“A Day to Remember” by Margaret Weis
March 24, 2013 – First Parish of Watertown, MA
Call to Worship – from Kalidasa
Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of beauty;
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today well-lived, makes Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
Last month I came home one night after a particularly challenging day. I was tired and feeling pretty worn out, and definitely ready for a nice dinner and time to relax. Now, I should give you some context for our usual routine: when it’s dinnertime in our house, Susan and I begin a long and drawn out conversation about what we will have for dinner. Neither of us is particularly decisive or picky with food, and, well, we also try to make the other person happy … I guess that’s what newlyweds do! Most evenings, our dinner decisions involve a long process of elimination, and eventually a coin toss, where I tend to go for best two out of three if I don’t get my way!
So on this particular night, I was shocked to come through the door to wonderful smell of something already cooking on the stove. It was clear that Sue had been cooking for a while and I was VERY hungry! What was for dinner, you might ask? Pancakes of course! Susan explained that it was National Pancake Day and so, naturally, we were having pancakes for dinner! It was such a nice surprise, and it felt a little silly to eat pancakes for dinner … but hey, we were kind of required to! I mean, it was National Pancake Day!
It was great to enjoy something, even if it was a little out of context, and think about how great it is. We ended up talking about pancakes, and our memories of them from our childhood. We had a heated conversation about how to properly cook the pancakes, and just how many bubbles were required before making the big flip! I spoke about when I was a little girl and my father used to make us pancakes on the weekends in whatever shape we wanted. Usually I would ask for things like soccer balls, which was obviously indicative of my somewhat limited imagination. Then I got more creative and demanding, requesting Mickey Mouse, then Minnie Mouse, then a gymnast on a balance beam. That was the end of my father taking pancake design requests.
I hadn’t anticipated eating breakfast for dinner that night, and I hadn’t anticipated that conversation. It was a conversation about an ordinary thing, but it was ordinary in a special way.
There is so much to worry about in this world, and so many deadlines to meet and things to get done. It can be challenging to stay in the present moment, or take the time out to enjoy something we love, or even indulge a little.
How can we find the time to celebrate all that makes up our life and all that we are fed by in this world? How, as we heard in our reading from Mary Wellemeyer this morning, can we walk away from the library, the office, all the obligations of our ordinary days and stand outside, blinking in the sun, eating ice cream cones and laughing?
Well the reality is that it’s easier said than done to take the time to celebrate, remember, or think more deeply about something. And it’s just not realistic to go through life eating ice cream all day and laughing. But there can be a balance. This is part of why days are set aside for just these reasons.
This is why there are days like National Pancake Day. Because days of celebration like this give us the excuse to have some fun and take a moment of pause to appreciate this world. Days like National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day (which is today by the way) or International Waffle Day (which is tomorrow) let us celebrate the ordinary in a special way.
These days are like mini-Sabbaths when, like in the story of Genesis when God rested after all God had created, we might sit back in wonder at all that is. We can give thanks for the tiniest of blessings. It’s important to take that time. Like most other months, March is also known for other commemorative celebrations, many of which raise awareness about important issues or topics. For instance, March is National Nutrition Month, National Music in our Schools Month, Women’s History Month, Red Cross Month, and Brain Injury Awareness Month. It also happens to be Peanut month, not to be confused with Peanut Allergy Month, which is in May.
Now, if you’re anything like me, hearing those lists of all the issues and fun things to focus on in the month, you might feel overwhelmed.
That’s when our mind kicks in. That’s when the scheduling part of our brain starts figuring out how it’s even possible to plan an event along with each of these causes, so that each get equal air time. But if we get caught up in the thinking about these things, we are missing the point.
Each of these celebrations, whether for one day or a month, are important and worthy of our energy and heartspace. They speak to issues that impact the daily life of so many people, and they offer the opportunity to learn and to make a difference in those people’s lives. They show us that by taking a few moments of our time to learn or to celebrate, we can make a difference. These days can connect us to others in a way that can be meaningful and long-lasting, and they are a beautiful thing. They illustrate our interconnectedness and our love for one another and this life we share.
One of the things I love most about our worship is the time set aside in each service for the sharing of Joys and Sorrows. It is this blessed time when we hear from our neighbors about the joys and the struggles they are facing. It is a time when their prayer goes out into the room and is held by all who are present, and then it’s carried in our hearts throughout our week.
It can be so great to hear the variance in what people share, and sometimes it can be a challenge to ride the rollercoaster of emotion that happens as the candles are lit: one for the joy at the birth of a child, another for the fear of a new diagnosis, the next for the anticipation of finding new work, and another for the sadness from the death of one among us.
But isn’t this how life is? Isn’t life made up of the ebbs and flows of joy, sorrow, and the experience between the two?
What is beautiful is that we set aside the time each week to share these important experiences in our lives. We do so because it is vital to our community, and our journey together as people of faith. So often, I hear my own joys and sorrows echoed in the words of those who share each week. These moments of sharing speak to the human experience.
I have heard many of you speak about Sunday here at First Parish and its role as a vital component in your life. Each Sunday, you come and you worship. You talk with friends, both old and new, and you use this place as a touchstone in your life. Week after week, you come and are renewed. Each week you can serve and be served, and love and be loved. Each week you can celebrate and struggle, and be in community.
But Unitarian Universalism is not a faith based solely from Sunday to Sunday, skipping over the days in between. Anyone who serves on one or more of our committees here at First Parish knows this … many evenings are spent here between Sundays. We are not a faith based on Sundays, but rather, we are a religious community that sees each day as sacred, each day as holy, and each moment as holding potential for greatness, compassion, and love. We live our faith in every moment and in every day. Each day is a day to celebrate, and to be intentionally lived.
So how do we do that? How do we remain ever-conscious of those ebbs and flows that I spoke about before? Well, we need reminders sometimes. We need reminders to celebrate. Those reminders help us because from day to day and week to week it is so easy to get caught up in what we need to get done and where we need to go. It is so easy to go through the day and never pick up our heads to see the changing of the seasons, or reflect on the past, or make the time to gather together.
This is part of the role of holidays, festivals, and other celebrations. They serve as touchstones, as guideposts, and as moments of pause in an otherwise hurried and busy life. And we celebrate to remember, to honor, and to build community.
Today is Palm Sunday, the day in the Christian church that remembers Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week. Now, Jesus didn’t know that he was starting off Holy Week because it didn’t exist at that point in history.
On the day that would eventually become Palm Sunday, Jesus was going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the Jewish remembrance of the Exodus story when the Israelites escaped slavery and journeyed to the Promised Land. Jesus was celebrating Passover because he was a Jew. He wasn’t aware that this would be his final trip to Jerusalem, or that it would be the last week of his short but influential life. But it was.
Jesus entered into Jerusalem, on a donkey, and was received with fanfare and branches of palms laid out in front of him. He was an honored attendee at that year’s Passover, as many had heard of him and his work of love and compassion. He was their savior, a new king that ruled not with power and force but with a message of freedom and love.
For Jesus’ followers, and the thousands and then millions who would follow, that Passover celebration was different than any that had ever come before. It was different because it was the last time Jesus would enter into the holy city, and it was the beginning of his last week of life.
And so, today, our Christian neighbors remember that triumphant entrance into Jerusalem with palms tied into crosses, church breakfasts, and hymns of celebration. It is a celebration that will be short-lived, as the remembrance of Jesus’ persecution, crucifixion, and burial will come next – and they will, as a community, await the coming of Easter and rejoice in the resurrection. It is a celebration of remembrance of the life of Jesus.
It is a celebration that reminds us of the fragile nature of life, and the unexpected aspects of it. It reminds us of Jesus’ ministry as a messenger of love and caring that transcended boundaries of ethnicity and socioeconomic status. It reminds us also that our values and commitments may be tested and so might we, and that our behaviors matter.
It is a celebration of remembrance, and through it we are invited to remember. In the reading this morning by Unitarian Universalist minister Max Coots, we are reminded to mark the time. We are reminded to take a moment of pause when anniversaries arrive by calendar or by consciousness. I love that – by calendar or by consciousness.
Our minds follow calendars. We are inclined to think according to a schedule, and keep order using days and weeks and months to organize our thoughts. But our hearts are different. Our hearts do not follow a schedule.
We anticipate the life we want in the future, and struggle to stay present in the now – and we are reminded that we need to be patient. At the most inoppurtune and inconvenient times we can find ourselves longing for a time gone by, or missing a person who has died, and we are reminded that grief and loss follow their own schedule. We are reminded that we are not always in control of what has happened, or will happen in the future, and that knowledge is filled with both relief and fear.
So, my friends, let us meet each day with purpose and intent to seize those moments when the joy comes up from the Earth, and may our hearts follow. May we seek to celebrate this rollercoaster of life, with the knowledge that there are ups and downs, but with the courage to take the ride anyway.
May we take that moment of pause and lift our gaze when we see the puddles filled with clouds, and look to the sky. We will never have that moment again, in all its beauty and all its wonder. May we treasure and honor it.
Amen. Blessed be.