Original Blessing Chalice Lighter

Original Blessing Chalice Lighter
Sermon  September 23, 2012 Rev. Ian White Maher ©

1 Good morning non-believers, people of little faith

That is what they say about your, right. Deluded and brainwashed by the feminists and the homosexuals. I mean you have even been called anti-Christian because you said, “I believe Jesus lived on this planet as a man. Why does he have to be God to have any meaning to me? Can’t he just have meaning because he was a human being?

But that is the talk of a non-believer. You don’t think about Jesus the way they do so you can’t talk about him at all. If you don’t call him God, then, non-believer, you have lost that right to call on him period.

And non-believer, you dare to question the direction of our nation, which means you don’t support our troops. Or you remember a time when our government had some fiscal responsibility and unemployment was under 4%. But you had better not question too loudly. Because if you question, if you act on your fundamental human principle to be curious, to be inquisitive, to be independent someone is going to call you out as Godless. And if you are Godless, then you don’t count.

And that is how they undermine our civic voice, that is how they discount our joys and our pains, that is how they marginalize our religious experience. They say we have no faith. That we are a club. That we’re secular. That we’re godless. And we don’t count. You self-satisfied intellectuals, who seem incapable of walking through the forest and realizing that it is too perfect not to have some intelligent being behind its whole design. What do you mean you don’t know where this world comes from, and you don’t know where you go when you die, and you don’t know why sometimes people suffer? That is the talk of someone with no faith.

Now, I understand a person’s desire to know that their life has meaning. “Why am I here?” can be a very lonely question and no one likes to be alone. I want to know that my life has meaning. There is a certain insecurity to our existence. Do I matter? And I understand why people turn to certain religious leaders or movements who tell them there is an answer, there is a way to assuage that insecurity. And they promise an end to the suffering, to the loneliness if you believe, if you have faith in their answer. I can understand why people turn there. I am not going to lie to you. These are mighty scary times and I do want some answers.There are some things I do want to know. I do feel more secure when there are some things I know. But telling me I don’t count, that I am godless, that I’m a non-believer, that I have no faith because I question is painful. It breaks my heart.

Original Blessing Chalice Lighter Sermon
Rev. Ian White Maher ©

2 But what hurts me even more is that sometimes we believe them. Sometimes we repeat those very same comments about ourselves, that we have no faith, that we’re a club, that as a religious movement we don’t matter. It is painful to hear outsiders say we don’t count, but it is crushing when we internalize their view of us.

We are people of great faith. We are people of great faith. In spite of all that we see, in spite of all that we see, wars around the world, starving children left to die, or put into the army or used for concubines, and the corruption of nations selling weapons to these children, leaders handing out no-bid contracts to their cronies, corporations bankrupting the working and middle-class, and in spite of all of this we still believe in the goodness of human beings, we still believe in the potential of human beings.

We don’t need heaven in the sky or heaven here on earth. We’re not after utopia, but we are after respect. They call us people of little faith, but we are people of the greatest faith. I don’t need some historical figure to say he loves me. I need my neighbor to say he loves me. I need my neighbor to say she loves me. And I sure want to say that back to them. That’s my religion, that’s my faith. That’s my religion, that’s my faith. We are the people of the greatest faith.

Our nation is in the grip of some scary forces right now. And lets not be fooled by those who cast a finger towards the Taliban and say we are over there defending women’s rights while these same people are coming after the women in our own community, they are coming after the minds of our children, and we need to figure out how to articulate our faith in a way that keeps not just our community safe, but the people beyond our community safe as well before the women in our nation lose control of their own bodies and our children are taught that science is evil. And before we learn to fear everyone outside our door.

Now I don’t think that anyone in this room is confused about the tragic nature of abortion. But conversation has been hijacked. Even our feminist politicians or our feminist leaning politicians are using language defined and controlled by the anti-woman forces in our nation.

And we have come to define ourselves as pro-choice, and yeah, I’m pro-choice, but I am more than that. I am pro-woman, this is not only about abortion. I am pro-woman and I want the conversation to go back onto why every time women organize for equal rights the reactionary forces in our society demonize the cause and try to bring them under control by limiting their access to birth control. This happened last century. And this is what is happening today. We all know that the suffragists fought for the right to vote, but the suffragist movement was also about access to healthy birth control so women could decide when to have children and how many so she could control her life. And there was a huge backlash lead by the clergy. The clergy were the faces of the forces that wanted to keep women subservient to men. They used faith to justify why we had to restrict access to birth control and limit women’s mobility.

Original Blessing Chalice Lighter Sermon
Rev. Ian White Maher ©

3 We are more than pro-choice, we are pro-woman and we need to reframe that conversation. And we need to reframe that conversation when we are out amongst the world. Because the world needs to hear our message now more than ever. And this is just one of the important issues in jeopardy. The world’s heart is breaking at this moment and we cannot stay locked in our little communities waiting to fend the fundamentalists off.

Now there are some lessons we can learn from these reactionaries. Sometimes they have teachings we need to hear. I mean these folks have extremely powerful religious conviction. They have a lot of trust in their faith. And not just because someone told them it is so, it is not as easy as that. They have a lot of trust in their faith because they practice a lot.

Who is a good writer in here? Why are you a good writer? Who is a good knitter in here? How long have you been knitting?

How about golf? Do you take lessons? Now, don’t be ashamed, how many thousands have you spent on those lessons? Do you see the pattern that I am making reference to? Now who is a good Unitarian in here? Who is a good Universalist? We haven’t practiced very much have we?

So when someone comes along and says you are a person of little faith, in your heart you know they are wrong, that you have the greatest faith, you believe, in spite of everything, in the great human potential, in your heart you are filled with faith, but when you try to say something back, when they say, “well, what does your faith mean to you?” We often stumble don’t we?

For several years I served the denomination as an anti-racism trainer and I would travel the nation leading weekend workshops in our congregations. One of the exercises we used revolved around the power of identity. We asked participants to choose 5 identities that, more or less, represented who they are, then we split them into groups and we force them to take away one of their identities. We force them to give one of their identities up. Now, do you know that only about half of the people choose Unitarian Universalist as one of their main five identities and of those that did they sacrificed this identity every single time…and this happened during a UU training held in a UU church. What does this say? Now I don’t believe they could actually give up their faith as easily as that. Our faith, as much as we take it for granted sometimes, is our rock, it is our worldview. What I think it means is that we have internalized the message that our worldview is worthless, is weak, is unimportant. But it is the greatest faith.

Original Blessing Chalice Lighter Sermon
Rev. Ian White Maher ©

4 I’d like to suggest a little faith program. It takes 60 seconds. But it takes 60 seconds every day. It sounds easy enough. But for 60 seconds, to meditate on what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist. I we don’t have to get complex, we don’t need some systematic theology, or process theology. We only need those two words: Unitarian, one god; Universalist, salvation for everyone. One god, salvation for everyone. There is a battle coming up. The battle is over your right to believe. And we need to do some spiritual push ups. We need to be able to make a legitimate claim on what it means to be a human being, on what it means to be a living creature, what it means to be alive, to be breathing. The world is facing calamity. The environment is changing. There is no turning back, but we do have a choice in how we face this changing world. There will be scary times. Will we be trained enough to handle them or will we acquiese to the forces of fear who, withuot question, will be beating the drum of a God ordained Armageddon. But this is not God ordained. That is only fear talking. We cannot hide from our responsibility any longer as people of faith. The world, the very world, needs us.

Now I want to you to reach out and take the hand of the person next to you. Take their hand. Hold this person’s hand. Now I want you all to close your eyes. Close your eyes and feel their hand in yours. Breathe in through your nose, you are a living being, you are a person of the greatest faith. Can you feel their hand in yours? Breath in, breath out. Are you ready for this responsibility, the responsibility of standing up for life. Can you do 60 seconds a day? We need to bulk up. Breathe in, you are a living being. Breathe out, you are a person of the greatest faith. Breathe in, the whole universe. Breath out, all of life.

Breathe in, the whole universe. Breathe out, all of life. Breathe in, one god. Breathe out, universal salvation. These are your push-ups.  The story of creation is real. We were all born in the furnaces of the stars. We have travelled billions of miles and millions of light years to come to this moment today, to this moment where we are holding one another’s hands. You are cosmic beings, you are regal, you are spectacular, you are infinite. Breathe into your true self and know the meaning of salvation. You may open your eyes.

Amy and I, along with several others, are starting a new congregation and our vision is to transform the lives of the 400,000 people who live in north Brooklyn and Queens. Our vision is not of a well-funded congregation with great salaries. Our vision is to transform the lives of the 400,000 people who live in north Brooklyn and Queens. And we will do it because we have faith in the goodness and generosity of people. We don’t know the answer, but we are sure that we will be transformed in our search. This is why we take the Martin Luther King quote so seriously. We are becoming as we help others become. It is time to leave the pews and go out amongst the people and tell them of a faith that saves because it is grounded in trust, not in fear. It is grounded in love, not in division. It is grounded in hope, not in despair. We cannot hide ourselves any longer thinking the world will somehow right itself if smart people somehow get elected. Being smart has nothing to do with it. We have a spiritual problem and Untarian Universalism is a Original Blessing Chalice Lighter Sermon.

Rev. Ian White Maher ©

5 Spiritual solution…if we are willing to put it first in our lives, if we refuse to sacrifice it at any cost. Live into your full self, into your real purpose. Go forth and save the world.

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