(Sermon by Rev. Sue Browning, February 25, 2018)
Let’s start with a few scenarios on excitement. I want you to picture a big string across the front of the sanctuary. ‘Excites Me’ at one end and ‘Nightmare – Are You Kidding Me?’ at the other end.
Imagine where you might go on the continuum.
Scenario 1: It’s Christmas morning. You receive a new iPhone with directions on how to activate all of the features on your own. There are two chips to insert, and all you need to do is synch it up with your computer.
EXCITE: The minute presents are unwrapped you start (or even before), or
NIGHTMARE: It’s still in the box in March?
Scenario 2: You are at your niece’s wedding. The band is great – music from your generation. And a surprise call comes from the DJ for a dance with all aunts and uncles – on the dance floor. Now. Go.
EXCITE: You jump up!
NIGHTMARE: Wish you were in the bathroom – might be able to get there still.
Scenario 3: The Baltimore Symphony comes to Easton. The concert will be 2 hours long. Tickets are cheap.
EXCITE: You order tickets that day, and start playing the music in advance.
NIGHTMARE: Don’t order tickets – say your UU prayers that no one has an extra ticket.
Excitement or enthusiasm is that which moves and stirs us in positive ways. And it varies for each of us. The hands raised in our game varied dramatically. And to some extent timing gives some context. If you’re at the wedding fighting the a stomach bug of course your reaction might vary.
Another way to ask the excitement question, what is on your calendar or in your day’s or year’s plans that excites you? What do you look forward to the most? What do you enjoy doing that maybe no one else will get why it excited you?
Last month I had a routine dentist appointment. I’ve gone to my dentist for 20 years, and trust him. His office is well run. He’s the only dentist. The practice includes few hygienists, a dental assistant, and a secretary. On Tuesday the dentist is going to do my cleaning with his assistant. Not common for him to do the cleaning, but he says he does cleaning as the schedule needs him to. He’s always happy – in a dentist kind of way.
He starts cleaning. The background chit chat between he and the assistant was something like, “Susan, we were just looking at your x-rays from last time. Quite a few crowns and I’ve had a hand in most of them!” I mumble, “All of them are yours.” …He says to his assistant, “Carolyn, I wonder how many crowns we’ve done in our 40 years working together?” “Thousands” she says. At which point he says, “It never gets old.” And I burst out laughing. “You’re kidding, right?” I question. And he wasn’t. He’s been a dentist for over forty years and went on to say how every crown was a different challenge – how there was destruction involved and each was different. He was literally excited telling me about the excitement he felt crown by crown.
In the book, ‘Discover Who You Are’ authors Jane Kise and David Stark look at gifts you have to offer the world through a series of exercises – on personality, and abilities and skills, and on values. It’s a book not so much about vocation choice, though that may come into play, but more a book on finding how you might serve the world. It asks of spiritual gifts. And after the exercises to consider your personal style, and talents and values, the tools guide you to look for for passion – for excitement – for enthusiasm.
What excites you? How do you know?
For my dentist, his excitement is the energy behind doing perfect crowns over and over – crowns I delightedly don’t notice.
What excites you?’
Recently I went to a monthly meeting for clergy and lay leaders, and non-profits. Meeting like this one excite me. Why? What’s exciting? I get to go to a new setting. I love going to community locations where I haven’t been before. This one was at a local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. I meet new people, and we have our official roles at the center. I put names with faces. The group this past week was diverse. I start to re-see people, make connections on see what drives this community. I learn about the community in an orderly way. The information exchange is efficient. The ideas robust. I had a chance to pitch an upcoming event at the congregation. I learn about everything from Voting Rights, to healthcare.
And I drive away, having had coffee – my ministry enriched, a wondering on which of the ‘too many activities out there’ I might prioritize to attend. I wonder how what is going on fits with the strategic work in this community.
Peel down another layer for me. Hospitality was palpable. Others had figured out food and coffee. Parking had been easy. In the predicable in format, there was the new learning on upcoming voter information initiatives and the new hospice center opening.
Some meetings excite me less – but usually gatherings are something I look forward to. Others not so much on meetings.
As you think about what excites you, try asking questions with some specificity. If music, is it listening alone, or in formal settings? Is it performing music, practicing alone, creating new music? If food excites you – what type of food? the research of recipes, and starting of preparation, the enjoyment of dining at home or out, the satisfaction of cleaning it all up?
Often the enthusiasm comes in a few ways. Often something new is exciting. There is a rush we can all get from novel events. It might be trip to a never visited place, or a new restaurant, or the meeting a new grandchild. Mundane for one is another’s point of excitement!
Excitement may also be generated when we’re good at something. When we have an area of mastery, and the complex aspects comes together for us. Possibly gardening – the seed selection that you can imagine in that tough corner of your yard, or the almost lost plant – drooping and struggling that you resurrect.
And the layers of enthusiasm and excitement in the pleasure of our bodies feeling good – from a message, to sexual experience, to the warmth of the beach.
Reflecting on what excites us helps in the dreaming – what new doors that may open. Earlier we heard Matthew’s story – from Peace Corps, to 12 years in Guatemala to the Multicultural Center in Easton.
What might the world look like if we let our gifts be known in community? Our excitement be known? How might the world be a better place?
I’ve tried to picture a town – say Easton. Picture everyone – every single community member – putting out a sign – in their yard, or in their window with two statements: .This is what excites me in the world _______. Here is a gift I’d like to offer ________
Can you imagine what might be posted – gifts of meals, or old furniture? Offers to babysit, or pet sit? Offers to mow a lawn, or alter clothing? For some donating may be exciting and an offer of gift cards for food for a few hundred $$? A willingness to clean up a park? Take children on a boat ride? A willingness to call a meeting – write letters to elected officials – visit the high school – coach basketball for a team your own kid is not on. Offers to share rap poetry?
Picture signs all around. Picture the abundance of community. It is there. We often forget. We think not of abundance but of scarcity – of what to hold close. Signs. In every single yard. In every single window. Neighbors all with their cards on the table about what excites, and what they want to offer? From the humble residence; subsidized housing, nursing homes; everyday homes – bigger homes, 2nd homes.
Can you imagine such abundance? What if we approach life in trust of the gifts that are needed coming forth?
Enough is out there. A sense of enough. A sense of an abundant world comes with the perspective that together we can embrace life. Our excitement and enthusiasm are needed.
Each of those signs is a blessing.
What if we broaden the question? What excites this congregation? How might this congregation be a blessing to the world?
This isn’t Stewardship Sunday (yet), but it is that season. March 11 will be Stewardship Sunday. What excites this congregation? How does this congregation in turn take shared excitement and choose to bless the world?
Where are places where together you laugh, and find joy, and fulfillment? What are the gifts you’d like to offer beyond these walls? What would go on the sign in front of this building? Maybe something like ‘Siding with Love’…
With excitement, we offer a chance to feel belonging?
With excitement, we offer a chance to feel healing?
With excitement, together we offer a community where we find meaning and purpose together?
We excitement, we offer a chance to feel love…be reminded of love
I close with words from Rebecca Parker,
“CHOOSE TO BLESS THE WORLD” (Excerpts)
Your gifts—whatever you discover them to be—
can be used to bless or curse the world.
….The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude
to search for the sources
of power and grace;
native wisdom, healing, and liberation.
More, the choice will draw you into community,
the endeavor shared,
the heritage passed on,
the companionship of struggle,
the importance of keeping faith,
the life of ritual and praise,
the comfort of human friendship,
the company of earth
the chorus of life welcoming you.
None of us alone can save the world.
Together—that is another possibility, waiting.
When we come together and walk in the world in the spirit of abundance and possibility, we amplify our excitement, we spread joy, and we fill needs. From our center of excitement, we give and receive in love.
May It Be So