Sermon: Be Like The Trees

PRELUDE – Jason Curran



Service Outline – October 8th, 2017 – Be Like The Trees

Service Leader: Rev. “Twinkle” Marie Manning

Musician: Jason Curran

Sermon: Be Like the Trees

Reading #1: “Beyond Passing Seasons” by Rev. Stephen Shick

Reading #2: “First Frost, Excerpts” by Sarah Addison Allen

Opening Hymn: #86 Blessed Spirit of My Life

Second Hymn: #34 Though I May Speak With Bravest Fire

Closing Hymn: #205 Amazing Grace


What if? by: “Twinkle” Marie Manning

What if hospitality was the pillar of our Faith?

If coming together created sanctuary?

If sharing Joys and Sorrows was the path to enlightenment?

What if our sacred texts were our sermons, poems and songs?

If our principles were our doctrines?

If our covenant was the Hope that binds us?

What if? by: Ganga White

What if our religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If prayer was our words?
What if the Temple was the Earth?
If forests were our church?
If holy water—the rivers, lakes and oceans?
What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was life?
If wisdom was self-knowledge?
If love was the center of our being?


We light this chalice as a symbol of our faith, and a reminder of the spark of divinity within each of us.



Sometimes the sermon that you have taken the time to prepare and expect to deliver turns out, as a result of changing circumstances, to not be the sermon that is needed on a given Sunday.

Today is just such a Sunday.

This has been a difficult week for so many.

Those affected by the hurricanes and fires of the last month.

Those affected by the violence in Las Vegas this week.

When tragedy strikes….

No – tragedy is the hurricanes, the earthquake, the fires.

Tragedies are the things out of our hands;

out of our human capacity to control.

Tragedies are the things Mother Nature delivers upon us.

But hers is without malice

or intention to harm.

When the wind blows it does not mean topple the butterflies;

Rain does not seek to immobilize the bees.

Hurricanes are not on a mission to take human lives.

And so when they do – it is a tragedy.

Horrific acts of human perpetrated violence…

That requires another word – a word that remains elusive, yet describes in full the intention behind the act and the pain it causes.

And the pain it causes needs to be acknowledged and calls for the space for that acknowledgement to exist in sacredness:

to comfort each other

and for healing to take place

even though we don’t yet know how it will.

The Serenity Prayer speaks to this need:

“God grant us the serenity

to accept the things we cannot change;

courage to change the things we can;

and wisdom to know the difference.”

Today I will be speaking about trees.

But I will also be speaking about grief;

About the magic of our human existence;

And about what happens next.

What happens – – – Afterward.

And about how we can prepare in advance for the Afterward.

In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi:

“God, make me an instrument of thy peace!

That where there is hatred, I may bring love.”

Natalie Goldberg in her book Writing Down the Bones says:

“They move with grace in and out of many worlds.”

She is talking specifically about writers, and in a larger way about artists.

I feel it applies to all of us who are weaving our way through life with mindfulness.

Certainly when seeking to answer our inspirational callings, 

yet perhaps never more necessarily so

than when dealing with times of grief and anger

and frustration and fear.

There is little doubt that many worlds are contained in this one consciousness,

in this present existence.

Both seen and unseen, as often the worlds that exist

are beneath the ones that are apparent.

The world within our heart

that draws us together in times of joy and in times of sorrow.

The world within our mind

that reasons right from wrong,

and strategizes how to deal with either.

The world we walk on,

our Earth,

filled with so much beauty,

creative and destructive in its power.

Even as we humans can choose to be creative and destructive in our power.

Seemingly contrasting, yet it is the very nature of our lives to discern how to navigate such worlds.

How to marry them with each other, and with the worlds contained,

and carried, by those we share our lives with.

How we process and move forward in the wake of tragedy can be either

destructive or creative use of our power individually and collectively.

The Afterward is a place we all must travel to 

on our paths towards wholeness and healing.

The Afterward

The Afterward comes at so many times and in so many ways.

I urge you to walk in to the Afterward

Then stop.

Face the Afterward.

Feel the confusion.

Experience the pain, the turmoil and grief.

Consume the uncertainty until you extinguish it.

It may take awhile.

It may happen in an instant.

That’s the magic of The Afterward.

Take every ounce of the Afterward that you can grasp.

Gather it up.

Not in a tight unrecognizable way

Rather, loosely – like picking wild flowers from a field.

Reap it.

Thresh it.

Hold it.

Then let it go.

You see,

You need to go into the Afterward.

It is sometimes necessary to stay there for a time.

Stunned by loss and disbelief

Sudden as it is or may be

Emotions rise.

Deal with the distress.

Go inward.

Find your peace;

Find it; hold it and let it hold you.

Seek it more deeply

should it be unclear.

Open your hand for help

And know that help is near.

Take comfort when it comes.

And remember:

The Afterward in not meant to be permanent

Accept that there is more than the Afterward.

There is the Next.

There is Life.

There is Now.

Jane Roberts tells us:

“You are so part of the world
that your slightest action contributes to its reality.

Your breath changes the atmosphere.

Your encounters with others
alter the fabrics of their lives,

and the lives of those
who come in contact with them.”

And so when tragedy strikes,

even when we seem removed from it,

we feel it nonetheless.

We feel the loss, the fear, the anguish,

because we are part of each other.

And because of this,

we are called to serve.

Serve each other and serve the world.

With our roots holding us close

And our wings setting us free.

Yes, in this way we can Be Like the Trees.

Deep roots.

Inner strength.

Radiant exterior.

Stretching high.

Flexible where you stand.

Letting go when it’s time. 

Standing tall ’til the end of your days. 

Breathing and transforming the environment.

Offering shelter and comfort and beauty

to all who are so fortunate to be in your presence.

Be like the trees, even while pushed and pulled by storms,

yet ever aware of our place in time.

We are in Autumntime, the season that resonates all senses with its transition.

As leaves change color,

grass turns from green to brown,

crops complete their cycles

and temperatures modulate from

the warmth of summer to the cold of winter

(here in Maine sometimes in a single day)

but ever inching in synchronicity with the darkening

reflected in the shortened days.

Be like the trees and live each season as it passes.

Be still enough to hear your Call to service

Be strong enough to act on it.

What’s Your Tree?

In 1997 Julia Butterfly Hill found her tree.


Her tree was named Luna,

a 200 foot tall ancient redwood that was slated to be cut down.

Julia climbed up her tree

and stayed there for more than 2 years.

She refused to come down until Luna was permanently protected.

She stayed atop Luna withstanding gale force El Niño winds

and in the face of death threats by the lumber company.

She lived on a tiny platform in Luna’s branches for 738 days.

Eventually, Julia and those who supported her successfully negotiated to save Luna

and a 3 acre buffer zone around the tree.

Afterwards she coined the phrase, “What’s Your Tree?”

What do you care about so much that you are willing to dedicate years of your life,

weather the harshest of storms and possibly even face death

to fulfill the purpose of?

Julia’s tree was Luna,

and Luna’s family: the Redwood Forest.

Julia’s  foundation continues to protect the environment in many ways,

as well as offers tools to support those who wish to follow their own heart’s calling.

Yes, in the area of

-environmental renewal,



and  also in spiritual fulfillment.

What’s Your Tree as a Movement was originally developed for people who were inspired by Julia’s story, but it reaches far beyond her “fans.”  

A wide range of people with a diversity of backgrounds participate in What’s Your Tree:

•People who want a deeper sense of purpose and stronger focus for their lives.

•People who want to make a difference in their community or in the world but aren’t quite sure where to start.

•People who have been making a difference for a long time and are burnt out, overwhelmed or who may be losing their passion.

•People who know that their impact will be multiplied exponentially (and they will have a lot more fun)

if they are in a community of like-minded people.

Sound Familiar?  🙂

What’s Your Tree?

What purpose are you willing to use your life to fulfill?

What’s Our Tree?

At a recent workshop, Karen Bellavance-Grace from our UUA tells us:

“The purpose of your church is to bring the Love and Grace of Unitarian Universalism

to your people,

your community

and our world.” 

We can use this purpose statement as a touchstone

for us to look to whenever we are making choices.

Asking often:

Do our actions (individually and collectively)

emulate the action of bringing

the Love and Grace of Unitarian Universalism

out into the world,

into our neighborhoods,

and in our families and close circles of friends?

Be like the trees and have strength.

We need to know that sometimes we will fail

and sometimes the world fails us.

Each time we fail to live up to our purpose,

may we strive to realign with it.  

Again, and again, and again.

Knowing that as we do,

as we mindfully focus on the mission of

bringing Love and Grace out into the world,

that we will be cultivating the strength of practices

that serve our hearts

and our Faith.

Be like the trees and have roots.

Have we developed the roots in our faith

and within our congregation

to be able to have inner strength and support systems when storms come, when tragedy strikes?

Roots are the often unseen world beneath

our thoughts, actions and deeds.

Roots of faith,

like roots of a forest,

are labyrinths of communication networks

that nurture us even as they inform and instruct our growth,

and our ability to persevere.

Even as they speak to the other inhabitants of this underground world.

Be like the trees and keep our lines of communication open.

Just as the roots of trees speak to their neighboring trees

Signaling them to provide for each other when they are in need.

Ecologist Suzanne Simard tells us:

A forest is a cooperative system,

sharing resource transfers,

signaling each other when specific nutrients are needed,

and also signaling things like

defense alerts and kin recognition

and they form a symbiotic association with below-ground fungi

which are involved in the communication system.

Do we ensure Love and Grace are in symbiotic function to our lines of communication?

It is wise to also consider what measures we have in place to make certain our communication signal is clear

and that our transfer capacity for nutrients is optimal

so that we can be safe

and continue to grow.

Be like the trees and be flexible.

Have we cultivated flexibility

in our hearts and in our minds

and in the ways we approach challenges?

The kinds of challenges we face when we encounter

differences in values,

differences in opinions,

differences in perspectives?

Be like the trees and let go.

Just as the tree lets go of its leaves in Autumntime.

When we encounter differences,

are we open to letting go of the effort to be right?

Are we able to let go of our resistance to change

in order to make way for something different than we had imagined? 

Do we have the ability, perhaps more importantly do we have the willingness,

to let go of something

when its season has passed?

Be like the trees and breathe.

For there are challenges that we can never make sense of. 

The frustrations of a system that cannot at present keep everyone safe.

Are our hearts and minds able to remain open

to breathe in Life and living

even knowing that there are things about

Life and living

that we cannot begin to comprehend?

Be like the trees and allow our breath of Life

to positively influence

and even transform

our wounded world.

And transform each other.

And what of the comfort, and the artistry, of trees?

Be like the trees and provide shelter, and a place to call home.

In what ways do we offer comfort and beauty and sanctuary? 

To each other and to our larger community? 

In what ways do we allow our radiance to be revealed?

Our branches to be open in welcome to shelter all those who are seeking it?

Be like the trees and stretch.

How far is our reach when seeking to serve in ways that demonstrate

the Love and Grace of our Faith?

To what lengths are we willing to go to to bring

the Love and Grace of our Faith to the World?

What’s OUR TREE?


That’s for each of us to determine.


Unitarian Universalism has claimed the Tree of Love.

Yes, Standing on the Side of Lovethat’s OUR TREE.

Individually we manifest this love,

our individual trees,

in the Orchard that is our congregation

within our chosen ministries and projects:

  • The Food Cupboard
  • Public Witness on the Bridge
  • Social Justice actions
  • The Grandmothers
  • Hosting Vigils and Opportunities for Fellowship
  • Serving on the Board
  • Leading small group ministries
  • Sharing the plate
  • Sunday services, and even coffee hour

Our actions in answering these calls demonstrate how we have claimed Unitarian Universalism’s purpose of Standing on the Side of Love as our own,

and, how Unitarian Universalism can claim us.

Love: That’s Our Tree!

And that is how we how we move past the Afterward;

that’s how we move through it.

And bring Love and Grace to the world in times of tragedy.

And how we bring Love and Grace to each other; and even when we are standing in front of our mirrors.

May we remember our covenants of love.

May we create space

to begin anew when what we have known has crumbled.

When we grow weary of the brokenness,

May we nurture and comfort each other.

May we move in and out of our experienced worlds

with Grace.

Let our words be gentle.

Let our thoughts and our actions

be consistent with the outcome we desire.

Let our thoughts, our words and our deeds

be rooted in manifestations of

Love and Grace.

Let us remember who we are as a people

and behave in a way that shows we do.

Know that:

“When you lead with love,

peace will follow.”

May we love one another.

And may we remember:

Love will prevail.

It will.

It prevails every time we take the opportunity

to wrap each other,

and our world,

in more love

when tragedy strikes.

It prevails every time our conversations and our actions

in our communities and in our churches

are about protecting the most vulnerable among us

and building beloved community.

Love prevails when we speak for love.

When we stand for love. 

When we act for love. 

When we ARE Love.

Love Prevails.

May we be like the trees

and transform our world

with every breath.

May we breathe in Love;
and breathe out Strength.

May we breathe in Strength;
and breathe out Grace.

May we breathe in Grace;
and breathe out Love.

May we send light into the darkness.

May we cradle the hearts of the heart-broken.

May we discover together

how to create a world

where all are welcome and free and safe.


CLOSING HYMN: #205 Amazing Grace



“Go out into the world in peace,
have courage,
hold on to what is good,
return to no person evil for evil,
strengthen the faint-hearted,
support the weak,
help the suffering,
honor all beings.”

And join us for coffee hour…after the postlude 🙂

POSTLUDE – Jason Curran

#TwinklesPlace #TwinkleMarieManning #JasonCurran #UUSermon