Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Month: March, 2016

Who Is The Prophet The World Needs Today?

NOTE: This was a multi-generational service that utilized several images during the sermon.  Most of the images were illustrating how UUCL kids answered the question:  “Who is the prophet the world needs today?”  Many of the images cannot be posted as they include the children themselves.

Our reading today comes to us from the Gospel of Mark.

…very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Who is the prophet the world needs today? That’s quite a question for us to be asking here in this room on this day. Often this day is reserved for the celebration of Easter — the celebration of an ancient story about a man from Nazareth who preached a message of radical love and acceptance and a message of freedom and justice for the Israelites.

This message resounded throughout all of Israel — throughout all of the ancient world and now throughout all of the world today. It is something for us to gather here today and to remember the life of one man and the life of all his followers and the life of the community and the message that he created that spread throughout our world.

As Unitarian Universalists we come from the tradition of Jesus —though often walking into our churches today it may not even look like we come from the that tradition these days. Our symbols are different, our scriptures are broader and wider, our ideas of religion are far different than what they would have been if we were still a Christian religion. Read the rest of this entry »

A Hint of Loveliness

Our reading today comes to us from the poet William Wordsworth, titled, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud.”

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a house — especially for the first time. And all throughout searching for a home you find that you are so glad you are not required to buy the first one the realtor shows you. And the next one. And the one after that. When you buy a home, you get very good at saying no or contorting your face in a way that the realtor automatically knows you want nothing to do with the home you are looking at.

I was disappointed to learn that buying a house was nothing like the tv show “House Hunters” — but also relieved to see that sitting down and figuring out exactly what you want with your impossible must have lists is as close as you would ever get to that show. If you don’t watch that show already — don’t. Hours will fly by. And now you know what I do on my days off. Read the rest of this entry »

Tough As Nails

Our reading today is from poet Naomi Replansky, titled, Housing Shortage:

I tried to live small.
I took a narrow bed.
I held my elbows to my sides.
I tried to step carefully
And to think softly
And to breathe shallowly
In my portion of air
And to disturb no one.
But see how I spread out and I cannot help it.
I take to myself more and more, and I take nothing
That I do not need, but my needs grow like weeds,
All over and invading; I clutter this place
With all the apparatus of living.
You stumble over it daily.
And then my lungs take their fill.
And then you gasp for air.
Excuse me for living,
But, since I am living,
Given inches, I take yards,
Taking yards, dream of miles
And a landscape, unbounded
And vast in abandon.

The stories always begin the same way. A female minister will have just delivered a sermon she thought knocked it out of the park. She’ll describe the worship service as weaving community – as if she is some sort of existential basket-weaver, reaching vulnerable and meaningful places in the life of the congregation, and spot on.

In addition to the sermon being great, the music was spot on, the prayer was stellar, the readings were relatable, and the pulse of the community was in synch. It was, you could say, a transcendent moment for minister and congregation. These are the moments ministers live for. And while we experience them without everything being perfect, we aim for them above all else.

Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, our first of six identified sources of faith, I can almost guarantee you a minister wrote that. So when a female minister begins her story with much of what I described, I almost always know how it’s going to end.

As the worship service ended and she made her way to the back of the church to stand in the greeting line, not one, but perhaps two or three or more people, walked up to her, thanked her, and proceeded to comment not on the service, but on her shoes. Or her hair. Or the color of her clothing. Or her earring and jewelry choices.

Suddenly that transcendent moment became nothing more than a ministerial runway, with the minister suddenly finding a new item added to her job description: Fashion model. I do not share this very vague story with you to make any of you guilty, I’m not talking about this community, and this is not to say it’s Unitarian Universalists that exclusively do this, female clergy friends across the denominational spectrum have shared such stories. Read the rest of this entry »

[BLOG] Are You There Odin? It’s Me, Brian.

Hail Odin!  And Thor.  And Freya.  And Tyr.  And Balder.  And Heimdall.  And Frigga.  And Idunna.  But not Loki.  There are more that I am missing, but we are of course talking about the pantheon in Asatru (Heathenry, Odinism, Norse Paganism).  I was, up until recently, unfamiliar with this path in paganism and it has become a topic of interest in the past seven months.

mjolnir_by_mandioca

Mjolnir, the Hammer of Thor.

Upon moving to Lexington, Kentucky to serve the Unitarian Universalist Church as their minister, I began to learn more about the sizable Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) group that was affiliated with the church.  This is nothing new to me.  I know CUUPS.  I’ve been a part of CUUPS.

The church I grew up in had a lovely mix of humanism and paganism that informed and inspired all areas of church life.  My own mother has a connection to paganism on some level.  But what was new to me was just how many followers of Asatru and Heathenism were present in the group.  In the Bluegrass.

I like to imagine that wherever people gather, the stars align and the spirit moves them to shared traditions and beliefs.  We see this with ancient paganism and the sharing of similar gods and goddesses across cultures.  So, too, it appears to be true today as well.  Odin (and friends) have found a home in Kentucky. Read the rest of this entry »