Sermon by Karen Hilfman Millson

St. Paul’s United Church

September 11, 2011

Two weeks ago

in the very early hours of Sunday morning

as the new day was dawning,

I was standing in the ancient sacred site in England

of “Stonehenge”.

I was there in a group of 24 people

praying for world peace –

connecting the energy of Stonehenge

and our prayers with others

throughout the world

who were praying for world peace

at the same time.

While I stood there

grounded by the ancient wisdom and energy

I visualized that energy being sent here –

to this sanctuary,

to this community,

to each of you,

to the people I love,

to the people I love to serve with …

It has been a difficult week this past week

as I have returned to work.

I found myself very vulnerable and tender

following Fred’s death

as I know other’s have too.

It’s like his death cracked my heart –

opening it and growing it’s expansive capacity.

And then as the first day back unfolded

I heard about the death of Linda and Homi’s grandson

and my heart cracked open more …

then the death of the one year old that Monica was doing the funeral for,

then news of others in the community

who have had some difficult medical diagnosis ….

and even simple things

that have that swirling mixture of endings and beginnings >

with two of our staff

having one of their children heading off to university –

one for the first time,

another to England for two years.

And now today –

the 10th anniversary of 9-11

set to a backdrop of ongoing violence in the world,

a famine in Africa,

raging fires in one area of the land,

and extreme flooding in other areas.

Weaving in and out of all these experiences

that have buffeted us and tugged at us …

there are also incredible images of hope and joy …

Jack Layton’s letter of hope written as he was dying –

reminding us that hope is better that fear,

just as love is better than anger

and optimism better than despair.

Fred’s incredible writing

and all the things his life has contributed to us

as a community and beyond

In his writing Fred reminds us that:

Arising from the huge global crises we face together,

a paradigm shift in all domains of life is occurring today:

toward love rather than fear,

a state of blessing and joy

rather than guilt and fear,

freedom and justice

rather than exploitation,

and partnership with creation

rather than domination over it.

And then he reflects on this:

Knowing about this pattern of chaos/creation

has helped me greatly in deciding

how I will deal with my own personal times of chaos;

in my current situation,

it means trusting that as long as I embrace the chaos

(but don’t stay there!),

something positive and creative will arise.

By asking questions like,

“What’s the next step for me here?”

and “What good things could possibly come out of this?”,

and by keeping open to ideas

and insights popping up unpredictably,

I am finding that new and creative things are indeed emerging –

I would have to say,

miraculous things,

both in my life and the lives of many others!

I am struck by the depth of creative potential

that lies within each of us

and by the awareness that I am able to create my own life

and to be fully responsible for it.

We can choose to be who and what we are,

right down to our dreams!

One of the on-going conversations in Fred’s life

with others was around the topic of

“How do we move out of ego and into essence?”,

which allows us to live into our full capacity

that has the power to transform this world toward goodness.

Life can feel overwhelming –

not only by poignant moments of grief and loss –

but overwhelming in all the change that is happening.

We live in a time of incredible change …

and there’s a tendency to want to grasp at what is fading away

because we know how to live in that pattern of life –

but in the new –

as we stand at the edge of a new day –

there are incredible things happening.

In an on-line course I am taking right now

with Barbara Marx Hubbard –

she shared an image that I find helpful.

She talks about how

we are in the process of preparing

to give birth to a new day.

And then she said –

imagine what it would be like

for a woman to go into the pangs of labour …

and not know that she is pregnant.

She would think she was dying.

In the same way we can feel overwhelmed

by the pain and loss

as shifts happen to move us toward what is seeking to be born

in our world

by the power of God’s Spirit

and through us.

In the United Church of Canada

there is a new ministry team

often called the Edge team –

that’s the national team that I went to England with.

In an introductory web-inare the executive director –

Rob Dalgliesh names some of the organizational changes

we are going through based on the work of Margaret Wheatly:

Wheatly identifies that we are shifting our focus

from things to relationship;

from structure to process (and flow);

from control and command to trust and empowerment.

While we were at the Greenbelt Christian Festival in England

(which looks at all the amazing new things

that are emerging in the church as fresh expressions of the Church) –

we heard theologian Phylis Tickle speak.

She showed the major change

that is criticized to more fully emerge –

and that is the shift from Hierarchy

(upward arm)

to all of taking responsibility

to create a world filled with compassion and justice

(arm down and spread out front).

And that’s happening all over the world.

People are joining their efforts and their hearts

as grassroots movements are emerging all over the world

to do their part to co-create peace.

One of the resources on the United Church website

for this 10th anniversary of 9-11 –

is a link to a website called “We” –

whose 2011 global campaign for unity is called

“11 Days – 11 Ways”.

This campaign invites us to focus our intentions and actions

on 11 Themes over the next 11 days –

which brings us to the United Nations International Day of Peace

on September 21st.

The themes include things such as –

unity, interdependence, the environment,

economic justice, freedom …

You have been provided

with some information this morning

but if you go to the “We” website –

there are a multitude of ideas

of how to respond to the themes.

There are also groups of people

connecting all over the world in prayer –

where we combine our prayers and our intention for peace.

This is the time of “blessed unrest”

that Paul Hawkins talks about

in his book called “Blessed Unrest”.

By 2008 he had identified over 2 million grassroots groups

around the world

who were all working for peace and justice

and environmental sustainability.

… There is an impulse inside us

that is cracking open our hearts –

we long to make contribution through our gifts

to help birth the new day that is emerging.

In the past 3 months

when people offered to help Fred

– asking “What can I do”

Fred was clear that what he wanted people to do

was to pass on to others

whatever joy they have experienced through him.

He said – life is not about me –

it is about us as a community –

contributing to one another.

He also said:

The bottom line is > we all want to make a difference.

We can choose –

anywhere, anytime to live this way –

choosing to love in any circumstance.


May it be so,