Archive for February, 2012

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

A Call To Worship based on the hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

 

May we come to find our hearts unfurled,

And joy infuse us,

This morning unburden your souls of doubt or grief,

And lift up your voices before the awe that is life.

May we come to know gladness,

Even in the midst strife.

Come back to your center this hour.

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This Side of Love

Last Sunday, our Senior High Youth lead an educational social justice project toward the end of the religious education day with our children, as part of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign. After teaching our children a bit about love, marriage equality, and justice, we made Valentines to send to the NY State representatives who voted to support Marriage Equality. Being a Brooklyn congregation we sent the cards to Brooklynrepresentatives. We also included Valentines to our Federal Senators, our Mayor, our Governor, and the four Republicans (state-wide) who made a stand of personal conscious across party lines. It was a program that was rooted in gratitude for the efforts of our secular leaders on a matter of human conscience. Juliette and Cooper Richey-Miller crafted a beautiful video of the day that you can watch on our website. http://vimeo.com/36797503. It’s a hopeful snapshot of our religious community – and a good indicator of who we are and what we can be.

What makes a community? Or a congregation? Or a nation? Our story this morning spoke of a church being built on a hilltop – one that would bring the folks from all around to it every week. It needed a bell to ring folks to service. It needed strong stone and wood to stand firm against the wind and the weather. And it needed light – a whole lot of light – so that folks could find their way. I think it’s really beautiful that we learned from Zora’s mom in the story, that in our Unitarian Universalist tradition, we each carry a light of our own. Like the song we heard today – this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

That’s at the core of faith. For UU’s, it’s not so much about belief, faith is in part about trusting in yourself – and the people around you. It’s trusting that all our lights are there; they’re worth uncovering; and they can help lead us on the path ahead. Right from the start, we come pre-packaged with that light – even if we sometimes find it hard to feel that warmth. It’s still there.

That’s what a community is about. It’s remembering what’s true for each of us, is also true for all of us. We each bring something of value to light up this church. You know, this is one of those kind of truths that we like to say is so incredibly apparent. “Duh, we all know that!” And yet, it’s probably one of the hardest things to remember.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was talking with two god-parents who were about to make promises during one of our child dedications on a Saturday morning. Three of the questions they had to commit to were, “Will you teach her to tell the truth and to trust herself? Will you teach her to be compassionate and loving while being there with open ears and open hearts when she needs you? Will you keep good words and ways so that you will be an example for her?” They seem so straight forward, but one god-parent reflected, “At first I was thinking, oh sure, these are obvious. I can do that. But then I got to thinking – be compassionate and loving – how about the long line at the deli, or behind the wheel when someone cuts me off. Those three things are really hard!” And to be honest, she’s completely right. They’re all hard. Sometimes obvious things are very hard to live by. That’s partly why we go over them again and again.

It’s easy to say that each of us have value – but sometimes it’s hard to feel like that applies to ourselves. It’s easy to say that everyone has a light to shine, but it’s hard to feel that way when the other person is telling you what to do with a really mean voice. With a show of hands – who here has ever felt less about someone who was being mean to them? (alright, I thought that would be a strong showing.) We’re all a little guilty of not finding the worth in another when they’re being difficult, and we’re all probably just as guilty of thinking less of ourselves than our religion tells us we should.

But sometimes we do the opposite. Sometimes we think so highly of ourselves, that we think we know what’s best for the people around us. Sometimes we’re so sure that if only things were done my way, all would work out just right. Out of curiosity, with a show of hands, who here has ever thought that last one – if only the world worked the way I wanted it to… OK – we’re all in good managerial company.

That problem is happening from time to time all around us. It’s not just within our congregation, or over the dinner table. It happens in our country at large. Right now, we hear stories in the media of struggles around religious freedom. What are some things we think of when we hear religious freedom? What do we mean by freedom – call out one or two words (worship, belief, faith of the free, personal choices, medical treatments, congregating where and how you need, etc.) It’s an important value in our country. It’s also an important value in our faith tradition. It comes from the Edict of Torda. In 1571, a Unitarian, Francis David, convinced the King of Transylvania to pass a law that said that “no one shall be reviled for their religion by anyone.” Francis famously said, “We need not think alike to love alike.” It’s thoughts like this that influenced the foundations of this nation.

But just like how we sometimes think the world would just be a better place if it worked just like we wanted it, sometimes that mindset gets into the heads of our leaders. This is a difficult subject to talk about, but I think most of us have seen the photos, or the news, or posts on the internet – so if we don’t talk about it here we’re being strangely silent.

I’m thinking of those pictures of all-male testifiers before congress, giving their expertise on how women should receive medical care. I think just saying that sentence that way, more or less gets to the point for most of us. I don’t see a problem in men being involved in the decision-making process of how people receive health care – after all some doctors are male. I do see a problem in women not having a voice at the table – especially on matters that solely affect women’s health. I think it’s even more odd that several of those experts were clergy. In case this congregation has the same confusion – if you have a medical issue – I am not the person to come to for health-care advice. They do not teach that in seminary. Frankly, it’s a really severe case of abuse of power. In our story this morning, Zora had her own lamp to shine. Whenever we create situations where only certain people get to lift up their lamps, we’re probably doing something wrong.

Anyone here watch NBC? Well on Friday morning, following the spread of the all-male congressional panel photo – The morning talk show called, “Morning Joe” began talking about how inappropriate it was for Congress to have an all male line-up of experts. However, in one snapshot (and you can see it on my Facebook page) all five of Morning Joe’s experts were themselves men.

Now some of you may be scratching your heads right now. I started out by talking about religious freedom, and then shifted into talking about health care for women. If you’re having trouble seeing the connection, you’re in some very good company. The connection that’s being made in the media is stretched so thin it must soon break. Religious freedom is about being able to worship as you see fit – or don’t see fit for that matter. It’s about belief and it’s about personal choices (and you can hear the emphasis on personal right). Personal freedom, or liberty, is not about having the freedom to make the world do what you want. It’s about making your own best choices regarding personal matters – especially those matters that affect no one but yourself. I think managing one’s own body is the clearest definition of that I can imagine.

And in this congregation, we take that so seriously, that we educate our children and youth through the program Our Whole Lives. Right now, half of our religious education program is in an OWL class. It’s an age-appropriate comprehensive science-based sexuality curricula. I mention science-based, because not all programs out there on this topic are even legally required to be scientifically accurate. Our K-1 class started in January. Our Junior Youth began back in September. And our 4th and 5th graders will have two Saturday programs. And our Senior High will be continuing it throughout the Spring.

Just like the story, someone had to make that lantern and pass it down. In our tale, Zora had to learn to carry it on her own. From a caring, loving community, she grew into a mature adult that would do the same in return. I think if we were to edit the story to fit the current trend to misconstrue what religious freedom actually means, we’d have Zora’s dad carrying the lantern for her for the rest of her life. And her mom would be strangely silent. That image isn’t one of freedom.

I don’t want to end this sermon on a national matter. This time I want to bring that national crisis back home, back to our pews. Whatever emotions you may have felt, or are feeling, about the paternalism being inflicted on women in our culture right now – consider how we might be the cause of that kind of strife in our own lives – for other matters. How are we acting in such a way that we’re trying to mold people in our own image? How is our personal freedom affecting the freedom of those around us? How are our immediate wants hurting our neighbor?  Do you speak over everyone around you? Do you let others be heard? Are you kind when someone does something that you disagree with? Do you seek to understand where someone is coming from – or do we try to fit their actions into our way of seeing things?

There’s this photo floating around the internet of a saying on a t-shirt (that I think was intended to be a joke.) It reads, “I’m a Unitarian-Universalist: the bedrock of my faith is an unshakeable belief that your guess is as good as mine.” Now as far as faith statements go, that’s more shale than bedrock. But it does speak to one very healthy mindset. My opinion doesn’t rule the day. Remembering that – not only in political chatter, but also in the coffee hour, is key. A little bit of humbleness is good for the health of a community, of a congregation, and yes – of a country too.

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Prayer for Black History Month

Prayer for Black History Month – 2/19/12

 

Spirit of Abundance, God of Grace, Mother of Hope,

We pause now to remember those stories that are all around us,

But so often passed over,

Those stories that when told are shared because

Of what someone is, not who they are.

This month in our nation’s character

Is Black History month.

Help us to realize that Black history is

All our histories.

May the day come when these stories

Are so wildly taught that no month need

Be separately divided.

We know this day will not come until we as a people

Make different choices.

We pray now for those new choices.

May we come to see a day where the prison system

Becomes redemptive, not punitive.

A day where the legal system learns to focus more squarely on the facts,

And the not colors of our skin.

A day where our schools are as well funded, as the needs demand.

May our role models be allowed to excel when they thrive,

And not be taken down for their rich heritage.

We know this will require a shift in power.

And this can be scary for some.

Give those full of fear – hope.

May we come to know grace,

So that our hearts will not be hardened to the pain around us.

There are so many beautiful stories needing to be told.

And we need to get the chance to hear them.

Widen our vision so that the history that is shared this month,

And every month,

Come to be known as our history too.

We are most human when we see the humanity in others.

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Marriage Equality Video

On Sunday, Feb 12th, our Senior High Youth led an educational service project with our children, as part of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign. After teaching our children a bit about love, marriage equality, and justice, we made Valentines to send to the NY State representatives who voted to support Marriage Equality. Being a Brooklyn congregation we sent the cards to Brooklyn representatives. We also included Valentines to our Federal Senators, Mayor, Governor, and the four Republicans (state-wide) who made a stand on personal conscious across party lines. Please watch the video here to learn more!

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Darwin, Faith, Mind, Heart

#27 Small Group Ministry Session on “Darwin on Your Bumper” Written by Rev. Jude Geiger, MRE, First Unitarian,Brooklyn – Based on a Sermon by Rev. Holly Horn preached at First UU on 1/29/12 found here:

http://www.fuub.org/home/clergy/sermons/?sermon_id=62

Welcome & Opening Chalice Lighting  (Please read aloud) by Rev. Jude

We are called in this life, To grow our hearts wider, To build that vision of love made manifest in our world. May our purpose be one in this. And in our coming together, May our lives find wholeness and depth.

Statement of Purpose:  To nurture our spirits and deepen our friendships.

Brief Check-In: Share your name and something you have left behind to be here.

Covenant Reflection

Reading: An Excerpt from the Sermon, “Darwin on Your Bumper”

In the course of time, Darwin rejected the Bible as a divine revelation, rejected the trinity, divine omnipotence, the divinity of Jesus; ultimately he rejected the concept of a personal God.

Darwin experienced this, not as a broadening of his faith, but as a continuous loss. His inability to find religious meaning later in life was paralleled by an aesthetic incapacity. While he had formerly taken great pleasure in poetry, he wrote: “But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry.” So, too, with music. He wrote to a friend: “I am glad you were at the ‘Messiah,’ it is the one thing that I should like to hear again, but I dare say I should find my soul too dried up to appreciate it as in old days; and then I should feel very flat, for it is a horrid bore to feel as I constantly do, that I am a withered leaf for every subject except science.”

“Darwin lamented that his brain had atrophied to ‘become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts.” He wrote: “If I had to live my life again I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.” He himself understood that he had lost the ability to worship. One biographer wrote that, with the loss of his own faith, he grew to depend upon that of his wife, Emma: she felt for him what he could not feel for himself. (Phipps, 152-4)

The cost of scientific genius, for Charles Darwin, was very great, indeed. But those who brand him an atheist are simply wrong. Even at the end of his life, the theological issue which most concerned him was not whether God existed, but what kind of a God a reasonable person could accept.

Discussion Questions: 

Do you find yourself wrestling with the same issuesDarwinhad regarding faith and spirituality? How so? How (or when) are we like the withered leaf he references? Why do we “worship?” Is there someone in our lives that helps to bring us out of our shell? How do you balance the logic of our minds with the depth of our hearts?

Closing:   An excerpt from the writings of T. S. Eliot – #685 from Singing the Living Tradition

What we call a beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from. We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

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Forward Through the Ages

This Call to Worship is based on hymn #114 – “Forward Through the Ages”

We are called in this life,

To grow our hearts wider,

To build that vision of love

made manifest in our world.

May our purpose be one in this.

And in our coming together,

May our lives find wholeness and depth.

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