Giving Thanks and Going Deeper

Published by FirstUUAdmin on

by Rev Michelle Scott-Huffman

In the coming week, many Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving, albeit much differently than in “normal” years. This holiday provides an opportunity for us to practice gratitude. It also offers opportunity for reflection on our history, our commitment to healing for everyone, and the actions that lead to healing.

Our Opening words today are Not for the Faint of Heart by Rev Dr Paul Rasor

Liberal theology is not for the faint of heart. It points us in a general direction without telling us the specific destination. It refuses to make our commitments for us, but holds us accountable to the commitments we make. . . . It invites us to live with ambiguity without giving in to facile compromise; to engage in dialogue without trying to control the conversation; to be open to change without accepting change too casually; to take commitment seriously but not blindly; to be engaged in the culture without succumbing to the culture’s values.

The Sun That Shines
Words: Dimitri S. Bortniansky and John Andrew Storey
Music: David Dawson
Used with Permission
Performed by Eva Riebold

To borrow a line from the lyrics of this hymn, our church community is “rich as rich can be” because of the time, talent, and treasure of our members and friends (to borrow the phrase from our pledge drive). We are certainly enriched for Eva being willing to share her piano playing with us week after week. This hymn always reminds me to take a moment to get centered in the many good things that surround me and just be grateful.

I’ve linked to Rev. Kimberly Debus’s blog about our hymnal on many occasions, but her words about this hymn just feel so timely: “Politicians are fighting about who we are, battling over various and varied ideologies, exploiting our humanity (and forgetting to talk about the rest of the planet), insulting and harming each other. It’s a cantankerous, rancorous, angry time – and the atmosphere both within and outside of politics is at times vile…Maybe, during each of these horrible and hard and traumatizing days, the few minutes spent with these hymns is not just helpful but necessary medicine to ease our collective existential pain.” This was written in 2016 but her whole message feels so very needed right now. You can read it here.

Give Thanks
Words: Anonymous, C. 1904
Music: William’s Caldwell’s Union Harmony, 1837
Used with Permission
Performed by Eva Riebold

For so much of this year, many of us found ourselves struggling to find things to be grateful for. Conversely, many in this congregation have shared that practicing gratitude has been helpful and healing in these many challenging months. Eva and I hope you will join in singing along with this hymn together this week as we pause for a moment to share gratitude, while also holding room for all the pain and sorrow we find ourselves sitting with, too. May our shared expressions of gratitude for one another be healing in this space.

UU Minister Kimberly Debus has this to say about this hymn: “We have much to be thankful for – even if not everyone has all of those things. We have much to be thankful for – even as we work to ensure everyone eventually does. We have much to be thankful for – even if it’s simply a hymn that reminds us not just what we have, but what we know is true in the world, and what calls us to help.” You can read her whole reflection here.

Church is the Way We Live
Words and Music by Amanda Udis-Kessler
Used with Permission
Performed by The First UU Virtual Choir

I was looking through free-use music appropriate for our services and was blown away by these lyrics by a friend to our congregation, Amanda Udis-Kessler. She wrote a song specifically for one our services back in August, and I frequently find myself going back to her generous offerings of restriction-free music for inclusive church services. This particular song was so moving to me in this time that we are physically separated from our building and from one another. The lyrics particularly brought Colleen’s video from last week to my mind about who we are and where we’re going. This song seems like a very appropriate one to share during pledge drive time, too, as it really reminds us of why we would even want to commit to the growth and health of this community and what a church like this can be in our lives.

In These Hard Times
Word and Music by Linda Hirschhorn
Used with Permission
Performed by the First UU Virtual Choir

I think the choir really outdid themselves on this one. I had a moment the other night as I was editing this track together where I teared up a bit to hear our choir members singing this for us. Singer/songwriter and Cantor Linda Hirschhorn wrote this somewhere back in March of this year when we were all dealing with so much fear and uncertainty. I have been so amazed by and grounded in the resilience of this community as we have adapted and found ways to ensure there is still singing, sharing, connecting, grieving, and celebrating together in these hard times. Our church musicians have particularly risen to the occasion and learned strange, new ways to share and collaborate and continue to touch my heart with their willingness to keep raising their voices for these virtual projects. With my gratitude, we’re excited to share this and remind all of us that there will always be singing in these hard times.

You can read more about the song here.

Our closing words are What We Share, by Rev Michelle Collins.

For the dreams we have shared,

for the pains we have shared,

for the hopes and wishes we have shared, 

these we hold and carry in our hearts with care 

as we go from this place.

Categories: Sermon