Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Theology for the 21st Century

When a person becomes a new member, they receive a book “A Chosen Faith.” The book is written by two well know Unitarian Universalist Ministers. John Buerhrens, former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association and Forrest Church, who is the son of former Idaho Governor Frank Church. Forrest Church had been a successful ministry at  All Souls Church on the upper east side of New York City prior to his passing in 2009.  First I would ask you to focus on the title.  Our Chosen Faith. Unlike many other religions, which most people attend due to their birthrights, many of us have chosen to leave our birth religion and we have chosen to come together in this religion. Even those of you who were born UU, or with no religious background, we consciously choose to come here not out of sense of obligation, but out of a desire for a richer deeper real religious experience than we could find elsewhere
In the book Church wrote a chapter entitled The Cathedral of the world.  He uses the image of a cathedral as a metaphor for our world. I recommend you read the book if you have not, I will read a short passage for you.

“The builders have labored in this cathedral from time immemorial. Daily, work begins that shall not be finished in the lifetime of the architects who planned, the patrons who paid for it, the builders who construct, or the expectant worshipers. Nonetheless throughout human history, one generation after another has labored lovingly, sometimes fearfully, crafting memorials and consecrating shrines. Untold centuries or millennia ago, from their once respected places, lie shattered on the cathedral floor. Not a moment passes without the dream of long dead dreamers being outstripped, crushed, or abandoned, giving way to new vision, each immortal in reach, ephemeral in grasp”

Since time immemorial there has been the concept of the oneness of all things. The concept that we come from some common source. Ours is a religion that proclaims that.  The formal origins of Unitarianism as a religion come from King Sigismund in Transylvania in 1568.  During this time in much of Europe the Unitarians were being harassed and oppressed. 
However Transylvania was in the Mountains buffeted on one side by the Ottoman Empire and by the Holy Roman empire on the other.   This allowed the King more freedom as he played both sides against the other and as it was difficult for the armies to move through the  mountains.   Sigismund clearly was a tolerant King and in his day when doctrinal disputes came up, they held formal public debates. On March 3, 1568. He invited Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists and those believing in Unitarianism to debate. The debate lasted ten days, beginning at 5 a.m. each day. Francis Daveed represented the Unitarian position and used scripture to support his arguments. At the conclusion of the debate, David's arguments were seen as stronger, and many in Transylvania embraced Unitarianism. Whereas as the other religions were putting non believers to death, David supposedly said “If I I win, I shall defend to the death you right to be wrong. “We need not think alike to love alike”  David believed that pluralism in faith could lead to mean civic and moral order. He convinced the  King whereby the King converted to Unitarianism and issued the Edict of Torda  The Edict:
Reaffirms that in every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel each according to their understanding of it, and if the congregation likes it, well. If not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied, but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve. Therefore none of the superintendents or others shall abuse the preachers, no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, according to the previous statutes, and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment or by removal from his post for his teaching.”
We sort of take it for granted today, as part of our country the freedom to speak and believe what we want.  It is still part of our tradition that the minister is free to speak their beliefs, with the Congregation recognizing that it is not always going to be in agreement. Our experience tells us why. Just a few years after the Edict of Torda, King Sigismund was killed in a “hunting accident”, and subsequently, Frances David who refused to stop preaching Unitarianism and pluralism was jailed and put to death.
So whey do I look back to 1568 to for a 21st century religion.  It is because David’s statement that we need not think alike to love alike is at the core of the Forrest Church’s message In his ongoing image of the Cathedral, Church goes on to say
“Above all else, contemplate the windows.  In the Cathedral of the World there are windows beyond number, some long forgotten, covered with many patinas of dust, other revered by millions, the most sacred of shrines. Each in its own way is beautiful. Some are abstract, others representational, some dark and meditative, others bright and dazzling. Each tells a story about the creation of the world, the meaning of history, the purpose of life, the nature of humankind, the mystery of death.The windows of the cathedral are where the Light shines through.”   

DH Lwarence said - “Religion has little to do with a body of beliefs or practices; it represents a gradual process of awakening to the depths and possibilities of life itself.”  The trouble comes when we believe that our light is the one true light, that we hold the only truth.  So what do we do when different realities collide, when different visions collide. When different cultures collide. In our ever connected world, this is happening more and more often.  Pluralism sounds good until the rubber meets the road.  
How do we tell someone when their actions are harmful to us if we believe others have their own version of the truth.  I believe we do this as we do within community, by setting community values.  This is something that is fluid and changes. That is the core of liberal religion, that we are open to changes based on the new experience and knowledge. This is a core value of a pluralistic society. I think we aspire to handle it well in this Congregation as we wrote in our Congregational Covenant of Right Relationship “We will accept the personal responsibility to behave toward each other with patience, respect, goodwill and honesty even when our thoughts and perceptions differ.” 
I was thinking about this when I watched the NFC Playoff Game last weekend.  The Seattle Seahawks won an exciting game that had a exciting ending, with San Francisco moving down the field for a touchdown. Then on a pass to the end zone to Michael Crabtree,  Richard Sherman of Seattle tipped the ball up in the air and it was intercepted and Seattle won the game. Upon being interviewed after the game this is what happened
(show video)
"I'm the best corner in the game," Sherman said "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you going to get. LOB" LOB stands for Legion of Boom the nickname of the Seattle defense.    Subsequent to this there were many many racist comments about Sherman calling him among other tings ignorant and a thug. There was then the counter arguments particularly from liberal and UU bloggers defending Sherman and indicating how smart he is, having gone to Stanford, and this was just him promoting himself. Adding that the public’s negative reaction to it was due to the fact that he was a proud black man.   Sherman’s first response to all of this hubaloo was  “A lion doesn't concern himself with the opinions of a sheep.”  So we are not quite yet to that place where  Jesus predicted a day when lions sleep with lambs I think Woody Allen said it best when he said the Lion and the Lamb may sleep together, but the lamb wont get much sleep.
Anyway I have seen Richard Sherman play. He may very well be the best cornerback in the NFL. He has had no problem telling everyone for  years that he is the best in the NFL.  I have no problem with that.  We all need to lift ourselves up and promote ourselves at times.  In his case there is validity to his claims. There has been much said defending Sherman about how intelligent he is.  The fact that this has to be said speaks to negative stereotype about athletes in general and even more specifically about African American Athletes. The fact that he went to Stamford, in and of itself is not proof of intelligence though (Just ask anyone from Harvard).  I have heard Sherman speak in numerous interviews and talk shows and it is clear he is a very intelligent person and a consummate professional in his vocation.  Something we could all aspire to. And yet although intellectually I understand all that, the incident still left me unsettled. I guess what I found distasteful about the incident, was his putting down of the other player he had just vanquished. He just won the NFC Championship and the first thing he did was put down his opponent.  What this connects with me is competing values in our American Culture.
I think that is what is at the core of my struggle with this.  I ask myself  would I want a young child learn to act this way in any area of their life, whether it be sports or school or business.  I want everyone to reach their full potential. I want everyone to be supported in reaching their full potential.   I do not think that is healthy for our society to be condemning people because they are less skilled, or less trained.  Richard Sherman works in a hyper competitive environment where the attitude of victory at all costs is cultivated.  I dont know Richard Sherman personally or of his background. (other than what I have read in articles).
But Richard Sherman is a public figure and thus his words and actions are scrutinized.   There are many life experiences that led him to be who he is today.  Maybe it is part of his culture to put down a vanquished opponent. That is not my culture. Nor is it something I want our culture to cultivate.  I recognize the difference in our culture. . The fact that we have multiculturalism does not mean we should have the suspension of the ethical. This is an example of what we can do we do when we have competing cultures.  We can talk about it, and try to understand each other and ultimately move to a way to live together with it.
I can choose not to bring football into my house or life.  Or perhaps the discussion could lead to how athletes can develop a better habit of sportsmanship toward their fellow professional.  And perhaps that type of value of sportsmanship can be interwoven into every part of our life.  That is the conversation I am having with my family.
But it doesn’t end there.  Here is the interesting thing. Richard Sherman had previously filmed a commercial for the headphone “Beats by Dre” which was released the night of the game, (either show video or explain) in which Sherman is being harassed by reporters and in the commercial is asked if he considers himself a thug.  He then he puts on his headphones as he walks away and the tagline for the commercial is “Hear what you want”  while playing an Elton John Song “you can tell everybody this is your song.”  Now I never before would have connected Dr. Dre with Elton John (for those who don’t know dr. Dre is old school rapper, and Elton John is old school pop star.) So I have to say that this turn of events leads me to believe that his after game rant was planned as a way to promote the advertisement. Actually brilliant if you ask me, although manipulative.  But I really objected to the tagline of the ad.
“Hear what you want”, is the antithesis of what my values are and what Forrest Church was speaking of. We may not agree with everything that we hear, but hearing only what we want leads to rigidity and fundamentalism. The light, the sound comes through all windows in a multitude of ways that we can not even begin to understand. We must not shut ourselves off from it. That doesn’t mean we accept all behavior carte blanche, but it should be a reminder to us to discern more deeply into what leads people to do things. To look beyond the illusions of what our culture tells us about a person, to look beyond our own experiences, and to lead by example. To act out our values in our lives, to talk about our values publicly, so that our values become a part of the human dialogue and the human experience.  I believe there are many, many people who have similar values to ours but the airwaves always tell a different story. They tell the story of separating ourselves from the rest of humanity. They speak of individualism, they speak of putting up walls, whether they be physical walls, like headphones, or emotional walls that prevent us from communicating with each other. What Unitarian Universalism promotes is the wholeness of humanity.

If our voice, our message is not heard, then it will be drowned out by the corporate culture that would manipulate us into thinking we don’t need each other, that it is a dog eat dog world.  But there is another way. There is better way. As the song says, “Speak it loud and speak it clear. For the whole world to hear.” Unitarian Universalism is the Theology for the 21st Century.  A theology that allows us to explore the light from the many windows and to see the light from many windows more clearly. Let the light into your life, let many lights into your life and in so doing we move closer to wholeness. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Remembering

I posted an article on my facebook page a couple of weeks ago entitled, “I may be 50 but don’t call me a boomer”  A baby boomer is considered someone born during the birth boom between 1946 and 1964.  The article posits that those born in the later years of this cycle have a very different experience of the world than those born during the earlier stages of the cycle to the point that the entire group cannot be looked at in a cohesive way.  I myself was born in the latter stages of the baby boom.  I did not experience first hand the hippy generation of flower power, just the aftereffects of it as in my childhood my brother painted our room in dayglow paint and kept a black light on all night.  I did not experience first hand the anti-war protests, just the news reports of them and of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and the resignation of President Nixon all during my early formative years.  And these events I admit made me cynical.  I credit Unitarian Universalism with wakening my soul back up to trust, hope and inspiration. Messages I try to share with each of you.  I think that is an important part of our religion, to look deeply into something, whether it was in our lifetime, or before, or still yet to be, and to discern its meaning for us today in our lives.
And so it is with Martin Luther King Jr.  Depending on when you were born, you have very different perceptions, memories and understandings of King and his legacy.   Younger generations today can only imagine what it was like to live in a world where some people because of the color of their skin could not live in certain neighborhoods, could not go to certain schools, could not eat in certain restaurants, could not drink from certain water fountains.  And the fear of lynching of African Americans was a real and constant danger.   And laws changed, As King said, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important.”  But as the Bruce Hornsby song goes, “the law don't change another's mind When all it sees at the hiring time is the line on the color bar.”   For those who lived through the civil rights era as adults, I can imagine it must have been gut wrenching, as our society was changing significantly.  Its one thing to intellectually understand and agree with something. Its another to live through change.  Looking back on it, it seems so necessary, so understandable, so just.  But living through it created anxiety and fear, no matter what one believed.  It was a seismic shift in our country.  
It is important to remember that. It is important to remember what it took make a dream a reality.  It is important not to forget and become complacent.   Which brings us to the Martin Luther King’s Birthday.   Of the 11 Federal Holidays there are three that commemorate individuals.  One is Christopher Columbus, the second is George Washington, and the latest, the third commemorating the birthday of Martin Luther King is now recognized the third Monday of January which is tomorrow.   Now with our greater understanding of Columbus’ tactics in his conquest of the Americas, his day has now for some become more of a celebration of Italian Heritage, and for others it engenders deeper reflection about our historical arrival into this country but I imagine for most, it is a nice three day weekend to watch Netflix, take a bike ride,  or read a book.  Washington’s Birthday  which is now often called Presidents Day, and we seem to use that day celebrate Washington, Lincoln and any of our other favorite Presidents. But actually the law has never been changed to recognize that.  The law was changed to move the holiday from Washington’s  actual birthday to a Monday so people could have a 3 day weekend. (that’s true) But legally the Federal Holiday is still celebrating Washington’s birthday.   Just a little trivia there for you.  
I am Ok with  Washington getting his own holiday.   He very easily could have allowed himself to become King Washington.   But he set aside the notion of personal ambition and stepped down as President after two terms which he thought was best for the nation.  So it was with Martin Luther King jr as well. An American Citizen, not a politician, not a conqueror,  but a man who set aside the notion of personal ambition for the betterment of the country. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating the holiday to honor King. Although a Federal Holiday, many states for a long time refused to acknowledge the day as a state holiday. Some states initially called it Civil Rights Day, but finally in the year 2,000 the final state South Carolina recognized Martin Luther King Day. Two Southern States Alabama and Mississippi without any sense of irony, celebrate MLK day and the Confederate General Robert E Lee’s Birthday on the same day.  I find that ironic.  
So why Martin Luther King.  After WWII many African Americans returned home after defending this country overseas and still found themselves treated as second class citizens. The lack of basic civil rights as promised in the Constitution was not available to them.  There were many paths this could led our country down. Some such as Malcolm X and the Black Panthers advocated for the use of violence to gain African American self-determination and civil rights. Martin Luther King chose the path of non violence.  He chose the path of integration and cooperation, He chose the path of love. But his love was not a blind love. His non violence was not inactive.  His quest for justice was not passive.  There was not a compromise to be had. There was civil rights, and non violence and he rejected calls for slowing down and accepting anything less. He knew for his way to succeed he needed good people of conscience from all races to join him in action. 
King’s famous letter from  Birmingham jail was responding to a “call to unity” from 8 white religious leaders. This call to unity called for an end to the demonstrations for intergration led by “outsiders” (King) in Birmingham and called for patience in negotiations.  King in his response states “For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every African American with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant Never."  In his rebuke to these white religious leaders he called on them to act, to be all in so to speak. 
It’s a complex thing. These 8 white religious leaders, with only a couple of exceptions were advocates for integration.  2 of the 8 were subsequently forced from their pulpits for their pro-integration stance, the rabbi of the group had opened his temple to an integrationist breakaway Baptist Church.   They were for the most part good people trying to do good in their own minds and in their own ways.  But change particularly seismic change requires sacrifice more than just good will.  I imagine some of our older members could tell some stories of the conflicts in Davenport and maybe even in this Congregation at that time, as our Minister was consistently harassed by the American Nazi Party for his stance on civil rights. 
In 1966 Martin Luther King gave the Ware Lecture at our Unitarian Universalist General Assembly. He  told the story of Rip Van Winkle waking up after 20 years and seeing the picture of King George replaced with President Washington, and realizing that he had not only slept for 20 years but that he had slept through the revolution.  King asked us not to sleep through the revolution. “At its best the love ethic can be a reality in a social revolution. Most revolutions in the past have been based on hope and hate, with the rising expectations of the revolutionaries implemented by hate for the perpetrators of the unjust system in the old order. I think the different thing about the revolution that has taken place in our country is that it has maintained the hope element and at the same time it has added the dimension of love.”  Martin Luther King realized it is not enough to just talk about justice, to talk about change,  to talk about freedom.  We must be willing to act and to make sacrifices for justice. He was arrested over 30 times and he paid the ultimate price with his life.   We must be willing to go all in for justice for it to become real.  What King refused to do was to demonize those who disagreed with him, and due to that in time, more and more people saw the power of love, the power of direct non violent action as way to achieve change.   And that is why I think he deserved a Federal Holiday.  Because he helped this nation realize that it didn’t need to have a violent revolution to have a revolution. And we did have a revolution in this Country. He helped our nation find a path towards equality     His deeply held religious values allowed him realize that his personal life mission was larger than just himself, and his words and his deeds inspired others that it was possible.  
Now we are at a tipping point in our society today.  Back in the sixties, we needed the maximum effort just to push the pendulum towards the side of justice.  We have changed I believe fundamentally as a country due to that. But the work for justice has not ended.  We must be vigilant.  
I sometimes imagine the justice work we do as the tragic story of Sisyphus the Greek King, who for his punishment was condemned for eternity to push a boulder up a hill only to see it roll down again. Albert Camus in his book the myth of Sisyphus says “"The struggle itself  is enough to fill a person’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."  I imagine that vision of a full heart when I think of Martin Luther King talking about himself not reaching the mountain top but knowing we will get there.   But that is not good enough.  We often only remember the end of the Sisyphus story, Sisyphus’s punishment.  We forget his crime.  His crime was to capture Death so that people would not have to die.  In one version of the story, The War God Ares would have nothing of that and freed Death and captured Sisyphus.   Martin Luther King, like Sisyphus helped avoid bloodshed in our streets through nonviolent direct action and along with many others helped get civil rights and voting rights laws passed in this country. But he angered the War Gods of our own Country when he started speaking out against the war in Vietnam.  I would like to re-imagine and re-write the Sisyphus story where others came to his aid, maybe those who lives were saved and helped him push that boulder up and over the mountain top.
And that is out task. To come together and keep pushing that boulder.  And keep pushing until everyone comes together and pushes that boulder with us and when that happens it will be downhill after that. We are on our way, but we are not there yet. But we are on our way. This past year during the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, our local NAACP leaders came out and said that if Martin Luther King were alive today he would be acting for BGLQT rights, because civil rights are civil right for everyone.  When I came to Davenport 2 ½ years ago and met with the NAACP I would not have imagined that statement would have been possible. It was a seismic shift.  But it shows, working together as opposed to each of us with competing oppressions, we can make a difference. Being engaged, being all in. Inch by inch pushing the pendulum, pushing the rock, whatever metaphor you like, but we need to keep pushing, because there are people on the other side pushing back.
The Rev. William Barber, the President of the NAACP in North Carolina said “ In some ways, these tactics are not Jim Crow. They do not feature Night Riders and sheets… This is in fact, James Crow, Esq. Jim Crow used blunt tools. James Crow Esq. uses surgical tools, consultants, high paid consultants and lawyers to cut out the heart of black political power” Until we are all pushing on one side, until we all are living with the ethic of love in our heart and in our actions we cannot rest. And so I ask you in what ways are you acting to make our community more just for all people. 

(An extemporaneous call and response of “Our Work is not Yet Done” happened here.)
As long as there is poverty
as long as there is homelessness,
as long as there is hunger,
as long as voting rights are still being restricted,
as long as there are families being ripped apart by unjust immigration laws,
as long as people are being profiled based on the color of their skin and incarcerated,
as long as students do not have the support that they need to succeed,
as long as people are being shot in schoolhouses and movie theatres needlessly,
as long as we continue to spend our country’s resources on war and not on the welfare of our people,
as long as we continue to pollute the environment as we saw recently the deadly ramifications in West Virginia, and as long as there are people in need, our work is not yet done.

We cannot rest on the laurels, there are more seismic shifts needed to get over the mountaintop.  we must continue to remember what we have gained, we must remember what and who has been sacrificed, and we must remember to stand on the side of love, to stand with love so that one day just as in the words of the prophet Amos,  justice shall roll down like water, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. May it one day be so


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Our Holy Flame - Culture of Caring

Some religions require individuals to agree to certain creeds or belief systems or at least require individuals to say they believe in those creeds and beliefs before they are accepted into that community.  Unitarian Universalism is different and unique. Our principles asks us to commit to the responsible search for truth and meaning but as we say at the beginning of every service, we require no creed or statement of belief for you to be part of this community.  Therefore the ability to be bound together by something else is required.  We are bound by the covenants that we have with each other.  Some of these are explicit covenants like our bylaws, policies and our covenant of right relationship, but also some of our covenants are implicit. 
       One such implicit covenant is that we will care for each other. Our Congregational mission calls us to embrace individual searches for meaning. Because we have covenanted that we will walk together on our religious journey together despite different individual searches, we need to care for each other. Our religion can be a model, a microcosm for the larger world. For ours is a Shared Ministry.  We come together not with shared belief of a supernatural force coming to save us. Maybe aliens from another planet, maybe even a little help from a consultant from the Unitarian Universalist Association.
But mostly we come together to learn from each other,  to learn how to love, to learn how to share with each other and to learn from our shared experiences together. As Rev. Mark Morrison Reed "The religious community is essential, for alone our vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen, and our strength too limited to do all that must be done. Together, our vision widens and our strength is renewed."  We can only do this though if we trust each other.  And we can only trust each other if we get to know not only ourselves but others. That’s right, we have to know ourselves first to trust others. We need to be secure in who we are, so that the occasional sling and arrow, or unfortunate comment does not wound us.
So we need to know ourselves, and we need to know others.  Especially for our longer term members, to become a truly transformative community, it is not enough to know the same people you have known for twenty years. We need you, we need you to reach out perhaps beyond your comfort zone and get to know our newer members.  I ask all of you to think about, who in this Congregation do you know and who knows you.  Who can you turn to when you are troubled?  Who can you trust when you are anxious? There are some of you who have very good support systems. 
There are some of you who have been in small groups within the Congregation for a long time, such as a connection circle and thus you have developed a network of people who know you deeply and can be there for you (that was just a subtle plug  for Connection Circles).  
There are many people in our Congregation though who do not have those support systems, or are not even aware of their own need.   So as a community we are trying to be intentional about the need to care for each other.   There are no magic wands to be waved. Just the gentle voice of our conscience reminding us that we are not alone. 
Many people come to Unitarian Universalism because of the lack of  dogma, we come here because we are searching, searching for meaning in life, and searching for a community that values that search, and in that search we have found each other.  It’s a beautiful thing to find a community you have been searching for your entire life. And we need to nurture this community.  But as much as we want to nurture this community and create a Culture of Caring we also need to nurture the Culture of being cared for. It’s a two way street.  Within each of us is the spark of life.  There are times in our life when it gets dark, and we cannot feel that flame within us, when we are lonely, when we are lost, when we are insecure, when we are fearful.
When life throws us for a loop, sometimes our brains often go in a loop, and its hard to find our way out. There are times when we just need someone to listen and walk with us on a journey of grief.   We all possess within us the Holy Flame.   We just need to be reminded of it.  It is our hope to light that spark within you, to help shine the mirror upon you so that you may see the light within yourself, to be with you as you tend to your light.  For as we care for others, that light within us is nurtured as well. When the spark appears to go out, we need to be self aware of that and we need to ask for help. Asking for help is such a difficult thing to do for so many of us. 
We really have, including myself, been raised by the image of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and that image is reinforced daily by the media. We have heard that phrase a lot lately particularly in the political arena.  And to some degree, for some of us that has been partially true. We worked hard, we endured hardships, we overcame obstacles. Yet no one does it completely alone. Even the hermit in the mountain, has food and shelter due to mother nature. My point is, we don’t need to put obstacles in front of us, its ok for life to be easier sometimes.  We don’t have to feel that we need to earn goodness by struggling.  But struggles are a part of life and it is best that we do learn from our struggles.
Albert Camus said, “In the depth of winter, I finally realized there was within me an invincible summer." Let us help you find your invincible summer.  I want you to think about how you came to be where you are today, right here, right now and why.  How did you find your way here. There is a reason we are together.  We are searchers, searchers for truth in a world without absolutes, searchers for community in a world that can appear fractured and searchers for peace, both in our hearts and in our lives, in the face of experiencing a world that seems constantly in crises.  We are searchers who have come together to create a vision for a better world, to create a vision for a better community, to create a vision for a better life. 
In the television show Lost, a series that ended a few years ago, (and I wont get into all the details of time travel, and the religious messages deeply embedded within it,) But at the series finale, one of the main Character asks, “where are we” and his father answers “This is a place that you all made together so that you could find each other,” and he then added “No one does it alone”  Well this is the place we have created for each other, and so we have to decide how do we want to live together. Despite our differences, despite our diversity, how do we want to live together?  
These pastoral associates who have stood before you today have made the intentional Commitment to Care, a commitment to gather every month to discern and to train. A Commitment to meet with and walk with others their time of need. In their commitment to create this program they have envisioned that we as a Congregation, a Congregation of people  that we should all live together intentionally caring for each other.  I ask you to choose to care and to be cared for. May it be so.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Aspirations

     This time of year we are asked to make New Year’s Resolutions.   I believe we could take any day to make a resolution. However it is never a bad idea to use a point in time, or multiple points in time to do this.  Throughout the year, we can reassess how we have performed on previous resolutions and adapt as necessary.  But I think resolutions have to start with aspirations. I have found it easier to achieve resolutions if I know what it is I hope the outcome to be. I have found it helpful to be very specific in my outcome. The specific outcome will make the specific resolution very different. If I want to lose 10 lbs. over three months, my resolution would have to be different than if I wanted to lose 10 lbs. over 12 months.
Even more importantly, I ask myself why I want that outcome.  My aspiration is to live a healthier lifestyle in 2014.  Specifically I want to lose 20lbs over the next 12 months by eating healthier food and exercising at least 3 times a week. Feel free to check in with me throughout the year to see how I am doing.  I will still be bringing bagels on Sunday, but I may have to cut back on my personal intake of them!! The reason I want to be healthier is to have more energy for our Ministry together and to be able to live a longer, active life, so I may see my children and grandchild(ren) continue to grow older for as long as possible.  I ask you to think about your aspirations and resolutions, but more importantly to ask yourself why?  There is power in focusing on why.
As we do this for ourselves, I also discern what my resolutions and aspirations are for the Congregation.  The aspiration is easy. We have our vision and mission to guide us. The question is why and how.  The why for me is to have a positive impact on facilitating changes for the better in individual lives, our Congregational Community, and the Quad Cities.
To achieve this, my resolutions for myself and the Congregation are:
To have patience in moving forward.
To not be resolved to personal outcomes, but to the Congregational Mission and Vision.
To experiment with different ways of experiencing Congregational Life
To remain open to new people, new ideas and new ways of being in the world.
To be open to change.
To listen more and judge less.
To forgive each other for failures, including our own.
To move forward with hope for a better future.
To be willing to act to make that better future real.
To act with compassion in all our interactions both within and outside the Congregation.

No one knows what the future will bring.  Knowing that we will be together to explore the future, should give us not only comfort but the courage to face that uncertainty.  If not us, who? If not now, when? The Quad Cities needs us.  The Congregation needs you. We need each other.  Let us be resolved to journey towards our greatest aspirations.
with a grateful heart,

Rev. Jay