The Good News of Humanism

This sermon was delivered at a neutral pulpit and to the search committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington, KY.

Our reading today is titled “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford.

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give – yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

As a child in suburban Chicago, my family came to Unitarian Universalism just as I was entering my teenage years. It was in a town about twenty miles outside of the city where we came upon the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale. This was after a good friend recommended it. The church itself was situated behind the town library and was surrounded by the large picturesque homes that were characteristic of the town. The building was quaint.

Beautiful stone with plenty of trees, a church sign that hadn’t been changed in over twenty years, and a distinct and charming look about the whole property. It looked like home and that was the point. In the 19th century, the minister of the congregation — William Channing Gannett — wrote an essay titled “The House Beautiful.” In this essay he suggested that a church home must, simply enough, feel like home. And he wasn’t just talking about the people. Read the rest of this entry »