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Calls to Worship

All text written by Cynthia Stewart
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Gilgamesh/The True Companion

The ancient skies have called us to this moment.

Gods of old now make no home in our memories,
     and even the names of those who came after
have become but keepsakes of days gone by.
But our brothers and sisters
     from the farthest, dimmest reaches of history
still whisper to us
of their lives and longing,
     their divine joy,
     their human sorrow,
     their deep love.

They call us to ourselves. Hear their call.

Gilgamesh/The Hero's Quest

Today we embark on a quest together.
We will not fight monsters or slay dragons,
we will not rescue princesses or find lost treasure.
No, we will journey together into the mystery of our own hearts.
We will quest into the beauty and terror and power that is our life,
bounded on all sides and limitless as the skies.
We do not journey alone.
Look into the eyes of your neighbor. Seek encouragement there
and give it
for we are the companions of our companions.
Here, we journey together.

Gilgamesh/The Path of Grief

The paths that lead to the door of this sanctuary are many.
Some travel here with bright steps, trailing sunlight behind them.
Some cause the ground to shake with the force of their presence.
And some move slowly, bowed by defeat, despair, or grief that envelops them like a cloud.
As our sanctuary fills with sunlight and powerful presence and clouds of grief,
may each of us find the welcome we need within these walls.

Gilgamesh/Time and Season

Sun and rain, wind and cloud, snow, heat, torrent and breeze – these are the ways of the world around us. To everything a season.

Work and play, food and rest, children, loved ones, quiet moments and simple enjoyment – these are the ways of our human lives. To every time a purpose.

Whatever fear we carry from our past, whatever expectation we impart to our future, the only moment we truly live is this one. Be here now, in this present, in this place, in your body, in our community. Our season is now; our purpose is here; our coming together is joy.

Gilgamesh/The Water Rose Higher

Our hearts are like water,
cool and clear as an autumn day
or roiling and writhing as a turbulent sea,
bringing us abundant life
or carrying us into death.

Our hearts are like water,
still as the dew of an early morning
or rushing like a river in flood,
bringing us peace and clarity
or carrying us into uncertainty.

Though our hearts be clear or roiling, peaceful or rushing,
let us call them together to mingle like water this day.

Genesis/Creation and Destruction

What begins will one day end,
And what ends creates a new beginning.
Endless the wheel and cycle, the turning of our days
Into an ending that pushes us forward,
Into a beginning that calls us on.

Every day we create a new vision of ourselves and our world.
Every day we destroy what has been for the sake of what will be.
Beginning and ending, creating and destroying,
Moving, turning, looking, seeking, finding, revisioning –
Let us see it and say, always and again,
“And behold, it was very good.”

Genesis/Abraham: Journey of Doubt and Faith

Do you come to this place with abundant faith?
     Your faith has brought you to our door.
Do you carry great doubt in your heart?
     Your doubt has carried your footsteps here.
Faith is a gift of light, and we honor it.
     But doubt is also a gift,
     creating space for faith, or reason, or sheer uncomplicated love.
Here we cherish faith and honor doubt.
Here we welcome you just as you are.

Genesis/Joseph: Dreaming the Dream

Being human means that we dream. Six of our years on this planet we will spending dreaming, and our bodies break down when dreams do not inhabit our nights.

Dreams are common as snowflakes in winter, and each is just as unique. Dreams can lead us and guide us, give us insight or terrify us. Will we hear them? Will we heed them? Will we let what wells from deep within play a part in how we live our lives?

Come, let us dream together.

Genesis/Jacob and Esau: Betrayal and Forgiveness

The virtue of forgiveness comes only on the heels of hurt and betrayal. The ability to accept others is manifest only when we meet those who challenge or even repel us.

Let us gather here in forgiveness and acceptance, even if we have sometimes hurt or betrayed each other. Let the basis of what we share be not that we think alike, but that we determine alike to accept.

Let our beloved community be beloved because we decide to make it so.

Biblical prophets/Jeremiah: How Long Will the Land Mourn?

What brings us here today, and every time we gather, is not just joy and thanksgiving and community; it is also evil and hatred and deception.

We see evil in our world, hatred in our neighbors, deception in our lives, and we seek a refuge.

How do we avoid falling into bitterness and dwelling in despair? How do we remember joy and thanksgiving?

We come to our community to be reminded.

Let us remember together.

Biblical prophets/Ezekiel: From Heart of Stone to Heart of Flesh

Sometimes the universe thunders at us from on high;
     sometimes we hear the still, small voice in the silence of our hearts.

If the thunder is ringing in your ears and judgment has fallen upon you,
     we offer you solace.

If the quiet voice is unfolding within you,
     we offer you the space to hear it.
Whoever you are, whatever you experience, however you came to be here,
     we offer you the welcome of the beloved community.

Let us join our hearts in worship together.

Biblical prophets/The Book of the Twelve: Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters

Let us call our hearts together with these words inspired by the vision of the prophet Amos:

Where pomp and ceremony replace fervor and devotion,
     There the Lord stands back.
Where giving is done in hope of praise rather than in an outpouring of generosity,
     There the Lord stands back.
Where hymn and harmony become presentation rather than proclamation,
     There the Lord stands back.

But where justice rolls down like waters,
Where righteousness moves like an ever-flowing stream,
     There the Lord stands with his people.

May the Lord stand among us today.

Biblical prophets/Isaiah: Touch of the Burning Coal

Prophetic voices fill my ears and the word of the Lord touches my lips as I call you into this moment. Will you hear it?

Will you gather here with an open heart, letting your whole being proclaim the truth that you have seen?

Will you answer the call to minister in your own life to friend and enemy, family member and stranger?

Will you let the burning coal of compassion touch your lips and your eyes and your heart, and purify you of guilt and doubt and fear?

Like the prophets of old, will you live your vision?

Gospels/Coming soon!
Qur'an/Allah and the Prophet

Come, it is time for us to gather
in proclamation of unity,
and in honoring the prophetic voice.

Come, it is time for us to remember
that our gathering together is sacred,
and that the sacred stretches to the limits of the universe.

Come, let us proclaim and honor and remember.
Come, let us worship.

Qur'an/Truly There Are Signs

Stones and bricks,
      windows and walls;
faces and hands,
      hearts and minds;
every individual soul
      and the entire beloved community:
each is a sign of the holy within us
      and the divine among us.

 Let each come together now, in this moment, and rejoice.

Qur'an/Gather Us Together

We believe that each person has worth and dignity,
and that every being is part of an interconnected web,
yet so often we turn our gaze to the visions that divide us.

Let us here be ever mindful of the infinite ties that hold us with a universal bond:
our planet, this atmosphere, atoms and quarks;
our desires, the need to believe, the move toward love;
our hearts that beat the same;
the simplicity and necessity of our breath.

Come - in our worth and dignity and interconnection, let us breathe deeply together.

Qur'an/Steadfastness and Compassion

     We come together in worship to hold up what is worthy – and what is worthy, in our eyes? Is it success and riches, the bigger house, the faster car? Is if fame and accolades, the admiration of our peers? Or is it kindness given, empathy felt, a simple smile offered to another? Our values tell us that it is the latter, but I wonder if our actions say the same.
     As we gather here in beloved community this morning, let us call to mind what is truly of worth in our world, and in our lives, and in ourselves.

Qur'an/Stories of the Prophets

A prophet stands within this world and brings a message from beyond it –
      not necessarily from above with a god looking down from on high,
            not necessarily from below with a goddess stretching up from primordial dark.

What the prophet imparts comes from
      beyond mundane speech,
            beyond blindered vision,
                  beyond the limits of what we know. 

So let us hear the prophet’s call from beyond our limitations.
Let us hear all the prophets everywhere,
     those whispering from an ancient time and those exhorting our modern world;
     those articulating religious duties and those conveying worldly realities.
Let us hear the the prophets,
     those men and women who bring us messages from beyond what we know.
And let us receive them with joy.

Rumi and Kabir/Coming soon!
Bhagavad Gita/Truth Beyond Despair

“Fight the good fight”, we are told.
But sometimes even the good fight seems more than we can bear.

If you come here today with your will bruised and your courage battered,
     know that you are not alone.
If the work of justice or the demands of illness or the care of a loved one or the strain of a life stretched thin make you feel as though you are falling down,
     know that we will help you stand back up.

This is what real love is.
This is what good community is.
This is what true worship is.

Bhagavad Gita/The Path of Selfless Service

What service do you bring with you today?
What simple kindness do you have to offer?
Some strong arms for carrying? Gentle hands for nurturing? A friendly smile for greeting?
Here we welcome all your service,
Even if it is but the grace of gratitude for the services done for you.
Here service is our act of faith.

Bhagavad Gita/The Path of Meditation

You came here laden with cares and worries;
      here you may lay them down for a moment.
You came overflowing with thoughts both common and profound;
      here you may set them aside for a moment.
You came as mother, brother, friend, partner, child, co-worker, helper;
      here you may simply be you for a moment.

With all that we bring together, and all that we lay aside,
With all that we become and all that we remain,
Let the infinite presence of stillness bring us into worship together.

Bhagavad Gita/The Path of Devotion

First, love.
Love is stars and starshine, moon and moonlight, sun and sunbeam.
Love is trees and forests, rivers and oceans; and it is fire that burns the trees and forests, and pollution that clogs rivers and oceans.
It is small towns and big cities, the friendly hello and the insolent stare, the care and concern of some and the total indifference of others.
Love is pain and sorrow, and the easing of pain, and the comforting of sorrow.
Love is a child’s laughter, a lover’s touch, a depth of emotion, a joy beyond words.
Love is all of this and more, if –
If –
If we move toward each and every one of these things with a heart open to receive and to give.
Love is receiving and giving in the fullness of your being.
First, love. And then do as you will.

Bhagavad Gita/The Path of Wisdom

Come to this house of worship
     where we find truth in the spiritual wisdom passed down through many traditions.
Come to this house of sorrow
      where we let grief open our hearts to deeper compassion.
Come to this house of joy
      where we weave the thread of love into an ever widening and more inclusive fabric.
Come to this house of blessing
     where the interdependent web of our existence reveals that every face we see is the face of the One Reality.
With your worship and your sorrows and your joys, come and know that you are a blessing here today.

Upanishads/The Self in All

I call on you now to remember your Self –
Your true Self –

Not the “I” that hammers ceaselessly in your head,
Not the fears and triumphs and doubts and surrenders that tell of your life.

I call the true Self, the true You,
Who is ever perfect, above sin, and beyond death.

I call that Self, your true Self, which is also my Self and the Self of every person,
Knowing that is already, and always, here.

Upanishads/Brahman, The Lord of Love

The sacred scriptures tell us the Brahman is in all,
that nothing can exist
except that it is a manifestation of Brahman.
So let our gathering here today remind us
that the divine is everywhere,
that the human is holy,
that the face of each friend and stranger that we see
is the face of Brahman before us.
Let us honor the divine in one another as we worship here together.

Upanishads/The One Becomes Many

Imagine a flower growing on a leaf.
Imagine the leaf springing from a branch.
Imagine the branch reaching outward from a tree.
Imagine the tree connected to its roots.
Imagine the roots flaring through the ground.
Imagine the ground supported by rock.
Imagine the rock dissolving into magma at the earth’s core.
Imagine the magma held in place by the spinning of the planet.
Imagine the planet spinning because of its relation to sun, moon and stars.
The flower grows because the cosmos move in space.
     Just as the flower is connected to the cosmos, so are you and I connected to each other, and to the cosmos,
     and to the Unseen Reality at the heart of all connection.

Upanishads/Control, Compassion, Generosity

How shall we be called together when we seem to stand so far from our source?
How shall we move into beloved community when we come celebrating our individuality?
What draws us and binds us? What makes each of us remember the other?

It is our daily practices of remembrance that tell us how we can never be far from our source.
It is our sense of belonging in community that reminds us of what underlies our individuality.
What we move toward, what draws us and binds us, is the Unseen Reality behind the individuality and the community.
What we move toward is what we already are, here together today.

Dhammapada/The House of Impermanence

If today the sun shines and the flowers bloom, does that make the day good?
If the rain falls and the storms come, do we call this day bad?
What will come will come, to the plants and to the earth and to ourselves,
with only our minds makings distinctions of good or bad.

In this hour, as we learn and grow and strive together,
     let us relinquish our judgments and feel peace in what is.
Remembering that life is sweet
     and that death comes for all,

let us recognize the beauty that lies beyond both.

Dhammapada/The Fetter of Desire

A flame sparks within you: “I want.”

Tiny tendrils of the flame creep along the edges of your consciousness, the warmth just enough to be felt. Slowly the flame of “I want” makes inroads where other thoughts have been, moving them, burning them, the low flame of “I want” becoming a small but steady fire: “I need.”

The steady fire rises to unsteady heights. Higher the flames lick, greater the area they cover, hotter they grow, the orange flames burning into blue until they throw off a white heat consuming everything in their path: “I must have.”

The burning of your mind with desire for things, for security, for people, for love, for stability, for anything other than what is right now – this is a conflagration that only you can bring under control. 

The conflagration begins with the simple flame of “I want.”
The control begins with the simple peace of “I accept.”

Dhammapada/Joy Like the Bright Gods

It is joy that brings us here today

Remembrance of joy dwelling amidst the sorrows of the past
Knowledge of joy swirling among the trials of the present
Hope for joy pulling us into the vastness of the future

Joy in the quiet undiscovered moment
Joy in the seduction of earth's living beauty
Joy in the ecstatic touch of the divine

While we are here together, beloved, give yourself to joy

Dhammapada/Training the Mind

Your mind is a bow, with wood that is strong and supple from being cared for well,
     or wood that is weakened and falling into disrepair.

Your thoughts are arrows that fly to their destination swift and fixed,
     or arrows that swing wide and wobble, missing the mark.

But supple and swift or weakened and wobbling,
your mind and thoughts have brought you to a gathering
where we tell the tales
and listen to the words
of wisdom.

In this space, amongst these gathered friends and strangers and fellow seekers,
lift the bow of your mind
and aim the arrow of your thoughts

as we move into worship together.

Heart and Lotus Sutras/Turning the Wheel of the Law: The Lotus Sutra

These are the ways we turn:

Turn right, turn left, turn at the light
Turn toward the light.
Turn on a dime, toss and turn in the night,
Turn the world around.
We turn a blind eye, turn the other cheek,
Watch the world turning and the turning of the seasons.

Yet all our turning is only movement,
And all our movement is only trying to get to one thing or away from another.
And turning and moving and trying, we are blinded to being and seeing and knowing.
For today let us turn our bodies to service, our hearts to compassion, and our thoughts to truth.

Let us once again turn to one another.

Heart and Lotus Sutras/The Heart of Compassion: The Lotus Sutra

In the torrents of change,
in the stillness of possibility,
ever we are called onward.
The next step, the farther reach,
the path beyond our comfort and chosen limitations –
these lie always before us,
whether or not we choose to see.
In our gathering together,
may we each find the courage
to travel farther down the road that lies ahead.

Heart and Lotus Sutras/ Defined by Emptiness: The Heart Sutra

We begin in form and end in emptiness –
or do we begin in emptiness and end in form?
Do we being, and do we end?
Who is “we”?
What is “I”?
Is there form, or emptiness, or we, or I?

We question because we must. The questioning may lead us where we never intended to go, but we cannot cease to ask.

When we gather here in community we bring our questions with us – light, simple, deep or profound. We bring the questions because the questions are our form, and our emptiness. 

In questioning and in community, let us be here now.

Tao Te Ching/The Call to Non-Action

Flames dance and shimmer, yet the candle is unmoving.
Waves ripple outward to the vastness of the sea, yet the pebble tossed in water moves in one precise motion.
We move into this place with busy hands and hurried steps, yet our togetherness comes from our quiet presence.
Here in this place today, let us seek

     not action but understanding,

          not pleasure but contentment,
               not noisy praise but quiet acceptance.
Let us move in harmony with the Tao.

Tao Te Ching/The Good Life

Bring your joy into this place;
   Let your heart find harmony.
Bring your sorrow past these doors;
   Let your heart find acceptance.
Bring your worries within our midst;
   Let your heart find contentment.
Joy, sorrow, worries; harmony, acceptance, contentment.
Bring all that is yourself into this place;
   Let our hearts grow together.

Tao Te Ching/Darkness within Darkness

Rush and hurry, stop at these doors.
Peace and stillness, enter in.
Care and concern drive away harmony.
Acceptance and tranquility take us to the Source.

We gather in diversity to find our unity,
In words to find our silence,
In movement to find our rest.
We gather, and the gathering is good.

Analects/New Topic