GATHERING MUSIC Jig Fugue Buxtehude
WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS
LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE
No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.
Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962
PRELUDE O pastor animarum Hildegard of Bingen
OPENING DEVOTION Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179
Holy Spirit, the life that gives life: You are the cause of all movement. You are the breath of all creatures. You are the salve that purifies our souls. You are the ointment that heals our wounds. You are the fire that warms our hearts. You are the light that guides our feet. Let all the world praise you
MUSIC Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring J.S. Bach
Let us prepare ourselves for the word of God as it comes to us in the reading of Holy Scripture. Our hearts and minds are open.
John 1:1-14 and Psalm 104
For the word of God in scripture, for the word of God among us, for the word of God within us. Thanks be to God.
MYSTIC READING Hildegard of Bingen
REFLECTION Hildegard of Bingen Rev. Kim P. Wells
First a bit of a precis about Hildegard of Bingen.
She was born to a noble family of Germany. The 10th child. She had her first spiritual visions at 3 years of age. She was given to the church at age 8, entrusted to the care of Jutta at a nearby Benedictine monastery. Was she given as a tithe or did they give her to the church because she was weak and sickly? She took vows as a nun at age 15.
When Jutta died, Hildegard was elected to take over as head of the convent. Then she went on to found two additional convents. They were noted because the nuns were permitted to wear white robes and to let their hair grow long unlike other convents where the garb was black and the hair was shorn.
Hildegard is known for her many endeavors. Among them:
– writing her spiritual memoirs in three volumes
– producing various other spiritual writings including Biblical commentary, sermons, and poetry
– embarking on a preaching tour when she was 60, and women were forbidden to preach to men. And then making three more such tours.
– writing several books about nature and natural medicine
– writing numerous songs for use in church. She is the first named composer of liturgical music. Up until Hildegard, music was attributed to anonymous.
– writing a morality play that was a precursor to opera
– using many illustrations and drawings that augment her writing with descriptive images
– extensive correspondence which included dukes and kings and popes
– challenging the corruption in the church of her day accusing priests of being adulterers and thieves
– using feminine imagery for God
– giving the first known written description of female pleasure during love making
– inventing a language to be used by the nuns called lingua ignota complete with its own alphabet
Hildegard was declared a doctor of the church and
made a saint of the Catholic church in May of 2012.
Let us join together in prayer:
It has been a rough year. This pandemic has really taken us down. Us, the human race. Us, our country, Us, as a community and a church. Us, as individuals. Could we have imagined just over a year ago that when we shut down it would be for so long? Could we imagine not going to work for a year? Not having church for months? Could we imagine not flying for a year? Not going to school in person for months? Not seeing family and friends in person? Not eating out? Not going to concerts, plays, and other arts events? Not going to sports events? Not going to the movies. Not seeing the veterinarian? My dogs have seen our vet in the past year, but I haven’t. Could we have had any idea that we would become so familiar with Zoom, and Facebook live, and other virtual platforms? Whether we wanted to or not? And there is all of the economic upheaval in people’s lives. The siege on the medical sector. And the social isolation and disruption to relationships. And let us not forget, let us never forget, all of the deaths. The grief and loss and pain. So many, many people. Gone. In every country in the world. Our tragically shared bond. [Pause]
But Covid is not the only thing that has withered our spirits in the past year. There was the exceedingly acrimonious, toxic election. That whole process was traumatizing. The horrific tenor of the discourse. The lies. The accusations. The threats. The delusions. The lust for power and money. It was a heinous display of the weakness and self absorption that the human character is capable of. We could even use the word evil. It wasn’t just disgusting, it was dis-heartening; it was shame-full. And the bile continues to poison our common life.
And still our spirits wither over the hateful, violent racism that defines our country. I was reading something written in the early 1960’s about police violence against people of color and the fear it engendered. I had to stop. Sixty years later. Decades. Generations later. And we continue to breed the conditions that perpetuate those actions. And other racist hate crimes like the killings in Atlanta this week.
And while attention is growing, and people are trying to change, lives are still not being lost but being taken by racism. Racial violence. Racial inequity in health outcomes. Racial inequity in education. In access to healthy food. In exposure to environmental hazards. And on and on and on. In every sector of society, there is racism. Including in religion. And it is toxic to everyone. We are all withering from the virus of racism, of course some more than others, but still it is negatively impacting everyone in America. This dis- ease affects us all.
And the backdrop for all of this and more is the unraveling of the very environment around us. Global warming. Sea level rise. The storms and weather events that are disrupting lives in new proportions. This too, whether we know it or not, eats away at our spirits.
And where do we seek solace? Medications? Opiates? Other drugs? Gaming? Social media? TV? These are powerful forces. Forces that can be toxic and can further wither the spirit as well as the body. I have heard several people say to me in recent months that they have intentionally fasted from news and from Facebook and other social media because they felt it eating away at them. So they stepped back from what can poison the soul.
So what can a twelfth century nun who had bizarre apocalyptic visions beginning at age 3 have to say to us today with our complexities and problems so different from the concerns of her day? First let me say that Hildegard of Bingen lived in a time of greedy power grabbing and corruption in the church and in civil affairs which were grossly intertwined and mutually reinforcing. Our election situation would not have shocked Hildegard. We also want to note that Hildegard lived in a time of extreme societal stratification and classicism as well as sexism. People were by no means equally valued. Money talked then as it does today. So Hildegard would understand oppression as we call it. She had to tell her superiors in the church that God told her to write down her visions or else the church would have banned them because women did not write books. Certainly not of a theological nature.
In a time when there was much to wither the spirit, like our time, Hildegard is perhaps most renowned for the concept of greening. Veriditis. This is her concept of the Divine life force. The Divine energy that imbues all of creation and all of life and connects everything into an interrelated whole. The Divine, the spiritual, the material, nature, humanity, the Trinity, it is all integrated. There is no separation.
We listen as Hildegard describes this greening force:
The earth is at the same time mother, she is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human.
She is the mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all.
The earth of humankind contains all moistness, all verdancy, all germinating power.
It is in so many ways fruitful. All creation comes from it. Yet it forms not only the basic raw material for humankind, but also the substance of the incarnation of God’s son. [Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen, Gabriele Uhlein p. 58]
This concept of greening, the moistness, the verdancy, the germinating power, conveys the life force, the fecundity, the fertility, the potential for growth and vibrancy in the natural world. But veriditis is also the power of life, relationship, agency, growth, action and awareness, bestowed by God to the human spirit. It is the Divine that greens us. That gives to us the potential to live and to thrive and to be co-creators with God of a world intended to flourish and thrive and bear fruit.
Hildegard is continuously relying on Divine power, God the Holy Spirit, Christ, the Trinity, as the greening power that enlivens humanity. She sees the greening as a gift that God is seeking to give to humans. To bless them. So that they can bless God and the world through creativity and fertility and bearing fruit.
The greening power is for the greater good. It is not to make money, another kind of greening. Divine greening is not to gain power for the individual. It is not for self promotion. For self gain. Divine greening is for the health of the individual as well as the health of the community and the planet. It is all connected and integrated.
As spring arrives, we see the green emerging around us even here in Florida. Nature seems to know how to submit itself to the greening. With people it is more complicated. But we are so in need of this power of re- creation, of new life. Especially after a year, yes, can you believe it, a full year, of a pandemic and all of the restrictions and hardship and death that has come with it. We are in a season of readiness for new life.
And here Hildegard inspires us to receive the gift we are being given simply because we are alive and human. Like nature, we are being given the power of greening, of renewal, and growth, not only biologically but spiritually. We have been given the capacity to grow and thrive and transform. We have the greening power to make us resilient against threats like the covid virus. We have the greening power to help us confront the evils of racism and greed and oppression. We have the greening power to empower us to work with nature for the good of creation itself. This is being given to us. Provided for us.
In one of her visions Hildegard tells us:
God says: In the shaking out of my mantle you are drenched, watered, with thousands upon thousands of drops of precious dew.
Thus is humanity gifted. [Uhlein, p.109]`
We are being given this greening power. Moist. Verdant. Fecund. The perfect medium and conditions for growing and thriving
We engage this greening power when we live our lives with fullness and authenticity. It isn’t just about work and service and constant sacrifice. Hildegard celebrates a life of engagement and awareness. You could call this greening power an anti-depressant, not in a medical sense, of course. Greening is about involvement and fulfillment and taking delight in all of life. Not watching. Not spectating. Not consuming on social media. Not being taken in as a brainwashed follower. Hildegard encourages us to think for ourselves and trust our experience as she learned to trust hers even when it put her at odds with the authorities around her. She tells us:
We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.
Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.
Here we are in a morass. Like fish or birds in an oil spill. Mired in a toxic environment, and Hildegard is reminding us of the Divine power of greening, that is seeking us, seeking to enliven us, seeking to make us thrive and flourish and bear fruit. The greening power of the Divine is seeking to make its home in us. To enter us. And be expressed in our living. This is a message of great consolation and hope.
We are in trying times and there are many challenges that face us. But Hildegard is reminding us of the power that is within us to meet those challenges with resilience, to be true to Divine Light, to ourselves, and to Creation. It is the power, the force we see in the greening of the oak trees, and the new shoots on the mango trees, and the fecundity of the garden rife with kale and tomatoes and carrots and peas. It is the greening power of the rain that pours forth to clean and nourish the earth. It is the power of the sun to awaken and inspire. And the moon which marks the seasons. This greening power is within us. To give us life. To give the world life.
We close with a blessing from Hildegard:
Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world— everything is hidden in you.
Amen.A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ
UNISON READING Hildegard of Bingen
Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around Him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honour. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God.
MUSIC Sonata 16, Mov.2 K545 Mozart
The mission of Lakewood United Church of Christ, as part of the Church Universal is to:
- Celebrate the presence and power of God in our lives & in our world
- Offer the hospitality and inclusive love of Christ to all people.
- Work for God’s peace and justice throughout creation.
Morning offerings may be brought forward and placed in the plates on the altar.
Offertory Vivo Schroeder
Prayer of Dedication Hildegard of Bingen
Be not lax in celebrating. Be not lazy in the festive service of God. Be ablaze with enthusiasm. Let us be an alive, burning offering before the altar of God. Amen.
MUSICAL CALL TO PRAYER Lo How a Rose German trad.
(LUCC Choir virtual recording)
COMMUNITY PRAYERS – SAVIOR’S PRAYER
Fathering and Mothering God, lover of us all, most holy one. Help us to respond to you To create what you want for us here on earth. Give us today enough for our needs. Forgive our weak and deliberate offenses, Just as we must forgive others when they hurt us. Help us to resist evil and to do what is good. For we are yours, endowed with your power to make the world whole. Amen.
*BENEDICTION (unison) Hildegard of Bingen
Even in a world that’s being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong.
*POSTLUDE Herr Gott, Dich Loben Alle Wir (Old 100th) Walther