sermons

Gethsemane & the Gita

Gethsemane & the Gita

By Kat Liu

Delivered at the First UU Church of Second Life

On April 1st, 2010

Reading:

From the book of Matthew, chapter 26, verses 36-46:

Then Jesus went with [his disciples] to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to [them], ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’ Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you will not have to be tested… Again he went away for the second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed …

Sermon:

Gethsemane and the Gita

There is a reason why I wanted to lead the service this particular week, this Thursday before Easter, Maundy Thursday. According to the story in the bible, it was on Thursday that Jesus and his disciples held what is called “The Last Supper” – when they broke bread and drank wine together for the last time. After which, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed, was apprehended, beaten and interrogated overnight, and then crucified the following day, known as Good Friday.

So the story goes.

Now, I know that it is not without risk that I preach about the Passion Story at a UU service. In fact, I would not be surprised if one or two of you have already logged off, if not physically then at least mentally. But for those of you who are still listening, please hear me out.

Of the many positive traits that Unitarian Universalists are known for, one is our tolerance for diversity, openness, willingness to learn. But that same tolerance does not always extend to Christianity. Often, one can talk about stories from Buddhism and Hinduism and many other faith traditions in a UU setting much more easily than one can about stories from the bible. If I stood up here and told you how Isis painstakingly collected the parts of Osiris after his brother Set had betrayed him and cut him into pieces, and resurrected him, few would protest “But you can’t prove that Osiris even lived!” Instead, we might talk about what the story could mean, what different events symbolize, and maybe even how we might relate to it today.

In contrast, a good number of UUs might be ok with talking about Jesus just so long as it’s only the parables and the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus as human teacher. But if I start talking telling the story about Jesus dying on the cross as part of God’s plan, my guess is that even if you are too polite to say it, a significant number will be thinking “That isn’t true.”

And I’m not asserting that it is true. What I am suggesting is that there may still be something that we can learn from the story. Often times liberals will dismiss the bible as “myth" and what we’re saying is that it didn’t really happen that way in history. But myth has a deeper meaning than just not being historical. Saying that Columbus sailed in 1972 is not historically accurate, but that doesn’t qualify it as a myth. Myths carry truths bigger than just history.

So what I would like to do tonight is suggest that we take the claim – “That story is a myth” – seriously. Meaning that we set aside the question of whether it “really happened” and look to see whether it seems “true” in some other way.

And at the same time, I’d like to juxtapose another story – one from the Hindu tradition. One that I’ll probably have no trouble convincing you to approach as myth, but with which you might not be as familiar – that of Arjuna the archer.

Jesus and Arjuna. Two men on the brink of something momentous, undergoing existential crisis, talking with their God – or, if you prefer, mulling things over with their higher self. ;)

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane pleading with his Father on the eve of what he knows will be his death, and Arjuna, the great warrior, talking with Lord Krishna, on the eve of an epic battle where he will have to kill family and friends. Whether you believe that either of these are accountings of Divine Will or just made up stories is not the point. The more interesting question is what these stories might mean for us today.

Let me start with Jesus. And many of you may be familiar with his story, as accounted in the Gospels.

Here he is. He’s been touring the country for about three years now and has developed quite a following. A group of people travel with him everywhere he goes. Just a few days ago (Palm Sunday), he entered the city of Jerusalem to adoring crowds, proclaiming him king. But he knows that he’s about to lose everything.

It doesn’t matter how he knows this. Whether it’s because he’s God, or overheard Judas talking to the Sadducees, or has a keen sense of intuition, or maybe the author just writes the story that way. The point is that Jesus knows that something very hard is coming up that he doesn’t want to do. “Father,” he says, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” In other words “I don’t want to do this. Please don’t make me.”

He is now alone. Judas has betrayed him. Even his most loyal disciple, Peter, can’t stay awake with him in his time of need. In the version of this story according to Luke, it even says that he’s so stressed that he sweats blood! He is in anguish. He is scared. He so does not want to go through with what is facing him that he is pleading.

But…

He still says “not what I want but what you want” and “your will be done.”

Some people will hear this and focus on the interpretation that God wanted a blood sacrifice. But what captivates my attention is him saying, I don’t want to do this (whatever “this” is), but *if* I have to, I will. If the circumstances demand it.

To me, this is the true power of the Passion Story. If you see Jesus as an omnipotent God who knows he’s going to be resurrected, then what’s the big deal? Instead, Jesus in the Garden is much more like a human being under extraordinary circumstances who says “I don’t want to go through with this, but I will if I have to... If the circumstances demand it.”

Unitarian Universalists adore Martin Luther King Jr., and rightfully so. What we sometimes forget is that he was a Christian minister. I don’t know how many of you have been to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. It’s the home congregation of Dr. King, where his father had preached, and where he preached after his father retired. It is at Ebenezer Baptist Church that King first taught the doctrine of non-violence.

The congregation has since moved to a larger, modern building across the street but the original building is now part of a National Historical Site. And if you visit it, what you will see on the back wall of the sanctuary, above the pulpit, so that every person can see it, is a stained glass window of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Just think of what that image and that story must have meant for Dr. King. Jesus on his knees praying, “God, please don’t make me go through with this. I’m scared. I don’t want to do it. But I will if I have to.”

Think what King might have felt as he sat in jail in Birmingham. Or the night before Selma. At any given time, he could have stayed in Atlanta, where the situation was better. Heck, he could have had the pulpit of a Unitarian church in DC (my home congregation, All Souls) and been quite comfortable. It was offered to him. Instead, he chose to lead a movement that could and did get him killed. Because he knew he had to. The situation demanded it.

But surely there were times when he was scared and tempted to pack it up and go home.
King learned non-violence from Gandhi but it was the thought of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane that pulled him through.

And what can the story mean for us?

Heroes aren’t necessarily the brawny guy who knows no fear and is just itching to fight for his country. In fact, in most cases, not. Heroes and prophets are every day people who, when the circumstances call on them, say yes. It’s usually not easy. It often ain’t pretty. But you don’t need to die, most of the time. All it takes is to say yes when the situation demands it. For us it might be something as simple being willing to be late for a meeting in order to help someone out in need. Being wiling to extend oneself when there is no reward and it might even be an inconvenience.

The decision that faced Arjuna was similar in striking ways. But since Arjuna’s story is less familiar to most of us in the West, a little background is in order. The Baghavad Gita is part of the Mahabharata, an epic story in Hinduism. In a nutshell, it involves two related families – the Pandavas and their cousins the Kauravas.

Leading up to the part that is known as the Baghavad Gita, the Kauravas have treated the Pandavas HORRIBLY. Cheated them, abused them, abused their common wife Draupadi (the five brothers share one wife but that’s a whole other story)…forced them into exile, took their land, refused to give it back, insulted their Lord God, Krishna….they were just plain mean and rotten … to the point where the two parties are on the brink of war - the five Pandava brothers and their allies on one side, and the 100 Kaurava brothers and their allies on the other.

But remember, the Pandavas and the Kauravas are first cousins. So each side has close relatives and friends and mentors on the other side. On the eve of battle, which is where the Gita starts, Arjuna, one of the Pandava princes and their greatest warrior, surveys the troops on both sides lined up for war. He sees his relatives, friends, and mentors on the other side and realizes that he either has to kill them or be killed by them. And his heart fails him.

Seems reasonable, no?

He says “O Govinda, of what avail to us are a kingdom, happiness or even life itself when all those for whom we may desire them are now arrayed on this battlefield? O Madhusudana, when teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other relatives are ready to give up their lives and properties and are standing before me, why should I wish to kill them, even though they might otherwise kill me? O maintainer of all living entities, I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth. What pleasure will we derive from killing the sons of Dhritarashtra?"

Arjuna, like Jesus, doesn’t want to go through with what he believes/knows that he has to do. Arjun was the son of the great god Indra, and a master archer. While not immortal, he had no fear of dying or harm to himself. Rather he was afraid of having to live with the consequences of his actions. Afraid of hurting people in the course of pursuing justice. But through the counsel of Krishna, Arjun finally resigns himself to his destiny. What Krishna told him in a nutshell was that the situation demanded it.

Here I must make a personal aside: I am not in any way advocating for war. When I read the Gita I am still troubled by the choices facing Arjun. And many people have interpreted the war to be metaphorical, thereby side-stepping the troubling image of God/Krishna demanding and arguing in favor of slaughtering kinsmen. And they may be right. During the course of arguing in favor of war, Krishna schools Arjuna on the Dharma. It’s clear that Arjun is meant to represent “every man,” represent the best of us, and we are meant to learn from Krishna’s teachings. And how many of us are faced with really having to slaughter our cousins and other loved ones? So it’s not unreasonable to see the great, bloody war as just a metaphor.

But I also think to dismiss the war lightly is to miss a large part of the point. This was an extremely difficult choice for Arjun, with negative consequences either way. If it were easy, it would not have been much of a story, nor be very relevant spiritually. While we may never have to kill our 100 cousins, perhaps there are other times when we’ve been faced with the choice to do something that hurts a loved one or do nothing and let injustice continue. How many times have we failed to do what is right for fear of upsetting people? I’ll speak for myself. I know I have.

The discussion between Krishna and Arjun is one of the greatest existentialist treatises of all time. At issue is the balance between the wisdom to be gained from pursuing knowledge (retreating, gathering information, reflecting, meditating) and the results to be gained from actually acting. Krishna lifts both up as ideals to be pursued but ultimately favors action.

The reason why, I think, is because at times our heads can talk us out of doing what is right. Especially when the circumstances are complex. My brain can rationalize my way out of doing just about anything, and it almost always seems perfectly reasonable at the time. How much more easy can it be to not act when the consequences are hard like those facing Arjun?

I remember the first time I heard the story of Martha and Waitstill Sharp – only the second and third Americans to be honored for helping Jews and others in Nazi-occupied territories during WWII, at great risk to themselves. The Sharps were Unitarians and their work led to the start of the Unitarian Service Committee, which became the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, still working against human rights abuses today.

Waitstill and Martha left their two small children behind to go risk their lives.

When I heard that I was deeply torn. On the one hand, what they did was amazing. They saved dozens, perhaps hundreds of lives. On the other hand, they could easily have been killed and left their children as orphans. It would have been perfectly reasonable for them to have said, “No I cannot go. My children need me.” Who would have blamed either one of them for staying home?

Yet they said “yes.” And even after they made it safely back to the States, they went a second time, because the situation demanded it. And what a huge difference they made.

Now, I don’t know if you will ever have to make the choices that faced Jesus or Arjun -
to be betrayed, tortured and killed (rather than running away) or to kill your loved ones, friends, etc, in the name of justice. I most fervently hope that you never face anything like either. As I fervently hope you never have to make the choices that faced Dr. King or the Sharps. But we still do make smaller choices in our daily living, on whether to act or not, when facing something that we would rather not do. How do we say “yes” in those situations?

And it may be that Jesus and/or Arjuna can serve as inspiration.

May it be so.
Amen. Ashay. Blessed be. and Namaste.

Acceptance

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Dec 11, 2008

>> Chalice Lighting.

Every month, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists has a "Global Chalice Lighting"
and distributes a reading that many congregations use for one service every month.
The following is the December 2008 chalice lighting, in Khasi (from India) and English:
 ---
Ha kane jingiaseng jongngi,
Ngi ieng ban nguh ha kjat jong Phi;
Ai ba baroh jongngi ki mon,
Ha ka Mon jong Phi kin dem ngon.

We rise to bow before You, Almighty,
With gratitude and in humility;
May our individual wills
Be one and bow before Your Holy Will.

Ha kane jingiaseng, A Blei,
Ai jingmut kin thanda, kin palei;
Da jingjemnud ngin iashahshkor,
Ia ki ktien Jingshisha kordor.

As we congregate here this day,
May our thoughts be simple and noble;
With receptive hearts may we heed
The precious words of Truth.

Ka spah bad jingsngewbha pyrthei,
Kim lah ai jinghun da lei lei;
Ka jingsuk batam eh iangi,
Long ban ieit bad shaniah ha Phi.

Worldly riches and pleasures
Give but momentary satisfaction;
But everlasting peace for us will be,
When we love You and trust in You.

 -- Khasi hymn #56 by Hajom Kissor Singh
 -- Unitarian Union of North East India

>> Opening Song.

We'll open with one of my favorite UU hymns.
We're now in the season of Advent, which for Christians is the time of the year to prepare for the birth of Jesus.
It is a time of awakening as the days get shorter, as people prepare for the future: cooking, getting gifts, writing cards.
This hymn tells us to wake up those parts of our being that we might have let sleep recently.

This is the from the set of recordings from the UU Church of Nashua, New Hampshire.

http://www.koober.org/6Jan08/Hymn%20298.MP3

Let's continue with our service now as we sing together our opening hymn, Number 298,
"Wake Now My Senses"

Wake, now, my senses, and hear the earth call;
Feel the deep power of being in all;
Keep, with the web of creation your vow,
Giving, receiving as love shows us how.

Wake, now my reason, reach out to the new;
Join with each pilgrim who quests for the true
Honor the beauty and wisdom of time;
Suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime.

Wake, now, compassion, give heed to the cry;
Voices of suffering fill the wide sky;
Take as your neighbor both stranger and friend,
Praying and striving their hardship to end.

Wake, now, my conscience, with justice thy guide
Join with all people whose rights are denied;
Take not for granted a privileged place;
God's love embraces the whole human race.

Wake, now, my vision of ministry clear;
Brighten my pathway with radiance here;
Mingle my calling with all who will share;
Work toward a planet transformed by our care.

---

 

>> Reading

A few weeks ago I mentioned the seven Principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association,
a covenant that binds together the member congregations.
I'm going to talk about one part of the third Principle: to affirm and promote
acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

The reading are the proposed changes to the Principles, to be voted on this coming June during General Assembly
in Salt Lake City.
The basic message is essentially unchanged from the current Principles, but there is a some commentary included.
Also, the Third and Fifth Frinciples have changed their wording a little bit.
---

In order that we might work together in harmony to make our communities and our world more likely
to protect and nurture all that is positive and hopeful;
and in order that members of our congregations might find spiritual challenge to become their
best selves as they worship and work together to create the Beloved Community,
we, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to honor and uphold:

-- The inherent worth and dignity of every person

    At the core of Unitarian Universalism is recognition of the sanctity of every human being across the lifespan.
    We are relational creatures, capable of both good and evil.
    We have experienced enough brokenness, including in ourselves, to seek the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
    We are called to make choices that help to heal and transform ourselves and the world, and to move toward solidarity with all beings.

-- Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations

    Grateful for the gift of life and mindful of our own mortality, we seek to respond with generosity and loving action.
    We are called to live in right relationship with others.

-- Acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth

    We seek to enter dialogue with one another in mutual love and respect, honoring our varied backgrounds and paths.
    We are called to stretch and deepen our faith through religious education, creative engagement,
    and spiritual practice in our congregations and in our lives.

-- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

    Unitarian Universalism is an evolutionary religion that encourages and supports lifelong spiritual exploration.
    Unitarian Universalist religious authority lies in the individual, nurtured and tested in congregation and wider community.
    In a spirit of humility and openness, we are called to seek truth and meaning, wherever found, through experience,
    reason, intuition, and emotion.

-- The right of conscience and the use of democratic processes

    We seek to ensure that all voices are heard, especially those often left out on the margins.
    We are called to promote fairness, accountability, honesty, and transparency.

-- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

    We seek to create, sustain, and celebrate multigenerational and multicultural communities where
    oppression cannot thrive and where hope and peace flourish.
    We are called to counter legacies of injustice and to foster reconciliation.

-- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

    Inspired by the beauty and holiness of the Earth, we become more willing to relinquish material desires.
    We recognize the need for sacrifice as we build a world that is both just and sustainable.
    We are called to be good stewards, restoring the Earth and protecting all beings.

As free yet interdependent congregations, we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust, kindness, and support.
Should we break this covenant, we will seek to repair the relationship and recommit to the promises we have made.


>> Homily "Acceptance"

The third Principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association encourages "acceptance of one
another and encouragement of spiritual growth in our congregations."
And for me personally, it is the most difficult principle to live up to.

Acceptance is what is asked for in the Third Principle--beyond tolerance.

Tolerance is living with a situation that you fundamentally disagree with.
When we are practicing toleration, we sit quietly and don't listen.
But there is no true communication when we are merely being tolerant.
When we are merely tolerating, we all agree to disagree.

Tolerance is the minimum of civility that we should all practice.
Intolerance--actively, loudly yelling, for example--is generally unacceptable in most situations.
In fact, here in Second Life it's against the Terms of Service to be loudly intolerant.

But mere tolerance is not adequate for living in a right relationship with our community;
at some level, we should strive to accept everyone in our community.
- - -
From the opening hymn:
  Wake, now my reason, reach out to the new;
  Join with each pilgrim who quests for the true
  Honor the beauty and wisdom of time;
  Suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime.

Acceptance of one another is one aspect of reaching out for the new.
Who better among us to show us the new, than those whom we choose with to live closest?

Acceptance is to "suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime."
It's easy to accept someone and something that you entirely agree with.
But when we encounter someone in our midst whom we disagree, the hymn tell us
that we must "suffer our limit"--endure the situation that we find ourselves in.
Then we must "praise the sublime"--find that small, subtle thing that can start us
in moving past just tolerance, then into acceptance.

I don't find this a serious problem here in Second Life; at some level, this is a sort of game.
And even though I myself tend to play "real" in this place, I don't expect others to be.
So if one of you prefer to interact with me as an animal, or a tree, or even a random gender,
I can accept that easily in the context of this game.

With Real Life, and even a very few of the people behind the keyboard here at UUSL, I sometimes have a problem.
Where I have problems with acceptance is based on my personality; a Myers-Briggs classification of INTJ.
For those of you not familiar with Myers-Briggs, the code refers to how I prefer to interact with the world.
INTJ is the "scientist" stereotype; seeking understanding, but skeptical unless I can experience it.

So I will admit, when someone in my RL church tries to tell me about the healing powers of crystals,
the conspiracy that keeps some people disadvantaged, or even the great things about the Republican party--
at first I tend to switch them off.
But especially with the recent election, I have been trying to be more open with those whom I disagree strongly.
This is important since I'm the lone liberal in my close family--about the only other family member close to
me who is also remotely liberal is my grandmother.

I have learned something about myself in this small journey; even the most disagreeable position does have a glimmer
of something that I can start to accept.
Crystal therapy can have a large placebo effect, and many times that is more effective than anything else;
I do believe that one can "think themselves sick"--I know that I have--and whatever it takes to break the
cycle, even something that has no detectable physical effect, can have a powerful emotional one.
And Republicans do have a few great ideas, more in the past then presently, but an intelligent and
principled political opposition can be useful for the betterment of our nation.

Unitarian Universalism 101

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Nov 30, 2008

>> Chalice Lighting.
The flaming chalice is one of the symbols of Unitarian Universalism.
Many Unitarian Universalist gatherings start with the lighting of a chalice and the recitation of some words,
not only services, but meetings and even informal dinners in homes.
Every month, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists has a "Global Chalice Lighting"
and distributes a reading that many congregations use for one service every month.
The following is the November 2008 chalice lighting:
 ---
Que este cáliz, que encendemos juntos aquí, impregne e ilumine este lugar,
aclarando en nuestros corazones la dirección a tomar, que solemos olvidar durante la semana que va a partir.

Que sus haces de luz brillen profundamente en el alma,
prendiendo en su interior sabiduría nueva y nuevos proyectos.  
Que simbolicen la luz del deber y el entendimiento y el esplendor de la justicia, la verdad, y que nos den calma.

May this chalice, that we are lighting here together, pervade and light this place,
showing in our hearts the right direction to take, and that we not forget during the following week.

May its rays of light shine deeply in our souls,
kindling new wisdom and new projects inside us that
symbolize the light of duty and understanding and the magnificence of justice and truth,
and bring peace to us.

 -—from the Coruña congregation, Unitarian Universalist Society of Spain

>> Opening Song.
Music is an important part of UU services.
The communal expression of ideas, sung in a group, binds us together.
Unfortunately, SL isn't the best place for us to try to sing together; small groups have sat and sung here, but more than about 5
simultaneous people on voice chat causes problems.
We do have some recordings made in UU churches, and we're going to use some from Nashua, New Hampshire.

Our welcoming song "Come Come Whoever You Are" is sung many places to gather the congregation; the words are from
the 13th century Sufi poet Jalalud'din Rumi.
This next song "Spirit of Life" was written about 25 years ago by Carolyn McDade, and many UU congregations, including my RL
church, sing it every week as a sort of doxology.
In just a few lines it manages to express a hint of the emotion that binds our community:

http://www.koober.org/19Oct08/spirit_of_life.mp3

Spirit of Life,
 come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind,
 rise in the sea;
Move in the hand,
 giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close;
 wings set me free;
Spirit of Life,
 come to me, come to me.

>> Joys and Concerns.

Now is the time of the service when we say our Joys and Concerns.
If there is something that has recently happened you wish to share, happy or sad, you may say it now.


We know that there are joys and sorrows in our hearts not said here.
Hold them, and use the power of this community to help you in your time of need,
or with your joy may it be increased.

>> Offering.

The operation of this fellowship, like any UU fellowship, depends on the time and talents people give to help out.
Not only do we have the services here, but you can drop in at times and find people just hanging out and chatting.
Being here, now, is a great contribution.
Another way you can help is to send some L$ our way.
There is an offertory basket in the front the sanctuary, always available for your donations.

If you are interested in leading a service or other event here at UUSL, there is a yellow box you can touch for information, behind you.
You can lead a discussion group, or a "hang out and gossip"--whatever; we have a meeting circle that a few groups have used.
If you want to lead a service, our free pulpit welcomes interesting discussion.
You can IM me anytime; in fact, there are seven logical follow-ons to this service that I can help you with:
if you are a UU and have a story about one of the principles it could become an interesting service.

>> Reading
The reading is the "Principles and Sources" of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations:

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote
    * The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    * Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    * Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    * A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    * The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    * The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
    * Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:

    * Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures,
which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
    * Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice,
compassion and the transforming power of love;
    * Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
    * Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
    * Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us
against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
    * Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and
instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith,
we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.
As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

>> Homily "Unitarian Univeralism 101"

We have a few new avatars attending services here, and one of the most frequently asked questions is "What is Unitarian Universalism?"
I think it may even be asked by some of the people who have been here for a while, and I would
say we ask the same questions at times in our Real Life congregations.

Literally, "Unitarian Universalist" represents the merger of two Protestant Christian denominations in 1961.
Christian Unitarians are "anti-Trinitarian"--there are no three manifestations of one God; Jesus is a great teacher, but
had no more divine nature than anyone else.
(Note how I worded that: we all have a divine nature.)
Ultimately there is only one God.
Christian Universalists believe in universal salvation, that Jesus died for the redemption of all sins.
All of us are going to heaven--everyone.

The Unitarian movement started in Eastern Europe in the 16th century--indeed today there are many Unitarian churches where worship appears
to be identical to the Catholic mass--about the only external difference is married clergy and some different hymns.
Joseph Priestly, who first isolated oxygen, was a English Unitarian minister forced from his home in 1791 and
founded the first Unitarian church in the United States near Philadelphia.
Congregationalist churches in New England, where the members of a church determine the nature of their worship,
started accepting the Unitarian ideas soon after; throughout the Northeast the denomination spread.
The First Parish Church of Plymouth, Massachusetts today is a Unitarian Universalist church--Thanksgiving in the USA
has acquired Unitarian Universalist roots!
Unitarians, questioning the dogma that was the core of orthodox Christianity, started to question other aspects of their faith.
Knowledge revealed to only a few was discarded--starting about 125 years ago the denomination was becoming less Christ-centered.
Today, maybe the most theological thing you could say there is "one God"--but the definition of "God"
is subject to thoughtful and open discussion.
I like to say that sometimes God is a set: for Trinitarians, a set of three; for Jews and Muslims, a set of one;
for Atheists, the null set; and for Buddhists, possibly the set of everything, or no set at all.

The Univeralist church started in the United States in the late 1700's.
It spread thoughout the US Midwest as the country moved westward; in 1830 it was one of the larger religious denominations.
Univeralists were early abolitionists and advocated women's rights; the first woman to attend a seminary, Olympia Brown,
was ordained a Universalist minister in 1863.
There have been several universalist movements through the ages, and not only Christian universalists.
Writing and revising statements of common Principles has been a Universalist tradition for over 100 years.

The Unitarians and Universalists had been cooperating for nearly 75 years before the merger in 1961.
Before then, they shared a common youth group and a common religious education program,
and cooperated in ventures such as the Service Committees.

For a small denomination, there have been many notable Unitarians and Universalists.
Samuel Adams and John Molson were Unitarians--I'll drink to that!
There is currently one UU in the US Senate, and two in the House of Representatives; a lower number than usual.
And even though we are traditionally a pacifist denomination, two of Clinton's Secretaries of Defense (Bill Perry, Bill Cohen) are UU.
 - - -

There is no creedal test for being a Unitarian Universalist; no one set of words is sufficient to describe any one person's beliefs.
Indeed, one common religious education class UUs attend at many churches is called a variation of "Writing Your Own Theology."
If anything, we try to live a principle-centered life, and the seven principles enumerated in the reading is one set.
The lawyers among us will note that the covenant statement in the reading applies only to the congregation as a whole, and not any individual.

We call ourselves theologically liberal; we are proud that our denomination is open to consider new ideas.
Since 1970, we have been openly supporting the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgenered community;
many of our congregations are "Welcoming Congregations" where we actively support GLBT causes.
There are many other interest areas with support groups in the UU world,
including Humanist, Christian, Buddhist, Earth-Centered, and Mystic.
Our services range in flavor from Christian to Buddhist to Jewish to Earth-Centered; we celebrate a holy day a few times a month.

In future weeks we can consider each of the Principles individually.
Collectively, they describe a set of related values, expanding from the individual to all existence.
The Sources reflect our heritage, and the various streams that have merged to make up our denomination.
 - - -

People who study "church polity" will tell you that most religions have three different models for how they are structured:
 - Episcopal:  Clergy, with a hierarchy of bishops, guide doctine,
 - Presbyterian:  Laity, with a hierarchy of elders and some clergy, guide doctine, and
 - Congregational:  Every congregation stands alone, with no overall doctrinal guidance.

Unitarian Universalists are congregational: each congregation calls its ministers, and each congregation is free to determine
its own theological direction.
Some congregations are "fellowships," which traditionally do not have a professional minister, but instead depend on the members
to minister amongst themselves, or depend on the assistance of a minister from another congregation; UUSL is more of a fellowship.
Not all UU congregations call themselves "churches", but some use the term "society," "community," "fellowship," or "congregation";  
in Oak Park, Illinois you can find Frank Lloyd Wright's "Unity Temple," erected while he was a member there.

Organizationally, Unitarian Universalist congregations have membership in the Unitarian Universalist Association, or "UUA."
The UUA provides organizational advice and structure, ministerial certification (or "fellowship"), tax-exempt status, and
religious education programs member congregations can use.
The UUA maintains programs and participates with various organizations, seminaries, and international organizations.
It runs a publishing house (Beacon Press) and a magazine (UU World, online at http://uuworld.org/ ).  
Congregations who enter into covenant with the UUA are bound by the Principles, and other obligations.

Whereas other religious groups have a cathedral or other "mother church" as their headquarters, if you visit the main
offices of the UUA, at 25 Beacon Street in Boston next to the Massachusetts State Capitol, you will find that the
first floor is a bookstore.

As congregations, we meet every year in "General Assembly" to discuss the business of the denomination and other things.
One difference we have from other denominations is that we review the basic statements of our faith.
This year the Commission on Appraisal is completing a two-year-long review of the Principles and other foundation statements,
and this summer during "GA" we will vote on updating these statements, including the Principles.
(If you are RL UU perhaps I may see you in Salt Lake City this June 24-28.)

Not all groups that call themselves Unitarian Universalist are member conregations of the UUA, like this little fellowship here in SL.
But there are people in the UUA who are watching what we are doing here, now: we have a few UU ministers
and members of the UUA staff who drop by SL, and possibly even sitting in our little group right now.
Many, but not all, of the principals running this little fellowship are RL UUs.
This virtual church has been written up in the UU World magazine, and has been featured on some UUA web sites.
 - - -

I was raised a Catholic; I have a few uncles-x-times-removed who are priests; my grandmother was nearly a nun and
a few close male relatives went to seminary to become priests, dropping out just before they took their vows.
I'm one of the few non-Catholics in my extended family; when I visit my parents I sometimes attend Mass with everyone else.
I really had a serious problem with "revealed knowledge"; accepting something as true blindly, especially when
it seemed to not really make any sense, and that made the whole dogma start to collapse for me.
Yes, as a child you blindly accept what is told to you, but once you nibble at the tree of knowledge
the old tales, while perhaps teaching a moral lesson, no longer make sense as being literally true.

People have said to me that "well, string theory in physics also requires a leap of faith."
That may be true; I rely on people who may have dubious purposes to present those ideas.
But no-one was every thrown in jail for saying "plate tectonics is how the earth was shaped" or "protons
are composed of quarks, which are further decomposed into vibrating strings."
Yes, notable people were put under house arrest by saying "the earth moves around the sun," but that was by a
religious court: the earth does not move, if you interpret some Bible verses. (Psalm 19:6, I Chronicles 16:30, Ecclesiastes 1:5)
We have observed speciation caused by natural selection; some religious folks are upset because that is thought to contradict the
literal reading of the first two stories of the Bible--but I digress.

Unitarian Universalism works for me two ways:

First, it answers the question "How does one live an ethical life?"
Some people claim that there are absolute moral and ethical rules for living life.
I would say that is not true; take "thou shalt not kill."
Governor George W. Bush signed execution orders for 152 inmates;
his direct, conscious actions led to the deaths of those individuals.
Some would argue that his actions were moral and justified; others would disagree.

The Seven Principles have given me, as an individual, guidance for making correct choices.
The first two, especially: "affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every individual"
and "justice, equity, and compassion in human relations."
All person have inherent worth; I must always look beyond how someone presents themselves at first.
The second Principle tells me that I should strive to counter disadvantage with justice,
treat my peers with equity, and when I encounter injustice by others, to use compassion in sanctions.

The second thing Unitarian Universalism gives me is a community to live my values in the world.
As an individual, I can live the Principles, but with minimal effect on the world at large.
I want the world to live my Principles.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville, Maryland gives me opportunities to help the world at large, and the UUA allows the
quarter-million Unitarian Universalists in North America to speak as a united force for living our Principles.


>> Discussion.
Smaller UU fellowships, and here in Second Life, many times will follow the homily with a discussion.
In larger congregations, the discussion will wait until the coffee service.

If you are a UU, how do the Principles guide your life, if at all?

If you are stumbling into UU, would you like to see the Principles again?  

Responsibility

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Nov 13, 2008

 >> Chalice Lighting.

Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veteran's Day:
National holidays to recall the cease-fire that started on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918;
the end of the Great War, the World War, the War to End All Wars.
In the USA, it is a remembrance of those who died and those who lived serving our country.

For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.
 -- Zell Miller

>> Reading

Two readings, from new, young Democrats:

The first, from John Kennedy's inaugural address in January 1961:

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.
I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it.
I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.
The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country
and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world,
ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.
With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds,
let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help,
but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

 ----

The second reading, from Barrack Obama's victory speech, last Tuesday night:

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me.
You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead.
For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest
of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.
Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq
and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.
There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage,
or pay their doctors bills, or save enough for college.
There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created;
new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long.
Our climb will be steep.
We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.
I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts.
There are many who wont agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government cant solve every problem.
But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.
I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.
And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way its been done in America
for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night.
This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change.
And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.
It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where
each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.
Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything,
its that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party
to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity.
Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination
to heal the divides that have held back our progress.
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours,
We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.
And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote,
but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores,
from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular,
but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.
To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you.
To those who seek peace and security - we support you.
And to all those who have wondered if Americas beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once
more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth,
but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.


>> Homily "Responsibility"

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
 -- John F. Kennedy

In 1960, John Kennedy was a young, idealistic man running for President.
The nation thought that a Catholic could not be elected president, after all, conventional wisdom said he would be beholden to the pope.
We see that during his inagural address in 1961 he call for Americans, indeed the entire world, to work to improve our world.
During these years we saw the nation wake up from the lull of the 1950's. 

Our country, and our world, has gone through nearly 30 years of "supply side" economics, or "trickle down", or whatever
the theory was called; where we send money to the better off and they will send economic activity to those less better off.
"Noblesse oblige" was the model the conservatives reached for, but applying this model to the indivdually-oriented "me first" tradition
in the USA only practially resulted in "the rich getting richer."

Over this time, and especially in the last few years, our government's moral standing in the world and among its citizens has fallen.
My nation has become cynical or fearful.

Obama won the election last week, and what a difference that has made.
My facebook page has a lot of pro-Obama notes on the wall, and about half of my non-USA facebook friends have sent me email
saying how happy they are to see that my candidate has won.
Obama ran with a vision:

  It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican,
  black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight,
  disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been
  a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
    -- Barack Obama

We are all in this together.
In Wednesday's Washington Post, a business commentary column was titled "Pressure is on for Obama,
but this rescue relies on all of us."
All of us have something to do. 
We've known this before, but now is the time to act upon what we know we must do.

Now, more than ever in recent history, we have an opportunity to individually make a difference.
This last election showed that individual, one-on-one interactions were especially effective in bringing about
a change in the direction of our government; not only on a national level, but also at the local and state level.
And these same efforts can bring about other changes, making our government even more accountable for the
conditions that individuals or small groups find themselves in.
We have also discovered that some of our problems are larger than the government or any organization can handle,
and collectively we must all help to move our society to a more perfect union.

It doesn't have to be a lot of effort; even a little bit is more than many of us have done in the past.
Many churches have service projects that they run all year, and can always use a few more hands to help.
There are people in this little virtual UU community who are working with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans helping
build housing--and there is still a lot of work to go in Louisiana.
If you have a week or two where you can get away, there are a dozens of places you can go and help on a large project to improve
someone's life.

National service, which we remember with our veterans this week, is another option.
It is more of a commitment than most are able to give, but it is invariably an experience that will last a lifetime.
Our military is not the only national service corps; one well known option is the Peace Corp, and
my next-door neighbor is a uniformed officer in the Public Health Service, led by the Surgeon General of the United States.
President Kennedy made working for the government "cool" and many people came to Washington to work on federal programs.
There is talk around the National Capital area, my home, where people are thinking Obama might make it cool again; indeed many
people who once worked as government contractors are now making the leap to full government service, especially since the
administration is changing.

With the economy slowing down, a lot of us are cutting back on the frivolous things in life, freeing up time.
You don't always have to give money; every charity can also use hands to help, or even someone to just answer the phone.
My church has a program where we tutor at-risk children, and several people in my church help out.
One project I used to work with still goes to the National Capital Food Bank to sort contributions a few times a year.
Time can be just as precious.

>> Discussion.



>> Closing Words.

Go in peace. Live simply, at home in yourself.
Be just in your word, just in deed.
Remember the depth of your own compassion.
Do not forget your power in the days of your powerlessness.
Do not desire with desire to be wealthier than your peers, and never stint your hand of charity.
Practice forbearance in all you do. Speak the truth or speak not.
Take care of your body, be good to it, it is a good gift.
Crave peace for all peoples in this world, beginning with yourselves, and go as you go with the dream of that peace set firm in your heart.
Amen.
 -- Mark Belletini

May every sunrise hold more promise, every moonrise hold more peace.

Be well, the service is over.

When we got into office, the thing that surprised me most was to find that things were just as bad as we'd been saying they were.
-- John F. Kennedy

<< douse chalice >>

Samhain

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Nov 1, 2007


Into this place may we come
To share, to learn, to speak, to listen,
And to grow together in the spirit of peace and harmony and love.


A few years ago I was looking through a small book that included pictures of words that have been carved into the sides of buildings.
Most of them were simple and trite things, but one thing written on the side of a building in Dayton, Ohio struck me.

You are a part of everyone you have met.

It struck me, and I stopped and thought of that for the rest of that day, and many times since.   
I came up with two things I believe to this day:
Everything I do does mean something to everyone I meet.  I decide whether that is good or bad for the others I meet.
Even here in Second Life!

But one other thing I realized, and is significant for this first day of November:
Everyone I have ever known is a part of me.


Samhain

All societies, ancient and modern, note the passing of the longest and shortest days of the year, and some even celebrate the equinoxes.
These days are significant because they signal large changes in weather; the seasons.
In the ancient northern European calendar, the mid-season days were also celebrated,
for the ancients thought that during these times the barrier between the real world and the spirit world was thin.

A thousand years ago, the Church's ability to incorporate the ancient rituals into the new religion
aided the successful spread of Christianity in Europe.
The three-day-long mid-spring and mid-fall celebrations of the ancient Celts, the two most important holidays in their calendar,
partly survive today as Easter ("Eostre" being the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn), and All Saints and All Souls Days.
The Celts call this time "Samhain"--the end of the "light half" of the year and the start of the "dark half".
The spirits are free to mix with the living, and the people would celebrate the lives of those who passed on before.
Just last night many communities had children walking around the neighborhood dressed as spirits, playfully re-creating
this mixing of the spirits of the dead in the land of the living.

Mexican culture has taken this a step farther; Dia de Los Meurtos is celebrated November 1 and 2.
This celebration may have roots in ancient mesoamerican culture.
Graves are decorated, and stories are told.
Some of these are stories of family and friends and the good things they did when they were alive.
As Octavio Paz has written:
   "The word death is not pronounced in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips.  
   The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it;
   it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.  
   True, there is perhaps as much fear in his attitude as in that of others, but at least death is not hidden away:  
   he looks at it face to face, with impatience, disdain or irony."


Our Western tradition is to focus our memories of those who have died in the time just after their death.
This is entirely appropriate, and is an important part of the grieving process.
But it is also important to remember those who have died at other times, for as we remember them they still live in our hearts.

This past Sunday in my RL church we took some time during the service to remember those who have died.
Not just in the past year--perhaps it has been too soon--but also those who have been gone for some time.
Let's take a few minutes to think about someone who has touched us, and we haven't thought about for some time.


It's is also a tradition in my church to say out loud the names of those who are still alive in our hearts.
If you feel comfortable, please share the name of a few people who still fill you with joy though they are not here.
You can add a line or two--barely enough space I'm sure--to explain one thing that makes them make you still feel special.

Five L's

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Oct 16, 2008

 

>> The Global Chalice Lighting for October 2008.

I'm going to start a little tradition here in Second Life.
The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists has been distributing a "Global Chalice Lighting"
every month for over 5 years.
They ask that particpating congregations include it in one service every month,
and identify the chalice lighting as the "Global Chalice Lighting."
This will remind us that we are part of a worldwide movement.

Bless the work that we do,
And the silence that falls upon us,
And the joy that stirs within us.
And let praise rise to our lips
Naturally out of the fullness of our hearts.
 --Sheila Crosskey, British General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches

>> Reading
A reading for one part of my topic today.
It is from the current minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship.

"The Glove in the Subway"

A one-paragraph newspaper article describes a subway platform during the morning rush hour at Grand Central Terminal.
A train pulls in; a well-dressed woman gets off.
Before the doors close, the woman realizes that she is holding only one of her leather gloves.
She looks back into the train and spots the matching one on the seat.
It is obviously too late to dash back in to retrieve it, so with a cavalier shrug,
she flings her arm out and, the doors about to close, tosses her glove onto the seat alongside its mate.
The doors shut, and the train pulls away.

What a great image.
One could use it, I suppose, as a metaphor for facing the inevitable,
or arguing for an orderly universe, or even, with a little stretch, for sharing the good things in life.
But, as we move into the summer season, the metaphor that comes to mind is the one of "letting go."

To throw a favorite leather glove into the oblivion of a moving train
must involve small pangs of uncertainty, pangs of some degree of loss, pangs of upset.
After a lifetime of struggling not to lose our mittens, then our gloves, cavalier abandonment does not come easy.

In New England at least, our pattern is to cling, as we cling to our gloves,
to routine, hard work, and obligation, all fall, all winter, and right through to the Fourth of July.
But in the summertime, there is a letting go.
We close up our schools and our churches, put our overcoats in mothballs,
and dust off the swan boats, the lobster pots and last year's new gas grill.
We need that.
We need to cast that glove of responsibility back into the train.
We need a vigorous and decisive toss about now to free ourselves of the confining gloves of life, even if we love them.

And the train's about to leave.
 -- Jane Ranney Rzepka

>> Homily "Five Ells"

As en engineer, one thing I use are checklists to make sure that I follow all the steps of whatever activity I'm performing.
My wife has always been amused that I have always used a checklist to make sure I take care of all the
little steps of preparing the house when we leave for vacation: things like turning off the water heater and checking the windows.
At work I have two checklists: one covers all the little things I do just before I leave; things like insure certain
computer systems are still running and certain safes are locked.
The other list is for the start of the day, and it has 5 short statements to remind me what I have to do during the day.

"God is a verb" said Buckminster Fuller, a Unitarian.
It is one expression of Process Theology--where God is not thought to be like a separate personality,
but is something that is larger than what we see.
"God" is something outside of us, yet we are part of God.

I have talked about Process Theology, and probably will again.
But if God is a verb, what would the verbs be?

One list of words that I have heard about is the "Five 'L' Verbs."
Love
Learn
Labor
Laugh
Let Go

These are the words I have on that checklist at work:
these are the five things that I really do try to do every day.
And I can say that in the year that I've had those words on my wall at work,
many of my best days are those when I can do all 5 items.

I wrote most of this homily last night, before the call from Puerto Rico with the sad news about my mother-in-law passing away.
Like many things one writes, a few minutes can change everything.

"Love" is the simplest, and can be the hardest.
But it means to love everyone--to deeply and genuinely respect everyone.
Here in SL, sometimes we have to rise above those whom we sometimes encounter.
At work, it might not be more than the respect for the inherent worth of some individuals you work with.
Love mostly works at your home, where your day starts and ends; where your thoughts are both under the roof
with those close to you, and with those thousands of miles away.

"Learn" is another simple one, though one has to be ready to learn at any time.
The hardest part at times is to admit that one must learn something--we don't always know everything,
and sometimes what we think is right is wrong.
We have to see beyond that which we are familiar; it is the unexpected lesson that is most valuable.

"Labor" is what we spend most of our week at work, of course.
But we also have to labor outside of our employment; we have to work at home, and work
to help those who we love.
Labor should be more than intellectual--one has to move, one has to get the energy flowing.
You have to feel the world moving around you.
We have to know that we have moved something form one place to another, improving our entire world.

"Laugh" is easy, at times.
It is important to not take ourselves terribly seriously.
I am reminded that at then end of it all, it's not what we might have done that people will always remember,
but how we have touched others.
And many times, that is our laughter, shared.

"Let Go" is the hardest, and this can be harder than we imagine.
We have to learn to let go of those things that hold us back.
Sometimes they are concrete things--objects that vex us--the example of the glove in the reading.
Many times it is ideas, dominating our thinking and keeping us from moving to the next step.
Sometimes it takes two to fully let go--many times it takes one to let the other know that it is
time to let go.
"Letting go" is hardest because there are times when it is healthy to hold on to ideas and things
for longer than we think we should--"letting go" becomes "giving up" and that can be worse.
----

These are just 5 verbs.
They are one attempt to pin a definition on the undefinable.
A useful exercize for a small-group ministry might be to try to define other small lists that try to define
our relationship with the fullness of existence that Process theologians try to pin down.

>>  Discussion.

Do these verbs work?
Is the list missing something very important?
Perhaps limiting ourselves to just one letter is too small?
Love, Learn, Labor, Laugh, Let go....
What are your thoughts?

 >>  Closing Words.

Go in peace.
Hold in your heart the certainty
That the spirit of life is with you always.

When your heart is torn asunder
Or when you soar with sweet joy,
You are never alone, never apart,
From the spirit that resides within us,
That guides our lives and cherishes us always.

Take comfort.

Be well, the service is over.  Amen.

Yom Kippur

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Oct 9th, 2008


>> Chalice Lighting.

For every time we make a mistake and we decide to start again:
     We light this chalice.

For every time we are lonely and we let someone be our friend:
     We light this chalice.

For every time we are disappointed and we choose to hope:
     We light this chalice.

---
And a special candle lighting, repeated recently for the celebration of Yom Kippur.

Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam
asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav
v'tzivanu l'hadlik neir shel you hakippurim.

Blessed are You, our God, Creator of time and space,
who enriches our lives with holiness,
commanding us to kindle the Yom Kippur lights.

>> Reading

Here is an interpretation of the Hineni prayer
"Hineni" literally means "Here I Stand" and is said in Hebrew as part of the Yom Kippur service.

Here I stand
painfully aware of my flaws
quaking in my canvas shoes
and in my heart.

I'm here on behalf of this kahal
even though the part of me
that's quick to knock myself
says I'm not worthy to lead them.

All creation was nurtured
in Your compassionate womb!
God of our ancestors, help me
as I call upon your mercy.

Don't blame this community
for the places where I miss the mark
in my actions or my heart
in my thoughts or in our davening.

Each of us is responsible
for her own teshuvah.
Help us remember that
without recriminations.

Accept my prayer
as though I were exactly the leader
this community needs in this moment,
as though my voice never faltered.

Free me from my own baggage
that might get in the way.
See us through the rose-colored glasses
of Your mercy.

Transform our suffering into gladness.
Dear One, may my prayer reach You
wherever You are
for Your name’s sake.

All praise is due to You, Dear One
Who hears the prayers of our hearts.

--Rachel Barenblat

>>  Homily "Yom Kippur".

In the Jewish calendar the first ten days of the year, from the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah, through Yom Kippur, are the Days of Awe.
It is said that God has opened and is writing in The Book of Life those who have atoned for their sins in the last year.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is special, with many prayers and rituals all day at the synagogue
for at sundown the Book of Life is closed for the rest of the year.

In these High Holy Days, one is supposed to spend time thinking about those actions one
has commited to harm another, and also those inactions that have caused others to be harmed.
At this time everyone is to search out and ask forgiveness from those who have been harmed.
It is kind of neat: here is a time of the year when you are expected to go out and ask for forgiveness.
A society has identified a time when asking for forgiveness is expected and normal.

I'm not a Jew, but the time my friends take off these past few days gives me an opportunity to pause
and reflect on some of the things I've done in my life recently.
I do take this time of year to find a few people who I have harmed, explain why this time of year is
special to Jews, and ask to make amends with them.
With my wife, who thinks this is just a little bit silly, she knows this is a good time for us to go over the
state of our relationship.

In my real life church, we have our annual Service of Reconciliation, where we reflect on our actions of the last year.
All of us take a small stone as we enter the santuary, and spend time reflecting on our recent actions while holding that stone.
If, by about three-quarters of the way through the service, we think our names would be in the Book of Life, we can return the
stomes to a table in the santuary; if we think we have some more work to do, we keep the stones.
About half of the congregation returns the stones during the service.
While we reconcile with those we have harmed, we can carry the stone and return it to the church (we have a rock garden).

For myself, I returned the stone, though I did have one bit of work to do--here in Second Life, in fact.
The person whom I asked forgiveness a few days ago is familiar with the Days of Awe, and seemed amused that I asked
forgiveness for being very very annoying, but not really harmful.

The High Holy Days are a good time to go out of our way to ask for forgiveness;
there are thousands of years of tradition to cover our actions.
We have the entire calendar to use to make amends.

>>  Discussion.

How do we return to completeness after part of our soul is broken from our action or our inaction?
Can we use a Ritual of Reconciliation in our congregations?
Do you feel that avatars can cause as much real pain as a person, or are we just capable of being annoying and not much more?
How can we here in Second Life heal some of the hurt that has been done?

What do you think?


>>  Closing Words.


There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken,
A shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy
And a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space too vast for words
Through which we pass with each loss,
Out of whose darkness we are sanctified into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound whose serrated edges cut the heart
As we break open to the place inside which is unbreakable
And whole.
  -- Rashini

We are never complete.
We are never finished.
We are always yet to be.
May we always allow others to be,
and help and enable each other to grow toward all that we are capable of becoming.

May every sunrise hold more promise, every moonrise hold more peace.

Be well, the service is over... 
LeShana Haba BiYerushalayim!  Next Year In Jerusalem!

The Intimacy of Strangers

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Aug 14, 2008

I'll start with the service I delivered last night:

 Good things happen when you meet strangers.
 -- Yo-Yo Ma

 

 >> Chalice Lighting.

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space.
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
  -- Albert Einstein

 

 >>  Discussion.  "The Intimacy of Strangers."

We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight,
somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.
 -- Fyodor Dostoevsky

A few years ago, a former minister of my RL church, Sarah York, wrote a book called "The Holy Intimacy of Strangers."
The book discussed how strangers--those unknown to us--come into our lives in special ways, and let our better selves show through.
She gave examples on how helping total strangers in their time of need fills an important need in our souls; giving a ride to
a hitchhiker, and buying lunch for someone down on their luck.

Those new to us--those strange to us--give us a blank canvas on which we can paint our humanity, in a personal, one-on-one way.
With some we meet, we can live our second principle: "Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations."
Who best to try something new than with someone who doesn't know anything about us?

Rev. York also discussed how chance encounters with strangers can let us explore and discuss things,
topics that we wouldn't share with those closest to us.
The "stranger on the plane" effect we've all probably experienced.
This can be a good thing--by opening up to someone we think we'll never see again, perhaps we can build the courage to
open up to those we are really close to.
We can discuss options with a disinterested third party, and perhaps gain insight from a perspective unknown and unsought.

Sometimes we do know a little about strangers we meet: I can say that here in Second Life I've collaborated with a few of
you here, knowing nothing other than you are probably Unitarian Universalist (if not in fact, at least in heart).
Knowing that little bit, I can make a few assumptions about projects we can attempt together; sometimes incorrect but more
often than not a spark has been generated.
We merge our talents together as a small group of strangers here.
A few people here I have grown close to; some of you I am happy to have met, and some of you I very much look forward to meeting.

Slightly related, My former minister brings up that the internet, and by extension here in Second Life,
we have an opportunity to reconnect with those who have become strangers; those who we were once close to, and have drifted apart.
Many of us are separated by distance--and teleportation here solves that problem easily.
A generation ago, people would write letters; today we have emails.  
But the little events that happen in our lives that people may care about are lost if no-one is close enough to see.
Here in Second Life we can just text chat the little events of our lives; during the day at work I have a Google chat window up
and a few of you have just chatted with me; some to just pass the time, and a few times to help each other through the day.

Maybe that is the beauty of Twitter: the free online service where you can post short messages about what you are up to,
and people can subscribe and see what is going on.
Your friends and family can keep up with those little things happen in your life.
I think Twitter is a bit too narcissistic, then again, I thought the same about blogs and yet I find myself starting one for myself.

Along with a place where we can pursue our own games and hobbies and individual projects, it just may be possible to
form communities here in this place that is everywhere-yet-nowhere.

Putting the Justice in Environmentalism

By: Kat Liu

Delivered at: Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalists, in Finksburg, MD

On: March 9th, 2008

Reading:

by Wangari Maathai, from her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.

In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other.

That time is now.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has challenged the world to broaden the understanding of peace: there can be no peace without equitable development; and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space. This shift is an idea whose time has come.

Sermon:

Putting the Justice in Environmentalism

First, let me thank you all for inviting me into your congregation this Sunday to worship with the Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalists. I am honored. I’m here today, first as a fellow Unitarian Universalist, and second as the Assistant Director of the Washington Office for Advocacy of the UUA. Our office exists to represent your voice on Capitol Hill, and also to provide support and resources to UU congregations and individuals in your advocacy work.

I didn’t start off thinking this is what I’d be doing now, living in Washington DC, working for a religious lobbying group. Long before I’d ever heard of Unitarian Universalism, I grew up in the San Francisco bay area wanting to be a scientist. Not that political activism was that far a stretch. I was a good, Northern California liberal, attending my first political protests in high school, many of them having to do with environmental concerns. Every Friday at noon we had a “die-in,” where everyone in the courtyard would drop to the ground to “simulate” what would happen in the event of nuclear war. College at UC Berkeley in the early 80’s meant campus protests for divestment from South Africa and also against nuclear proliferation. Those of you who came into adulthood later may find this hard to believe but for young adults at THAT time, the threat of mass extinction from thermonuclear annihilation was a pressing fear on many people’s minds.

In addition to nukes, there was save the whales. Save the rain forests. And by the time I got to graduate school at Caltech, it was save the spotted owls. By then, I had at various times been a member of Green Peace, Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists. I recycled, fretted over paper or plastic, bought Seventh Generation cleaning products. And there was also the camping, communing with nature. From Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Anza Borego in California to the beautiful national parks in Utah – Arches, Bryce, and Zion. If you haven’t been to these places, you really should.

And in all of this, there was almost a hostility to humankind. If I was enjoying the scenic beauty, experiencing the spirituality of being one with nature, the last thing that I wanted to see was humans, other than the ones I had come with. If there were too many of them, well, we just had to move, to go some place more remote, more pristine.

Indeed, my view of “nature” was that it was pristine, virginal, having not been touched by man.

And one could have seen the same thing in my approach to environmental issues. I never went so far as to say, “If only humans weren’t around then the whole world could live in peace.” Well, ok, maybe I said that once or twice. But in general my misanthropy was more subtle. The rain forests were being destroyed. It was all the fault of those greedy people who were cutting them down for money. The spotted owls were endangered. It was all the fault of those loggers.

Sure…. I had vague misgivings when I actually thought of the loggers as people, trying to earn a living and feed their families…. But surely they should be able to see that saving a species is more important. That they would just have to find other jobs, and if that was an inconvenience for them, well, that’s unfortunate but it couldn’t be helped. Vaguely… I understood that a truly just approach to environmentalism would involve helping those affected to find new jobs – training, assistance, economic development – instead of just vilifying them. But that kind of work was for someone else to figure out. What was most pressing was to save the owls. Still, it left me feeling uncomfortable. Something was not quite right.

Social activism aside, I went on in science, earning my Ph.D. in biology and moving to New York for a postdoctoral position. It was on Long Island that I found UU. Away from the social activism structures that I knew in California, I realized that if I didn’t join a group of some kind that would help remind me of the larger community, I was in danger of just working in the lab and not caring about the rest of the world. So I joined UU. A bit later, I decided to leave science, moved to DC to study religion at Georgetown, became very involved at All Souls in DC, and then involved in the workings of our denomination as a whole.

General Assembly of 2006 was my second GA, and while I was aware that we had been working for two years on a Statement of Conscience on Global Warming/Climate Change, I hadn’t bothered to look at the text. Surely, I thought, we UUs know environmentalism and we’ll craft a worthy Statement. Pam Sparr, who is a fellow member of All Souls and a member of the UU Ministry for Earth was one of the people that I was thinking of when I figured we UUs knew what we were doing. Well, Pam and others at the UUMFE do know their stuff on the environment, but that didn’t mean that all UUs did. When she showed me the text, I was stunned. On the eve of General Assembly, when we were supposed to ratify this Statement of Conscience on Global Warming/Climate Change that was to represent us as Unitarian Universalists to the wider world, there were some serious flaws with the penultimate draft.

I’ll tell you about the most glaring problem. As part of our efforts to combat Global Warming/Climate Change, our Statement of Conscience called on developing countries to limit their population growth…. Some of you may be wondering what’s wrong with that. After all, over population is a serious concern, taxing our earth’s resources and keeping families in poverty. Wouldn’t we want to promote responsible family planning? Yes. Yes, we would. But not as part of our Statement on Global Warming. Here’s why. The United States constitutes 5% of the world’s population, yet it creates 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. We are 5% of the world’s population, yet we consume 25% of the world's fossil fuel resources. Per capita, we use five times more resources than the average human and we belch out five times more pollution. And yet our Statement of Conscience was saying, yeah, global climate change is a really serious problem and we want you all out there to fix it for us. You all who use less than we do, and pollute less than we do are gonna fix this problem, even though we’re the main culprits.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

That was when the concept of Environmental Justice really hit home. Our Statement of Conscience had the right goal in mind. Yes, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming/climate change is a pressing reality, and we really need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But environmental justice says that how we get to that goal is as important as getting there. Who is being most affected? Who is most responsible for the problem? Who bears the brunt of the “solution”? And who gets to decide what happens? These were the questions that were missing from our Statement of Conscience. Missing from our general awareness. As a result, despite the best intentions of the environmentalist communities, more often than not it is the poor and communities of color who are made to suffer the most from both the environmental problems and their solutions, even though they have less access to the benefits and little control over how resources are used. This is true both internationally and within our country.

Some other examples of environmental injustice:
In relatively affluent and thus shielded, middle America, people are still debating whether global climate change is even real. It’s discussed on a theoretical level, like whether life on Mars could have existed at some time. Meanwhile, within our own borders in Alaska, the Inupiak and Yup’ik peoples are losing their land and way of life due to the melting permafrost. Over 180 villages are expected to slip into the sea within the next ten years.[1] In the South Pacific, low-lying island nations are going under the waves as well, creating a tidal wave of climate refugees. Tens of thousands of islanders have applied for residence in New Zealand.[2] Entire cultures will have to be transplanted. The irony is that these people contribute the least to global warming, and yet they are the first to suffer.

Even more than loss of land, loss of fresh drinkable water is the greatest concern. All over South and Southeast Asia, sources of fresh drinking water are drying up or being contaminated by rising salt waters, ruining agriculture, creating refugees and conflict. Global climate change is a peace and security issue.

And speaking of the coal-burning power plants that are responsible for much of the change, where are they located in this country? Where do our garbage dumps go? Usually, power plants and garbage dumps are near the poorer neighborhoods or communities of color, people who don’t have the power to say, “Not in my back yard.” This is where the highest levels of lead and other toxins are located, and not surprisingly the highest incidences of children’s asthma.

To be honest, in all my years of trying to conserve and reduce, reuse, recycle, I never used to wonder where my electricity and clean water came from or where my waste went. I had wanted to reduce landfill waste for the sake of the “environment,” so that my beloved wildernesses would not one day be turned into garbage dumps. But I did not think of who already had to live down-wind of the land-fills we have right now.

To look at environmentalism through a social justice lens means to look at the picture as a whole, not just focusing on the immediate causes and effects. If people living near rain forests are clear cutting them to graze cows, we have to look at why a they doing this. And when we do, we see people being pressured into plundering their own natural resources in order to supply us with the cheap goods that drive our consumer-based economy. Given that we too depend on healthy rain forests as much as they do, to keep carbon gas levels lower and maintain biodiversity, perhaps we too need to take responsibility for their preservation. Perhaps we need to help them find ways to preserve the forests and feed their families, in partnership with them. To look at environmentalism through a social justice lens means that everyone involved has a voice in the decisions, at every level. It is a holistic and democratic approach to the environment.

My studies in biology taught me well that we humans are no better than other species. We share our DNA and a common origin, and from the standpoint of evolutionary theory are no “better” than the cockroach. But if I had really been paying attention, I would have understood this meant we humans are no worse than other species. Indeed, we are natural. Not separate from nature. And our Seventh Principle says the same thing. It calls us to affirm and promote the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part. We cannot think in terms of either or. It cannot be either the spotted owls or the loggers; it must be both/and. Thus, any truly comprehensive view of environmentalism must incorporate the needs of our fellow humans into the picture. Our Seventh Principle calls us to come into right relationship with our mother Earth, with our fellow humans, and with other species.

For those of you who don’t know how things turned out with our 2006 Statement of Conscience on Global Warming, I am very proud to report that when the injustice of the population control provision was pointed out to them, the UUs at General Assembly of 2006 were reasonable and fair enough to take it out. In the end, after much debate, which is de rigueur with UUs, we ratified a Statement of which UUs can be proud. It was another positive step in our prophetic tradition of witnessing for social justice. I believe that we UUs, with our long histories in the racial and economic justice movements and the environmentalist movement and the peace movement, (and the feminist movement for that matter,) can make the connections. To see the interdependency of all these things and realize they must be approached as one unified, organic movement. Now is the time.

Now is the time, as Wangari Maathai said in our opening reading, making the connections between all these things for us. She said, “There can be no peace without equitable development; and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space.” We are called to heal the earth and in the process heal ourselves, for as long as we see ourselves as separate from the earth and from each other, we cannot be whole. Now is the time for us to “shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground.”

Amen.

La Premisa y la Promesa

Construyendo el Mundo que Hemos Soñado

Por Roberto Padilla

First Unitarian Church of San Jose, CA

24 de febrero, 2008

Permítanme empezar citando al Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“… Hoy tengo el sueño que todos los hijos de Dios, hombres blancos y hombres negros, judíos y gentiles, protestantes y católicos, serán capaces de juntar las manos y cantar con las palabras del viejo espiritual negro: “¡Al fin libres!”
Este era el sueño del Rev. King y también es nuestro sueño. Esta es la premisa que tenemos, ser unas comunidades UUs multirraciales y multiculturales.

¿Pero como vamos a lograrlo? La respuesta sería aplicando los principios Unitarios Universalistas.
Nosotros, convenimos en afirmar y fomentar:
El valor y la dignidad propia de cada persona; la justicia, equidad y compasión en las relaciones humanas y la aceptación del uno al otro y el estimulo al crecimiento espiritual en nuestras congregaciones. Estas son las bases de la premisa para Construir el Mundo que Hemos Soñado.

Hace muchos años, la entonces Rev. Decana Lindi Ramsden, inicio el experimento de crear aquí en San José, una comunidad multicultural, multirracial y bilingüe. La idea sonaba bien y se ajustaba perfectamente con nuestros principios UUs. Ella hablaba acerca de que la comunidad donde nos encontramos es una comunidad de VMWs y carritos de supermercado; en otras palabras, en el Valle del Silicón, vive gente de clase media alta que pertenece al mundo de la tecnología y en la calle de atrás viven los marginados.

La idea era trabajar juntos los dos grupos, ¿pero por donde empezar? Había que sortear algunos obstáculos. A algunas personas no les gusto esa idea y se retiraron de la iglesia. Algunas de las que se quedaron, también tuvieron miedo de entrar en contacto con otra cultura; ¿Si invitamos a los latinos a nuestros hogares que podremos decirnos? ¿Como nos vamos a entender en dos idiomas, dos formas diferentes de ser y actuar?

El principio era integrar a nuestra comunidad con este grupo no privilegiado, pero había la barrera del idioma. Comenzamos por traducir al español, sermones, oraciones, cantos, poemas, folletos, etc., para todos aquellos que no hablaban inglés. Y luego, después de algunas negociaciones, la UUA autorizó la traducción del libro “La Fe Que Hemos Escogido” el cual fue traducido por Ervin Barrios y la Rev. Ramsden tomo varios cursos de español.

También existía la barrera socioeconómica, el nivel económico de los latinos era muy bajo y ellos también necesitaban integrarse al mudo productivo, entonces se crearon las clases de inglés y computación, además se les regalaron computadoras; detrás de todo estaba la idea de crear relaciones personales, porque así sería más fácil integrar a los dos grupos.

Hablando de relaciones personales, privilegios y no privilegiados, me recuerda que yo nací privilegiado en el seno de una familia de estrato socioeconómico medio de la Ciudad de México, con diferentes Universidades, diferentes opciones, mis padres aunque de clase no muy acomodada, les permitía que nosotros sus hijos asintiéramos a la escuela, teníamos el privilegio de estudiar sin preocuparnos de donde venia el dinero para nuestro alimento o nuestros libros. Yo tenía el privilegio de los niños de la ciudad. Este privilegio me dio la oportunidad de ir a la escuela, educarme y perseguir el sueño de ser doctor, porque quería ayudar a los necesitados. El día que me gradué jure que me iba a dedicar a los necesitados, para eso iba a usar mis conocimientos, el privilegio que yo tenia. Esa era mi promesa.

Privilegio se puede definir como la ventaja que se tiene por la cual no se ha trabajado. Yo no pedí nacer en la Ciudad de México, yo no pedí tener la familia que tengo, para mi fue un privilegio, pero también tenía una responsabilidad, la de usar ese privilegio que yo tenia. Fui a la universidad y en mi afán de ayudar a los necesitados, elegí ir a trabajar a un pequeño poblado de la sierra de Veracruz, México. Mi privilegio de hombre de ciudad, de clase media y estudiado lo lleve con migo, iba a cumplir mi premisa y mi promesa. En el camino a ese pueblo, me perdí y, ahí estaba yo, en la mitad de la nada, solamente con mi privilegio de haber ido a la Universidad, con mis conocimientos, pero con eso no se quita ni el frió, ni el hambre, ni el miedo a estar en un lugar desconocido.

Cuando por fin llegue al pueblo, llegue a una modesta oficina médica con mis conocimientos, con mi sueño de ayudar. Llegue a una sociedad donde nunca habían tenido un médico, donde hablaban español (Ahí no existía la barrera del lenguaje) y mi primer paciente me dijo, “Doctor me siento feo”. ¿Feo?, estábamos hablando el mismo idioma pero yo no podía entender a mi paciente; yo que había pasado los exámenes de bioquímica más difíciles y no podía entender lo que este señor quería decirme con que se sentía feo, yo que había escrito ensayos muy largos con una ortografía perfecta, no podía entender a lo que se refería con sentirse feo. Tuve que solicitar la ayuda de alguien del pueblo para poder entender lo que él me estaba diciendo. (El se sentía enfermo)

En este pueblo aparte de los problemas de salud, había problemas de educación; la única escuela que había solo llegaba al tercer grado. Si querían seguir estudiando, tenían que trasladarse a otro pueblo que quedaba a dos horas de distancia. Entonces ¿como iba yo a lograr cumplir con mi sueño, con mi premisa y mi promesa de ayudárnoslos? Empecé a hablar con ellos, a entrar en sus casas, a entender su lenguaje, su cultura, sus costumbres y tradiciones. Me quite la bata de médico y me fui al campo con ellos, también me fui con ellos a ordeñar la leche que después yo me iba a tomar, además era muy divertido; aparte de aprender cosas nuevas, empecé a hacer relaciones, a ser parte de su comunidad. En lugar de esperar a que alguien me llevara la comida, decidí ir yo directamente con quien me hacia de comer y esperar pacientemente a que la comida estuviera lista, teniendo la oportunidad de hablar con la gente, de sus propios sueños, de sus propios anhelos, pero en el terreno en donde ellos se sentían más confortables, en el seno de sus hogares. Y la gente lo empezó a apreciar.

Primero había que hacer relaciones a nivel humano, a nivel sensible, para poder usar la responsabilidad que me daba el privilegio que tenia para ayudarlos. Yo tenía el poder de poder hablar mejor que ellos para comunicarme a niveles gubernamentales más altos cuando se requería. Esa era parte de mi responsabilidad dado el privilegio que tenía. Así logramos crear un Kindergarden, ampliar la escuela hasta sexto grado, crear una tele-secundaria e introducir el teléfono al pueblo,

Cuando requería de ellos para algún proyecto sanitario que mi trabajo me exigía, ellos gustosos me ayudaban, porque no estaban trabajando con el doctor, estaban trabajando con el amigo, con uno de ellos. Cuando llegue a ese pueblo, por supuesto que tenía mucho miedo, al salir de mi casa pensé ¿estaré a salvo?, ¿de que podré hablar con ellos si no tenemos nada en común? Después entendí que entre el señor que ordeñaba la vaca y yo no había gran diferencia, los dos tomábamos la misma leche, los dos teníamos los mismos sueños de crecer y ver crecer a nuestras propias familias, ellos trabajaban en el campo y yo trabajaba en el campo de mi conocimiento; en realidad no había mucha diferencia. La ropa que yo usaba y la que ellos usaban no hacían la diferencia, la diferencia fue la forma en como nos relacionábamos.

El Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. fue un doctor, tuvo el privilegio de haber tenido un padre que lo impulso a estudiar, tuvo el privilegio de nacer con el don de la palabra, pero el regreso a la iglesia donde se daba el conflicto, empezó a hacer relaciones. En la época del boicot de los autobuses, el camino como los demás, camino con sus amigos. También sabemos que Cesar Chávez organizo a todos los trabajadores, pero primero hizo relaciones personales con ellos para poder lograr un fin común. Aquí vemos dos diferentes cualidades de liderazgo. Esta comunidad de San José es una comunidad líder y ustedes que asisten a la conferencia “Ahora es el tiempo”, también son líderes, lideres de sus propias comunidades.

Multiculturalismo no es aprender un idioma o traducir unos folletos, esto va más allá, es sentarse a la mesa de los otros, es ir a ordeñar la vaca y disfrutar juntos el proceso, sin el miedo al que dirán, sin el miedo a no poder entendernos, sin el temor de si saldré bien de este encuentro intercultural. Permítanme preguntarles, ¿Cuantos de ustedes han visitado las casas de personas de diferente color, raza o cultura?, ¿cuantos de ustedes han tenido sentado en sus mesas a alguien de una cultura, raza o color diferente a la de ustedes?

La gran mayoría de los Unitarios Universalistas de este país tienen el privilegio de haber nacido blancos, ellos no pidieron nacer blancos, pero tienen la responsabilidad que viene junto con ese privilegio, que es como usar el privilegio que se tiene, de como se puede usar ese privilegio para el bien común. Los que tenemos esos privilegios, no tenemos que preocuparnos por problemas de migración, por cuestiones de lenguaje, conocemos el sistema, conocemos nuestras leyes. Nosotros podemos ser la voz de aquellos que no tienen esos privilegios, empezando por reconocer el valor y la dignidad de cada persona.

Esta es la premisa y al mismo tiempo es la promesa; afirmar y fomentar el valor y la dignidad de cada persona; la justicia, equidad y compasión en las relaciones humanas y la aceptación del uno al otro. Con la promesa de una comunidad mundial con paz libertad y justicia para todos, respetando el tejido interdependiente de todo lo existente, del cual somos una parte.

Ustedes que vienen de muchas partes del país y nosotros aquí en San José, tenemos un sueño. Hoy, tenemos el sueño de que en un tiempo no muy lejano, podamos ver a nuestras comunidades UUs convertidas en comunidades donde blancos y negros, asiáticos y latinos, católicos, musulmanes y judíos nos demos la mano como hermanos, unidos todos por una sola fe.

El libro de Éxodo nos dice que Yahvé le prometió a su pueblo llevarlo a la tierra prometida, a la tierra donde ellos pudieran ser libres. Ellos lo siguieron a pesar de que al iniciar su peregrinar no les dijeron a donde estaba dicha tierra, ni cuando tiempo les iba a tomar para llegar a ella, ellos solamente sabían que con fe lo iban a lograr. Nosotros, los UU que estamos reunidos bajo este bello domo, sabemos que el camino es difícil, que habrá jornadas muy arduas adentro y afuera de nuestras propias comunidades para poder alcanzar nuestra tierra prometida, el de ser unas comunidades intencionalmente multirraciales, multiculturales, multiétnicas y porque no, multilingües.

Ven, ven cual eres ven, dice el himno con que iniciamos este servicio, este nos impulsa a invitar a todos a pertenecer a esta caravana de amor, sin importar raza, color, lengua, preferencia sexual, religión o condición socioeconómica, en otras palabras, los estamos invitando a formar parte de esta comunidad multicultural, multirracial, Hoy es el tiempo de empezar a despojarnos de nuestros miedos, nuestras arrogancias personales, nuestros malos entendidos. Hoy es el tiempo para trabajar juntos para logra nuestro sueño.

Oremos a cualquiera que sea el dios que adoremos, recordando que Cristo no era Cristiano, ni Mahoma era Musulmán, ni Buda era Budista, ni Krisna era Hindi, ni Yahvé era Judío, recordemos que Dios es multicultural, multiétnico, multirracial y políglota.
¡Hoy es el tiempo!

Amen.

 (Read this sermon in English.)

Pages

Subscribe to sermons

Latest Wizduum Blog Posts

11/12/2018 - 11:03
06/08/2018 - 11:54
04/24/2018 - 11:09

Forum Activity

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 08:11
Mon, 06/16/2014 - 07:09
Tue, 10/01/2013 - 22:01

Acknowledgments

wizdUUm.net is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative