Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Month: January, 2018

Committed to Full Inclusion

Our reading this morning was from Michael Daeschlein, titled, “UU Principles and Disability.

You know what I’m talking about, you’ve seen them in the downtown of any major city. Little booths often accompany them, sometimes there’s a milk crate and a megaphone involved, or they just plant themselves right in front of you and force you into a conversation.

I’m referring to street preachers. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, a wide variety of other Christians, even Hare Krishna’s – yes, they’re still around, and every now and then they’ll represent a religious viewpoint you’ve never heard of. I always have my own responses.

I often eagerly want to talk to these missionaries of faiths that aren’t mine. I’ll even day dream of standing on my own milk crate one day near the busiest intersection in Chicago, New York, or Boston with a sign that simply says, well, I’m not quite sure what it would say. But these days I think it would say, “Just breathe.” Many of us have similar experiences. Read the rest of this entry »

The Larger Conversation

Our reading for this morning was from the poet, Denise Levertov, titled, “Goodbye to Tolerance.”  It was written as a protest against injustice and intolerance.  She writes:

Starting in March of last year, 2017, the Unitarian Universalist Association was in crisis.  It was a crisis that led to debate, confusion, anger, pain, and the resignations of three of our denominational leaders:  the Director of Congregational Life, the Chief Operating Officer, and the President of our Association.  The charge?  That the Unitarian Universalist Association was engaging in a culture of white supremacy through their hiring practices.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this crisis that rocked our faith, let me back up here a bit.  There is a lot going on here.  I will not go to great lengths to explain our complicated polity and organizational structures.  But here it is as simply as possible:  Our congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington, is part of a national and worldwide movement of Unitarian Universalists, the Unitarian Universalist Association.

UUA for short.  The United States is divided into regions and districts.  Some parts of the country just have regions, some have districts, some have both – for the sake of our time together, let’s pretend regions and districts are nearly the same thing.  Each of these regions is overseen by a staff person at our headquarters in Boston.  The southern region, which we are not a part of interestingly enough, had an opening for that staff position. Read the rest of this entry »

Stayed on Freedom

Our reading came to us from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

If our religious tradition is anything, it is a vastly storied one. Though we are, by all accounts, a newer religion – with Unitarian Universalism being 57 years old and the parallel histories of our pre-merger ancestors, the Unitarians and Universalists, being as old as this country – we hold within our own volumes of history a great wealth of saints and sinners, wild religious experiments, growing pains, and sublime inspiration.

Today is one of those stories of the sublime. Because though our history on this continent is quite young, the core ideas of this faith are much older. Yesterday, the calendar landed on an remembrance that is central to the burning flame of Unitarian Universalism: the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda.

Now, if you remember my enthusiasm with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I assure you, I am equally enthusiastic about this weekend. The only difference is that, instead of creating t-shirts, coffee mugs, puzzles, lego sets, Christmas tree ornaments, and posters like the Lutherans did for the Reformation celebration, our own Unitarian Universalist association created a discussion guide to mark this occasion. That is so very UU. So while I have no swag for you today, I do have great enthusiasm. Read the rest of this entry »

May Nothing Evil Cross This Door: Part 2

Our reading this morning was the poem, The Finitudes, by Mark Nepo.

The first portion of this sermon was a retelling of the fable, The Friendly Forest, by Dr. Edwin Friedman, which can be found in his collection, Friedman’s Fables.

I wonder, how many of you were waiting for the tiger to eat the lamb. I know the first time I heard this fable of the friendly forest, I was waiting for the untimely demise of the lamb. It was almost certain. Instead, we are left wondering what the animals in the forest finally did and if the lamb survived – or any of them, for that matter.

But we are also left with questions about the ethics of this story. Like the story of God wearing a two-colored hat, we have to suspend our belief – the friendly forest is absurd. But it invites us to ask questions about the nature of evil, emotions, complicity, and nature itself.

We can reflect: Is the Tiger in the fable inherently evil or just doing what is in his nature? What if the lamb was eaten, who would be responsible? The tiger? The lambs’ friends who said to not worry? And we can broaden it to the greater questions of life and meaning. Read the rest of this entry »