April 13 Minister Moment

Bring a flower this Sunday, any flower you want to share. Our yearly Flower Communion is a service dedicated to thinking about diversity and community. We each bring a flower (or select one from our outdoor “pick a flower” vase.) Then all our diverse flowers are combined to represent the thing we call community. Young and old – flowers in our bouquet.

This week I’ve been thinking about the news story that is going around about Millcreek Township, PA’s school district, and how they have distributed 16-inch long baseball bats (such as one might get as a giveaway at a baseball game) to their teachers as defense against mass shootings. I know it sounds absurd and insulting. That’s because it is. It is an example of a “technical solution” to an adaptive problem.

If there had been an infestation of flies, teachers might have gotten flyswatters. That might solve the problem in the short term. But small problems do not scale up linearly. Giving teachers bigger flyswatters won’t end shooting deaths. A different type of solution is needed, and we cannot imagine what it will be, because we can only think technically. There is no formula. The solution can only be found by living into it. Leadership into chaos is called adaptive leadership. Adaptive leadership is what is needed in anxious times. Jumping into a quick fix does not work and leads to further, unexpected problems.The bats, however, are rather cute.

This week I’ve been thinking about how to reduce my anxiety. I’m applying for new jobs, preparing to travel to the Mexican Border with the UU Service Committee, and working toward the rest of the UCN/CVUU church year. For example, Tuesday we started sending around last year’s Annual Report so committees could be ready for this year’s entries… one more thing to get done by June!

So, to center myself, I looked up the Metta Sutta, the Buddhist discourse on loving-kindness.  We sometimes sing a chant based on this ancient text “May I Be Filled with Lovingkindness …”

I was thinking of printing a bit of the ancient text on one side of a notecard, and leaving it beside my bed: “Whatever living beings there may be—/feeble or strong, long (or tall), stout,/ or medium, short, small, or large,/ seen or unseen,/ those dwelling far or near,/ those who are born and those who are yet to be born—/ may all beings, without exception, be happy-minded!”

This aspiration, presents a big adaptive goal… one with no clear path.  It is, however, something to work for, though we do not know the way. On flip side of the notecard I put the next words from the Sutta: “Let not one deceive another/ nor despise any person whatever in any place./ In anger or ill will/ let not one wish any harm to another. (Ven W. Rahula translation)”

This side is more of a vision … it describes what can be done, or not done.  It describes actions I might take or not take. My plan is to have this card by the bed, and, on waking up I would read one side or the other, then go brush my teeth. A regular practice like this reminds me of Dr. Howard Thurman, who preached:  “… keep fresh before me the moments of my high resolve.” (from his book “For The Inward Journey”)

What can you do? That’s always changing.  For me, yesterday, the answer was to mark May 1st, Election Day on my calendar. Then, because I am away, I applied for an absentee ballot.  Every day the work is different… 

In loving-kindness,

Rev Charlie