Finding the Good Things — Virtual Sunday Service, March 29, 2020

Since Rev. Josh forgot to hit the ‘record’ button on Sunday morning, March 29th, we don’t have a video of the service to share with you. However, we would like to share a few of the elements from that service.

First, we used these words for the chalice lighting, written by the Luchetti family:

Brown skin or / white skin, / it doesn’t matter / which one you are. / It matters that / you love each other.

Second, here’s a video of Gina sharing her thoughts in response to her reading of Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With a Problem?”

Third, here’s the video of the UUS:E children’s choir which was put together by Pat-Eaton Robb, Jenn Richard, and Dan Thompson.

Finally, here are the words I shared, also in response to Kobi Yamada’s book.

“Finding the Good Things” by Rev. Josh Pawelek

“Every problem has an opportunity for something good. You just have to look for it.” Words from the children’s book author, Kobi Yamada, which Gina read earlier. The book is called “What Do You Do With a Problem?” And as Gina said, we have a big problem right now – this COVID 19 pandemic.

I think it’s true statement: every problem carries with it an opportunity for something good to reveal itself to us. I certainly think it’s true with this pandemic. I have faith, that even in our most difficult moments, even in the midst of our struggles to adjust to isolation, lock-down, social distance, even in the midst of encountering our deepest fears, there are opportunities for something good waiting to reveal themselves.

I hear myself say these words, and my own inner critic says ‘Josh, how can you say that? It sounds naïve. It sounds unrealistic. It sounds unhelpful. People have lost work. People have lost income. People have become sick and more will become sick. Some have died. Some truly don’t know how they are going to get through today, let alone tomorrow. It’s frightening.’ So to say to someone who’s really struggling, ‘there’s an opportunity for something good waiting to reveal itself to you,’ – that may not be helpful in the moment. That may not meet them where they are in the moment. That may not get them through the day. I get that. I know you get it too.

But I’m telling you about the faith I am finding over these early weeks of social distancing. I have faith that every problem brings with it an opportunity for something good to reveal itself to us.

Maybe the good starts small. For example, Gina found that staying home is an opportunity to learn something about herself. She found out that she really needs some structure in her life, a routine, a schedule. Having that makes her feel happy and energized. I think a lot of the children are learning that having a daily schedule is something that really helps when you have a problem like the one we’re in.

I am learning a lot about myself. I’m learning that it’s OK for me to be afraid. It’s OK for me to be anxious. It’s OK for me to be stressed out. These feelings are entirely normal and expected in a situation like this, and I don’t have to hide the fact that I’m feeling them from anyone. In fact, it helps when I talk about these feelings. They have less power over me when I talk about them. That’s something good that has revealed itself to me.

I am also learning that when I have things to do around the house – cleaning the bathrooms, scooping the cat litters, working in the yard – I can really sink into these tasks. They become meditations. I meditate on the tasks and only the tasks. And as I meditate, my fear, anxiety and worry seem to fade away, and I feel better. I feel energized and happy. I know the negative feelings will come back—there’s no way around that—but I’ve learned that I can get a break from them. That’s a good thing that has revealed itself to me.

But we’re still at the beginning. Right now we’re just over two weeks into this life of social distancing. We’ve got many more weeks to go. That means there are many more good things waiting to reveal themselves to us. Even in our most difficult moments the good things are there. What might those good things be?

Might we learn that we are stronger than we realized? Might we learn that we are more resilient than we realized? Might we learn that we are more courageous than we realized? Might we learn that we are more creative than we realized? Might we learn that we are more patient than we realized? Might we learn that we are more compassionate and caring and loving than we realized?

We know that the people in our UUS:E congregation care deeply about each other, but might we discover in new ways just how deep that care goes?

We know that the people in our UUS:E congregation have special connections to each other, but might we discover in new ways how truly important those connections are?

We know that the people in our UUS:E congregation care deeply about people in the wider community, but might we gain new insights into how deep that care goes? Already this past week we’ve organized a few people in our congregation to drop food on the porches of people in Manchester who are stranded at home with very little or no food. In all my time as a minister I never imagined I would be organizing that kind of ministry. Food drops! But that’s what’s needed right now. People who are able to do it have volunteered to help. What an amazingly good thing. (And by the way, if you are willing to participate in a food drop for somebody who lives near you, send me an email. I’ll add you to the list.)

I urge you to look for the good things that come along with this pandemic problem. Have faith that good things are there despite how bad things are. Have faith the good things are getting ready to reveal themselves to you. When they come, pause and notice them. Express gratitude. Then carry on, strengthened in the knowledge that there is good in midst of this very challenging problem.

Amen and blessed be.