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
Hello dear ones–this is a personal sermon I gave this weekend as our congregation worked with our monthly theme of acceptance. A challenging practice but not without rewards…. The title, by the way, comes from a line from Libby Roderick’s beautiful song “How Could Anyone Ever Tell You,” which our congregation sang each week this month.
The Zen Buddhists have a tradition of meditating on spiritual puzzles
they call koans.
A koan is sort of a riddle, sort of a story,
a puzzle that you have to sit with for a very long time
before it reveals itself to you completely.
I’ve often thought some artworks are like that too.
I’m so grateful to Mark for playing that nocturne for us today.
It’s a piece I have been living with for a long time
and, in a way, it is the sermon for today.
What I mean by that is, this piece has held for me
a lot of complicated and tender emotions
around acceptance and surrender in my own life.
It has held out for me the promise that we can get through
the very dark times,
the times when everything feels messed up and wrong—
we can get through it and come out on the other side
and rediscover our joy in life. Continue reading
Our congregation is hosting an interfaith conference this coming weekend on welcoming LGBT people into faith communities. I was honored to support the conference with this sermon debunking the supposedly anti-gay texts in the Bible and lifting up the affirming stories of same-sex relationships found in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
We began with a call to worship celebrating the love between two women, Ruth and Naomi:
Our Call to Worship comes from the Hebrew Scriptures,
the beautiful passage from the Book of Ruth so often read at weddings:
Entreat me not to leave thee,
or to return from following after thee:
for whither thou goest, I will go;
and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.
(Ruth 1:16–17, KJV)
These words, so traditional, so often read at weddings—
such a beautiful declaration of love from one person to another:
what we so often forget is that these are the words of Ruth
not to her husband, but to Naomi:
Ruth who loved Naomi so much,
she wanted nothing more than to be with her forever. Continue reading
Here’s a sermon I gave this past weekend about the power of small groups. In the service we actually took some time to talk together in small groups–I hope everyone reading will find ways to build those meaningful, supportive connections too.
Some of you know I moved here from northern California
about a year ago.
People often ask me, what do you miss about California?
I think they expect me to say, the weather, the food,
the whole California scene,
and that’s true to some extent.
But what I miss more than all that
is a little group that met once a month.
It was four of us ministers who showed up for each other
almost without fail for the five years I served out there.
We called ourselves the Central California Unitarian Universalist Cluster,
or CCUUCs for short. (That’s pronounced “kooks” for the uninitiated!) Continue reading
Our congregation has a tradition of “auction sermons,” in which the ministers invite people to bid at our annual fundraising auction on the right to choose a sermon topic. I love it–the topics always stretch and challenge me to learn new things and think outside my familiar comfort zones. Here’s this year’s auction sermon, imagining the “New Atheism” and mysticism in dialogue–enjoy.
I know I’m not the only one struggling to make sense
of the violence we’ve seen around the country this summer.
You remember three weeks ago
a man involved with white-supremacist, neo-Nazi groups
killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
He didn’t even know them, but he had made up his mind
that they were—what?—somehow a threat to him
because they looked different from him,
because they came from a different culture
and followed a different religious path?
How is it that we are so threatened by difference?
And just a few days ago, almost in our own back yard,
an activist who claimed to be defending LGBT rights shot a security guard
at the conservative Family Research Council in downtown DC
because, as he said, “I don’t like your politics.”
Thank goodness the guard survived and it looks like he’ll be OK.
I want to lift up the sorrow and confusion and frustration
that I think many of us are feeling about this.
I don’t like the Family Research Council’s politics either,
but I know this is not the way.
Mercifully this guy, this kind of violent behavior,
is the extreme exception, not the norm.
But we have to wonder, how is it that even one person makes the leap
from political disagreement to violent assault? Continue reading