This sermon is the completion of a trilogy (I suppose I could call it a three-part series but the former sounds better) Around James Luther Adams concept of the Five Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion. I preached this sermon on the first Sunday In December 2016. Upon rehearing the sermon (during editing) I had to admit that I was having a lot of fun but wasn’t sure where I was going, but then my goal is not to arrive before I get there. If you find yourself wondering where I am going throughout this sermon just let yourself go and experience the path, but don’t think about it as a conclusion, maybe more of a resolution.
Before preaching the sermon I posted this summation:
I wish you could have been along for the ride while I debated back and forth about this title through inner dialogue. Deus Ex Machina is Latin for God out of the Machine a common narrative trope found in stage and screen also in books and even theology. Ghost in a Shell is a story about a marionette created by an old man named Gepeddo, that came to life after wishing on a star… wait no… that’s Pinocchio. Either way, I want to talk about something that binds us together, I will be continuing through James Luther Adams’ Five Smooth Stones of Liberal Region. Today’s topic, hope.
This sermon, is part two of my Exploration of the 5 Smooth Stones. Before starting this sermon I read a lengthy section from a James Luther Adams essay called Our Response in Society.
During the Sermon I have an extended reading from Eboo Patel’s book Acts of Faith, and will reference it often as I explore the question of why do some choose a violent path.
Early on in my work with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson I would have to confront a basic question from good natured believers of a differing theology. When I explained the lack of theological homogeneity (as it refers to the existence of God) of our collective, I would no doubt be met with blank stares and then the question, “So you’re not really a church?” Early on I was dumbfounded when met with this question because I had work to do, I didn’t know how to enter into a dialogue that would begin with, “Church, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”
This sermon is the first of three built around James Luther Adams’ 5 Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion.
To set the mood I read from Revelation 1:4-15 and listened to Son House play John the Revelator.
My oldest questions revolved around one simple idea “How do we know?” Over time I became more and more dissatisfied with the answer. Being a parent didn’t help me find an answer. Over time, I learned responsibility happened even in the absence of preparation, making me question John the Revelator…even while trying to embrace the breath of God. The old Gospel/Blues song asked the question, “Who’s that writing?” That’s one of many questions I’ll be asking on Sunday.
The congregation issued the following statement at today’s congregational meeting:
At the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson, we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person and seek justice, equity, and compassion in all human relationships. This is the beginning of our covenant as Unitarian Universalists. In keeping with our long-standing commitment to civil rights, we categorically denounce the passage of HB1523. This law is immoral and violates our principles, including acceptance of one another and a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. This law does not protect our faith tradition. Instead it stands in opposition to all we hold dear. We cannot uphold this or any other law that defends discriminatory behavior for any reason. As members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson, we stand in solidarity with our LGBT family and friends. We want you to know, whoever you are, wherever you are on your spiritual journey, we welcome you with open arms.
We encourage all communities of faith to denounce this unjust law and work for its repeal.
At the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson, we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person and seek justice, equity, and compassion in all human relationships. This is the beginning of our covenant as Unitarian Universalists. In keeping with our long-standing commitment to civil rights, we categorically denounce the passage of HB1523. This law is immoral and violates our principles, including acceptance of one another and a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. This law does not protect our faith tradition. Instead it stands in opposition to all we hold dear. We cannot uphold this or any other law that defends discriminatory behavior for any reason. As the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson, we stand in solidarity with our LGBT family and friends. We want you to know, whoever you are, wherever you are on your spiritual journey, we welcome you with open arms.
At 9:00 am on Saturday, November 14th, the Ministry Council, Ministry Team members, and UUCJ members and friends will come together to plan the 2016 Church Calendar. This annual meeting is critical for having high-quality programs and events that help us dig deeper and offer rich, meaningful experiences for members, friends, and the larger community.
Here are a few questions and answers for those interested in attending:
What’s the purpose of the annual planning meeting?
- The Ministry Council meets to layout a general plan for the entire year.
- We’ll map out a rough plan for the liturgical year with a variety of types of forums and services, religious education offerings, and integrated social justice activities.
- We’ll map out a rough plan for social events, fundraising events, buildings and grounds work days, etc. that supports the life and vitality of the congregation.
- We’ll identify opportunities for volunteers to coordinate and support the events and activities for the coming year.
Who is involved in the annual planning meeting?
- The President-Elect and Minister
- Appointed Co-Chairs of all the Ministry Teams
- Additional Ministry Team members
- Any member or friend from the larger congregation who would like to participate
What will happen DURING the Annual Planning meeting?
- We’ll begin with opening words and a check-in.
- We’ll review the purpose of the meeting and explain the procedures to be used.
- We’ll begin planning and assign coordinators for services and events — all while having a ton of fun!
- We’ll record the plan and make sure to share a copy with the congregation.
- We’ll end with a check-out and celebration of our joint work, a potluck to nourish our bodies, and fellowship to nourish our souls!
What do participants need to consider to have the right approach at the Annual Planning meeting?
- Keep perspective. We need to consider the needs of all members and friends of the congregation as well as the larger community. We’re plan not only for the people who currently attend but also for the people who will join us in the future.
- Be open. We’ll be brainstorming together and considering lots of ideas! We’ll look for opportunities for synergy within and outside of the congregation. The annual planning meeting has a creative and collaborative atmosphere.
- Be flexible. The annual plan will not be set in stone. It is always subject to change at subsequent meetings based on world events, personal concerns, and the needs of the congregation. The annual plan is a framework–not a straightjacket.
- Love and cherish one another. We plan together in love to encourage the best in ourselves and in others. We appreciate all of the work that people do to support UUCJ and the love they share with one another.
- Have fun! Everyone is encouraged to have a “YES to Life!” attitude!
Don’t forget: Please bring your ideas, your passion, and a dish to share!
Adapted from a presentation from the UU Fellowship of Athens, GA