Archive | August 2014

“Say Hello” 08/24/14

 

 

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Opening words:

Come in today come in.

Bring yourselves your friends your family

Come alone or in a crowd

Bring your faith and bring your doubts

Bring your gladness and despair

You are welcome here

In the fullness of who you are,

this hour, this day

Come in come in

 

Relax in your chair

Take a deep breath

and rest awhile.

Listen to the music

Close your eyes.

Feel the pulse

Of beating hearts.

Let the stillness stir you

To laugh to sing to move

Whatever you came for

Whoever you are

We are glad you are here

Today

 

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Sermon notes:

 

Well hello there.

 

I am so happy to be here. I met a lot of you last Sunday and have gotten to know some of the staff and the leadership during the week. I have appreciated the warm welcome I have received.

 

I am here as your developmental minister and I likely have a style that you are not really used to. That is probably obvious to most of you already. Let’s talk about that some, as we begin to say hello in a deeper way, in a way that goes beyond the fairly easy “hi, how’s it going, pleased to meet you”, kind of conversation we engage in with people we have just met.

 

And while we are having those conversations, our very human tendency is to begin to judge the person we are meeting based upon pretty superficial things. How do they speak? Do they seem well educated, politically aware? Are they smart or pretty clueless? Hairstyles and clothing also make an impression on us and we also make assumptions about the person’s racial or ethnic background. Appearances are just that, however, appearances. There is a deeper truth, the reality and quite incredible uniqueness of the individual as a whole person. Just as in the song we sang earlier, they are somebody.

 

Most people have a need, I believe, a need to be really seen as who they are and to not be dismissed and diminished by someone else’s stereotype.

It is part of respecting the inherent worth and dignity of every person and it is part of practicing our faith of Unitarian Universalism, to look just a little deeper, to really say hello to the person, not just who they might appear to be.

 

OK, let’s talk about the robe I am wearing. I suspect it makes a few of you a little uncomfortable. It emphasizes my status as ordained clergy, and frankly that is the main reason I wear it. It is not a demand for respect that I do not have to earn. Instead, it is for me, an important reminder of the role I am in. I am your minister, not your friend. I am part of this community, but not of it. I am here to serve not myself or even you as individuals, but to serve something higher than all of us. That something would be called God, if one were a theist. It might be called something like the common good by a humanist. The work I do for you as your minister should also be for the overall good of this institution, the BFUU and also, for Unitarian Universalism as a whole. It isn’t about me. The robe and stole remind me of this each week. It reminds me that being a minister is a sacred calling. Don’t worry about that word, “sacred” for now, it can also just mean precious and important.

 

As mystical and impressive as that explanation might sound, and it is the most important reason, I also like to wear a robe just because it is very practical. I don’t have to worry so much what I will wear on Sunday morning. It is so much easier for a male minister; they can just switch up their shirts and maybe their ties and they are good to go.

I do have several different robes and stoles, so it shouldn’t be too terribly boring looking at me every week.

 

So if my robe makes you uncomfortable, if prayer makes you uncomfortable, if anything makes you uncomfortable, I want to ask you to try and develop a practice of and imagining that you are just saying hello to something new, something or someone you may not fully understand as yet. What is this all about? What are my assumptions?   What does it mean to me? What does it mean to other people? We have had the use of language as a species for quite a long time, but we haven’t yet really learned how to communicate well. I am an extrovert (no kidding) and I sometimes just keep talking if it seems someone doesn’t understand. Feel free to ask me to wait, that you need to think about something more. We all process things a little bit differently.

 

And know that it is OK to be uncomfortable. Frankly it can be a good thing. If all we ever do is just sit on the sofa, we don’t really get to experience life. Discomfort can be a sign that change is happening, and there is no growth without change. Change is simply part of life. Growing pains are real.

 

So hello. Who am I? A little bit of biography: I was born and grew up in Watsonville CA. I am 64 years old, married, finally last year to my wife, Anne, who I have been with since 1975. We have three adult children in their mid-to- late twenties. The boys both live in the Bay area and our daughter is currently living in New York City. We don’t have any pets.

I went to UCB from 1968-1974, getting a BA in demography and a MA in sociology. I then worked for the social security administration for twenty-five years in Richmond CA, in the big red brick building next to the downtown BART station. I took early retirement in 2001, partly because George Bush was elected, but that is a long story and not appropriate for worship. I was an active lay leader at our Congregation in San Rafael from 1994 until I started seminary at Starr King. I did my internship in Annapolis, Maryland and served as the minister of the UU Church of Ogden from September 2007 until the end of June of this year.

 

Whoa! Now I am here. Hello.

 

I am here as a developmental minister. That means I am here to help lead you through the changes you will need to make so that BFUU will continue to not only exist, but to thrive. You want that, don’t you? You want BFUU to continue, and for it to thrive, yes? Not that you aren’t beautiful, as Rocky said so well last week, just the way you are. But, let me say this clearly. You can be much better than you are. You can have awesome worship services each and every week. They can combine words and music, ritual and, yes, also prayer and meditation, in a way that will not just make you think, but will also stir your emotions. There can be the kind of services that can feed your spirits and renew your energy so that you are better able to face the week ahead, with all the challenges that we all face in our lives.

This can be a place that is truly welcoming to all, regardless of their theological beliefs or even their politics.

 

You can also be self-sustaining financially. Frankly, the level of support that most members of this congregation are giving is embarrassing. If you care about this place, you need to kick that up several notches. Double or triple what you planned to put in the plate this morning.   We will talk about money a lot in the coming months and probably years. We need to, because you are spending way more than you are taking in. It simply cannot go on forever that way.

 

You can also treat each other well, all the time, not just when you agree. This is a faith community. Our religious values and our seven principles should guide how we are together.

 

Oh, we are just getting started. I have only been here a little over a week and we have a lot to learn about each other. Your trust in me will develop over time. In the meantime, let’s just keep saying hello, and look a little deeper into each other’s eyes. There is a reflection of the holy there, if we only stop and really see.

 

Namaste – from the Hindu tration, the divine in me greets the divine in you. Hello.

 

I am going to end with something I wrote late last night

How do we say hello?

It’s easy

And it isn’t.

 

A quick glad hand

Averted eyes

Don’t get too close 

Too soon

Ah, but the time may never

Seem quite right

To speak for real

What lies inside the heart

 

Fearless we must be

Faithful from the start

Brave the danger

Live in the mystery

Held behind our eyes. 

Steady now

Looking listening

Our souls just might

Begin to dance

We don’t have to be

Alone

 

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How Do We Say Hello?

How do we say hello?

It’s easy

And it isn’t.

 

A quick glad hand

Averted eyes

Don’t get too close 

Too soon

Ah, but the time may never

Seem quite right

To speak for real

What lies inside the heart

 

Fearless we must be

Faithful from the start

Brave the danger

Live in the mystery

Held behind our eyes. 

Steady now

Looking listening

Our souls just might

Begin to dance

We don’t have to be

Alone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enough Already

Enough already

I am ready for it to stop

All of it

The wars

The shootings

In schools and by cops

Enough children left to die

In hot cars

Enough children left behind

Without hope

In schools that only test

And forget to teach

Enough billionaires

A million or two should

Easily be plenty for anyone

When so many have nothing

Nothing to eat, nothing to do

Nowhere to go

Where they won’t be afraid.

Enough hands held up

And bodies shot down

Enough hard workers

Who can’t pay their rent

Everyone must die

Pain is part of life

We can’t do much

About earthquakes

And only some about disease

But we are here

To make it better

Not worse

Enough already

 

 

 

#ferguson

My hands are up

Don’t shoot me please

Young black man

Just walking home

It makes his mother cry

 

It is my right

Leave me alone

Young white man

Asserting his rights

Assault rifle on his back

 

Oh waste of loss

America we’ve failed

Storm clouds gather

Justice must rain down

Tears are not enough.

 

 And from Sweet Honey and the rock: Ella’s Song

 

 

 

 

 

Red, Blue, and Purple

Cute-Purple-Backgrounds

 

I recently moved from one of the reddest states, Utah, to one of the bluest, California.   One of the reasons I moved was so I could live in a state where my marriage would be recognized.  After almost 40 years together, it seemed like time.  Two of our three adult children also live here, and it makes my heart glad to be near them again.  There was also loss involved with the move.  Hardest of all was to leave a ministry and a congregation full of people that I loved.

So what does it feel like to have made this change?

On the GLBT issue it feels totally great.  I have noticed that while I still pay attention to the court cases on marriage equality, it is with much less emotion.  They aren’t impacting me personally anymore.  Utah’s Governor Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes can say all the hateful and bigoted things about GLBT people they want, but MY governor and attorney general are nothing but supportive.  So are my neighbors and random people I meet in the street and the supermarket.  Life is pretty good for GLBT people when the state is a blue one.   The weather here in California is also delightful.

I also think the move is going to be good for me as a minister.  I was beginning to feel very frustrated and almost bitter about Utah’s red state politics.   It wasn’t just marriage equality, it was also their failure to expand medicaid, their love affair with guns, and their total disregard for the environment.  I won’t even go into the corruption.  Their last two Attorney Generals are being indicted for selling their influence to the highest bidder.

It does not serve a minister well to wear frustration and bitterness underneath a robe and stole.  As a minister, I believe I must always serve something much greater than myself.  I must always hold up hope for the people and the community I serve.  I must help create a clarity of vision that is untarnished by any of my own personal angst.  That was becoming less possible for me in Utah.  I had done it for seven years; I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Since June 30, I have not been serving a congregation.  How different that has felt.  Even when I was on sabbatical, my heart and spirit were still entwined with all that was going on with the church that I would continue to serve.  I was still their minister.  This break has been different.  I haven’t been anyone’s minister for almost two months.

That is about to change. I will begin with a new congregation in less than a week.  It is in Berkeley CA, no less, one of the most liberal communities in this very blue state.  I am extremely excited.  I haven’t met any of them in person yet, just a video interview and a few emails, but  they need a minister and I believe that I can serve them well.  I am ready to love them and lead them as best as I am able.  In a red state or a blue state, people need community, they need comfort when they are hurting, they need meaning in their lives, they need laughter and music, and a way to connect to what is holy in life.  Life itself is sacred, but we need help sometimes to learn to live that way.   Our liberal religion of Unitarian Universalism offers all of this.

Red and blue when mixed together make the color purple.  Purple is a color that is associated with religion.  Lighten it up just a bit and you have  lavender.  It is not a menace but a dream.   Amen to dreams.

 

 

The sun rises

Ocean-Sunrise_beautiful-ocean-sunrise

The sun rises

And the earth turns

Both are true

Depending on where you stand

 

The sun ducks

Beneath the ocean waves

Beauty is more

Than an illusion

 

The stars too

Have their stories

If we listen

With our eyes wide

 

Music plays

The rhythms deep

Within our bones

Keeping time

 

 

 

 

Faces

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Their faces show up

In my dreams

Small flickers of light

Stones dropped

Into water

Their grace

Rippling through my days

 

A small boy’s grin

Cracks open his face

His joy to0 large

To be  contained

 

An old man weeping

Every time he sings

His dear lost wife’s

Favorite hymn

 

Old friend still funny

Telling the same jokes

That made us laugh

When we were just kids

 

Once made

The connections last

Over time

Through space

Beyond even death

It is a blessing

My heart knows