“The world has gone mad.” This was the Facebook status that I posted at 9:09 PM on Tuesday, November 8th, and a week and a half later, I still feel this way. Coldplay’s “The Scientist” is a beautiful ballad that alludes to feeling powerless; it helped set the contemplative and still mood that I wanted the prelude to instill on Sunday morning. The following lyrics in particular seemed an apt description for how so many people in both the UUFC and our country are currently feeling.
Running in circles, chasing our tails
Coming back as we are
Nobody said it was easy
Oh it’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
I’m going back to the start
After hearing Jill’s sermon during the first service, I still played “The Scientist” for the 11 o’clock service prelude, but preceded it with the the theme from the 1992 film “The Last of the Mohicans”. “The Last of the Mohicans” is a large-scale, sweeping epic historic film based on James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name. Filled with racial strife, violence, and death, the film ends with a bloody final battle and then the last thing the audience sees are the wild rolling hills of unsettled upper New York. When asked by her daughter about the significance of the final shot, Jill replied that she thought that it might be a portrayal of how even after being drenched with blood and witnessing the unspeakable, the earth remains, an important element arising later in the sermon.
“In the World, But Not of It?” This Sunday’s theme is taken from the Bible, but my first reaction to seeing this phrase in print wasn’t to think of Gospel of John, nor of the multitude of ways one could interpret this phrase. Instead, a example of a fictional character who was “in the world but not of it” spring to mind…I thought of the beautiful film “Meet Joe Black”, starring Brad Pitt, who plays Death taking human form and coming to earth. I love using film scores as music for reflection since by nature, it is evocative, emotional, and meant to help tell a story. In this particular story, Death has come for Anthony Hopkins, a happy and successful businessman who has led a good and productive life. However, he has decided that since Hopkins has led such an exemplary life, he will allow Hopkins to live a little a little longer if Hopkins will act as a tour guide to what living is all about. While shadowing Hopkins, Death experiences the joys of family, peanut butter, making love, and most importantly falls head over heels for Hopkins’ daughter. Knowing nothing about living except for the fact that he brings it to an end, Death is intrigued by human life and then saddened by the fact that being the entity of Death, he can in no way stay and enjoy the wonders of love and living. Not only was was this tale an example of one who is in the world but not of it, “Meet Joe Black” was scored by one of my favorite film composers, Thomas Newman, and the piece “Whisper of a Thrill” is wistful, longing, and tinged with sadness. The simple melody floats above a surprising chord progression that shifts nebulously between moments of peace, discovery, and melancholy; to me, the piece has always seemed to express emotional complexity and longing for human contact. This is just what we needed on Sunday.
David chose Clif Hardin’s “We Will Walk Together” months ago as Sunday’s anthem, and even though we expected current events to be very different from the present state of affairs, the message is still incredibly apt:
We will walk together, you and I
Walk together, hand in hand.
We will walk together, heads held high
We will reach the promised land.
Come my friend, I see a brighter day
Where freedom rings for everyone
Come along and we will find the way
To justice rising like the sun.
Jill’s sermon offered much food for thought. How can we survive defeat and loss? How do we face the unknown? How do we deal with the difficult times ahead? So many people are feeling lost and at odds with their fellow man at present. We feel that we have fought a battle and lost. But it is when we view the world in terms of winners and losers, we forget that we are all on the same team. And if we hope to have a united team that can live together in peace someday, we need additional points of contact. When we stand alone, we have but two points of contact with the ground. When we fall, the only way we can get up is to add a third point of contact – to grab hold of something sturdy to pull ourselves up again. When we fall emotionally, we need another point of contact. It may be community, friends, loved ones – but the more points of contact we have, the steadier we are.
In the grander scheme of things, we can think of the three points of contact as the points of a triangle: We are one point. Others are another point. The third point is the most important, and can go by many names to each one of us. God. Life. Truth. Love. What endures. The earth remains, even if events spin dangerously out of control, even if we are stricken by panic and fear, even if we are heartbroken. These things endure and not only survive destruction but are things to keep fighting for. When we lose sight of this third point, we lose the ability to be grounded in love. And it is love that will strengthen us and help us lean in during times of uncertainty, fear, and grief. When we drop our demand for answers and work toward love and God-Life-Truth instead, this is for the greater good.
Facing the unexpected, the unfamiliar, and the feared can be unsettling and scary. But as Jill says, this coming year is an invitation to practice acting in love. And as Jackie DeShannon and this Sunday’s postlude states, what the world needs now is love – it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. No, not just for some, but for everyone.