Sermon: Pausing on the Forming Edge

Sunday, December 27, 2015, 10:15am
Rev. Shayna Appel

“Pausing on the Forming Edge”

Offered to the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church

December 27, 2015

Rev. Shayna Appel



 (posted at UUA.Org/Worship)


We bid you welcome on this first Sunday of the new year.

Like Janus we gather with part of us looking backward

and part of us looking forward.

We gather on the edge of the new year

saddened by our losses,

cherishing our joys,

aware of our failures,

mindful of days gone by.

We gather on the cusp of this new year

eager to begin anew,

hopeful for what lies ahead,

promising to make changes,

anticipating tomorrows and tomorrows.

We invite you to join our celebration of life,

knowing that life includes good and bad,

endings and beginnings.

We bid you welcome!


READING #1:  by Kathleen McTigue from Singing the Living Tradition


We come together this morning to

remind one another

To rest for a moment on the

forming edge of our lives,

To resist the headlong tumble

into the next moment,

Until we claim for ourselves

awareness and gratitude,

Taking the time to look into one

another’s faces

And see there communion: the

reflection of our own eyes.


This house of laughter and ‘silence, memory and hope,

is hallowed by our presence



Reading #2:  Celebrate the Interval by Richard Gilbert, from “What We Share; Collected Meditations, Vol.II


Life is a brief interval between birth and death;

It is composed of a few notes between Prelude and


It is a drama quickly played between the rising and

falling of a curtain.


What shall we do with the interval of time?

What combination of notes shall we play?

What thespian mask shall we wear?


The transience of life tempers our joy;

Discordant notes reverberate in the soul;

The ending of the play is never in doubt.


Yet the brevity can be rich with joy;

A simple tune caresses our ears;

the play produces laughter from time to time.


Why, then, are we so careless with time?

Why do we not sound the music of our hearts?

Why do we not feel the stage beneath our feet?


Is it not time to enjoy the interval?

Is it not time to play our own melody?

Is it not time for us to act our part?


Life is a brief interval between birth and death.

May we celebrate the interval with joy;

May we sing the song that belongs to us;

May we act as if our very life depended on it.


It does.








In the quote that’s printed on the front of our bulletins this morning, Lewis Carroll observes the necessity for us to pause once in awhile, because, as he says, “human strength will not endure to dance without cessation.”


In the opening monologue of the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”,  we are treated to another version of Carrolls’ insight when Ferris (aka; a young Matthew Broderick) observes, “Life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop once in awhile, you could miss it.”


In our opening readings for today, both the Rev.s Kathleen McTigue and Richard Gilbert call us to stop, for a moment, “on the forming edge of our lives,” and pay attention to this interval of time that is our lives.


Today is the last Sunday of the year 2015, and we’ve been exploring our 3rd principle which calls on us to encourage one another to spiritual growth.  And it occurred to me that we can’t grow spiritually without periodic “stops.”  We need to pause amidst this dance of life once in awhile if we want to take stock and take time to notice just where we are and where we’ve been so that we can make some choices about where we’re going.


So, I was thinking that that’s what we would do today.  We would just pause here together on the edge of 2016 and take a little stock of where we’ve been and where we are. But the more I thought about that, the more concerned I got because it’s been such a difficult year!  On so many fronts the news has just been abysmal.  It seems like everywhere we look some version of an  Apocalyptic narrative is reigning supreme.  And I really didn’t want to end the year on that note.


[CUE “ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE’] But, friends, here’s the beauty of the pause; it affords us the opportunity to get intentional about what we focus on.  And so, I thought, why not, in the words of Dr. John, why not take this moment to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative [and not] mess with Mister In-Between.”


Here are some stories from around our world and from right here at PUUC that may not have made the mainstream news broadcasts, or been written about in the media…but maybe they should have been.


Our first six stories were posted on  In noting what a difficult year it’s been, the editorial staff noted also that, “even in the tragic and sad times, there were so many people who showed us the very best of humanity.  So many people who reminded us that the good far outweighs the bad.”  Mr Rogers, they note, called these folks “helpers” because, when he was a little boy and he would see scary things in the news, Rogers’ mother would say to him, “Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.”


Sometimes the helpers are those who, in the wake of a tragedy, are quite literally saving lives.  There are also the quieter helpers.  The ones who do what they can, long after the news cameras have gone.  The ones who see serious everyday problems and know that even a small gesture of compassion can make a world of difference.  Hear now six brief stories of such helpers.


1.       A California mom found a way to help Syrian refugees with young children.

By now, we've all read about the Syrian refugee crisis: Millions of people have been forced to flee Syria, leaving everything behind. They have to travel great distances, often risking death, to reach safety.


When Cristal Logothetis noticed how many refugees were carrying their babies and young children for long distances, she decided to do something about it.

She raised money and began collecting baby carriers, which she and other volunteers personally deliver to those who need them as they're traveling to safety. She called her movement Carry the Future. And as a result of that movement, refugees are better able to travel more safely and comfortably with babies and little kids.


"All they're trying to do is get to a better place and protect their family," Logothetis said in a Today interview. "Not only do they have a problem solved for them by receiving a carrier, but they realize that people care about them, that people want to help.”


2. Two Muslim organizations joined forces and helped the families of the San Bernardino shooting victims by raising nearly $200,000.


The day after 14 people were killed in the San Bernardino mass shooting, two Californians knew they needed to do something to help. Neurologist and president of MiNDS Network Faisal Qazi and founder of CelebrateMercy Tarek El-Messidi got together and formed Muslims United for San Bernardino. Their original goal? To raise $50,000 for the victims' families. But with the help of many people who donated money, they raised over $215,000 for the family members of those whose lives were tragically stolen.


"This united American Muslim campaign aims to reclaim our faith from extremists by responding to evil with good, by rebuilding what they destroy," El-Messidi said in a press release. "We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action.”


3. This Ohio pizza shop fed the hungry on Thanksgiving.


Homelessness and hunger are both big problems that many people face every single day. Over 48 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they have "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.”


Jason Hague, owner of Bada Bing! Pizzeria, was already planning on having a Thanksgiving dinner for his friends and family. He thought: Why not invite more folks? He put out on open invitation for anyone who couldn't afford a meal to join them. Hague initially thought they'd have maybe 15 guests, but after news of their offer spread, he realized they needed to be prepared for more. His pizzeria bought enough food to feed 100 additional guests. It was just one meal on one day, but imagine how much of a difference it would make if everyone who was able helped in small ways, like donating to food banks?


4. A paramedic left in the middle of her own wedding to help the victims of an accident.

In between her wedding ceremony and reception, Sarah Ray learned that there was an accident a mile away. It turned out that her father and grandparents were involved. She and her new husband, also a paramedic, immediately left their wedding and raced to the scene, where she assisted her family members — while still rocking her wedding dress.

"This is a testament that people that work in EMS are always on duty. It is a testament to the willingness to help others," Jimmie Edwards, who is both Sarah and Paul's boss, said. True story! Thank you to the helpers who are the first responders in difficult situations.


5. Instead of ticketing people who panhandle, the mayor of Albuquerque found a simple way to help them.


Feeding the homeless is one way to help. Offering them the opportunity to work is another. When Albuquerque mayor Richard Barry saw someone with a "will work" sign, he thought they should have the chance to do just that. His administration expanded a homeless assistance program to include work by the day. Those who accept the offer work five-and-a-half hour shifts for $9 an hour.

"We want to give the dignity of work for a day," Berry told Upworthy. "The dignity of a day's work for a day's pay is a very good thing. It helps people stabilize, it helps them with their self-confidence, and it helps them get back on their feet." At the end of each workday, the driver who transports the workers drops them off at St. Martin's Hospitality Center, which offers food, shelter, and other services.Here's hoping other cities will follow suit.


6. This couple provides a safe home for gay children who were rejected by their families.

Deb and Steve Word, observant Catholics, learned their son was gay when he was 23 years old. They asked why he didn't tell them sooner — and they learned he was worried they might not approve because of their religion.

That made the couple realize that others kids faced the same struggle — and they might not have parents who receive them with open arms, which is particularly problematic if they're still young and living at home. So they decided to open up their home to LBGT kids who needed a place to stay.

During the past six years, they've fostered a dozen such kids, many of them rejected by their own families. "[It was a] WWJD kind of thing," Deb told Upworthy. "We really just welcomed hurting kids into our spare bedrooms." It feels a whole lot bigger than that — and Deb and Steve are an amazing example of what a difference helpers can make.

7.  An Indiana Woman’s kindness keeps a nine year old New Hampshire boy’s spirit of generosity alive.

Christopher Chester died of a heart condition no one knew he had.  He was nine years old.  He had baked cookies for a friend and was delivering them with his father when he suddenly collapsed, and neither his father nor paramedics were able to save the boy. 


But a woman in Indiana heard Christopher’s story and was so moved by his kindness that she launched the “#cookiesforchristopher” campaign on social media sites, encouraging others to keep Christopher’s memory alive by sharing cookies with family and friends.


Someone else set up a GoFundMe Site to help the family pay for funeral expenses.  By the Wednesday following Christophers' death, more than $26,000.00 had been raised.


Finally, let’s not forget the good things that have gone on right here at PUUC!  In December of 2014 you said farewell to your beloved minister of 7 years.  You then called, not one, but two “cutting edge whack jobs” to help you through the interim time…and this you did successfully twice!  You held services of worship each and every Sunday during the church year, and you offered another outstanding season of speakers during the Summer Lyceum.  You fed the community each and every Wednesday night, and during January and February of this past year, because of all the harsh weather, that was no small feet!  You increased your giving during the years Stewardship campaign and put yourselves on track to be able to support paying all your staff in accordance with the UUA’s guidelines as well as supporting the many ministries that are ongoing here at PUUC.  You’ve continued to make improvements to your main building and you landed a sweet grant to help you do so.  Children have been educated, loved ones have been memorialized, couples have been married, and a wide range of community organizations continue to have use of this historic space…all because of the commitment you have in your hearts to make it so.  All because of the thousand and one ways you work quietly, and often behind the scenes, to make rummage sales, magic shows, holiday strolls, and a number of other events happen. 


And what has been the impact of all this on our community within and beyond our walls?  We may never know. Ours is not to gather the harvest, but rather to be sewers of seeds.  And it takes a special bunch of people to make that happen!


But friends, “human strength will not endure to dance without cessation,” and life indeed moves pretty fast, and if we don’t stop once in awhile, we could miss it.” So let us gather, like Janus, with part of us looking backward and part of us looking forward.  Let us  remind one another

To rest for a moment on the forming edge of our lives, To resist the headlong tumble into the next moment, Until we claim for ourselves awareness and gratitude.  Life is a brief interval between birth and death.

May we celebrate the interval with joy;

May we sing the song that belongs to us;

May we act as if our very life depended on it.


So may it be, blessed be and amen.