close-up of a variety of pebbles

photo: Creative Commons (Steve Shattuck)

One of my favorite kinds of vacations to take involves going to the beach. And one thing I love to do at the beach is to collect stones. As I wander along, looking down for something to catch my eye, I pick up some stones, quickly examine them, then either keep them or toss them aside. Sometimes, at the end of my vacation, I have such a collection that I can’t fit them in my bag, or they’re too heavy to carry, so I have to sort through them again and decide which I will choose to keep, and which I will abandon and leave behind.

This morning, I brought some of these stones with me [pull out basket of stones]. I want to invite each of you to choose one that looks special to you: one to take and keep. There’s a real diversity of stones… different shapes, colors, textures… different things that makes each special. Pass the basket around and choose one for yourself. [Continue as they pass the stones around.]

One memory I have of the beach was when I was about ten years old. I was walking along and collecting stones with my dad on Martha’s Vineyard, and I got thinking about big things. I looked up at the sky and out to the sea and I asked my dad, “Dad, how many stars are there in the universe?” … “A lot,” he answered, “more than you can ever know.” … “Hmmm…” I thought to myself. This answer wasn’t very helpful. I stooped down to examine a stone. And as I did I looked down the beach to the people far, far down, appearing so tiny… and to the edge of the beach where it went past where I could see. And I imagined it wrapping around the island and coming back to where I was. I touched the sand and thought about how sand is really just tiny, tiny stones. I thought about all the sand on that beach on the island, then I thought about the mainland, and the beaches there. Then I imagined the beaches stretching across the edges of the continent… and then the coastlines and the islands and the beaches on all the continents all across the whole, wide world…. I thought about all the sand on all of those beaches, and I asked my dad, “Dad, are there more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches in the world?” … “Wow.,” He said, “Those are some big things you’re thinking. There are a lot of stars, and that’s a lot of grains of sand.” I can say, though, that the universe is immense and vast and it contains more stars than you can ever know.”

This faith of ours, Unitarian Universe…-alism [say it to emphasise “universe”] contains something much like that vastly unknowable universe of stars we inhabit. The universe is inside universalism for a reason. Just like we never can know how many stars there are in the universe, so Universalism contains a power of love which is so immense, so strong, and so wide that we can never fully know it. The loving power that Universalism reminds us of is one which loves each of us, every single one of us, in all our diversity. So, unlike I, a basic human being who picks and chooses her stones… keeping the ones I find most precious and special, and overlooking others or casting them aside, or leaving them behind, the love that Universalism proclaims chooses all. Everyone is special. Everyone is chosen and kept. None are dismissed or tossed aside or overlooked. All are loved. And that love reaches beyond what we can know and believe. It is as vast as the star-filled universe itself.

***

Props required: a variety of stones of various sizes, rock types, colors, and textures.

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