Extracts from our online Service, “Letting Go for a New Beginning” by Rev. Duncan Voice
Opening Words by Starhawk
We are all longing to go home to some place
we have never been –
a place half remembered and half envisioned
we can only catch glimpses of from time to time.
Somewhere, there are people
to whom we can speak with passion
without the words catching in our throats.
Somewhere a circle of hands
will open to receive us,
eyes will light up as we enter,
voices will celebrate with us
whenever we come into our own power.
Community means strength to the work
that needs to be done.
Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing.
a circle of friends.
Someplace we can be free.
We light our chalice
to shine across the distance between us;
beacon to light our way when times are difficult,
warmth to bring us together in loving community.
Welcome to our Service this Mothering Sunday, or Mother’s Day. A day which is also the anniversary of our first online Service. A year ago we entered into the uncertainty of the pandemic and it restrictions, and now here we are beginning to come out of lockdown. It has been a difficult time, but we have continued to light our chalice and gather, and so perhaps as Spring arrives we can begin to look forward a little. Not to make things go back to how they were, we can never go there; but look towards a new future. As our lives have changed have we discovered what is important and what isn’t? What can we leave in the past as we move into the future?
Spirit of Life and Love,
We gather ourselves
and we gather with each other
into this to time of prayer and contemplation.
We gather with our joys and concerns.
We gather in peace, in love and in friendship.
On this day we celebrate and honour the mothers
of the world.
Those who suffered to bring us all into this life.
Those who have cared for us.
We think of them with gratitude and love,
but we acknowledge too the broken or distant relationships.
May they find healing and reconciliation.
We acknowledge the sacrifices that the mothers of the world make to feed and clothe and protect their children.
We acknowledge too the inequalities of opportunity and the prejudice that girls and women may face.
We acknowledge the abuse and violence that girls and women may face in the home, in the workplace and on the street;
as we do so we pause to remember and hold in our hearts those who have suffered and lost their lives in this way.
We affirm and recognise our role in changing and improving society for women.
May we all learn to nurture and care for one another.
Story: The Golden Buddha from Wisdom Stories by Bhaskar Goswami
Reading: Discard What You Don’t Need by Shunmyo Masuno
Reading: The Zen of Parenting by Kathleen McTigue
Meditation by Achaan Chah
Do everything with a mind that let’s go.
Do not expect any praise or reward.
If you let go a little, you will have peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom.
Your struggles with the world
will have come to an end.
Last weekend Dawn and I began the task of sorting through the loft in our house. A place where, for over twenty years, we have transferred the surplus items of our family life. Things which had once been important, that had sentimental value; and things that we didn’t know what to do with, maybe they’d be useful again one day? Furnishings, camping equipment, toys, school work, battered old suitcases, etc., etc.. Some things we had even transferred from the loft of our previous house, straight into the loft of this one! So much stuff we could barely move about up there. So something had to be done, we couldn’t put it off any longer!
On a Facebook post I likened this process to an archaeological excavation of our lives. Some of the items went back a long way, bringing back memories of different periods of our lives. Times that almost felt like another life. Some items we couldn’t even think why we had put them up there, a broken suitcase or an old cushion. Others gave us that “ah, remember this” moment. Included in this category were two very tatty old rucksacks.
The rucksacks belonged to a time when we were backpackers, back in the late 1980s. They had travelled many miles with us around Asia and Australasia. We were away from the UK for nearly two years, and although we worked in Australia for a while, for most of the time we lived out of these two bags. We hiked, caught buses, trains, ships and planes with these bags. We stayed in beach huts, remote villages and big city hostels in a dozen different countries with these bags. We valued them and kept them after our travels had finished, taking them with us from home to home.
I thought about how much stuff we have now compared to those travelling days. I felt a little jealous of my carefree old self, but then I reminded myself it would be pretty difficult to raise a family while living out of a rucksack. Certainly in a conventional sense in our country, although many people in the world of course have to manage with very little. So my melancholy and nostalgia turned to gratitude, I have been so fortunate in my life.
Could I live out of a rucksack now I wondered? What would I pack now, in order to leave all the rest behind? What would you pack if you had to? Practicality would surely prevail over sentimentality, but I’m sure some impractical precious memory item would probably go in wouldn’t it? Nevertheless the vast majority of possessions would be left behind. You can’t fit much into a rucksack. Terrifying, liberating or both?
As we go through life we tend to accumulate possessions and many of you will have had the experience of downsizing, where you’ve had to let things go. How was it? Difficult or not as bad as you thought? Our spiritual teachers also suggest that we accumulate other things too which can become burdens, such as habits, worries, attachments, attitudes, obsessions and opinions that can clutter our mind. That can obscure our true nature, hinder us in being the person we might be or slow us down on our spiritual journey. This kind of clutter is not so easy to see, not so easy to let go of either perhaps?
According to Dr. John Kabat-Zinn, an American Mindfulness Meditation expert, the term “letting go” has become a bit of a cliché in recent times, much overused and misused. Nevertheless, he suggests that it is a vitally important practice. He says,
“Letting go means just what it says. It’s an invitation to cease clinging to anything – whether its an idea, a thing, an event, a particular time, or view, or desire. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance into the stream of present moments as they are unfolding. To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking of disliking. It’s akin to letting your palm open to unhand something you have been holding on to.”
Many people might think of “letting go” a concept found mostly in Buddhism, but it is found in Christianity too in slightly different form. The period of Lent, that we are in at the moment, is a form of letting go and Jesus says a lot about leaving possessions behind to those who would take the spiritual path with him. For example he sent his disciples out with the instruction, “take no gold, or silver or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey.” And think of the man in Mark 10: 17-22 who asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He had followed the commandments since his youth. Jesus looked at him, “..loved him and said “You lack one thing; go sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The man was shocked, “and went away grieving for he had many possessions.” Later in Mark, Jesus also uses that well known phrase, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
We probably all have some sympathy for man who Jesus told to sell his possessions, and I guess that’s the point of this story. We recognize the pain, or fear, that parting with some, maybe lots of things, would cause us. We often have our focus on cherishing our possessions or acquiring new ones, and the more we have the greater attention this requires; and so our attention can’t be elsewhere. We have to ask ourselves do we have more than we need? Could we indeed give some to those who are in need? Could we let go for the benefit of others and ourselves?
I read recently that MacKenzie Scott, joint founder of Amazon, and one of the richest women in the world, has stated that she wishes to give away the majority of her $53 billion fortune. She apparently gave away $5.7 billion last year alone. Extraordinary amounts of money and welcome support for many charities and groups I’m sure. An unusual position to be in though as the majority of the global population are at the other end of the personal resources scale. Their concern is having enough to live on not how much to give away. However, when our basic needs are met it seems that peace can be found in living more simply.
In Zen Buddhism cleanliness and ordered simplicity are important in life and spirituality. The two go hand in hand, or are a reflection of one another if you like. Start to unburden or de-clutter one and you’ll be helping the other. An important concept for us to reflect on, even if this life style doesn’t appeal. However, I was also delighted to read in Shunmyo Masuno’s piece that we shared earlier, that he included crying as way of letting go. Emotional release is important too. Crying unburdens us as laughing makes us feel happy. There are many ways to let go!
Undoubtedly “letting go” in it many forms can be challenging, but remember Jesus loved the man in the story, and love can indeed guide us. Kathleen McTigue’s reflection that we heard earlier illustrated this. Her son was no longer a boy, but a young man. She still loved him of course, but he didn’t need her to wipe his nose or tie his shoelaces. She had to let the little boy go and embrace her grown up son. A letting go she called relinquishment, “at the core of the spiritual path of parenting.” To treat our grown up children as if they were still small children is not healthy for them or us. We let them go because we love them.
On this Mothering Sunday perhaps we can also flip this to consider the changing relationship we have had with our own mothers over the years. All our relationships will be different, but all will all have changed too. Perhaps you found yourself looking after your mother in her later years. A kind of role reversal, a situation in which in order to move on you have to accept. Letting go of the old way, the old relationship, in order to embrace the new one. Even though it was perhaps not what you wanted or imagined it should be.
It’s time for my old rucksack to go and for a lot more from my loft to be given away. If we don’t let go of old things before we acquire new ones then we start to accumulate clutter in our lives and in our minds. So we let go not to give up, but to move on. To find authenticity, to be more Christ like, to shed the mud and dirt and uncover the golden Buddha within us. As we begin to emerge from this pandemic we can ask ourselves as individuals and communities, what is it time to let go of to live truly and truly live?
May it be so.
I’d like to thank you all for be part of this community through your presence and for your continued support. It is has been a hard year, but we remain together in this circle of friendship and faith.
In some churches it is traditional to give away flowers on Mother’s Day, often daffodils. So last year I finished with these words from William Wordsworth and I do so again this year. Let us wander with him.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
As we go on our way this morning may we all dance with the daffodils and may the God of our understanding be with us as we do.