Thursday, October 24, 2013

To Create and Uphold Life

Today is the second in a series of 7 services that reflects on Unitarian Universalist Sources. The bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association Section C-2.2.1 states “the living tradition which we share draws from many sources.” And then it lists six sources. The first source is “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.”  That’s a mouthful. Lets break it down and see how this source can be meaningful to us. 
For me this is the most meaningful source, and I think in many ways is a foundational idea of Unitarian Universalism. Direct experience, not just something we read in a book, or something someone tells us, but our direct experience.  This was the basis of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.  With the advent of the printing press, more people had access to the Bible. Before the printing press, people they were dependent on hearing the truth from a select few.  Whereas Roman Catholics focused on Church doctrine, Martin Luther one of the early leaders of the reformation in Germany, focused on the texts. and proposed that everyone should read the Bible for themselves. 
Of course Luther believed that if everyone read the Bible for themselves, they would agree with his interpretation over the Catholics Church’s interpretation. But a funny thing happened on the way to the reformation. As you can guess many people had many different interpretations of the Bible.  This is why there are so many different denominations in Christianity. The point is that it was each individuals direct experience with the Bible that informed them. As with any idea it can be taken to an extreme. Some of the radical Protestants known as Anabaptists (not related to the current day Baptists) tried to re-create their version of early Christianity in the town of Munster. This experiment led to extreme abuses of women and death to non-believers.  Any good idea taken to an extreme can end up being corrosive and destructive.
As Unitarianism developed through the centuries, and particularly the Transcendentalists in the 19th century, individual experience was paramount. This I think was epitomized by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his writings Self Reliance where he states “A person should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across their mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet we dismiss without notice our thought, because it is ours.” 
This is why  our principles include the free and responsible search for truth and meaning and the right of conscience.  Direct experience, not only with the Bible, but with the world at large and with  our inner world informs us.  Sort of like the game telephone, where one person tells another and then another person until by the time it reaches the last person the message is garbled.  We need to have the direct relationship with what we consider sacred, and a direct relationship with other human beings. Not third hand knowledge and rumors, but direct  communication to better understand the universe, others and ourselves. 
This concept of direct experience though instead of being in relationship with others has often led to individualism. And individualism without relationship  has always been in tension with our human nature of communalism.  Unitarian Universalism although not alone in this, has had a virulent strain of individualism which can ultimately end up being as destructive as the town of Munster at least metaphorically.  It is one thing to have individual beliefs, it is another to condemn others for their different beliefs.  So it is imperative that we learn to be in right relationship with each other despite our own individual beliefs differing from each other.  A minister I met recently had a tattoo that said, “I may be wrong”  I thought that was a great way to think about our  opinions. It doesn’t mean we will not have our own opinions, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share our opinions,  but it does remind us to keep an open mind to be changed and to pause before we start condemning others.  Let us build a model, let us be the model of learning how to live with unity among our diversity.  
Our first source though points our direct experience to the experience of  that transcending mystery and wonder affirmed in all cultures.  I think the phrase all cultures might be a bit broad and assumptive, but clearly the majority of historical cultures we are aware of would fit into this category. Transcending mystery and wonder. I imagine as they were wordsmithing the creation of this source, they were thinking, how can we describe the word God, without using the word God. And I understand the reason they felt the need to do that. I know the word God has a lot of different meanings for different people. For some of us who were raised in more traditional religions the word represents an old white man with a beard who has supernatural powers. And as much as we may have redefined our definition of God over the years the word brings back the memory of a rejected theology. In some cases it is a reminder of others vision of a God that was used to condemn us.   Yet for others the word does not have any negative connotation, and they find it strange that we use this juxtaposition of words to avoid those three letters.  So trying to be sensitive, when I use the word God, I try to use it in context.  Now when I talk to that old man in the sky, and I admit I do talk to God every now and then, in the dark of the night, when hope seems dim, when I want to make the unknowable knowable, when I want an answer to the unanswerable question,  I quiet my mind and ask the tough questions, and the answer I get back is always the same. And it seems to always be in the voice of my grandfather, it always says “stop worrying so much, Look within, you have within you the answers that you seek.”  
But my concept of God is deeper than that. It is why I actually do like the phrase transcending mystery and wonder. There are experiences that people have that unexplainable.  For instance, I for the first time two weeks ago purchased a dehumidifier.  I was shocked that within just a couple of hours, where there was no visible water, I now had a bucket of water. From what was unseeable is now seeable.  Now some things like this can be easily explained and as each year passes we gain new understandings of the universe. But as each year passes we find new unknowable mysteries to pursue.  The picture on the front of your order of service is from the NASA website of the Eagle Nebula taken by the Hubble Telescope. It is over 7,000 light years from earth. The highlighted area is an enlargement of a small part of this  Nebula and it is thought that this area which is called the “Pillars of creation” are Incubators for new stars, new creations, new galaxies. We don’t really know this, but based on the best information we have, we theorize this. Others theorize that these pillars have already been destroyed by a supernova but due to its distance from us we have not been able to see it yet. 
There is so much about life that we will never understand or cannot perceive with our senses, that we are forced to theorize about, and we spend so much time arguing about it, that we forget to just be in awe. To be in awe merely of our existence, to be in awe of the majesty of the universe as shown in the picture, to be in awe at the beauty all around us, the beauty of nature, the beauty in creation, the beauty that is inside of each and every one us.     Being curious about a mystery is important.  By searching we find out not just about the universe, but we find out more about ourselves.  Why are we here, what is our purpose in life, why do we exist?  These are important questions. But sometimes we just need to be with the mystery. Just to experience the mystery, to accept it as mystery, not to idolize it, but to live with the sense of awe and wonder about our existence. And when you live intentionally with a sense of awe and wonder it leads us to a renewal of spirit. And that is important for us. Every day we experience suffering. We see it in the world, in the newspapers, on TV, we are driven to distraction with work and responsibilities, and email and facebook, and we have our own very personal suffering. To deal with this, to overcome this, to transcend our suffering, we need to balance those experiences with experiences that remind us of awe and wonder. Some of it is just an attitude of how we will confront the world we live in.  Do we believe that we are separate individual entities unconnected to others? Or do we believe that our lives are interconnected, and interdependent, that we are a part of the entire universe, and what we do impacts the entire universe.
If we face our existence that way, if we transcend our vision of our isolated selves, that means that we are also part of that transcending mystery and wonder. Each of us, and if each of us is part of that transcending mystery and wonder, when you look in the eyes of another person, think about how you should treat that person. I am reminded of that liberty mutual insurance company television advertisement, where one person helps another and upon seeing that, another person helps another person and so on and so on. In it, the people were watching the good deeds of others and it influenced their actions.
To experience the transcending mystery and wonder requires us to pay attention, to pay attention to others and to ourselves. What this source is asking of us is to be open to the forces of the universe, to believe that we are part of something greater than just ourselves, and to experience the universe and our existence in it as part of a unified whole.  And what are those forces of the universe. Each of us are those forces, as well as everything else, seen and unseen. Known and unknown.  But it is not enough to just be open to the forces of the universe, for as we know force or power in of itself is a neutral entity. We know our power, our knowledge of the universe our actions can be used to either create or to destroy. Is it any wonder that many religious stories from around the world throughout history talk about creation and destruction and re-creation.  Our source of our religion informs us to be open to the forces that create and uphold life.  Not to destroy but to create. Whether that be to create a human life, to create a family, to create art, to create an idea, or to create a Congregation. To create, not destroy. To use the forces that the universe provides us, whether seen or unseen, whether known or unknown,

Whether you are an atheist and just believe in the material forces around you or if you believe in a transcendent or incarnational God or anywhere in between or beyond, do you use that force to create. And it is not enough just to create something. We specifically say we have to create and uphold life. It is not enough to create a life if we do not uphold it. It is not enough to create a Congregation which is a life into and of itself, but we must uphold it.  We must nurture life, we must provide for life, we must lift life out of suffering so that it can see the awe and wonder within themselves. So all can see themselves as part of the transcending mystery and wonder of all that is and their place in the universe.  And what would it mean to us individually if we were to renew our spirit and to create and uphold life. It would require us to be intentional about how we live and how we treat each other, it would require us to be open to change and it would require us to act in the world to respond to its needs.  As  Annie Dillard wrote “We are here to abet creation and to witness to it, to notice each others beautiful face and complex nature so that creation need not play to an empty house”  What will you choose to notice, How will you choose to act?  What will you choose to create? What will you choose to uphold? Let us look to the best of ourselves and to the best of our future. May it be so. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What Moves Us

What moves us? Just the statement alone without some context is a misnomer.  When I first posted the title What Moves Us,  I had actually quite a few of you sharing with me about their favorite laxative.  I guess I deserve that considering I bring bagels every week.  So what does it mean what moves us?  Well from the very practical it is the name of an adult religious education class that I will be leading starting Wednesday October 16th from 7-8:30pm.  This class will and I quote from the curriculum “explore the life experiences of historic Unitarian Universalist theologians, highlighting that which caused in them a change of heart, a new direction, new hope, and a deeper understanding of their own liberal faith.”  It would be my hope that by attending the classes you too will gain a deeper understanding your religious life.
I think we struggle with this, because we often tend to focus on the aspect of rejection instead of creation. Rejection of creed, Rejection of doctrine, rejection of Calvinism, Rejection of the Trinity. Rejection of God or certainly rejection of a traditional view of God. But sometimes we are so busy rejecting,  that we sometimes forget to accept  or create new ideas that can add to our lives. And in truth Early Unitarianism was in part a rejection, ultimately a rejection of the Trinity, but first a rejection of the Great Awakening which focused on intense emotional experiences as the way to belief and deepening of the faith.
Unitarian Charles Chauncey was often apt to  quote from the Christian Scriptures Luke Ch 11 v9 with Jesus saying “Ask an it will given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you” as a way of indicating that there was a requirement for human involvement in our religious lives, and not to just wait for heavenly intervention. And speaking for myself, I have been blessed in my life, there have been many things asked for (and in turned worked for) that I have received, but there are also many things asked for (and in turn worked for) that were or are not received, many doors knocked on that opened, and many doors knocked on that have not opened.
When we don’t find what we seek, and wonder why, we often hear, that we are not ready, or maybe there is some greater purpose that is beyond our knowledge. I don’t know the answer to that question of why we sometimes don’t find what we seek, but I think that is wrong question. The question we should be asking why do we stop seeking, why do we stop knocking on doors. Why just because of past failures do we assume that the future will result in the same. For some of us it is in the search that we find meaning.  As the song refrain we heard earlier indicated

Though we may not find answers
Our search will go on
Together we'll journey in love
While we question as one.

But sometimes, we just like searching for the sake of searching, not searching for an answer. For some we are just caught up in the day to day, we get blinded by the onslaught of news, mostly negative news, and sometimes we just need to shield ourselves.  But the challenge with shielding ourselves, and I think this is the challenge of our religion as well, is that when we shield ourselves from the negative, we also shield ourselves from the positive in the Universe. By shielding ourselves from the inherent worth and dignity of others whether lived or unlived,  we limit our own potential and thus also limit our own inherent worth and dignity.  There is worth in believing in others as much as there is worth in believing in ourselves. 
Jesus goes on to say in that same paragraph from Luke I quoted earlier, “Is there anyone among you who, if you child asks for a fish will give a snake instead of a fish?”  Well I don’t know about you, but my child never asked me for a fish, they always asked for a Big Mac happy meal.  Again, in this case I think Jesus asks the wrong question. The more important question is if someone you love asks for a snake will you give them a snake? We cant deny there are snakes (literally or metaphorically speaking) in the world. But we don’t have to give them to each other a gift.  Instead of snakes, we can give each other the gift of a community that cares for you, we can give you the gift of a community that provides a safe environment for you, we can give you the gift of a community that helps every person reach their full potential.
And speaking of potential versus achievement there was recently an Op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Losing is Good for You”  So first, I am going to say that Winning is better than losing. Yet it is true, from knowledge I gained from certain losses in my life, it did help me succeed in later endeavors, but losing did not guarantee success. In fact sometimes losing can lead us to believe in a negative self fulfilling prophesy.  So if losing is good for you, winning is better for you.  But this op-ed article was about giving trophies to children just for participating in events, whether they won or lost. The author’s argument was that by doing so we are creating children who grow up to be narcissistic adults.  Their argument is that children know who is good and who is not, and the ones who are not good, will still grow up expecting to be rewarded, and the good ones feeling unrecognized will grow up with no incentive to excel. Again, I think they ask the wrong question. The questions we should ask is what does it mean to win. What does it mean to lose.
If someone plays up to their full potential, shouldn’t they be recognized whether they hit the most homeruns or not?  There will always be those in society who have specific skills that are valued higher than others. But what of everyone else, whether by lack of ability or circumstance, should they forever be labeled as losers should they forever be condemned to be looked on with shame and scorn. Can we please finally abandon and reject this Calvinist notion of predestination and the assumption that some are born to fail.  Our religion replaces that notion with the idea that all are loved, all are worthy, all are capable of being winners in their own way.  Some may have different skills, different aptitudes, different interests. But all are worthy. Not everyone is going to be a home run hitter. Some may hit singles, some may strike out, some may clean the field, some may announce the game, but all are worthy. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.” 
My point of that story (other than I was lousy in little league and for years was bitter that I never got a trophy), but the point is, that which moves us, which inspires us, which opens our hearts may be different for each one of us. Let us find compassion, not condemnation for those who do not find meaning in the same way that we do.  Let us create the opportunities for people to find their place in this world, even if it is not as a Captain of Industry or Sports Star. Let us create the opportunities for all people to be moved. 
As long as we continue to question with the highest of integrity, As long as we continue to love each other despite our faults, as long as we continue to journey with hope in our heart, then we cannot help but be moved.  Growth in our religious life is not necessarily linear but adaptive and is more circuitous. And on that journey it may be the questions that move us along the road, but it is something else that opens our heart and changes us, and that is love, and a willingness to be open to love and a willingness to feel the pain of the loss of love. A willingness to give of ourselves without the expectation of some quid pro quo.  A willingness to care for others whether they are giving out trophies or not This is our shared ministry that we have together.  Whether it be in the schools teaching the young, whether it be in the prisons visiting the incarcerated, whether it be in the hospital visiting the sick, whether it be at the community meal feeding the hungry. And it is not just out there, but it is in here as well. It is in how we care for each other, how we care for this institution, It is in caring for others, and for things larger than oursleves that we find meaning.  It is in caring that we are moved.
And although I do not want to continue the constipation metaphor, the truth is, sometimes the experiences we have early in our lives block our ability to be moved, block our ability to open our hearts to others. I have to admit for the early part of my life, my experiences led me to close my heart,  My experiences taught me that when you trusted people, when you make yourself vulnerable, it can often lead to pain.  And after a few too many of these experiences you just want to stop the pain. But then you come to a point in your life hopefully, where you realize something is missing. 
You realize you don’t feel pain even when you should feel pain. You don’t feel joy, when you should feel joy. And when you come to that realization, to that fork in the road, you have to decide whether you are going to remain separated, or whether you are going to reconnect to the wonder of all that is in the universe in all its beauty and suffering. You come to realize that the reason you feel pain, is because you love so deeply.  As CS Lewis said, “to love at all is to be vulnerable.” 
But how do you do it, how do you change what has been bred within us for years, or even generations. What can make us risk our security to open ourselves up to risk the pain without the surety of success. Only love for and caring for others can do this. We cant control who loves us, but we can control how we love others. Then the question is how. How do we let go of the past, how do we let go of our fear.  As with many things, movies provide the answer for me. I watched a movie recently called “we bought a zoo” and the protagonist  giving advice to his son said   “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”  And I think that’s true. 
For once you open up, once you allow something into your heart it immediately opens up for you the floodgate of possibilities of what could one day be realized. Your heart beats faster, your mind finds clarity, your soul finds peace.  And I tell you as it is with a person so it is with a Congregation.  Over generations there are pains inflicted, as institutions which are made up of people,  fearing more conflict, fearing more pain, close down.  Close down to new people, new ideas, new ways of being.  But by doing so, we miss the love that others could bring us and more importantly the love we could bring to others.  
All it takes is your willingness to do so, to be insanely courageous, to be embarrassingly brave, to take a chance. I cannot guarantee it will work, but I can guarantee we will feel more alive as individuals and as a Congregation if we embrace love rather than if we isolate ourselves.  So I invite you to be moved, I invite you to open your hearts and invite you go deeper, both personally and in your Congregational lives, and you will be amazed at what you are capable of, you will be amazed at our potential. May it be so.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Renewal

As some of you who follow me on facebook know, I lost my phone last week, and had to get a new one.  I had to reprogram many of the programs downloading everything I had in the cloud.  When I was setting up my calendar, I had to choose what day to start the week.  I really had to think about this one, and in some ways it ties into how we think about worship.  If I start my week on Monday, Worship on Sunday is at the end of the week. It can be seen as a day of rest, after an entire week of doing, a day just to be. a day of reflection, a day to put away the cares of the world, and to rest within oneself and spend time within our community.
            Now if I start my week on Sunday, Worship is about how to begin the week, a day to be inspired about how to live life, a day to look at life in a new way, a day to lead us out into the world for the next six days with a new sense of purpose.  Neither is right or wrong. And every week it may be different. Every week might be a bit of both for us.  I think each is important, but today we are focusing on the need for renewal. (Which could fall into either category) Story: apache woman gave birth to a child, the placenta was placed in a tree and when that child grows up they would make a pilgrimage to the birth spot and perform a ceremony – to gain renewed strength and purpose.  I was drawn to that story, not the placenta part, but returning to ones birthplace.  Whenever I travelled anywhere near my hometown, I would always force my family to drive by the house I grew up in, where I went to school, and my various favorite haunts.  I never really thought about why, it was just something I felt I needed to do.  In part of course in was to reminisce.  In part it was a touchstone, to my past, a reminder of my roots, where I emerged from,  who I once was, in my short lived innocence.  This is not done with a desire to go back to a different time and place. I imagine most of us did not live in a sitcom like Mayberry RFD, where everything is simple and things always work out neatly in the end. (For those who don’t have that reference, think of the opposite of Breaking Bad, which has its series finale tonight.)  We cannot renew lost innocence. But going back can be  a  reminder of how we came to be who we are today, what obstacles we have overcome, how far we have travelled, how far we have grown.  Each memory brings us back and reminds us that we are capable of growth.   And going back also allows us to look at those circumstances with new wisdom, with new eyes, with new perspectives. 
Renewal is not about recreating the past, but perhaps about being intentional about restarting something that has been dormant, its about refreshing ourselves from the fountain of wisdom, its about refocusing ourselves over a tendency towards complacency, its about re-energizing our commitment to a particular way of being.  Renewal allows us to look at ourselves from a new perspective over the course of time. It is a time to intentionally restart, refresh, refocus, reenergize and not take anything for granted.  And so it is in our Congregational lives, we sometimes need to renew ourselves, to renew our values, and to renew our commitment. 
The value and commitment I talk about today is our being a Welcoming Congregation. Approximatley 10 years ago this Congregation formally became a Welcoming Congregation. The Welcoming Congregation Program is a volunteer program for Unitarian Universalist congregations that want to take intentional steps to become more welcoming and inclusive of people with marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities.  There is a plaque on the wall we pass by every week when we walk into the sanctuary that indicates we participated in this program.
One of our members is the founder of the most active support and advocacy groups in the Quad Cities. Quad Cities Affirming Diversity.  Yet when I started here over two years ago, other than the plaque, there was almost no mention of it in the Congregation, no brochures, and no advocacy as a Congregation. Now to some degree we were living out our values in a very Welcoming way, yet someone who was new and walked in might not have know that.  Now our LGBTQIA social justice task force as you heard earlier is active in so many ways, both from an educational and advocacy perspective.
(Something about programs upcoming, something about marriage equality in Illinois. Phone banks starting Wed nights at the Congregation from 5:30- and Tuesday nights in Rock Island. ) I encourage you to be engaged. To learn or to re-learn, to gain new wisdom from a new perspective. Its important to look back at where we have come from. While other religions struggle today with their theological issues around sexual orientation, Unitarian Universalists started our struggle over 40 years ago. In 1970 our General Assembly passed a resolution to end discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals. In 1971 we published a sexuality curriculum for youth that attempted to foster more positive attitudes towards people with differing sexual orientations. A 1974 General Assembly resolution created funding for the denominational department that is now called LGBTQ Ministries.   The UUA has been ordaining people regardless of sexual orientation since the 1970s, and the first openly transgender person was ordained in 1988.   Its not necessarily that we are more enlightened than other religions in this area of religious life. Although certainly our theology of ongoing revelation and our principles guide us in this area, but part of the truth is that we have just been working at it with more intention than others for a longer time.   There were many Unitarian Universalists in the 1970s that  struggled much like other Denominations are struggling now. There are some Unitarian Universalists that still struggle with it, which is why we need to renew our commitment and our education.  And we need to be committed to ongoing education about not just about differences in sexual orientation but in all differences including issues surrounding racism and multiculturalism. As I said last week, we must end the destructive practice of competing oppressions. 
We must be welcoming to all people, and we must stand with all who are oppressed.
People have asked me, why  as a Straight White Male, why do I care so much about the gender equality issue, and other social justice issues about oppression. Now it is easy to explain all the intellectual arguments about why this is so, and I would point to our principles especially our first principle which indicates our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people. But that type of intellectual understanding can only take one so far, once the rubber hits the road, if all you have is intellectualism, it is too easy to fold when the going gets rough. 
It is why it is important to understand others pain, it is why it is so important to become engaged in the work of social justice so you are put in a position to have to engage with others who are different from you and with others who are actually suffering.  I was invited to and I know other ministers who I respect, who have tried to eat based on what food stamps provides to people, or others who go and live for an evening as a homeless person.  I don’t need to cause myself extra personal suffering to learn what it is to suffer. I have sufferred in my own way in my own life. I do not have to add to my sufferring to have empathy for those who suffer. I just need to know and care about  someone who is suffering.  I grew up listening to people who were holocaust survivors and that opened my eyes and heart to suffering.  In high school I walked into an office at school and saw two male friends of mine making out. And I saw the unbelievable fear in their eyes that they would be outed. It was a different time and they had something real to fear. And their fear opened my eyes and my heart to issues facing gay youth at that time. As a young adult I lived in Greenwich Village where as a straight person I was in the minority. If you were here Wednesday Night and heard the powerful piece of music by Laura Kaminsky about AIDS, you could have artistically been transported to a time when people were dieing daily from aids, and in this country, few paid attention because it mostly affected gay men and drug addicts.  People I knew and cared about died from AIDS. And this opened my eyes and my heart to their pain and the pain of others I did not know.  As I grew, and started a multiracial family, living in a multiracial neighborhood,  I saw the pain that my children had when others treated them with disdain due to their race, and that opened my eyes and heart to their pain, and the pain of our neighbors, and the pain of others I did not know, when I lived in Florida, people with whom I broke bread, people with whom I led worship services with and shared the most intimate aspects of our lives together in Connections Circles, they were not allowed to be married because of their sexual orientation and that opened my eyes and my heart to their pain and to the pain of others I knew in my community and the pain of others I did not know. 
And that is why I am so adamant about our social justice work being local.  Because it gives each and every one of you the opportunity to come face to face with suffering. Otherwise it is too easy to hide from it. Doing our work locally gives the most people the opportunity to meet and interact with people who are in different circumstances than they are.  It will give you the opportunity to open your eyes and your hearts not only to the suffering of others, but also to different cultures,  moreso than any intellectual exercise could ever do.  And l promise you this, if you open your eyes and your heart it will change you, It will change you forever and you will not be able to close your eyes again, and you will not be able to stand idly by while others are being discriminated against. While others are suffering.  You will be transformed and compelled to want to transform the world. In luke 14.23 in the parable of the Great Dinner Jesus talks of compelling people to come in.  We sort of look at that word compel and it sounds like we are being ordered.  But the truth is you will be so moved, you will not be able to turn away. I imagine that must seem scary, sort of like jumping into the abyss, into the unknown, its about trust in the universe, its about having faith that you can make a difference. 
As Martin Luther King Jr. Said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase” So take a step.  I suggest you find the type of person, or circumstance that makes you feel most uncomfortable.  Explore why they make you uncomfortable.  In fact I would encourage you to participate in one of our social justice programs that will put you in touch with such circumstances.  We can either metaphorically recoil into our building on the hill hiding behind our trees,  or we can go out and help create the world we dream about, and in so doing maybe even create the person and the Congregation we hope to one day become.  
As Universalist John Murray said "Go out into the highways and byways of America. Give the people something of your vision. You may possess only a small light but uncover it, let it shine, use it in order to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men and women. Give them, not hell, but hope and courage." And I would add to let us educate ourselves about other people who are different from us, and to have the courage to engage with others, and to have the courage to share our light, and to have the courage to accept the light from others. Let us start our week today, let us find our sense of purpose not in another time, not in another place, but right now, right here. let us be renewed.