Has anyone here ever made something? What are some things you have made? Cake? Lego sculptures? Paintings? Paper bag puppets? What else?
For those who have created things, was there ever a time when your creation didn’t turn out the way you wanted? Was there a time when the materials didn’t work, or you forgot something, or you realized you needed a little help figuring it out? Has anyone had that experience?
When we’re creating, two of the things that can help us keep going are adaptation and encouragement to learn. Adaptation is when we make changes. Maybe you find out that your cheese copter needs more propellant and you add some whipped cream canisters to the machine. Maybe you are low on shortening and you mix some butter into your pie crust. When something doesn’t work, we learn, and we celebrate our ability to learn, and we try something else.
Nature adapts. One of the amazing things about life is the ability of living things to change. Some living things learn from experience. Some, like crows, can even share their learning with others. Over a long, long, long time, generations to generations, living species can adapt to better fit the environment. Creation in the sense of the earth is beautiful in its ability to do new things.
Another thing that can help people create is if we are around other people who encourage us to keep learning. Sometimes they might have information they can pass along, like their experience with mixing brown sugar and white sugar in a cookie recipe. Sometimes they know a little bit about the problem, and they also know that asking you questions to help you figure it out will help you learn better. Sometimes all they do is create an environment where it’s OK to try things, where you know what the limits are and that you will be cared for while you figure it out. People need encouragement. It can be exciting to use failure as a learning opportunity, but a lot of us need reminders that it’s OK when something doesn’t work the first or second or hundredth time. It’s OK to adapt.
In this morning’s story (Rosie Revere, Engineer), Rosie learned to adapt. She figured out how to use recycled materials in new ways. She had creative ideas for trying things that had never been tried. When her Aunt Rose came to visit, then she had someone to encourage her, someone to remind her that learning from failure can be exciting, failure can be a learning opportunity. Failure is essential for creation, for engineering, for science. Aunt Rose had a lot of experience with creating things. We don’t know from the story if Aunt Rose shared any technical knowledge of aircraft engineering. What we do know is that Aunt Rose paid attention, that she took Rosie seriously without being too serious. Aunt Rose was a champion encourager in the story.
Who have been the encouragers in your life? Who has nurtured you, and shared ideas with you, and reminded you that you are strong enough to keep going? While my hand is up, call out some names of champion encouragers! (Listen)
I’m glad there are so many encouragers in the lives of people in this congregation. Our Religious Education volunteers and staff are some of our champion encouragers. For some people, their mothers or grandmothers or stepmothers are champion encouragers. Some people had to work a little harder to find encouragers in their lives. There are those whose families of origin didn’t have great skills or capacity for helping or caring or encouraging or making room for change, and so this requires a whole different kind of adaptation. Either adapting from or building on families of origin, some people have created families of choice, connecting with people who carried each other through difficult times even if they didn’t know each other before. And many of us have been blessed with nurturers and mentors and advisors along the way. Creating families and nurturing relationships is another kind of art.
Being an encourager, parent, teacher, or mentor is a kind of creation, another situation that is made more possible when we adapt and when we connect with support. Most of us make mistakes in our relationships, and so we need ways to face those mistakes, make amends, and do better. We learn. When we are celebrating teachers and parents, let’s remember to allow ourselves and others to be human, and to show up in support. Encouragers need encouragement.
Creating a life is a work of art. We learn how to adapt in the work we are trying to accomplish, in our ways of giving and receiving care, in our ways of understanding what it means to be a family. We learn by example how to receive encouragement, and how to become some of the people who encourage others. That we can do this is a source of awe and wonder. The infinite variety of people and families and ideas for learning together is a source of awe and wonder. The beauty of ever-changing creation is a source of awe and wonder. Today is an excellent opportunity to soak in all of that awe, all of that wonder, all of that adaptation, all of that capacity for encouragement, and just say, WOW! Let’s try that. A general praise of the universe and all of the awe and wonder therein. Let’s say it together: WOW! One more time: WOW!
My hope for this religious community is that this is a place where we can learn to adapt, and where we can practice adapting. We know we will try things, and not get them right the first time. Our covenant creates an innovation zone, a place where we know the limits and can learn from our mistakes and experiments within those limits. I hope we can learn skills here for adaptation and caring and covenanting, skills we can use in our families and our neighborhoods and our schools. When we as a whole community try something together and don’t get it right the first time, I hope we can all come back together, and with each perfect failure, all stand and cheer, and unite in our efforts to try again.
Another hope I have for this congregation is that this will be a place where we can develop champion encouragers. I hope that we practice acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth. I hope that people of all ages will volunteer in ways that help them stretch, and that will give them chances to share their knowledge and encouragement with others. Showing our appreciation for teachers, parents, friends, and other encouragers helps us create that kind of place. Finally, I hope that we, as a community, find ways to be a force for encouragement toward the kind of world we want to grow into.
May it be so. Blessed be. Amen.