Stuck on You
Maybe I misspelled the title in today’s order of service and maybe not. It could be the way it is spelled or it could be the letter “U” instead. Maybe I left out a letter. Stuck on “UU,” as in Unitarian Universalism, has a nice ring to it. I remember Bill Hackett telling me about speaking before this congregation years ago, and saying that his joining this church was all about you and you and you.
It is a fun “play on words,” but is also a serious subject. What is church about? Why are you here? Is it about you? What does that mean?
It is the same question implicit in another of our acronyms, YRUU. Young Religious Unitarian Universalists, our youth group. It causes a giggle because it can be said, “why are you, “you”?
Some people shop for churches the way they shop for health clubs. Maybe that makes some sense; we are at least in part, a “spiritual health club.” Attending regularly, getting involved in our church community, tending to your own spiritual growth is as good for you as regular exercise. But it is better if congregants don’t think of themselves as consumers, wondering if belonging to a church is worth their while.
Are you getting your money’s worth here? What is your return on your investment of time and resources?
What is the quality of the coffee served? Is the sound system fabulous? Are the pews comfortable? Are the bathrooms spotless? Is it too hot or too cold? Is the preacher entertaining enough?
All of those things can matter to a visitor or a casual attendee, and we need to pay attention to things that might cause someone to be reluctant to join us. But if you are “stuck” on UU, then like in our reading this morning, you become, “intoxicated” by having a free and authentic faith. You cannot help but live it. You stick around when things get hard and even if they get boring or too hot.
Unitarian Universalism is about you, about what you believe and who you are. We want you to explore the deep questions here. Your answers may change over time, but they are ones that belong to you as an individual. We have common principles and values. We have expectations for how you relate to this community and to the wider world, but your beliefs are your own.
Some people get stuck on the “you” part, and think that church should all be about them: what they need and what they like. It is important to remember that there are a lot of us here and that we all have different needs and different preferences. Hopefully at least part of our worship services will speak to everyone who comes through our doors, but it is highly unlikely that everyone will like everything we do each and every week.
Some people come to church simply for the community.
They come to make friends and to have social contact with a group of people that strives to stay open minded. That’s OK. Churches serve that purpose, just as we try and help our members in times of trouble.
We visit people in the hospital and take meals to people when they are injured or ill. We provide comfort to each other in times of grief and in times of despair. When you have been held in that way, or when you have held others, the church community becomes a home for you. Not quite a family home, because families tend to be closed systems, but instead a home where all that might wish to come are welcomed inside.
I hope you feel welcome here. I hope you appreciate what a special place this is. I hope this church is providing what you want and need from a religious community.
But I also hope you go beyond yourself. Don’t just get stuck on you. For every pain and fear you have ever felt in your own life, remember that others have suffered too. Take what you need, but don’t leave the rest of us behind.
What Bill said was, that for him it was about you, and you and you, and you too. You may not have been attending then, but it still about you. It is about us, the big we with a capital “W”. When the members of the church do something for one of our members or in the wider community, if they are “stuck on UU,” then whatever they are doing is, in some senses, in our collective name.
Evelyn Bertilson with her activism of behalf of the public libraries, our many volunteers at Outreach, our environmental activists, all of you represent this church so very well because you quite simply are living our values. You are UU to the core. It shows in what you do.
It isn’t always easy living our values in the world. Of course we make mistakes. We are human. But there is something very special that keeps us strong.
When I was thinking about what I would say today, I listened to a couple of the old songs.
One by Bob Dylan:
“Clowns to the left of me!
Jokers to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle with you.”
It isn’t such a bad place to be, stuck here with you and you and you.
Elvis Presley, the King, sang
“You can shake an apple off an apple tree
Shake, shake sugar
But you’ll never shake me
Uh uh uh no sir-ee, uh, uh
I’m gonna stick like glue
Stick because I’m stuck on you”
Another song, done by Huey Lewis and News:
Yes, it’s true, (yes it’s true) I am happy to be stuck with you
Yes, it’s true, (yes it’s true) I’m so happy to be stuck with you
‘Cause I can see, (I can see) that you’re happy to be stuck with me
Do you think it is funny to be quoting love songs about church? I don’t. I am stuck on you. I hope you are stuck on you too; because it is about love here. Standing on the side of love, letting love guide us, listening to all the sighs and prayers, worshipping with our eyes, our ears, and our fingertips, bringing our whole selves here, and dedicating our lives to a future where there is more love in the world.
That love lives here, but is not contained here because it is bigger than these walls could ever hold, that love embraces each of you. It dances around with you and you and you in every moment of your life.
It is stuck on you. It will not let you go. Once you let it in, once you let it, that love will guide your life, it will show you where and how to go. It will lead you to the green pastures that the Scriptures speak of. It will make your enemies into friends, or at least people for whom you can feel some compassion. It will be with you in the dark and scary times.
It’s why I come to church. I want to feel the love and the power it has to change the world.
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford says that liberal churches don’t need to worry so about other faith traditions. Our “competition is the cheap brunch and Sunday morning shows and THE HARDEST COMPETITOR…. SLEEP.”
“Why is your church better than sleep?” She asks.
Sleep is good. None of us ever seem to get enough of it. I know I don’t. But you come to church anyway, don’t you? You did this morning anyway. I haven’t seen anyone sleeping in any of the back pews today. Some of our elders nod off sometimes, but they are entiltled.
I think people are drawn to a church when they find a faith and a community that makes them feel more alive. One that gives their life some more meaning than they might find in it otherwise.
The Spirit lives in community, not in isolation. We come together to be reminded of who we are and of how much power we have together to make a difference. We get some comfort for our hurts, a dose of hope for our souls, maybe a flash of insight or understanding, and most of all a sense that love really is the most powerful force in the universe.
Let that love in. Get stuck on it. Take it out into the world. Amen and Nameste.