All posts by Rachel Mackintosh

The empty tomb: holding lament in one hand
and joy in the other

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Speaker & Worship Leader:- Rachel Mackintosh

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Rachel Mackintosh © 31 March 2024

I preached in this church last year on Easter Sunday. My theme was resurrection — I spoke about the power of love over hate. In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Knowing that when life is gone, love is left for shining.”

Since then, as most of you know, I have become a widow. My husband and your minister Clay Nelson died last November. In preparing for this year’s Easter Sunday service, I have read all eight of the Easter sermons he preached here in this church. I have seen that he talked about the necessity of experiencing Good Friday if we are to experience Easter.

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and joy in the other

Constrained and sustained and still we rise

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Speaker & Worship Leader:- Rachel Mackintosh

Constrained and sustained and still we rise
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Rachel Mackintosh © 10 March 2024

I have recently watched all three seasons of Ted Lasso.

I had been aware of the show for some time but had been put off by the moustache, and the fact that it seemed to be about sport. Though I admire physical grace, I really don’t care about all the winning and losing and fighting over a ball.

I had been missing out. Ted Lasso is a gift.

It is a gift that slowly unwraps. When one of the characters, Danny Rojas, says, “Football is life”, I like his joy but really don’t connect. Football isn’t my life.

Turns out though, that in Ted Lasso, football is a metaphor for life. Turns out that Ted Lasso himself really doesn’t care about all the winning and losing either. He cares about community and people being their best selves. He’s probably a Unitarian, though that doesn’t get mentioned in the script.

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Water Communion

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Speaker & Worship Leader:- Rachel Mackintosh

Water Communion 2024
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Rachel Mackintosh © 11 February 2024

Why do we repeat this ritual every year? It isn’t just to brag about our travels. When we share our water in the common bowl, it reminds us that while we are separate people, we are also part of an interdependent community.

You probably know about the water cycle.

We are in the middle of this cycle. When we drink about 2 litres of water every day, and then sweat or urinate, or die, we put water back into the water cycle. So water is constantly on the move.

Even if you didn’t study chemistry, you might well know that water is a molecule made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. This molecule being tiny, if you had 18 grams of water, or a little more than half an ounce, that would be about 6 x 10^23 [pronounced: “six times ten to the twenty-three”] molecules.

This would be 602 sextillion molecules. If you were a 10 year old child weighing 35 kilograms you would contain 20 litres of water or 20,000 grams or 602 septillion molecules. That child returns ten percent or two litres to the water cycle every day.

Because water is constantly cycling around, and because every human being has such large numbers of molecules of water cycling through them, there’s a very good chance that each one of us has at least a few molecules of water that were formerly in the bodies of Socrates, Sappho, Jesus, Mohammed and the Buddha, and any number of great and wise people who lived in the past as well as some of history’s villains.

Thus when we say that we are all interconnected, that statement is quite literally true — we are all interconnected through the water cycle, not only with each other, but with all living beings past and present. Jesus, Billie Holiday, Te Puea, Buddha, your grandmother, my grandmother, our first minister, William Jellie all might be literally be connected to you through water.

I now invite you each to bring your water – and if you didn’t bring it, please feel free to use the virtual and also real water here in this pitcher, that can stand in for the water you are connected to. Those at home, if you have water, pour it; and we will also pour water for you here.

Links

Chalice Lighting:- draws on Meditation for a Beautiful Day” by Sara Campbell

Reading:-  Stebbin’s Gulch” by Mary Oliver

Prayer:- draws on Ingathering Prayer” by Eric Cherry

Extinguishing the Chalice:- words by Rev. Kok-Heong McNaughton

Closing Words:- All Rivers Run to the Sea” by Kayle Rice

Bending the arc of the universe

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Speaker & Worship Leader:- Rachel Mackintosh

Bending the arc of the universe
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Rachel Mackintosh © 14 January 2024

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

“Through the Looking Glass”, Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)

We know, because of science, the enlightenment, telescopes, that compared with us, the universe is big. We may have seen that meme that shows two photos of the Milky Way, one taken before, and one taken after we have made a mistake: clue, it’s the same photo.

My musing today has as its starting point, not Alice, actually, but the quote: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

My sermon topic “Bending the arc of the universe” has taken liberties with the quote already, and may seem arrogant – how could we bend the arc of the universe? – but I am aiming rather for audacious. As Paul said when I sent him my title, “May as well aim big.”

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Welcome to Limbo. Please leave your certainties at the door

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Speaker:- Rachel Mackintosh
Worship Leaders:- Ted Zorn, Kate Lewis

Our recently retired minister, Clay Nelson, died on Thursday (2 November 2023). Those of us who have known Clay are grieving.

So, we’ve changed this service to reflect on coming together in grief and the wonder of life.

Rachel MacIntosh, Clay’s wife, will present a talk that Clay wrote and presented to us a couple years back called “Welcome to Limbo. Please leave your certainties at the door.” Appropriately, it’s about how we respond to chaos, uncertainty, and the unexpected.

Welcome to Limbo. Please leave your certainties at the door
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Clay Nelson © 5 December 2021

Buddha told a parable: A man was travelling across a field when he encountered a tiger. He began to run, and the tiger chased after him. Coming to a precipice, he slipped and was able to catch hold of the root of a wild strawberry bush, hanging in the air. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down only to find that another tiger was waiting to eat him. He thought the bush could sustain him for a while, until he saw two mice gnawing away the vine. A tiger above, a tiger below. The man saw a ripe strawberry near him. Grabbing the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other, and ate it. How sweet and delicious.

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Cornucopia — a tribute to Clay Nelson

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Speakers & Worship Leaders:- Rachel Mackintosh & Betsy Marshall

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Cornucopia — a tribute to Clay Nelson
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Rachel Mackintosh, Betsy Marshall © 24 September 2023

Beginnings

Betsy: In early 2014, our Unitarian community was coming to terms with the fact that after only eight months, due to visa issues, we’d lost the American minister we’d contracted for two years. Fortunately the Ministerial Search Committee wasted no time in resurrecting itself to identify what we might do to support our Church’s dual strategy of working towards a full-time ministry and strengthening lay leadership.

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We’re gonna sit at the welcome table

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Speaker & Worship Leader:- Rachel Mackintosh

We’re gonna sit at the welcome table
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Rachel Mackintosh © 6 August 2023

I met Clay 10 years ago at a residential training for community organising. The basis of the training was storytelling.

At the opening of the training, all participants were asked to tell stories about a time we had spoken truth to power. Clay’s story was about taking the Anglican Bishop of Auckland to the Human Rights Commission for violation of the Human Rights Act because he refused to ordain a gay priest.

My story was about standing up to a union leader who, to a largely but not totally white male audience, had used the phrase “dirty girls of the Philippines” to refer to migrant sex workers. I confronted him privately and told him I had been offended at his use of language that was imperialist, misogynist and anti-worker. He went back to that audience and apologised, even though many of them had found his language perfectly acceptable.

As all the people in the room told their stories, we began to see that all of us had not only identified injustices but had also had moments of courage where we had spoken up. Some of our stories had had successful outcomes, but many had not. Many of us had acted alone. All of our stories had promise. When one person shows courage in the face of injustice, that act holds the kernel of transformational change.

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A wrinkle in time: the Easter miracle?

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Speaker & Worship Leader:- Rachel Mackintosh

A wrinkle in time: the Easter miracle?

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Rachel Mackintosh © 9th April 2023

At the risk of being grandiose, I begin this sermon a bit like the person who wrote the gospel of Mark. It’s more than 40 years since I read Madeleine L’Engle’s children’s book, A Wrinkle in Time. I have thought about it and talked about it since, but I haven’t relived it. (I didn’t watch the film because I didn’t want to risk my memory being ruined.)

Here is my telling of the bits that have stuck with me, with some interpositions along the way.

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Making the invisible visible

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Speaker & Worship Leader:- Rachel Mackintosh

Making the invisible visible
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Rachel Mackintosh © 12th March 2023

A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the father. The eight-year-old son is rushed to hospital in critical condition. ED staff prep him rapidly and take him to an operating theatre where the surgical team is waiting. Just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate — that’s my son.”

How can this be?

I opened the service with this riddle. 

You may have heard it before.

You may have been confounded or you may have found the answer obvious.

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That’s how the light gets in

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Speaker and Worship Leader:- Rachel Mackintosh

That’s how the light gets in
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Rachel Mackintosh © 15th January 2023

If you think about the vastness of space, and how enormous our galaxy is, and how big our planet is, and how small we are, I’m not really eating all that much cheese.

Thanks to Kay for finding and sharing that.

Continue reading That’s how the light gets in