SERMON: On the Art of Being Lost
“Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” These words from the Transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau ring true to me. They echo the wisdom of more ancient spiritual teachers. The Taoist master, Chuang Tzu, said “Do not be an embodier of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes; do not be an undertaker of projects…. Embody to the fullest what has no end and wander where there is no trail.” Jesus said “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” These teachers are not referring to loss in the sense of losing something or someone. They mean lost as a state of being: not knowing where you are, where you’re going; not knowing what to say, how to act; not knowing how to get back to the familiar, or if it’s even possible to do so; not feeling the solid ground beneath you. Being lost can be frightening, overwhelming, but it also offers blessings. As it takes us out of our everyday experience, away from the familiar, the comfortable, the routine, it invites us to encounter the world from a different perspective. It challenges us to find sources of strength and creativity in us we didn’t know we possessed. It may even require us to ask for help, to rely on the kindness of strangers. Our world actually gets larger. In the process we learn something about ourselves. We wake up, we stretch, we grow, we break through, we transform. These are blessings. Getting lost from time to time is a good thing. Continue reading….
SERMON: A Remote Important Region — A Sermon for the Ordination of the Rev. Karen Johnston (June 5th, 2016, Northampton, MA)
When I speak of a remote, important region, I speak of the body—our physical, sensual bodies that process into sanctuaries, light chalice flames, sing, sit, smile, hug, lay hands and love; our bodies that revel in pleasure and beauty; our bodies that grow, age, decline, forget, and eventually die; our bodies that witness and sometimes experience horrors and thus hold stress, anxiety, pain; feel fear, anger, despair. Our bodies—shadowy, remote, but utterly important regions. Why remote? Because for too long our faith, like our larger culture, has kept the body separate from the mind. We know they aren’t separate. Anyone who practices yoga or Buddhist meditation has some inkling of this non-separateness. Mystics, healers, yogis, gurus, sages, TED talkers, therapists, life coaches and UU ministers tell us all the time of this non-separateness. I’m telling you right now. And yet somehow, in practice, our faith, like our culture, resists this knowledge. Religiously speaking, the body remains shadowy, remote. Continue reading….
SERMON: Sexism: Still Way Too Normal
Two phenomena—women’s basic economic inequality and widespread sexual violence against women—should surprise nobody. They are well-documented and receive considerable media attention. For every dollar men earn in the United States, women on average earn 79 cents. In 2012 18.3% of women reported having experienced rape at some point in their lives and 19% of female college students reported an experience of rape or attempted rape since entering college. Yet huge swaths of American society at best pay no attention or pay attention but don’t care and, at worst, affirm the data as consistent with a conservative, patriarchal world-view—often articulated as God’s will—that assigns women a subordinate status to men and, while claiming to honor women, imagines them not as legitimate wage-earners, not as in control of their own bodies, not as self-determining, moral decision-makers, not as heads of families, but rather as, essentially, the property, the play-things, the servants of men. This may sound overstated, but the persistence of the wage gap, sexual violence, behavioral double standards for women in the workplace and politics, inequities in funding for sports programs, inequities in funding for health research, the hyper-sexualization of women throughout society, multi-billion dollar industries causing and then preying on women’s insecurities about body image, weight, and beauty, increasing rates of sex trafficking and other forms of slavery in every state in the union, and a constant wave of smaller, daily anti-woman indignities suggest to me that the old view of women as fundamentally less human than men remains inordinately powerful in society. Continue reading….
SERMON: “Once Upon a Time, We Were Together”
“Once upon a time, we were together”—words from Indian-born, Canadian poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar. “Follow the trail / To young Douglas firs, tree farmed, / close to power lines, radio towers visible, / western Hemlocks, also planted. / coastal streams built over, where coho once, pink once, chinook, / chum, salmon, steelhead— / Once upon a time, we were together.” These words—like words of so many poets, novelists, artists, theologians, philosophers, prophets, healers, shamans, clergy, naturalists, farmers, elders—like so many words written, spoken, sung, imagined and dreamed throughout the modern era—express profound longing for something that has been lost. Here the poet notes lines of trees planted like power lines, in even rows upon land that is neither linear nor even. She notes how the world has built itself over ancient coastal streams where so many species of salmon once ran. But it’s not just that the trees now stand in straight lines rather than in natural groves, copses and thickets; it’s not just that streams and salmon no longer run—these losses are lamentable enough. She’s naming deeper, hidden loss—difficult to feel, and more poignant when we finally do feel it. She’s naming the lost human relationship with trees, with streams, with salmon. “Once upon a time, we were together.” Continue reading….
BLOG POST: “The Untoward Political Adventures of King Stag”
I suspect more has been said about Donald Trump’s candidacy than all the other candidates combined, but there’s a dimension of the Trump phenomenon that gets no attention: religion. I’m not referring to Trump’s politically-motivated claim to be a Christian. Nothing he says or does indicates “Christian” to me. That identity doesn’t seem to mean anything to him. To the extent Christian Evangelicals support him, that identity doesn’t seem to mean anything them, at least not in a presidential candidate. But there is a distinct religious identity to Trump’s campaign. It’s a form of Paganism—a highly unbalanced, hyper-masculine, non-ethical Paganism. It has no relation to genuine Pagan, Neo-Pagan and earth-based religions—we might call it pseudo-Paganism. Before you decide I’ve lost my mind, consider Trump’s presentation of himself as virile, tough, powerful, physical. Consider his presentation as a sexual being, his history of bragging about his sexual prowess and conquests. When Marco Rubio started talking about the size of his hands, Trump couldn’t ignore it, couldn’t let it go. “Look at these hands. Are these small hands?” he asked. But it was never about hands. His innuendos were crystal clear: It was about genitalia. This is a man who builds towers all over the planet. Phallic symbols and masculine potency matter to him. Continue reading….
PUBLIC WITNESS: There is No Clash of Civilizations! (Remarks delivered at the “Say Yes to Syrian Refugees” rally, Saturday, November 28th, Hartford, CT)
We hear it said we are witnessing a “clash of civilizations.” We hear it from presidential candidates, from right-wing talk radio pundits, from white supremacist, nationalist and terrorist organizations. They say we live in the midst of a “clash of civilizations.” This is the first great lie of the 21st-century. It feeds on fear and ignorance. It is a tool used to prepare people for war. There is no clash of civilizations. Continue reading….