Saved by Community

Saved by Community

A few weeks ago, at a committee meeting here, Bo Crowell shared a reading that said great spiritual leaders come to set us free, but people tend to build institutions, which too often become about rules and customs, and end up being more restrictive than liberating. One particular line in the reading struck me: “You don’t need the church or the priesthood to have a spiritual life.” And I felt compelled to respond: “As someone who has chosen to work in and spend my life in the institutional church, I know that what you say is true. And sometimes I despair for the future of the church.” 

There was a moment of silence. I was mostly speaking to the fact that these are not the best days for organized religion, that spiritual innovation these days is often happening outside the church, and I do wonder about our future. Then one of you spoke up. And quietly said, “I need you to hear, that right now, I need the church.” 

Prayer as Listening, Listening as Prayer

Prayer as Listening, Listening as Prayer

Last Sunday I talked about paying attention, about the importance of being awake to this present moment. I truly believe that if you want to have a better and more fulfilling life, if you want a more robust spiritual life, the way to do this to practice paying attention. This doesn’t necessarily make it an easier life; sometimes it would easier to check out, to look the other way, because life necessarily includes pain and suffering. But the invitation is to be awake to it all, as best you can.

A Spirituality of Showing Up

A Spirituality of Showing Up

We just heard Mary Oliver’s confession, where she says

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often 
(from the poem “When I Am Among the Trees”).

In early January I was hurrying around, trying to get things done before I left on a month of sabbatical. It was a busy time, and I had a list, and I may have seemed a bit stressed, maybe a little over-caffeinated. In those days I wasn’t exactly living as I hope to—walking slowly and bowing often.

A Wider Vision

A Wider Vision

Last Sunday I talked about some of the ways our UU tradition has failed people of color. How we have fallen short of our aspiration to be a truly welcoming faith. The good news is, there’s plenty of work for us to do, inside these walls and out in the world. Our world needs us! I hope you’ll come be part of the conversation on social justice today at noon. 

Today I want to lift up our potential, our giftedness, the possibilities that lie before us. Even with the struggles of these days, I am generally hopeful about what lies ahead. I sense that the pains of this time are the birth pangs of an expansion of more liberty and more justice for more people. The problem right now is that some folks are fearful about what’s changing; they are worried about what they could lose. They assume there’s a limited amount of human rights to go around. That you getting your freedom somehow diminishes mine. That you having more opportunity means I get less. But that’s not how it works! There isn’t a limited amount of love or justice in our world. We can create as much of that as we want! 

More Love, More Hope, More Joy

More Love, More Hope, More Joy

We just sang, “There is more love, some where… I’m gonna keep on, ’til I find it….” That song comes out of the African American spiritual tradition. It was created and sung by slaves because it helped them have the to have the hope and courage to carry on, when there wasn’t much reason for hope. 

When you sing a song, it’s helps to know where it comes from, who sang it, and why—what their experience was, what their lives were like. So you can give that song and those people the reverence and respect they deserve.

A Simple Christmas Faith

A Simple Christmas Faith

Have you ever asked a child about Christmas? If you looked into the eyes of a little one and said, “Tell me what you know about Christmas. What’s it all about?,” what would they say?

I imagine it would be something like, “There was this lady, who has a baby, and it’s born in a stable, and there are animals, and guess what? the baby is God. There were angels and candles and singing. But it was a silent night. And then there were presents!”

Incarnation: All the Feels

Incarnation: All the Feels

This Sunday I want to help you get ready for Christmas. People ask you that, right? “Are you ready for Christmas?” they say. What do you think that means? Probably something like, “Have you done all your shopping?” or “Have you done all your decorating?” Maybe it means, “Are your sufficiently stressed out, so that now Christmas can come and then you can collapse in exhaustion?” I hope that’s not your experience, because Christmas is this beautiful and rich season that invites us into a deeper experience of being alive, of being in touch with the Holy, of being reminded that if we meet God anywhere, it is right here—in this moment, in these bodies. And I need that, and I expect you do too.