Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: prayer

That Which Inspires

Our reading for this Sunday was the poem, “One Song,” by Rumi.

The city of Konya, in Turkey, sits just outside of the center of the vast country. It’s not easy to get to, and it is closer to Aleppo, Syria than it is to Istanbul. The latter, of course, is a massive sprawling metropolis sitting on two continents.

It is a perfect mix of old and new – ancient temples with new structures built right on top of them. The bosphorous river cuts through the city, marking the official beginning and end of the European and Asian continents in that region.

It is something to take in the enormity that is Istanbul – the culture, the history, the religions, and the people moving like waves every single hour of the day. Konya is a whole different story altogether. After flying in a small plane over the great emptiness that is central Turkey, and surviving the landing of a Turkish plane, you drive for what feels like days.

Days through the Anatolian steppes, which feel and look like deserts but most certainly are not. Days through ancient monasteries carved into mountainsides and days with a massive black cloud of smog coming closer and closer in to view as Konya approaches. The ride is probably just a few hours, but the landscape and peculiarities of the place make it stretch and stretch.

As you enter the city of Konya hiding behind the smog, you are immediately struck with just how different a place it is than Istanbul. It feels…suburban. It feels small but large at the same time. It feels like the Lexington, Kentucky of Turkey. Though we don’t have a giant smog cloud hanging overhead. Read the rest of this entry »

God Can’t Fix This

Our reading today comes to us from the poet Richard Blanco — an excerpt from his poem titled, “One Today.”

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

Unity Temple, the congregation I served for two years as an intern minister, sits in a peculiar place in the suburb of Oak Park, just outside of Chicago. The town itself is a good mix of affluent, middle income, and lower income people — with mixed housing developments and various types of businesses that cater to all different walks of people.

This was largely in part because during the era of white flight, Oak Park was intentionally integrated. On top of it all, the town of Oak Park, has within it a strong city feel with all of the comforts of the suburbs. It hugs the hip of Chicago, the western edge, and it is both a historic and new town. Read the rest of this entry »