Whole Hearted

Rev. Kristen Rohm
August 30, 2015

Did you see the full moon this weekend? Isn’t it fabulous, lighting the sky with its round lush fullness? I am spellbound by the full moon, I feel drawn upward from my solar plexus, I feel my heart softened in wonder at the white glow. This is what I imagine wholeness feels like. Our summer has been inspired by the Howard Thurman quote, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do it. For what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Our worship has explored many ways to come alive and several tools or strategies to support us in that process. This morning we celebrate the possibilities of living a life this way – of being or becoming wholehearted.

It can be challenging to get a clear sense of what wholeheartedness means, the full moon one has helped me envision it. One way I interpret it is that I could live my life fully – without reservation, committed, not holding back waiting for a better offer or an option without risk. Giving the day everything I’ve got – or at least being in the present of each day, in the joy of this moment. Now that doesn’t happen every single day, but like the moon, I aim for at least a few days a month, shining and glowing with joy and possibility. Understanding that there will be lean days, days when the light feels gone, days when there’s only a sliver of hope. Yet knowing in my heart that the full richness will return, the ripe wholeness of coming full circle will happen again. This is the spirit in which I wish to approach the topic of whole heartedness this morning.

I share with you a poem called The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer which asks questions, each a possible way to understand being whole.  As I read it, please hear each stanza as an invitation into the topic and into yourself. Listen for the question that pulls at you, that gets to the heart of where wholeness or the lack of it, might be for you today.  Let go of the stanzas that make no sense or have no interest for you.

The Invitation*
-Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

 It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!     I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

 It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you are trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

 It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.                                                                

I want to know if you are whole.

Let us sit with these questions for a moment. Whichever touched you, let it be with you while we breathe deeply and fully.   Let us each start where we are, let us each answer the question that has lodged itself inside us. I want us to carry this question and what we’ve learned about living from our passions and coming alive into our year. For this is a deeply spiritual practice, it is one of the core tasks of being a religious person – to discover what matters to us and to live that out in our lives.

Wholeheartedness, living in such a way that our outsides match our insides, has been a spiritual matter for thousands of years.  Jesus, said something similar many times in his teachings, often in parables encouraging his followers not to live a double life.  In the gnostic gospel of Thomas, which was found in 1945 near Nag Hammadi in Egypt and which contains 114 sayings of Jesus and which has been dated to the time of the gospels in New Testament, Jesus says directly, “when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside…then you will enter the kingdom.” And it was the Buddha himself who noticed Chunda and invited him to become a monk based on what was inside him.

This is one way I understand wholeheartedness is to ask do my actions match my values or how does my daily life live out what matters most to me.  Essentially do my insides match my outsides. This is not easy and our culture does not encourage this wholehearted clarity. So it is good to be together in religious community to support us as we take steps toward being whole. Isn’t that exactly what we do here at SouthWest? Encourage one another to know who we are and what we value. Remind each other that we will find our Source and our way to know and connect with the Mystery some call God.  Hold hope and share it with those who have temporarily misplaced theirs. Listen and love one another into transformation and wholeness?

Did you know that whole, holy and health all come from the same root word of ‘hale’. Our ability to be healthy and whole is thus a holy matter. Madeleine L’Engle, in her book, Walking on Water, writes of this connection between wholeness and holiness and says, “the marvelous thing is that this holiness is nothing we can earn. It is nothing we can do. It is a gift, waiting there to be recognized and received. We do not need to be qualified to be holy, to be healed or to be whole.”   So wholeness is available to all of us, not someday when we prove ourselves worthy or finally get our act together, but now, in this moment. We do not need to be anything different than we are in this moment to be holy, to be healed or to be whole.  This is the promise of our Universalist faith. Just like Chunda we are ready today for acceptance into the monastery regardless of our imperfections.

Since a monastery is not easily available to most of us, let’s explore a few possibilities for moving toward wholeness in our modern lives. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from 12 step programs is that many of us compare our insides to other people’s outsides. Meaning that when we feel vulnerable, shaky, less than – it is far too easy to look at other people’s exterior, their put together facades and compare how we feel inside with how they look on the outside. We forget that they might feel just as vulnerable inside as we do.  So that’s one way to practice wholeheartedness – to sweep away this comparing ourselves to others.  To remember that our job is to live our own insides as well and as authentically as we can. The moon is only luminously whole a few days a month. Why would we be so different?

Another way we can practice wholeheartedness or have our insides begin to match our outsides is to tell our stories to one another and to listen deeply to one another. This is not always easy to do.  So, we are starting a series of Covenant Groups, or small groups here at SouthWest that meet monthly with a facilitator to do just this, to listen with care to others in the group as they talk about their life story, about their thoughts or feelings around compelling topics. Native American medicine men ask those who are sick, “When was the last time you told your story?” because they know that telling our stories is healing.

I hope that you will join us in one of these covenant groups as we get to know one another better and learn deep listening and sharing. You may want to notice this week when you are truly listening to someone. I mean you are looking at the person talking, you are not trying to remember where your car keys are, you are not formulating a question or a brilliant response, you are not busily solving the speaker’s problem. You are simply listening, giving your full attention to someone.  Try it today and notice how it is.  This is one way to be fully in the moment, to attend to our insides and other people’s insides.  It also strengthens our compassion for ourselves and for others, which is always a good thing.

When we feel whole, when we feel compassion, we naturally turn our attention outward. We want to invite others into wholeness. Many of us here at SouthWest are wondering how we might want to focus some of this outward attention.  We already provide healthy snacks for Urban Hope, in fact the sign up poster is outside. We already clean up the highway and learn how to help the earth in the Earth Alliance group that meets every other Thursday evening.  Yet we are feeling a need to do more.  At General Assembly, the annual national gathering of Unitarian Universalists this June, the Unitarian Universalist Association voted to affirm Black Lives Matter as an Action of Immediate Witness. So one potential way for SouthWest to do more is to ponder how we might support this movement, how we might stand as ally alongside our sisters and brothers of color who are fighting for fair treatment in our town, in our state, in our country. We are tasked with breaking the silence about racism, because silence is not neutral, it is complicit. So in the weeks ahead, I ask you to go on the UUA website and read about the Black Lives Matter movement and consider how you or how we might become involved.

Remember the full moon? How it shone so brightly down on us, on every person in Cleveland. Let us do our part to ensure that every single one of us knows we matter. Every single one of us knows we are loved and worthy. Every single one of us deserves wholehearted moments of joy, belonging and meaning. Let us structure our lives around this truth.

I invite you to explore which ever question or stanza from the poem that touched you as you explore a wholehearted life. On the journey, may your heart feel full, even if it’s bruised or broken, may it be filled with love and compassion.  May you turn that compassion outward and spread it to others who hunger for justice and companionship.

May you come alive, living from your passions all year long, bursting with luminous light and love.

May it be so.


*Excerpts from “Invitation,” by Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation, published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved