Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Road to Damascus

 Now I know some of you who came today and saw the title “Road to Damascus” and you thought I was possibly going to unveil the  previously unreleased sequel to (PPT)  the Bob Hope Movie Road to Morocco.  No, that is not the case. Today in my ongoing sermon series on Christianity, I will talk about the character Paul of Tarsus from the Christian Scriptures and the incident that changed his life on his travels to Damascus depicted here in this 1601 painting by Italian Painter Caravaggio. The Painting is entitled “conversion”, but I think that is a misnomer.  
Paul wasn’t converted in the way we think of conversion, but in this case I think it was more of a revelation, or possibly a nervous breakdown.  There are at least 4 stories of Paul’s revelation in the Christian Scriptures. The first is in the Book of Acts, Chapter 9, where we first hear about his experience “Saul, (this was his name before the experience), 
“Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me. He asked who are you? The reply came I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But get up and enter the city and you will be told what you are to do.  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one.” 
Now in the Book of Acts, Chapter 22 v 9 he says “Those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”  and in the version in Chapter 26 his travelling companions had also fallen to the ground but it doesn’t indicate that they saw a light or heard a voice.  (Eyewitness accounts can be unreliable) Paul then travels to Damascus where he given the holy spirit by a disciple Ananias, and he then travels to Jerusalem to meet the Apostles.
I tell you this to compare it to the next revelation story as told in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.
He writes
“For I want you to know, brothers and sisters that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source nor was I taught it. But I received it from a revelation from Jesus.  I did not confer with any human being nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem.. but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lords brother….Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.”
We must remember that Paul’s letter to the Galatians was written at least 30 years earlier than Acts, possibly only 20 years after the death of Jesus.   In this letter he writes he claims to have received everything directly from God, not from a disciple as it indicates in Acts, And then waited three years even to go to Jerusalem and then meets only James (who by the way is my personal favorite apostle,) but he is not even one of the original apostles listed in the gospels. 
Of course in Paul’s letter written by himself to a church, he wants to show himself as an authority, and of course wants to show himself in the best light. The letter to Galatians tells of other teachers of the Gospel coming to Galatia to spread lies.  So Paul needs to beef up his authenticity.  But I think the two versions speak to a deeper story, the story of the split between the Jerusalem Christians and Paul.  The Jerusalem Christians still went to temple, still followed the Jewish Laws, but believed that Jesus was the Messiah and would return to overthrow the Romans and install a Heavenly Kingdom on Earth.  Paul had a different vision he wanted to share with others and it was his vision of Jesus that later became known as Christianity. So Paul, in my opinion was the true creator of Christianity. But This Service is called the Road to Damascus.  Clearly something happened to Paul on the Way to Damascus.  Let me try to put it into the context about what we know about Paul, from the Christian Scriptures, and other writings from that time.
There are some writings that indicate that Paul grew up in a Pagan family and was converted to Judaism.  From the Christian Scriptures we learn that at one point earlier in his life he studied under the famous Pharisee teacher Gamaliel. Yet at the time of his revelation Paul was acting as sort of policemen persecuting the new Jewish Christians at the hands of the Jewish High Priests, which were the Sadducees. We know the Sadducees and the Pharisees were sworn enemies whose factions had been killing each other for a couple of centuries.  Paul, clearly was someone struggling with his identity.  Thinking about some of his writings in relation to sex,  it makes me wonder whether he struggled with his sexual identity as well.  But that is another sermon. Paul has gone through some tremendous changes in his life.  To have studied with a famous Rabbi Gamaliel, and then to find himself a persecutor of fellow Jews must have left him with tremendous conflict.  Also to have studied with Gamaliel, would have been an honor and would have indicated that Paul was an educated man and wanted to be a teacher himself. 
So one has to wonder what happened in his life that led him to go from wanting to be a teacher to becoming an enforcer for the Jewish Priests who were aligned with the Romans.  We might see in this what the psychologist William James  called the Divided Self describing an individual whose existence
“is a series of zig zags, who wishes for incompatibles, and wayward impulses interrupt their most deliberate plans, and their lives are one long drama of repentance and of effort to repair misdemeanors and mistakes.” 
James continues to speak about how our journey in life is to unify the inner self.  He says
“It may come gradually, or it may occur abruptly, it may come through altered feelings, or altered powers of action; or it may come through new intellectual insights, or through experiences which we designate as mystical.  However it comes, it brings a characteristic sort of relief” 
And this is how I imagine Paul. Constantly arguing against a religious law he cannot keep,  Caught between the confluence of a Pagan upbringing and clearly rejecting or most probably being rejected by the Pharisees, and finding himself doing something that probably in his heart he doesn’t believe in,
And so he finds a way to unify his divided self with a revelation of a new way to live his life that combines the pagan mystery religions with the Jewish Studies and the messianic cult of Christian Jews.
 I think that is similar to what we as Unitarians Universalist strive for.  To find a unity amidst the diversity, to come together and join in mutuality just as our new members have today, adding their experiences to our community joining themselves to something greater than just themselves. As we heard to journey together with us, sharing in the joys and the responsibilities. And we as a Congregation committing to welcome them incorporating their uniqueness into the whole, and committing to walk with them on that ongoing journey as well.
Just as with our new members so it was with Paul important to have good companions on the journey. As we heard one of Paul’s companions was Titus who was a constant traveler with Paul.  Titus is a very interesting character.  I remember in seminary I almost gave my Scripture teacher a heart attack (I did that often) stating that Titus seemed to be character right out of the HBO Series the Sopranos. He was basically Paul’s enforcer. I am not making this up.  In Paul’s letter to Titus Paul gives Titus explicit directions “to silence the rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers and to put things in order.”  In Corinthians he was sent to collect funds to bring back to Jerusalem.  And so I do not want you to equate our ushers and liaisons with Titus, but I hope you will be as generous as the Corinthians were to Jerusalem as we take our collection today.  50% of our collection this week goes to support and expand our Giving Garden which supplies healthy food to the homeless in our community.  It is a vision of new way of living in the world, the way of eating healthy, locally grown organic foods.  Please be as generous as you can be.  After you have made your donation, we invite you come up and light a candle to mark a joy or sorrow in your personal lives.  Let this sacred time begin.


Part II
Just like Paul, many of us struggle to find our way in the world until we find our purpose if we ever find our purpose.  Now Paul had a cataclysmic psychic event but as William James indicated it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as that.  Sometimes it can be a process.  Or sometimes the transformation is forced upon us by circumstances. People become passionate about issues maybe because their lives are affected by it, sometimes by violence, or natural disasters.   But if we are lucky, we don’t have to wait for outside forces.  Something wakes up inside of us and we hear that still small voice say, yes this is right.
And if we have the courage to listen to that voice, it can change our life immeasurably for the better.  Sometimes to get to the mountaintop you have to go through a valley. So if you are in a metaphorical valley, keep seeking.  Because once you’ve been to the mountaintop, once you have felt what it is like to have a moment of clarity, a moment of pure understanding, a moment of connection to the interdependent web of existence, and you realize your purpose, you have no choice but to pursue it.  And there are things we can consciously do to help that along.  We have to take the time to stop and listen to that internal voice, But we also have to make sure we are asking the ourselves the right questions. There are four basic questions you have to stop and ask yourself.   (PPT)
First What is it that I love? For to have purpose you must love what you do.  To wake up each morning, with all the distractions of life, with all the demands of life, you must have a passion for where you spend your time.
Second, What is it that I am good at, or could be good at.  I think this can be the most daunting part of the journey.  The uncertainty as to whether you are good enough, or whether you are too old, or too young, or too whatever your objection might be as to what calls you. 
If I have found one thing to be true in my life, there is always someone who is better than you and someone who is not as good as you.  You only have recognize your strengths and to be as good as you can be
Third, What can you be paid for? For you need to survive to pursue your purpose, but even if someone is independently wealthy, you need to be valued by others to achieve your purpose.
And lastly and I think most importantly What does the world need. Because if you purpose is not what the world needs, making the world a better place, then what you do can become just self serving narcissism.
When you combine the answers to these questions you will find your purpose. If you can even get three out of four you are doing well. Now we think our purpose has to be some major thing like creating world peace. If it is our purpose it is a major thing. Even if that is being a parent or a poet, or machine operator or a server at a restaurant or a volunteer at the Congregation. As Martin Luther King Jr. said  
“If a person is called to be a street sweeper, they should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. They should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did their who did their job well.”  
But also don’t sell yourself short. You can be more than one thing, or different things at different times of your life. What is it that calls you
(Is it ______list various social justice initiatives)
Get Involved, Join others…….
And don’t ignore the unknown, the transformational vision, such as Paul had.  That vision came because he needed to see it.  We often can find what we need.  We just have to have the courage to look for it and accept it.  Paul could have just walked away from his vision and lived the rest of his life in quiet solitude, taken a pension (from the rabbi’s retirement fund) but he followed the vision for better and worse.  So I encourage you to think about what needs transforming in your life, in the life of the Congregation and in the world today.  Transform yourself and you will transform the world.  Transform the world and you will transform yourself. May you find relief and wholeness in your life. May it be so.




Friday, March 13, 2015

Selma

Part I
On February 18th 1965 a couple of weeks prior to the first March in Selma there had been a non violent march in the nearby town of Marion, Alabama. (PPT)  During that non violent protest, the marchers were attacked. An African American Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed by a state trooper while he was trying to protect his mother from one of the attackers. In response to this, the organizers planned a march from Selma to the State’s capital Montgomery Alabama to bring attention to the lack of voting rights and the violence that occurred.
A few days before the march King said to the gathered, “I cant promise you wont get be killed, but we must stand up for what is right”  Now most people don’t realize it, but King himself was not in Selma for the first March in Selma on March 7th that has come to be known as Bloody Sunday. Here is a scene from that day.  

(Video)

In an irony that just could not be missed, ABC television switched away from showing the movie Judgment at Nuremberg, a movie depicting the trial of German judges and prosecutors accused of crimes against humanity for atrocities committed under the Nazi regime. 
They switch from this movie to the live coverage from Bloody Sunday.  And it was very easy for people to make the connection between the Nazi extermination of Jews and the treatment of African Americans in this Country.  Those who were watching, could not turn away especially in light of the story of Germans who said they were just following the law of their country.  It is easy in this country to not be aware, especially if you are not confronted daily with oppression. But once confronted we must not turn away. 
On the one hand, I think our desire to face this is due to the realization of centuries of shame and guilt built up due to white people’s actions as a people and as a country oppressing people of color. And Whites today are the inheritors and beneficiaries of those actions.  And as well on the other hand, I believe that humanity when confronted with injustice,  our religious conscience rises up and recognizes the brokenness of our world, in this case due to systematic racism, and when that conscience is lifted up people can no longer sit idly by and they know they need to rise and act to bring wholeness and healing to the world.  Martin Luther King knew this.  He had often in his writings chided clergy for their timidity in confronting the issue of systemic racism in our country, but he knew Bloody Sunday was a tipping point. He knew that within the liberal religious heart beat a drum for justice.  So King sent a telegram to religious leaders around the country which stated:
“In the vicious maltreatment of defenseless citizens of Selma, where old women and young children were gassed and clubbed at random, we have witnessed an eruption of the disease of racism which seeks to destroy all of America. No American is without responsibility.  All are involved in the sorrow that rises from Selma to contaminate every crevice of our national life. The people of Selma will struggle on for the soul of the nation, but it is fitting that all America help to bear the burden. I call therefore, on clergy of all faiths  representative of every part of the country, to join me for a ministers’ march to Montgomery on Tuesday morning, March 9th. In this way all America will testify to the fact that the struggle in Selma is for the survival of democracy everywhere in our land.”

177 Unitarian Universalists Ministers answered King’s call to join him in Selma, including the minister of our Congregation at the time Rex Styzens.  This accounted for approximately 20 % of all Unitarian Universalist ministers. Over the course of the 3 marches there were an additional 300 Unitarian Universalist Lay members as well who attended and participated in the struggle for Voting Rights in Selma.  This continued the long tradition of our religion’s beliefs that we must put our values into actions, a tradition we continue today in all of our social justice work. 

“Part II - Joys and Sorrows”
James Reeb was another Unitarian Minister who heeded King’s call to Selma for the second March in Selma.  The second march actually never took place, as King turned the protestors back at the bridge, not wanting to defy a federal court order. 
Later that same evening Rev. James Reeb along with two other UU Ministers were attacked by local whites and Reeb died two days later due to the injuries from that attack. 
I will share with you a bit of King’s Eulogy for Reeb:

“And if he should die, ‘Take his body, and cut it into little stars.
He will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night
These beautiful words from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet so eloquently describe the radiant life of James Reeb.  He entered the stage of history just 38 years ago, and in the brief years that he was privileged to act on this mortal stage, he played his part exceedingly well.  His death was a result of a sensitive religious spirit. His crime was that he dared to live his faith; he placed himself alongside the disinherited black brethren of this community.  The world is aroused over the murder of James Reeb. For he symbolizes the forces of good will in our nation.  He demonstrated the conscience of the nation. He was an attorney for the defense of the innocent in the court of world opinion.  He was a witness to the truth that men of different races and classes might live, eat and work together as brothers.  Naturally we are compelled to Ask the Question, Who killed James Reeb?  The answer is simple and rather limited, when we think of the who. He was murdered by a few sick, demented, and misguided men who have the strange notion that you express dissent through murder. There is another haunting, poignant desperate question we are forced to ask this afternoon, that I asked a few days ago as we funeralized James Jackson.  It is the question What killed James Reeb?  When we move from the who to the what, the blame is wide and the responsibility grows.  James Reeb was murdered by the indifference of every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained glass windows.  He was murdered by the irrelevancy of a church that will stand amid social evil and serve as a taillight rather than a headlight, an echo rather than a voice. He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every politician who has moved down the path of demagoguery, who has fed their constituent the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.  He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff and law enforcement agent who practices lawlessness in the name of the law. He was murdered by the timidity of a federal government that can spend millions of dollars a day to keep troops in South Vietnam, yet cannot protect the lives of its own citizens seeking constitutional rights.   So in his death, James Reeb says something to each of us, black and white alike, says that we must substitute courage for caution, says to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered him, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murder.  His death says to us that we must work passionately, unrelentingly, to make the American dream a reality, so he did not die in vain.”

In thinking about Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, and as well Viola Liuzzo a Lay Unitarian Universalist who was murdered in Selma, let us take a moment of silence to honor their sacrifice and the sacrifice of so many others on the road to freedom.

Part III
The death of James Reeb did move this nation.  Four days after his death, In a special address to Congress, to submit the voting rights act, President Johnson raised up Reeb’s death as a way to gain support for the bill. I have spoken of this before.  But it is worth repeating.  It is sad that our nation was not moved by the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson an African American civil rights worker, or Viola Liuzzo,  Or the countless African Americans lynched, or the mere injustice denying the vote to most African Americans.
And although I believe that this change in the conscience of this country was a cumulative affect of many many actions taken by countless and unheralded activists,  it was the death of a White Clergyman that was the fulcrum that actually moved the nation.  And as sad as that is, it is why it is so important for us as liberal religious people to stand as allies with all who are oppressed.  To make sure the nation pays attention, so the nation knows that we will join together to stand up for what is right, no matter where we find oppression, no matter what the consequences. And just as the nation was moved, so finally was there a third march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge from Selma to Montgomery.  A march in which the President protected the marchers with federalized troops.  And upon their arrival in Montgomery Martin Luther King gave his now famous speech, How Long.  I will share a clip of it here with you.

(Video)

For those who don’t know that last line about the arc of the moral universe was first spoken by Unitarian Minister Theodore Parker in the 19th Century.   The arc is moving, but we still have a long way to go. In the wake of the death this past week of yet another unarmed African American Teen this time in Wisconsin, shows me we still have a long way to go. This shooting in which the police without a warrant broke down the door of this young man’s house, shows me we still have a long way to go as the ink seems to be disappearing on the Constitution’s fourth amendment to our right of privacy.
When you ask me how long do we have to wait for racial justice, I say its been too long
When you ask me how long will truth be crushed to earth, I say its been too long,
When you ask me how long will people keep telling lies about people of color I say its been too long.
How long will it take for wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Ferguson and Cleveland, and Staten Island, and communities all over the Country, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of humanity?  How Long? Too Long
How long will justice be crucified, and truth bear it?" How Long? Too Long
How long will it take us to act as once again people in our own State, let alone the rest of the country work to strip African Americans of their right to vote.  How long, Its been Too Long.
We cannot rest, We have to bend the arc of justice
Although they walked for miles from Selma to Montgomery, it is the people first attempting to and then finally crossing the bridge that will be an enduring image in my mind.  The first steps of change require us to cross a bridge,  a bridge that protects us from the raging river of change, A bridging of multiple cultures, the bridge of generations, the bridge of ideas, the bridge of relationships.  I believe that is how we will bend the arc of the universe.  To be in the world building relationships with others who are different than we are, and walking with each other over that bridge. 

So I encourage you to participate in a number of events in our community through Quad Cities Interfaith and in our Congregation regarding race and bias, and justice.  We can be the fulcrum, if we have the courage to act.  May it be so

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

True North

Part I –
When I am on study leave over the summer I try to schedule what my sermons will be for the upcoming year.  Its always adaptable as circumstances in the world change, but it helps me get a sense of what type of knowledge to be on the lookout for.   I am always amazed though how circumstances and information in a given week somehow correlate with topic of my service.  A sort of synchronicity of the universe.  Maybe not logical, but it happens too often for me to believe in coincidence.  This week I am speaking about truth, and how we come to know it, how we recognize it and even whether there even is such a thing.
And two events this week happened that will help me express that thought.  The first came in the most simple example and blast onto the news and twittersphere.  (PPT)  The dress!!  Here is a picture of the dress. How many see this dress as white and gold please raise your hands.  Ok, now how many see it as blue and black.  So it is interesting to think about how we perceive things.  (pull up picture).  Based upon the amount of light our eyes allow in will determine whether we see white and gold or blue and black.  There is a correct answer, but not everyone can perceive it.  This is a simple example. Imagine thinking about the rest of life in that matter.  Throughout history philosophers and religions have imagined that there are eternal truths that we cannot perceive but may be innate,  just as the Pythagorean theorem, may be undiscovered or unknown by an individual,  but it is a universal truth, waiting to be perceived.   Thomas Merton the Christian Mystic said
There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fountain of action and of joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being.” 
It is this feeling that we get, that spark of imagination that points us in a direction, a intuitive feeling that we are heading in the right direction.  There is an inexpressible feeling of  calm and centeredness when we know we are in its presence.  And often it is inexpressible. The inexpressible is made even more difficult because we all come from different cultures and have unique circumstances of expressing ourselves. So how we communicate our truth often becomes problematic in the world.
I can think of no better example of this then the character of  Spock from the television and movie series Star Trek. I was reminded of this due to the death this week of Leonard Nimoy the actor who portrayed Spock.   His highly logical thinking gave him a narrow view of how truth is expressed and often showed the limitations in being able to understand one culture’s expression of truth with another.  (PPT)  For the record the Vulcan Salute (PPT) is actually a hand signal for a Jewish Blessing that some believe signifies the presence of God.  In the Orthodox Jewish tradition which Leonard Nimoy grew up in, this was done his heads down and faces covered with a kippah, which is like a religious shawl or stole.  However this blessing is now given universally throughout the world face to face with the simple blessing of live long and prosper.   May we all have that blessing, and may we all give that blessing to others.  As part of living out this blessing in the world, we try to help others to live longer healthier lives. Thru our Giving Garden, we  supply healthy locally grown organic food to those in our community who do not have enough food to eat.  This year we are looking to expand our Garden and as well to create a pollinator garden.  So when the basket comes by your way we ask you to be as generous as you can be as 50% of your non pledge donations today will go to the Giving Garden. 

Part II
How we express truth, and how we try to understand other’s truth as we saw in the video earlier has the potential to lead to misunderstanding.  Simple colloquialisms in one culture are meaningless in another. That is why obtaining wisdom is like a journey.   When someone is giving an oath in a court of law, they say “I swear that the evidence that I shall give, shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”  To not only understand our own truth, but to understand the whole truth creates a higher criteria.   
Through being open to others perceptions we may understand why they see the world differently.  We see this in our social justice work, particularly our racial justice work.  Often our perception of what the world is like for ourselves, we tend to project onto other people. Those who come from a different socio-economic class (whether rich, middle or poor) or a different race, gender, or sexual orientation may have very different perceptions of reality then how we experience it.  Or how they perceive us.   It is not always possible to walk in another person’s shoes. Its hard enough sometimes to walk in our shoes. So what is required is trust, compassion and courage.  
I ask you to think about how often it is that other people perceive you differently then you perceive yourself.  If we truly believe we are a part of something larger than ourselves, part of the wholeness of existence, then can we ever truly know ourselves, except as part of that wholeness, and if so, then it is only by experiences in the context of the larger existence that we can gain wisdom about ourselves and  the world.  The world becomes a mirror for our soul.   .The philosopher William James said, “Truth happens to an idea.  It becomes true, is made true by events.”   
An idea by itself is meaningless unless it is tested in the world and shown to be true. This is similar to the scientific method. It starts with
  • Ask a Question
  • Do Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis through Experimentation
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results, so others can critique it.
So how does this relate to religion? The fourth principle of Unitarian Universalism is the Free and Responsible search for truth and meaning.  We sometimes forget the responsible part. But if we are true to our principle we must evaluate what has come before us and ask whether it still holds meaning and whether it is still true based on new knowledge and new experiences. Unitarians and Universalists broke away from traditional Christianity because they realized their analysis of the information yielded different conclusions then Christianity. Religions tend to get caught up in the hypothesis, such as is there one or three or no Gods, or is the communion consubstantiation or transubstantiation, or what is or should or should not be a representation of God.
Religion rarely test their theories though.  One might say how do you prove something like salvation. That is why I like the Kabir poem we heard earlier when he writes “What you call salvation, belongs to the time before death.” If one’s hypothesis leads to violence and death of innocent people, then I think we need to rethink the hypothesis.  But I think it is deeper than that. You will come up with the wrong hypothesis if the question you ask is wrong.  It all starts with the question.   If you ask, what happens after I die, or how was the world created, you can have many hypothesis, but there is no way to test it. 
So what would/should be the questions that religion should ask so that they will be relevant in your life?   How can I be comforted knowing the body I am living in is going to die?  What is the purpose of my existence?  What values do I want to live my life by?  How can I gain wisdom of how to live in the world? How can I nurture myself? How can I help heal this broken world?  These are questions that we can create hypothesis and tests and spend a lifetime analyzing. However these questions can only be tested in covenanted community, where the search itself is valued.  A place where ideas such as these can be tested, and analyzed, and shared with our children, where truth is not one monolithic dictate, but an ongoing journey of discovery as the universe and our lives unfold.  As our new billboards state, “Many beliefs, one faith”.  Loving and caring for each other with open minds willing to learn from each other and from multiple wisdom sources.  That is the truth I strive for. The truth of how to be and how to act in the world. 
Unitarian Theologian James Luther Adams famously said, “by their groups you shall know them” Our liberal religion gives the world a different way to view the world, a way that is built upon the foundations of ancient wisdom, but open to new knowledge, a way that asks us to not only respect the different opinions of others, but to recognize that all we do affects everyone else, whether it be in this community or the world at large. Jesus said, “by their fruits you shall know them.”  Well let us look at the fruits of our religion, a religion that has provided a welcoming community for all people, a religion that challenges us to rethink about our religion.  A religion that asks us to constantly learn.  A religion that asks us to seek justice through love for all people.
This is the religion that I am called to. It may not be perfect by any means, but we cast a different vision that asks us to be hopeful about and find wholeness in this world not some distant planet in galaxy far far away. 
Parker Palmer the Quaker Activist and Author said
“As someone who believes that there is a hidden wholeness beneath the very evident brokenness of our world. And somebody who wants to say that somehow part of that hidden wholeness is love, part of that hidden wholeness is our fellow feeling for each other, part of that hidden wholeness is a desire to make this thing work, and to work it out together.
the act of persisting in those fundamental beliefs that something better is possible I think this is courage. And I try to call myself to it every day”
And so I invite you to call yourselves to this courage. Day in and day out. One day at a time.  This courage to believe that together we can make a better, more loving, more just world,  not just for ourselves but for others as well.  And the only way we can do this and discover truth is through acting together in loving community. This is my truth that I am testing.  I am grateful to be with you for the journey.  Amen.