Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: Judaism

Children of the Same God

Catching up on some sermon postings.  Sadly, the video for this one didn’t fully record, but it’s all part of learning how to use the new camera!

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 »

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 »

Giving Yourself Another Glance

Our reading today comes to us from Brené Brown, titled “Manifesto of the Brave and Broken Hearted” from her book Rising Strong.

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics
and fearmongers
than those of us who are willing to fall
because we’ve learned how to rise.

With skinned knees and bruised hearts
we choose owning our stories of struggle
over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.

When we deny our stories, they define us.
When we run from struggle, we are never free.
So we turn toward truth, and look it in the eye.

We will not be characters in our stories
not villains, not victims, not even heroes.

We are the authors of our lives.
We write our own daring endings.

We craft love from heartbreak,
compassion from shame,
grace form disappointment,
courage from failure.

Showing up is our power,
story is our way home,
truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong.

I remember the moment when church first disappointed me and I burned myself out. It was during my undergraduate years and I was one of those people in college — involved in pretty much any progressive student organization on campus — interfaith, multicultural, LGBT, student government.

I led worship services on campus for the progressive people of faith with a team of other likeminded leaders, and I still participated in the life of my home church, maintained a job, and so on. There is the saying about burning the candle at both ends, but really I just threw the whole candle into the fire. The eventual burnout should have been as clear as day. Read the rest of this entry »