Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Month: April, 2016

A Wabi-Sabi Life

Our reading today comes to us from the poet Elizabeth Carlson, titled, “Imperfection.”

I am falling in love
with my imperfections
The way I never get the sink really clean,
forget to check my oil,
lose my car in parking lots,
miss appointments I have written down,
am just a little late.

I am learning to love
the small bumps on my face
the big bump of my nose,
my hairless scalp,
chipped nail polish,
toes that overlap.
Learning to love
the open-ended mystery
of not knowing why

I am learning to fail
to make lists,
use my time wisely,
read the books I should.

Instead I practice inconsistency,
irrationality, forgetfulness.

Probably I should
hang my clothes neatly in the closet
all the shirts together, then the pants,
send Christmas cards, or better yet
a letter telling of
my perfect family.

But I’d rather waste time
listening to the rain,
or lying underneath my cat
learning to purr.

I used to fill every moment
with something I could
cross off later.

Perfect was
the laundry done and folded
all my papers graded
the whole truth and nothing but

Now the empty mind is what I seek
the formless shape
the strange off center
sometimes fictional
me.

I never cared much for mending broken wings. Sure, I loved to take my dogs for walks, watch the cat chase a toy, observe hamsters endlessly run and run and run to some unknown destination — but I never desired to put satellite collars onto hounds, or any of the other duties of a veterinarian.

That childhood passion was lost on me. I flirted, as a child, with the desire to be a grand doctor, lawyer, judge, superhero, and, I kid you not, a health inspector. But ultimately, my desires for what I wanted to be “when I grew up” rested on what I like to identify as the call of the limitless and the uttermost. And for me, as a child, I felt the call of the infinite in two vocations. Read the rest of this entry »

[BLOG] Sorry, We’re Not Done With God Yet

Anyone that has ever stepped in to a Unitarian Universalist church and spent some time there will know the age old debate:  The Humanists vs. The Theists.  It’s the most anti-climactic battle of philosophies and one I’ve found few people truly want to engage.  Keep in mind that many “un-churched” and millenial folks find the whole debate to be baffling in the first place.  But it’s a discussion, an argument, a heated exchange that I am familiar with as a minister.  I remember I once responded to the question “What do I wish someone told me before I entered seminary?” with “Trust in God.”  A fellow seminarian chimed in:  “If anyone had told me that I would’ve thought I mistakenly went to a Christian seminary.”  I almost feel like that little exchange there highlights the problem and nothing else needs to be said.

It is true that most Unitarian Universalists do not affirm a traditional “God” figure.  Whether or not they use the word itself is another discussion for another day.  The short answer is that our use of religious language is all over the map — and that’s a good thing.  But for many Unitarian Universalists, such as myself, the image of God as a wholly benevolent, almighty, loving, and ever-present being that rules the Universe simply does not compute.  Where we go from that viewpoint is truly up to the person:  agnostic, atheist, naturalist, humanist, choose your label and there are many.  However, there is one aspect of this discussion that frustrates me.  Often times it feels that we are “beyond God” in the life of our congregations.  I find this to be so completely misguided. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding One Moment

[With apologies for the several updates — I hadn’t published the previous three sermons by accident.]

Our reading today comes to us from Christine Organ, from her essay titled. “Taking a Modern-Day Sabbath.”

By unplugging for one day each week, my modern-day, personal Sabbath seeks to balance the utility of technology with a little patience and remind myself that life unfolds on a timetable that is not always within my control. By removing the distractions one day each week, I am slowly learning to become comfortable with my own discomfort in order to gain a certain depth of self-awareness and figure out how to work through, not around, problems.

With a mantra of “turning off to tune in,” the modern Sabbath almost feels like capturing time in a bottle. Time is a funny thing, you know. On some days, it seems to slog along, and then, in the blink of an eye, a month or a year or a decade has passed and we are reeling from the loss of our Earthly time. By separating one day from the frenzied blur of the remaining six, by disconnecting from the frenetic pace of technology to reconnect with the sacredly simple, the modern-day Sabbath allows us to slow time and savor its goodness. Because nestled into that little nugget of slowed time is a heady calm and a mild exhilaration in the stillness and the quiet and the waiting.

Just over a month ago, I was in Boston for a minister’s seminar. It was good to be in that city again, to be surrounded by a world where primordial America is blended with the modern rush and bustle of commerce.

While the seminar itself was described as a retreat, it was one of the more exhausting weeks of my life in the past months. Unitarian Universalists have this terrible habit of having retreats that are all about work, checking off lists, and squeezing every ounce of opportunity out of a moment. Maybe it’s not just Unitarians, but people and institutions in general these days. Read the rest of this entry »