8/21/16 Sermon To be a Unitarian Universalist Community
Rev. Paul D. Daniel, Minister
We come together as a religious people from different walks of life and from two distinct congregations, united by our one shared UU faith.
We at the UUFP, whole heartedly welcome our guest from the Thomas Paine Congregation from neighboring Collegeville and indeed extend a heartfelt welcome to all visitors from wherever you may come.
Ours is a free faith built on love and acceptance of all who share our values of inclusion and appreciate that we are one strong body united within the interdependent web of existence.
In this time of great national strife, fear and division within our country we call for unity of all people to the values that make America strong and our faith so viable. Within these walls and out into the world; all Black lives matter, all Blue lives matter; all lives of whatever diversity matter. In that spirit we warmly welcome you into this house of peace, love and radical inclusion.
Together our two churches have created this wonderful tradition of coming together to worship, pray and celebrate life, to create a joyous unity of spirit. We worship together to enrich our souls and offer intellectual stimulation to galvanize and give us the strength to serve the path of peace and justice. We come because our souls need feeding. Our UU churches are safe harbors for all people of faith: Hindu, Christian Muslim, Jew, humanist and agnostic to others who seek the spirit of love without the confinement of dogmas or creeds and yet also welcome those with more traditional understandings.
We are a faith that offers acceptance, and hope without pain and guilt. But, let me be equally clear; we are not a social group, a debating society, a lecture hall, not even necessarily a group of like-minded individuals. One of our earliest prophets Francis David (1510-1579) put succinctly, “we need not think alike to love alike.” So yes, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Black and white, red and tan and yellow all entwine here to make up our own Joseph’s amazing, techno-color dream coat of diversity and unity that is our Unitarian Universalist religion.
I believe passionately that what we are at our core a vital religious movement with good news to share. We offer hope and a place for a divided nation and our isolated selves to find comfort, we represent core values in which to believe and a haven of welcome and safety for those who agree to abide by our covenants of right relations.
We exist in the world, in the words of Rev. Marilyn Sewell, “to foster spiritual growth in our members, and out of that spiritual grounding, to help heal our hurting world”. Our message of hope, guided by our personal experiences of truth, congruent with our own hearts and minds, can bring about the blessed community we offer to those who suffer and need a religious home, a safe harbor. We offer connection to those who have none and invite them to be in a dynamic, ever evolving relationship with all others who value the web of shared existence.
We believe that all people are worthy of love and are precious in their uniqueness. We do not believe in conformity but rather in a diversity of fiercely held thoughts,
strong spiritual beliefs,
practices and experiences that we individually hold dear.
Our diversity is our strengths.
Recently, dozens of new species of aquatic life have been found in the Great Barrier Reef on Australia’s northern coast. we know that the greater the diversity found in nature the healthier our planet will be. So it is also with Unitarian Universalism. We welcome people of varying colors, sexual expression, different abilities, ages and spiritual focus. Here many different faith perspectives are all part of our unique book of wisdom. Where else can an atheists or humanists find a true home next to someone who believes in God? There is no other faith that values such diversity, freedom, spiritual growth, integrity and community in quite the way we do.
Here, we welcome you to worship with us and in so doing enrich, expand and enliven our spiritual lives. Here, we honor the inherent worth and dignity of all individuals. We exclude no one for their differences if they share our values and principles and most importantly agree to live within our covenants of right relations and abide by our religious and ethical standards. This applies too Mainline UU, Thomas Paine, UUFP and all congregations across this denomination. We believe we can learn together, pray together and work for the common good. What effects one living thing ultimately effects all of us and the planet that sustains life.
There is no other faith like Unitarian Universalism. To be sure, we are small in numbers but our message is powerful and essential. We need to share it with the wider world that desperately needs our unique message of hope and inclusion. We need to proudly proclaim it, reveal it to those who are unaware of what this wonderful faith offers. We need to be, OMG, dare I say it evangelists of the good news of Unitarian Universalism in every way possible.
Like a fine precious stone, we need to demonstrate that we have something of great value. If we continue to hide our message of faith under a bushel basket we will surely wither and die. That must not happen. The future of our shared faith is in your hands. That is why we are sharing this special “Unity Day”. it is why our denomination is engaged in a denomination wide efforts to guide individual faith communities to unite in cooperation regardless of region or institutional differences. The new regional structure will serve to enhance the common good through greater joint projects and efforts. Our churches need its members to participation in this effort if we are to make constructive changes that will enrich our members and this nation’s lives.
I want you to think about where we are among the religious movements of the world, and what we are here to do as a church. As we go about ministering to each other, there is also a world beyond these doors that calls for our attention. Former UU President Bill Sinkford, like Barrack Obama, both our first Black Presidents. President Obama said, “our objective is aimed at changing the culture [of division and hatreds]. Our goal is to help bend the world toward justice and love.” Now is the time, not tomorrow Sinkford said, “to grow our faith, to let the world know we are here, to welcome those who seek our community of peace, justice and love. Now is the time to grow stronger and more effective” in our efforts to heal the world.”
We do this best when we unite together with others UUs and across denominational lines in concerted action so that our shared voices are heard more clearly and we can have greater influence on our country than our numbers would indicate. To do less is to deny our faith and history.
Our history as a denomination proves that to be true. In the recent past we marched together in the civil right movement and help move the country towards greater racial equality. We currently demonstrate in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,
We know, Immigrant lives matter,
G/L/B/T/? lives matter.
Justice and equality for all matter.
This is an ongoing effort and will be until justice itself rolls down the hill like a mighty stream for all people,
for all peoples.
No one can be left behind.
The purpose of our faith writes Stephan Papa “is moral development rather than simply personal salvation.” We need to learn to live in the world the way it is, even as we seek to change it.” We all have our own unique truth to share, a bit of the truth but not the one and only truth with a capital “T”.
There is a story told about a religious leader who noticed one of his members was no longer attending services at the temple. He sent a messenger to inquire why. The man told the messenger that he wasn’t coming to services anymore because the clergy’s comments only caused him to have more questions. He said our Rabbi leads us out into deep waters and then leaves us there to drown. When the religious leader heard this response, the Rabbi sent the messenger back to him saying, “Tell he who stays away from the services—that the temple does not exist as a life preserver,
but rather a place to teach people how to swim.”
That’s us. That is what we try to do: encourage people to keep learning and growing, to be open to new ideas. That is why most of us came to this religious community. We often do not find traditional answers useful, so we came here where we can be authentic, free to ask the questions that will lead us to finding our own answers. It is who we are as individuals and as a people of faith.
That is why we must serve the world, in its need, as we find it. We have an obligation, a calling that must be fulfilled.
There are still too many people who don’t yet know how to swim.