Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sermon for June 24, 2012

Five Ideas That Can Change Your Life: Love is the Thing
You Are Never Set Apart from the Connective Current of Life
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love -- not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and God’s  love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 1 John 4:7-13
How do you define yourself? I am a married, white, straight, educated, 41-year-old child of the ‘80s with four children, who enjoys variety in my menu, who likes to dress in mis-matched plaids and who enjoys a relatively good amount of health and happiness. You could say something similar about yourself. Each of these descriptions is a code to more understanding. When I was born, what I eat, how I dress, how much money I make, where I live and with whom – you form assumptions based on what you see and hear about me.

But I am more than any of that. I am defined by my consciousness. I think. I evaluate. I act on decisions. I am aware of my world. However, I don’t always know why I do the things I do, so something else must be at work.

So, am I defined by my sub0conscious? Sometimes I sense unknown motives and desires behind what I do. Sometimes these things just pop out and shock me. How can we explain an urge to suddenly call an old friend or to take a drive alone? How can I explain why I want to cross my legs when I sit down? Sometimes we can find triggers for our impulses, but usually we just move from one subconscious impulse to another without any real awareness of why we do what we do. So I know there are two parts of me, conscious and subconscious. But I don’t know enough about these parts and how they work to form a good picture of who I am.

There is a spiritual me -- driven by unseen forces and universal realities that are bigger than I can fathom. There is the me that others see.  People have an opinion about me when they get to know me.  Am I any of this? Can I know the real me? Can you know the real me?

When people try to explain something, we use two different kinds of languages. Let’s call them Day Language and Night Language -- two different but complimentary sides of our experience.

Day Language is the realm of objective reality. Day Language talks about what is empirically true. There is another reality, communicated to us through dreams, poems, metaphors and stories. It communicates a subjective reality. It wants to be interpreted. Let’s call this Night Language. In Day Language terms, I can explain that the average 150 lb. adult human body contains approximately 6.7 x 1027 atoms and is composed of 60 chemical elements, although only 24 or 25 of those elements are thought to play an active positive role in human life and growth. There are about 210 distinct human cell types. There are between 50 and 75 trillion cells in the human body. Each of those cells contains thousands of protein molecules.

So, I can understand myself in terms of mammal biology, but this doesn’t explain how I got to be me. I also need some Night Language -- some images, metaphors and symbols to convey reality. I can say I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am a child of God. God leads me to green pastures and beside still waters. I believe these things to be true, but I can’t prove them with the scientific method.

A Surgeon named Sherwin Nuland tries to tie Day and Night Languages together to understand the human spirit. Nuland looks at the world and sees the tragedies humankind has visited on itself, the havoc we have wreaked on our planet.  Even though we have made a mess of the world, humans have developed a transcendent quality that gets bigger, generation upon generation, overcoming our tendency toward self-destruction. Through trial and error, humans gradually found within ourselves, over the course of millennia, what we call the human spirit.  Over time, human beings have chosen to value beauty, harmony, integrity, oneness, rhythm, and predictability. Through thousands of years, we have evolved what we call the human spirit, or soul.

We need both Day Language and Night Language to better understand who we are. Consider this biblical image: You are dust and to dust you shall return. What does this mean? Well, it turns out that all of the elements that make up my body are also part of the earth’s crust. We are dust. Or, instead of earth dust, we can think of ourselves as star dust. The elements in the earth’s crust had to come from somewhere. Our atoms were created from supernova explosions of distant stars, blown out in stellar winds from massive explosions that soared for millions of years through space to become part of the birth of our solar system. Our bodies have billions of bits of information that have been encoded and preserved in each of us -- stored right in our bodies. We are dust, of the day and of the night. We are connected to the earth and the cosmos in love. Or, as Native American elder, named Black Elk said, “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of men and women when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the Universe and all its powers.”

We need both Day Language and Night Language to better understand who we are. We seek clarity in measurable facts, and then we express our understanding in poetry and stories. You are earth dust, connected elementally to the earth as her grandest expression. You are a star child, an expression of the blazing light and explosive power of the sun.

Perhaps this is how we begin to understand the love of God -- the evolving, breathing, life-giving connection that unites us. We need Day Language and Night Language to understand the fundamental affirmation of our Scripture: God is love. Far from being removed from the world, God is in every single atom of the cosmos, including you.

Both science and spirituality are beginning to affirm there are connections between everything in the universe that we can no longer afford to ignore.  A biologist named Rupert Sheldrake created a controversial concept called morphic fields. Sheldrake claims each individual both draws upon and contributes to the collective memory of the species. This means that new patterns of behavior can spread more rapidly than would otherwise be possible. For example, if rats of a particular breed learn a new trick in a lab at the University of Maryland, then rats of that breed should be able to learn the same trick faster all over the world. If enough chimpanzees learned to ride a bike, then it should be easier for the entire species to learn, no matter where they live. Wild idea, isn’t it?

Habits are subject to natural selection; and the more often they are repeated, the more probable they become, other things being equal. Animals, including humans, inherit the successful habits of their species as instincts. We inherit bodily, emotional, mental and cultural habits, including the habits of our languages.

In other words, we are never apart from the connective current of life. Everything is related. If humans practice violence and the habits of hatred, then it becomes easier for all humans to become disciples of death. But . . . if we practice love . . . if we live with compassion, if we see ourselves united with God and others, if we work for a more humane world . . . then we enable the entire species to do it.

I think a lot about our interconnectedness, and I think perhaps now more than ever we, it's beginning to dawn on us that our the ways in which we define ourselves, the choices we make about the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, and the cars we drive have effects on people all over the world, and even the waters, the skies, the soil, and the animals we share this planet with.

Love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  As I think about this scripture, I began to wonder if we're not all in covenant with one another. I’m talking about a covenant between God, humans, plants, animals, skies, oceans, rivers, earth. We're all in this together. The more we begin to look around and realize the world's problems: famine, rising waters, global warming, human trafficking, worker injustice and abuse, extinction, loss of resources, you name it — we begin to make the connection that who we are has an effect on the world. We are responsible. But the thing is, we've got a covenant to live up to. It all comes down to love. Love is the thing. For it is out of love that we were made out of the dust of the earth, and it is with love that we are given back to the earth. We are in a love covenant. If we love God, we cannot help but to love God’s earth. If we love God, we cannot help but to love God’s earthly creations.

Last week, as I was loading my car and getting ready to come to church, my neighbor called me over. Pointing down the street, she showed me a bird – maybe a catbird or a mockingbird – flopping around in the middle of the road. It looked like its wing was broken. My neighbor said, “Can you move it out of the road. I’m too scared to go near it. I don’t want it to get run over, but I don’t want to touch it.” Mustering all my bravado, I said, “I don’t want to touch it either.” She looked at me. I looked at her. Then I went to look at the bird. I stood over the bird and it calmed down. I reached down, and stroked its back. The bird sat in absolute stillness, neither trying to flop around or peck at me. I pushed on its back tail feathers, and then, as I went to cup the bird in my hand, it gathered its energy and flew away to the relative safety of a nearby thicket. I walked away feeling such a connection with that little gray bird – as if it were my sister, as if we shared a moment. I was reminded of the words of William Blake:
To see the world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
Think of the times you have had the privilege to cup infinity in the palm of your hand, as if it were a small, wounded gray songbird – the times you had the power of healing or destruction at your fingertips – the times when you understood your connection to the connective flow of life. What a privilege. What a joy. What a responsibility. To respond in ways that generate life and unity, that is love.

Today I’m asking us to fall in love again. Like a partnership between two people who love each other, who make a promise for better or for worse, I’m asking us to fulfill a promise rooted in love, a covenant made between our God and our world that we might love so deeply that we act not out of our own self-interest, but out of the elemental connections that we have with each other and the world around us. We have a covenant based on love. Love is the thing. So, FALL IN LOVE! Or, as John says, No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and God’s  love is brought to full expression in us.

Sources:
http://www.sheldrake.org/Articles&Papers/papers/morphic/morphic_intro.html
Margarate Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science, 57.
Krista Tippet, Einstein’s God, 41-67.
http://progressivechristianity.org/resources/a-covenant-of-love.

http://helpyourselftherapy.com/topics/realyou.html
Michael Dowd, Thank God for Evolution, 48-117.
Roger Housden, Ten Poems to Change Your Life, 31-41.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sermon for June 17, 2012

Five Ideas That Can Change Your Life: Only This Moment
Jump Into Experience While You Are Still Alive

This is the story of The Mustard Seed Medicine . . .

Once upon a time there lived a young mother. She had a son whom she loved above all else in the world. She loved him when he was happy and cooperative and she loved him when he was grumpy and whiney. She even loved him when he had tantrums.

There came a time when the young boy became very ill. Doctors and healers were not able to cure him, and he died. The young mother was beside herself with grief. She picked up the boy's body and wrapped it in blankets, carrying it about the village asking everyone she met if they knew how to bring her son back to life. One kind friend suggested that she visit the Enlightened One, who would surely be able to help her. The young mother approached the Buddha, carrying her son's body and weeping. “Please help me! Please tell me how to bring my son back to life.”

The Buddha looked at her and felt great compassion. “I can help you,” he said. “But first you must bring me some mustard seed from a home where no loved one has ever died, no parent or grandparent, no brother or sister, no child or much-loved friend.” Sensing hope for the first time since her son had died, the young mother set out to find some mustard seed.

The first place the young mother visited was the house next door. When the neighbor came to the door, the young mother asked for a handful of mustard seed. As the neighbor was about to hand her some mustard seed, the young mother remembered to ask if anyone from the household had ever died. The neighbor said, “Don't you remember? My father died a year ago, and we were sad for a long time. We still miss him.” Dejected, the young mother went away without taking the mustard seed.
When she visited a second house and asked for mustard seed, that neighbor reminded her that a beloved niece had died in that house five years ago. Sadly, the young mother went away without any mustard seed.

So she proceeded from house to house, visiting every home in the village. At each stop, the family spoke of a nephew, a mother, a grandparent, or a beloved child who had died. Each family told a tale of grief and loss. When she had visited the last house in the village, it became clear to the young mother that what the Buddha had asked her to do was impossible. She was overcome with sadness and could not go any further. She found a tree at the edge of the village and sat down to cry.

She cried for hours. . . .

Over time, though, a strange peace came over her. She thought about all the stories she had heard that day, of loved ones who had died and of families who had experienced terrible sadness. She realized that she was not alone in experiencing the death of someone she loved. She was not alone in her grief and her sadness. The next day she returned to the Buddha. When she told him of her search for the mustard seed that could not be found, he nodded. “Our lives in this world are not permanent. Each one of us must die, some at a young age and some older. All of us will know times of great happiness and times of deep sorrow. Do not try to keep yourself free from these human experiences. Try instead to be kind and compassionate to all beings, enjoying all the gifts that life brings.”

As time passed, The woman became a comforter of all who experienced sadness and death. Even though she always missed her son, she learned to accept his death and to take comfort in knowing that she was not alone in her grief.

We all have struggles. We all bear the ravages of grief and the toll of sickness in our bodies and in our relationships. For the Buddhist, pain is inevitable. Growing old. Illness. Dying.   Even love is full of pain.

Most religions deal with the question of human finitude. If we are all going to die, then how do we keep on living? How can humans be saved from pain? The Buddha asked: What might happen if we stop struggling against the pain in our life? For Chinese Taoism, the sacred principle behind the universe is like a river. You can choose to swim against the current or you can choose to be saved by simply going with the flow. For Ancient Judaism, the answer was to turn to community and guarantee the survival of the tribe. Through keeping covenant, Jews are saved as a people for a prosperous and reproductive life here on earth. The basic problem with human nature, as Islam sees it, is injustice.  The Prophet Mohammad’s world was torn apart by blood feuds between rival clans, threatening his people’s security and prosperity. Muhammad’s revelation demanded that every person submit to God alone, leaving behind vengeance killings and other injustices in favor of a single consistent sacred law, regardless of that persons social station or tribal affiliation. For Islam, salvation is achieved when the just society is established.

Christians also deal with human finitude. Christianity taught that because of human sin, human life is hard and short. The fix is accepting the atoning work of Christ, enjoying abundant life here on earth and eternal life in the hereafter. Jesus will return, gather the faithful and bring them to Heaven. We hear it in our reading from 1 Thessalonians. Paul writes to a little church in modern-day Greece. The members of the church have been persecuted for their faith. Paul has reports that they are losing their way. So he writes a letter to encourage them. Towards the end of the letter he says:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope . . . We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.                    1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
Christianity has spawned many movements of people who wait out the final return of the Lord. In America, some of them were Utopian communities. Others, like the Adventists, are still with us today. They all play on a theme that has been with us for a long time. Jesus will return and reward the virtuous for their courage. Jesus will also punishing evil-doers, with a clear separation between saints and sinners. A future moment will come when all tears will be wiped away, sorrow forgotten, joy restored, and the faithful will live in the light of God forever. We hear this theme in spirituals, the music of the enslaved, exiled African community longing for freedom in a foreign land. We hear it in Ozark Mountain hymns like “I’ll fly away,” written by a man who dreamed of soaring away from the cotton fields of Oklahoma.

But wait a minute. I’m not a persecuted Christian. In fact, I am blessed. By pure luck, I’m a straight, white, married man enjoying the privileges of the dominant culture. I don’t know much about persecution and slavery. Here’s what I do know. I know pain. I know loneliness and depression. I know grief. I’ve sat with and listened to a hundred people who grieve from the depths of their being. I’ve witnessed prejudice against my children. I’ve seen hatred against my and gay and lesbian friends who are treated as second class citizens. And in the midst of it all, I must say, I am not going to wait for heaven for it all to get better. I want to know salvation NOW. I want my world to experience healing NOW. I want tears to be wiped away NOW, sorrow comforted NOW, love’s joy restored NOW.

Barbara Brown Taylor, the Episcopalian priest and author, puts it this way: “In the Bible, human beings experience God’s salvation when peace ends war, when food follows famine, when health supplants sickness and freedom trumps oppression . . . Salvation is a word for the divine spaciousness that comes to human beings in all the right places where their lives are at risk, regardless of how they got there or whether they know God’s name.” She continues saying, “Few of us can choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we respond to them. To be saved is not only to recognize an alternative to the deadliness pressing down upon us but also to be able to act upon it.”

A spirituality disconnected from real life and real suffering is vanity. And vanity is a luxury that Christians can no longer afford in today’s world.

That’s why I love this poem by the mystic Kabir. He lived around the year 1500 CE. Kabir was a Muslim who tried to reconcile Sufi Islam with Hinduism. He wanted people to leave aside the Qur'an and Vedas, and people’s entrenched assumptions, so they could follow the simple way of oneness with God. Here is one of his poems, translated by Robert Bly.
Friend, hope for the guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think . . . and think . . . while you are alive.
What you call salvation belongs to the time before death.
If you don’t break your ropes while you are alive,
Do you think ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will rejoin with the ecstatic just because the body is rotten—
That is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
You will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now,
In the next life you will have the face of satisfied desire.
So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is.
Believe in the Great Sound!
Kabir says this:
When the Guest is being searched for,
It is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity
Did you hear what Kabir suggest? Jump into experience while you are still alive. If we don’t break our ropes NOW, how will it happen later? Don’t wait for some future healing of our mistakes and bad decisions. Don’t let pain paralyze us into inaction. What is found now is found later.

Without even being aware of it, we can easily slip into living life as if it were a rehearsal for the real thing. We only have this moment. You know where I get glimpses and little reminders of the reality of NOW? For me, it’s in the simplest treasures: A supporting hand upon my shoulder or a loving brush of my cheek; the softest whisper of truth spoken in adoration; the early morning orchestra of music from the birds outside my window; the refreshment of the breeze, the contagious laughter of those we love;  the pain of loss; the miracle of healing; the unstoppable toil for a better world; the constant reminders of how precious each moment truly is; the moments when I experience kindness and compassion.

Jump into experience while you are still alive.
Break the ropes
Plunge into truth
Fall into love.
Cry YES! To the immensity of life.
Say YES! To sharing the power of beauty.

As we become present to ourselves and God and others, we begin a journey without end. All we are asked to do is start down that road.

Sources:
http://progressivechristianity.org/resources/823/
http://uustoughtonma.org/Sermons/Archives/20020331-DancingWithEternity.htm
http://www.namethathymn.com/hymn-lyrics-detective-forum/index.php?a=vtopic&t=177
http://throughaglass.net/archives/2012/02/24/saving-my-life/
Roger Housden, Ten Poems To Change Your Life, pp. 53-62.

Ernest Best, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, Blacks NT Commentary.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sermon for June 3, 2012

Five Ideas That Can Change Your Life: Liberation
The Only Life You Can Save is Your Own

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; God has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
    O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Isaiah 43:1-3a

Jesus did not die to save you. There, I said it. I needed to get that out of my system. Let me say it again. Jesus did not die to save you. He died to save himself. Don’t look to Jesus to save you (or God, or me, or your family, or your new diet, or your IPhone, or anyone or anything). The only person who can save you is yourself.

Now that I hopefully got your attention, let’s unpack what I just said.

One traditional stream of Christian theology teaches us that Jesus willingly dies on behalf of human sin. God requires compensation for the dishonor created by human sin. The way to offset the dishonor is the death of a perfectly sinless god-man who represents all of humanity. Without the shed blood of the ultimate, perfect sacrifice, there is no hope of salvation. But, if you follow a theory of substituionary atonement, Jesus stands in for us, suffers God’s wrath on our behalf, and opens the way for us to be saved. Many of us were taught that there’s a rupture between God and us. We live in the world of the rupture, where every creature walks alone, feeling split off from the Whole, cut off from holiness and goodness, severed from the Source of life and power. Christ’s death becomes the final atonement for all sin, past present and future.

I’ve had a problem with this theory for a long time. The fundamental problem is that it puts God the Parent, co-equal and co-eternal person of the Trinity #1, as the one who sacrifices an innocent person, namely co-equal and co-eternal person of the Trinity #2. I choose to believe that God is not like that. I prefer to listen to these words from 2 Corinthians: The Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like the Lord as we are changed into God’s glorious image (3:18). The Greek translation of the word “image” is eikon. I think the atoning work of Jesus is designed by God to restore cracked eikons into glory-producing eikons. Salvation means that we can be renewed in the true image of God. Salvation restores our relationships between God, others, and the self. Salvation frees to be new creations – people who sparkle and shine, and reflect God’s glory. And don’t you worry. God shines through you. Through cracks and wrinkles, through spare tires and stretch marks, through faults mistakes and regrets, God shines through you.

So, no, I don’t think Jesus died to save us, but Jesus did die to show us how to experience salvation. Jesus did not die FOR sin. He died BECAUSE of sin. He died to expose the human potential for corruption and the human tendency to cover our mistakes. He died to show us what it looks like to shine in a world where evil abounds. In a world where religions marginalize others and fight for supremacy and kill innocent people, in a world where the some Syrians can murder scores of their own innocent people and show no remorse, in a world where a person accused of crimes against humanity can thrive off of fear and brutality, like Charles Taylor, Jesus shows how broken, tortured, and betrayed people, like him, can shine. He did not come to save you. He came to show that you, and only you can find healing. You and only you can find freedom. You and only you can show the world our greater potential for peace, compassion, and loving-kindness. You and only you can save yourself.

When we can live into that truth, when we can stop seeking validation from external sources, when we can stop living for others and begin living into being our authentic selves, then we can tap into an idea that can change your life: liberation.

The heart of ministry is freeing people to find their authentic selves, their inner essence, and then helping them to live their lives in ways that express this authentic selves. We can find the freedom to experience our own internal power. Each one of us has this power, but many of us deny it. My job as your pastor (and I think the first and foremost jobs of Pastor Amy, Nae and Sue) is (1) to help each of us in our congregation find who we are and (2) to help us be comfortable with who we are. It's a never-ending process because who we are always changes as you grow and learn new things.

The only life you can save is your own. You know who has a hard time with this? People Pleasers. You know who you are. People Pleasers often feel intimidated approaching others, especially those they see as particularly powerful. Their tendency is to try to get someone else to do the difficult work of dealing with those they perceive as controlling. I'm angry with Janelle, but I see her as powerful, so I share my anger not with Janelle but with Hal. Hopefully, Hal will share my anger with Janelle, preferably without mentioning my name. It’s a sure recipe for chaotic and destructive interpersonal relationships.

You know who else has a hard time with owning one’s inner authority? Authority Bashers -- those who attack anyone they view as possessing abundant authority. Authority Bashers confront and reject perceived authority at every opportunity. Police officer, government leader, principal, teacher, minister, parent -- anyone who is given influence by others becomes a target. The Authority Basher comes from the same place as the People Pleaser. Both have not come to terms with the potential of their own authority.

When I recognize and own my authority, I can say three very important statements: I know who I am, I am who I am, and I am good enough. My inner authority tells me that I am a powerful person and I don't need the approval of others or the disapproval of others. Validation comes from inside me, not from others on the outside.

I love the imagery that comes from a poem by Mary Oliver entitled, “The Journey.”
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Mary Oliver reminds me to listen to my own voice and not the voices of everyone else around me telling me who to be and what to do. When do we say goodbye to regrets, to sadness and old grudges? How long will we keep on sleeping, missing our own passionate, urgent heart cry? How much of our lives will we spend in anxiety and worry over others, even when it means discarding our own needs? When do we realize that we cannot shoulder another person’s soul work for them? When do we get to experience the joy and shining and liberation that our faith keeps telling us is real? As Keats said, “Each one of us must take the charge of our lives upon ourselves.” This is not selfishness. This is the most compassionate act you can do for anyone: to stand by the truth of your own life and live it as passionately and as fully as you are able.

The only person you can save is yourself. If you can be true to that small voice within, you are being of service to others and to the world in the most profound way possible. No one else can walk the journey for you. You and you alone can respond to your call.

When you go through deep waters, God will be with you. And you will know that you don’t have to go it alone. God doesn’t save us from hardship, but God does promise to be with us, to never leave us and never forsake us.

When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown because you will know who you are and that you have the power to make it through any current that tries to pin you down and hold you back.

When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned. The flames will not consume you. Actually, let me rephrase Isaiah. You will get scorched in life. At some time or another, you will feel consumed by pain. But the fires of life do not get the last word. To paraphrase Nazi death camp survivor Victor Frankl, everything can be taken from you, except for one thing. No force of nature, no hostile element can take the last of human freedoms: to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

The day of liberation has come. Now go forth and shine!


Sources:
http://www.fvuuf.org/index2.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=95&Itemid= you are bb127
http://www.uucmc.org/uucmc/monmouth-county-sunday-service/podcast-a-past-sermons/486-a-fresh-start-september-25-2011.html
Roger Housden, 10 Poems To Change Your Life, pp.9-20.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_atone5.htm

Sermon for January 21, 2018

How Far Would You Go? 1 Samuel 17 I had a sermon all ready to go today. It was a NICE sermon. You would have felt really good about i...