September 25, 2016

Bibliography/Links of interest:
Rex Hunt Liturgies
Compassion Meditation-Greater Good in Action
Loving Kindness for Children – Buddahanet
Minute for Mission
Passing the Peace: Social Gesture or Sacred Act – Kymberly Burke-Cole
How to Teach Children Loving Kindness – Sharon Sharlzburg
Trust Me Church: When Passing the Peace Turns Stressful for Me – Patheos
Passing the Peace: A Tradition in Many Faiths – Unitarian Universalist Association
Don’t Overdo Passing the Peace in Church – Time Herald
Passing the Peace – Chuck Knows Church
Will You Please Pass the Peace? – North Park Pres
Kiss of Peace – Wikipedia

Hymn                     Deep In Our Hearts                                MV 154
Words of Welcome and Announcements

Lighting the Christ Candle & Passing the Peace
A word about the Importance of Consent
The “Passing of the Peace” is an ancient ritual of forgiveness and reconciliation between members of a congregation and even with oneself.  During the Passing of the Peace, you are encouraged to search your heart for the places where you need to offer forgiveness and the places you need to ask forgiveness.  As always, consent is a must.  You should not feel guilty if you are unable to receive someone’s gift of peace, nor should you feel guilty if your gift of peace is not received.  Please be aware of body language and the variety of needs in regards to personal space.

Hymn                     For the Fruit of all Creation                          VU 227

 Call to Worship
One: Come all who are seeking:
All: the lonely, the scared
One: the hurt, the questioning
All: Come all who are seeking compassion.

Opening Prayer
Spirit God, we pray for your presence in this space.  May we be filled with compassion for each other and for each person we meet.  May compassion grow in us and in others we pray.  Amen.

Loving Kindness Meditation – adapted from Great Good in Action (link above)
Settling
Fold your piece of paper in half and then in half again to make 4 sections.  Settle into a comfortable position and allow yourself to relax.
Take a deep breath and release. [2 seconds]
For a few moments, just focus on your breath and clear your mind of worries.

Loving-kindness & Compassion for a Loved One
Draw or Picture someone who is close to you, someone who you feel a great amount of love for.
Notice how this love feels in your heart.
Perhaps you feel a sensation of warmth, openness, and tenderness.
Continue breathing, and focus on these feelings as you continue to draw or visualize your loved one. As you breathe out, imagine that you are extending a golden light that holds your warm feelings from the center of your heart. Imagine that the golden light reaches out to your loved one, bringing him or her peace and happiness. Let’s pray for this person.
May you have happiness.
May you be free from suffering.
May you experience joy and ease.
Amen.
Notice how this feels in your heart.

Compassion for a Loved One
Now think of a time when this person was suffering.   Maybe they experienced an illness, an injury, or a difficult time in a relationship. [15 seconds]
Notice how you feel when you think of his or her suffering. How does your heart feel? Do you continue to feel warmth, openness and tenderness? Are there other feelings, maybe an aching sensation? [10 seconds]
Continue to visualize your loved one as you breathe.  Imagine that you are extending the golden light from your heart to your loved one, and that the golden light is easing your loved one feel better. Extend this light out to them during your exhalation, with the strong heartfelt wish that they be free from his or her suffering. Let’s pray for your loved one:
May you be free from this suffering.
May you have joy and happiness.
Amen.
Notice how this feels in your heart.

Compassion for Self
Contemplate a time when you have suffered yourself. If you are drawing, this goes in the second box. Perhaps you experienced a conflict with someone you care about, or did not succeed in something you wanted, or were physically ill. [15 seconds]
Notice how you feel when you think of your suffering. How does your heart feel? Do you continue to feel warmth, openness, and tenderness? Are there other feelings, perhaps an aching sensation? [10 seconds]
Just as we wish for our loved one’s suffering to end, we wish that our own suffering would end. We may also envision our own pain and suffering leaving us so that we may experience happiness.
Continue to visualize yourself as you breathe. Imagine that the golden light emanating from your heart is easing your suffering. With each exhalation, feel the light emanating within you, with the strong heartfelt wish that you be free from your suffering. Let’s pray for ourselves:
May each of us be free from our suffering.
May each of us have joy and happiness.
Amen.
Again, notice how this feels in your heart.

Compassion for a Neutral Person
Now visualize someone you neither like nor dislike—someone you may see in your everyday life, such as a classmate with whom you are not familiar, a bus driver, or a stranger you pass on the street. [5 seconds]  If you are drawing, this person goes in the third box.
Although you are not familiar with this person, think of how this person may suffer in his or her own life. This person may also have conflicts with loved ones, or struggled with an addiction, or may have suffered illness. Imagine a situation in which this person may have suffered. [30 seconds]
Notice your heart center. Does it feel different? Do you feel more warmth, openness and tenderness?, perhaps an aching feeling? How does your heart feel different from when you were envisioning your own or a loved one’s suffering?  [10 seconds]
Continue to visualize or draw this person as you breathe. Imagine that you are extending the golden light from your heart to them, and that the golden light is easing his or her suffering. Extend this light out to them during your exhalation, with the strong heartfelt wish that he or she be free from suffering. See if this wish can be as strong as the wish for your own or a loved one’s suffering to be relieved.  Let’s pray for these people:
May you be free from this suffering.
May you have joy and happiness.
Amen
Again, notice how this feels in your heart. Did the feelings change from when you were envisioning this person’s suffering? Did you continue to feel warmth, openness and tenderness? Were there other sensations? Did you have a wish to take away this person’s suffering? How were these feelings different from when you were wishing to take away your own or a loved one’s suffering? [30 seconds]

Compassion for an Enemy
Now visualize or draw someone with whom you have difficulty in your life. This may be a parent or child with whom you disagree, an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, a roommate with whom you had an argument, or a co-worker with whom you do not get along. [5 seconds]
Although you may have negative feelings towards this person, think of how this person has suffered in his or her own life. This person has also had conflicts with loved ones, or has dealt with failures, or may have suffered illness. Think of a situation in which this person may have suffered. [30 seconds]
Notice your heart center. Does it feel different? Do you feel more warmth, openness and tenderness? Are there other feelings, perhaps an aching feeling? How does your heart feel different from when you were envisioning your own or a loved one’s suffering? [10 seconds]
Continue to visualize this person as you breathe. Imagine that you are extending the golden light from your heart to him or her, and that the golden light is easing his or her suffering. Extend this light out to him or her during your exhalation, with the strong heartfelt wish that he or she be free from suffering. See if this wish can be as strong as the wish for your own or a loved one’s suffering to be relieved. Let’s pray for him or her:
May you be free from this suffering.
May you have joy and happiness.
Amen.
If you have difficulty in wishing for this person’s suffering to be relieved, you may think of a positive interaction you have had with this person that can help you in wishing them joy and happiness. Perhaps there were times when you got along, laughed together, or worked well together on an assignment.
 Notice how your heart feels.

Compassion for All Beings
Now that we are almost at the end, let’s end with prayer for all other beings’ suffering to be relieved. Just as I wish to have peace, happiness, and to be free from suffering, so do all beings. [10 seconds]
May all of creation be free from suffering.  May all of creation have joy and happiness.  Amen.

M&P Presentation

Readings: 1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

Hymn                     Psalm 91                                              VU 808/809

More on “Passing the Peace”
When I was asked to reintroduce the Passing of the Peace on a semi-regular basis, I wondered how it had fallen out of practice.  I know my own feelings on it, and my own assumptions as to why it isn’t practiced as much as it once was, but what was the history of the Passing of the Peace.

It’s a more common tradition in Anglican and Roman Catholic churches as an act of absolution before receiving communion.  This makes sense.  You aren’t supposed to take communion if you are holding a grudge, anger or hurt in your heart, so the Passing of the Peace is a liturgical act of letting go of those negative feelings.  It’s a transformation of the self and when practiced in community, a transformation of the community.  It’s always been part of the United Church tradition, existing in the liturgy before communion up until 1984.  Let’s see if you remember “Peace be with you”.  And also with you. “Lift up your hearts” We lift them up to the Lord.

In 1984, the Church service manual introduced the idea that Passing the Peace could happen without communion following it.  People liked this idea, and some churches adopted this practice on a regular basis.  Enter the time of H1N1, and consent.  The lax care and social atmosphere that Passing the Peace evolved into quickly became problematic.

But what happens when Passing the Peace becomes problematic?  Some people simply won’t understand what I’m about to say.  So I’m asking you to remember the Loving Kindness mediation, and project some compassion on these people you don’t know or understand.  For some people, a hug is a dangerous thing.  For people who have been raped or abused, a hug may make them feel threatened and vulnerable again.  For people with body issues, letting someone so close to their body, and able to really see it, makes them feel vulnerable.  For some people with auto immune issues of their own or in their houses, the risk of possible contact with a bacteria or virus unknowingly passed along not only makes them feel vulnerable, but in some instances poses a real life threat.  For some people, self-esteem, self-worth, or cultural practices come into play and they are simply unable to make eye contact.  No one enjoys feeling threatened or vulnerable.  That only encourages walls to be strengthened or built around ourselves keeping all others out, making us seem stand-offish, snobby or rude when really the person is most likely deeply hurt.  Building walls, even if they are to protect you, is a dangerous thing.  That’s not what the Passing of the Peace is meant to be.  Passing of the Peace is meant to be intimate, but just as with anything else intimate, trust must be in place before this can truly happen.  Before there is trust, there must be compassion.

I was nervous about the scripture readings for today.  They aren’t terribly pleasant.  In fact, the Luke passage is downright horrible.  But it sure does reinforce the need, regardless of your beliefs around heaven and hell, for compassion.

Compassion can make a huge difference in someone’s life.  It’s the difference between feeling alone and isolated in your experience or feeling listened to and valued even in your experience.  Offering compassion can also change a person’s life.  It can be addictive for some people, becoming their whole life’s purpose.  Offering compassion gives you the opportunity to be an answer to prayer.  It gives you the chance to be the hands of God, the face of God, to bear the heart of God to someone who might not experience God in any other way.  Compassion allows you to give someone else the gift of grace.  To behold the gift of grace is to see true beauty.  So indulge me for a moment.  The next time you offer The Peace of Christ, take a moment, recall the Loving Kindness meditation and the compassion you created during that exercise.  Look around you.  Find that person – one who you didn’t come with, one who you’ve never spoken with before, maybe even one you need to forgive.  Read their body language.  Are they able to reciprocate at all?  Is all they can offer eye contact, the peace sign, a fist bump, a hand shake? Are they aching for a hug?  Are you ready for the flood of emotions that grace can bring?  Are you ready to let go of hurt or offence if someone is unable to reciprocate to the level you wish that they would?  Are you ready to allow the Christ within you to speak to the Christ within the other person?
Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation
We’ve practiced loving kindness.  We’ve talked about creating compassion.  We’ve heard about the compassion of the larger United Church of Canada through the mission and service fund.  Take a moment to think about how all of this has impacted you.  Take a moment to act with compassion.

Offering
Offertory Called by Earth and Sky                    MV 135 (refrain, v3, refrain)

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR become the first steps to growing compassion, we pray.  Amen.

Prayer Music:       Take, O Take Me as I Am                                    MV 85

Prayers of the People & Prayer of Jesus (Sung VU 959)
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice.  A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 921-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Spirit God, Be Our Breath                              MV 150  v3

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