Whether this is your first time here, or whether you have been coming here forever, welcome to St Mark's, to our time of celebration, reflection and community.
We come into one another's presence seeking some part of ourselves,
knowing that we do not live alone,
knowing that we cannot live fully if we are for ourselves alone.
We come as ordinary people,
each with strengths and each with weaknesses,
aware of our shortcomings.
Our lives set before us many tasks.
We are not always equal to them.
Too often we fall short of our best expectations of ourselves;
we do not know enough, we are not always patient,
we fall into anger, we cannot find strength,
we do not wait for wisdom, we lack vision.
It hurts. It hurts to acknowledge our shortcomings.
And yet, here we are, not always perfect, not always wise,
but always human, gloriously and miraculously alive and breathing,
wondrously and mysteriously human.
May our time together renew our hope.
May the stories we share refresh our courage.
May the songs we sing lift our spirits.
May the words we speak invigorate us.
May the touch of hands, the sound of laughter,
the sight of faces new and familiar, restore us in faith. Amen.
Lighting of our Unitarian Chalice or Peace Candle
The candle is lit by a member of the congregation for whatever they choose to light it for, for example:
* people in the news for whom the candle lighter has a special concern
* people of other faith traditions who are celebrating a major festival
* concerns and causes in which the lighter has a special interest
Community, supporting friends,
hands joined in unity . . .
Rejoice, my friend, in fellowship,
in living, full and free.
O let us live with humankind
as sisters, brothers, true.
We'll share our joys, our sorrows share,
becoming as we do.
We all can grow. We can become
our finer selves set free . . .
Risk what we are, sure in our faith
in what we yet can be.
* The Month's Good Cause, chosen by a church member, and for which a collection bowl is put out every Sunday;
* Intimations of events during the coming week;
* Who the flowers will be given to - someone sick, or housebound, or celebrating, or deserving our thanks;
* Other notices which people may wish to share
Offering / Offertory
It is a blessing to be able to govern and support our religious community ourselves to make possible everything we dream of and do, and to live out our shared values.
Time for All Ages
The Story of 'The Cracked Water Jar'
A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?" "I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said. The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure. The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house." Now, aren't you glad you are a "cracked pot" too!
Children leave for their own activities in the hall.
Divinity is round us never gone
From earth or star,
From life or death, from good or even wrong -
In all we are.
Seek not for God in only noblest deeds
Those seldom done:
For God's life throbs in all our anguished needs
Beneath the sun.
We yearn for God in a perfected one
By signs foretold -
While in mistakes and virtues just begun
God's ways untold.
Wait not at last in truth and love made whole
Your God to see;
In every timid, false, or angered soul
There's love to free.
Then wake, O Soul, respect yourself today;
Create your part;
And look to find your life and truth and way
With honest art
Divine Spirit of Life and of Love
present deep within the soul of each one of us
strengthen us to move on with our lives
in spite of whatever troubles may befall us.
We know that we are imperfect, prone to mistakes,
often so concerned about ourselves that we are blind to others.
We are prone to acting in ways which wound ourselves and others
and, in our best moments, we know it.
May this knowing not fill us with guilt.
May it, rather, help us to be patient and understanding.
May it help us to connect with the inner strength, the courage, the resolve
to shape our future lives in ways that give dignity to them
and help add dignity to others.
As we respond to the call to join in the ongoing creation of our world.
David Sammons (adapted)
Time of Silence
a brief time for your own thoughts and prayers, or simply time to rest in the quiet
this may be organ, piano or other music
Sermon: Striving for Imperfection
You can listen to this sermon on our podcast page.
The sermon may be about any number of issues but among them will be:
* questions of personal faith
* matters of current ethical concern
* topics about the Unitarian way in religion
Be thou my Vision, O God of my heart;
Naught be all else to me. save that thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, God;
Thou my soul's shelter, thou my high tower:
Raise thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor world's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and thou only, first in my heart,
Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.
Sovereign of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all
(read by members of the congregation)
I do not stand alone
but with others to support me
I will stand my ground.
I do not see the way
but with others to walk it with me
I can make a path.
I do not possess the truth
but with others to witness to what they know
I will be able to discern what is right.
I cannot master all skills
but with others who will lend their accomplishments
I can do enough.
I cannot carry every burden
but with others to share it
I may bear my own load.
I cannot meet all needs
but with others to nourish and replenish me
I will be able to give enough.
I do not have limitless free choice
but with others to consult
I will make my own choices gladly.
I will not always be consistent
but with others to laugh at me
I will regain my equanimity.
I am not invincible
but with others to reach out a hand
I may learn from my mistakes and start again.
I cannot be perfect
but with others to make up the shortfall of my imperfections
I can be content to be good enough.
Nicola Slee et al.