Our worship space at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax has enormous plate glass windows that look out on trees all around us. It’s a beautiful place to feel our connection to the earth. Last weekend I got to reflect on how we connect with sacred space in a culture that tells us to stay geographically mobile–not to get too attached to particular places.
Here we are in this beautiful space, so close to the natural world,
this place dear to many of us both living and dead.
I believe, and I think many of you do too, that the land,
the natural world around us,
with its creatures and its weather and its ways, is sacred:
of great worth, precious just by being.
The land right here, this place, feels sacred to me.
How can you look out these windows and walk around
and not love it?
Yet I know I’m still a newcomer to this land, this place.
It hasn’t been quite two years since I moved here.
Of course, that’s not unusual these days.
Moving around from place to place is just normal.
And that’s exactly what I want to talk about today. Continue reading
Finally caught up! Here’s this past weekend’s sermon on one of my favorite topics: neurotheology–the science of what happens in the brain during religious experiences. Enjoy.
I want to start with a question:
When it comes to religion and values and ethics,
I know each of you here has formed some kind of beliefs, right?
Beliefs about how the world works and what life is all about.
There are lots of different beliefs here,
some held for many years, some maybe still tentative and new,
but everyone has their beliefs.
So here’s the question:
How did you come to hold those beliefs?
Or put it more broadly:
How do we know what to believe?
One of the great juicy questions of philosophy and theology.
How do we know what to believe?
Reason, certainly. What we learn from science. That’s a biggie.
There are some other big ones:
Scripture: sacred writings. I don’t mean only the Bible—
spiritual writings from many different cultures.
Also tradition: what earlier generations have believed,
the way things have been in the past.
And then there’s experience, direct experience. Continue reading
Here comes another catch-up sermon post–this one from Father’s Day weekend back in June, based on two texts I love: the “You are that” section of the ancient Chandogya Upanishad (VI:13) and Ric Masten’s poem “Pebbles and Crumbs”, and also the wonderful Japanese proverb Ichi-go ichi-e (“one meeting, one chance”).
Have you noticed the blueberries are getting ripe just down the hill?
It’s true—we have blueberry bushes along the path from the traffic circle
to the office building. The blueberries get ripe every year about this time
and they are so sweet!
I almost didn’t tell you
because now you all might just go eat them all up after we’re done here!
Do save one or two for me, will you?
They’re so sweet.
And sweeter still because you know they’re not going to last.
They’re here right now and you just have to enjoy them right now,
or it’ll all be a banquet for the crows.
Ichi-go ichi-e: one meeting, one chance. Continue reading
Hello dear friends! I’m catching up on sermon posts after a busy couple of months…this is a homily I gave for an all-ages service at my congregation in May.
Not all people see the same way.
My dad, for example, is color-blind.
He has a hard time telling green from red.
He also likes to wear bright colors, which makes for some fantastic outfits.
My favorite image of my dad is him wearing his hunter green jacket,
lemon yellow polo shirt,
and…wait for it…purple plaid patchwork pants! Truly awesome.
Now, I’m not color-blind, but I don’t have depth perception,
which means when I go to a 3-D movie,
I don’t see the stuff leaping out at me. It just looks flat.
Not a huge big deal in my life, though.
I will say the cause of my not having depth perception
is something I feel a little embarrassed about. Continue reading
Transformation is this month’s theme at UUCF. Thanks for reading. And for all those folks affected by yesterday’s events at the Boston Marathon–our hearts are with you.
Such a beautiful word.
It sounds like hope, possibility,
the promise that we don’t have to stay the way we are now.
We don’t have to be stuck.
We can change.
We can be different.
Such a beautiful promise. We need it.
But then there’s the kind of transformation we don’t choose
and we maybe don’t like very much.
I was 26 the day I discovered that I too was subject to aging. Continue reading
Here’s a short piece I shared this past weekend in honor of Women’s History Month about Olympia Brown, one of my heroes. Enjoy!
Stand by this faith. Work for it and sacrifice for it.
Do not demand immediate results
but rejoice that you are strong enough to work for a great true principle
without counting the costs.
Words spoken by a lifelong Universalist who loved her faith
and believed in the great message that all people are precious.
A Universalist who loved her faith so much
that she was willing to fight obstacle after obstacle
to become an ordained minister—
the first woman in the United States
to be fully ordained by a denomination, in fact.
A minister and a tireless worker for the right of women to vote
for over fifty years.
This was Olympia Brown.
She spoke these words in 1920,
just one year after women had finally won the right to vote.
She was 85 years old. Continue reading
This month’s theme at my congregation is generosity. Enjoy!
It’s so basic, the act of giving,
being ready to give,
taking pleasure in giving—
it’s so basic, it’s hard to imagine how we could live together without it.
Last month our theme was love—the force that connects us,
that which draws us toward one another.
And of course generosity is the next-door neighbor of love.
Because if you love someone,
almost by definition you want them to be happy, right?
And if you can give to them in a way that brings them happiness,
you just naturally want to do that.
Love naturally calls forth generosity. It just happens.
So, in theory, the better we get at practicing love for all beings,
the more fully we realize our capacity to love,
automatically we are going to become more generous.
Because generosity is just love reaching out. Continue reading
The reading for this sermon comes from the Gospel of Mark, 14:3-9:
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.
But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.
But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Do you know the story of Babette’s Feast?
It’s a strange story, very beautiful, by the Danish writer Isak Dinesen.
Two sisters live in a small town in rural Norway
in the latter years of the 19th century.
They are the daughters of a clergyman, the founder of a small sect
whose members, we are told,
renounced the pleasures of this world, for the earth and all that it held to them was but a kind of illusion, and the true reality was the New Jerusalem toward which they were longing.
For many years the sisters have devoted their lives
to caring for their neighbors in need.
They dress in somber gray or black.
Their food is plain fish and plain bread.
Every penny they can spare, they give to the poor.
For many years it has been so. Continue reading
We live in a cynical age, do we not?
When it comes to politics, for example, at least since Watergate,
we have expected our politicians to lie to us.
We’ve expected them to deceive us with their words and promises.
And yet, next Monday,
thousands upon thousands of us will gather on the Mall in Washington
to watch our President take a solemn oath of office—a promise.
Thousands of us will stand outside for hours on a cold day,
millions more will rearrange their schedules to watch on live TV.
And it’s not just because Beyonce’s going to be there.
No. We show up for that moment
when the President raises his right hand and says:
“I do solemnly swear
that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.”
That’s the moment that really matters.
We live in a cynical age.
We are used to our leaders lying to us. We expect it.
But there is something about hearing that solemn promise,
spoken out loud, in public, spoken before all the world—
there is something in that moment
that moves us with a sense of deep importance.
There’s a solemnity,
an earnestness that cannot be denied.
It carries a mighty moral weight. Continue reading
Here’s this weekend’s sermon based on one of my favorite carols, “Good King Wenceslas.” Happy and blessed holidays, everyone!
A Winter Story of Justice and Joy
Choose to bless the world.
That’s what Rebecca Parker says in our reading—
I hope that’s what we say, one way or another,
every week in this beloved place:
Choose to bless the world.
Choose to “feed the hungry,
Bind up wounds,
Welcome the stranger,
Praise what is sacred,
Do the work of justice
Or offer love.”
In that spirit I want to share and savor with you
the stories of three good and brave people who chose to bless the world.
These stories may be a little bigger and more adventurous
than our own daily lives—larger than life, or everyday life at least—
but I am convinced those are just the kind of stories we need
to inspire us to do the right thing in our own lives,
in ways both large and small.
The first story belongs to Good King Wenceslas,
the king who looked out and gave from his heart. Continue reading