This week, our Message begins with a story about Beethoven. Rev. Ken remarks on how apropos our new message series, “God Laughs,” is this week, since we are not gathered together in Bell Hall like we were just a week ago. This message seried gets its name from a Yiddish proverb “We plan, God laughs.”
He talks about the importance of keeping covenants with one another, even though we realize that plans may fall through. This was demonstrated recently when Steve Burns, host of Blues Clues, made a video to thank his fans years after he abruptly left the beloved TV show.
The following is a message from Wellsprings Congregation.
Yep. All right. Take two.
There’s a story about Beethoven that I swear to God is true. The great composer had just put together his most recent concerto, and
he gathered a select group of friends and admirers to hear it. He played through the entire piece of gorgeous music. And the
assembled crowd recognizing how amazed they were by it. Just stood and applauded. After those applause, someone came up to
Beethoven and asked. It was beautiful. But what does it mean? And with that, Beethoven went back to his piano. Sat down and
played the concerto the entire way through again. And said. This is what it means. I feel that way even before the recent snafu. You
all just witnessed and got to share together. I feel that way. This is what it means about this message series that we’re starting today.
We plan God laughs. I feel like I could just go full zen on you today and say, look at this and look at what’s not here and look at the
live production that this is and look at all the things we cannot control or predict and look at all the people who were here last week
separated out, spread out, safe, masked all the protocols in place. And then this past week, when Chester County had that reading
bump up a notch from high to very high. And Reverend Lee and our Board of trustees trustees following the guidelines that they had
put together and followed clearly and rigorously all throughout this time.
I made the decision and shared with all of us that we couldn’t gather the congregation here just last week, how many people did I say,
I’ll see you again a week from today, right back here? Same bat time, bad place back channel. And no. Different than we expected.
This message series is based on an old Yiddish proverb. We plan God laughs. I know no one personally who takes this literally who
believes that the divine somehow sets us up to fail in the moment we plan anything for the future. The divine laughter peels out
through the heavens, mocking us for being foolish enough to anticipate a future and prepare for it. That literal meaning does nothing
for me. But the deeper meaning of it. That’s wisdom we can live by. Because we’re living it right now. We plan in this universe, so. I
wanted to say beset by change, but it’s not beset, it’s just a fact. This universe is so filled of change, made of change and our
expectations of and our preparations for the future. The best meaning I know of. We plan God laughs. Is to take our preparations, our
expectations seriously, because as human beings, we have to have them. That’s part of what our brains do. To take them seriously.
And hold them very, very lightly. Because we never know exactly what is going to happen. So, yes, we have suspended. As I look
around at most of these empty chairs, save for the folks like me who are involved in today’s service, yes, we have suspended inperson worships for how long? I am going to enact for you, I’m going to embody for you right now my favorite emoji of the last 18
Sometimes that’s all there is to say, except for one other Yiddish thing, which is like a vault. As my ancestors taught me how to say,
but my goal here today is not to have us fall into despair when our expectations and our plans and our preparations don’t. Turn out,
as we would have wished, rather the opposite, because this message series is about unpacking living in this universe and this time in
this place of uncertainty. Not completely unprepared, even if we know we cannot control all the outcomes. And I was reminded of the
deeper meaning of this series about what we might find that can guide us through. Hold us. They can hold our hearts and our hope
and something dependable for us to count on. I was reminded of it when I’d say in the last three weeks or so, I got a whole bunch of
Facebook memories. You see, I’ve been a clergy person ordained clergy person for approaching a quarter century. And I have done
a lot of weddings. In this time of year, late summer, early fall, that’s when my own marriage, my own wedding happened. And so I was
reminded in these last few weeks of all of these people’s lives that I have been invited into such a blessed, happy occasion.
And as I always tell the couples and the families that I’m working with the the heart of a marriage ceremony. The vows could be the
traditional. Could be the ones that the couples, right? The vow is the message. The vow is the sermon. I mean, just think about the
most traditional for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health right there at the very beginning. Of a marriage.
Chances are. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. And yet we do not go into that uncertain future. With our hearts just
ready to be wounded. The uncertainty of living in this universe. No. We go into that uncertain future in marriages and beyond in
marriages, other forms of relationship to. Ready to live by something that is at the heart of our Unitarian Universalist tradition, which
we call covenant. Promising. To be there. For better or for worse, et cetera. Now we know that no covenants and no promises are.
Perfect, either. Not all marriages and not all relationships and not all forms of communities make it. And still. We can take our vows
very, very seriously as we live this life. I think for a certain extent, even as we know that not all our vows are going to make it, not all
our covenants and our promises will hold, sometimes covenants and promises are surpassed. By other covenants and promises that
need to emerge.
But that doesn’t mean. That we just give up on making vows and promises and holding covenants together. Because I think the other
choices. Are actually far worse. A certain kind of nihilism. Things change shrug, and in that shrug is who cares? I remember what is,
for me, still the best of all, the recent comic book movies, the personification of chaos for chaos sake. Heath Ledger’s amazing role
as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Let’s give up on making any plans whatsoever. So that all we do is seek to exploit each other. We
still need to make and hold promises together. So we don’t fall into complete and utter chaos. And to make promises that allow us to
have a grounded and sober hope, I say sober, especially today, today is 16 years without a drink for me, since today. Thank you. But
that larger sense of sober, right? Clear eyed, openhearted, connected. Because the other extreme from nihilism is this meme that I
know a lot of us have seen this past year and perhaps posted. This is fine. Everything’s great, everything’s perfect. Oh, no. Beyond
nihilism and beyond, this is fine. There is covenant. There is being a promise making and a promise keeping and a promise revising
and a promise living kind of people together. We need covenant because we live in a world of uncertainty, not in spite of it. Covenants
are not about outcomes. That we could promise each other everything is going to turn out exactly as we want or everything is going
to turn out, all right.
Covenants and promises are profoundly about presence. I’m just thinking one right now. It’s unpredictable. I would have put this
meme up here right now, but I wasn’t prepared. It just came to me in this moment, one of my favorite ones that I have shared on
social media, and I know many of you have shared on social media as well, too. It simply goes like this and very often of
accompanied by a little sliver of moon. We are in space. No one knows what’s going on. And I love you. As a covenant right there. We
are in space. No one knows what’s going on. And I love you. I was reminded. Of the power of this promise of presence. A week ago,
the 20th anniversary of 9-11, I’m remembering that at the time. At the time, there were so many materials put out for parents of kids.
With this overwhelming, scary world rocking event happening. And yes, there are questions to answer that kids have in
developmentally appropriate ways. But you know what, all those guidelines basically boil down to? The loving presences in kids lives,
letting them know that they will do their best to be there. That. Is Covenant. Because we live in such a world where uncertainty means
things will change. And this plus our human imperfections mean that none of us will, yeah, complete our vows perfectly.
And yet we still making them we are still making them. Because on the most essential level reality, his relationship. And to show up to
promise presence, it is honoring the basic covenant that life has already made with us. The moment that we are born into it. We are
born from each other and for each other. And faithfulness to covenant. Means that we do our best to honor that every single one of
our days. Even when our covenants appear to break or to end. I saw as so many of us did, a really touching example of this. From this
guy not too long ago. Yeah. Steve Burns, former host of Blue’s Clues, some of the singers here, because that’s what singers do.
They’re already singing it. Ok. I know a lot of like popular songs and kids songs, that’s actually not one I know of. So Julie, you can tell
me about that one afterward. My nieces weren’t old enough and I was kind of too old. So like Blue’s Clues when it was on and really
popular. It wasn’t so much in my orbit. I was aware of it. But for those who love Blue’s Clues, something really sad and kind of
devastating did happen when Steve Burns younger version of himself, the host beloved host older version of himself recently, by the
way that Steve Burns alive. That’s not just a pun there developed kind of all of these internet rumors that like, remember, like, you
know, Beatles fans like Paul is dead.
Steve Burns had died, and they brought in a body double to say goodbye, and Steve Burns was in fact not alive, but Steve Burns
alive is real. Recently, many of us know Steve Byrne showed back up. And I want to share his words. With you almost in their
entirety. Because this is covenant. Even after covenant seems to end. Steve Burns, who I wasn’t all that familiar with, as I said. I got
to see why he was so beloved. So earnest. He said, you remember when we were younger, this recent video, we used to run around
and hang out with blue and find clues and talk to Mr Salt and freak out about the mail and do all the fun stuff. And then one day I was
like, Oh, hey, guess what? Big news, I’m leaving, here’s my brother, Joe. He’s your new best friend. And then I got on a bus and I left
and we didn’t see each other for a really long time. Can we just talk about that? Great. Because I realize it was kind of abrupt. And
goes on to talk about college, that’s where he went, he went away to school, college was really challenging, by the way, but great
because I got to use my mind and take a step at a time. And now literally, I am doing many of the things that I wanted to do. I mean,
we talk about him in the audience.
I mean, we started out with clues, and now it’s what? Student loans and jobs and families and some of it. Understatement of the year.
And some of it has been kind of hard, you know? I know, you know. And then the heart of it. The Covenant. Honoring heart of it. I
wanted to tell you that I really couldn’t have done all of that without your help. And in fact, all the help that you helped me with when
we were younger is still helping me today right now. And that is super cool. I guess I just wanted to say that after all these years.
That’s the part that makes me tear up a little bit. I guess I just wanted to say that after all these years. I never forgot you. And I am
super glad. That we are still friends. That a teen actor grows up and goes away to college is not a tragedy. That the people who loved
him and counted on him. And miss him when he moved on is a loss and grief that they once shared a connection, and that
connection helped all of them, and knowing that without each other they would not be who they are that reveals that Covenant was
operating all along. And to know that covenant is always here. And to be honest. Grateful. And return to it over and over and over
again, even when it changes. That is nothing more, nothing less. Than a way to make it through this world.
Make it through this world. With our hearts intact. Broken and healing. And whole. So today I want to say to those of you, I was
expecting to see in these seats. Even though there is distance. You are not here. And yet you are. We are not together. And yet we
are. Literally today. We are connected. Even as relationship changes. Some bonds can never be broken. Always connected. Amen.
And may you live in blessing. I ask if you would. Unite your heart with mine in prayer. Spirit, we ask guidance in the midst of shifting
and changing. A life in which trap doors open underneath our feet over and over and over again, and the unexpected sometimes
feels like the only expected thing. We ask, how do we take a stance in the midst of this? How do we remain open? In the midst of
what is unpredictable. It is by remembering. The vows that sits most deeply upon our hearts. And to know that although we are
imperfect vessels for those vows. Still. Imperfect vessels. They are beautiful. Indeed, this is why we need COVID in in the first place.
So today, may we hold lightly the vows, the preparations, the plans that we make knowing that one form or another, eventually they
will change. And. May we deepen into these vows we make today and these vows, these plans, these covenants, these promises?
For they are life giving. These plans promises covenants. They give us back to life.
Amen. If you enjoyed this message and would like to support the mission of Wellsprings. Go to our web site Wellspringsuu.org, that’s
wellsprings the letters u u dot ORG.
END OF TRANSCRIPT