Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: wholeheartedness

Wholeheartedly Unitarian

Our reading comes to us today from the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in an essay titled, “Character.

Persons with character are as easy to spot as if they were a different color. Self-trust and the perception that virtue is enough is the essence of character. It is the natural tendency to defy falseness and wrong. It speaks the truth, and it is just, generous, hospitable, temperate, despises pettiness, and is scornful of being scorned. Character persists when the mood has passed in which the decision to act was made. Character displays undaunted boldness and a fortitude that does not wear down or out.

When the soul is not master of one’s reactions to the world, then that soul is everyone’s dupe. The person of character is not for sale. He does not ask to dine nicely and to sleep warm. He does not need plenty; he can lose with grace. Character is persistent. The person of character makes a choice based on honorable considerations and sticks with it and, no matter what, does not weakly try to reconcile itself with the world.

Most outstanding of all is the good humor and hilarity of the person of character. The great will not condescend to take anything seriously. The heroic soul is not common nor can the common be heroic. The person of character always does what he is afraid to do. Greatness ignores the opinions of others.

Spending a year living in Concord, Massachusetts was an interesting endeavor.  I lived right in the heart of the town center, just off of the old Cambridge turnpike, my neighbors were the Unitarian parish and the Wright Tavern — the tavern where the minutemen had drinks while waiting for the redcoats to show up and where John Hancock and the provincial congress first met. 

To say the place was charming and overwhelming, humbling and with a picturesque postcard perfection — it cannot capture the feeling of living in the yankee capital of northeast.  To walk the same paths as so many august names — John Hancock, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and so many others — to walk where they walked, to be in the same buildings they were in, to eat chowder where they also had chowder, it is an American history geeks dream come true.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let This Be Our Testimony

Our reading today comes to us from a traditional Inuit wisdom teaching, translated by Edward Field, titled “Magic Words.”

In the very earliest time,
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to and an animal
could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen—
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That’s the way it was.

My life before ministry was working in a library. It was a work that I enjoyed. It had a balance of order and mess, depth and lightheartedness — and it attracted many different types of people, both patrons of the library and employees. It was, looking back, like its own type of ministry.

The sermons were in the books, the congregation had plenty of visitors, people pledged money by way of taxes and fines — except there really was no choice in that one, and the clergy were the dispensers of books, the librarians and clerks. I loved the work. Perhaps one day long from now I will retire to it.

I worked with a rather diverse set of people — but what was interesting to me is that many of them were Unitarians. They went to the church I grew up in, they were mostly quiet about it, but it was wonderful to learn of their existence throughout the years. Every now and then, though, we would get someone on the staff that was of a fundamentalist opinion.
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 »