Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Month: October, 2017

My Conscience is Captive

Our reading today is titled, “Cutting Away” by the poet, Patrick Cobello Hansel.

We begin on the road to Erfurt, located in the Landgravia of Thuringia in the Holy Roman Empire in the year 1505, 512 years ago.  A young man was celebrating the completion of his law degree at the University of Erfurt and was visiting his parents in Saxony.

On his way home, he was caught in a terrible lightning storm.  As the story goes, a lightning bolt struck the ground right next to the man and he was thrown to the ground.  He was stunned.

And from being stunned he regained awareness, suddenly began praying to St. Anne – the patron saint of equestrians, poverty, and teachers – among other things.  In his praying he declared, “I will become a monk!”

He would honor this promise to St. Anne fourteen days later on July 16th – making sure he had one last party with his University friends.  To the disgust of his parents, he entered the Black Monastery in Erfurt on July 17th and started on the path to become a monk. Read the rest of this entry »

With All Earnestness

I’m convinced being a Unitarian Universalist requires us to reconcile ourselves, as much as possible, to mortality – to the inevitability of death. For so many of our stories as a tradition begin with death or lead to it – they visit upon us in quiet reflective moments, come rushing to us in the martyr’s flames, or steer us to claiming fully our lives while we still have them.

It is true, death is a constant companion for most of the world’s religions – perhaps the companion that originated the impulse to be religious, but so much so for us – a religion whose focus is squarely on the here and now – anything beyond we leave to you to discern.

It is a challenge, in the modern world but especially as Americans, to even talk about so universal a condition – that of living and dying. But, still, we will venture there.

Our story begins, however, with life – stories tend to require the living to bring the alive. And we find ourselves in what should be a familiar place for Unitarian Universalists – New England – Boston – the mothership of our tradition. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Road to Geneva

Our story begins with a realization that we don’t know when the hero was born. It’s a peculiar start. But that is the start of our story. Miguel Serveto was born sometime during, before, or after the year 1511.

His life was one that necessitated him to lie about his place of origin and date of birth so he could survive another day. What we do know is that he was born in Spain, in the Kingdom of Aragon, under the reign of King Ferdinand II the Catholic – and he would become a great theologian and physician.

He was also a Unitarian. And we’ve come to know him not as Miguel Servto, but as Michael Servetus – one of our best known Unitarian martyrs. If the name is unfamiliar to you, you are not alone. He is often lumped into the expansive history of our faith tradition as a sidenote.

When the history of your heresy, ours in particular, goes back thousands of years, it really depends on who is telling the story and what parts they feel need to be emphasized. I commend to you the thousands of years of history our tradition holds within it. Michael Servetus is but one piece. Read the rest of this entry »

Children of the Same God

From the Book of Genesis:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

And so ends the foundational reading of four major world religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Bahai, and also several smaller faith traditions, Samaritanism, the Druze, and Rastafarianism.

We don’t often hear these words spoken from a Unitarian Universalist pulpit, even though in this season of the High Holy Days, several Unitarian Universalist communities are pausing and joining with their Jewish siblings in celebrating their new year and the season of forgiveness.

We draw from the well of the High Holy Days quite often. And so, too, when Ramadan rolls around year after year, there is often a mention. We lift up the devotion and sacrifice of Islam. We like to look at Islam and say of ourselves, submit, but don’t lose yourself.

And Christianity goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Christmas and Easter roll around year after year and we toil with the theme of hope: hope in darkness, hope in death. Throw in our Protestant heritage for good measure – our undeniable connection with American Puritanism, and you start to understand why some folks argue that we are post-Christian, Christian-lite, not Christian, and all of the above.

Read the rest of this entry »