Balance!

Prelude: Jim Pearce

Chiming of the Singing Bowl: Chloe Morgen

Words of Welcome and Announcements: Chloe Morgen

Good morning! I am Chloe Morgen, a Worship Associate here at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sandy Springs, Georgia. 

Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation seeks to create loving community, inspire joy and spiritual growth, and support courageous action. All are welcome, as together we journey towards justice and equity by learning, caring, and acting together.

We especially welcome any newcomers and visitors we have today.  I hope you’ll join us after worship for coffee hour… from the comfort of your own homes.  You can just stay right here when the service ends. There is no need to leave this zoom call, we will begin coffee hour as soon as the postlude is over. 

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to grab whatever materials you’ll need to light your own chalice if you’d like that to be part of your worship experience today.

As always, kindly set your phones to worship mode; we won’t know, but I think you might enjoy the hour free from distractions.  And feel free to check in on your social media of choice to let your friends and family know about this place of caring you’ve found today. Our congregation is an exciting place to be, and we love it when you share the good news. 

And although we cannot be physically together to greet each other today with hugs, high-fives, smiles, and words of love, we are all together in spirit and each and every one of us is welcome.  

Children and youth in the RE program in grades K-5 are invited to participate in a virtual RE class with High Street UU Congregation entitled CartUUns on Saturday, January 16th at 12:00 noon. CartUUns uses short animated clips from Disney and Pixar to explore UU values. The zoom link will be emailed to parents and published in the newsletter this week.  

Please join us in supporting Sydney Kahn as she begins her journey as a college student. Our Northwest family is invited to participate in a card shower in her honor. We will shower her with UU love and support by sending her a card with a positive message and words of encouragement as she adjusts to college life. Her mailing address will be posted in the chat and will also be updated in Realm this week. Please consider participating as she could use our support during this exciting time in her life. You can also contact or DRE, Adia Fields at re@nwuuc.org to receive her mailing address.

And now let us prepare for worship with the song “Cats in the Cradle” by the music group Junik.

Music: Cats In The Cradle (Acoustic Guitar Cover by Junik)

Call to Worship: Robert Niedermeyer

By Linda Barnes

Suspended between all that was and all that might be,
we struggle to find this very moment—to live this very moment.
Let us sit together for a moment, and savor this moment.
Let us relish this between time where past meets future,
Let us harbor a faith that reminds us that right now, right here, is enough.

Lighting of the Chalice: Shelton Chau

Story Wisdom: Sandy Davis

Reading: Robert Niedermeyer

The Importance of Balance in Our Lives
By Tom Stevenson

Life is all about balance. If you stretch yourself too much in one direction, you will realise the negative impacts sooner rather than later. There is an old saying that sums this up perfectly. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

If you devote yourself to one thing, such as work, while neglecting other areas, it’s going to have negative effects on your life. Jack may be working hard, but because that is the majority of what he does, he hasn’t worked on other areas of himself to become a well-rounded individual. His life has no balance.

Leading a life such as Jack’s is a surefire route to misery. Devoting yourself to one thing may work for a while, but it will destroy you in the long-term. Just as a diet in fast food is unsustainable in the long-term, so is a life without balance. Striking a balance between work, pleasure, and education is the key to a purposeful life.

Cultivating this balance throughout our lives is one of the most difficult challenges we face. It’s easy to get carried away with certain things and let them dominate our lives. But by doing so, we open ourselves up to falling down in other areas of our lives.

We cannot expect to go on a two-day bender and show up for work in a day’s time as nothing happened. It doesn’t work that way.

This is a road to ruin. If we push too much in one direction, we will lose all sense of ourselves, crash and burn. Balance is important to keep us grounded and on the straight and narrow. Too much of anything is bad, even if it is good in small doses.

Too much reading and mental activity will be devoid of physical fitness. Too much exercise and not enough rest, and we will wear ourselves out. Too much work and we will become dull and boring in social situations.

The key is to maintain a balance among all of your pursuits and your daily activities. By being balanced, we are in full control of our faculties and able to perform to the best of our ability. Balance is delicate, if we stray over the edge too much, we risk losing it all.

As Aristotle said: “Moderation in all things.”

Joys and Sorrows: David Neidermeyer

Good Morning.

I am David Niedermeyer, a member of the youth group at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation and I am here to bring you the Joys and Sorrows this morning. And I invite you all now, those of you with Joys and Sorrows to share with our congregation here gathered virtually, to open the chat box at the bottom of your screen and enter your Joys and Sorrows.

Joys and Sorrows is our time in this space to honor these sacred moments and milestones. For our Ritual, we have water and we have river stones. Smooth and heavy in our hands, these river stones symbolize life’s pleasures and times of ease and life’s burdens and times of heaviness. The water in our bowl is a precious natural resource. We use it sparingly, reminding us of the preciousness of each life and its unique journey.

First, there are two announcements regarding memorials.

A memorial Service for former Northwest member Elizabeth Kloss will be held via Zoom on Saturday January 30th at 3 p.m. (eastern time).  If you are interested in an email invitation please email Diane Kloss, dkloss@kent.edu.

Many NWUUC members will remember Dante Santacroce who passed away on December 29th in San Diego, CA at age 91. Dante was a long time member of UUCA where he was the director of the Underground Theater there. He is predeceased by his wife Mary Nell Santacroce who died in 1999. The obituary can be found at legacy.com.

Both of these announcements were in last Friday’s weekly update, the UNIverse, if you need further information.

The Joys and Sorrows:

Hannah Cowart has a Joy. Her new niece, Hanna Larraine was born this past Monday. A stone of JOY for Hannah, her niece Hanna, and their family!

Congratulations to Sydney Kahn who was on her way to Penn earlier this week. A JOY. And best wishes to Sydney from your Northwest family! 

Michael Cain reports that he is feeling so much better. A stone of JOY for Michael.

David Self reported that Hugh Fordyce is at St. Joseph’s hospital following some episodes of dizziness earlier this week. A stone of CONCERN for Hugh.

Prayer and Meditation: David Niedermeyer

As we reflect on how we can create more balance in our lives, I will share a meditation entitled My Commitments to Myself written by Laura Mancuso.

I take care of myself first, because I am deserving of exquisite care.
I take care of myself to maintain the capacity to help others.
I move and stretch my body every day.
I spend time in nature, attuning my senses to the earth’s wisdom.
I ration my daily exposure to the news. I identify and access credible sources of information. I protect myself from becoming overwhelmed by information about the pandemic.
I pace myself.
I sit with the reality of uncertainty and impermanence, and allow it to temper my desire for control.
I listen without judgment to others’ reactions, which may be different from mine.
I forgive myself and others when stress brings out our shadow selves.
I feel fear fully when I am fearful.
I experience sadness fully when I am sad.
I allow anger fully when I am angry.
I relish joy fully when I am joyful.
I seek out healthy pleasures and indulge in them without guilt.
I remind myself that feelings are transient states that move through me. They do not last. And they do not define me. Nor do my thoughts.
I balance my drive for self-improvement with compassionate acceptance of myself as I am right now.
I initiate contact with loved ones to let them know I hold them in my heart.
I seek out, with increased sensitivity, those who are the most vulnerable.
If possible, I share my resources with those who need help to survive.
When possible, I move away from people, situations, and experiences that do not serve my highest good.
I strengthen my connection to my sources of spiritual strength so that I continue to be replenished.
I acknowledge the nearness of death as a key motivator for living a full life.
I pray for the suffering of all beings to cease.
I grieve my losses and celebrate my successes.
I remain open to new ways of being, surprising sources of joy, and unanticipated discoveries every day.

Music Interlude: I Can See Clearly Now Produced by Peter Fand

Sermon: Rev. Misha Sanders

This past Thursday, January 7th, the writer and activist adrienne maree brown wrote and posted a poem, called The Founding Wound. Because I know there are folks of all ages joining us today, I want to warn you right now that this poet uses some gross words, but they are not bad words that you should not hear or say, they’re just kind of gross, and they are about things that happen to our bodies when we get hurt or sick.  

And after I read the poem, I will try to make it clear why I think it is important to share today, in this service, which was supposed to be all about balance.  

The Founding Wound, by adrienne maree brown

“a body is always a body
individual or collective
(whole or in many pieces)
alive or, later, dead
a body is aways vulnerable
a wound is always a wound
singular and deep
or many cuts, slowly, blood everywhere
left untreated, unstaunched, denied
a wound will always fester
the first wound happens within
the violence of birth
the expulsion from the illusion of safety
from the idea that someone (else)
will do all the labor
and some of us keep looking everywhere
for placenta, for mothering
for acceptance of our worst choices
to be told we are so special
to be named a favorite child
some of us learn to work
we are given tools, lectures, practices
we are given the blessing of knowing
that work to nourish the collective
is a sacred path for our lives
some are only taught to eat
given the title to land that isn’t ours
judged for the speck of dirt under our nails
set to race against even our own kin
for the neverending victory of more
some of us are black
still nauseous from the boat’s hold
still catching our breath from snapped ropes
still oiling our calloused field hands
and still wounded
some of us are white
still synonymous with impossible purity
still given no songs from the earth
still taught to master nothing but superiority
and still, wounded
some of us are red, yellow, brown
still made to feel tertiary to the plot
still dismissed for all we remember
still claiming we are human, not terrorist
and, still wounded
some of us are never surprised
never apoplectic when the stench hits us
what rots at the core is known, documented
it is tangible, moral, American, spiritual
it is the founding wound
gray only at the surface
brittle black where the injury began
a rainbow of bruising everywhere
green mold making life in dying flesh
but the pus, the pus bursts white
we are well past the age of turning inwards
of seeing the open wounds on our souls
of stepping into our shadows with truth light
of seeing we were shaped, and can change
of believing the wound is who we are
we know the smell of decay on breath
we see the swollen cracking flesh of infection
it is not rude to acknowledge the stink
to wonder if it is viral, venom, survivable
to look for the laceration(s)
things are not getting worse
they are getting uncovered
we must hold each other tight
and continue to pull back the veil
see: we, the body, we are the wounded place
we live on a resilient earth
where change is the only constant
in bodies whose only true whiteness
is the blood cell that fights infection
and the bone that holds the marrow
remove the shrapnel, clean the wound
relinquish inflammation, let the chaos calm
the body knows how to scab like lava stone
eventually leaving the smooth marring scars
of lessons learned:
denial will not disappear a wound
the wound is not the body
a body cannot be divided into multiple living entities (what us will go on breathing?)
the founder’s wound is the myth of supremacy
this is not the first wound, or the last
we are a species before we are a nation, and after
warriors, organizers, storytellers, dreamers – all of us are healers
the healing path is humility, laughter, truth, awareness and choice
a scab is a boundary on territory, between what is within and what is without, when the line has been breached
stop picking at the scab, it slows the healing
until we are dead, and even when we are exhausted and faithless, we fight for life
we are our only relevant hope
we are our only possible medicine
a body is always a body
wounded, festering, healing, healed
we choose each day what body we will shape
with the miraculous material we’re gifted
let us, finally, attend to the wound
let us, finally, name the violence
let us, finally, break the cycle of supremacy
let us, finally, choose ourselves whole
let us, finally, love ourselves
whole.”

Whew.  I don’t know about you, but I need to take that in with a few deep breaths. 

The link to that powerful poem is in the chat box.  

Beloveds, in case you aren’t familiar with adrienne maree brown and her powerful work, let me remind you that this is the same adrienne maree brown I talked about at length during Advent when our theme was JOY.  The same adrienne maree brown who wrote this book Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good.

Friends, clearly Ms. brown was not feeling good or taking any pleasure at all in the writing and sharing of this powerful poemThe Founding Wound this week. 

Because it would be ridiculous to pretend that the events in our world, in our nation, in our nation’s capitol, are anything that can be balanced out with a nourishing meal and a nice foot massage this week. 

This week, domestic terrorists threatened our very democracy, and they did not prevail… but they came far too close. I imagine I am far from alone in telling you that all of Wednesday afternoon and evening were a complete loss to me, as far as any kind of work productivity, because I was glued to news. I’m sure those of you who had the luxury of not being busy with essential work have the same memory of that day.  

There was no balance in our hearts on Wednesday. And it probably has yet to be restored.  

We are crying and wailing and writhing from our Founding Wound, beloveds. And the unveiling, the unscabbing, the airing out of the awful, putrid infection of White Supremacy is unbearable to witness and live through, but it is the only way we can ever heal, IF we are ever to heal.  

And I still believe that we can.  

I believe that YOU believe that, too, or why would we bother to gather and say that we are giving to the work of this congregation each week?  

I believe it because despite the noise of the Founding Wound being uncovered on Wednesday, that was not the only story of the week.  

I believe it because the man who was Congressman John Lewis’s pastor, and the man who Congressman John Lewis mentored as an intern were both declared the brand new Senators-elect of Georgia, and, just as I told you last week that I believed it would… LOVE WON.  

And let us never stop acknowledging that it is the tireless, decades-long work of Black Women that brought about this win. Black women, once again, rose up to save themselves, and they were gracious enough to lift us all up right along with them.  

That’s another story about this week. 

A story that, I hope and I pray, can bring about some sense of balance. 

And speaking of balance, this is a youth-led service, so let me remind myself that when we are multi-generational especially, although it really should always apply, there is a need for levity in our gathering together, because heaviness not balanced out by lightness is not good ministry to each other, in the bigger picture.  

And to that end, I made a contraption.

You know how Lady justice is depicted holding balancing scales? I made my own this week, and you can make your own, too, out of whatever supplies you have handy in your house. I used this clothes hanger, some leftover ribbon from Christmas, two cleaned-out cat food cans, and some tape and hot glue. 

There’s a link in the chat box to one example of how to make something like this.

Friends, we cannot function as human beings, as families, partners, a congregation, a state, a nation, a planet… when we are chronically out of balance.  

When the heavy news is all that we consume…[put weights in one side] we simply cannot be effective makers of change.  

But, thank goodness, Georgia, it is we who made it easy to come up with the counterbalance this week in the aftermath of our run-off elections, and it is good and right to take our time to celebrate and bring ourselves and each other back into some semblance of balance. [counterbalance]

Notice how the good news does not remove the weight of the sorrows [lift heavy side], no they are still there. In fact [add more weigh to sorrow side] we are still losing between 35oo and 4000 lives per day to COVID-19 in our nation.  

Meanwhile, many of YOU, and thousands of health care workers and elders across our nations are receiving their first doses of the vaccine that will save their lives. [add to positive side]

It is right to celebrate the wins. It is not only right, but necessary, to not topple over sideways from the uneven weight.  

On Friday a colleague of mine who I know to be a fierce fighter on the side of love, an advocate for justice and progressive movement toward healing of our wounds caused by White Supremacy… posted on her personal social media page about a new sweater she was excited about receiving in the mail.  

And someone commented that surely to post something so inconsequential was evidence of my friend’s willful ignorance or lack of give-a-damn about what is happening in our world. Because her sweater, clearly, did not matter.  

And, let me tell you, that comment fired me up, and not in a loving, pastoral way. I took some deep breaths and said nothing, because it wasn’t my page, and because, I’m thankful to say, I do not know that commenter. I do not know how he is tending his Founding Wounds this week, and I do not know how deeply he has been harmed.  

What I do know is that it is still okay to be excited about a new sweater and to share your excitement with your friends.   

It is still okay to follow up that hard, heavy poem by adrienne maree brown by reading some excerpts from her Pleasure Activism manifesto and then go do something for yourself that simply feels good. 

Beloveds, when the news is too heavy and you feel helpless to make a difference in the moment anyway, it is okay to switch the channel. It is okay that I took a late-night break from watching the joint congress courtesy our Presidential election and watched the season opener of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist instead. It didn’t change the headlines the next morning. They remained the same. I, however, started my Thursday more balanced and clear-headed for the choice I made.  

Anyway. I promised our worship team that I would make this sermon short today, to accommodate the longer story time that we shared earlier, because that was a soothing and important piece of this week’s balancing act. So I will.   

Let me end here with another poem, this one by my colleague Karen G. Johnston, whose words often set my inner balance a little bit closer to right. 

“Inexplicable.
How we rise each morning,
instead of burying our heads
under bedcovers,
sewing them shut.
Why we keep on
welcoming babies
with bone-deep joy
to this sordid world.
How we fill burlap sacks
with grit and gratitude,
our hands shredded
as we drag one over the other.
How we refuse the daily pull
towards greedy dark,
keeping at least one toe,
some of us whole torso,
in the light.
Inexplicable.
It’s what makes a poem
worth writing, worth reading,
worth flooding the world
with redundant, flawed attempts
at explanation.
It’s just the way it is.
There is no other way.
Stumbling every time,
practice or no.
Just part of the bargain…
the unavoidable,
intractable,
inexplicable
Bargain.”

Beloveds, can we reach out and help each other right the balance a little bit this week? If your struggling, can you let someone know if it would help to just be heard, or let them know that instead of commiseration, maybe you would like to listen to a story about a newborn baby or a new puppy or a new soup recipe? 

You remind me of the balance. You remind me of the good. You remind me of the love.

I love you.  

And now, Robert Niedermeyer will lead us in our ritual of offering.

Offering: Robert Niedermeyer

We give to remind ourselves how many gifts we have to offer.
We give to remember that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
We give with the faith that, together, we have enough.
We give to say yes to something we value. 
With our gifts, freely given, may we say yes to the values of our faith. Our offering will now be given and gratefully received.

Dedication of the Offering: Robert Niedermeyer

“To the work of this congregation, which is weaving a tapestry of love and action, 

we dedicate our offerings and the best of who we are.” 

Benediction: Rev. Misha Sanders

By Kendyl R Gibbons

There is, finally, only one thing required of us: that is, to take life whole, the sunlight and shadows together; to live the life that is given us with courage and humor and truth.

We have such a little moment out of the vastness of time for all our wondering and loving. Therefore let there be no half-heartedness; rather, let the soul be ardent in its pain, in its yearning, in its praise.

Then shall peace enfold our days, and glory shall not fade from our lives.

Postlude: Jim Pearce