Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: Unitarian Universalism

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 »

Becoming a Beacon

Trying something different with this week’s sermon post — it was recorded!  Should there be any problems with the video itself (pixelating, stuttering audio, lost segments), please let me know.

Into the Sacred Depths

Our reading this Sunday came to us from the poet Billy Collins, titled, “As If To Demonstrate An Eclipse.”

As a child, I was always encouraged to look upward.  For hours, I would look.  My mother would just look with me.  Not much was said in these moments beyond, “Wow” or “What are their names?”

I’d invent names for them when I didn’t know.  Against the dark of night, I’d marvel at Arcturus, Vega, Altair, and Antares.  Names with stories attached to them.

Names of stars that are hundreds of light years away, stars that could have gone supernova in the middle ages but the light had not yet reached us, stars that could have planets with fellow watchers looking up and marveling at our own star, stars I would never see, could never see, we will never see beyond looking up on a clear summer night.

Those points of pale light piercing through the dark of night to my eyes – just one human amongst billions – would stay with me for years and years and up until this moment, too.  The passion would persist. Read the rest of this entry »

The Unpopular Principle

Our reading this Sunday was an excerpt from the book, “Healing the Heart of Democracy,” by Parker Palmer.

This is how the story always goes.  Unitarian Universalist congregations often hold Intro to UU classes for newcomers, visitors, and those wanting to know more about us.  They cover everything you’d expect about our peculiar faith tradition.

Some of our long history, our love of committees and discussions, our self-deprecating humor, and, of course, our seven principles and six sources of faith.  There will be ice breakers, members of the membership team present, usually the minister, and whoever just wants to know more.

As someone that has served two churches before this one as a minister-in-formation, I was usually tasked with leading these introductory courses.  Almost every time, no matter what we did, after the evaluation forms were handed back in, there would always be one person that said we had way too much history in our presentation and another, in the same group, that said there wasn’t enough. Read the rest of this entry »

A Wabi-Sabi Life

Our reading today comes to us from the poet Elizabeth Carlson, titled, “Imperfection.”

I am falling in love
with my imperfections
The way I never get the sink really clean,
forget to check my oil,
lose my car in parking lots,
miss appointments I have written down,
am just a little late.

I am learning to love
the small bumps on my face
the big bump of my nose,
my hairless scalp,
chipped nail polish,
toes that overlap.
Learning to love
the open-ended mystery
of not knowing why

I am learning to fail
to make lists,
use my time wisely,
read the books I should.

Instead I practice inconsistency,
irrationality, forgetfulness.

Probably I should
hang my clothes neatly in the closet
all the shirts together, then the pants,
send Christmas cards, or better yet
a letter telling of
my perfect family.

But I’d rather waste time
listening to the rain,
or lying underneath my cat
learning to purr.

I used to fill every moment
with something I could
cross off later.

Perfect was
the laundry done and folded
all my papers graded
the whole truth and nothing but

Now the empty mind is what I seek
the formless shape
the strange off center
sometimes fictional
me.

I never cared much for mending broken wings. Sure, I loved to take my dogs for walks, watch the cat chase a toy, observe hamsters endlessly run and run and run to some unknown destination — but I never desired to put satellite collars onto hounds, or any of the other duties of a veterinarian.

That childhood passion was lost on me. I flirted, as a child, with the desire to be a grand doctor, lawyer, judge, superhero, and, I kid you not, a health inspector. But ultimately, my desires for what I wanted to be “when I grew up” rested on what I like to identify as the call of the limitless and the uttermost. And for me, as a child, I felt the call of the infinite in two vocations. Read the rest of this entry »

A Hint of Loveliness

Our reading today comes to us from the poet William Wordsworth, titled, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud.”

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a house — especially for the first time. And all throughout searching for a home you find that you are so glad you are not required to buy the first one the realtor shows you. And the next one. And the one after that. When you buy a home, you get very good at saying no or contorting your face in a way that the realtor automatically knows you want nothing to do with the home you are looking at.

I was disappointed to learn that buying a house was nothing like the tv show “House Hunters” — but also relieved to see that sitting down and figuring out exactly what you want with your impossible must have lists is as close as you would ever get to that show. If you don’t watch that show already — don’t. Hours will fly by. And now you know what I do on my days off. Read the rest of this entry »

[BLOG] Are You There Odin? It’s Me, Brian.

Hail Odin!  And Thor.  And Freya.  And Tyr.  And Balder.  And Heimdall.  And Frigga.  And Idunna.  But not Loki.  There are more that I am missing, but we are of course talking about the pantheon in Asatru (Heathenry, Odinism, Norse Paganism).  I was, up until recently, unfamiliar with this path in paganism and it has become a topic of interest in the past seven months.

mjolnir_by_mandioca

Mjolnir, the Hammer of Thor.

Upon moving to Lexington, Kentucky to serve the Unitarian Universalist Church as their minister, I began to learn more about the sizable Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) group that was affiliated with the church.  This is nothing new to me.  I know CUUPS.  I’ve been a part of CUUPS.

The church I grew up in had a lovely mix of humanism and paganism that informed and inspired all areas of church life.  My own mother has a connection to paganism on some level.  But what was new to me was just how many followers of Asatru and Heathenism were present in the group.  In the Bluegrass.

I like to imagine that wherever people gather, the stars align and the spirit moves them to shared traditions and beliefs.  We see this with ancient paganism and the sharing of similar gods and goddesses across cultures.  So, too, it appears to be true today as well.  Odin (and friends) have found a home in Kentucky. Read the rest of this entry »