This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
” Service for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg, Virginia October 18, 2009 the Rev. Jennie Barrington, Interim Minister Opening Words [the words of Robert T. Weston, from Resp. Rdng #530]: “Out of the stars in their flight, out of the dust of eternity, here have we come… earth warmed by sun, lit by sunlight: This is our home; out of the stars have we come… Ponder this thing in your heart, life up from sea: eyes to behold, throats to sing, mates to love… This is the wonder of time; this is the marvel of space; out of the stars swung the earth; life upon earth rose to love. This is the marvel of life, rising to see and to know; out of your heart cry wonder: sing that we live.” Reading: adapted from, "Prophets of a Future not our Own" [Archbishop Oscar Romero] It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The [Beloved Community] is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is [the work of that which is divine]. Nothing we do is complete… , No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the [whole mission of our congregation nor our denomination]. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. This is what we are about. We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for [divine] grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. 1
Let me back up a minute. some believe we go to Heaven. and more enlightened. How do they convey what is worthy about their way of life to him? I’ll get to that in just a minute. ministers.. higher education. I was supposed to start this sermon with the questions: “What does it mean to live a good life?” “What is the purpose of living?” and “What does it mean to live well?” And. human nature. during our brief time on earth. The Morning Sermon: “Captain’s log.” Whoops. Star date 45944. But all Unitarian Universalists believe that we have both the ability. good and evil. on the planet Kataan. voting rights. or less. prayer and meditation. for the most dire of reasons– Their sun is becoming increasingly hotter– It is destined to go nova– All life on their planet is going to cease to exist. “How do Unitarian Universalists today answer those questions?” “And how do they live their answers to those questions. has to distill what of their way of life they want to preserve. And that answer came from my favorite episode of “Star Trek Next Generation. So they saw the title. more beautiful. Unitarian Universalists believe many different things about the afterlife-. including pets. predestination and the afterlife. the community of Ressik.We are workers.” an episode called.that there is no afterlife after this life.about what happens to a person’s spirit after they die. All of them. many believe that we are reunited with loved-ones who have died before us. and remembered well. reach out to other people. we should roll up our sleeves. “The Inner Light. so they could see an example of what one of our worship services is like. and in the wider communities outside of their congregations?” Those are the questions that were posed to me earlier this week by a class of undergraduates at Germanna Community College. more specifically. not messiahs. morality and social justice. I handed out to the class a copy of this Sunday’s Order of Service. not master builders. or that which is divine. in one hundred words.” In that episode. we have detected an object which we cannot immediately identify. and do all we can to make this world more fair. I said: I can answer that pretty simply. 2 . “What Does It Mean to Live a Good Life?” They asked me if I could summarize for them how Unitarian Universalists answer that question. Professor Rick Mitchell. asked me to summarize for them what Unitarian Universalists believe about life’s Big Questions: the nature of God. That was heartening for me to see.. some believe that this is it-. to make this world a better place while we are here. within their congregations. and the duty. Captain Jean-Luc Picard is the only hope they have to be remembered. All of the undergraduates listening to me started nodding. Their teacher. We believe that instead of getting all bogged down in disputes about differences in religious beliefs. and has to find some way for their civilization to outlive them. Some believe in reincarnation. Yet there’s another answer to the questions. I was asked to teach a class about Unitarian Universalism for their Introduction to the Study of Religions class. and support of arts and culture. housing for the homeless. We are prophets of a future not our own.1. –because there is so much that needs to be done! We believe we should join together in helping to provide food for the hungry. “What does it mean to live well?” and “What is the purpose of living?” that kept coming to me this week as I thought about this sermon. Following a magnetic wave survey of the Parvenium system.
the good life is to be out in the beauty of the natural world.” That way we can assess how we might best make our values live on in society after we’re gone. It was from Schweitzer that we received the phrase so common to Unitarian Universalists today. To begin with. and values. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 3 . what are the central philosophies many of you have told me help you. education. philosophy. by Christian theologian H. law. We preserve and recreate our social heritage as a way of trying to make our values live on. musician. there is no great tension between the ethics of the faith community and the norms and laws of the wider community.” That would mean we believe our principles and beliefs are what the world needs in order to be saved. His way of life raises the question: However ethical our lives are. art. and we know that Unitarians do. who was said to have lifted the glass cover that shielded a candle from the wind.. and other Unitarian Universalists. the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant. also. The second way we could call “Unitarians of culture.But first. viewing secular culture as suspicious or sinful– something to do battle against. government. East Prussia. Kant lived. how are we to convey our principles and beliefs to the wider community? One of you said to me that. and hosting people in his home for lively discussions and debates. habits. you wouldn’t act in a way you wouldn’t want the whole world to act. But if that way of living in harmony with nature never becomes influential beyond one little corner of the world. in more plain language.. tradition.” [p. This was certainly true for Thoreau and the other Transcendentalists of his day. Albert Schweitzer. even– Its main purpose becomes to maintain and sustain itself. Richard Niebuhr. Niebuhr feels that the danger of thinking this way is that a faith community becomes too institutionalized– It begins to think too highly of itself and its members– to worship them. rather than serving a greater good. beliefs. I think of the famous physician. then where is the lasting good in it? Wondering about that question led me to recall a book I read in seminary. What mindfulness it takes in our life choices to try to put these principles into practice. i. “Church and Culture. technical processes. and technologies.” [p.” This way. social organization. beliefs. for our purposes this morning. The first way Niebuhr describes is people of faith against culture. it’s actually called. inventions. We could call the third way “Unitarians above culture. We could call Niebuhr’s fourth way “Unitarians and Culture in Paradox. live a good life? Certainly Socrates’ quote. Yet he was intentional about learning all he could about the wider world.e.” Many of you. “Unitarians and Culture. “my religion is reverence for life. is about several ways communities of faith convey their values into the secular culture around them.” But I recalled the title wrong. This tendency isn’t normative for Unitarian Universalists. inherited artifacts. 32] He calls all that the “social heritage” that we inherit. pretty much his whole life in one city: Konigsberg. and humanitarian. So people of the faith community can become influential leaders in government and community organizations. as guidance.. including “speech. myth. 33] All of these things have been created as the end result of specific values human being were trying to convey. so as to let a fly escape and live. “Christ and Culture. and leave behind us. science. rite. have told me you use. “to act only in accordance with a maxim that you can at the same time will to become a universal law. for some people. contribute to during our lifetime. customs. The book. in the mid-to-late 1700s. keeping up with current original thought. “Social heritage” is the result of human achievement.” and Erik Erikson saying that we should live so that we look back and see that what we did was worthwhile. he means “language. what does Niebuhr mean by “culture” anyway? He means that which human beings superimpose onto that which is natural. we take Niebuhr’s models and adapt them to call them. ideas.” I propose. So I recalled the book as being titled.” or.
and provides him with meditative time. Though not as sophisticated as the world from which Picard has come. it reads: “To make our decisions in faith is to make them in view of the fact that no single person or group or historical time is the [beloved community]. And now to get back to that episode of Star Trek Next Generation. perhaps entirely vegetarian. “Unitarians transforming Culture. writing in 1951. He calls that community “God’s Kingdom. helps him think through problems. they plant a tree in the town square as a symbol of hope and affirmation of life. year after year. They keep it alive by each contributing some of their water rations to it. But what if we adapt what Niebuhr was trying to describe so it suits Unitarian Universalists today? Instead of “God’s Kingdom. His son grows to become proficient enough to be a professional musician. and all the ones we hope will carry on our values? Or what if we think of that community of all souls as what Karl Jung described as the collective unconscious? If we adapt. but his experience is as real as his life on the Enterprise felt.. he had never done so at all. that place where everything of worth that we have learned and experienced abides eternally]. The faith community’s affirmative outlook on humanity and all life motivates it to work for justice. work. It can easily feel. Niebuhr feels the danger with the “in paradox” model is that it becomes too static.” You can tell by the slant of the writing that this fifth model is Niebuhr’s favorite. “Beloved Community. Niebuhr has given us five choices of how to be in relationship with our wider community– But one way is not an option in his book: the congregation apart from culture. for us. as an “iron weaver. which continues. Throughout his life on Ressik. There is the danger that we will do nothing to try to change those we perceive as resistant or in opposition to us.. Theirs is a kind and gentle way of life.” we can say. relative work and on which we count..” and the hobbies of exploring the hillsides and charting the stars. a respected voice in political decisions. Picard plays a small flute. becomes 85 years old. They tell him that there is a plan to save some piece of their civilization. The community is gracious. and how the legacy of our lives will be in relationship with posterity. they are trying to expand their scientific knowledge of why their atmosphere is becoming hotter and hotter. I might say.] Doing so brings him a simple but real pleasure. after all.” Or what if we think of that larger community of souls as our long rich Unitarian Universalist heritage– all the Unitarian Universalists who have lived before. “The Inner Light. It describes a faith community with a hopeful optimistic view of secular culture. the drought is so severe that crops can no longer be sustained. day after day. caring. is immensely satisfying. and optimistic. beauty. Lastly. but that there is a [beloved community] in which we do our partial.. They are agrarian. [Though in his whole former life on the Enterprise. It is to make [our decisions] . we could adapt Niebuhr’s fifth model to read. His life in Ressik. within the world of the collective unconscious. living the life of a man named Kamin. living the life of Kamin. he reminds us of the larger community of souls on whose behalf we labor. Though filled with love and pride for 4 . He presupposes that there is always something of a relationship. In Niebuhr’s conclusion.” [or.” He was. He feels as if he is dreaming. and they celebrate the arts. called. In defiance of the drought. that our wider community has great resistance or opposition to our values. Niebuhr’s conclusion to his book. in view of the fact that the world of culture –humanity’s achievement– exists within the world of grace. He has friends. Therefore it is up to us to be mindful of how we are in relationship with people who do not share our beliefs. and truth. somewhat.This may be how many members of our congregation feel in trying to speak and practice our beliefs in a geographic area that is more conservative culturally that our Fellowship is. By the time Picard. a wife and two children.” Captain Picard suddenly finds himself in the community of Ressik. He tells the municipal authorities that extinction is inevitable. He becomes skilled enough to write and play a haunting melody for his son’s naming ceremony.
which they bring to Picard. He emerges from it physically fine. a teacher. At first glance. to boldly go where no one has gone before. We can only guess why the story is called. And they tell him that the civilization on Kataan has been gone for over a thousand years. It was only by reaching out that the Enterprise crew and the people of Ressik came to understand and empathize with each other. Imagine if the most important communities for Unitarian Universalists to reach out to seem to be in– “Space– the final frontier. then we will have found life again. As long as you live. The spirits of his deceased wife and best friend reappear and explain to him that the probe is being sent into the future.. his last statement to the world]: “One thing alone I charge you.” My guess is that the increasingly oppressive atmosphere of Kataan’s world was not what matters in the end. “The Inner Light. but disoriented as to what time period he is in now. But I believe we must try to reach out to people who seem to be in another galaxy than us. Since they did. It is only from reaching out to others that we learn what their inner light is. [Picard says] I’m the someone. Picard. Parting Words [W.his children and grandchildren. it’s me. DuBois. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise: its continuing mission. He opens it to find the flute he so loved playing in his dream life.” They say to him. He clutches it to his heart. and how they lived.” 5 .E. to explore strange new worlds.” Live long and prosper.. broader. and fuller life. the crew find only a small wooden box. What matters is the gifts and graces within each person. “Oh. For some. I’m the one it finds. that was planting or planning or cooking or studying– For Kamin it was musicality illuminated by a flute. Then his family surrounds him and draws his attention to the launching of a probe. all that was worthy in Kamin’s ancient world became part of Picard’s new world. Picard’s dream state finally ends. to seek out new life and new civilizations. [simply] because time is long. The crew tell him that no more than twenty minutes has actually passed. as the eighty-five year old Kamin. then lifts it to his mouth to find that he is still able to play his haunting melody.B.” Back on the Enterprise. When they open up the probe. believe in Life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater. to whom they can convey what they were. “If you will tell others about us. I believe I must keep trying to reach out to people who seem to be in another galaxy than I am. The only possible death is to lose belief in this truth simply because the great end comes slowly. is brokenhearted that their future looks so brief. The community’s hope is that it will encounter someone. some people’s values can seem so different than ours.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.