Sunday, January 08, 2017

The New Normal?

            As we’ve aged, whether we are single twenty- or thirty-somethings,  middle-aged parents or single folks, Baby Boomers, or truly elderly and feeling it, we experience changes in our lives that turn out to be permanent rather than temporary.
            It may be a chronic illness or an improvement in health due to changed behaviors; it may be the end or start of a love relationship; it may be a move from a beloved home to unfamiliar surroundings.
            Many times these are temporary, but when they become permanent, we begin to realize that “normal” isn’t what it used to be.  The “new normal” is often something we need to come to terms with because it is life-changing and not always pleasant.
            I’ve had my ideas of “normal” changed a few times in my life,  just as you have, no doubt.  My vision went from mildly nearsighted to cluttered by cataracts, to damaged by retinal detachments---and that is my “new normal” vision.  My heart went from a slight murmur to the diagnosis of a birth defect which needed repair, and then on to conditions that required a pacemaker and medications that have now become another “new normal” for me.
            We learn to cope with the “new normal”, recognizing that our ability to adapt is on the line here.  Losses in health or in relationships or in living conditions are major events in our life journeys and can strike at the very foundations of our sense of well-being.
            Our nation’s health and relationships and living conditions are currently on the line these days, as we contemplate how we will cope with a Yuuge change in our national leadership. But more on that later!
            This morning I want to review for us our journey as members and friends of the Pacific UU Fellowship, because we have done a lot of changing in the past two years and it’s a good time to reflect on our “new normal”.
            Two years ago, January of 2015, we had about 30 pledging members, members who had taken the UU 101 course, had signed the membership book, and had made a financial pledge to the congregation.  This year we have 49 pledging members and are expecting to welcome a few more in the coming months.  We are growing strongly as opposed to many mainline religious traditions.
            Two years ago we were renting space in the small, lovely little green Congregational church on the South Slope and feeling frustrated by our situation---crowded during social hour and other events with little room to grow.
            We were facing several challenges besides the fact that we were outgrowing our rented space.  We also hated to leave a sanctuary that was so familiar with its beautiful views and a mostly-positive relationship with our hosts, the Congregationalists.
            But there were concerns about maintenance of the structure and an awareness that our hosts were financially unable to fix the structural damage, particularly after the incident during a March storm last year that damaged the beautiful window overlooking Saddle Mountain and Youngs Bay.  We weren’t sure we could afford to help out financially.
            A facilities committee had been formed earlier to sort through the possible solutions to our situation and we began to think whether to find new space or to stay put.  But that blue-tarp-covered window in the sanctuary after the storm was a real dose of reality as we realized that the damage was likely irreparable under those current circumstances.
            The facilities committee took on the responsibility of researching possible new homes, listing the pros and cons of each, as well as the pros and cons of staying; the committee visited different possible locations, talking with potential landlords, and also staying in communication with our hosts, the Congregationalists.
            After many months of work and meetings and endless emails back and forth----by the way, Michael counted up 900+ emails about the search for space during 2016—we got ready to make a recommendation to the Fellowship.
            We had had some challenges---many churches in our area are quite conservative and they did not seem like a good match with our liberal theology and values, so we decided not to consider them.  We were actually told “No” by one mainline congregation, uneasy about theological differences.
            In the end, it boiled down to becoming a Partner of the Performing Arts Center or staying put at the little green church.  The vote last summer was decisive to move to the PAC, and we did so in September,  five months ago.
            Our transition team got to work, planning and packing and lugging and moving in.  We learned what keys went to what doors.  We stored our stuff.  We bought things:  a pulpit, a few tables, the kids’ furniture from the UCC church and we made the all-important coffee decisions. 
            People donated things:  a rocking chair for RE, this great rug from Christine, which the kids adore,  tablecloths, a cabinet for the hymnals, storage bins, and many odds and ends.  And then it was time to have our first service here, Sept. 18.
            There have been experiments and goof-ups and more than one deafening screech from the sound system, during the past months of learning how to use this space.  Protocols for social hour and set-up/take-down had to be put in place.  Volunteers had lots of opportunity to be involved and create those protocols. 
Becky and Larry Thormahlen devised the backdrop of drapes and banner---which, by the way, is a major place we need some help, so that they can share that set-up with others and not have to do it themselves every single week.
            We learned we had to be very careful with our chalice flame and got a dispensation from the Astoria fire chief so that we didn’t have to go totally LED!  (Now if we can just help people get the hang of turning on the little bitty switches on the joys and concerns candles!)  There were so many new rules and adjustments to be made.  Other Partners’ schedules had to be observed and worked around.
            Every week it seemed like there was some new challenge to figure out!  At one point, I observed to someone that it reminded me of the first apartment of my own---when I’d moved out of my parents’ home and faced that shaky moment when I realized just how complicated it was to be an adult and run my own life! 
            On top of all of this, our national political scene has been both exciting and scarily chaotic.  We have been challenged repeatedly by potential upheavals and reversals of hard-won human rights and basic respect for human dignity.
            However as we face the year 2017, with its uncertainties, there are strengths within this Fellowship, its membership, and its values that we will build upon, continuing to use our seven principles and the ideals that they represent to resist efforts to turn back the clock to an older more repressive time.
            We have new members with leadership abilities and high eagerness.  We are set firmly upon a solid foundation laid by longterm members and leaders.  We have volunteers, both longtimers and newer folks, who are establishing new processes for hospitality, for Sunday services, social justice, religious education, greeting and membership, all designed for this new home and ready to meet the Yuuuge challenges which may face our nation.
            We have volunteers stepping up to the place with ideas and energy.  We have new activities---circle suppers and post-service discussion times.  Our board is made up of longtimers and newer folks—a promising combination for stability and creativity.
            As we continue to experiment with how to use our new home effectively, we’ll be trying some new elements in the Sunday service occasionally and in other parts of our life together.
            Changes in our size bring changes in our relationships with one another, so some of our new activities will help us stay connected and more aware of what each of us bring to the life of the Fellowship.  We will want to monitor how things are going and bring concerns or suggestions to our leadership.
            Because we have been gaining new members regularly, there may come times when we look around and say to ourselves “I no longer know every person here!”  We’ll want to find ways to help ourselves and each other feel at home here.
            We often think of “growth” as measured primarily in numbers or size.  I mean, how did our parents measure our growth?  By marks on the door jamb, with a book on our heads, right?  By our weight on the pediatrician’s scale, by the sizes of shoes we outgrew!
            In a religious community, there’s more than one kind of growth to consider, however.  Numbers, yes, because we report our numbers to the Unitarian Universalist Association and pay a fee to that organization in return for their support.  Size, yes, because it feels so great to see this sanctuary start to fill up on Sunday mornings!
            But we here at PUUF are also creating growth in our infrastructure, meaning the ways we keep things running smoothly---in our finances, in our processes for creating community, in our leaders’ competence, and in our interactions with the community---both the community of the PAC and of the Columbia/Pacific geographical area.
            We are in the early stages of creating a Finance committee to oversee our accounts and give more assistance to our treasurer.  We are creating a Religious Education advisory group to assist our RE staff.  We have created a hospitality process to make our social hour smooth-running and enjoyable. And we have a membership committee to assist me in welcoming new visitors and members.
            Another important growth area is maturity of understanding.  Our Sunday Services committee strives to create Sunday services that feature speakers  and ideas that bring new information into our awareness.  Speakers from local social service agencies increase our understanding of the social justice needs of our area.  And speakers from other religious traditions and those who challenge us to think philosophically (like Seth Tichenor next Sunday!) help us learn to understand others’ world views.
            One more area of growth for a religious community is in spiritual understanding, opening ourselves to a deeper awareness of what it means to be a human being, in this world, a human being who knows they will die.
            Part of that awareness is recognizing our deepest values---for ourselves and for each other---and finding within ourselves the awe aroused by the world and its creatures and the commitment to offer ourselves and our resources to the world’s protection and improvement.
            Our social justice activities and projects can help us find that sense of connection which invites awe and wonder into our lives.  Spirituality is both inward and outward---inward when we are touched by love or wonderment and savor it quietly.  Outward when we invest our insights and sense of wonder into making lives better with our own actions.
            As we face the prospect of a presidential administration which seems bent on destruction of justice, respect, and compassion, we must work together and within our larger community to resist injustice and teach our values of inherent worth and dignity to others.
            I invite you to open your hymnals now to the page at the very front of the book which lists our Unitarian Universalist principles.  These are the foundation of our faith.  They are the values which inform our religious life and give us direction as we respond to attacks on justice, equity, truth, and all that we are committed to as UUs.
            Let’s read them together.  (read)
            As we move forward, into this difficult time, let us support those leaders who share our values, resist and challenge those who would trample others in their race for riches, and may we find the courage to speak our minds for love and justice in this chaotic time.  Let us do all we can to maintain what we have gained from progressive action and band together for strength.
Let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.
Our closing hymn is #311, Let it Be a Dance.
            As Michael extinguishes the chalice, I’d like to read you something by Carter Heywood for our benediction.  
Christmas Beatitudes 2016
By Carter Heyward
Blessed are those who are kind, especially when it’s hard
Blessed are those angry for justice in situations of unfairness and oppression,
Blessed are the compassionate in times of hatred,
Blessed are those who speak honestly when pummeled by lies — and who seek truth when confronted by fake news,
Blessed are those who keep their courage in the face of belligerent bullies,
Blessed are women who stand up to abusive men — and men who stand with, not on, women,
Blessed are the queer who do not walk straight and narrow paths,
Blessed are black lives — and white lives who know that black lives matter,
Blessed are the earth and animals among those indifferent to their well-being,
Blessed are non-violent resisters whose enemies hope you will pick up guns,
Blessed are you when people shake their heads because you refuse to accept authoritarian rulers as “normal,”
Blessed are you peacemakers who refuse cheap grace,
You are daughters and sons of the Sacred,
brothers and sisters of Jesus, (and Mohammed and the Buddha and all women and men)
friends of the Spirit,
Salaam. Shalom. Peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Each Night A Child is Born...

Rev. Kit Ketcham, Dec. 11, 2016
     My son was a senior in high school, a longtime member of the youth group at Jefferson Unitarian Church in the Denver area, when the congregation decided to undertake an all-congregation social action project, as the chief community supporter of a local agency called Family Tree. Their mission was supporting families in transition, families whose poverty and crises had made life pretty unstable for them.
     The project made it possible for nearly every person in the congregation to be involved with social action work in a hands-on way. Activities with the project included food drives, child care provision, computer literacy training, home repair, transportation to appointments, thrift shop support, auto repair, and that sort of thing.
      Everyone in the congregation was excited about it. I even had a chance to act as Mrs. Santa Claus at a holiday party for families served by Family Tree and I did some light gardening and a few other things. Others taught computer skills, did cooking classes, babysat kids, provided gifts at Christmas and birthdays, painted apartments, replaced light bulbs and bathroom and kitchen supplies for the transitional housing development owned by Family Tree which was shelter for some of these families.
     The youth group that year decided to do a paper drive, to restock the supplies of paper products in the Family Tree storage facility. And one Sunday morning, as I sat in the front row of the choir, the double doors at the back of the sanctuary suddenly swung open and ten disreputable looking teenage boys, in double file formation, strode into the sanctuary, arraying themselves in a wide V across the front of the room, backs turned.
     My son led the parade and, in his long black leather trenchcoat, holey jeans, tattered shoes, skull and crossbones t-shirt, and long black hair under his backwards baseball cap, he swung around to face the congregation as his pals did the same, hands on hips, fixing folks with their steely gaze.
     He dramatically held open one side of his coat and pointed to the items he had duct-taped to the lining: “We’re having a paper drive to support Family Tree”, he said in a gruff voice, “and we want you to bring (as he pointed out each item) paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, spiral notebooks for kids in school, copy paper, note cards, all kinds of paper products.”
     He went on to show all the items on both sides of the open trenchcoat, then snapped it shut around him, affixed that steely gaze on the congregation, and then said, “cuz if you don’t, I’m gonna date all your daughters.”
     Yes, my son is a legend at Jefferson Unitarian Church for this and other incidents; in fact, one tactless wag remarked, when my son was only about 8 and suffering the effects of a parental divorce and some other limitations, (this guy said to me )“we need to G...-proof this church.”
     I may have told you that my son’s life was transformed by the religious education he got at Jefferson Unitarian Church. He had a very tough time growing up. He was small for his age, too smart for his own good, learning disabled and possibly hyperactive to boot, and had some health issues that got in his way.
     And what he got from his religious education had nothing to do with theology and everything to do with being a human being in a world he didn’t create, couldn’t control, and often couldn’t understand.
     In their Religious Education classes, he and the other kids in his age group learned about how to treat people, how to treat the earth, and heard the stories of people in ancient times, whose religious leaders, such as Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, and the Buddha, told those stories to make a spiritual and practical point.
     My son and his peers had a chance to ask all the questions they could think of about religion and spiritual experience. The adults who spent these hours with them learned who they were and offered the kids their own experience as guides.
     When they were small, the stories and experiences included songs about loving, about not being afraid to be who they were, about looking out for other creatures. All families, no matter how they were configured, were okay; it was okay to have two dads or two moms or maybe just one mom and a stepdad or maybe no mom, just a dad. And of course a mom and a dad who lived apart or lived together---that was okay too, as were grandparents and guardians and other less-frequent combinations of human parents.
     As they got older and the inevitable skirmishes between kids or between adults and kids took on greater meaning, they’d have long conversations and make agreements about how they would be together as a group. Their classroom bloomed with graffiti and posters of rock bands.
     At one point, all the 8th graders were part of a sex ed class which was explicit, comprehensive, focused on physical and emotional health and safe sexual practices. This group met all during their 8th grade year, with a couple of retreats and all-day sessions, with carefully structured and presented examples and led by well-trained adults.
     They learned about contraceptives, about the variety of sexual identities and preferences in the human population, sexually transmitted diseases, AND the ongoing teaching of waiting until they were more mature before having their first sexual experience.
     My son was still struggling with a few issues in 8th grade and his relationships within this group were fragile. Adults who had known him for most of his life worked with him gently and consistently; they didn’t give up on him and kick him out of the program, but he was not Mr. Popularity.
     There was a followup program for 9th graders the next year, a much-anticipated coming of age trip to the Four Corners area---Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico---to visit the Native American communities there and learn about their religious and cultural practices.
     But at the end of 8th grade, many of the kids who would have been included in that important trip declared that if (my son) was going, they would not go. What a blow!
     Our Director of Religious Education sat down with him to discuss this setback. I don’t know what they said to each other, but at the end of the conversation, he sent word through the DRE to the kids who were rejecting him in this way and apologized for his earlier behavior, said he hoped they would change their minds, and promised to change his ways. Which he did.
     The group of teenagers who went to the Indian reservations together that spring for ten days came back changed, more grown up, with greater understanding of another culture, of other people, of other religious practices, of each other and of themselves. They seemed clear-eyed in a way they had not been in 8th grade.
    They all, including my son, still had a few rough edges, but they were, after all, 15 years old. The important thing was that their religious education had given them an experience which was life-changing, open-hearted, and accepting of others, while demanding accountability from each other.
     This is what we want a religious education to do, after all---expand understandings, make students aware of the validity of other religious paths, help them learn about their own, and develop ways of being in the religious world that are respectful, kind, and accepting of differences.
     Not only do our children need this kind of teaching, but we all do! We all need to know more about our neighbors on this planet, in order to live together in peace.
     I would never have learned this kind of thing in my Baptist Sunday School years. In fact, I remember the class session when I was in about 8th grade, when a fellow student asked the question of our teacher “what is circumcision and why was it important to the Jews?”
     We didn’t get a straight answer; our teacher blushed vividly and muttered something about asking our parents. But those kids in the Unitarian Universalist sex ed class called “About Your Sexuality” would have gotten an accurate and understandable answer. Of course, UU parents being who they are, many of those kids would probably have known that already, except maybe for the religious importance of the ritual.
     In our current religious and political climate, we are seeing a lot of religious persecution as well as harassment of ethnic and other minorities.  Children in many places, even in our area, are afraid---afraid for their own lives and those of their parents and other relatives, afraid of deportation, being gay or transgender, of being true to their family faith if it is not Christian, of sexual molestation and domestic violence.
     Just as the gift of a comprehensive and unbiased sex education tends to lead to a healthier sexual being, a comprehensive and unbiased religious education can lead to a healthier religious person. And, it seems to follow that healthier religious people are the foundation of a healthier society.
     How do we accomplish this? In our small way, here at PUUF, how can we contribute to a religiously healthy and better-educated community?
     The secular community struggles with its own issues of education, as does the religious community. We want to pass along our biases and opinions, whether at home or in a classroom. We want our children to do things our way and it can be hard to see whether “our way” is an honest and healthful way, especially when our own religious education is scanty and incomplete.
     Our own religious education is a critical element in our ability to change the world. If we neglect our own knowledge and understanding of religion, ours and others, we are less able to counteract the false messages of those who would demonize and persecute those of different faiths. And if our own understandings are not well-thought-out, we run the risk of giving misinformation to our children, grandchildren, and others.
     So I recommend  that we each undertake to increase our understandings and knowledge of religion, not only our own but the religions of our neighbors and friends. Instead of labeling Mormonism a cult, let’s learn more about it. Instead of shooing the Jehovah’s Witnesses away from our door, let’s invite them in once in awhile. Let’s counteract the hateful messages of anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim proponents with a message of acceptance and reason.
    To achieve this, we have public libraries, the internet, bookstores and other resources for our use.  One of the ways I’d like to increase our own knowledge of our religion is occasional classes on our UU history and theology or sermons from me or other UU ministers about our faith.  We need to offer more instruction about our remarkable, incredible religion.
     And another recommendation is that we become actively involved with the religious explorations of our own young people, here in our congregation. Let’s visit their classroom, get to know the children and their parents and teachers.
      Let’s help out in some way, whether by volunteering in the classroom or bringing treats or offering to chaperone an activity. Most importantly, let’s share our increased knowledge with our children, communicating with them at their own level but emphasizing the importance of learning about the world and the world’s religious faiths.
     This is not easy stuff. Learning new ways can be hard; this congregation has tended to leave religious education in the hands of our professional educators. But it is not just the job of our head teacher Jan and her assistants. It is the job of every one of us to help educate our children, to give them accurate information and loving guidance.
     Religious education means changing our own attitudes, looking at our values, and adjusting our behavior. This is hard, challenging stuff. And it’s also religious education to the core, according to the Rev. Tandi Rogers, one of our regional ministers.
    In closing, I’m happy to tell you that the teenage boy whose challenge to our Colorado congregation was the topic of our opening story, became a young man with a family, active in his Reno, Nevada, UU congregation, where he has served as a worship leader, and where he has been a credit to his own religious upbringing.
     Mike learned the things he learned because the adults in his younger life cared about him, cared that he become a man with values he’d thought through, values that helped him find his way in a complicated world, values that shape his actions and responses to the challenges he faces today.
     Might all of our children have the same wisdom and guidance from us here in this community, for “each night a child is born is a holy night”.  May we give each child the chance to change the world in a wonderful way.
    Let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.
BENEDICTION: Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, remembering that our lives have benefited greatly from the religious education we received, whenever we received it. May we strive to give the children of this congregation the best religious guidance we can, that they might go forth in life with greater understanding, greater compassion, and greater sense of purpose. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ripping the Lid Off of Pandora's Box

Rev. Kit Ketcham, Nov. 13, 2016

            We’ve just heard Nancy recreate the story of Pandora’s Box, and I’m grateful to her for giving our fellowship this gift. 
            I’m going to ask Frank to read a more detailed version of this story before I begin. 
Has your curiosity ever got you into trouble? Have you ever been so desperate to know a secret that you took no notice of a warning? All through history there are stories of people being told not to open doors, caskets, cupboards, gates and all sorts of other things and, in so many of the stories, the people just did not listen. One person who did not listen was Pandora. Her story comes from Ancient Greece and her curiosity brought a whole heap of trouble!

In ancient Greece there were two brothers named Epimetheus and Prometheus. They upset the gods and annoyed the most powerful of all Gods, Zeus, in particular. This was not the first time humans had upset Zeus, and once before, as punishment, he had taken from humans the ability to make fire. This meant they could no longer cook their meat and could not keep themselves warm.

However, Prometheus was clever and he knew that, on the Isle of Lemnos, lived Hephaestos, the blacksmith. He had a fire burning to keep his forge hot. Prometheus travelled to Lemnos and stole fire from the blacksmith. Zeus was furious and decided that humans had to be punished once and for all for their lack of respect.

Zeus came up with a very cunning plan to punish the two brothers. With the help of Hephaestos, he created a woman from clay. The goddess Athene then breathed life into the clay, Aphrodite made her very beautiful and Hermes taught her how to be both charming and deceitful. Zeus called her Pandora and sent her as a gift to Epimetheus.

His brother Prometheus had warned him not to accept any gifts from the gods but Epimetheus was completely charmed by the woman and thought Pandora was so beautiful that she could never cause any harm, so he agreed to marry her.

Zeus, pleased that his trap was working, gave Pandora a wedding gift of a beautiful box. There was one very, very important condition however, that she must never open the box. Pandora was very curious about the contents of the box but she had promised that she would never open it.

All she could think about was; what could be in the box? She could not understand why someone would send her a box if she could not see what was in it. It seemed to make no sense at all to her and she could think of nothing else but of opening the box and unlocking its secrets. This was just what Zeus had planned.

Finally, Pandora could stand it no longer. When she knew Epimetheus was out of sight, she crept up to the box, took the huge key off the high shelf, fitted it carefully into the lock and turned it. But, at the last moment, she felt a pang of guilt, imagined how angry her husband would be and quickly locked the box again without opening the lid and put the key back where she had found it. Three more times she did this until, at last, she knew she had to look inside or she would go completely mad!

She took the key, slid it into the lock and turned it. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and slowly lifted the lid of the box. She opened her eyes and looked into the box, expecting to see fine silks, gowns or gold bracelets and necklaces or even piles of gold coins.

But there was no gleam of gold or treasure. There were no shining bracelets and not one beautiful dress! The look of excitement on her face quickly turned to one of disappointment and then horror. For Zeus had packed the box full of all the terrible evils he could think of. Out of the box poured disease and poverty. Out came misery, out came death, out came sadness - all shaped like tiny buzzing moths.

The creatures stung Pandora over and over again and she slammed the lid shut. Epimetheus ran into the room to see why she was crying in pain. Pandora could still hear a voice calling to her from the box, pleading with her to be let out. Epimetheus agreed that nothing inside the box could be worse than the horrors that had already been released, so they opened the lid once more.

All that remained in the box was Hope. It fluttered from the box like a beautiful dragonfly, touching the wounds created by the evil creatures, and healing them. Even though Pandora had released pain and suffering upon the world, she had also allowed Hope to follow them.

Thank you, Frank.  We’ve had a hard week, haven’t we?  Tuesday night and its aftermath have been difficult for us all, I expect.
For me, the past 2 years of drama and of building hopes about the possibility of continuing the progressive values of   President Obama  have been exhilarating and yet there came a time when I was ready for it to all be over.  I expected Hillary Clinton to be our next president.
But as I sat with others from the Fellowship at the Election night party at Silke’s, I felt a sense of growing dread, watching the early returns.  The tension in me became so high that I needed to leave the party and be alone to process what was beginning to be apparent---that hopes and dreams are not always enough.
I had a wakeful night, up and down several times, trying to write out my feelings and fears to release them to paper, to release them to the universe as prayer that goodness would prevail.
 I got about 2 or 3 hours of sleep and, of course, the cat woke me up about 4.  Her needs prevailed.
That morning, I dreaded getting the official news, as I knew in my gut what it would be.  Reading the news online, reading the words of colleagues and friends on email, and Facebook with its endless stream of news and cat videos----I got the picture interspersed with memes of grief, of dismay, and I put my own conflicted feelings into posts.
Reading the words of others who were wakeful in the night, I felt the enormity of what had happened to our nation and to my own hopes.  I shuddered at the dire predictions made by some pundits, the jibes at those who might have voted in ways that skewed the results,  my own anger at the revealed misogyny, distrust, sexual violence, racism, and the other ills that were revealed when the lid was ripped off Pandora’s box during the election campaign.
As an aside, do you know what Pandora’s name means?  It is a combination of two Greek words, Pan, which means “all” and Dora, which means  “giver”.  Pandora’s name means “Giver of All Gifts”.  I think that’s interesting.  And ironic, because what was loosed when the lid came off the box was horror after horror, not the gifts Pandora hoped for.
Anyway, my feelings Wednesday were a quite a lot like the feelings I might experience when “The Big One” comes, the Cascadia subduction earthquake and tsunami that has been predicted now for quite some time, and hasn’t yet arrived.
On that occasion, whether with warning or without,  I would find myself needing to take some immediate actions, if I were able to.  Those of you who are first responders or government employees or medical personnel know the drill pretty well.
I’m not as well versed as others, but my personal response, assuming I was conscious and able to act, would be to assess my situation, see what injuries I might have incurred, stop any bleeding as well as possible, determine the safety of myself and those around me---are we safe where we are or do we need to find a better location?
If possible, I’d move to safety, helping less mobile folks move too.  I’d take my go-bags with me and head for higher ground, assisting others as possible.  I’d group together with others for assistance and support.  I’d create a place to stay until help arrives.
I think we can modify these disaster-related actions to fit our current national scene, in disarray after a shocking turn of events, a life-changing turn of events, in our national comfort level, from relative complacency to coping with possible chaos. 
We want not only to be safe from the chaos but to protect others more vulnerable, from the chaos.  We want to mitigate the effects of damaging policies on our physical earth and in human lives.  We want to influence the development of policies toward a humane stance, rather than a vengeful stance.  We want to reduce fear and increase trust.
Remember the “stages of grief” put forth years ago by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross?  They’re a bit out of date because we’ve learned that people move fluidly between stages, rather than proceed neatly from one to another in a predictable way.  But they’re handy and a pretty good starting point when I’m experiencing events of loss, big or little.
Shock and denial.  Becoming angry and feeling betrayed.  Trying to figure out ways of changing  the loss.  Sadness, despair, depression.  Eventual tempering of the pain of the loss and entering some degree of acceptance and adjustment to it.
I have a tendency to hop around these stages!  I was in shock and denial until I got up Wednesday morning and had to face the reality of the election outcome.  Even then, I couldn’t quite get it into focus and it was raining hard at the time, so instead of going for my normal walk, I met a couple of friends at the coffee shop to kibitz and commiserate for an hour before coming home again, over-caffeinated and sharply aware that what I had planned for today’s sermon was going to need to change.
Pandora’s Box still seemed to be a good starting point.  Okay, I thought, where am I right now?  I was still shocked and desperately wishing I could deny the reality, but it was no longer possible---my friends Roger and Mike were evidence that it wasn’t a bad dream!
What I felt curious about  at that point was who might be our first responders in this situation, the ones who put their shock and denial aside and don’t spend time being angry just yet, but jump right into ways of managing the effects of the loss, not just for you and me and our friends and family but for the entire nation, for the earth.
I think about similar life-changing events in history and what their outcomes were, how those first responders---mostly just ordinary people like us---stuck with the work, not giving up after setbacks but pressing on until the vote was won or the equal housing act went into effect, until same sex marriage was legal.
Generations of Americans have been through similar traumas and have gone on to do whatever the situation demanded of them.  Our spiritual forebears did not give up; they slogged on:  Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King Jr, and now whole spiritual and secular communities—like us, the UUs---and progressive Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, Humanists, and others have come out on the side of humanity and against injustice.
I take heart today, despite my grief, that there are messages of hope amid the messages of doom. I'm grateful that there are those who can look beyond the shock of loss and find a path forward, that there are still bright spots emerging, new leaders coming forward, and that all is not lost after all. We have work to do, work that we would have had to do anyway---to protect the vulnerable, to care for the lost and hurting, and to keep our own selves fit and strong to continue what we have been doing all along.
Who are our allies in this resistance movement?
Here’s who I am looking to for help:  the American Civil Liberties Union has already issued a warning to Trump that they will fight him on any unconstitutional matters.  Human Rights Campaign; Basic Rights Oregon; Basic Rights Washington; Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, The Interfaith Alliance, Lower Columbia Diversity Project, the Rural Organizing Project, Southern Poverty Law Center, and many more.  And I’m planning to wear my Safety Pin whenever I’m out and about---to be a safe place for someone who needs it.
We are in the aftermath now of A Big One, the emotional and political equivalent of an earthquake and tsunami for many of our friends and neighbors---and ourselves.  
What are we to do?  We will do what we would if we had experienced a physical disaster:  we will check ourselves and our fellow survivors for injury, we will get back on our feet and start finding a path through the rubble, so that we can start rebuilding and helping each other survive.
In his message to us Unitarian Universalists, President Peter Morales wrote this (I’m paraphrasing):  “We are shocked and horrified, we are emotionally exhausted and deeply offended by this experience.  This is a time to take a deep breath and a long view.  Our role as religious progressives committed to democracy, compassion, and human dignity is to help bend our culture toward justice.  Our role is to help change attitudes, to lead by example.  Let us reflect and draw strength from one another.  Together we can recover.  Together we can shape the future.”
I’d like to end with a passage from a longtime favorite story of mine, something I go back to on occasion for reminders of another heroic journey.

FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam.
SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened.
 But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
 Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam?
SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
--J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
            Let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.
Hymn # 291, “Die Gedanken sind Frie

Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place.  Let us go in peace, remembering that grief must be expressed and healing may be a long time coming, but as we assess the damage we’ve experienced, may we see what is still standing, what has been revealed, and what are the new shoots of growth that were not destroyed by the disaster.  Though much has been lost, a certain amount has been gained and much is still standing.  May we find strength with one another and the courage to go on. May we reach out to those who are endangered by these times.   And may we remember that in the ancient fable, the final thing to emerge from Pandora’s Box was the beautiful dragonfly of Hope.    Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.