Celebration

     A New Unity Sunday Gathering

 

Today, we kindle a flame for all the good in our lives

Though we may arrive with sorrow and disappointment

We each bring also much to rejoice, not the least of which is that

we have been given the opportunity to live and breathe and experience another day

Let this light shine for joy

Let it shine for accomplishment

Let it shine for the beauty that is in us and around us

Today, let this flame burn with celebration



Readings

 

Celebration, by Denise Levertov

Brilliant, this day – a young virtuoso of a day.
Morning shadow cut by sharpest scissors,
deft hands. And every prodigy of green –
whether it's ferns or lichens or needles
or impatient points of buds on spindly bushes –
greener than ever before. And the way the conifers
hold new cones to the light for the blessing,
a festive right, and sing the oceanic chant the wind
transcribes for them!
A day that shines in the cold
like a first-prize brass band swinging along
the street
of a coal-dusty village, wholly at odds
with the claims of reasonable gloom.

 

Seeds of Change, by Carol Hepokoski

You’ve been gathering seeds, testing them out on new ground. Some take hold germinate, grow within. Others fall away, finding fertile fields elsewhere.
To ground your life To remind you of the connection to earth, the connection to the sources that nourish your body, your very self:
Seeds.
The Seeds of Change Heirloom seeds Organically grown seeds.
Summer savory, crookneck squash, foxy foxglove…
Glean the information from the packet, wait ‘til the conditions are right... Some you plant now, some in late summer, some you’ll hold ‘til next spring. (Packed for this year, they’ll keep just fine.)
Walla Walla onion, edible chrysanthemum, jalapeño chili…
Good work for your hands, your soil, your soul. Planting seeds...nurturing life...feasting at harvest... gathering seeds for the next generation.
Mustard greens, eggplant, sweet keeper squash…
Seeds of change. May you find in them the complexity of heritage and the deep goodness of life itself.


Message, by Andy Pakula

 

Welcome to August.

It is the height of summer. It is that time we might recall from earlier years as a time of freedom - a rare extended time of life without books, teachers, revisions, and exams. For those of us who are students now - or especially teachers - this is still the case.

August is the time when the natural world absolutely teems with gifts. Fruits have started to arrive. The tomatoes in my garden are plump and gleaming and preparing to ripen.
For our ancestors - whose food was obtained without the benefit of Waitrose, Tesco, and Sainsbury and the technology and transport systems that make everything in season all the time, this was a time for celebration. It was this time when the grain harvest began. It was no small thing when you watched as the stored supply of grains dwindled throughout the year and another year’s survival depended on a successful harvest. Imagine the appreciation, the relief, the sheer joy of the stores of life-sustaining grain being replenished.

Yesterday - the 1st of August - was one of the most joyous days in the Celtic year. It was called Lamma - from the Anglo-Saxon for “loaf mass” and it was celebrated with great abandon.
This special time of year seems a good time to explore celebration.

I have had a difficult relationship with celebration throughout my life. When you grow up understanding that you have to be perfect, there never seems to be a time when you’ve done enough to really celebrate. I know that many of you share with me this sense that whenever we arrive at some achievement, it is immediately time to look toward the next step - the next goal.

No way-point in the climb is high enough to merit a heartfelt self-congratulation. Even reaching the mountain’s peak is simply the prompt to think about those who have done it faster or climbed higher, more challenging, mountains.

Image from http://www.todayifoundout.com

Image from http://www.todayifoundout.com

Those of us who feel like this imagine that celebration will make us content - that pausing to rejoice in the achievements of today will prevent us from climbing higher tomorrow. When progress is the only measure, nothing is good enough.

A friend told me about congratulating an American LGBT rights campaigner about this year’s monumental supreme court decision that will make same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States.

The response? There is too much work left to do to celebrate. I want to say - as much to me as to you - “don’t be ridiculous!”

Every achievement - every advance in civil rights - every step in learning a skill - every career - every relationship - is built one step at a time. There is no virtue in starving ourselves of praise and joy when we move forward. Joy is fuel for the journey. Joy and celebration refill us with energy for the road ahead.

As you probably know, New Unity is a member of the Hackney Chapter of Citizens UK, a community organising and campaigning organisation. Citizens helps people to organise. We have been involved in securing a living wage for more workers, ensuring safer housing, working for greater street safety, providing more opportunities for youth to gain employment, and much more.

These are difficult challenges and campaigns that can take many years and many many people. There are setbacks along the way. There are many points where people can become discouraged and hopeless and give up.

I’m happy to welcome Caitlin Burbridge, community organiser for Hackney Citizens, to talk about celebration.

 

Caitlin Burbridge, Hackney Citizens

 

Like Citizens does, I hope that each of us can bring ourselves to celebrate the achievements in life. In the progress toward any goal, there are always waypoints along the way - small wins. By celebrating them, we make all our pursuits more joyful, more feasible, less frustrating, and we create more energy and optimism for getting there.

Even if we are able to celebrate these significant steps in our individual and communal journeys though, most of us still miss most of what is worth celebrating. There are millions of small wonders in our lives that we take for granted - that we walk blithely by without even considering that a cloth upholstery on bus seats might be worthy of a tickertape parade or that it would not be excessive to launch fireworks at the experience of finding a wifi access point.

I’d like to give you the chance to celebrate today. Of course, you can celebrate alone, but how much more wonderful to celebrate all together.

We have some special celebration equipment today, thanks to Bodhi Hunt, who is a member of our Sunday Gatherings team.

Once those are all distributed, I’m going to invite you to share something you’d like to celebrate. You just need to stand up where you are - one at a time - and say it good and loud. And those streamers can be used too - just try to use them one or two at a time so they last through all the celebrations.

[Members of the congregation share their celebrations!]

 

Celebrate the moments of your life
Celebrate the steps forward you take
Celebrate the advances of humanity
Celebrate the beauty that surrounds us
Celebrate - it is fuel for the great journey
Let us go onward with joy