Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Category: Homilies

Some Amazing Silent Prayer

Our reading this Sunday was, “A Poem on Hope,” by Wendell Berry.

When have you experienced light and darkness striking a balance?  Joy and sorrow?  Contentment and want?  I ask this knowing that for many religious and political progressives these days, there is a very real imbalance. And not just in the wider discourse our country is experiencing.  Perhaps that imbalance is in your personal life as well.

But I will ask again.  When have you experienced this balance?  Think long and hard on those moments.  Have you forgotten them?  Has the year been far too unkind to you that memories of days past are no longer as present to you?  Perhaps dig a little deeper and you will find an example.  Maybe you’ve never forgotten.

Today we pause to remember the winter solstice – a day that is all about taking note of the ebb and flow of light and dark, life and death, and the bittersweetness that is our being conscious of our mortality. Read the rest of this entry »

Owning the Story – Gathering of the Waters

There is a moment, no matter where I am, that brings me great joy.  It’s something that causes me to sigh in familiarity, proclaim with joy, point at it frantically if I am with other people, sometimes scaring them, sometimes making them wonder what on earth is wrong with me.

It’s one of those simple spiritual moments in a life, nothing extravagant, nothing earth shattering.  But every time I see a decal on someone’s car or hat or clothing for the Chicago White Sox – there is this “Aha!” – a piece of home moment.

That baseball team is so much a part of my personal and familial story.  It goes bone deep…and not just because they are the best baseball team to ever exist.  But you know what I mean – there are things, images, and moments that remind you of where you’ve come from, where you’re going, and what part of your story is still with you and always will be. Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas Eve: Just for a Moment

Every year I find myself in the same situation. The year creeps along and the days turn colder and colder (or in our case, warmer and warmer) and suddenly you hear it. Sometimes sooner than you would ever want to. You might hear it on the radio, on television, or, as most of us have, at a store.

You’ll see it pop up in decorations and advertisements, it will seek you out. Christmas, it would seem, can’t wait to be here. And so it comes closer and faster every year. We are instantly swept up, whether we like it or not, in our checklists or the mayhem of shopping during this ever growing season. People who don’t celebrate Christmas can’t help but be confronted with the baby in a manger, as well as nearly getting trampled while trying to get a bargain.

It wasn’t always like that, though. Or perhaps it was and I just don’t remember. What I do remember is being a child and waiting patiently, counting down the days, and getting excited when the school Christmas party came along. It meant one thing, the countdown was almost over. Christmas was finally here!

And there was an exuberance about the whole thing. A rush of excitement instead of a rush for things. Sure, the presents and things were still a part of the equation, but the real rush of the holiday for me was seeing the half eaten plate of cookies in the morning and the empty glass of milk, seeing presents under the tree, and not having to leave my pajamas for most, if not all, of the day. Read the rest of this entry »

A Promising Fire

One of the first books I ever bought on religion as a child was not a Bible, not a picture book, it was this book. The Bhagavad Gita. Perhaps the colorful cover lured me in, perhaps there was a calling to its poetry and words that I did not know yet — sometimes life tells us who we are before we even know it fully.

This book did not sit and collect dust, it was not forgotten, it was a serious investment. I read it cover to cover. Then I read it cover to cover again, jotting down passages and putting brackets around phrases to go back to. I poured over this epic story, which was quite challenging for me to read at the time, and was enchanted by its words.

From that point on I was hooked on Hinduism. The imagery, the stories, the music, the language, the many gods and goddesses, and the celebrations — I couldn’t get enough. I suspect I drove my Hindu friends at school nuts then. I was this little scrawny red head asking constantly about their culture and religion. But that enchantment continues to this day. Read the rest of this entry »

Fur and Feather

Looking back at the church I grew up in, I admire the things it was known for. I admire that it was known as one of the most fiercely humanist congregations in our denomination, I admire that it treated its pastors well, and I admire the reverence for nature that was present in all that we did.

Every potluck and event was at least vegetarian, if not vegan, every garden on the grounds was meticulously maintained, and while it was such a strongly humanist congregation in its reputation, there was room for the vibrancy of earth-centered traditions to speak to us. We always honored the wheel of the year and the rhythm of living and our place in the web of all existence was something that moved and transformed all who attended.

And every now and then we had an animal blessing. I look back and I try to imagine my three dogs, two scrappy westies and a big bounding labrador/newfoundland mix and I am glad we never tried to navigate such an event. But underneath all of that, there were continual reminders about our place in nature and our humility toward it.

Today is a day that celebrates and reminds us of our reverence for one piece of the web of life – our pets, our companion animals. For many traditions, Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans, and some other protestants, this is the day where St. Francis of Assisi is honored. Read the rest of this entry »

Near and Far

Our reading today comes to us from the Jamaican-American poet, Claude McKay, in his poem titled, “Thirst.” McKay was an instrumental figure and contributor during the Harlem Renaissance.

My spirit wails for water, water now!
My tongue is aching dry, my throat is hot
For water, fresh rain shaken from a bough,
Or dawn dews heavy in some leafy spot.
My hungry body’s burning for a swim
In sunlit water where the air is cool,
As in Trout Valley where upon a limb
The golden finch sings sweetly to the pool.
Oh water, water, when the night is done,
When day steals gray-white through the windowpane,
Clear silver water when I wake, alone,
All impotent of parts, of fevered brain;
Pure water from a forest fountain first,
To wash me, cleanse me, and to quench my thirst!

This past Friday I made my way down to Rowan county for a second time. The news had come in Thursday afternoon that Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan county, was being held in contempt and the majority of her deputy clerks would agree to issue licenses.

Having seen what the protesters faced in Ashland on Thursday, I knew it would be no different on Friday. I wondered who would be there to support the couples – who would be there to represent progressive religion – who would be there to tell people that they were on the right side of history.

The drive to Morehead was new to me. Rolling hills, fog hanging heavy over the Appalachian plateau, and small towns dotting the landscape – it became blazingly clear to me through the fog and hills that in this drive to Morehead, I was the only settled Unitarian Universalist minister between Lexington and Charleston, West Virginia. Read the rest of this entry »