Sunday Talks / Random Musings

It’s written in the stars

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

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Clay Nelson © 26 June 2022

Welcome this morning to history. This is the first public celebration of an indigenous peoples’ holiday in the world. Matariki, sometimes referred to as the Maori New Year, has become a celebration for all New Zealanders. It centres on a cluster of stars that in the west were known as The Pleiades or Seven Sisters. They are 410 light years away and are part of the constellation Taurus.

The Maori named them after the brightest of nine stars called Matariki, the mother of the other eight. Each star is honoured for a specific thing.

Probably forever people everywhere have been fascinated by the night sky. If you have ever been in a remote location far from the pollution of city lights on a moonless night, the stars are a staggering, awe-inspiring, humbling, mystical sight. This has been the night sky people saw every cloudless night before Edison gave us light. In the 16th century people looked to the stars for omens and to predict the future. They were considered the source of our fate and the idea that our lives are written in the stars, spawning the popularity of horoscopes.

Some resisted this notion. In his play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare has Cassius say to Brutus “The fault…is not in our stars, But in ourselves.”

Far away from these western influences Maori and other Polynesian people viewed the stars quite differently. They were god-like beings helping us to navigate life. They called for us to remember those who preceded us. They called us to unity. They called us to care for our environment. They called us to dream. The celebration of Matariki at the Winter Solstice was a reminder to be fully human not by chance but by choice.

I was struck in my exploration of Matariki of how much Unitarians have in common with this celebration, in particular our values. There are a number of key values that were associated with Matariki and the Māori New Year celebrations. The values upheld are:

  • Love and respect for one another
  • Remembrance
  • Unity
  • Caring
  • Sharing
  • Environmental awareness
  • Feasting
  • Discussion
  • Coming together
  • Kindness
  • Celebrations
  • Identity

Each of these values can find a place in the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism. We need no other reason to celebrate Matariki with Tangata Whenua. For we are all children of Matariki.

I had not heard of Matariki before being adopted by Aotearoa New Zealand. Over the years I have heard reference to it, but I remained ignorant of the gift it offered. So, for my own edification, and possibly yours, I am dedicating the rest of this service to learning more about this celebration from Maori voices.


Meditation / Conversation starter:


Links

Opening Words:The Story of Matariki in Aotearoa | Māori New Year
video by SkyCity Auckland and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa
Opening Song:Tīrama Matariki
video by Miss Nicky Says

Chalice Lighting: is All the Lights of the Heavens” By Cynthia Landrum

Song: “Matariki i te pō” by Maisey Rika
Reading: The Stolen Stars of Matariki
written by Miriama Kamo and illustrated by Zak Waipara
read by Books with Shayne
Te Iwa o Matariki
video by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa
Closing Song: “Matariki Tāpuapua” by Maisey Rika
Choreography and concept video by Wamānia Paikea

Closing Words: In Heaven” By Mark L. Belletini


Links shared in the chat:-

Links given here are provided by participants to further the discussion, and are not necessarily endorsed by Auckland Unitarian Church.

Climate Change: Issues and Challenges

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with members of the Auckland UU Climate Team – Brenda Bendall, Shirin Caldwell, Jonathan Mason

Climate Change: Issues and Challenges
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Shirin Caldwell, Brenda Bendall, Jonathon Mason © 19 June 2022

From Shirin Caldwell:-

Why we are doing this service.

In November 2021 Clay delivered a service called ‘COP26 Blah, blah, blah‘. He began by saying: Greta Thunberg has been teaching us how to speak truth to power. She has resisted being a token voice used by governments lacking political will and by global companies seeking to monetise efforts to stop killing the planet while doing their best to protect their financial interests in extracting carbon.

  • Clay’s particular musing prompted 3 of us from the Climate Action Team and the Peace and Social Justice Group to think about our individual responsibilities regarding the Climate Crisis.
  • We acknowledge that our congregation is knowledgeable about, and care deeply about Climate Change, and that many of us, if not all, will have already begun making positive changes to reduce our carbon emissions.
  • We are aware that Climate Change is one of the big factors in today’s Mental Health issues, along with Covid and the war in Ukraine. Do contact Clay if you feel a need to talk.
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Keeping your balance in an unbalanced world

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

Keeping your balance in an unbalanced world
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Clay Nelson © 12 June 2022

A quick perusal of the internet tells me I should wait for one of the equinoxes, when day and night are equal, to muse on balance and absolutely not when the winter solstice is approaching, but where is the fun in that? When reality is in balance in perfect alignment with my life, where is the challenge? My experience says that when I really need to know how to keep my balance is when my world is dark, nameless, unknown, and infinite. It is my spiritual practice to find light in darkness, name the nameless, accept the unknown, and welcome the infinite.

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Forgive us our debts

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

Forgive us our debts
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Clay Nelson © 5 June 2022

Forty years ago, this past week, my seminary released me into the world to begin my ordained ministry. In all those years, an Annual General Meeting has never provoked me to preach a musing on one of the discussions held.

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Outed as a Unitarian

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

Outed as a Unitarian
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Clay Nelson © 22 May 2022

No one was more surprised than I when moving to New Zealand that I would put my Anglican collar back on after eight years with the American Unitarian Universalists. I did impose one condition on myself before doing so –– I would no longer dance around my progressive religious views in the pulpit. Traditionalists and conservatives be damned. It was time to stand up for my beliefs. Yet a lot had changed. My sermons were not just on a table at the back of the church gathering dust but on the Internet for all to see. They still are and may always be. I think of them as my afterlife. Taking a position at St Matthew-in-the-city had already made me suspect in the eyes of traditionalists and conservatives. I was about as popular as a skunk at a garden party after my first billboard to go viral globally drew attention to my views on TV, radio, the press and blogs. My notoriety gained me few friends throughout the country. My hate mail and death threats increased dramatically. I gained no popularity when one of my conservative colleagues did some deep dumpster diving on the Internet, discovered my Unitarian connections and outed me on his blog.

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Stewardship is more about magic than money

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

Stewardship is more about magic than money
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Clay Nelson © 22 May 2022

I was never a big fan of magicians because I don’t enjoy feeling conned or suspending my disbelief. Then I encountered Penn and Teller. Who couldn’t love magicians with a TV show called Bullshit? They are scientific sceptics and atheists who love making mince out of sacred cows. I particularly enjoyed their trick of making an American flag seem to disappear by wrapping it in a copy of the United States Bill of Rights, and apparently setting the flag on fire, so that the flag is gone but the Bill of Rights remains. I saw the trick first on West Wing. If their unique routine weren’t enough they have written numerous books. I am most drawn to two of their titles: God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales and Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!: More Magical Tales from the Author of God, No!

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The importance of napping to spiritual health

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

The importance of napping to spiritual health
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Clay Nelson © 15 May 2022

If we go far enough in the future, historians may label the present time as the Age of Anxiety. There is certainly enough anxiety floating about for everyone to build a raft. The possible outcomes in Ukraine weigh on us all. Climate change is occurring faster than projected as sea levels and sea water temperatures rise. Poverty due to wealth inequality is creating social instability. Authoritarianism is rearing its head in unexpected places, endangering our freedoms. And then there is Covid. It is on the rise again in its increasing number of variants in the UK, France, US, South Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Ashley Bloomfield this week announced that models for New Zealand suggest that the number of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths are not expected to go much lower than they are now in the near future and are likely to increase significantly during our winter months. We all know people who have been infected, a growing number of whom are members of this congregation. I learned of two more yesterday. We know going back to a pre-pandemic normal isn’t going to happen. So, what is the new normal going to look like and who in the hell knows?

Continue reading The importance of napping to spiritual health

Fifth UU principle versus creeping authoritarianism

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

Fifth UU principle versus creeping authoritarianism
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Clay Nelson © 8 May 2022

Some have called “This Land Is Your Land” an alternative national anthem in America. It was written and first sung by Woody Guthrie.

Growing up in small-town Oklahoma, Guthrie heard church hymns, outlaw ballads, blues, fiddle tunes and popular music. The Guthries had been fairly prosperous — Woody’s father was a small-time politician and businessman — but the family unravelled during the Depression and his mother’s mental illness. That’s when Woody took to the road to be a street entertainer.

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The Magic of Play

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

The Magic of Play
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Clay Nelson © 1 May 2022

Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed that “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” But I have found it a difficult talent to utilise over the past couple of years. The last time I can remember being immersed in play was doing the chicken dance at Rachel’s and my wedding. It was also the first day someone entered the country infected with Covid and life changed dramatically for me in two ways. Getting married does that for everyone. The other change encompassing us all occurred six weeks later when we went into lockdown busy hoarding toilet paper.

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Why?…Because!

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

Why?…Because!
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Clay Nelson © 24 April 2022

My Dad was a pretty smart guy. He had a lot of academic degrees after his name and when younger I thought of him as the only Renaissance man I knew. Why? He seemed to know the answer to every question I could throw at him. Later I figured out that he was conning me. When he didn’t know the answer, he still gave me one, saying it with enough authority that I bought it hook, line and sinker.

Continue reading Why?…Because!