The following is an excerpt from Rev. Sharon Wylie’s sermon “Bend Don’t Break” offered on September 15, 2019
That feeling of being immobilized, of numbing ourselves to escape the feeling of overwhelm: that’s what has prompted this 10-sermon series, what I call our annual Spirit Study topic. I’m using the word “resiliency” as being closest to what we’re talking about, but the longer, more accurate phrase is “Resiliency in the Age of Overwhelm.” Yes, it’s resiliency we need, but resiliency with a strength like never before. Resiliency to stay present to this moment, not to retreat and hide. Resiliency to face the challenges we face, not sitting in the corner, staring into the middle distance. Resiliency to live, every day, with our grief and our overwhelm, while still finding ways to resist, to create a new world, to do the work we need to do.
This is our fifth year with a Spirit Study topic, and more than any other year, I don’t know quite where this one will take us. There is no set answer for how to live in these troubled times. We’re going through this together, as an experiment, and we may get to next June and find that it didn’t work the way we hoped. I have chosen a book, but the sermon series doesn’t come from the book the way it has in other years. Let me explain.
The book I’m using for inspiration is called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It was written in 1992, and then updated in 2002, and then again in 2016. It’s sold over 3 million copies.
The book is about developing creativity, and it’s written for an audience of artists—writers, painters, musicians. And this is why I’m using it—I think we need to all think of ourselves now as creators. Not necessarily artists, but creators. We have to take all this garbage that’s coming at us, all this terrible news, all these problems that need to be fixed, and we need to be the place of transformation, the place where we take in what is terrible, and what we make of it, what we produce, what we create is something new in response, something beautiful, something life-affirming.
We need to think of ourselves, each of us individually, as compost piles, taking what is old and unwanted and transforming it into that which nourishes new life. I don’t mean that each of us will become a writer or painter or musician, but I do mean that each of us needs to find our own creative ways of resisting what is harmful, of fighting for social justice, of surviving.
Remember how activist Joanna Macy named the three kinds of actions needed to help transform the world: Holding actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings, Life-sustaining systems and practices that experiment with new ways of being, and the Shift in consciousness to bring about a cognitive revolution and a spiritual awakening.
All of those things—holding actions, life-sustaining practices, shifts in consciousness—all of those things take energy and creativity from all of us. We cannot afford to let ourselves fall numb and immobile.
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