Healthy Family, Healthy World


In a few moments, following this homily and then the embracing
meditation and other service elements, we'll be singing our
closing song for today: "We'll Build a Land":

"We'll build a land where we bind up the broken,
we'll build a land where the captives go free."

It's one of my favorite songs in the hymnal. "We'll build
a land." So inspiring!

But then the question becomes, What does it take to do this?
And sometimes a part of the process is just what we've been doing
today- sitting in a scrunched-up pew, balancing a census form on your
knee as you carefully fill in the bubbles and try not to wrinkle the
paper and try as best as you can to answer questions that can be
shockingly deep, as in We are committed to being family for one
another for the rest of our lives

(Do you feel this way never, not-often, sometimes, often,
always?)

We can depend on one another

(Do you feel this way never, not-often, sometimes, often,
always?)

I forgive myself and others

(Daily, weekly, monthly, less often, never?)

Answering questions like these, did you feel like you were on the hot
seat at times- or that you wanted to cover your honest answers from
the people around you? Such complex feelings are triggered by question
like these, which are so blunt and matter-of-fact. A couple of quotes
about family come to mind here.

"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging
through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one
another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each
other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the
same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out
the common thread that bound us all together." That comes from
the wise Erma Bombeck, and now here is the wisdom of Anonymous, who
says, "Families are like fudge-mostly sweet with a few
nuts."

"We need our families," says psychologist and Unitarian
Universalist Mary Pipher in her book The Shelter of Each
Other
, "but we don't always behave well in them.

We love and hate them, yearn for them deep in our bones and feel so
disgusted with them that we want to spit. Like all interesting and
important phenomena – jazz, Shakespeare, Zen – families are sad and
happy, complicated and simple, and full of victories and failures.
[…]

They make me think of lines from a Leonard Cohen song. In ‘Dance
Me to the Eve of Love, he writes, ‘ Raise the tent of shelter
although every thread is torn.'

Buddhists say that families are filled with ten thousand joys and ten
thousand sorrows."

This is what Mary Pipher writes. Ten thousand joys and ten thousand
sorrows on our minds and in our hearts as we're filling out the
tiny bubbles of the census, balancing the census form on a knee.

Are we committed to being a family for one another for the rest of our
lives?

Can we depend on each other?

These questions and more: the long list of things that can create
stress for families. The ways in which we practice spirituality, alone
and together.

How this congregation might help your family and other families.

A tiny, little bubble beside each item, and we fill them up with all
our ten thousand joys and all our ten thousand sorrows. We fill them
up with the poetry of our souls. That's what we do.

While the hard data is going to go to Baylor University, and it's
going to be crunched and classified and sliced and diced and spit back
to us in a form that will help us frame our Healthy Family, Healthy
World initiative here at UUCA, we cannot forget about that poetry of
our souls.

"Raise the tent of shelter although every thread is torn." I
want to share a poem with you right now that, for me, is like holy
scripture. It's about how "we'll build a land"
starts in the everyday sacred, everyday interactions of our families.

It's called "First Lesson," by Philip Booth:

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

That's the poem.

Life at times can be so difficult, and we can grow tired of the long
thrash to our island, swimming as we might through depression, drug
abuse, relationship conflicts, school problems, retirement
frustrations, financial strain, unemployment, and on and on-all the
family stressors mentioned in the survey… Daughter, believe
me,
says the poet: you will tire…. But when you
do,
when you tire on the long thrash to your island,
lie up and survive. Daughter, the sea will hold you.
And you will know that because once you allowed your head
to be tipped back
into the cup of my hand, and I was
there to hold you…
Lie up, daughter, and survive…
Spread your arms wide, lie out on the stream and look high at the
gulls.
I call this radical trust in life; I call this true faith
in action- And it is contagious in families who live their faith
together. The daughter tipping her head back, the father, the mother,
the grandparent whose hand is right there…. That's the poetry of
what we are about, here at UUCA. That's the spirit that is
infusing our Unitarian Universalist denomination, across the land.
Strengthening our families so that when someone we care about tips
back their heads- a child but also a spouse or partner, a parent, a
lover, a friend- our hands will be right there, ready to hold their
heads up, ready to teach or reinforce faith in life. Finding out what
we can do to address the social and economic policies and patterns
that burden our families. Finding out what we can do to heal them from
within, heal their isolationism from the larger world, heal the lack
of communication and understanding across the generations, heal the
lack of healthy boundaries which our children and youth hunger for and
desperately need, heal the stubborn biases like homophobia or
heterosexism that reinforce hatred of the other and self-hate. Finding
out what we can all do to build a land which truly values families, as
well as families of all kinds. And then to do this.

Here, at UUCA, to ensure something that has to do with every person
who filled in the bubble beside this item: "I have no close
family." If you filled in this bubble, then in this congregation
of hundreds of people, this congregation of multiple communities and
many smaller classes and groups and circles, may you find your right
fit, your right place, people with whom you can share your life with
in healthy ways, in healthy relationships, and you will tip your head
back, and hands will be there to hold you up, and your hands will be
there for others….. That's what I hope for you.

Here-in this house of the human spirit, in this place which aspires to
become nothing less than Beloved Community. And we plan for that, we
work hard to create it, we don't take it for granted, because
it's not a done deal, we have to plan and work and struggle for it
continually and constantly… We'll build a land. We'll build
a land. In this land, this is what we say to each other:

…remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

This is what we will say to each other. Words of resilience, words of
faith. Let us say them. Amen.