Friday, March 29, 2013

Movie Reivew - Everything Must Go - 7 out of 10 on the Jaywo scale


Movie Review – Everything Must Go with Will Ferrell. A 7 out of 10.
It was late last  night and I was tired from a very long day and checked on Netflix to see if there were any new movies that might be of any interest to me.  I saw this and thought oh, Will Ferrell, that would be a nice light comedy to fall asleep to.  WRONG!!  This was a nice little flick.  It is a slice of life movie about a man’s descent, and hitting rock bottom, and his search for why it all went wrong and to remember the core of who he is.  It is a reminder of the suffering that we go through, and the suffering past on from generations past. Yet within the message was a hopeful reminder.  Through connections with others, we can overcome our own adversity and help others through theirs. “Everything is not yet lost”  Not light fare but very glad I watched it. Actually it was a good Easter message. My only problem with the movie, is that Ferrell always seems like he is playing a straight man in a comedy even when it is a drama. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wilderness


I have to admit, growing up I did not have a lot of experience with the physical wilderness.  I was never a boy scout either literally or figuratively.  I just never could figure out how to tie all those knots. You will notice, even now I wear loafers on my feet all the time.  Growing up I never once camped. My idea of wilderness was going to the Bronx Zoo.  Now my wife Jan grew up camping her entire life. So after we dated a while she suggested we try camping for a weekend.  And being the willing suitor that I was I agreed.    After we had procured all the proper equipment for tent and fire building and the mandatory marshmallows, we headed out on the highway to unknown territory.
Then it started to rain….and then it started to rain harder. I’m talking Noah and the flood kind of rain. I was seeing the signs, but I hung in there.  We finally make it to the campground and check in and as I get back into the car to drive to the campsite, mind you it still pouring down rain, and our car is stuck in the mud. But I still hung in there. I said to myself, I’ve seen something like this on tv.  I can handle this.  That will impress her.   So I start rocking the car back and forth and then I tell jan to hit the gas and you guessed it, as the car lurches out of the mud all the mud just flies all over me head to toe.  
At that point, I swallowed whatever little pride I had left and said we are going to find a hotel tonight. But I hung in there and came back the next day and put up the tent in the rain and we cooked over a wood fire with wood that I collected and some I even chopped with an axe.  That was exciting.  Please don’t ever give me an axe.  I spent the rest of the weekend communing with nature and had a wonderful time.  Sometimes doing new things, learning new things, can be difficult or messy. It takes us a while to figure out how things work.  We often when doing new things find a reservoir of skill that we never previously knew we had.  Now for many years thereafter and later on with our children, we went camping often, and things got easier over time,  but it never would have happened it I first hadn’t agreed to go along on the trip and if I hadn’t stuck in there, despite the setbacks, despite the rain, despite the mud. Sometimes we just have to stick with it and believe that it will get easier and live into that future.
This coming Monday evening is the start of Passover.  It is a Jewish Holiday that celebrated the ancient Hebrews freedom from slavery and oppression from the Egyptians. 
Led by Moses As they fled into the wilderness away from oppression, they found the journey hard and dangerous.  They came upon incredible stumbling blocks that seemed insurmountable. Some of the Hebrews complained that the change was too hard.  Some of the Hebrews said (and I quote from the book of Exodus”) Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians.  For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” As they were fleeing the Egyptians, they came to the Red Sea. For those who have seen the movie the Ten Commandments, I am sure you are imagining Charlton Heston standing at the top of the mountain raising his staff and having the wind blow the Sea apart so the Hebrews could walk through  and then have the waves crash upon the Egyptians who are chasing them.   Now I am not looking to rationalize this story as many have by claiming it was low tide when the Hebrews crossed and high tide when the Egyptians crossed, for I feel that truly misses the point of this story.  This is a beautiful story of overcoming insurmountable obstacles it is the story of sticking with it, it is the story of despite doubt going forward.  
There is a midrash about this story.  It is the story of Nahshon. As everyone was facing the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them, people were starting to panic, people were starting to go in all different directions in fear, but then Nahson took one step into the Red Sea, and asked God to part the waters. Nothing happened. People started looking on in curiosity. Then Nahshon went into the Sea up to his waist and asked God to part the waters, Nothing happened. But the people started gathering. Then Nashon went into the Sea up to his neck and asked God to part the waters but nothing happened, but the people started to follow him into the water,
Then Nashon walked in so he was completely submerged in the water and asked God to part the waters, and then, only they did the waters part.  Only when he was fully committed to his course of action risking everything, and the people followed did something amazing happen.  What I love about the Exodus story is that it is not just one person heading into the wilderness, but a whole community of people.  Unsure of their way, sometimes doubting but ultimately fully committed to walk together to look for a better way of existence. 
This is our task, to submerge ourselves with the belief that our mission and vision we hope to make real is possible, to not only take that first step but to continue to walk that path, committed. Jump in the water, submerge yourselves into this wilderness journey of building beloved community. It may be messy we may get wet, but we will do it together and we will be better people for the experience. The wilderness is a common theme within many religious traditions.
The Hebrew tradition is rich with wilderness stories, from Adam and Eve journeying from the Garden, from Abraham leaving his home, continuing with Moses going into the wilderness and seeing the burning bush and experiencing God, to the Exodus story I just spoke of where the Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness searching for their ancestral homeland. In Christianity, John the Baptist appears in the Wildnerness making proclamations and many come flocking from the cities to hear him. As well the wilderness motif is used in the gospels as Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.  In Islam, the Prophet Muhammod would go off into the wilderness to pray and during one such time in a cave, he received the first revelation from Allah through the angel Gabriel.  In the Eastern Tradition of Buddhism, Budda sat under a Bodhi tree determined not to move until he had found the answers he sought.  Over time, His mind became calm and clear and he gained enlightenment.  Upon attaining enlightenment it is said that he dedicated the rest of his life to teaching what he had discovered to others to help reduce suffering in the world. 
And in Daoism, it is believed by some that Lao tzu was a govt official who got tired of the rat race, and left civilized world – but before he left the story goes, the gatekeeper at western end of the land asked him why he was giving up prestigious job to go to the wilderness. And it is said that from his answers to the gate keeper we have the wisdom of the Dao De Ching which speaks of humans living in harmony with nature.
So the wilderness is seen in these stories as needed to travel through on the way to our destination, as a test, as a place to receive revelation, as a place to find enlightenment, and a place to escape to and live in harmony with.  What does the wilderness mean to you.  One way to think of wilderness is as a place in the desert where one is alone. It can be a harsh environment, and only the harshest things can survive in such a place.  We are tested as to our ability to survive and overcome obstacles.  This type of wilderness does not have to be a physical place but can also a state of mind.  We can feel alone, cut off, we can see the world as a harsh existence, trying to survive in hope of a better day in some far off future. Growing up in NYC I learned one can be alone even among 8 million people, or one can feel connected to all that is through a single blade of grass (rose) growing up through the concrete.  Thinking of this latter metaphor for Wilderness on the other hand, we could also view the wilderness as merely unexplored territory, it can be full of diverse nature, and brimming with different life other than ones own,  where we are not alone but find wholeness with all that is. Such a wilderness takes a creative, inquisitive and resourceful soul to survive. It is so interesting to think about how we have these metaphors for life. Is life a challenge to be overcome, , a puzzle to be solved, or maybe a mystery to be explored. Which metaphor you use can often impact the direction of your life.  
Whether actual or metaphorical, the wilderness represents our time away from our every day existence. A way to step back from the day to day, to step back from the hectic pace, or even just to step back from the mundane of our routines.  It is a way of being intentional about looking within. Looking for the core of who we and how we connect to the world and others. In that stepping back,  being in a different environment whether physically or mentally, we can view ourselves through a a different lens and be transformed. We can view ourselves though a lens of our own making versus the lens that society views us by.
Often we end up viewing ourselves though the lens that other create for us. Going to the wilderness, separating ourselves allows us to see ourselves for who we are, and who we want to be. It is about being self-reflective. And by being self reflective we see our interdependence with others and with nature. Now as I have grown older I have come to appreciate being alone in nature. I often take retreat in the woods of North Carolina or the Mountains in Sedona Arizona,
When I walk in nature, I realize I am not alone, If I pay attention, I hear the voices of the earth speaking to me, I hear the bird singing, the rustle of leaves caused by the scampering of some creature, the fish jumping in the stream, I let the leaf from the branch gently brush against my head, I hear the water rustle down the way, I hear the sound of my own heart beating. I am at one with the world. I am in nature, I am a part of nature. I can allow my life to unfold as it shoud naturally and after a while coming back to the world learning how to do this anywhere anytime.
Unitarian Henry David Thoreau, famous for his walks in the woods I think sums it up best when he wrote
“There is nothing so sanative so poetic as a walk in the woods and the fields. Nothing so excites me and inspires such serene and profitable thought. I come to my solitary woodland walk, as the homesick go home. I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they truly are, grand and beautiful. This stillness, solitude wildness of nature is a kind of thoroughwort or boneset (plant with healing properties – I had to look it up) to my intellect. This is what I go out to seek”

The truth is, most people don’t like to go seek, to go to the wilderness. Its hard, muddy work. We have to take risks of submerging ourselves.  When we are in the wilderness and we look within sometimes we don’t always like what we see, and so we avoid such introspection, but only by looking, only by such reflection is transformation possible. What is it that is your/our wilderness journey.  What path are we walking as we find who we are as individuals and as a Congregation. Come let us  walk together. We will have one of many opportunities to do so, Next Saturday Morning as we submerge ourselves and reflect on the future of the programs of the Congregation, which I invite you to participate.  
Lastly, I would like to remind you that all who wander are not lost. May our wanderings bring us what we seek, may they bring us peace, may they bring us healing. I would rather die in the wilderness with you than serve the Egyptians. Let us go and find those who are fleeing in fear, let us all gather and let us walk in the water together, Let us all find our way home.
May it be so.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Happiness


Early in my college education I took a philosophy class.  One of the first topics the teacher asked us to write a paper on and discuss with the class was what is meant by happiness.  Being the how shall I say exploratory person that I was at the time, I entitled my paper “There is no such thing as Happiness” and proceeded to make the argument that how we utilize the word happiness is really Contentment.  Oh what an uproar this had in the class.  I remember people actually getting out of their seats confronting me, incredulous at such a notion.  One person asked what if I got a new car, wouldn’t that make me happy?   No I replied, I didn’t even own a car then as I used mass transit (for those who have seen my car you know how little value I place on that even today) Another person asked if making love made me happy, and I realized what they were getting at.  They were speaking of pleasure.  I think we often confuse happiness with pleasure.  Pleasures tend to be short term fleeting moments of euphoria.  Now I am not against pleasure. But I think that is different than happiness.  Yet another person asked what if I won the lottery, wouldn’t that make me happy.  Now I am not against money.
I believe the old saying is true that money cannot buy happiness.  Although I have often retorted money does make being unhappy a lot easier.  Lets be honest, it is easier to live in the world with money than without money.  But it is a common fact that many people who win the lottery have their lives destroyed by winning and end up more unhappy after they win it.   Partially, I think there is something to the saying that money earned is more valuable than money won.   There have been studies done that indicate that when one earns between 50-75k, they are happier than when they earn less than that.  But they are not significantly happier when they earn over 75k. The theory being that once basic needs such as food and shelter are met, more money does not make us more happy.  I certainly dont think it follows that people making under 50k a year are less happy.  I have to say it is hard for me to understand how they can scientifically test for happiness.  If you just ask someone if they feel happy, it is a subjective answer.  I once read that happiness = resources/desires. (that connected with my inner accountant) So if you have more money, you can fulfill more of your desires, and if you don’t have money, you just have to reduce your desires in order to obtain happiness. 
I  think that moves us to a deeper conversation of the pursuit of happiness, and the pursuit of desires. Of course the The Declaration of Independence states we have the “unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Benjamin Franklin reminded us though that we have to catch happiness ourselves.  And I think that in and of itself is part of the problem. Our constant striving for, constant yearning, constant longing for something that will bring us happiness in the future keeps us unsatisfied with what we do have. The danger of giving up striving, is that we equate acceptance of the way things are with quitting, with giving up.
I would argue that what we need to give up is our attachment to outcomes.  There are things in the world we don’t control. Our desire to control our destiny and the reality that we cannot fully do so is what I believe leads to unhappiness.  More importantly I think we need to know that our life has meaning, and that how we go about living our life has meaning. Its about knowing who you are in the world and what your purpose is, which may change over time.  Happiness is created as we pursue our purpose in life. We are so often worrying about how things will end up that we don’t take the time to enjoy the process and to just be happy in the present moment.   Will I win the tournament, will my child get into the best school, will they go to college, will I get that promotion.   
Viktor Frankl, a Concentration Camp survivor in his book Man;s search for Meaning wrote:

“Don't aim at happiness. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.  Happiness must happen, you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say! success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”

I can personally attest to this. When I was young and first out of school, I wanted to make a lot of money.  I didn’t want to win the lottery I wanted to make money.  The truth is I never made a lot of money or rose above middle management until I stopped trying to make money.  That happened when  I started working harder at crafting my skills, and at crafting my spirit. I did not succeed until I knew who I was, and how I wanted to act in the world and then I acted that way in the world and I have been immensely happy since.   
So when someone asked me to do something, I thought was wrong, I was comfortable saying no, I was comfortable potentially losing my job,  because if I was not in good enough relationship with the people I worked with to tell them I thought they were wrong, then either I had to build better relationships with them or go to a different company that would allow for that. I also had to be in good enough relationship with them for them to tell me I was wrong as well and for me to be open to learn from an experience.   I know there is an aphorism that goes, I would rather be lucky than good.  But I confess I would rather be good than lucky, because you cant count on luck. I accept luck wherever I find it and I was lucky, first when I moved to Florida I found  a good group of people who I worked with over my 18 years prior to entering ministry, that allowed for that type of relationship. Teaching each other and learning from each other.  Some of our business ventures were a success, some were not, and when they were not, we would work together figure out better solutions for the future. We journeyed together working towards a common goal. Was it luck or synchronicity that had me look for that position at just that time, with people who I could connect with that would allow me to grow in skill and spirit.  And that was part of it. 
At this same time I was growing my religious life as well and the two interconnected, where my religious ideals met with the business world and they each enhanced each other and my life de-compartmentalized.  I was good in my previous profession, but I cant say at first it made me happy.  But as I was becoming comfortable within my own skin and knowing myself and engaging with others in a deep way, I realized it was my choice, it was my journey, and I found happiness in the moment, in the satisfaction of a job well done, in the relationships I built with colleagues and workers,  in my ability to help others improve their skills.
I take pride in the fact that whenever  I left a position, I had trained the person who reported to me well enough to be able to replace me. And as I got more comfortable with who I was, I allowed myself to hear my call to ministry. This self-actualization led me to pursue ministry without knowing the outcome, not knowing what would happen, just knowing it was my purpose in life. When I started, not knowing how long it would take, or how I would make it to the end, just knowing that I would do everything in my power to make it.   Not knowing where I would be called but knowing wherever it was I would serve in whatever way was needed.
Upon accepting the call here Not knowing how long it will last, but knowing that  I will serve with my best ability and will create relationships with all of you that will hopefully lead us to grow in skill and spirit over many many years. This knowing who I am, and pursuing and working at something meaningful in my life has brought me immense happiness on a daily basis.  I believe being happy, whether I was making more or less money also improved my relationship with my family. They saw me being happy and that made them happy. Being happy impacts how we react  to each other and how others react to us.  Think about how you react to others when you are unhappy vs. happy. 
So I ask you, what brings meaning to your life, what is your purpose in life. What fires up your creative juices. Consciously think about those things, and when you find it, Spend your time there.
Being happy doesn’t mean we will never suffer.  None of us escapes suffering in our life.  The question is how do we deal with suffering There is always a choice, Viktor Frankel also wrote of his time in the Concentration Camp,  “Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”  So what is the way that you will choose your attitude.  
We cant control how others act, but we can control how we react. Sometimes we just have  to choose to be unreasonably happy.    I think of happiness more as a state of mind.  A state of mind about how we face the day, how we deal with adversity, how we treat ourselves and how we treat others.   When a decision is made that doesn’t  go the way we think it should, do we storm out and assume that others are intentionally trying to persecute us, do we become angry and divisive or do we remain in relationship and discuss it with the people and tell them why we disagree and maybe find out what their thought process was. 
Maybe we will find out it was not meant as a personal affront, but what they thought was the best decision overall, or maybe it was a bad decision.  People make bad decisions sometimes. The question is do we forgive and move forward and work together to figure out a better solution or do we punish each other with bitterness. Our Unitarian Universalist sources include Jewish and Christian Teachings that ask us to Love our neighbors as ourselves.  So if you are responding in anger, in bitterness to others you are not loving your neighbor and therefore you are not loving yourself.  
People get so caught up in their personal egotism of how the world should be and should treat them, and they let every perceived slight build up inside them and the truth is, it hurts them, and to protect themselves they want to project that hurt on others. The only way to break away from that hurt is to break out of the fearfulness that binds you and constricts your ability to be happy. As author Anais Nin wrote,  “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 
So I ask you to allow yourself to blossom. To allow yourself to be happy, to accept you don’t have to control the universe to be happy and loved,  but rather by working together in relationship, by growing together in skill and spirit, by learning to better understand ourselves and others in our community we can find wholeness, not compartmentalization but wholeness and happiness. 
But there is a risk.  When we open up to others, and are in real relationship, when we love,  we are vulnerable to pain and to loss. There is also a risk that we may have to change.  Risk requires us to trust the best intentions of others. If we are willing to risk  opening up and being truly happy for ourselves and for others, if we are willing to risk change, and pain and loss, we will have the opportunity to reach our full potential as human beings and as a congregation. So let us live, let us love, let us blossom, let us be unreasonably happy. May it be so

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Transcendentalists


The  living tradition which we share draws from many sources..  the first source  listed  is the direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all culture, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.
Whenever I hear this, and I love this wording. But I sometimes wonder how many people sat in an office for how many hours coming up with just this precise wording just as a way to come up with a way to express what they meant when they heard the word God.   I think we are beyond the concept of God as an  old white man with a beard in the sky. But we should never be beyond wonder, the magnificence,  complexity and beauty of the universe we live in, from the sunrise and sunset, to sustenance the earth provides for us, to the smile of new born child.  All of this to me is a transcending mystery and wonder that renews my spirit.  And  I think it is natural for us to want to better understand the environment in which we live and to better understand ourselves and how we relate to our environment.   This is what the Transcendentalist wondered about.  Does wisdom gained from the past merely lead us, or does it form a foundation from which to build on, or can we just know something intuitively.  
My mother, may she rest in peace, believed I should  learn intuitively  and not listen to others,  If I got in trouble for something and said something like all my friends were doing it.  Her favorite saying would if you friends  told you to jump off the roof would you?  Thus the message was not to listen to what others tell me, but look within for what is the right thing to do.  Now that advice has stood me well for my lifetime, although not always as planned. Through the rest of my adolescence, if my parents ever asked me to do something I didn’t want to, I would answer, if you told me to jump off the roof should I do that too?  And secondly  I had never before that moment ever considered jumping off the roof of my house. 
And for some reason that all of a sudden seemed like a good idea.  I soon found a way to do this without injuring myself and it ended up being a good way to slip out at night without raising suspicions,  so I could search for what I then thought were the mysteries and wonder of the universe which is completely different than what I think it is now.  Now I think that in of itself is an important point to ponder, how we understand mystery and wonder, how we understand God, changes over time, with more experiences in the world, and with more perspective lead us to different conclusions. And as well, although my mother wanted me to learn intuitively, I learned this from her
           The question as to how do we gain knowledge, and more specifically, how do we gain knowledge about the mysteries of life have been something that has perplexed humanity forever.   The Jewish People debated this in the Book of Job.
In it after Job has been suffering, Job’s Friend states
Ask the generation past,
Study what their fathers have searched out
For we are of yesterday and know nothing;
Our days on earth are a shadow
Surely they will teach you and tell you
Speaking out of their understanding
And Job replies
But ask the beasts, and they will teach you
The birds of the sky, they will tell you
Or speak to the earth, it will teach you
The fish of the sea, they will inform you
“If you would only keep quiet it would be considered wisdom on your part” God is not a man, like me , there is no arbiter between us.”
Job believes we can learn about mystery and wonder from observing nature, and from looking within.  This is the same message that the Transcendentalists brought to us in the 19th Century. 

Transcendentalists believed there was an ultimate truth in the world.  They believed that such ultimate truth could not be learned solely by reading ancient books or by events that happened in the past.  Truth they felt is eternal, and can be discerned by each individual and can be expressed in multiple ways. In Europe when Martin Luther,  one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century challenged many practices of the Catholic Church, he also believed that every one should have the right to read and interpret the Bible, which previously in Christianity had been controlled by the Priests.  Yet surprisingly he seemed shocked, that everyone didn’t interpret it the way he did. 
And as each person or groups of people interpreted the Bible differently separate denominations were formed.  The splintering of the various denominations continued and included what is called the radical protestant reformation of which the Unitarians are included and sadly led to tremendous bloodshed in Europe.  The avoidance of religious persecution and violence  is what led to many Europeans to come to America.  
In America prior to 1819 Unitarianism was part of the Mainline Congregational Church in New England.  Both Unitarians and Trinitarians were part of the same denomination.  But as different interpretation and different thoughts emerged, there was again a separation, a fracture. Although there were many issues that forced them to separate (of course the theological difference of Trinitarian view of God and Unitarian view of the Unity of God) one seminal issue was when Andrews Norton, a Unitarian Theologian who was a harsh critic of religions that believed in the pre-determination of the soul. was appointed the Dean of Harvard Divinity School.  This event eventually led to the creation of the American Unitarian Association in 1825.   Now you have to understand how challenging this was.  It split churches, and  churches were sued over money and property, all of which fractured communities.  I give you this as background, this deconstruction of religion as they knew it so you will understand the challenge that the Unitarians felt when the Transcendentalists movement started in the 1830s. 
Fresh from these wounds of splitting with the Congregationalists, which was Unitarians were now faced with exact charge that was hurled at them from the Congregationalist, when you allow free religious expression,  just how far down the rabbit hole are you going to go.  Pretty far, as we now know looking back.  
One of the leaders of the Transcendentalist movement was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Although we look at him as a Unitarian, he was only a Unitarian Minister for a few years.   Emerson’s father was a famous minister who died when Ralph was 8 years old, and his younger brother had a nervous breakdown just before Ralph entered the ministry, and after just two years in the ministry Ralph’s wife died.  Emerson like any human being is a complicated person.  He left the ministry soon after his wife died and became a prolific writer and public speaker. He wrote often about finding God within ourselves. From his essay Nature:
“In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God”
Transcendentalists  believed religion should not create fear, but should inspire people to transform themselves.   Transcendentalism basic premise was/is that humans have within themselves the capacity to understand God. The transcendentalists were the first ministers to incorporate biblical criticism,  eastern religious thought and literature into religion. The religious education methods introduced by the Transcendentalists focused on  uncovering children’s natural abilities, and developing them naturally through interactions with others and the world. These methods are ones we still incorporate into our religious education today.
These ideas took the Transcendentalists to the next logical conclusion, which is the same  as Job came to which is there no need for a mediator, whether that is a priest or rituals or Jesus, who the Transcendentalists looked upon as at best as a human exemplar. And although today this seems natural to us, then it was considered heretical even among Unitarians, so due to pressure from the larger community, the Unitarian Association of Ministers tried to force the transcendentalists from their pulpits.  Many left.  One famous Transcendentalist Minister Theodore Parker who I have spoken about here before, told the American Unitarian Association, that he would only leave if they admitted that they had no right throw him out.   
And of course by covenant, he was right, and they didn’t terminate him and he didn’t leave for quite a while.  Eventually though he did leave and started his own independent church which became a mega church in Boston where it is said he preached for 3-4 hours every Sunday. I promise it may seem like it some Sunday’s but I will never preach that long. But due to these expulsions we fractured some more. Interestingly, even amongst the transcendentalists there was a fracture  between the intellectual individual pursuit of truth for self improvement, and those wanting to apply that truth to improve the world.  Parker believed that religion had to be connected to people’s everyday life.   In addition to personal transformation, Parker as well wanted people to transform society at large.  As did many Transcendentalists, Parker took on many social causes during his lifetime, the most notable and ardent of those was the abolition of slavery. He as well believed that poverty was an ill that society should work to eradicate.  He engaged merchants to use their wealth to better society and help those with less. You have to remember this was before income taxes.  It was his hope to influence the merchants to practice what Bill Gates today calls “compassionate capitalism.” Parker stated:
“Turn you power to goodness, its natural transfiguration, and people shall bless your name, and God will bless your soul.  If you control the nation’s politics, then it is your duty to legislate for the nation, for humanity….Remember your position at the head of the nation; use it not as pirates, but Americans, Christians, humans.”
Considering where we are as a nation today these words ring true for me (well except the Christian thing)  as people today worry about finding jobs, fearful of losing their jobs, fearful for their future.   
Even today within our religion there are those who believe we should only look inward and others  who believe we should look outward.   At some point the deconstruction has to stop.  There is a reason for deconstruction.  It allows us to better define ourselves, to understand the core of our being.  As you can see Unitarian Universalism has come from a long line of deconstruction of religious thought.  But sadly at times it seems that fragmenting is in our DNA, as opposed to being purposeful any more.  At some point, if we do not stop fracturing, if we do not stop deconstructing, we will destroy ourselves, as individuals, as a religion and as a country.  At some point we have to stop deconstructing and have to start creating, we need to find wholeness.  
As our first source said, we should be moved to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.   It is why I come back again and again, and again to our relational connection to each other. To Stay in the conversation, to stay engaged, and do it with love.  We had a great Coffee House this weekend (ask volunteers to stand up).  I have heard of Christmas and Easter Christians, and High Holy Day Jews,  and we actually do have Coffee House Unitarians.  It was a beautiful thing to see everyone come together, and I want to let them know and I want you to let them know that we miss them when they are not here.  What is the purpose of religion, if not to help us come together, to worship together, to learn from each other and to make music together, all different types of music, all different people coming together and harmonizing  together.  Together we reach our full potential as individuals and our full potential as a community.  We are all in this together.   We can only do this great task together.  For although we may learn from within, those learning’s, those expressions of love, need to be tested  within a safe, covenantal community which we continually strive to be.  
There is an old saying:  it is easy to be a holy person sitting alone atop a mountain, but its hard to be a “Saint in the City. There is no easy answer and there is no one answer. We must cultivate an ongoing attitude of active engagement with ourselves, with each other and  as well  with the world.  Are we searching for the sake of searching or are we searching to find something.  I think we are searching for how to build beloved community. We are searching to make meaning of our lives in a complicated world, we are searching for our best selves. These are the same questions the people in the nineteenth century asked and acted upon.  I am not asking you to jump off a roof, just to welcome each other and others under our roof as we continue together the journey that our religious ancestors laid the foundation for.   May it be so.