Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Month: May, 2015

The Person Next To You

This is the second sermon delivered during Candidating Week.

A wise colleague once offered me some invaluable advice about ministry. She said it rather bluntly and without explanation, but I understood her reasoning: She said, never tell anyone what you do for a living..when you’re on an airplane.

This advice is not unique to ministry. It’s not unique to airplanes either. You hear it if you’re a lawyer, a mortician, a teacher, or, really, anything. I tried to live by this advice. I wasn’t quite sure why I needed to: I enjoyed talking with people about their views on religion, learning about where they came from, and hearing their questions – just like this past week. It’s the kind of thing I live for and am called to be present to. But, still, I followed the advice. And let me tell you, it doesn’t work.

A couple years ago I found myself on a flight to San Francisco. I was all prepared to be my most anti-social self: I had a book and my earbuds. Somehow I thought those things would help. Just after take off I started digging into my book. Not long into the flight I felt a tap on my arm and the man sitting next to me asked: Are you a Unitarian Universalist? My cover was about to be blown. Read the rest of this entry »

Suddenly Surprised

This is the first sermon delivered during Candidating Week.

Our reading today is titled, “Walking Toward Morning” by Rev. Victoria Safford.

You know, we do it every day. Every morning we go out blinking into the glare of our freedom, into the wilderness of our work and the world, making maps as we go, looking for signs that we’re on the right path. And on some good days we walk right out of our oppressions, those things that press us down from the outside or (as often) from the inside; we shake off the shackles of fear, prejudice, timidity, closed-mindedness, selfishness, self righteousness, and claim our freedom outright, terrifying as it is—our freedom to be human and humane.

Every morning, every day, we leave our houses, not knowing if it will be for the last time, and we decide what we’ll take with us, what we’ll carry: how much integrity, how much truth-telling, how much compassion (in case somebody along the way may need some), how much arrogance, how much anger, how much humor, how much willingness to change or be changed, to grow and to be grown. How much faith and hope, how much love and gratitude—you pack these with your lunch and medications, your date book and your papers. Every day, we gather what we think we’ll need, pick up what we love and all that we so far believe, put on our history, shoulder our experience and memory, take inventory of our blessings, and we start walking toward morning.

I was completely surprised. I wasn’t even sure what happened — all I knew was that I was suddenly face first in a pile of snow. I really hate to begin by talking about the winter. Not the winter Massachusetts just had with snow piles high above my head and not the winter you just had here in Kentucky, but a winter many years ago in Illinois. It was a completely unremarkable winter but it has stuck with me.

Not far from where I grew up as a child, there was a shopping center with the usual suspects: JC Penney, KMart, and a now dilapidated indoor mall that had the most amazing nachos and the weirdest assortment of stores: a magic shop, an exotic pet store, a store that sold various types of sand and glass. I was with my mother on a particular winter day, the snow was piled out along the sidewalk outside and I was simply not having a good day. Read the rest of this entry »