As we gather today
Let our coming together bring out the best in each of us
By the light of this flame let us be
More loving together
And stronger together
Than we are apart
May our gathering lead us each toward wholeness
Reading: Our Deepest Fear, by Marianne Williamson
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
[There is a great strength within us]
It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
Message, part 1: by Rev. Andy Pakula
“You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
So says Glinda, the good witch of the south.
Dorothy had always had the power to get back home. She had the power to solve her dilemma, to escape the evil witch and the horrifying flying monkeys. She didn’t actually need the scarecrow, tin man, or lion. She didn’t need the fraudulent wizard!
She had the power all along.
For all of us who sometimes feel frustrated, for all of us who sometimes feel disappointed, for all of us who sometimes feel powerless – this is a story that touches something deep in us.
If you start to think about all the stories we love, you see it everywhere. Harry Potter – the powerless become powerful. Neo in the Matrix. Just about every superhero starts powerless and discovers their power.
We want these stories. We are attracted to them because of what they say about possibility for us - for how they make us feel. Every time I walk out of a film with superheroes or other characters that discover their hidden strength, I feel capable and strong. I feel powerful. I feel like there is something mighty in me that I only need to draw upon to be able to overcome everything that holds me back.
Marianne Williamson’s poem “Our Deepest Fear” has caught the imaginations of many. It is not surprising, as it tells us exactly what we need to hear. We want to feel that inner power – we want to find that strength hidden within us.
I don’t feel afraid of being powerful, though. I feel afraid of many things. I even feel afraid of feeling afraid. But I don’t feel afraid that I am powerful beyond measure – I know that I am not.
And yet there is much truth to Williamson’s poem. We have much more strength and power and resilience than we imagine. We have much more courage than we know. We can bear more hurt than we think we can and we can come out whole on the other side. We are much more than our critics have told us – parents and teachers and coworkers and bosses and so-called friends who convinced us we were weak.
We do have strength. We can shine. We need to know it and we should not let anyone convince us otherwise.
Story: The Tea-Master
Long ago in Japan there was a master of the tea ceremony. The tea-master practised his art in the palace of Lord Tosa.
One day Lord Tosa was invited to visit the Shogun in the city of Yeddo. He brought with him not only his warriors but also the master of the tea ceremony. He wanted the Shogun to enjoy the tea-master’s great art.
The custom of the Shogun was that every man who entered his palace should be dressed in the traditional costume of a samurai warrior. When the tea-master arrived with Lord Tosa’s entourage he wore the two crossed swords of a samurai, although he had never before used a sword in his life.
On many occasions in the next few days Lord Tosa asked his tea-master to perform the tea ceremony, and the tea-master became a favourite in the Shogun’s court. After a few days, the tea-master was given leave to spend a few hours out in the streets of the city. He was delighted to leave the palace and wander about, watching the hustle and bustle. Seeing the children play in the schoolyards reminded him of his own little son and daughter back home, and he smiled.
When it was time for him to return to the palace, the tea-master began to walk back the way he had come. He came to a bridge and began to cross it. Coming towards him on the bridge was a large, mean-looking man. This man was a ronin, a mercenary swordsman who roamed the countryside. The ronin was in an ugly mood. As he passed the little tea-master he jostled him and the tea-master fell to the ground. When the tea-master stood up and tried to walk away, the ronin stopped him and said, "How dare you push me!?"
"Pardon me," said the tea-master politely, "but I believe it was you who knocked against me. I was the one who fell."
"Are you calling me a liar?" the big man shouted. "Come on, take out your sword and let’s settle this argument right here and now!"
"Ah, I’m afraid that I cannot oblige you with a fight," said the tea-master. "Let me explain. You see, I’m not really a samurai. I practise the tea ceremony for Lord Tosa. I am wearing these garments and swords because my lord is visiting the Shogun, and I must dress like a warrior to enter the palace. I have never held a sword in my life."
"So you say," sneered the ronin, "and what I say is that you are nothing but a coward. If you refuse to give me satisfaction, if you refuse to fight, I will tell the whole town that your Lord Tosa is served by men who have no honour."
The tea-master did not want to dishonour his lord. He stood before the ronin, his mind racing and his heart pounding. All of a sudden he had an idea. He remembered that on his meander through Yeddo he had passed an academy of swordfighting. He thought to himself, "I will return to that academy and learn at least how to hold the sword properly; then when he kills me I will not die in a shameful manner."
He spoke to the ronin and said, "I will fight you. Before I do so, grant me two hours to complete a certain errand. I promise to meet you back here on the bridge and settle our dispute with swords."
The mercenary thought that the little man must be going off to collect a bribe, and he was happy to grant the delay. "See that you return in two hours," he said, "or all of Yeddo will know of your disgrace."
The tea-master hurried down the street to the door of the swordfighting academy. He explained his urgent need to see the swordmaster, and the doormen brought him in. As quickly as he could, the tea-master described his dilemma, concluding, ". . . so you see I have come to learn from you how to hold a sword properly so that when I receive my deathblow, at least I will die with honour."
"I understand," said the swordmaster. Then he smiled.
"Before I teach you my art," said the swordmaster, "would you be so kind as to show my yours?"
The tea-master knew that this would be his last chance to practise his art. With a great effort he began to prepare. He assembled the elements and utensils of the tea ceremony: the tea, the water, the whisk, the clay vessel, the brazier. Then he prepared himself. When all was ready, with a peaceful spirit he was able to serve the tea to the swordmaster.
The swordmaster watched the tea-master carefully and, after he had sipped from the bowl of tea, he said, "I see now that you are already a great master. I have nothing further to teach you. You already know everything necessary for your combat.”
The tea-master was puzzled, but there was no more time for a lesson in sword-holding or swordfighting. He thanked the swordmaster and took his leave. He began to walk back to the bridge. As he walked, he tried to prepare himself not for a fight but for a tea ceremony. He felt calm, as if he were going to serve tea for a well-loved friend. He approached the scene of the combat. Step by step he let go of his hope, and step by step he let go of his fear.
By the time he reached the bridge he could see the ronin striding about, shouting and brandishing his sword. A crowd had gathered, eager to see blood. The tea-master walked slowly up to the ronin, greeted him, and thanked him for waiting. He placed his jacket and fan upon the ground, rolled up his sleeves, and tied the headband of resolution about his head. He took his sword, held it above his head, and said that he was ready to fight. The sword felt amazingly light in his hands. Then he closed his eyes.
The tea-master stood there for a long time, but the ronin’s cry of attack never came. Finally the little man opened his eyes. He saw an astonishing sight. The ronin’s sword lay on the ground in front of him. The mercenary soldier was backing away from him, his eyes full of terror and confusion. He broke into a run and dashed around the corner.
When the ronin had looked at the face of the tea-master, standing quietly in front of him, he lost his nerve. He did not know how to fight an enemy who showed neither hope nor fear. He did not know how to attack a man who stood peacefully, eyes closed, sword held without a quiver high above his head, waiting to serve, not tea, but his whole life. The ronin had been so scared that he’d thrown his own sword down and made his escape, glad he hadn’t been slaughtered by so powerful an enemy.
Message, part 2: by Rev. Andy Pakula
For many years, I sought to develop the power of a business master. I practiced negotiation. I learned to use spreadsheets and create budgets. I went on management training courses. I built business plans. I made Powerpoint decks by the hundred and worked to convince larger companies that they should partner with the startups that employed me. I earned a masters degree in business administration.
You see, I understood my proper power to be the power of the master of business. I sought to develop my power to hire and fire and command and get promoted and make lots of money for my company and for myself.
And although I had some success, the business power within me was not strong. When I sought to bring out a different kind of strength, everything changed.
[Picture: The Avengers]
You know who these people are? These are The Avengers from the Marvel entertainment world.
I like films about the Avengers. Yes – I know this is not high art and that I would score more points showing something from a very cultured foreign film, preferably not in English, preferably one with no action or special effects.
But appreciating those films is not one of my powers, so I like The Avengers very much.
But the reason I’m showing you this image is to consider that not one of these superheroes has every power.
Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Thor, Ironman, The Hulk, Captain America, Captain Marvel, and Hawkeye.
They each discovered their powers within and then they cultivated those powers and worked with them until they were powerful – each in their own way.
And this true also for all of us. You may have one great power like Hawkeye or Quicksilver or you may have several like Captain Marvel. There is no value in trying to cultivate a power that is not true to you. Even the Hulk can’t lift Thor’s hammer. Captain America will never be able to manipulate energy or be great with a bow and arrow.
Your power will only emerge if it is true to who you are. Find your power and use it to make a difference – for you, for us, and for the world.
May it be so.
Wherever you are in your life
Whatever you are going through
There is a reservoir of strength within you to draw upon
You have the power to accept what is behind you
To face what is ahead of you
And to join together with others
In the quest for a better tomorrow