Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Becoming a Beacon

Trying something different with this week’s sermon post — it was recorded!  Should there be any problems with the video itself (pixelating, stuttering audio, lost segments), please let me know.

Something Surprising, Something Beautiful

Our reading for this morning was titled The Grout by Marcus Hartlief.

There is a great story about a church that was falling apart.  It comes to us from the Rev. Molly Phinney Baskette – a wonderful name for a minister.  And the story originates when she was serving First Church in Somerville, Massachusetts, a United Church of Christ congregation.  She begins the story very simply.

The church was a mess.  Membership was bleeding, the grounds, the very little bit of grounds they have mind you – were unkempt, the church was crammed with junk in every nook and cranny, no one took care of the church other than an overworked custodian, and it was dark, damp, in need of repairs, and not a place you’d want to be on Sunday morning.

No one put away the dishes in the kitchen – they expected the holy spirit to do it for them, tables were never put away, floors were never swept, the list went on and on.  Outside of this unending list of things that didn’t happen, one thing was clear, the people of First Church in Somerville either didn’t have pride in their church or they failed to remember that they were the church and, as a result, that it was theirs to take care of. Read the rest of this entry »

Second Annual Question Box Sunday

For our second annual Question Box Sunday, we had a plethora of amazing questions.  Most of them were DIFFERENT than last year!  There were some strong themes amongst the questions this year, so, I’m going to do something a little different with the answers.  One or two of the “blocs” of the questions will become a sermon or series of sermons sometime this church year.  I will be sure to note that the inspiration for the sermon(s) was a Question Box Sunday question.  There are also a few questions I’m going to answer outright as they feel timely.  The rest of these questions will be answered sometime throughout this church year – I will endeavor to answer blocs of them and, as I did this year, send a compiled list of answers to you all before next year’s Question Box Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »

Growing in Community

Our reading for this morning came from the book Serving with Grace by the Rev. Erik Wikstrom.

There was a moment during seminary when I almost fled from the ministry.  I’ll add, this was but one moment out of several where I wanted to pack it up and call it a day – to say that ministry was not for me and that I had made a mistake, the Universe was wrong, and that I’d be better suited remaining in the world of quiet librarianship, surrounded by books, the awkward public and their peculiar reference questions, and the daily pulse of nine to five.

I’m sure everyone, while training for their particular field, have had moments of wanting to flee.  Ministry is full of them.  But this one was specific to me, I imagine. Read the rest of this entry »

Question Box Questions Answered!

Back in August 2016 we held a Question Box Sunday here at the UU Church of Lexington.  Originally, I was going to answer 2-3 a week, but it feels more appropriate to answer them all at once.  I organized all of the questions into nine sections based on content/theme.  Some of these are rather easy and brief, but others will require additional thought.  As always, the bulk of these answers come from my own experience and opinions.  You are encouraged to explore your own beliefs with many of them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Into the Sacred Depths

Our reading this Sunday came to us from the poet Billy Collins, titled, “As If To Demonstrate An Eclipse.”

As a child, I was always encouraged to look upward.  For hours, I would look.  My mother would just look with me.  Not much was said in these moments beyond, “Wow” or “What are their names?”

I’d invent names for them when I didn’t know.  Against the dark of night, I’d marvel at Arcturus, Vega, Altair, and Antares.  Names with stories attached to them.

Names of stars that are hundreds of light years away, stars that could have gone supernova in the middle ages but the light had not yet reached us, stars that could have planets with fellow watchers looking up and marveling at our own star, stars I would never see, could never see, we will never see beyond looking up on a clear summer night.

Those points of pale light piercing through the dark of night to my eyes – just one human amongst billions – would stay with me for years and years and up until this moment, too.  The passion would persist. Read the rest of this entry »

Easter People in A Good Friday World

Our reading for this Sunday came to us from the poet Jan Richardson, titled, “The Art of Enduring, for Holy Saturday.”  The opening story of this sermon was adapted from Rev. Michael McGee.

I’ve been told that once upon a time a group of friends of various religious denominations were seated in fellowship discussing the true meaning of Easter one Sunday.  Someone chimed in: “I believe we place too much emphasis on chocolate bunnies, colored rabbits and Easter eggs instead of the spiritual aspects, which is the real meaning of Easter. That’s what I believe,” said the Baptist.

“Me too,” said the Methodist. “Me too,” said the Lutheran. “Me too,” said the Catholic. “Me too,” said the Nazarene. –And the Unitarian Universalist was silent.

“I believe the real meaning of Easter is that Christ died on the Cross for our sins,” said the Methodist. “Me too,” said the Nazarene. “Me too,” said the Lutheran. “Me too,” said the Baptist. “Me too,” said the Lutheran. –And the Unitarian Universalist was silent.
“I believe the real meaning of Easter is the triumph of Jesus over the Grave,” said the Lutheran. “Me too,” said the Catholic. “Me too,” said the Nazarene. “Me too,” said the Baptist. “Me too,” said the Methodist. –And the Unitarian Universalist was silent. Read the rest of this entry »

Get Outside of the Box

After a busy April led into a May full of surprises, I am finally able to catch up in posting.  Thank you for your patience. -Rev. Brian

Our reading for this Sunday came to us from the poet Noel Coward, titled, “Nothing is Lost.”  The sermon also began with a retelling of a fable by Edwin Friedman, titled, “The Power of Belief.”

When have you been the man insisting he was dead when all evidence was to the contrary?  When have you thought one thing so assuredly in your life despite what those around you were saying, what the world was showing you, and what life was presenting to you no matter where you turned?

I know many of us have been there.  So sure of one thing, so sure of what our reality must be, that we have shackled our thoughts and buried the longings of our heart.  I’ve been there.  I’ve been there for the big moments of my life and I’ve been there for the smaller unnoticeable ones.  My journey to ministry is one of the prime examples.

It’s such a standard experience for us ministers, we learn to tell it over and over again.  But my own journey was primarily one of resistance.  Again and again the call came and again and again I fled.

But unlike many of my colleagues, I did not flee for a lifetime, only a small portion of one.  How about you?  What callings, what beliefs, what states of being have you either fled or clung to?  What are the ones you can think of this very moment? Read the rest of this entry »

Their Lives Still Matter

Our reading today comes to us from the poet, Audette Fulbright Fulson, titled “We Are Not Done.

I’m often considered a rather aggressive driver.  It comes as a shock to many, outside of my general sarcastic nature, and sometimes boisterousness, most people assume I’m rather quiet, reserved, and calm.

This is not true when I’m in a car, though I assure you I’ve calmed down significantly in the past two years.  But know this bit about me, it wouldn’t surprise you that I’ve received traffic tickets a couple times in the past.  Until my dying day, I will dispute all of them.

Sadly no one cares about such protests, and honestly it doesn’t really matter to me much anyway.  Except for one.  There is one instance of me getting a ticket that I will never forget.

It was in college sometime, back when I drove a temperamental Ford Focus – it was an awful shade of beige because that model was the cheapest, I think they called it Burnt Nevada or something like that.  Anyway, a carful of theology students were driving back to campus after visiting a Mennonite church on Sunday.

This is how theology students had a good time in college – we went to church.  We were talking about god-knows-what, and sitting in traffic, barely moving, and suddenly a song popped on the radio that caused my friend Jessica to shout out, “Oh my god!  It’s my song!” Read the rest of this entry »

The United States of Otherness

Our reading this Sunday came to us from the African American poet and Unitarian Universalist, Adam Lawrence Dyer, from his poem, “We are Jazz.”

I’m not much of a neighborly person. I know it’s a terrible thing to admit. You’ll see me about to step outside only to wait until people go away, keep my interactions to a short nod and smile, and assume the most suspicious plots when a neighbor strikes up a conversation.

I don’t think I have anyone to blame but myself for this behavior. But I did grow up in a rather gossipy neighborhood and I never liked that. On top of it I had a family that was always contrasting ourselves with people that were not “us” – people that were the other. I was reminded constantly of that belief and raised to be wary of anyone that was the other.

Set aside the racist subtext of this upbringing, it was a rather isolated view of the world. Fast forward to present day, we are now a year and a few months in our new home here in Lexington and I still carry some of that same attitude about neighbors – at least the part of being suspicious of them at all times. Read the rest of this entry »