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To Touch Inward Springs

Sunday, February 05, 2017
a sermon by the Rev. Daniel Budd

READING

The great end in religious instruction is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own;

Not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own;

Not to give them a definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth;

Not to form an outward regularity, but to touch inward springs;

Not to bind them by ineradicable prejudices to our particular sect or peculiar notions,

But to prepare them for impartial, conscientious judging of whatever subjects may be offered to their decision;

Not to burden the memory, but to quicken and strengthen the power of thought;

Not to impose religion upon them in the form of arbitrary rules, but to awaken the conscience, the moral discernment.

In a word, the great end is to awaken the soul, to excite and cherish spiritual life.

- the Rev. Dr. William Ellery Channing, Discourse before the Sunday School Society in Massachusetts, 1837 (adapted as a responsive reading, #652 in Singing the Living Tradition, 1993.

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What Is

Saturday, January 21, 2017
a sermon by the Rev. Daniel Budd

READINGS

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

- Matthew 7:25-34 (RSV)

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Tradition!

Sunday, January 08, 2017
a sermon by the Rev. Daniel Budd

READINGS

I.

…Mr. Gannett tells us that the denomination first took its stand on “reason and revelation,” but it had to move on. Later it took its stand at the supernatural or the miraculous; but it had to move on. Later still it made another stand at the Lordship of Christ, but again it was compelled to move on. Now the stand is made at Christian theism, but once more, he says, we must move on. Move on where?...

The fact seems to be, there is nothing about which there is more mental confusion than about this whole moving on idea…. If I am faced toward the edge of Table rock, Niagara, I can safely move on for a distance – move on until I am within 20 feet of the edge, 15 feet, 10, feet, 5 feet, 2 feet, 1 foot – but if I move on much beyond that it will be the last moving on I shall be likely to do in this world. So a religious body may move on for a time toward the edge of religion – nearer and nearer the edge – but what if it moves off? Our Unity friends have got us to the place where they want us as a body to move on and move off historic Unitarianism – move off Christianity; move all theism; they tell us if we will we shall find a religion of ethics which will be better….

- the Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland, 1886

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Beautiful Questions

Sunday, January 01, 2017

 

Beautiful Questions

Sandra Wilson

 

Questions, questions, questions. Always the questions. What if…? Will someone find out if…? Will it matter if…? What will happen if…? Won’t I look foolish if…? Who will know if…? Will it matter if…? Beautiful questions? No. Not beautiful questions. Self-undermining, fearful questions.

Doubts, doubts, doubts. Always the doubts. I don’t think I can… I won’t have enough… Something bad could happen… I’m not strong enough… They won’t like it… I don’t have those skills… No one will help us… It won’t matter anyway… We can’t trust them… Doubts to be cherished? No, not doubts worthy of being cherished. Self-sabotaging fearful doubts.

 

I titled this sermon, ‘Beautiful Questions’ and I’ll bet that you thought I had some grand plan in mind for a thoughtful, poetic, erudite sermon based on lots of background reading and study. In other words that you thought I knew what I was talking about. But, no. If you thought that, you’re wrong. I had no idea really. It just came to me and I went with it because I needed to get that dreaded title and blurb sent in to the office so the monthly newsletter could be published. It even seemed a silly title, but I stuck with it for no reason other than Voltaire’s quote, which is in your hand.

 

But then, do you know what happened? I discovered that many people before me have used that very same expression as a way to think about questions and how important it is to ask the RIGHT questions, especially of ourselves. I perceived Socrates I guess, percolating, streaming, distilling through the consciousness and intellect of the ages, down to T.S. Elliot’s (which I just learned about) “Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question” which is from his introduction to a volume of collected poems.

 

*

Today is Day One of the year 2017 and I think you’ll agree that it feels like our individual, our communal, our national, and our global lives are engulfing us in questions and in fearsome doubts right now; What will happen to us? To my children? To my grandchildren? To our planet Earth? Peace or war? Justice or injustice? Fairness for all or unequal treatment of peoples? Health for all or health for some? Will we be a compassionate people?

The questions swirl endlessly around and among us right now; the big question though, and the beautiful question hopefully, is ‘how am I going to be, to live, to relate to the world that the two thousand and seventeenth orbit of the earth around the sun, since Christians started numbering them anyway, presents to us?’

How will I do that? Will I do it in defensiveness? In supportiveness? In ill will? Respectfully? In cooperation? In meanness? In vengeange? With enthusiasm? In unhelpful obstructionism? With a generous spirit? Will I be strong enough to avoid making decisions based in fear alone? Can I avoid resorting to ridicule? Will I find the courage to stand up for what I think and believe is healthy and right for all? Will I have the patience and fortitude to truly listen to and be respectful of those with whom I disagree vehemently? Will I have the courage to speak for and act according to the principles I hold most dear?

What will I do? How will I be in this new turning of the world?

*

Today, January 1, is also the 7th day, the last day, of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is the seven-day-long celebration of African American culture, family, community, tradition, and the future that was started by Dr. Maulana Karenga on the West Coast in 1966, 50 years ago. Kwanzaa holds up 7 principles and celebrates one on each of the days of Kwanzaa. The principle that is honored on this 7th day is the principle of Imani or Faith. It is a day of quiet, of meditation, and of self-reflection.

Dr. Karenga describes Imani in these words. Imani teaches us to believe in the good, the right and the possible and in the righteousness and victory of our constant striving and struggle to expand the realms of freedom, justice, and peace and to lay a solid basis for human flourishing and the well-being of the world. Imani reminds us to keep the faith of our foreparents who taught us this enduring ethical obligation: to know our past and honor it; to engage our present and improve it; and to imagine a whole new future and forge it in the most ethical, effective and expansive ways.” 

And on this Day of Meditation three hard, and beautiful, questions are asked of oneself;

Who am I? Am I really who I say I am? Am I all I ought to be? May we all be wise enough at this difficult time to stop and to be still, to look to Imani, and to ask ourselves those three hard and beautiful questions.

*

It takes courage to truly ask the beautiful questions. Easy questions, fearful questions usually bring answers that are limited by that fear. Carl Sagan (sa gun), the astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, and many more things too, said, “We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.”

Easy answers get us nowhere, whether we are considering the mysteries of the physical universe or the mysteries of one’s own path into the unknown future. Easy answers based on questions limited by fear will not be helpful or healthy. Easy answers keep us stuck in the same old place, with no kick in the behind to get us out of that old place and into a probably scary, but a more dynamic, current, life-nourishing, and community-nourishing place.

 

Here are some questions to ponder: I can’t claim though that I thought these up completely on my own, because the internet is brimming with questions that others consider beautiful. I read hundreds of them.

 

What are you/we pretending not to know? Possibilities open up when we stop deceiving ourselves.

Why don’t you/we do the things we know we should be doing? Life isn’t just about figuring out what to do. The real challenge is then doing the things we know we are called to do.

 

What don’t you know, that you don’t know you don’t know? It’s often the obstacles that we don’t even see coming that are the biggest challenges in life. Ask of and listen to the people that have been there and done it already.

 

What are your values and are you being true to them? Again, I found this exercise on the internet and I tried it. It works. Write down what you believe are the 3 most important aspects of each of these areas: family, romantic relationships, friends, work, health, sex, spirituality, and yes, politics. The things you wrote down, I think you’ll see, are your values. Now, ask yourself these two beautiful questions: #1 – Are these values to be doubted and examined more closely or are they as they are, values worthy of my esteem and honor? #2 - Are our words, our votes, and our actions in the world true to our most worthy values?

*

What can I do? What do I do? How do I make a difference? Do my words and actions really matter?

Here is another beautiful question from the internet: What do you do if you come upon a parent verbally abusing a child?

And here is an answer, an answer that extends its meanings to other situations and to other areas of our lives as well:First, cringe. Get it over with. Then, take a very deep breath. If you truly believe you can help the situation, approach as someone showing sympathy — not as an accuser or member of the parent police. Empathize with the overstressed parent. Suggest that he or she stop for a moment and take a very deep breath. Without being a know-it-all but another fallible human being trying to do one’s best, explain respectfully to him or her how pausing and taking a very deep breath has worked for you in the same kind of situation. And listen to what that other parent has to say.


Mahatma Gandhi once observed, “Almost anything you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

*

What are your beautiful questions for this daunting new year, 2017**?

What are my beautiful questions for this new year?

May we all have the courage to ask the truly beautiful questions and

the strength to search in deep places for our own real answers.

 

Blessed be

Amen

**4,715 –Chinese Calendar

**5,777 – Hebrew Calendar

**1,437 – Muslim Calendar

 

 

 

 

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Wandering In Wonder

Sunday, December 04, 2016
the Rev. Daniel Budd

READINGS

two poems by Mary Oliver

“When Death Comes”

When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn;

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measle-pox;

when death comes

like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:

what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common

as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,

tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something

precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

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Living In Grace

Sunday, November 06, 2016
a sermon by the Rev. Daniel Budd

READINGS

I.

Today we separate the beautiful from the meaningful, graciousness from practicality. That rift leaves us with art that is marginalized and appears optional, if not irrelevant, and with hard work and productivity that with their emphasis on functionality deprive us of our souls. At its deepest level grace means divine gift or the support and inspiration offered by life itself. The alternative to a life of grace is a philosophy of self and the ideal of the self-made person. That approach may be effective and successful, but that kind of life is bereft of grand vision and beauty. It has little charm and requires every effort of the self. Deep down, graciousness and religious trust go together. . . .

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The Last Time

Sunday, October 30, 2016
a sermon by the Rev. Patricia Shelden, Community Minister Affiliated

Well, This is awkward…….

For the last few years I have led worship on the Sunday closest to All Soul’s Day. Some cultures celebrate the Day of the Dead but I grew up a Roman Catholic with All Soul’s Day. Actually two Holy days have merged into All Soul’s Day. Originally, All Soul’s Day was a day to pray for the souls stuck in Purgatory on their way to Heaven and All Saints Day, November 1, which originally celebrated the faithful who are in Heaven.

Seeing as how we are nondogmatic and nondoctrinal and do not claim to be a Christian or any other dogmatic faith…we aren’t particularly interested in Souls in Purgartory and/or Heaven. Although maybe we should be. For whatever you name it we surely sin and do wrong just as any other group of people. We just do not have a language to have such a discussion.

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History and Hope

Sunday, October 16, 2016
THE REVEREND MARGARET CORLETTI

What a delight it is to be here with you today.Those of you who were here during my ministry will remember at the start of each church year I would take a picture of all of you.Well. Let today will not be an exception.So, smile every one.

Our History and our hope.

Many of you know that I live in Arlington, Virginia a stone’s throw from Washington, DC.Over the last couple of months we in this metropolitan DC area have been inundated with the announcements, information and celebrations surrounding the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.This community has watched with wonder and curiosity as this building has arisen on the National Mall.We all know that this history - the African American history in this country – is fraught with many ugly episodes that a segment of our country would like to forget or pretend never happened.But the director of this museum and forces behind the effort to build it felt the importance of offering our nation an opportunity to see itself – its history in its entirety - through the eyes of W.E.B. Du Bose’s “souls of black folks.” All of this history – the best and the worst – had to be there.

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On The Errors of Our Trinity

Sunday, October 09, 2016
the Rev. Daniel Budd

READINGS

Freedom, reason, and tolerance then are not the final goals to be aimed at in religion, but only conditions under which the true ends may best be attained. The ultimate ends proper to a religious movement are two, personal and social; the elevation of personal character, and the perfecting of the social organism, and the success of a religious body may best be judged by the degree to which it attains these ends. Only if the Unitarian movement, true to its principles of freedom, reason, and tolerance, goes on through them and finds its fulfillment in helping men to live worthily as children of God, and to make their institutions worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, will its mission be accomplished.

- the Rev. Earl Morse Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism, 2 volumes, 1945.

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A Culture In Turmoil

Sunday, September 18, 2016
the Rev. Daniel Budd

READINGS

I.

There is widespread fear in our country that things are falling apart, from our infrastructure (Flint MI) to our economic position in the world economy, to our ability to maintain a high standard of living and care for all our citizens, to our vulnerability to terror attacks and other forms of socio-economic disruption from outside and within our country….

…I find myself in sad agreement with [Christopher Hedges’] observations about who we have become as a people and a nation. First, Hedges dissects how we have increasingly lost the capacity to distinguish illusion from reality in our private and public lives.

We are a culture that has been denied, or has passively given up, the linguistic and intellectual tools to cope with complexity, to separate illusion from reality.We have traded the printed word for the gleaming image.Public rhetoric is designed to be comprehensible to a ten-year-old child with a sixth grade reading level.Most of us speak at this level, are entertained and think at this level.We have transformed our culture into a vast replica of Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, where boys were lured with the promise of no school and endless fun….

- from “Trump and the American Selfie: Archetypal Defenses of the Group Spirit” by Tom Singer, MD.Singer’s essay appears in A Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Era of Donald Trump, Leonard Cruz and Steven Buser, eds. (Chiron Publications, 2016)

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