Archive for December, 2012
We gather this hour to celebrate the most extraordinary story birthed in the most ordinary of moments.
Where we find the promise of life within the face of a baby.
Where our heroes, a mother, a son, and an adoptive father are travelers, homeless, and resting for but a night.
We can imagine all too well a time, where the powerful fear a message of compassion, of peace, of simplicity –
when it is wrapped in dirty swaddling clothes, sleeping in a food trough among the animals and the mess of poverty.
A child born of a yet unwed mother, a father whose ties are solely love, and a lifestyle that can only be called migrant.
From the midst of vulnerability we learn a new way.
A love that moves our hearts,
a vision of peace in an age of violence,
and hope where one would never expect to find it –
begins in the quiet solitude of family,
with the meek of the earth,
with the people that must find another path,
knowing the principalities and the powers
can never satisfy the least among us.
May the Christmas story birth in all of us a sense of possibility,
a renewal of faith in the breadth of the human spirit,
despite all the failings of our world.
That with every child that’s born,
this wonder is made known:
We are given a gift that is our own.
This kid-friendly homily was preached for First UU of Brooklyn’s 3pm Christmas Eve service in 2012. The portions in parentheses suggest the answers our kids gave to questions they were asked during the homily.
Our service this afternoon is a special one. It’s not happening on Sunday morning like our worships usually do. We’re telling and retelling the story of a baby who’s name was Jesus. We just heard a few readings from Christian Scriptures talking about shepherds, and angels, and wise men (called magi in the story) traveling to find him and give him gifts. Why is Jesus so special – why are we getting together today to honor his birth? Tell me – what are some things that people believe about Jesus? What did he teach us?
(love one another, caring for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, visit those in prison.)
He was a great teacher, a healer, and some people believe he was the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. All of us here may have different views about all of these things, but as UU’s we definitely value his message of hope, of caring for those who are hurt, and being loving to all people as best we can. Just being nice, just being caring to our neighbor may sound like a really easy thing to do – but has anyone here ever had to deal with a bully at school, or an impatient person on line at the store, or ever had a fight with their mom, or dad, or son, or daughter (anyone here ever have a fight with their family?) – those things remind us how hard it is to always be loving.
But we also believe that with every child that’s born is another redeemer for this world. The “hope of the world” as he’s sometimes called, didn’t come from money or power, or comfort. He was born in a dirty barn, among a lot of farmyard animals. Simple Shepherds were the first people to visit him – the wise men, the kings won’t find him till later. His family was traveling and homeless when he was born – and yet he would become one of the greatest of teachers.
If each child that’s born is another hope for the world – what does that say about us? Sometimes we feel bad about ourselves, sometimes other kids, other people can be mean, and it’s easy to believe the lie – it’s easy to believe that we’re not important or special. The birth of Jesus is about many things, but it’s also about how very important we each are. It’s also about how we are each called to try to make a difference in this world. How we’re to try to leave the places we go better than they were when we got there. We won’t always succeed, but we’re born to do this.
Can we look at the manger scene behind me now? Dawn Elane, June Wohlhorn and a whole lot of kids, youth and adults helped to make it this week out of felt and love. There are all sorts of farmyard animals on it. There are people, shepherds, wise men, angels and Mary and Joseph (mom and dad.) But who’s missing from the scene? (the baby!)
I’d like to invite folks to come forward with whatever baby photos of yourself, or your kids, or your parents that you brought with you. We’ll be going forward pew by pew in a moment, to place our pictures in the manger scene. Each child that’s born is another redeemer. As you come forward, I want you to think about something that you want to work toward making better in this world. If you feel comfortable – say it aloud as you put your photo in the manger. If you didn’t bring a photo, feel free to come forward anyway and say aloud what thing you want to work toward making better in the world. You can also keep that hope silently to yourself if you would prefer.
The birth of Jesus, and his life, has inspired so many people across the 2000 years since his time – to make the world a better place; to lift ourselves up when we are down; to birth love where this hate and hope where this is fear. May we honor his birthday by promising to strive to live with compassion, with caring, with love, and with hope.
Spirit of Life, God of Many Names and one Abundant and Transforming Love,
We celebrate this hour the hope of peace in our lives,
joy where ever it is found,
and the blessings of family and friends, both near and far.
We are grateful for this religious community,
the stories, the songs, and the silly amidst the serious.
May our congregation be a house of warmth,
when we are cold,
a foundation when we are on shaky feet,
and an inspiration when it’s hard to find a way.
Spirit of Peace, teach us to model compassion in our lives,
over the dinner tables,
on our way to school,
when the subway doors close in our face.
May we be the steady force that brings your way to life.
We hold in our hearts this morning all those who are missing loved ones,
family members who have passed,
soldiers who are serving abroad,
and those who don’t have the luxury to travel for the holidays to see their family.
And for those who build up their family, one friend at a time,
may this season be a cause of celebration for the many sources of love in our lives.
Will you breathe with me now… will you pray with me now…
God of Grace, Spirit of Peace,
You are hard to find this hour,
Though we know we must come to hold you in our hearts, someday, once more.
We stand before a school-house tragedy.
We pray for comfort for the families grieving the loss of their
Sons and daughters,
We pray for strength for the many families across our nation who
can too easily imagine this in our own neighborhoods.
We are grateful for the educators and the police who make sure this nightmare is so very uncommon in our land.
May we learn to appreciate the blessings we have sitting next to us right now,
To allow ourselves to share our love unhindered by yesterday’s argument,
Or last year’s slight.
To remember the words of Mr. Rogers’ mother – “to look for the helpers amidst the tragedy. There are always helpers.”
Teach us to be the helpers in our communities,
To honor those who have died by living our lives with generosity,
With a warmth visible in our faces –
Knowing that for some that may be the only warmth they see this day.
May this tragedy finally teach us
that our systems of privileging the gun owners,
over the victims of gun-based violence,
is morally flawed at the core.
And may we, who are gathered together this hour,
be inspired to work toward ensuring access to mental health services becomes easier than access to guns.
We will pause now to read the names of the victims:
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino, 29
Dawn Hochsprung, 47, principal
Anne Marie Murphy, 52, special education teacher
Lauren Rousseau, 30, teacher
Mary Sherlach, 56, school psychologist
Victoria Soto, 27, first grade teacher
#32 Small Group Ministry Session Written by Rev. Jude Geiger, MRE, First Unitarian, Brooklyn – Based on the sermon, “The Five Stones” preached by Rev. Jude Geiger at First UU on 10/28/12. This session offers an opportunity to reflect on our personal theologies and how they relate to our broader congregation. The sermon it’s based upon is found here: https://revwho.com/2012/10/28/the-five-stones/
Welcome & Opening Chalice Lighting (Please read aloud) by Rev. Jude Geiger
May we find a spirit of endurance,
When all we need is the strength to carry on for one more day,
A view that makes space for hope,
When a way is hard to find,
And an inclination to love –
Ever knowing that the world needs such passion,
All the more when we find it lacking in our own hearts and minds.
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.
Reading: An Excerpt/Edit from the sermon, “The Five Stones.”
Our UU theology is rooted in our six sources. They ground us in our religious meaning. Here they are more simply put: Transcendent mystery and wonder moves us to a renewal of spirit. Prophetic deeds challenge us to confront systems of oppression with compassion. All world religions hold wisdom to inspire our ethical and spiritual lives. Love our neighbors as ourselves. Reason and science warn us against idolatries of mind and spirit. We are part of this world and ought to live in harmony with it.
What does our liberal faith say about living? 1. Revelation is not sealed — in the unfolding of the human spirit we continuously experience life in new ways and so too does our experience of truth. 2. Relationships between people ought to be free — mutuality and consent are both ethical and theological principles 3. We have an obligation to work toward creating a Beloved Community — our faith inspires us to the work of transformational community that is centered in justice and love. The prophethood of all believers has a corrective effect on systems of oppression 4. Each child that’s born is another redeemer — we are all potential sources of good in the world and each have a role to play. Goodness happens in relationships with one another. 5. We choose hope — Our resources – both sublime and mundane hold all the capacity we need to transform the world.
Discussion Questions: What jumps out for you? Do you agree with all of this? Where do you differ? How does having a “theology” help you? How do you live by this already, how is this a challenge? How does this apply to your daily living?
Closing: (please read aloud ) #683 by Theodore Parker
This podcast discusses gratitude, consumerism, and the holidays. It was first preached at the First UU congregation in Brooklyn, NY on 11/18/2012.
This podcast defines a central theology for Unitarian Universalism. It was first preached at the First UU congregation in Brooklyn, NY on 10/28/2012.