Sermon: Möbius Life

*We will soon place an audio recording of this service.

FIRST HYMN #128 – For All that is Our Life

SECOND HYMN # 168 – One More Step

CLOSING HYMN # 346 – Come, Sing a Song With Me

PRELUDE, POSTLUDE & SPECIAL MUSIC – Jason Curran

WELCOME:

Welcome to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sangerville and Dover-Foxcroft.

Möbius Life is the theme of our service today.

A Möbius strip or Möbius band is a surface with only one side and only one boundary.

While we are not going to go into its specific (non-orientable) mathematical properties, we are going to explore its ruled surface qualities as they apply allegorically to our experience of life.

  • This carries through into our readings

If you are familiar with the readings,

you will notice they begin at at a different spot than the author originally spoke them and they wrap around to include all the content

– – see how the story of the reading flows as you listen, and consider if it stays true to the original intent even though it seems to be arranged differently.

 

OPENING WORDS

“Holy Ground” by Linda Smith Koehler (UU Society of Bangor)

Where ever you are

you are on holy ground

When ever you are

you are living in sacred time

Who ever you are with

you are in the presence of the divine

So keep that in mind

Keep that in mind

CHALICE LIGHTING

We light this chalice as a symbol of our faith

and in recognition of the sacred space we create

when we gather together

may it ever remind us to be grateful for one another

TIME FOR ALL AGES – Children’s Message

We are going to talk about inside out things today.

For instance: Think about what is inside an orange? If you squeeze an orange – what do you get? Orange juice.

Likewise with pretty much everything, Right?

There are no surprises. If you put a carrot into a juicer, you are not going to see grape juice come out 🙂 Right? You will get carrot juice.  The same when you squeeze an orange = orange juice, lemons = lemon juice. 

The same is true of us – humans!

When you squeeze us, metaphorically, what’s inside us is revealed.

Let’s take a look at another example of inside-out.

This is a Möbius.

  • it looks like it has two sides  – actually, it only has one side!  Can you believe it?
  • Did you know that if an ant were to crawl along the length of this strip, it would return to its starting point having traversed the entire length of the strip (on both sides of the original paper) without ever crossing an edge.
  • Do you know a way to test this theory? 

(hand each child their Möbius ring)

I want you to take your index finger and begin tracing on the inside of the ring. Wow – do you see now that your finger seems to be on the outside of the ring.  It’s a bit of an illusion, huh? You see, it only has one side.   More than an inside and an outside….

What looks like its inner and outer surfaces flow into each other seamlessly, co-creating the whole. 

And, we humans, we are like that too!

Whatever is inside of us continually flows outward
Whatever is outside us continually flows inward

If what is inside us is gratitude, thoughtfulness, peace and kindness, that is what we will send out.  And if those around us are grateful, kind, peaceful and thoughtful, that is what will be given to us.

Hmmm… but what about when the things on the outside, aren’t so nice?  Sometimes people can say or do mean things, or sad things happen, sometimes bad things happen, sometimes we will feel pressured…or squeezed – then what?

Well, I believe that if we practice every day to cultivate gratitude, thoughtfulness and thanks-giving, that will fill us up so much inside us, that when the outside world isn’t so friendly, when we get squeezed a little by circumstances or even feel pressed by our own chattering thoughts and emotions, we will be able to meet it with gentleness and kindness because that is what is inside us.

And the thing about a Möbius is you can begin at any point because it goes on perpetually.  You can start your practice where ever you are.  It’s easiest to begin when you are already feeling good about something. 

But,

If your upset about something, you can circle on inward with the intention of creating peace-of-mind, calmness, and finding things to be grateful for even if they are not immediately obvious on the outside, you can build them on the inside. With practice.

You have an insert with a few words on it.  We are going to do a kind of meditation together.

Practice a Mobius-esque Meditation

Place your hand  here – in the vicinity of your heart – where you can feel the vibration of your voice (hum…hmmm)

Allow your gaze to soften.

Meditation inspired by the song of UU Musician Sarah Dan Jones:

“Breathe in Peace”

some of you may know this tune…

Left side of room – (continue til I ask you to stop):

  • Breathe in, Breathe out,
  • Breathe in, Breathe out

Right side of room:

  • When I breathe in, I breathe in peace
  • When I breathe out, I breathe out love

I will cue you along the way…

Harmony:

  • When I breathe in I breathe in peace
  • When I breathe out I breathe out love

 

READING #1: “Swimming to the Other Side” by Pat Humphries

click image for full view

 

READING #2: 

“All Along The Watchtower” by Bob Dylan (Mobius-esque)

SERMON:  Möbius Life 

When life provides us with a challenge, we see something emerging that scares us or the rug seems to have been pulled out from beneath us, we can feel like we have to begin all over again.  But, I would like to suggest that that is almost never the case.

That each step of our journey builds upon those before it, and those yet to come.

That, as the Thief reminded the Joker, we are not new at this, collectively, and individually as adults, we’ve been doing life for a long time. And we know that when darkness falls and the winds begin to howl, eventually they will subside.  The landscape may be rearranged by the wind and others on their journeys may have left their marks both beautiful and otherwise, leaving the environment around us looking less familiar – – but the “how to” navigate is consistent.

Once you’ve lived a certain number of years – you can begin to see your life, and life around you, has recognizable patterns. 

In some ways this shouldn’t surprise us. 

Many of us are familiar with the cycles of the moon, we recognize the seasons as they shift one to the other. 

There is a rhythm that is consistent with what we have come to be comfortable with – even if we don’t like the cold of winter, or the heat of summer, we accept them for what they are and adapt.

It is in our ability to not just adapt, but to also prepare, that enables the journey, even in the most difficult and unfamiliar passages, to unfold with more ease and peace of mind.

A Möbius strip in song, poem, or practice can begin at any place for its content has continuity,

You can start at the first sentence, anywhere throughout, or even last stanza and then wrap it around and it flows – – its story unfolding as clearly as if you began it from the assumed beginning.

Assumed beginning because there are alot of things that come into play before Once Upon a Time.  There is a history of what came before the perceived beginning of each chapter of our story, what led up to it,

and also  – the places it will lead us to.

If we can view the content of our life as a Möbius, or perhaps its more familiar display, as an infinity configuration,

  • – we can begin to understand that the context of our life is more than this moment, yet this moment often becomes the most important 

or at least the focal point – – because it is where we are,

and we can forget that the full context of our life includes the before and the afterward. 

If we can view our life not merely moment by moment or verse by verse, and rather within the scope of the full story of our lives, we may well find that our interpretations about circumstances and events become more accurate.

I encourage you to also consider that the practices we cultivate directly influence our perceptions and impact how we respond to our experiences.

There is also alot of room for misinterpretation if we only look at a piece of a puzzle.

For instance

There is a sentence found in a very well known book that states unequivocally:

“There is no God.”

That book is the bible.

The sentence is found in the first verse of 14th Psalm.

If that was the only sentence of the bible you read, you would have a perception about the book that is contrary to what the entire rest of the book says.

Because the content and context of the book contain a fuller explanation than one sentence selected at random or with intention ever could.

Likewise with our lives.

Most of our present moments can be summed up in one sentence or even a few words.

  • She won the lottery
  • He lost his job
  • They got married
  • My loved one died
  • Birth of a baby
  • Graduated college
  • Diagnosed with an illness
  • Started a business
  • They fell in love
  • Built a new home

the list goes on…

Yet there is more to each of these moments. They are always within the context of our lives, not isolated and so influenced by the whole.

What came before informs how you respond and how you respond will determine the path to what comes next.

So when we are faced with something, really anything, we can be assured that we are meeting ourselves on this path of life with all the experience we have – – – – – – and will have.

And we can draw from those experiences, positioning ourselves to weather any storm.

I recently came across a story retold by a UU colleague in Ireland – Rev. Brigit Spain – I believe she found it in the book:

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. 

Mitch received the story in his youth from his Rabbi Albert Lewis.

It is called:

John Sleeps Well in a Storm

A farmer was in need of help tending his farm. He lived alone, having been widowed for some time and was getting on in years.  His children were all grown and have moved far away and so the farmer lived alone way out in the country. The work of keeping up the farm was beginning to take its toll on him.  He loved his home, loved his farm and wanted to maintain it.  But he really really needed help.

He put out ads but because it was so far out in the country he did not get very many responses.  Finally the farmer received a response from a young man. 

So he interviewed him and discovered the man to be very quiet.

The farmer asked him:

“Do you know how to cut hay?”

John said “Yes.”

“Do you know how to sow barley?”

John said “Yes.”

“Do you know how to look after cattle?”

John said “Yes.”

That’s all he could get out of John.

So he asked if there was anyone that John used to work for that could give him a reference?

So he could determine

if he actually had the experience

if he was good

if he was trustworthy

John said yes indeed had a reference, and a letter soon arrived to the farmer,

but it was very short.

The letter of recommendation from another farmer several townships away simply said,

“John sleeps well in a storm.”

Which didn’t make alot of sense to the farmer.

But after scratching his head and wondering on it for a short while, since there were no others applying for the job and since the farmer really really needed help desperately, he decided to give John a try and hired him and gave him a small cabin on the property to live in.

Now John continued to be very quiet as he went about his work.

And he was only there a short while, about a week, when a big storm was forecasted and the farmer was curious how it would go.

The storm came late in the evening and the farmer was quite anxious, becoming more so as the wind got louder and louder, and the rain beating on the window, and then flashes of light, and loud booms of thunder

that he was worried may startle the animals.

Concerned, the farmer decided to check on things, and to get John to help him.

He went outside and knocked on John’s door.

Not a sound from John.  He knocked again but couldn’t wake him.

So the farmer went around the farm checking on things himself.

And he discovered that everything was very tidy.

When he went to the barn, the doors were all closed.

When he went to the hay shed, the hay was all carefully tied down,

the grain was dry.

The animals were carefully put in their stalls.

Everything was secure and as it should be.

And suddenly the farmer knew what the reference meant….

Because John, as was his practice, had done everything he should have done to prepare carefully, mindfully, for the forecasted storm he could rest peacefully knowing everything would be ok.

And, like John, if we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be filled with restlessness or aching feelings of incomplete work.

And it works both ways. 

John, he prepared on the outside, so he could rest easy on the inside. 

We can prepare inside, so we can be equipped for whatever life has to offer outside of us. 

And we can be ready to greet Life with our innermost truth and gifts. 

If we cultivate hearts filled with love, filled with gratitude, we will have these at the ready so that in both bright and dark days we can experience these, and share these with others. 

If we mindfully prepare ourselves in this way, we will be better equipped to respond in loving ways, rather than to react out of fear.

*The Möbius wrapping around is an indication of the infinite loop and so it is with life.

Whatever is inside of us continually flows outward
Whatever is outside us continually flows inward

If life on the outside is presenting things to be grateful for

gather the gratitude for those into your Heart’s storehouse

If life on the outside is presenting things that cause you to feel fear or sadness, reach into your heart and find the place where your love and your gratitude and your peace and peace of mind resides and bring that forward,

because the world needs it.

You need it.

Let’s sing our closing hymn together.

 

CLOSING WORDS

(From First Parish in Concord Benediction):

“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.”

Be grateful for the gifts you have

Practice being the You you most want to be

And Trust that you can weather any storm.

Amen.

POSTLUDE – Jason Curran