Service: "The Box," Rev. Denis Letourneau Paul

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Many people have a memento like a watch or a ring or a pocket knife that reminds them of their father.  A box can hold a lot of memories.  And mysteries.  And maybe the key to living a good life.

 

Call to Worship Rev Denis 

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.

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, who always had a fire burning in his forge. 

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.  Athena then breathed life into the clay.  Aphrodite made her very beautiful.  Hermes gave her the skills of charm and deceit. 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 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, with the unlikely condition that she never open it. Pandora, of course, was very curious about the contents of the box, but she promised.

And all she could think about was the contents of the box.  She fantasized about unlocking its secrets, just as Zeus had known she would.

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. She 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 lose her mind.

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. Pandora opened her eyes and looked into the box, expecting to see fine silks, gowns or bejeweled bracelets and necklaces or even piles of gold coins.

But there was no gleam of treasure. Not one piece of jewelry or one stitch of fabric! The look of excitement on her face quickly turned to one of disappointment and then horror. 

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 together, 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.

This hope, rising from curiosity, is what we gather to celebrate today.

Joys and Cares (Rev Denis)

Have you ever come to a place of despair over the state of the world?

Really.  Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by disease and poverty in the world?  Have misery death and sadness surrounded you like moths around Pandora when she opened the box?  Have you felt overwhelmed by the chaos in the nations, even here at home in the United States and in Ohio?

Who have you turned to?

Who has been your Epimetheus, letting hope flutter down upon you like a beautiful dragonfly?

Maybe you’re lucky and you had not just one, but a whole brigade of Epithemeuses, each able to take your despair and move it along to the next, on down the line until it has become a distant memory.

When you came in this morning, you had the opportunity to take a stone from the bowl at the top of the center aisle.  If you forgot to take one, this is your chance.

Or perhaps you brought a stone from home or from the Chagrin River or some other sacred space.

Hold on to that stone now, and think for a moment about the people who have helped restore your hope over the years, the people who revealed to you the good that you couldn’t see in the midst of your own sadness and disappointment.

Feel the stone in your hand, and, if you can, infuse it with all of the hope you have, as we share our joys and cares with one another, some of which are written in this book.

[Read from the book]

Prayer

Spirit of hospitality and Reason

Source of Life and Community,

We ask that our minds be open, 

Our hearts be welcoming, 

Our arms be embracing,

Our hands ready and wiling to do the work of healing wherever we can.

As we remember and lift up those who suffering,

those whose lives are overwhelmed by sadness,

Illness

Or loss,

May each of us be a source of comfort and strength

May each of us drink from the wellspring of hope that is community.

May each of us be present to the celebrations of one another’s lives

In ways that are reflective of our best intentions.

May our present to one another and the world make us stronger

And in turn make the world kinder, more loving.

Amen.

 

Personal Reflection “A Father’s Blessing,” by Rev. Dr. Edward Frost      

            Marie Nightingale

I have not forgotten—nor will I forget until all memory fades—the day, the moment, in which my father and I parted. We did not put an ocean between us, or a country. He did not disown me, nor I him. We parted as a cloud passed between our hearts, shadowing what we had been, shadowing what we would be henceforth.

At this time I was barely fifteen years old. We had come recently to America from England. There, he and I had been pals, chums, co-conspirators in fictions and fantasies. For as long as I could remember, each Sunday my father and I would set out together for tramps down village lanes, across meadows, through churches, churchyards, and burial grounds. We explored ruined castles, fought off  Norman invaders, Vikings, Black Knights. We rowed the rivers curling through the countryside, rose in and out of locks, scrambled up and down brambled banks, slipped reverently past fallen abbeys.

This was who we were before the cloud passed between. Wizard and trusting apprentice. Storyteller and credulous listener. Teacher and student. All this we brought to America and, for a while, attempted to nurture, though there were no hedgerows or ruined abbeys, no hairy Vikings, and certainly no sniveling Normans. Each Sunday, as in former times, we set out on a quest to keep us as we were, to hold back my years.

Then, that Sunday morning, my father came out to where I shuffled in dread in the gravel drive. I didn’t know how much damage I was about to do, but I knew I was about to cast us away. He came to me, sandwiches for us, and a thermos in his bag, and asked if I was ready to go. “Gee, Dad,” I said, “A couple of my friends are picking me up and we’re going to go over to the baseball game.” “Oh, alright,” he said, though his face could not hide “Goodbye” as he turned and walked away, the golden cord unraveling as he went.

We were not the same again, of course. We continued to grow apart in the years that followed until, at his death—now many years ago—it seemed we were barely acquainted. My adolescence was beyond him. He watched, as if helpless, as I tried out various foolish and dangerous ways to become what passed for manliness. As I continued in my education, pursued my own dreams and ambitions, I left his knowledge and his understanding far behind.

He had left school at the age of twelve to help support his mother and sister after his father gave up and ran away. He educated himself and was often mistaken for an Oxford man. But my journey left him by the wayside—as, so he felt, had life and all hope and possibility; and there he rooted in anger, regret and self-destruction.

He was a man who, had he had a fathering father, had he not been born into abject poverty, had it not been for this or that, for fate or happenstance—had all that beside-the-point not been so, he would have been a man whom all the world knew by name. But the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons from generation unto generation.

I never met my father’s father. To the best of my recollection, my father never mentioned him. Certainly, there had been no blessing there, no approval, encouragement, nothing conducive to happiness or welfare. And so my father strove to succeed without blessing, and always success eluded him. And with that, he failed to bless his son.

And so, again and again, the sins of the fathers, visited upon the sons, from generation unto generation.

Well, a sad story, mine—and maybe yours. But I’ll claim some hope of redemption. In a poem called, “Thanks, Robert Frost,” David Ray writes:

Do you have hope for the future? someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end. Yes, and even for the past, he replied, that it will turn out to have been all right for what it was….

That’s what redemption is. At any rate, that’s a way of thinking about what redemption is: giving the past hope where the past itself held none. How do we redeem the past? Surely what was, was? No. What was always is, blessing the present or reliving its sin generation after generation. The only hope for breaking the cycle, for our children’s sake, is for us to redeem the past, which is to forgive it all, to bless it—a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.

For whatever else it may have been worth, I have made some beginning in doing that for myself, saying: Yes he did those things, did not do those things, and he suffered this at the feet of his father—bless him, too—and carried all he suffered into the present, as do we all.

And it is not too late for me, still, in frequent tears and much puzzlement, still putting it all together and finding it not too late, now even past fathering and into grandfatherly-age, it is not too late to bless my children, seek their blessing, wishing blessings on all the generations to come.

 

Sermon “The Box”    Rev Denis Letourneau Paul

I‘d like to share with you a poem called “My Father's Things,” by Ken Nye

My dad died 28 years ago.

I still have some of his things:

A red plaid Pendleton bath robe.

(I look like Dad in that thing now.)

An old Sears table saw bought used in 1950.

I still use it, (but for rough cuts only).

An old grinding wheel, noisy as sin,

but sharpens mower blades in no time.

Trays and trays of screws and nuts,

sorted in biscuit pans by size.

(Just stir and search.)

His gold watch given to him in '57.

It hasn't worked for years.

It's going to cost too much to fix it,

so I keep it in my drawer.

I had his pocket knife but lost it.

(I always lose my pocket knife.)

There are other things of his I have as well:

I have his feet. I swear, my feet look just like his.

I have his eyes. (They're big and brown.)

I have his gait (knees kicking out like bow-legged cowboys).

When I walk in front of storefront windows, it's my dad.

I have some other things of his too:

A love of animals,

especially dogs,

one of God's greatest inventions.

His value system and code of conduct,

the do's and don'ts of being a man.

Some might say, "Bathrobes and saws and codes of conduct

are not exactly jewels to take to the bank."

I answer, "Jewels don't shine as brightly as my father's things."

“My father and I share a lot of things...

  • Build, weight gain pattern, balding pattern
  • Plantar fasciitis 
  • Impishness
  • Need be busy 
  • Need for tools to do the work of busyness /reluctance to spend money on them

“My father has a favorite t-shirt. It’s black....

  • “He who dies with the most toys wins”
  • Convertible, pickup, SUV
  • Big cabin cruiser and little fishing boat
  • The kind of lawnmower used in sports stadiums...checkerboard pattern...smiles

“As I get older, I find that some of my things are starting to make me smile.  They are smaller, less impressive things, but they make me smile nonetheless, in a way that wasn’t so before.

  • Elect/cordless lawnmower, 
  • Plastic kayak, 
  • Our old VW convertible and the Honda Fit I use as if it were a pickup truck.

“My father is a good man.  People love him because he is resilient.  Whatever challenge he faces, he always sees the good in people and finds energy in possibility.  He can fix anything and sticks with every problem until it is solved.”  

 “My mother says if he dies first hundreds of people will show up to honor and remember him.  If she dies first, hundreds of people will show up to support him.”

“Then there was my father-in-law, Tom, who was the kind of man that everyone respected, a model of modern manhood.  When he was still a teenager and dating my mother-in-law, who was the oldest of five children in a chaotic family without a father present, every time he showed up to take her out for a date, he would have household necessities for the family, especially food.  When they were newlyweds, struggling to pay their own bills, he made sure the gas, electric and phone stayed on.

“Tom died four years ago, kind of unexpectedly, leaving behind an array of things, spread out and even hidden away in the small ranch house he shared with his wife, Michelle.”

  • Clothes....few fit Joe or Mark  
  • A bunch of cheaters, magnifying glasses, huge computer screen.  
  • Tools/boxes 
  • Harley trike Marc wanted, along with anything motorized  

“All Joe wanted was the box Tom had made in middle school woodshop class, which he used for his shoe shine kit for the rest of his life.”

“Joe didn’t want the box for its quality craftsmanship, but because it contained all of the hope of a kid who had a bit of skill, and a whole lot to learn.  And he did learn it.  

“Joe, like his dad, has a love of efficiency, a drive to get things done quickly, and an intention of saying things simply, clearly, and succinctly.  His personal theology, his credo, is only three words. 

“there’s always hope.”

“The shoe shine box, it turns out, is for Joe a symbol of his father’s resiliency.  It’s not made of the most precious materials or with the best craftsmanship, but it has survived, doing its job for over 60 years.  This box is a symbol of a personal philosophy that has given Joe strength and tenacity.  

Hope that we’ll learn the skills that help us in life.  

Hope that we’ll leave behind people who value the rewards of our work.

Hope that we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

“My father-in-law Tom was a good man. He always did the right thing. Even when he was just a teenager, and dating Michelle...

“When he was in his 60’s and his kidneys were failing.  there was no way he could get better without a kindness transplant.  Michelle’s sisters, all three of them, argued over who would get the privilege of donating a kidney to him.  They all turned out to be matches.

“Tom was a lot like Prometheus. Michelle’s life growing up was full of chaos, and he showed them all the hope that existed in the midst of it. Tom arrived, and found the metaphorical box, dusty and forgotten in a corner, and let out the beautiful dragonfly that healed their small wounds, and helped give them each a better start in adult life.  He provided hope to a family that hadn’t previously known much of that, and he did it until the day he died.

“That’s what this shoe shine box represents for Joe.  A reminder that everything can be fixed with the right tools and care.  A reminder that even if you don’t have the best skills in the world, you can work at them

“What fatherhood is like, I am told, is like opening Pandora’s box, releasing all the plagues of the world.  Destruction.  

Endless, maddening curiosity.  

Constantly developing patience.  

No sense of human frailty or mortality or of the value of money.  

“But the job is to find the places where something good exists, amidst the chaos.

The job is to find the hope when it may not be obvious.  To be Epimetheus.

“I have to say though, that the problem with the story of Pandora is that, like the story of Adam and Eve, the woman is the progenitor of chaos, the person whose curiosity is the cause of mayhem in the world. The woman unleashes all the woe and suffering, and the man is the one who is responsible for fixing the problem.  

“But our fathers never bought into that.  Even though neither would ever call himself a feminist — because they really thought all feminists are women who hate men — they are dyed in the wool feminists, believing that women are people and that their marriages are commitments of equals.

  • Fathers we can be proud of
  • Teammates with our mothers.
  • None of them were perfect...complementing 

“If one creates chaos, out of fear or anxiety, as we all do from time to time, the other has always been here to find the hope, and remain calm.  One is always able to find the hope that always exists, and each couple has served as a role model in our marriage. 

“I know not all of us had those kinds of fathers...

Left early

Died

Never in the picture

Abusive, emotionally or physically 

“My hope though is that each of us, whatever stage in life we happen to be in, from making homes and relationships as young adults, to downsizing reminiscing about lives well lived, have someone who reminds us about the hope.

My hope is that we can be that kind of parent to each other when we’re faced with the harshness of a world that feels overwhelmed by the plagues of disease and poverty; misery, death, and sadness, whether they are shaped like tiny buzzing moths or brought to life in full living color on the 24-hour news cycle.

My hope is that we can remember the lesson of Epimetheus, the lesson of the good people in our lives, of all genders, and find the promise that exists in the little things we do for each other, like bringing food to a family in need, paying bills for someone struggling, being the kind of neighbor who shows up in a time of need.

“My hope for each of us is that, even when our own fathers are no longer with us, or they have grown distant across miles and years, we never forger that it is never too late to bless the children among us, 

To seek their blessing, 

To wishing blessings on all the generations to come.

“This blessing. This is how we build resiliency, the skills of not just surviving, but thriving the way my father-in-law did, and my father continues to do.”

“May each of us find, in the small things in our lives, 

The watches, pocket knives and shoe shine boxes,

That we are not our own,

And that we belong to each other.

No matter what.

 

May it be so.

Event type
Worship Service
Add to Calendar 2019-12-06 21:40:51 2019-12-06 21:40:51 Title Description Location East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church laura@laurasolomon.net America/New_York public