SONG         Everything Possible                          Fred Small

We have cleared off the table, the leftovers saved, washed the dishes and put them away.
I have told you a story and tucked you in tight at the end of your knockabout day.
As the moon sets its sail to carry you to sleep over the Midnight Sea,
Well, I will sign you a song no one sang to me—may it keep you good company.

You can be anybody that you want to be, you can love whomever you will.
You can travel any country where your heart leads and know I will love you still.
You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around, you can choose one special one.
And the only measure of your words and your deeds
Will be the love you leave behind when you’re gone.

Some girls grow up strong and bold; some boys are quiet and kind.
Some race on ahead, some follow behind; some go in their own way and time.
Some women love women and some men love men.
Some raise children and some never do.
You can dream all the day, never reaching the end of everything possible for you.

Don’t be rattled by names, by taunts or games, but seek out spirits true.
If you give your friends the best part of yourself, they will give the same back to you.

You can be anybody that you want to be, you can love whomever you will.
You can travel any country where your heart leads and know I will love you still.
You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around, you can choose one special one.
And the only measure of your words and your deeds
Will be the love you leave behind when you’re gone.
Oh, the love you leave behind when you’re gone.

REFLECTION        Everything Possible               Rev. Maddie Sifantus

The former President of Starr King School for the ministry, Rebecca Parker, wrote this much quoted piece, “Choose to Bless the World”:

Your gifts—whatever you discover them to be—

can be used to bless or curse the world…

the gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting


Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,

bind up wounds,

welcome the stranger…


Any of these can draw down the prison door,

hoard bread,

abandon the poor…


You must answer this question:

What will you do with your gifts?


Choose to bless the world….

Together—that is another possibility, waiting.


I love this piece that sends us outward to address all the needs of the world…and also to experience all its beauty and complexity, in my mind. But inherent in that, it seems to me, is how we look inward and find our own gifts and know them in our bones, as Fred Small’s says—know that everything is possible. Everything Possible is #1019 in our teal hymnal. Maybe someday we’ll try to sing it together although it is one of the songs in our hymnals that are really meant to be solos or done by a choir! But…anything is possible!

A little about Fred Small and a bit about possibility. Fred and I were both in the music business in the Boston area back in the 80s and 90s. He was—and is—a social justice songwriter, especially around ecological issues, what we now call climate justice but also all forms of justice. It was that call that sent him from environmental lawyering and music to ministry, once he understood better some of his gifts. And he used his gifts in service of parish ministry, first in Littleton, Massachusetts and then in Cambridge. In those early days, I was performing with my band TVS—with whom I still perform in New England when I am able—and doing a lot of studio recording work with the three singers that fronted the band. So it was that I sang back up with Fred on his song, Walk on the Supply Side which appeared on an album in 1984 called Reagonomic Blues. This was a collection of songs from a variety of performers representing the “unemployed, homeless, and working people alike, protesting the banks and corporations using their profits to speculate and buy each other up, while closing factories across the country.”[1] The liner notes to this album also state, “In the 80’s, a rerun of the 30’s in the making, more people are unemployed than at any time since the Depression.” Sound familiar?

Fred set his words to music written by Lou Reed that those of you of a certain age may know as Walk on the Wild Side: Do, do, do… Fred and I became friendly and our paths crossed from time to time in the music business. I had joined a UU church by this time and become their youth director, a position I held for 8 years before I started the Golden Tones elder chorus. Fred was playing at all those UU coffee houses in the Northeast. What a surprise when eventually Fred went to Harvard Divinity School and I went to Andover Newton Theological School, and we both were ordained UU ministers! Who knew THAT was possible and that THAT was what our gifts were calling us to do, that that is how we would let our lights shine in new ways.

Bill McKibben has cited Fred Small as “one of the key figures in the religious environmental surge.” These days Fred Small is the Executive Director of Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light and Minister for Climate Justice at Arlington Street Church, Boston.[2] And I am here in Santa Paula with you.

A favorite book of mine from long ago was Norman Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth” which he wrote in 1961. Maybe you remember it. I used to read it to my son Nigel when he was little and we had a recording of it with the actress Pat Carroll reading it on audio-cassette. In fact, I still have it! Of course it has been rerecorded since her version of it but I can still hear her say in my head, “We’re in the doldrums, the doldrums!” Who hasn’t been in the doldrums on the road to doing the impossible? And who hasn’t been in the doldrums in what I called early on “a different time” since March 2020?

The Phantom Tollbooth is about a boy named Milo “who didn’t see much point to a lot of the things he learned in school, ‘like subtracting turnips from turnips, or knowing where Ethiopia is or how to spell February’ And because he hardly ever looked around him while rushing from here to there—or from there back to here—he often thought, ‘There’s nothing for me to do…and hardly anything worth seeing.’” I won’t go on with the story of how he receives a gift of an enormous tollbooth that allowed him to travel to such places as Expectations, The Doldrums and Dictionopolis but for our purposes this morning, I have us consider this quote from the book:  “So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they are impossible.”

I don’t know about Fred but I know if anyone had told me in my teens, or my twenties or my thirties that I would one day go to seminary or be ordained to ministry, I would have said, “That’s impossible.” By my forties I had been working with UU youth for 8 years and had started the Golden Tones elder chorus, both of which I thought of as ministry…but going to seminary? Impossible. I could name every single obstacle—It’s too much work. I can’t afford it. I’m too old. Or I will be too old when I’m done. Me, a minister? I could go on…and did go on for almost 10 years. Until finally I dipped my foot into seminary. And next June it will be the 20th anniversary of my Ordination. I finally remembered that when I was in elementary school, I used to play minister…something I never considered because it seemed impossible from the first thought—girls can’t be ministers, or at least not in my experience. It was so impossible it took over 40 years to remember that I had had that dream. Perhaps I finally got that quote by George Eliot, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

How about you? What seems impossible to you, that you are naming every single obstacle that you can dream up? What if, instead, you focuses on Embracing Possibility? What might make possibility emerge for you? Looking back, what did you play at being or doing when you were young? Something that made you forget time? What quote sums up possibility for you, that moves you from the impossible to the possible? How about this one from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass? Just ask Alice:

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

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.”

So let’s take a moment right now to meditate, each one of us, those of us here in the Sanctuary and those out in Zoom and Facebook land, thinking back to our younger days, before we knew that this or that was impossible, that we weren’t good enough, or smart enough or rich enough to do whatever. If you are comfortable, close your eyes and come to that space of empty mind that our Wisdom Tale talked about. Breathe in and out…..

See yourself at an age where you were engrossed in an activity, without judgement creeping in to shut you down. Perhaps you are drawing or walking in nature. Perhaps you are singing…or reading a book. Perhaps you are writing poetry or short stories. Whatever it is, befriend that younger self. Think about the possibilities of what you are engrossed in. Or maybe you will discover that what you loved then has morphed into what you are doing now, in what you did during the pandemic to take care of yourself, that points you to a new way to let your light shine. Embrace that self as well. Send love to that younger person. You may wish to put your hand over your heart….

Now gently bring yourself back into this space and time. You might want to spend some time this week thinking about what came up for you and what it might be calling for you to do. Do you hear voices in your head  saying that “you can be anybody you want to be”? Can you feel a firm foundation under you even if you didn’t have the kind of parent that would sing Fred Small’s song? How can you feel that strength to know that you are loved when you are alone and when you gather friends around? How can you expand the reach of the possible—for you?

“You can be anybody you want to be.” Even now. Even at YOUR age. Even in a pandemic. You can understand limitations but you can still let your light shine. We can swing our door wide, even as we just begin to open it and let the light of this community not just stay within these walls or in our Zoom room but shine it outside our walls to our divided world. It will make a difference. We can use our gifts to become what we want to be. We can use our gifts to bless this place. We can use our gifts to bless the world. I believe in the possibility.

Blessed be. May it be so. Ashe. Amen

CLOSING HYMN  #118          This Little Light of Mine