Eating a Candle

Several small tea lights sit on a cutting board amidst turnip trimmings

To prepare for this Message for All Ages, you’ll need to do the following:

  • remove a small white tea light from its aluminum casing
  • make a fake candle out of a turnip or jicama: carefully peel and cut (adults only!) until your disc of turnip is the same size as the tea candle. (The aluminum case that you removed from the candle can serve as a template.) Using a toothpick, poke a hole in the turnip candle and insert a wick from another (real) candle. As an alternative, educator Alexis Capen suggests making the candle out of white candy melts.

The Wise and Prepared worship leader will create a second turnip/jicama “candle” as backup, just in case something happens to the first.

I have two small candles today, because I'm grateful for our 4th Principle: the “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” One kids’ version of this Principle is “we search for what is true.”

Freedom and responsibility are two big thoughts. Let’s talk first about freedom. What does "freedom" mean in our religion?

See whether any of the kids want to weigh in.

Can any of the grown-ups raise their hand and say what it means to them that our search is “free”?

Take one or two responses from the congregation, repeating them into the microphone for all to hear and thanking the speaker.

What about “responsibility”? What does that mean to you?

Again, seek some input. Keep it brief, since it’s not the real point of this Message for All Ages.

Our Unitarian and Universalist histories are full of people who helped us understand that our search for the truth, and our job as meaning-makers, happens with freedom and responsibility. So, I’m going to light this first candle in thanks for our religious freedom….

Light the real tea light from the chalice, and set it on the altar.

…and I’m going to light this second candle… hmm. Actually, this candle looks strangely delicious.

Remove the turnip/jicama “candle” from the aluminum casing and EAT it, being careful not to swallow the wick! Then allow the moment to unfold. The children watching you — and not a few adults — will take a few beats to absorb what you’ve just done. You might look at them quizzically, as if asking, ‘What’s wrong?’

Does anyone want to say what just happened?

Most likely, a child will say “You ate a candle.”

Are you sure? How many people here think thought that I was holding two candles? How many of you think that I ate a candle?

Poll the congregation by show of hands.

One thing I love about being Unitarian Universalist is that we get to form our own beliefs, and decide what’s true for us — that’s the “free” part of our search for truth and meaning.

Another thing I love about being a Unitarian Universalist is that, even when we think we know or believe something, we get to question it and even change our mind. A lot of you believed that I was holding two candles, until I ate one. Then you had to question that belief, and maybe someone even guessed that I ate a fake candle… made out of a turnip/jicama! That’s the “responsible” part of our search for what’s true: Unitarian Universalists try to keep an open mind and allow new information to re-shape what we believe is true.

As you go into this new week and learn new things, you might want to pause and ask yourself, "Is that really true? How do I know?" If you do, you can also offer gratitude that this is what UUs do in church, too.