Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chalice Lighting for Pride Service

Our sanctuary was packed on April 17, when representatives of eleven faith groups and combined choirs from UUCT and Temple Israel shared in a moving service for Pride 2012. The theme was 'radical inclusion.'  Below you will find the chalice lighting Carl Sherrod and I offered to open the service, it is adapted and expanded from words by William F. Schulz.
This is the mission of our faith: 
To teach the fragile art of hospitality.
The fragile art includes more than welcoming the stranger, but, being present to the needs of men, women, and children in their triumphs and their pain.  The fragile art of hospitality is symbolized by the bowl of our chalice which gathers us into a circle of common caring.
This is the mission of our faith;
To revere both the critical mind and the generous heart.
The expanding search for truth creates both doubt and faith; and we strive to welcome each in our midst.  The generous heart jumps the chasm between believers and unbelievers, young and old, gay and straight seeking only to know the inherent worth in all.  The refining fire of thought and the passion of non-judgemental love are called forth in the flame we light.
This is the mission of our faith:
To prove that diversity need not mean divisiveness.
As the chalice is composed of several parts, stem, bowl and fire; so too we are called to recognize that our differences enhance our abilities, for without the unique role played by every person in our communities and outside them as well, we would lose more than ever we would gain.
This is the mission of our faith:
To witness to all that we must hold the whole world in our hands.  
Our witness is met in action for all that we find to be right, good and true. We call ourselves to ‘stand on the side of love’ whenever and wherever human beings are oppressed.  The need for each and every one to be a witness is symbolized by the stem of the chalice which holds our light like a beacon reminding us that all humanity is one. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What do Sex, Science and Religion Have in Common?

A religion can't make it, without one thing--mystery.  Humans desperately seek out mystery.  No where is this fascination with mystery more evident than in four fundamental aspects of the human experience: sex, stories, science and religion.
First off, sex. Cognitive developmental psychology explains that one of the mechanisms that drives the formation of our sexual attractions is an affinity for difference (I’m told this is true for homosexuals as well).    We look for differences and are drawn to them.  We seek out mystery in romance. Mystery lights up our brains and our romance.
Stories. Why do we spend billions and billions and billions on movies, books and TV?  We "just gotta know how it ends!"  We despise and yet are addicted to cliffhangers.  Good writers know it's often what you don't say, don’t show that is more important than what you do say--the monster you never see, the whodunit, the love that may or may not find consummation.  
Science.  Some of science is solving practical problems so we can fix everyday problems, but a huge portion of science has been and always will be just because we're curious--mysteries of consciousness and how the brain works, the uttermost stretches of outer space, the inner workings of the quantum realm, the pageantry of our planet's evolutionary history.  Each unanswered question draws a deep part of ourselves that wants to find out; to search and not just to obtain.
Religion's no different.  German theologian Rudolph Otto gave us the term 'mysterium tremendum' to describe the sense of 'holy' or 'god', a 'tremendous and terrible mystery' that we desperately seek out in life to worship.  Our religious preoccupation with the mysterious abounds in the form or paradoxes and secret knowledge in religion--the nature of the Trinity, the path to Enlightenment, the paradox of free will, the duality of spirit and matter, prophecy, secret incantations, hidden codes, the list continues. 
Einstein said it best: 
"The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.  ...It was the experience of mystery--even if mixed with fear--that engendered religion.  A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms--it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.” 
Mystery inspires, inflames, enlivens, seduces, captivates, fascinates, terrifies and brings us to tearful awe.  Mystery is religion at its deepest core because mystery is the fundamental response of the universe to our most basic questions.  As the songwriter Iris Dement put it, 
"Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from.
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.
But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me.
I think I'll just let the mystery be."

submitted by Lee Walton, based on his remarks at the services on March 25, 2012