In honor of Mother’s Day, first founded as a holiday for non-violence, our service this year will again be part of a local interfaith coalition. All over the country, people of faith are rising up to demand gun control and the increased safety for houses of worship, families, students, and schools that real, responsible gun control brings with it. This morning we will celebrate the transformation of a firearm we dedicated last year into a gardening tool that we can use to plant our new grounds in front of the church. Also, we welcome Scott Lapham, founder of One Gun Gone, and One Gun Gone members Ysanel Torres, Ashely Rodrigues, Brandon Morales and Vandara Tun who will be speaking and supporting our service. We remind ourselves of the sacred possibilities we hold in our hands and of our commitment to live in a world devoted, not to weapons, but to community and comity on which all peace depends.
Service Text and Audio
To listen to this sermon, click on the arrow in the player box below:
Welcome everyone to our Mother’s Day service. May this day be a good one to all mothers of body or spirit. May you know and feel loved always and on this day especially – indeed, as always, may we all know and feel that we are loving and loved.
Again this year, we are sharing Guns to Plowshares, an interfaith observance together with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian friend and neighbor congregations across this city and beyond. Our worship this morning has three purposes: to lift up our experiences and urgency and pain around the pressing need for gun control in our state and in our country; to present a firearm transformed to the purpose of creation and life; to affirm our support, as people of faith, for the gun control measures before our state legislature right now, especially the No Guns In Schools Act.
The clergy involved in this project chose this weekend for many reasons, especially because we are mindful of the many children and parents who have been lost to gun violence, and because we know this issue needs our support now as the legislature enters their final weeks in session. But as we learned last year when we began this effort, Mother’s Day was first conceived of by early feminist Julia Ward Howe in the aftermath of the American Civil War and then the Franco-Prussian War. In 1870 she wrote her passionate “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world” to establish a mother’s day that would support the establishment of peace:
“From the bosom of the devastated dearth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does now wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession.”
Pointing out how often men left the anvil and plow to answer the call of war, she declared it time for that current to change, for the laying down of arms and returning to the anvil, where tools are wrought, and the plow, whereby seeds are sown.
This morning we honor and return to some of Mother’s Day’s original roots, promoting non-violence, choosing to disarm ourselves of weapons of war, remembering that everyone is someone’s beloved child, sibling, parent, friend, love, and human lives are precious, precious – and guns are not.
With our worship this morning, we call for responsible gun control, and we declare that for us this is an issue of justice even, yes of faith, because our faith holds as primary belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. And so for us it is an article of faith that the laws of our land must protect human life by instituting safe and responsible gun use, banning the sale of high capacity magazines, banning the sale of assault weapons, and most obvious of all, banning guns in schools. This is not about the 2nd amendment or outlawing all guns or demonizing guns for hunting and sport, along with those who use them. No, in fact the gun that was transformed into our handspade was donated by a responsible gun owner who wants more and better gun control. As I said to our legislators when I testified to them a couple of months ago, we are not willing to live in a weaponized society. And the thoughts and prayers of legislators, dashed off in a tweet after each mass shooting, is inadequate and inappropriate. We clergy, we who walk with our people through the valley of the shadow of death, we are the ones who work with thoughts and prayers. That’s our job. Legislation is their job.
Following this service, we hope you’ll take a couple of sunflower seeds from our door attendants as you depart, take them and plant them somewhere at your home, as a sign of hope and commitment for our brighter future with gun control established. And if you can, take a couple of minutes following the service to lend your presence as we use our transformed garden tools to plant Columbine on our church grounds, in memory and sorrow for that attack 20 years ago and for all those before and since that have blighted this country and our own hearts for all these years. And of course you are welcome to head to the Parish House for refreshments along with opportunities to learn more about how you can help make gun control happen in this state. Our numbers in this movement are growing, and when we all show up, it makes a difference. It is a beautiful proof of our faith in action.
Words and music of William Hawkins, performed by Frederick Jodry, baritone, and William Adriance, piano
To listen to this poem in spoken word and song, click on the arrow in the player box below:
the white sky is a canvas for my mind’s eye;
crayons in the corner
waxy bright wobbly child’s hand markings
marker strokes gripped firmly by a clenched hand.
oil paintings smeared across horizons;
you peer back at me.
abstractions of a child’s mind
there’s nothing for you to see.
Clouds depart. Blue sky takes everything
ruined by a sunny day
no more crayons in the corner
no more waxy bright wobbly child’s hand markings
only cursive black pen writings
it’s all insistent. insanity. instant. clarity
you unveil my eyes
I see the ground now
I see the bloodshed
bullet holes and bullets and holes
Here I am, gone forever
Here I stand, lost in ether
oil paintings brushed across the heavens
I peer back at you
you peer back at me
and looking down.
Tolling of the Bell
We toll our bell in sorrow and recognition for great tragedies in our nation and beyond. This morning we toll our bell for all those injured in the attack last Tuesday at Highlands Ranch STEM school, and especially for Kendrick Castillo whose life was lost that day.
Our prayer this morning takes the form of ritual, followed by silence for personal thought and prayer. During that time of silence, if you have lost someone close to you in the past year, we invite you to stand or raise your hand in silent witness of that loss. And we’ll close with the choir’s response. But before all that – though thoughts and prayers are exactly our work as people of faith, thoughts and prayers aren’t enough at a time like this, as we are ringing our bell on a weekly basis this week and last for mass shootings in our nation. There are no words or thoughts that encompass this; there is only all we know and all we feel. So this morning, our prayers are in this ritual. On the pulpit table behind me and on this student’s desk next to me are 114 candles all made by members of One Gun Gone. One hundred fourteen candles for the 114 people shot in instances of gun violence in school settings last year in this country. Thirty-six of those candles are on this desk represent the 36 people, out of the 114, who were killed in those various attacks. Generally we light candles as a soulful sign of respect or love, for life or hope. But our candles must also reflect when life is lost and hope is too late. In grief for the lost, Vandara Tun from One Gun Gone is helping me extinguish these lights for those lives snuffed out. It is a heavy task, and I am grateful for your help, Vandara. The loss of their light is a shadow that touches us all. When all these candles have been extinguished, we’ll hold our time of silence together.
Presentation: “Forging Life from a Firearm”
This month we are exploring the theme of truth. One truth is that a year ago today, this was a disabled handgun. It was donated by a young woman, a gun owner, who believes both that it is alright for people to own firearms and that our nation and our state need way more sensible and sane gun control legislation. She donated this gun in support of our efforts to pass such legislation. She also donated the gun because it had been pulled on her by her father as a form of intimidation and punishment. Tainted as the gun was evermore for her when she inherited it, she didn’t want it but also never wanted it to pass into hands that might use it again to threaten or intimidate. Our Guns to Plowshares effort felt like the perfect solution. She gave it to us, and we gave it to the police. They returned it to us permanently disabled. We gave it to the metal artist Howie Sneider, and he gave us back this extraordinary handspade, with its very recognizable previous identity and its very obvious new identity – functional art. Given by generosity, disabled with wisdom, it was delivered to us by the police in pieces, as some of our hearts are now – again this week – in pieces, for the lives lost, for the bullets fired, for the children and youth and women and men killed by accident and on purpose.
But together the donors, this congregation and others, the police, the artist – together we changed this weapon, its nature and its future, with our vision and our will, as we aim to change the nature and future of many guns. Honored to have helped reshape, literally, the purpose and future of this gun, Howie did all his work without pay and gave this back to us. Now it is ours to use on the earth of this church for growing things and the care of new life. Will you join me please in the litany of dedication on the insert in your order of service.
Congregational Litany of Dedication
We dedicate this handspade, this morning,
to a new and entirely different kind of impact:
the purpose of creation, and of life.
May its wood keep its beauty
as it serves this purpose of creation and life.
May its metal keep its strength
bent and bound to the service of creation and life.
May the future work of this tool be fruitful;
not only for creation and life,
but also spirit and hope,
for many years to come.
May our mourning at all the infamy and destruction of gun violence
in mass shootings, in personal vendettas, in all its forms,
kindle in us not despair, but determination.
May that mourning resolve into urgency
that one day our mourning will become a morning,
a new day, when guns never matter more than people
and the solution to gun violence is not more guns, but less.
May our society renounce the deadly illusions
that make guns sacred
and each other targets.
May this day,
and the shared commitment of this and other congregations,
matter even more beyond these walls than within. Amen.
A gun says that only one person is right and only one person matters. But we know the making of war does not belong between neighbors, and weapons of war have no place in civil society. And people are not targets. Therefore, we end this service together with these words and this commitment:
May our legislators head the voices of the many and enact the necessary laws to protect our individuals and our assembly in schools, in celebrations, in congregations, from firearms.
May we be determined and unified to overcome the might of lobbyists and lucre.
May we be urgent, despite all the challenges and changes in all our days, to show up for what matters most.
May we be humble enough to learn from each other and grow in our abilities, and in our relationships, towards reconciliation.
May we be stubborn as mules as we persevere for the safeguards and sanity that must be the birthright and human rights of all people everywhere.
May we be patient and brave in the face of hostility or intimidation.
We Unitarian Universalists work towards a heaven on this earth; may all we do lead us heavenward one step at a time.