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Kicking off UU Pagan Sundays

So I am coming to identify myself, mentally, as a UU pagan. (I should probably have a poke at CUUPS at some point, but everything I’ve heard about that has been pretty relentlessly Wiccish.) Coming back to church on a regular basis, feeling ready to commit to connecting with that community, those specific people, involving the kids in the congregation, in religious education… I guess I’m a grownup now.

And like I’ve said before, it’s nice to go places and hear other people talk about ma’at for a bit.

Anyway, I’m thinking I’m going to try to get into the mindfulness habit of writing down thoughts on the sermons (and service, and stuff, as relevant) each Sunday.

So here we go.

Today we had a guest sermon from Doug Muder. (Who I spoke to at coffee hour afterwards, to thank him for the sermon, and to say I liked to come to church to hear people say things that were in my head. I find it soothing.)

Now, the way the service is structured, the kids are in the sanctuary for the initial hymn and the affirmation, and then there’s a little storytime, and they go off to religious education. And today, RE class was spent assembling food bags to take to the local transient housing center.

The story today was about the Panama Canal. And it involved four hypothetical guys with shovels, all of whom thought that it would be fantastic to have a canal, whoever did that would be a hero, and had four different reactions.

Guy #1 took his shovel and started to dig. And he didn’t get a canal, he got a hole. And no matter how hard he tried, it was still a hole. Eventually he gave up.

Guy #2 had more realism than Guy #1 but less go-to; he woke up every day and thought about how great it would be to have a canal, how he’d be a hero if he did it, but since he couldn’t do the whole thing himself, trying was pointless.

Guy #3 said to himself that maybe he couldn’t dig a canal, but he was still a guy with a shovel, so he went around finding jobs that could be done by a guy with a shovel, and had a satisfying and productive life.

Guy #4 went off like Guy #3… and found an army of guys with shovels, working on digging a canal. And joined them. And worked and worked a lifetime, and when he retired, he looked out at the nearly-complete canal, and said, “We are all heroes.”

Which starts out already poking at things that I’ve been thinking about, like the Moral Revival, and … yeah.

The sermon itself was about his experience with his wife’s breast cancer, and there was a lot of things to chew on there. A lot of that is personal, but a chunk of it focused on the process of becoming a survivor, of the way people who have been through the treatment still find that to be a part of who they are afterwards, no matter how terrible it was.

He talked about the development of diagnosis, the ongoing testing, the three categories into which cancer falls: ‘you’ll probably be okay’, ‘it’s a bit of a tossup’, and ‘… well, miracles can happen.’ And how to get through the treatment knowing there was a possibility that some test would come around saying that they were going from the second into the third.

(I watched his wife through a lot of the sermon, the way she nodded, her responses, her laughs.)

And he talked about how they approached each day during her course of treatment with a simple question: “In what way will today not suck?” And he talked about acceptance – of knowing that there would be normal days, with going for walks or to shows or out to see friends, and there would be days with less ability to do things, and there would be days where the peak of goodness was curling up and watching cartoons, and there were days that didn’t reach that, and there were days that, well, nothing they could do could make it good. But there was still tomorrow, and the chance to do something then.

As he was talking, I found myself thinking of friends who were rocked by another suicide in their community. The loss of another scintillating brilliant queer life – not someone I know, but the story I know. The story I keep being enraged by, and helpless about, the way the world devours people.

And I could not help thinking, through the sermon, that this is like cancer, this is like surviving cancer, this is the ‘it’s a bit of a tossup’, the mortality rate from being trans, just being in the world that way, the wearing away at things, and never knowing whether something will come around to push from ‘you’ll probably be okay’ to ‘it’s a bit of a tossup’, from ‘maybe’ to ‘we need a miracle’. (And that’s without considering the people who out and out commit murder. Just the cancerous reality of being trans in the world.)

Which means, I guess, coming around to “In what way will today not suck?”, right?

He talked about acceptance. Which isn’t about resignation, about giving up or giving in. It’s about being the third guy with the shovel, who says ‘I’m not going to change the world, but I can dig that fencepost hole for you.’

And it’s about being the fourth guy with the shovel, who finds a bunch of people in a row to do the same thing with, and we are all heroes.

Reach out. Do what you can. Make today not suck for someone.

Find the army with the shovels.

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