Rev. Virginia Jarocha-Ernst
THOUGHT If you see
a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives.... But
close up a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you
get tired, you lose the pattern. ~ Ursula K. LeGuin
CALL TO WORSHIP
“Prayer” by Lisa Colt
May we reveal our abundance without shame.
May we peel back our sleeping wintery layers
Like snakeskins, like the silk chrysalis,
Like clothing cast off during love.(play)
May we unravel with abandon like lovers knots
Before knitting ourselves back to the heart.
May we settle into our own rhythms as tides do-
Within the borders of the moon’s calling.
May the music of our souls
Be accomplished by grand gestures
And the persistent clapping of hummingbird’s wings.
May the milky fingers of the moon
Reach down nightly to cherish and unveil us.
May we turn our bodies generously in its light
Like tranquil fish glinting underwater,
Like precious stones.
When we open our mouths to sing
May the seasons pause in their long journey
To listen and applaud.
PRAYER AND MEDITATION
“Scientists find universe awash in tiny diamonds” by Pat Mayne Ellis
But haven't we always known?
The shimmer of trees, the shaking of flames
every cloud lined with something
clean water sings
right to the belly
scouring us with its purity
it too is awash with diamonds
"so small that trillions could rest
on the head of a pin"
It is not unwise then to say
that the air is hung close with diamonds
that we breathe diamond
our lungs hoarding, exchanging
our blood sowing them rich and thick
along every course it takes
Does this explain
why some of us are so hard
why some of us shine
why we are all precious
that we are awash in creation
spumed with diamonds
shot through with beauty
that survived the death of stars
By Pat Mayne Ellis, from "Cries of the Sprit," Beacon Press,
Boston, © 1991
SERMON Rocks Speak Rev.
There is nothing like a cruel April day to bring out the yearning for
closeness to earth, air, fire and water. The cocoon of winter has yet to shred. If I don’t get out for a walk or
a long bike ride over the thin crust of this earth, I will surely die. If sun
and warmed rock do not make a sandwich of me, I will be less than nothing. What
has been separated for so long (me and the earth) just has to be rejoined.
The poet Thomas Wolfe wrote of "April,"
"...under the pavements trembling like a pulse, under the buildings
trembling like a cry, under the waste of time, under the hoof of the beast
about the broken bones of cities, there will be something growing like a
flower--Something bursting from the earth again, forever deathless,
faithful, coming into life again, Like April."
This month, our theme for spiritual growth is stewardship. Last
week we heard about the ways to deepen our activism to prevent further climate
change and preserve our environment. This week I want to peel back another
layer and look at why we care so much about this earth, this bedrock we live
upon, the only home we know. This desire for a spiritual union and
understanding of the very heart of the planet is a common thread in many
religious traditions, including Christian, Native American, and Native African.
The chant we heard earlier is a blend of these traditions. This chant
from the Yoruba Tribe, called “Ise Oluwa,” means “That which the creator has
made can never be destroyed” or “That which has been created can never be
destroyed.” It is a plea, a reminder and
a call to remember what holds us together beyond death and before the
stars. This rekindling of a sense of connection is at the heart of spiritual practice. Whether in prayer, meditation, silence or
activism, when we know we are connected, we act with careful attention on
behalf of ourselves as well as others. When we each enjoy a sense of meaning and commitment to something larger
than ourselves, we have a better chance of keeping our home safe for another
generation. So today is for examining
and feeling that spiritual connection to the earth and to the universe, a
connection that I hope ultimately advances our activism and good works.
you come at this from a theist, non-theist, spiritual, or scientific
perspective, (or all of the above) the natural world – the created world – is
whole unto itself. And we are just a
part of that vast whole. Our individual
lives, our actions and influence, do matter, but not to the exclusion of
everything else. We each are no more in
control of nature than anyone else, but we do have an effect on the web of
internal-combustion-engine-propelled car may not change the weather systems,
but thousands will and have. One
fracking well drilling for shale oil may be under control and reasonably safe,
but a network of pipelines coursing through miles and across countries,
polluting water tables in order to extract that oil will poison far more than
we can ever manage. We forget or ignore
this fact and this connection at great peril. Someday humanity may find this earth no longer habitable, and our great
grandchildren’s lives may be a much greater struggle than we would ever wish
for them. Should we feel grief and fear
on their behalf ? It would seem only wise! Death and destruction are part of the laws of the universe. And humans
must grieve when they happen. That too is a law of nature.
Just as … That which has been
created can never be destroyed.
So there is, in our stewardship practice, this unexpressed grief that
needs to be acknowledged and worked through. There is in this creation that which is temporary and that which is more
permanent. The force of life, the laws
of nature and the universe have immutable and sustainable powers, yet
everything else is really just temporary. Our lives are mercilessly short. We
know we live just a few years, blips of time in the grand scheme of things.
Fruit flies and goldfish have shorter lives than humans. But even seemingly
ageless rocks and stars have beginnings and endings, as incomprehensible as
that might be to us humans. But the
grief at what we barely found before it is lost, along with what we have
destroyed in the name of progress will surely break your heart. The tears that
are shed might make us able to hear the grief of the earth itself, if we
My Mother by Susan Griffin
At the center of the earth there is a mother.
If any of us who are her children choose to die
She feels a grief like a wound deeper
Than any of us can imagine.
She puts her hands to her face
Like this: her palms open.
Put them there like she does.
Her fingers press into her eyes.
Do that, too.
She tries to howl.
Some of us have decided
This other cannot hear all of us
In our desperate wishes.
Here, in this time,
Our hearts have been cut into small chambers
Like ration cards
And we can no longer imagine every
Morsel nor each tiny
Thought at once,
as she still can.
This is normal,
She tries to tell us,
But we don’t listen.
Sometimes someone has a faint memory
Of all this, and
She is wrong to imagine
She suffers alone.
Do you think we are not all hearing and speaking
At the same time?
Our mother is somber.
She is thinking.
She puts her big ear against the sky
To comfort herself.
Do this. She calls to us.
Beyond this loss and the grief is another law. This one found in any
good science textbook:
The First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy can be changed from one form to
another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and
matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to
Or in other words:
That which has been created can
never be destroyed.
This is the only true comfort for us human beings, naturally focused on
our individual lives and unique stories. Will ‘Virginia’ never be destroyed?
No, she is temporary. Individual personalities do cease to exist, but
our energy, our essence, just changes form. This is as true for rocks and minerals, as it is for plant, animal and
This law of nature and energy connects us with everything there is,
including rocks. I am a student of rock. All kinds: igneous, metamorphic and
sedimentary. Pebbles and boulders, polished and rough, slabs and blocks, beach
sand to mountians. Rock is dependable,
strong – ‘like a rock’! Rock is the
foundation, the building that will not crumble. When wolves huff and puff at our door, a house built of rock will stand
strong. Under pressure, rock can become even more precious, like diamond. How
could we fragile creatures of flesh and bone be anything like rocks? What is
the nature of our kinship?
That which has been created can
never be destroyed.
As a child, I used to think that rocks were alive, but that their life
span was much, much longer than ours, their heartbeats and speech so slow as to
be indiscernible by human senses. This
is no cartoon rock with a face painted on, speaking in a low gravelly
voice. This rock life would be much,
much slower than that. It is a mystery
if rocks have life like this within them, since we’d be incapable of detecting
it. Many of you might say that is not a
mystery at all. You would say it is just a childish fantasy. But imagine, for
just a moment, if it were not.
In our struggle to live sustainably and to be good stewards of this
earth, we feel so alone. Humanity
carries a burden that plants, animals and rocks do not seem to know. If rocks did live, if they could speak,
perhaps they would be powerful partners. Their words would carry the authority
of the earth itself. And how would they
respond to drilling and burning their oil? What would they say when water is
poisoned or land and trees and mountains destroyed for our small pleasures?
I expect it would be a frightening sound. Crying out…
That which has been created can
never be destroyed.
Jesus, on Palm Sunday, was in the midst of a parade of mockery and
praise. His followers made an uproar in praising him. The Pharisees asked Jesus
to keep them in line. But He said “I
tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Some stories just have to be told. There is
a truth far deeper than any mere human story or words strung together on a
Sunday morning. The stones will cry
out! The earth, the minerals and rocks
and fire at the heart of it all will cry out loud.
You see, we are not alone, although at times
it can feel that way. The connections to
the cries at the heart of the earth will be with us as we too cry out. As we work and write letters and advocate in
the halls of justice, and invest in what is good for the earth, we all stand on
solid rock. We keep it company as it
keeps us strong. If we listen deeply, we
may be able to translate, to speak the words the rock needs to be heard. While creation is never ending, what we are
and what we have is precious, fleeting and holy. God could be speaking in rock, or tree, or
bird, or bear, or sunlight. I know this
from childhood through to today. Life
and creation are everywhere, and we are here to listen to its cry, calling us
This Poem is by Barbara Jordan:
A reptilian sheen in the sky,
A predatory darkness
Wincing with stars. In this cup of creation
The wind descends
And lifts the trees, lifts my heart
And the tiny hairs between my shoulders
In a blowing force. I will give my life
For this love that boomerangs light-years;
I will walk to the edge and memorize the
What I fear is the wilderness:
Not the earth’s,
But the spirit’s wilderness
Where there are abandonments beyond
I remember the beautiful dilemma
On the mountain, the compulsion to fly
Over the valley,
The exigency that held me
And left me subdued. What shall we believe
beyond the natural law?
The earth is bread we take and eat.
The love and feeding of this earth is totally reciprocal. In fact, the earth gives far more to us than
we can ever give back. We are enriched
by the life that surrounds us and supports us. We are freely nourished by this earth without any more expectation than
that our bodies will someday return to it, dust to dust, ashes to ashes. All we
are asked while we live is to leave this home as we found it so that those who
follow will be nourished as well.
This is the cry we must listen to, to be able to know when we have
taken enough, our fair share and no more, to be able to live as if we are short
timers in a very long lived place, welcome guests who work to keep that fair
hospitality for the generations to come.
Our Unitarian Universalism supports this assertion in our 7th Principle
– Respect for the interdependent web of which we are a part. Unitarian
Universalist minister and Professor David Bumbaugh writes,
The heart of faith in the twenty-first century, I am convinced, is suggested
by the seventh Principle…Hidden in this apparently uncomplicated,
uncontroversial, innocuous statement is a radical theological position. The seventh Principle calls us to reverence
before the world, not some future world, but this miraculous world of our
everyday experience. It challenges us
to understand the world as reflexive and relational rather than hierarchical…It
calls us to trust the process, the creative, evolving, renewing, redeeming
process which brings us into being, which sustains us in being, and which
transforms our being. It offers a vision
of the world in which the holy, the sacred is incarnated in every moment, in
every aspect of being, a world in which God is always fully present and in
which God is always fully at risk.
UU World, Spring 2007
How we live, what actions we take in caring
for this home, have deep religious and spiritual significance. So act we must. We actually can’t help but act. Take care of
your home, your house, your congregation (clean-up party this afternoon!). Take
care of your community, your country, your continent and all seven of
them. Take care of the water that flows
throughout and the rocks that stay strong. Forged in fire, infused with water and blessed by air and light, we too
are strong enough.
Blessings on our home that sustains and
supports all life as we know. What has been created shall not be destroyed. May
we care because we listen every day. Amen.
Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh was once asked by a student,
“There are so many urgent problems, what should I do?” He replied, “Take one
thing and do it very deeply and carefully, and you will be doing everything at
the same time.”
May we do what we can to be nothing less than a blessing on this earth. May it
be so. Amen.