Archive for November, 2009

Reflection on Simplicity and Life: Gandhi & Thoreau

November 15, 2009 - 2:30 pm 13 Comments

A Reflection on Simplicity and Life
” the Great soul, Mahatma Gandhi once commented on the pace of Western life with these words-He said:There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

I agree. There is more to life that all the rush and push and fast talk we seem to have to endure… There is more to life than all the endless mental gymnastics and endless chatter of “he said, she said”… There is more to life that all the running around, all the spending of energy, time and effort on maintaining an image in the culture; or spending more and more time with red tape while doing less with the time and energy that really matters. Why not learn to slow down, to simplify, and give quietness a chance to teach you about truly listening and tuning in? Why not simplify and give a sense of peace a chance to show us how it is that we should live?
Thoreau is still the one who said this best. In his reflection on how and where I live he made this statement:
To effect the quality of each day, that is the highest of the arts. Every [man] is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of contemplation …
Still, we live meanly, like ants… like pygmies we fight with cranes… Our lives are frittered away by details. An honest man has hardly need to count more than ten fingers or in extreme cases, he may add his ten toes… and lump the rest! Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, not as a hundred or a thousand. Instead of a million, count a half a dozen and keep those accounts on your thumbnail… Simplify, Simplify!
Reduce all other things into their proper proportion…
Simplicity in life leads to an elevation of its purpose.

A collection of advice from Thoreau on simplicity:
Believe, that you do not have to live out the endless days your lives in quiet desperation; You do have choices. You need not sacrifice your life to make a living. You have within you to achieve something more satisfying than wasting your energies acquiring things… You can, if you will, imbibe in the beauty of nature, the meaning of the universe… You can start living now, instead of tomorrow or next year… Simplify, Simplify, simplify!

FROM WALDEN SOUNDS
For I cannot sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or the hands. I love a broad margin to my life…
A [ man] must find occasions in himself… Follow your genius closely enough, and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect( a new perspective) every hour ( of each day.)

SOLITUDE

Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having the time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals, 3X a day, and manage to give each other only another taste of the same , old moldy cheese that we are.
We live thick and are in each other’s way; we stumble over each other and I think that we lose some respect for one another

WHERE I LIVE

To effect the quality of each day, that is the highest of the arts. Every [man] is tasked to make his life , even in its details, worthy of contemplation …
Still, we live meanly, like ants… like pygmies we fight with cranes… Our lives are frittered away by details. An honest man has hardly need to count more than ten fingers or in extreme cases, he may add his ten toes… and lump the rest! Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!
I say, let your affairs be as two or three, not as a hundred or a thousand. Instead of a million, count a half a dozen and keep those accounts on your thumbnail… Simplify, Simplify! Reduce all other things into proportion… Simplicity in life leads to an elevation of its purpose.
Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. … I perceive that we inhabitants (of New England) of this society live this mean life that we do because our vision does not penetrate [beyond] the surface of things. We think that what is that what appears to be…
In eternity there is indeed something deep, and true, and sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and here… Let us spend our lives conceiving of them- be it life or death, we crave only its realities.

The Virtue Of Simplicity

November 15, 2009 - 2:20 pm 8 Comments

“The Virtue of Simplicity”
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

We are currently living is what can be easily called the busiest era of human civilization. The routine that surrounds and pervades our daily lives has never been so complex- so confusing, exasperating, or intimidating as it is now.
What makes us so frantic, anyway? Does it have to be that way? How many of us have taken the time and the courage to examine our deeper reasons for doing, and ask what makes me, or what makes Johnny and Jane run??? Could it be that we, as a culture, have allowed ourselves to get hitched to a treadmill or better yet, be placed on a gerbil wheel without being able to get off? Have each of us created our own feelings of being too busy to truly live- too worn out to enjoy much of anything called the good of living? Is there a different way?
It appears to those who would try to observe us- from political spin doctors to social scientists, from media moguls to contemporary theologians- that our culture, thrive on doing-going-working… Have we become the human form of the Energizer Bunny? Being active is fine, but to the point of exhaustion? No wonder so many people get tired and worn out! Did we have to get sick, as a person or a society before we will learn to slow down, relax, and find more meaning in doing less? Why it is as if our entire population has to find a place to go ….
That we have created a culture of mad-hatters-always rushed, pushing, constantly checking everything from their watches, their voice and e-mail constantly. As a culture, we all suffer from being overly committed to so many tasks, jobs, duties and extra responsibilities, that we can lose track of what else could be considered as defining a full and satisfying life. We have to stop and ask ourselves: Is there any other way?
Are there any other motives, values and outlooks that can constitute a life worth living? Are we so caught up in believing that fulfillment comes from the pressure to do more and more that we have to become robotic to complete it? Are we potentially afraid of standing still? Does any feeling of having spare, empty time threaten you? What about simplicity?
All too often, the word simple is linked with either being simple-minded, being dull or a sense of boredom. Or that being simple and practicing simplicity is someone one is forced to do- because, after all, isn’t complexity what life demands and to reject our cultural standards makes you into a some leftover hippie! My contrasting perspective comes from Thoreau: [That life is not defined or fulfilled by trying to keep pace with your companions, living fully means that you step to a different drummer- the tune of your soul.]
Choosing to be intentionally more simple in our approach to life can contain many lessons, insights and opportunities for wisdom. Simplicity is one of our most neglected virtues.
What is simplicity? It is an attitude that welcomes or invites a deeper consideration of life’s treasures. Simplicity has, as its primary goal the redemption of time. Simplicity ask us to cultivate an improved outlook on your intrinsic value as a human being, not as a human doing… As someone who honors their relationships with enough time and with sufficient attention; to be someone who has also made time for their creative, reflective, spiritual or deeper self- which is a greater step toward wisdom and integrity, especially once we reach mid-life and our mature years.
Choosing or electing simplicity is definitely is not what being a simpleton implies; for a simpleton is someone who follows a series of mindless routines without thinking or perceiving deeply…
Who knows, maybe being so caught up in the confabulated details of our culture is, in its operating realities, an ironic twist, because that pressure contorts us into becoming ethical simpletons… where we make up our minds too quickly, based on empty sound bites and slick media images- never giving ourselves the time to seek out or reflect on the meanings within the messages with depth or completeness…
To voluntarily choose simplicity as a guiding virtue or primary outlook rejects our dizzying cultural pace that works to threaten our harmony, and our tranquillity. Electing simplicity asks us to choose only a few tasks or priorities and then allow those choices to teach you daily, so that you can safely and securely avoid the enticing cultural traps of busyness which robs us of a more balanced perspective.
Simplicity asks us to set a deliberate pace for our lives- a pace, a rhythm, and routine that allows greater self-expression, caring, and dedication. Simplicity remedies the beleaguering intensity of life without accepting any of the opposite-a soul-empting boredom. Thoreau’s admonition to “Simplify, Simplify” and to live more deliberately, is not corny idealism, it is a creative challenge- it is the conscious intention to pay attention to our involvements and to choose our commitments and activities wisely and well.
Another understanding of the virtue of simplicity comes from the opportunity it creates to address those neglected or ignored parts of ourselves and our world. The practice of simplicity opens us up to discovering the gracious in the ordinary; the miraculous in the everyday, the wonder and the beauty found in nature, in a quiet pond, in another person’s face. Ask yourself: Why did I huff and puff to plant roses in my yard if I never have the time to smell them!? Only you can make room for beauty, for nature, art, or music…
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If you are always “on the go,” you not only risk missing out on what are called the extras of life, you risk missing or ignoring life’s essentials.
Simplicity is a worldwide virtue. From by Buddhist studies and my introduction to the Oriental culture, the insights and depths of simplicity can be learned from the more Zen-like approaches to house holding: from sparse beauty of brush painting to Ikebana or simple flower arranging; to the decor of a singular Bonsai tree that is a graced by elegant stone and smoothly raked sand. Less is more because of the truths that can be found in a life that contains fewer distractions. There, the mind rests; and in the simplicity of design and decor, one can have the relaxing luxury to contemplate the completeness one can find there.
What about simplicity and all the rush and push of your daily responsibilities? If you remain tightly wrapped up in a complex cocoon of work, sleep, food and family, you might never allow yourself to spread the wings of your heart to appreciate any of them fully. Simplicity is an open, fresh and eager attitude that seeks to slow you down and seek to uncomplicate your life. At the same time, simplicity unfolds the roses of life to reveal a depth of opportunity, experience and understanding that offers us true civility- access to more artful ways; craftsmanship; gentility and politeness; and maybe the area most neglected- the need for true intimacy, friendship, or the depth of honest relating- that provides the heartfelt antidote to the unnecessarily tragic questions:

“if only I knew that was the way you felt…
Or I did not realize how much it meant to you …”.

Lastly, simplicity and sincerity, humility and authenticity are closely linked. In the various translations of The Bible and similarly throughout the texts of all the great Scriptures and traditions East and West, the authors will often use them interchangeably. When we read such poetry and allow time for its inspiration, we can contrast their message with the complex materialism and frenetic superficial concerns of our culture. As I see it, adopting an attitude or an approach that emphasizes simplicity will be an important step in our personal growth or in our spiritual development….
We can take a much deserved satisfaction in fostering and ascribing to our simple, questioning faith. We recognize that in its simplicity, we find its worth, and find its depth, for we are free to choose what we want to believe in, and how we use our time, and how we are to live. … We attest to the possibility that one can live a noble, useful, and compassionate life without any restrictive or complex creeds, doctrines or dogmas.
As Elaine St. James has recently written in her book about Living The Simple Life:

[People today are realizing that they have given up too much in the effort to have it all. The primary objective of most of them is to have more time for their own life dreams or for the people that they love, and for doing those things they really want to do.
[Simplicity] is about deciding what is important to us, and gracefully letting go of the things that aren’t. When you start slowing down, cutting back, creating time-real time for yourself- the important things become obvious. Once you simplify your life, you begin… you do your best work; and You can start… to live your best life…
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So, if your life appears to you to be too busy, too strained, too hectic-then try simplicity! Reduce your workload in every superfluous or unnecessary way you can, but do not sacrifice your time for personal growth, for living out your values, or for committing to those essential activities you truly need to pursue. Simplicity as a virtue recommends that you seek to get more out of less in life, and stop adding additional burdens to your day. When you can, wherever you can, choose simplicity over complexity… Let no one or no demand in life take the gift to be simple from you, it is truly a path towards greater fulfillment and a more lasting, resilient sense of joy. So BE IT.

Blessing for a Home or a Sample House Blessing

November 12, 2009 - 7:33 pm 34 Comments

For The Blessing or Dedication of a Home:
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

Opening words of Dedication and Welcome:
Over the history of human togetherness, the home has come to represent the lasting example of what it means to nurture, share, encourage and support one another.
As a spiritual symbol, one’s home is where their intention and awareness of life’s values and ideals are shown and demonstrated… or as it has been said , one’s home is their consciousness, and the expression and design of their consciousness that needs to be at home with those whom one loves, and with whom one lives with, so that harmony exists.
From the earliest cave dwellings, to the modern house in every shape and size, there was a special importance given to the blessing of a new home or residence.
In ancient days, it was the shaman, the priest , or the elders of the tribe who would assemble, carrying symbolic gifts, and offering special prayers for the blessing of the new home and its inhabitants…
Tonight, you who have gathered here, represent the caring elders, the leaders who in love, respect and support, have gathered to assist in creating a meaningful ritual that blesses the new home for Patrick, Paulita, and Leah… Welcome….

On The Significance of Home:
Your home is a place for daily hope and nightly renewal.
In the processes of sharing and caring for your home, you set an emotional and spiritual tone that helps to create a unique personal or family feeling that others can readily feel and experience when entering your abode. Your emotional and mental signature is written into its decor. The warmth created by your furnishings design the intentions and shape the regard you have for the people who are living there.
In this ceremony of a house blessing, we will offer our prayers and intentions for this family and for their future here. We will use sacred symbols and sacred rites that are in accord with this families religious heritage– offering those words and pointing to those realities that promote virtue and support the embodiment or the indwelling of lasting ideals such as healing, well-being, trust, intimacy and love.
( Introduction of the elements: the holy water, new white candle, the incense of choice, and the salt… Purity & cleansing; vision and enlightenment, clearing out, wisdom & compassion)

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The Blessing of the Doorways and Rooms:
Anointing….
Doorways/Entrance:
“Blessed are you who enter in and blessed are you when you goest out…” is an ancient Biblical phrase that seeks to honor the comings and goings of good and righteous persons in their daily activities…
The doorway has a particular importance as it welcomes all who enter in, and from behind its closed doors, the life and truth of a family is revealed and lived out. Each time one enters or exits they open themselves to a new adventure, a reality, another opportunity to express themselves fully, honestly, lovingly.
Here, then, is the blessing for this entryway, this threshold into this home:
Holy One, who knows all of our comings and goings, we ask that you bless this family as they come and go: As they leave the security and comfort of their home to face the challenges of the day, we ask that your abiding presence fill them with confidence and courage; When they cross the threshold and the end of their labors, we ask that their hearts be filled with warmth and gratitude; We also ask that you extend welcome and hospitality to all those who cross this threshold- may it always be that those gathered here are like entertaining angels unawares…

Den & Living Room: May all who gather in these two rooms, find comfort and conviviality- may it be cordial and warm, insightful and entertaining, sincere and heartfelt…… May relaxation be found here, along with education, entertainment, and opportunities to broaden and deepen one’s understanding of the world, and the people places, beings and things that occupy that world with you….

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Bath: May this be a place of health and care-taking- where one expresses careful concern and healthy consideration for one’s body; May there be an enjoyment found in proper care-taking and care-giving, and may the emollients and potions, remedies and relaxation that can be present in here be successful and savored.
Leah’s Bedroom: May this be a place where transformation takes place nightly… where the growth and change of a girl into a woman becomes a gradual reality– one that express the miracle of her being, and the unfolding of her possibilities and potentials; both in her thoughts by day, and in her dreams….

Patrick and Paulita’s Bedroom: May this room radiate with the love expressed here; may it be a haven and a joy; a place of acknowledgment and wonder in the miracle of relationship. May it remain a sacred place for them; kept as a sanctuary for their hearts, where they learn of unending intimacies, and affirm in their moments together, the bonds of affection and caring they will continue to deepen beyond those that they now share.

Kitchen: May this space contribute to the nurture and sustenance of this family– providing them with food, opportunities for sharing, and communication that connect as well as nourishes… May this kitchen be a place of health and happiness, where the extensions of friendship and family are all encouraged.

Patio/Entry points: May this doorway not separate, but extend this home into a natural surrounding… May it be a place of comfort and quiet; solitude and society- opening onto the world as they choose…

Closing Words: Now with this blessing being over, the life of this family has been recognized, its goodness affirmed, and its sanctity and vitality assured… May we now give thanks for these people and the house that they will share, and may all who come into their world and into their home, feel cherished and blessed by them. AMEN

God’s Politics? The Religious Left!

November 12, 2009 - 9:16 am 16 Comments

God’s Politics; How the Right Got It Wrong;
And How the Left Doesn’t Get It!
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

Last year, I finally had a chance to hear and see Jim Wallis…. I was taken by his sincerity, and his willingness to criticize his own religious tradition of evangelical Christianity, while promoting a more exciting, viable alternative that was evidenced in the last elections by the swing towards the middle on moral and religious issues. (He spoke at part of a series funded by an endowment at a large church in the Western suburbs of Minneapolis where I was serving a U-U congregation. Some patron had set aside a generous fund for an ongoing series of lectures on religion and culture, and he was one of this year’s speakers.) Wallis is the editor and the founder of the Christian magazine called Sojourners. Sojourners occupies a place on the religious spectrum of ideas to the left of the Christian Century, but not as far to the left as, say, Mother Jones…
For over 25 years, Wallis has argued against the increasingly hostile and the increasingly vapid influence of fundamentalism on Christianity and American culture. He has decried an almost complete co-opting of mainline religion into a more conservative, militant, and a more dogmatic straitjacket.
Now he feels more vindicated, and rightly so, as we have seen, in this last election, there is evidence of a dramatic shift back toward the center in American Protestantism, that has allowed the more open and tolerant evangelicals within mainline churches to widen their scope and deepen their concerns. This widening and deepening as Wallis book attests, is clearly seen as being in greater accord with Jesus’ social and interpersonal teachings about our neighbor, about poverty, injustice, and political corruption that are central to the Gospel message.

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When asked by Harry Reid, now Senate Majority Leader, to address the nation as a part of the Democratic response to the President’s weekly address, Wallis included these words:
So, I want to be clear that I am not speaking for the Democratic Party, but as a person of faith who feels the hunger in America for a new vision of our life together, and who sees the opportunity to apply our best moral values to the urgent problems we face. I am not an elected official or political partisan, but a religious leader who believes that real solutions must transcend partisan politics. For too long, we have had a politics of blame and fear, while America is eager for a politics of solutions and hope. It is time to find common ground by moving to higher ground.

At this moment in history, we need new directions…
Whoever is left out and left behind is always a religious and moral question. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the health of a society was measured by how it cared for its weakest and most vulnerable, and prosperity was to be shared by all. Later, Jesus, in the prophetic tradition, proclaimed a gospel that was “good news to the poor.”

Our earth and the fragile atmosphere that surrounds it are God’s good creation. Yet, our environment is in jeopardy as global warming continues unchecked and our air and water are polluted. Good stewardship of our resources is a religious and moral question. Energy conservation and less dependence on fossil fuels are commitments that could change our future – from the renewal of our lifestyles to the moral redemption of our foreign policies.

The path of partisan division is well worn, but the road of compassionate priorities and social justice will lead us to a new America. Building that new America will require greater moral leadership from both Democrats and Republicans, and also from each and every one of us.

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All of Wallis’s personal and literary efforts have been, over these years, aimed at pulling mainline churches away from the shallow, inaccurate, and self serving scholarship of fervent fundamentalism, and all the politically tailored outrage that these banal preachers of doom and sin, war and patriotism affirm. The role of religion is to inform politics on how peace, justice, and equality are to be ethically supported, and how the domestic tranquillity is to be maintained.

From reading Wallis, and authors like him, it seems as if, our whole society has just awakened from its own self inflicted stupor concerning how easily fundamentalism has hijacked politics, and how that skewed point of view promoted issues such as an unjust war, a terrible national debt, inept responses to domestic storm disasters. To combat those inane philosophies that underlie fundamentalism, significant theologians such as Matthew Fox, Wallis, and Rabbi Michael Lerner, have finally caught the attention of the American cultural majority. This shift, when enhanced by the religious right’s own self induced scandals and glaring hypocrisies, has led to a serious questioning of how these pious media driven prognosticators of rapture became the champions of an unrepublicianism, yet because they were embraced by hard line poltical conservatives, they were allowed to prosper and gain preeminence on the political landscape. All of this questioning, and now its growing dissatisfaction with the results on our national dilemmas and directions, demonstrates clear evidence that fundamentalism is on a decline, and to which I say with Wallis- good riddance!
Now, before we as religious liberals become self satisfied, and before an array of secular dissenters can show much relief or even much glee in those last election results, Wallis has reserved some biting criticism for the Left as well…
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Namely this: One’s faith, if sincerely understood and applied, challenges the status quo, and will encourage a community towards making a lasting impact on its environs. Yet, we, progressives who call ourselves Christians, Theists, humanists and other such groups, did precious little to combat that pious political takeover. It seems that, for many of us, we lost our way…
Among the explanations Wallis lists for our lack of direction is our secular and amoral outlooks about social problems, our cynical intellectual sophistication, our over-reliance on technology as a savior, even to the point of the worship of science which actually encouraged the reaction formation of the cultural and religious backlash! When combined with a overly generalized disdain for sincere religious views, we did very little to encourage our society towards more open-mindedness, facilitate the growth of ethical dialogues, or moral discernment. All we did, Wallis claims, is to form a smug reaction to the religious conservatives and their irrational teachings!
If having a liberal faith and belonging to an inclusive community is supposed to be a bridge to deeper and higher wisdom and compassion, greater caring and involvement, we who are the churches, temples, congregations and societies who occupy the left of center, did not, by in large, engage those religious zealots in any meaningful debate; We did not, as a counter measure, build our own strong, inviting, programmatic churches, we did not fund an alternative liberal religious media to counter their persuasive claims and guilt ridden messages; we did not work together across theological differences and along common lines of ethical concern to build up interfaith dialogue and to create pathways of effective peacemaking, justice-making cooperation… In short, Wallis attests, we sat back, and as the self appointed elite, and we passively criticized Republicans and Evangelicals… with corrosive results!
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It seems that we did not heed Wallis or his contemporary theologians when they taught this: The answer to bad religion, superficial televangelism, or negative fear based church teachings is not rejection or becoming more secular, the answer is to create better churches; more effective, just, and compassionate religious communities!
Now, I fully realize that what Wallis recommends throughout his writings is not what most religiously liberal churches will adopt or recommend, for his position is as a devout progressive; his book is the Bible; and his frame of reference is the larger Christian story. Therefore, while admirable and sincere, we can only draw from his conclusions or guidelines… This being said, it does not exempt us however, from our cultural and religious literacy- recognizing that most liberal religious churches are still ethically Christian in their history and their heritage, and that whatever theological reticence we, as U-Uists might harbor or possess, it is, in actuality, no excuse to not take up our ethical responsibilities for active engagement, no excuse for not establishing interfaith dialogue, and if agreed on by members and minister, together taking a leadership role in our respective communities.
In just the past two or three years, more evangelical and traditional Christian communities has opened their eyes, and dropped their exclusive lens of concern for personal sin or moral rules, and now understand what Wallis teaches: “That [any belief in a just or loving spirit or a God] is personal, but it is not private”, and the concerns of spiritual and/or ethical person is to concentrate on solving social problems; those crises that are more inclusive of the whole of humanity. The focus of concern and commitment, then, has shifted towards the systemic, and global and towards resolving the neighborhood issues such as poverty, homelessness, disease, street violence, that extend out to world militarism, and the ecological crisis…
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What have we learned? What can I distill from reading about these shifts and changes on the religious landscape?
That it is tragic, and myopic, at best, to contend or believe that a God would have a favorite political agenda! How outrageously naive, and how arrogant or ignorant can a nation be? Well, we got our answer, didn’t we? Just as futile as praying to win at the football games, is the idea that a God would lead a nation, or help to set a national agenda… I reaffirm what Lincoln said when people asked if he prayed for God to be on his side… He replied, I only hope and pray that I am on God’s side- that my values, actions, and guiding ideals can be seen as just, noble, unselfish, and compassionate.
I have also learned that language counts; that political spin, to the left or to the right, influences people. Through adept political persuasion, and through artful linking of words, emotions, and images to a particular political and then to a certain religious point of view, the subverting or the corruption of a national agenda is exactly what happened! Our liberal leaning society of the 1960’s and 70’s had, in large measure, sacrificed or even threw away religious language, with all of its powerful metaphors, historic legacy, and ability to move human emotion, and generously gave its exclusive use to these right-wing zealots who used this language deftly to infiltrate politics and to co-opt the political process that normally requires debate, discussion, and objective weighing of issues.
However, I have been amazed, since the 2006 election, to hear that many true political and economic conservatives who also hold moderate or even liberal religious outlooks have begun to clearly separate themselves from hard line emotionally laden policies and previous dogmatic or doctrinare positions.

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Consequently, many conservatives are no longer willing to swallow hard, and accept the terrible twosome of narrow politics and irrational religious fervor as justification. They are backing away from the current political and religious marriage of the last two decades, choosing now to lean more libertarian, or to divorce themselves from immoderate policies and intemperate programs that damaged true conservatism and that have increased both the warlike rhetoric and the national debt.
Now my goal this morning is not to give you a book report… You are all too bright and aware for me to offer you that…
However, I will say and I will recommend that there are books, such as Rabbi Lerner’s The Left Hand of God, that do deserve serious mention as a adult philosophical study guide and that would serve a diverse group like ours as a possible blueprint for meaningful social action and interfaith coalition building.
In my remaining time, I want to consider today how we, as a theologically inclusive community can benefit from this emerging and I would say, positive and productive religious shift… How we can participate more effectively, and benefit from building local alliances, and from becoming more involved as a congregation.
Ever since Theodore Parker, one of the founders of Unitarian social action took to his pulpit in pre-Civil War New England, there has been a growing awareness that focus of religion and ethics cannot be exclusively private, or be limited to the questions of personal morality. He began to promote the awareness that it is our social structures, and our governmental alliances that hold the key to civic power, that they also have great influence on matters pertaining to each of us and to all of us: education, medicine, poverty, civil rights and systemic change.
We, too, in our day, have to understand our role better and deeper by looking at the groups we join, the causes we support, and the ideals we cherish. Not that individuals cannot make a difference, but it is more likely that groups of people- historically and spiritually gathered in churches- will be deciding factors in our social and moral landscape. How well we stand up is crucial, and ultimately, how well we will stand up together will make all the difference.
Today, I invite you to empower your message of what it means to be a liberal religious community, to infuse your interest and commitment with true enthusiasm, and to welcomes seekers and questioners into dialogue, and into the heart of this community as a safe and secure place for their anguish and social concerns.
Today, on MLK weekend, I invite you to find ways and means for greater social impact, and for a stronger lasting influence; Working together … first with one another, and then later doing our part as members of a progressive interfaith coalition, we can become authors of a new civic hope and that we can create a new day for justice, equality and peace and that hope will be given out to all to share … All who have eyes to see… ears to hear, hands that help, and hearts that care!
AMEN; So Be It

Wisdom from the World Faiths

November 10, 2009 - 10:09 am 4 Comments

Insights and Wisdom From The World Religions: The Spiritual or Worthwhile Life

For a spiritual practitioner, one’s enemies play a crucial role. As I see it, compassion is the essence of a spiritual life. And in order for you to become successful in practicing love and compassion, the practice of patience and tolerance is indispensable. There is no fortitude similar to patience, just as there is no affliction worse than hatred.

I believe that to meet the challenge of the next century, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for his or her own self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind.
From the Dalai Lama

Some Initial Christian Thoughts:

” I now see clearly that, if there is any path at all on which I can approach [God] it must lead through the middle of my ordinary life.” Karl Rahner

Nobody ever finds a life worth living. One has to make it worth living. All the people to whom life has been abundantly worth living have made it so by making a creative, unselfish, and spiritual contribution of their own back to the community and to others.
Is life worth living? Most people seem to think this is a question about the Cosmos. No, my friends, it is a question about the inside attitudes of you and me.
Harry Emerson Fosdick

Another way in which we look at life is summed up by the Medieval mystic, dissenter, and one of the founders of Creation Spirituality, Meister Eckhart. He stated that all can be seen as a reflection of what is held in our minds and hearts . This is what he said about the reality some of us call God:
“God sees us through the same eyes as we see ourselves.” If we view God, the world, and others with judgment and condemnation, we will appear to be seen as judgmental and condemning, if we see God, the world and one another with compassion and joy, our perceptions of ourselves will be equally compassionate and joyous to our perceptions of ourselves and of one another.

From Contemporary Jewish and Psychological thought:

In the concentration camps, we needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life itself, daily-hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk or meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which as constantly set before us as individuals.
Dr. Viktor Frankel

In her latest book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, gives us some insight on how we best can approach seeing ourselves and the reality of our lives. She writes:
[“Whatever we believe about ourselves can hold us hostage… It seems to shift the way in which we actually experience ourselves and how we live our lives.
According to Talmudic teachings, ‘we do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.’ A belief is like a pair of sunglasses…. When we look at life through it, it is difficult to convince ourselves that what we are seeing is not real, for with sunglasses on, life looks green to us.. Knowing what is real requires that we remember that we are wearing sunglasses, and that we can take them off. One of the great moments in life is the moment when we recognize we have them on in the first place. Then freedom is very close to us. It is a moment of great power.”]

On the Many Meanings of Church:

Count Leo Tolstoy offered this definition of church, and of the Spirit and where we will find it. He said:
[The church is composed of people who are united, not by creed or sacrament, but by deeds of truth and love. And whether this Spirit-filled church is large or small, it shall never perish, for such is a true church that unites the hearts and minds of all whom it serves.]

From a contemporary Buddhist poet, Ngoma Uhura: a poem entitled “Nia”

From the books you read, from the news you know, from the word you give, build where you are.

Nia is purpose, Nia is greatness, Nia, build where you are, Nia, do what must be done.

In the town you live, on the block you stay, In the time you spend, build where you are.

On the job you work, with the money you earn, with the food you eat, build where you are.

In the men you birth, in the women you raise, in the family you know, build where you are.

In the church you go, or the temple inside you, in the faith you keep, build where you are.

“She(Shug) say, “Celle, tell the truth, have you ever found God in a church?’ I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did, too. They come to church to share God, not find God.”
Alice Walker The Color Purple