The Hardest Faith You Will Ever Love

THE HARDEST FAITH YOU’LL EVER LOVE

Rev. Don Beaudreault

First Parish Brewster Unitarian Universalist

March 6, 2016

OPENING WORDS:
Don’t underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems.
~
Leroy Hood

MEDITATION:
Be ours a religion which, like sunshine goes everywhere; its temple, all space; its shrine, the good heart; its creed, all truth; its ritual, works of love; its profession of faith, divine living.
~
Theodore Parker

If here you have found freedom, take it with you into the world. If you have found comfort, go and share it with others. If you have dreamed dreams, help one another, that they may come true! If you have known love, give some back to a bruised and hurting world. Go in peace.
~
Lauralyn Bellamy

SERMON: “The Hardest Faith You’ll Ever Love”

This is the annual pitch from the pulpit asking you to support this congregation for the next congregational year beginning in June.

But before you bolt for the door, let’s talk about why you are really here.

Beyond any other reason, you know the one reason – or at least you sense the reason, don’t you?

That you need something else in your life other than what you have.

Call it meaning, purpose, connection, healing.

You want somebody to hug you, to tell you that you’re okay just the way you are, to encourage you, to laugh and cry with you.

That’s a large expectation – but it all comes to you eventually – if you stay around here long enough – and not bolt for the door when asked for money, or when you feel someone is being rude to you, or when others don’t agree with you…you know, that whole host of reasons we deal with from the time we were children trying to play together and finding out that some kids play better and nicer and wiser than others; that some of us are criers and some of us are bullies – but that to really have fun (meaning civilization) – we all just have to get along – somehow.

And stop hugging the sliding board.

Well, for me, this congregation is that “get along” place. As well as a place to soar, to be creatively experimental, to be edgy, to be alternative, to be out of sorts – and then back in sorts – in other words – to be who we are! I mean really are. Not our Sunday morning-wash your face- press on your nails and dress up self (although for some of us, that’s fun, too)!

What we are talking about here: is authenticity. To be real. To be honest. To dig deeply within ourself and discover more beauty and sweetness and light than we could ever have imagined.

And then to do the same with others – because, we all are merely human, are we not?

So we come here together, with a common core belief. That was the impetus in 1700, too, when this congregation was gathered.

And back then, as well as now – although this congregation was yet to be called a Unitarian Universalist one – it was still, I believe, “The Hardest Faith You’ll Ever Love.”

Think about it: our spiritual forbears left the “homeland” to come here – and they struggled mightily to get here, some of them dying in the process. And those who survived struggled after they got here.

And we are still struggling – in a world of Trumps and charlatans, bigots and connivers – some of whom pass themselves off as politicians or priests (who would have thought even a few years ago that a movie about the sexual abuses of priests in Boston would have won an Academy Award)! Great that it did, but how horrible such a reality of abuse had to exist in the first place!

Yes, we are still struggling as a congregation, as a spiritual movement, as one of many spiritual and ethical movements – that are seeking gender equality, and protection of our children and of our elders, of an equal wage and work and life for women and people of color and varying ethnicity and differing physical and emotional abilities. We are seeking economic justice, prison reform, voting votes…name some more: (congregational dialogue here).

It is The Hardest Faith You’ll Ever Love because we do not shy away from the challenges of life that speak to the very essence of our being. And…

Don’t underestimate the power that you have to change the world says Leroy Hood in our Opening Reading: but as he says: you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems.

Believe it I say! Because it is your authentic self – your core being – saying that you want to believe it – and in believing it you will begin to live that message. It is first about being concerned about something that just isn’t right – and then convicted to doing something about it to make it right – and then committed to actually doing something about it so that it becomes right!

From your core, comes:

Concern.

Conviction.

Commitment.

Theodore Parker in our Meditation reading speaks of this far-reaching aspect of our faith, too, proclaiming:

Be ours a religion which, like sunshine goes everywhere

And he equates our shrine with the good heart; our creed with all truth; our ritual with works of love; and our profession of faith with divine living.

Yes, that is why we are here – each in our own way: seeking the very center of our being – and finding there a burning ember to live a more just life, a more beautiful existence, a more aware way – and committed to both guiding and being guided by others.

That great theologian Paul Tillich speaks of this inclusive, congruent faith when he says in one of the most influential books about human existence ever written, The Dynamics of Faith:

Faith as ultimate concern is an act of the total personality. It happens in the center of the personal life and includes all its elements. Faith is the most centered act of the human mind. It is not a movement of a special section or a special function of (our) total being. They all are united in the act of faith.

So, let’s take a little trip to a faraway place – to check out your faith.

Okay, you’re dead – now what?

You are standing before your maker, trying to correctly answer the three questions. What you answer will determine where you will spend eternity.

So God says:

Question #1: During your life, what was your Ultimate Concern?

Question #2: So how did this lead you to have an Ultimate Conviction?

Question #3: And how then do you exhibit this Ultimate Commitment?

And so you think to yourself as you stand before the Pearly Gates: Boy, God certainly is a results-oriented deity. What the…? Whatever happened to live and let live? Geez…

Then you see that God is getting impatient and you realize that it’s not nice to make God impatient because only God knows what God might do –

And so you begin to conjure up what you might say in answer to those three odd questions. Something like:

My Ultimate Concern? I was attracted to making lots of money. Right from the start – on that school playground when I saw all those cool things other kids had that I wanted.

My Ultimate Conviction? That I would work hard to get the things I wanted. A bigger and better this, a bigger and better that – more dealing, conniving, bribing.

My Ultimate Commitment? That I did work night and day to achieve my goals, no matter what! No matter what I had to do or who I had to step on.

This is what you are thinking, but you know that God will not like your answers, so instead you say to the Grand Inquisitor a few things you think that said Personage will like, but you get them kind of mixed up since you’re so nervous and all.

Things like:

Ultimate Concern, Conviction, and Commitment, God?

That’s easy: to serve others by walking softly in another person’s moccasins, and carrying a big stick and a monkey on my back as well as my brother (since he ain’t heavy); and to show my love for others by not calling attention to the fact that they aren’t as rich, smart, white, or good looking as I am and were not born in the U.S.A. with me and Bruce Springsteen but that’s okay, because I really do believe in diversity – as long as diversity doesn’t move in next door to where I am…

And God, because God is God, sees right through you, whether or not your name is Donald, and whether or not you even knew what you were thinking and would say before you even thought about thinking it or said what you eventually said.

Or something like that.

So God grabs the celestial gong and gongs you off to where people gnash their teeth, tear out their hair, rent their clothes asunder, and have to watch The Presidential Debates for the rest of eternity.

Friends, we Unitarian Universalists don’t historically or currently believe that there is such a place called Hell as hitherto described, but we generally do believe that answering these or similar questions about

Concern
Conviction
and
Commitment

are crucial in determining what kind of person you are and can grow to be, encouraged by our Free Faith Movement.

And these three “C’s” of our faith, permeate all those many reasons you come to this congregation – for love and understanding, forgiveness and purpose. You fill in the blank.

So to what are you ultimately concerned, convicted and committed during your one and precious life?

And how might you show this within this congregation that warmly invites you to so?

Certainly, people throughout history have believed that a religious institution allowed them to adhere their individual spiritual needs and desires to a particular system so that questions about ultimate concern, conviction and commitment could be addressed and evidenced.

Our Unitarian Universalist movement has historically been such a place. As a people seeking meaning and purpose, we have offered a clean slate on which you, the individual within a community can live your personal message. You do not have to write it alone.

We are here for you. And you are here for us.

And we need each other’s support – including financial pledges and gifts.

Let me close by simply saying that I am glad you do not bolt for the door – this morning or in the past.

Because, indeed, the future lies ahead for this wonderful congregation.

CLOSING WORDS:

This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
THE HARDEST FAITH YOU’LL EVER LOVE 03 06 2016