Invincible Summer

Prelude: Jim Pearce

Chiming of the Singing Bowl: Rev. Misha Sanders

Words of Welcome and Announcements: Melissa Niedermeyer

Good morning! I am Melissa Niedermeyer, 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.  

And now let us prepare for worship with the song “Enter Rejoice and Come In” sung by Larry Helferich.

Music: Larry Helferich “Enter Rejoice and Come In”

Call to Worship: Rev. Misha Sanders

By Rev. Christian Schmidt

Let us wake up.
Not just from the Sunday morning exhaustion, from the wish for a few more drowsy minutes in bed.
Let us wake up to this world we live in: to its beauty and wonder, and also to its tragedy and pain.
We must wake up to this reality: that not all in our world have what we do, however much or little that is.
We must wake up to the idea that our wholeness, our lives, are only as complete as the lives of those around us, of those we are inextricably tied to in a great web of mutuality, of which all of us are part.
We must #staywoke, in the words of our friends and colleagues involved in Black Lives Matter, working every day for racial justice in our country.
Let us wake up, let us stay awake, let us #staywoke.

And now, in this time and place, let us worship together.

And, now, Josie Miller will light our chalice.

Lighting of the Chalice: Josie Miller

Story Wisdom: Adia Fields-Udofia “Dr. King: A Leader and a Hero

Reading: Melissa Niedermeyer

Today is the day we honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King was driven in his mission because he had a vision of a more just and caring America; his vision is a goal that we as a nation are admittedly still striving for- Dr. King was able to drive an entire social justice movement in this country because he believed that individuals acting consciously and purposefully in concert could be an overwhelming force for good- it didn’t matter who you were or where you came from, each of us possesses the capacity to act… he reminded people that “everybody can be great, because everybody can serve… you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”

In the spirit of Dr. MLK, the Northwest Ministry Team would like to challenge our congregation to find ways to serve their community over the coming months, and we would like to document the service of our members in a photo slide show that we will share with the congregation in April.  MLK day is traditionally “a day on, not a day off,” but  we have a goal of extending the holiday- find ways to extend and multiply your service in all the ways you can over the coming months- the world as we know it right now can seem a dark and cold place- but again, as King famously stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” As individuals and families, let us search for the means to drive out darkness and hate through acts of service to the larger community- include your family and children and friends if you can, and send your Northwest friends some photos (look for how where to send pics in the newsletter or our Facebook site)

For example, Jenn Miller’s family participates in regular neighborhood cleanup events; Lil Woolf frequently gives of herself and time by donating blood through the Red Cross; my own parents run an arm of the Atlanta Food Bank out of their Methodist church in Jonesboro that usually feeds between 100 and 300 people. These are larger undertakings and bigger commitments, but there are many things to be done out in the world;  if you are unsure how to get involved, you might consider smaller deeds such as checking in on your neighbor, donating to the ATL mission- the ATL mission always urgently needs donations, as do many organizations in the Atlanta area, spending 15 minutes picking up litter in or around your community, or volunteering an hour of time to host a Northwest coffee hour after service. Discover the need in your own community, and find a way to fill the need- share the pics with us because it is such  a treat for your church family to see you in action, especially while we are still waiting for that wonderful Sunday when we will be able gather in person.


A Network of Mutuality

By Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
There are some things in our social system to which all of us ought to be maladjusted.
Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear, only love can do that.
We must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation.
The foundation of such a method is love.
Before it is too late, we must narrow the gaping chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds which precipitate and perpetuate war.
One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.
We shall hew out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.


The Flawed Understanding of Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Aisha Ansano

Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to a crowd in San Francisco on June 30, 1964. In this black-and-white photograph, the humidity of the evening has cause a beam of light to appear surrounding King, as he gestures from a lectern.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a radical. He was called “the most dangerous man in America” by the FBI and had a 17,000 page FBI file at the time of his death.

It wasn’t just KKK members or those in positions of power who disagreed with him or hated him. As Cornel West explains in his book The Radical King, by the time of King’s death, most of the country didn’t like him. “There was intense FBI pressure, including attempts to make him commit suicide,” West reminds us. “The black civil rights leadership was trashing him. The white establishment had rejected him. The young black revolutionaries were dismissing him.” Over the course of his life, King was not a man who was loved by most; in fact, he was hated by a select few. He was an incredibly maligned man by the time he died. And yet we never talk about that.

Instead, we praise and honor him and hold him up as the highest standard of the struggle for justice. We as a society measure all who struggle for justice against Dr. King, but not against who he actually was. We measure those who struggle for justice against who we have decided Dr. King was: a sanitized version of the actual man. As a society, we tell activists that their protests are too unruly, their demands too harsh, their voices too strident, their methods too stringent. We have decided as a society that there is one way to struggle for justice, and it’s the way we like to imagine King struggled for justice — even though it’s not the way he actually did.

In the summer of 2016, protesters took to the streets around the country, condemning police brutality and proclaiming that black lives matter. As has happened over and over again with these sorts of protests, many people criticized their methods and tactics. In a press conference, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed stated “Dr. King would never take a freeway.”

Anyone remember the powerful thing King organized: the marches from Selma to Montgomery? The ones that entailed several hundred people walking down a highway and crossing a bridge, blocking cars from being able to drive on it? The flawed understanding of King is everywhere, and it has seeped into our society’s understanding of what is acceptable or appropriate in the struggle for racial justice.

… and now the song, “Meditation on Breathing” sung by Philip Rogers.

Interlude: Philip Rogers “Meditation on Breathing”

Joys and Sorrows: Rev. Joan Davis

Good Morning.  I’m the Rev. Joan Davis, Northwest’s Affiliated Community Minister, 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.

Joys and Sorrows

We continue to ask that you keep Marti Wilson and her nephew, Ryan Wilson in mind. Ryan is still at Kennestone Hospital where’s he’s been for much of the past nine months. He’s now had a colectomy and multiple blood transfusions.  Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers as you have for much of the last nine months.  Marti and her family are so very appreciative.


Jared Freeman celebrated his birthday on Monday and Mani Subramanian did as well.  A Happy Belated Birthday to each of you!

This coming Tuesday, the 19th, Jamie Williams will celebrate a birthday. And a Happy Birthday to you, Jamie!

Prayer and Meditation: Rev. Joan Davis

Let us meditate together.

That Which Is Holy and Loving and True, hear our prayers: prayers for healing, kindness, resiliency, and courage. Prayers that our bodies and our spirits will survive our losses.  Prayers for our nation.  We pray that the horrific violence will cease and the healing will begin.  

This day, we thank you for giving us each other that we may share the pain and loss as well as the joys with each other.  And thank you for giving us hope. 

May it be so.

Let us prepare for the sermon with the song, “Let Justice Roll Down” performed by Lea Morris.

Music Interlude: Lea Morris “Let Justice Roll Down

Sermon: Rev. Misha Sanders

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

French Philosopher and author Albert Camus (alBER kaMOO) wrote that in his famous book entitled Summer, in 1950. 71 years ago now. 

And I want to read you a short synopsis of another book that I just discovered, while preparing for this sermon, although, as you probably already know, shipments of things take longer than usual these days, and the book did not arrive in time for me to include it any further than this synopsis in this sermon, but I bet there will be future sermons, so stay tuned.  

Here’s the thing about that book I ordered:  

“On Freedom and Revolt: A Comparative Investigation” (Xulon Press, 2015) by Carl E. Moyler addresses the problems that plague society, such as poverty, war, racism, and tyranny – threats to humanity, justice, and freedom.

Moyler explores the critical issues of today’s society through the lens of the philosopher and author Albert Camus and minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr. These two champions of justice and freedom are the subject of “On Freedom and Revolt,” which aims to reintroduce their life and works to a generated beset by many and diverse forms of injustice.

Despite the difference in time and place, Camus and King are linked by their concern for the common man. Camus is a humanitarian agnostic who addressed the hopelessness and despair that the Europeans endured after two World War, while King is a preacher who battled racism that gripped America in the 1960s.

Both men refused to remain silent in the face of injustice. They instead used their talents to confront the evils of their time. By comparing the writings of these two champions of justice and freedom, Moyler hopes to incorporate in readers the essence of justice and freedom, to inspire love for mankind, and to fast-track a more humane society.”

Now, beloveds, I want to tell you about a little bit of synchronicity, which as rational, logic-loving Unitarian Universalists, we can do whatever we want with, and I am choosing to give in to the wonder and delight that it causes in me.  

When I put the words, “Invincible Summer” in the worship planning spreadsheet way back in the late summer, I did it because I had read that Camus quote somewhere, and thought it would be a good launching point in the middle of winter, and so I just stuck it somewhere. Just a title, no sermon yet.  Just an idea of reminding us that winter and hard times don’t last for always. Not even looking at the actual calendar and realizing that one of the most important commemorations of the calendar year in my estimation, Martin Luther King Day, was this weekend.  

And so, I almost changed the theme and pushed Camus to a different Sunday.  

Until the synchronicity started to pile up and it became clear to me that there is Something in our collective consciousness, subconsciousness, and soul that must need to be reminded today of our connections with each other, over time, over circumstance, over continents, over race, class, religion, and gender.  

And what is that thing, exactly?  

Well, I will tell you for sure of what *I* need to be reminded of right now, because I sure do forget it on a regular basis.  

In his sermon “Love Your Enemies” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” He delivered that sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in November of 1957.  

And he may or may not have been influenced by the reminder from his contemporary, Albert Camus, that “In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.”

Friends, hate is everywhere in our news cycles these days, isn’t it?  

And fear, of course, because scratching just barely below the surface of hate and anger we so often find them to have been just a hard mask to cover fear and ignorance. 

But, hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.  

Our theme of the month is balance.  

And today I want to be perfectly clear about what I believe balance is NOT, especially right now, when many people from many sides of terrible divides in our nation and our world are calling for truce, for unity, for a coming together and a forgiving of hurts and an overlooking of our differences. 

We could try to do that, but that is not true balance, my friends.  

It is a false equivalency to state that the worldviews of racists are just a different opinion and just as deserving of a place at the table as those who strive for justice, equality, equity, and equanimity. That is not balance. It is not balanced to say that all opinions are equal. They are not.  It is not balanced to say that personal beliefs and proven science are equal. When they are in opposition to each other, every time, science wins.  

And we, beloveds, do not adhere to a faith from which conflict over science is a problem. And so it is good and it is right for us to point to the science of virology and all the other medical fields, and heed the advice of our scientists on how to protect ourselves and each other from the deadly viral pandemic that is COVID-19. Just as it is good and it is right for us to point to the research of critical race theory and heed the advice of people of color, who are the resident experts, after all, on how to protect ourselves and each other from the deadly viral pandemic that is racism. 

That is balance. Not that every opinion gets to be voiced and voted on and given a platform. No, that is not balance. Balance is lifting up truth and saying, “Here it is. Do what you will with it, but here is the whole truth, revealed in all it’s glory, and in all it’s garish ugliness… this is the truth, and if we pay attention to it, it very well may set us free.”

False equivalencies that compare the Black Lives Matter demonstrations this past year to the domestic terror attack on our nation’s capital are unbalanced.  

It is unbalanced but true that White Supremacy ruled in Kenosha after Jacob Blake, in Atlanta after Rayshard Brooks, in Louisville after Breonna Taylor, in Minneapolis after George Floyd, AS WELL AS in Washington DC after a fair and free election.  

That is unbalanced, but the noticing of the TRUTH… not a creating of false equivalencies… that gets just a tiny bit closer to balancing the scales of justice.  

One of my professors from Meadville Lombard Theological School, the Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed, had this to say in his book, “In Between; Memoir of and Integration Baby”, about living in Chicago, Illinois, the day after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. 

[read excerpt]

Beloveds, it has been a long, ugly winter. And I’m not just talking about 2020 and 2021. The words that I have lifted up this morning from Dr. King, from Camus, and from Professor Morrison-Reed were written in the 1950s, the 1960s, and in the early 2000s. And on January 5th, 2021, white men walked through our nation’s capitol with confederate flags and nazi flags, proclaiming through their treason that they were patriots, and literally screaming in protest, on video, when they were arrested safely much later, “You are treating us like we are black people”. 

No. No, boys, nobody there got anything close to the treatment they would have received if they did not live their lives in privileged white skin, and we all know this.  

Back to why it’s good to remember that hate cannot drive our hate, only love can do that.  

It is a reminder for me, and maybe you need it, too.  

But, beloveds, please remember this too, while we are trying to remember to access the deep well of love that I know we all have within us:

Calls for unity and reconciliation cannot be fulfilled until there has been accountability and repercussions and justice. Anything less is a false balance, a false righting of the scales, and will just serve to scab over an infected wound, once again, which will, once again, fester and hurt and kill and destroy until it is, once again, ripped open and we have no choice but to look at the further damage we have done.  

Balance does not mean unity and working across the aisle when our moral arc isn’t bending in any noticeable way toward justice.

Balance does not mean giving a platform to hate speech.  

And, furthermore, balance does not mean the Capitol police should have treated white insurrectionists with a knee on their neck until they were dead. No. It simply means noticing that such brutality is clearly unnecessary, morally bankrupt, and wrong, and never, ever, EVER again using it on a black man.  

Balance does not mean being a moderate. Dr. King delivered a whole sermon about the dangers of the white moderate.  

Balance means being radically on the side of love.  

Even when love don’t make no sense.

Maybe especially then.  

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I love you.

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter. 

I love you. 

I am going to now reverently and in repentance open my heart to hear  The Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” shared with us by the Stanford Talisman Ensemble of Stanford University. I invite you to do the same.

Music for Reflection: Stanford Talisman “Lift Every Voice and Sing

Offering: Introduction by Melissa 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.

Offertory: Josie Miller “NWUUC Text to Give

Dedication of the Offering: Melissa Niedermeyer

Please join me in the dedication of the offering: 

“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.” 

Music: UU Church Utica “In the Name of Love

Benediction: Rev. Misha Sanders

By Ellen Quaadgras

Sheltered in our homes,
Or going to work, at risk,
For week after week after week,
We’re edgy, tired, a little raw.
We are tender, vulnerable,
A little more open than usual.
Those of us who are white,
Who, before, might have been distracted
Who, before, might have been too busy
Who, before, might have been preoccupied with our lives,
Are noticing the ways injustice has happened to people of color,
the same way, again and again and again,
Now, we have become aware.
Please, may we be aware.
May we not lose awareness.
May we not get distracted.
May we not turn away.
May we open—really open:
Accepting the invitation to change—
really change,
our minds,
our hearts,
our world.
When we encounter calls to defund the police
When we encounter calls for reparations
When we hear “follow our lead” from people of color
May we listen, may we learn, may we be open…
Even if it means rethinking everything
you thought you knew about the world.
We have, all of us, as humans
An enormous opportunity
To change one of the oldest injustices
In history,
To change everything.
May we stay vulnerable
May we stay tender.
May we take action.
Eyes and hearts and minds,

Postlude: Jim Pearce