Five L's

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Oct 16, 2008


>> The Global Chalice Lighting for October 2008.

I'm going to start a little tradition here in Second Life.
The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists has been distributing a "Global Chalice Lighting"
every month for over 5 years.
They ask that particpating congregations include it in one service every month,
and identify the chalice lighting as the "Global Chalice Lighting."
This will remind us that we are part of a worldwide movement.

Bless the work that we do,
And the silence that falls upon us,
And the joy that stirs within us.
And let praise rise to our lips
Naturally out of the fullness of our hearts.
 --Sheila Crosskey, British General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches

>> Reading
A reading for one part of my topic today.
It is from the current minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship.

"The Glove in the Subway"

A one-paragraph newspaper article describes a subway platform during the morning rush hour at Grand Central Terminal.
A train pulls in; a well-dressed woman gets off.
Before the doors close, the woman realizes that she is holding only one of her leather gloves.
She looks back into the train and spots the matching one on the seat.
It is obviously too late to dash back in to retrieve it, so with a cavalier shrug,
she flings her arm out and, the doors about to close, tosses her glove onto the seat alongside its mate.
The doors shut, and the train pulls away.

What a great image.
One could use it, I suppose, as a metaphor for facing the inevitable,
or arguing for an orderly universe, or even, with a little stretch, for sharing the good things in life.
But, as we move into the summer season, the metaphor that comes to mind is the one of "letting go."

To throw a favorite leather glove into the oblivion of a moving train
must involve small pangs of uncertainty, pangs of some degree of loss, pangs of upset.
After a lifetime of struggling not to lose our mittens, then our gloves, cavalier abandonment does not come easy.

In New England at least, our pattern is to cling, as we cling to our gloves,
to routine, hard work, and obligation, all fall, all winter, and right through to the Fourth of July.
But in the summertime, there is a letting go.
We close up our schools and our churches, put our overcoats in mothballs,
and dust off the swan boats, the lobster pots and last year's new gas grill.
We need that.
We need to cast that glove of responsibility back into the train.
We need a vigorous and decisive toss about now to free ourselves of the confining gloves of life, even if we love them.

And the train's about to leave.
 -- Jane Ranney Rzepka

>> Homily "Five Ells"

As en engineer, one thing I use are checklists to make sure that I follow all the steps of whatever activity I'm performing.
My wife has always been amused that I have always used a checklist to make sure I take care of all the
little steps of preparing the house when we leave for vacation: things like turning off the water heater and checking the windows.
At work I have two checklists: one covers all the little things I do just before I leave; things like insure certain
computer systems are still running and certain safes are locked.
The other list is for the start of the day, and it has 5 short statements to remind me what I have to do during the day.

"God is a verb" said Buckminster Fuller, a Unitarian.
It is one expression of Process Theology--where God is not thought to be like a separate personality,
but is something that is larger than what we see.
"God" is something outside of us, yet we are part of God.

I have talked about Process Theology, and probably will again.
But if God is a verb, what would the verbs be?

One list of words that I have heard about is the "Five 'L' Verbs."
Let Go

These are the words I have on that checklist at work:
these are the five things that I really do try to do every day.
And I can say that in the year that I've had those words on my wall at work,
many of my best days are those when I can do all 5 items.

I wrote most of this homily last night, before the call from Puerto Rico with the sad news about my mother-in-law passing away.
Like many things one writes, a few minutes can change everything.

"Love" is the simplest, and can be the hardest.
But it means to love everyone--to deeply and genuinely respect everyone.
Here in SL, sometimes we have to rise above those whom we sometimes encounter.
At work, it might not be more than the respect for the inherent worth of some individuals you work with.
Love mostly works at your home, where your day starts and ends; where your thoughts are both under the roof
with those close to you, and with those thousands of miles away.

"Learn" is another simple one, though one has to be ready to learn at any time.
The hardest part at times is to admit that one must learn something--we don't always know everything,
and sometimes what we think is right is wrong.
We have to see beyond that which we are familiar; it is the unexpected lesson that is most valuable.

"Labor" is what we spend most of our week at work, of course.
But we also have to labor outside of our employment; we have to work at home, and work
to help those who we love.
Labor should be more than intellectual--one has to move, one has to get the energy flowing.
You have to feel the world moving around you.
We have to know that we have moved something form one place to another, improving our entire world.

"Laugh" is easy, at times.
It is important to not take ourselves terribly seriously.
I am reminded that at then end of it all, it's not what we might have done that people will always remember,
but how we have touched others.
And many times, that is our laughter, shared.

"Let Go" is the hardest, and this can be harder than we imagine.
We have to learn to let go of those things that hold us back.
Sometimes they are concrete things--objects that vex us--the example of the glove in the reading.
Many times it is ideas, dominating our thinking and keeping us from moving to the next step.
Sometimes it takes two to fully let go--many times it takes one to let the other know that it is
time to let go.
"Letting go" is hardest because there are times when it is healthy to hold on to ideas and things
for longer than we think we should--"letting go" becomes "giving up" and that can be worse.

These are just 5 verbs.
They are one attempt to pin a definition on the undefinable.
A useful exercize for a small-group ministry might be to try to define other small lists that try to define
our relationship with the fullness of existence that Process theologians try to pin down.

>>  Discussion.

Do these verbs work?
Is the list missing something very important?
Perhaps limiting ourselves to just one letter is too small?
Love, Learn, Labor, Laugh, Let go....
What are your thoughts?

 >>  Closing Words.

Go in peace.
Hold in your heart the certainty
That the spirit of life is with you always.

When your heart is torn asunder
Or when you soar with sweet joy,
You are never alone, never apart,
From the spirit that resides within us,
That guides our lives and cherishes us always.

Take comfort.

Be well, the service is over.  Amen.

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative