us to embrace this life in all that it has to offer us. Think of this piece, written by e.e. cummings, as a pledge to one’s very own self:

 

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in

my heart) i am never without it (anywhere

i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

                                                      i fear

no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

 

Peace, Love and Light of the season,

Rev. Marjorie

 

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Insights: What do we feel about Faith?

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in General News, Minister's Column

What do we feel about Faith? This month’s theme is all about faith and we are beginning the sermon series with “Faith – The other “F” Word.” I am purposely being irreverent here to gain your attention and to challenge straight-on the concept of Faith. Many religious communities consider the trinity of faith, hope and love, written about poetically by the apostle Paul, as the keys to any healthy flourishing community and relationship. I do not necessarily disagree with Paul. What I disagree with is that there is any certainty to be found within the practice of Faith. Faith is the first in the list and, in many ways, based on my experience, I believe that it is the hardest, as Unitarian Universalists, to embrace. Why is this the case? What is it about Faith, and Hope for that matter, that cause us to pause in our search for solace and spiritual connection?

Maybe it is the connection with the idea of “blind faith” that is the hardest for us to get behind. Blind faith requiring that we do not question or challenge a set of tenets and beliefs. Without the ability to question we lose the ability to evolve and attain deeper wisdom. Some religious adherents are expected to have faith in something that has not been substantiated. In the Torah, Hebrews 11 it is explained that:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

What is seen was made from things that are not visible. I can get behind this understanding, but many needed more from their leaders in order to feel safe or to be productive with a story that fills in the details and keeps humanity accountable. This concept of the word of God or the creator producing everything in the known and/or unknown universe, galaxy out beyond our wildest imaginations seems so far-fetched that it has been relegated to stuff of myth. Anything manmade we can hold in our hands and have certainty about their origins… such as a piece of paper that comes from pulp which comes from trees which comes from seed which comes from trees which ultimately has evolved from a single cell organism that came from the stars which came from the big bang that came from where? What created matter, what impetus inspired the big bang how can we comprehend dark matter or an infinity that continues to expand? When I contemplate these aspects of our reality that we cannot now know I think about the scientists, astronomers, explorers, and futurists I think about their theories and imaginings. There is questioning and yet there is also a sense of faith in the work and methodology that they undertake. They have faith in their call to know more and their cause of furthering the understanding and wisdom, they have faith in humanities collective wisdom and our ability to embrace proven empirical data with full knowledge that at some point a new revelation will unhinge all that we know.

What is it that we fear the most about faith? I would offer that it is our fear that faith, and hope in some way, will stop progress. That humankind will accept a story whether it be myth and/or science and we will be content with what we have conceived and just stop our push for understanding and wisdom. This is where faith turns back on itself. We have to have faith in humanity that having a sense of faith will not stall us from our quest to seek. Just because we have a hypothesis and mythology does not mean that we will grow too comfortable and decide not to continue on towards the knowledge,  towards seeking further out or further into this elusive petri dish of life.

Here are some quotes for you to ponder as we enter into this all elusive month of Faith.

  • To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true wisdom. (Socrates)
  • Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith. (Paul Tillich)
  • Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. (Confucius)
  • The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. (Einstein)
  • Faith is spiritualized imagination. (Henry Ward Beecher)
  • Faith is a passionate intuition. (William Wordsworth)

With Love and Light,

Rev. Marjorie

 

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Insights:

Posted by on Oct 4, 2017 in General News, Minister's Column

 

It is amazing that it is October already. The last few weeks seem to be speeding by marked by one more storm, flood or some form of violent action. On Sunday evening October 1st motivated to do something positive the Sudbury Clergy Association gathered with fifty or so people on the Sudbury Common to commit to and pray for peace. We never imagined as we gathered that within a couple of hours a gunman would shoot out of hotel windows at a crowd of concert goers wounding over five hundred and killing at latest count fifty nine people. It is daunting to try to make sense of the desperate times that we live in; we are plagued by a world clearly out of balance. Here is what I shared with the gathered on Sunday evening:

 

“So much has happened and is happening in our world from natural disasters to violence, terrorism and the ever present threat of war; there is just far too much violence in our communities and in our world. So many town and cities in the news are divided by difference of identity: race, religion, gender, orientation and class just to name a few. Our world is ever evolving. Some days it feels like we take steps forward towards justice and other days it seems as if we take steps backward away from progress. As the clergy association of Sudbury we believe in our work to build the beloved community where all are welcome, safe and loved for who we are and what we bring.

We chose to gather on this date October 1st, the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, to speak out and pray for those who suffer at the hands of abuse and intimidation within their homes, on streets, or in places of work and we pray for those who turn to acts of violence and intimidation, we ask you to cease and desist, we ask you to seek help for your destructive behavior.

In the Talmud it is taught that:

‘Whoever destroys a single life, it is as if s/he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is as if s/he saved an entire world.’ ~Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 37a.

Let us, this evening make a commitment to one another and to this town and beyond to be people of reason and compassion, to commit to truly caring for one another regardless of how different we may be. Let us endeavor in our one precious life to save an entire world.”

 

As we begin a month in which, as a congregation, we will try to understand the principles and importance of Hospitality we do so with a backdrop of uncertainty, shock and in time and with hope recovery. The important part of recovering from such a time filled with tragedy is to look within our own heart and find the places that need salve to heal. Find a way to create peace in the world and to do this we must first create peace and balance within.

In the next few months I will be offering several opportunities to gather for adult spiritual exploration. I will be cultivating opportunities to learn some of the following:

Reiki–described as a simple, completely safe and powerful hands-on technique to improve your health and those of your friends and family. This healing system is guided by divine love and wisdom.

Creating Balance–An on-going group that will support one another on a journey of self-discovery and self-care.

Small Group Opportunities–for new members and those who want to gather again on an on-going basis.

Tending To our Roots–a journey into ancestry as a spiritual practice.

UU History–tending to our stories of religious evolution. This will be based on two new UU History volumes that were just published by Skinner House Press.

Great Masters–Study of scripture of the world’s sages.

Adult Field Trips–to place like Walden Pond, temples, mosques, and places of ritual.

 

**If you are interested in any of these opportunities to gather and learn together please let me know. I will endeavor to work around people’s schedules.**

 

During a time when the world feels like it is falling apart the most important practice that we can cultivate is to strengthen our resolve and commit to making the world a better place for all. Let us commit to this journey together!

Love and Light,  Rev. Marjorie

 

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“Insights” by Rev. Marjorie

Posted by on Sep 6, 2017 in General News, Minister's Column

Don’t Worry, Be Happy…

As a child the end of the summer was a solemn affair. Summer was filled with days that were all fun and games and seemed to stretch out forever. Life was magical and beautifully uncomplicated back then… no cell phones, no social media, no violence or politics… only my bike, my rowboat and endless energy. I do not pretend that the 60’s and 70’s weren’t filled with strife but it all seemed so far away from a child’s perspective. I often wonder if that is what Jesus meant when he encouraged his followers to be more childlike, to have the curiosity, the innocence, the natural beauty and trust of a child. As an adult there is so much more that we do not trust, do not believe, are not willing to imagine for fear of disappointment, betrayal, or loss. How can we be more inquisitive, more accepting, more appreciative of what we have on hand in this moment?

Somewhere along the way “we” stumbled off the path, things became more important than our connection with one another, more complicated and in this we truly lost something, and our children and grandchildren lost something as well, the beauty held within simplicity. My mother always painted a picture for me of her uncomplicated childhood during the depression when the kids in her neighborhood would gather and play “kick the can.” The only thing one needed was energy, imagination and a used can. As I write these words I think of the Bobby McFerrin 1986 hit, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” It would be naive to imagine that we are not facing a daunting reality on a global scale, but Mr. McFerrin’s words speak volumes. “Now listen to what I said, in your life expect some trouble. When you worry you make it double. But don’t worry, be happy, be happy now…”

As we gather together for homecoming Sunday, on September 10, bring your water and let’s imagine the ways that we can simplify our lives and find a sense of beauty in balance. This fall be on the lookout for opportunities to gather for adult education at First Parish. Let’s reimagine our lives focused on what is most important, something that we can only define and understand in our own hearts and minds, but that we might choose to share with one another.

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Rev. Marjorie


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The Search for Beauty by Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty

Posted by on Aug 16, 2017 in General News, Minister's Column

“The Search for Beauty” by Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty

There is a saying that was coined in 1613 by Sir Thomas Overbury, “All the carnal beauty of my wife, Is but skin deep.” I am not sure as to what Sir Thomas was eluding to with regard to his wife or how she may have responded, but what I do know is something that I shared repeatedly with my god daughter, Emilie “the most important long lasting beauty is not what we see when we look in the mirror, it is what we hold within us that defines our true beauty.”

As we look into the faces of humankind, beyond the peculiarity of our physical characteristics and delve into our humanness, we see so many different layers of identity. It is difficult to go deeper than clothes and skin to uncover the true beauty that resides within. In Charlottesville, we saw hate, anger, frustration and fear all because of how people looked, dressed, and the signs and torches that they held. Beneath the color of one’s skin or their gender or political views resides so much more. We all herald from the same basic framework, a skeleton, and then layer upon layer sinew, muscle and organ are built and refined. The body alone is an inanimate physical “thing”, a vessel of sorts, until a cultivated mind and inspiration of spirit is added. Unfortunately, in the conflicts that we witnessed this month there was no time or way to go deeper to discuss difference and there was probably little interest to know one another. It is easier to ostracize, persecute and hurt those whom we do not know or see as being a member of our human family, but the one thing that studying DNA ancestry over the last couple of years has shown is that ultimately we are all connected and hardly different at all.

Beauty at first glance is not the real beauty that we ultimately need to acknowledge, true beauty resides far beneath the surface of our being. It resides in the conviction of character cultivated in the essence of one’s soul. Even though I was not in Charlottesville I can imagine the lack of beauty in intolerance and the rhetoric of hate that was being spewed but I can also imagine that there were moments of beautiful grace.

It is difficult to see and experience the reality of our world right now, the greed that inhabits the recesses of our culture, the ugliness that taints the natural beauty that could define our lives, our priorities and the trajectory of our world. The Buddha once shared, “All wrong-doing arises because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?” Beauty and specifically inner beauty is the worship theme at First Parish for September–an important topic during these challenging, divisive and unpleasant/ugly times in our human history. We cannot force others, especially those who feel disenfranchised or afraid, to remain peaceful, “We cannot obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” (Dalai Lama) So let us begin this year with courage, love and an openness to see and experience the beauty that lies deep within ourselves and one another.

Blessings and love,

Rev. Marjorie

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message from your minister

Posted by on May 24, 2017 in General News, Minister's Column

Last Sunday I spoke about how in an instant life can change, how a life even though it is courageous, well lived, filled with speaking one’s truth and nowhere near finished can have its trajectory altered. Last Friday afternoon, Alorie Parkhill was on the move, traveling mindfully through her life mid-task, mid-sentence on her way to another place when she was stopped in her tracks by a head-on collision. We know that this is always a possibility to face in this life, there is no planning for such an alternative reality and there is no way to suspend the shock, the sadness and grief that fills us. We can only be with the news and this altered sense of reality that we now face. We may feel like we are free-floating in our lives right now, in shock by this turn of events untethered by what should and should not be possible, juxtaposed with what is now true, real.

There is no sense to be made out of these events, there is no grand plan in which this is an acceptable possibility. So we sit in this place together processing, trying to make sense, afraid, wanting to do something, anything, to make it better, or easier for Craig and his family. The Parkhills and the Willetts are our people and we wish that there was something that we could say or do that might comfort them, when in reality what they need most right now is one another and time.

Friends, in the coming days, months and years, let Alorie’s passion for justice, her intelligence, her call to be a lifelong learner and teacher, her willingness to go the extra mile and her courage inspire us to live our lives more fully. Let her willingness to reach out to those in need of a strong will and mind inspire us to reach out to one another in love during this unbelievably tender time. Grieve, sing, dance, write, share, give from the heart, be kind, be gentle, be open as we assimilate this tragic time into the history of our community. We will miss our sister, Alorie. We will remember her guidance, her plays and stories and snippets of our shared experience. Let them bring us comfort in the days to come.

I am holding you all gently and in the spirit of loving kindness and compassion. If you need me I am here. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

Rev. Marjorie

Please hold June 24th at 2pm as a tentative date and time for Alorie Parkhill’s memorial service, a celebration of life.

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