Sunshine and Sadness (text & audio)

(after congregation has brought up stones representing their joys & sorrows to build a common wall or cairn in the front of the sanctuary)

Look at all these stones. This pile/wall of our joys and sorrows.
Can you recall the moment of laying down a stone or of watching someone else do it?
Putting that weight down and stepping away.
What joys or blessings, sorrows or woes did your stones hold for you?
Can you imagine what other people’s stones might hold?
Do you think anyone else carried similar stones to you?
What does it feel like to have our joys and sorrows stacked together like this?
We enter this space carrying so much with us.
No wonder it can sometimes be an effort to get here.
Because sometimes it can be so hard to motivate, to muster our resources.

Perhaps because we have a horde of kids to wrangle with and sometimes we wonder,
is it really worth it? Do they appreciate it? What do we all get out of it?

Perhaps because we’re feeling old and tired and bothered by our bodies or the weather and wondering….Will anyone notice if we’re not there?

Perhaps because our partner or other family members go somewhere else or no where at all, but

refuse to make this journey with us, so coming here involves the weekly energy drain of re-affirming

our connection to this space of liberal religion, even if it is not supported by others whom we love

Perhaps we’ve been listening to the news all week….from the NC legislature; from Ferguson, Missouri;
from Palestine, Iraq, and on and on….
and we are just too numb to hear anymore of it.

Or perhaps there’s no one else at home to motivate us, but ourselves.
And getting out of bed, digging ourselves up out of the hole we are presently in …
Is just too much effort.

(singing)
I’m sad, so sad, and I’m tired, so tired.
And I’m hungry, so hungry,
there’s a hole in my soul.
And it swallows me up, and pulls me into the darkness.
there’s a hole in the center of me.
there’s a hole in the center of me.

We want to enter, rejoice, and come in.
Know that it will be a joyful day.. But sometimes it really isn’t.

Sometimes that’s an impossible idea. And the hole inside us just can’t fathom it.
Because even though in our best moments
when we know each day is a blessing, that our lives compared to many in the world’s are
fantastically privileged and lush…..
even so, life can seem pretty bleak sometimes.
And it may be because of actual crap going on in our lives –
loss of job ….or family …..or a diagnosis…..
or a forever seeking of acceptance or love or connection that seems perpetually unrequited….

Or it may be because we are yet again in the jaw grip of that crafty monster Depression –
that hateful Creeper that can be inspired by actual events in our lives or
just be forever lingering around any corner, waiting to explode in our face
and pull us down into its unending hole of suffocating darkness.

And it doesn’t need to be in the growing darkness of winter
for the insatiable monster to rear its spiky head;
it doesn’t need to be in the midst of the stresses of family holidays…it can appear anytime.
Even in the sunny summer.

(singing)
I’m sad, so sad, and I’m tired, so tired.
And I’m hungry, so hungry,
there’s a hole in my soul.
And it swallows me up, and pulls me into the darkness.
there’s a hole in the center of me.
there’s a hole in the center of me.

I’m glad we all made the effort to be here today.
That we each did whatever we needed to do to motivate ourselves
(and perhaps others) to BE here.

Because once we’re here…once the music has begun, the fire ignited,
once the hum of this community is in motion….
I hope we can feel something in ourselves melt away a little bit,
feel something of that tightness relax…
I hope that we can, if we need to, feel the permission
to schlump into our bench and sigh the deepest sigh possible;
or reach out to the person next to us and clench their hands,
no words, they’re rubbish sometimes anyway,
just that grasping, clutching for life force.
But some of us may be still perching on the edge of our pew waiting
for something to spark our imagination, feed our hunger,
fill our need for a speck of light in the darkness.

(singing)
I’m sad, so sad, and I’m tired, so tired.
And I’m hungry, so hungry, there’s a hole in my soul.
And it swallows me up, and pulls me into the darkness.
there’s a hole in the center of me. there’s a hole in the center of me.

Let us breathe into this space and know its reassuring silence—-[silence]

Let us breathe into this space and know, that here at least
it’s okay to be sad.
It’s okay to be tired. Okay to be hungry.
Sometimes just saying it aloud relieves some of the pressure.

May we all know the comfort and strength of this welcoming and forgiving place,
this place where we can carry our burdens in….
and, if only for an hour, lay them down, lay them bare.

Lyrics to “Sad” by Joe Jencks
from the Brother Sun album, Some Part of the Truth

Chorus
Well I’m Sad, so sad
And I’m tired, so tired
Well I’m hungry, so hungry
There’s a hole in my soul
And it swallows me up
And pulls me into the darkness
There’s a hole in the center of me.
There’s a hole in the center of me.

Well I’ve never been one to sing about my troubles
I figure most of the world Has enough of their own
But now and then I think That when we sing about our truth
Maybe we light up a pathway For somebody else

Chorus

Sometimes I wonder When the whole world is quiet
When there’s nothing to hear But the sound of my breath
Why there’s so many people With so many hurts
And none of us really knows Quite how to love

Chorus

Now I like to dream Of a time when I’m happy
When I don’t feel the sting of each Pain in my bones
But then I reflect That the day I stop feeling
Is the day that they lay me Flat down in the earth

Chorus

There’s a hole in the center of me

By Joe Jencks © Turtle Bear Music / ASCAP
http://www.joejencks.com/index.php?page=songs&category=Some_Part_of_The_Truth&display=1319

READING 1
“Welcome Morning” by Anne Sexton

READING 2
“Garden Pavilion” by Ric Masten

FURTHER REFLECTION
In the west of Ireland there are stacked stone walls like this everywhere.
It’s how they cleared the stony ground to make it somewhat habitable and grazeable.
The rocks are just stacked like this, no mortar.
Some have been stacked in fields for generations.
The amount of rocks, stacked one upon the other, wall after wall, everywhere….. it’s both impressive
and… heartbreaking. You can’t help but think of the people who had to dig all these rocks up, and
stack them one upon the other. It must have taken forever….and felt overwhelming…. endless…

When you enter the pit of depression it can feel like that…endless, bottomless, no light to see by….
…to find your way home, find your way out. If you’ve been in that place, like I have,
like my husband has, my mom, actually most people I know have visited that place….
when you’ve been in that place, you know what helplessness feels like.
What simultaneous emptiness and utter fullness to the point of drowning feels like.
And it’s…. it’s horrible. It can feel really hopeless.

And sometimes it’s so horrible that it forces us to see pulling the trigger on our lives as an escape.
It’s that bad.

As I prepared for today, the news of comedian actor Robin Williams’ death seemed pitifully ironic.
Anne Sexton, who also committed suicide, ends her poem with
“The joy that isn’t shared…dies young.”
Robin Williams seemed to be an unending overflow of silly voices and humorous commentary.
He more than shared his joy. And yet….
The joy that isn’t shared…. dies young.
But the sorrow that isn’t shared….festers and overwhelms.
This is what Ric Masten, our Unitarian Universalist troubadour poet,
so simply and painfully describes in his poem, “The Garden Pavilion.”
It can be easy to wonder, from the outside,
“why couldn’t that amazingly talented person keep it together?
Why couldn’t they see and embrace their many blessings?”
If a person like Robin Williams, with every potential resource at his fingertips—if he couldn’t
overcome depression, what makes any of us think we can?

Because we can’t. When depression hits. forget it. There’s no fighting back. It’s a losing battle.
What power can we have against the intensity of that engulfing wave of darkness
that takes all light and breath away?

I’m sorry to say that I’m not here to give any of us an answer for conquering depression.

There’s friends and family and other support systems, there’s therapy, there’s medication,
there’s all kinds of things that can help…help us understand it better, fend it off,
and sometimes even endure it and limit its effects. But if you don’t have those things,
or, even if you do, sometimes we can still fall prey. And that’s not our fault.
But I do want to say that coming here, being in community can help.
Being here won’t solve all our problems or take the depression monster away,
but hopefully by being here we can see that we are not alone.
And more importantly, we, any of us who are not presently in the darkness of the pit,
but who have known it, or known someone whose been there,
we can be a lifeline, we can be a hand to grasp, a shoulder to cry on, a person to talk to.

I remember something David Ray over there said in a discussion years ago about worship.
He said that he thought it was important to come to worship every opportunity, whether he was
intrigued by the “topic” of the service or not. Because who knew what experience might actually be
transformative for him? But, more importantly, who knew what might be transformative for the
person sitting next to him? And how important it might be for him to be sitting next to them at that
time. This, to me, is one of the best statements of what worship, what this community, is all about.
Sometimes it’s about feeding a need within us. But often it’s about the hunger sitting to the right or
left of us. The desperate hurt soul sitting right there who really needs someone to reach out to them,
to notice that they are not talking to anyone or making eye contact or that they are actually silently
crying.

I’m very excited about the direction our ministers want to take us in this year – Walking Towards
Trouble, as Lisa called it last week, getting out there and really doing justice in our community and
beyond. We need to remember that sometimes the Trouble is sitting right next to us.
Some who are here now, or who might wander in the door at any time, some of us are terribly,
unspeakably broken. Some of us are barely making it. Some of us are clinging to this space of
welcome and it may be the only thing keeping us from sinking into the depths.

We have to keep making sure this community is a place where people can come and let something
go. Those stone walls in Ireland… seeing them everywhere….even though they hold a kind of
sadness and desperation, they also feel like a beacon, like walls and walls of unending hope.

May these stones be a sign, a marker, a cairn laid in the depression forest to mark our way back.
For each of us to know that this community is here – for us when we are hurting.
And that we, here, need to remember to BE here, waiting to notice, to acknowledge, to reach out and
hold the one among us who wanders in, deep in that place of darkness and suffocation.

Once someone’s fallen over the edge, it’s on US to find ways to pull them back. We are responsible
for each other. We have to notice the person standing in the corner by themselves;
notice the person sitting next to us, shaking from fear;
it may mean reaching beyond our comfort zones;
it may mean getting in someone else’s space; it may mean saying or doing something awkward.
And I know that’s easier said than done. I suck at this. Because it’s always safer to stay inside
myself, and I want to give people their space. But really I’m just making excuses. Like the reading
Lisa shared last week. It’s always easier to send money somewhere else, then to actually face
something directly. And this is pretty direct. This is right here.
This is us and anyone else who walks in that door.

We light our chalice when we gather. We who can be big time anti-ritual, anti-spirituality people,
yet we have clung to this most basic of human rituals – lighting a candle. Because we know how
important light is. And light is not just seasonal. It’s all the time. It’s in us. It’s knowledge of
possibility. It’s wonder. It’s hope. And when the darkness within us comes, when possibility and
wonder and hope are all snuffed out and we are drowning….. we need that spark of light all the more.
All we can do is cling to each other and cling to the light.

CLOSING HYMN: “Here We Have Gathered” #360

1. Here we have gathered, gathered side by side.
Circle of kinship, come and step inside!
May all who seek here find a kindly word;
May all who speak here feel they have been heard.
Sing now together, this our hearts’ own song.

2. Here we have gathered, called to celebrate
Days of our lifetime, matters small and great;
We of all ages, women, children, men,
Infants and sages, sharing what we can.
Sing now together this, our hearts’ own song.

3. Life has its battles, sorrows and regret:
But in the shadows, let us not forget:
We who now gather know each other’s pain;
Kindness can heal us; as we give, we gain.
Sing now in friendship, this our hearts’ own song.

BLESSING: “Come, Come” adapted from Rumi by Leslie Takahashi Morris

Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving….
we will make a place for you,
we will build a home together.
Ours is no caravan of despair.
We walk together;
Come, yet again come.

from Voices From the Margins: An Anthology of Meditations
http://www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=3599

Photo credit: Drriss & Marrionn / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)