Reflections on ministry

Reflections on Ministry

By Shawn Koester (as Kwana Rosca)

Delivered at the First UU Church in Second Life

On Saturday, December 15th, 2007

My sermon today will focus on the meaning of ministry. Certainly I like so many others in the professional, and lay clergy are ministers to be sure in that we are offering our wisdom, and experience, to deepen the meaning of what it means to be human. Forrest Church, the great minister of All Souls in New York says countless times that religion is the dual awareness of being alive, and of knowing we must die. We seek to awaken to what is around us, and make sense of it all, even if there is murkiness and uncertainty. But each of you sitting here today and indeed all people are prophets, ministers, and healers. Each of you bring your own talents, experiences and wisdom in such meaningful ways that impact the world, others, and even bring a person brighter days. Gautama, the Buddha, in his first incarnation was living a common life to most people of India in a state of squalor, but as he encountered a lady ready to be swallowed whole by a tiger, he willingly offers himself to be eaten by that tiger. As a reward he is reincarnated as Prince Sidharta. Prince Sidharta was then born into high society, and among the ruling classes. Seeing the pit of despair, and the plight of the oppressed peoples of his land and time, renounced his power, and title, and sough to bring enlightenment to all who would listen. The Rabbi Jesus sought to bring back to Judaism the prophetic stances of Micah, Amos, and others. He openly sat with those who society and the mainstream religious officials deemed worthless including sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, and even his bitter enemies. He saves a woman, an adulterer who is ready to be stoned saying, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" In turning the original idea of Sabbath on its head, he is heard to remark that the Sabbath is made for humanity, and not the other way around. John Murray as he was preaching the great gospel truth of our Universalist faith in the final harmony of all souls with God, one of his critics threw a rock into the window of the Boston Church he was preaching in, took the rock and he noted, "This rock is weighted, and pointy but is neither convincing or solid lest all the rocks in Boston stop my breath". The great Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker went on a limb to protect slaves in his parish to the point of wielding a gun behind his pulpit to defend them against the Fugitive Slave Act. James Reeb, a UU minister in the Civil Rights Movement headed Dr. King's call to inter-ethnic harmony, in going to the South. Unfortunately, he was killed at the hands of segregationists. Ministry requires that one give up their comfort, their security, and their lives to be able to lend a healing hand. And it's not simply just being present, and attending to people's needs, it is also simply listening, and in that act of listening we able to attune ourselves better. Comforting the sick, or the dying, or witnessing a birth are indeed miracles seeing the ebb and flow of life itself. In our individual ministries, we must be reminded that we are the vessels through which divinity can act, and bear witness to the idea of the Beloved Community free of strife, and hardship, where all seen as sisters and brothers of God. That no one person be seen as a stranger. Ahisma, the release from suffering must not only focus on conscious suffering that we do between others, but the impact it has on larger systems of life, even if what we do is unconscious. Even if we have impacted the life of one person, we know we will be at peace knowing that the world just got a little brighter. As it says in the Talmud, "To whoever destroys one life, destroys the world entire, and to whoever saves one life saves the world entire". In closing, we are each prophets speaking truth to power, we are each messiahs with the ability to bring about redemption, and each of us are the creators of our own destiny. May it be so. Amen

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative