Wednesday, November 25, 2015

We Give Thanks

Buddhist Cynthia Ozick asks, How often do you pause to appreciate what you have in life?”  She says, “When I was young, I took things for granted. After all, we were young and we didn’t know what life could be like on the other side.  One thing we took for granted was education. In my country, it’s compulsory for all kids to go to school, so it was a given. We never thought about how lucky we were to be educated.  Then slowly as I grew up, I began to appreciate things around me more. As I saw more and more of the world out there, I realized all the things I’d been given are not rights, but privileges. I realized that being literate is a not a right, but a gift. I realized there is a lot of war and violence in the world. I realized there are people out there who don’t have their five senses, and to have mine is a gift.  I realized the world is so beautiful, and we’re lucky to live in such an amazing world.  Sometimes it’s easy to feel bad because you’re going through a tough time in life. However, remember that no matter how bad your situation may seem, there are tens of thousands of things to be grateful for in life.

While preparing the sermon for this morning I paused.  I wondered how I would work giving thanks into a message that is shadowed by violence, bad government, the homeless families I met on Thursday, the people at the food bank who continue to scratch a life together, refugees, murdered black Americans, and all the “isms” in the world especially the ism du jour which is the systematic hatred of Muslims. I researched more and found the words of Cynthia Ozick and it struck me, it is because of all that is happening around us that is distanced from many of us that we should give thanks.

We should give thanks that we are able to gather this morning.  Our congregation in Burundi was ransacked, shot at, and their Unitarian minister was kidnapped and imprisoned.  The Unitarians there are seen as a threat to the opposition in power.  The minister will likely be killed and never see his wife and son again. They are in Maine seeking asylum.

We should give thanks that we are not walking in the heat, starving, carrying our possessions and children, or perhaps leaving those we love behind, both dead and alive.  We should give thanks because we will return to a home after this service, we will be offered a meal after this service, we will be accepted no matter the color of our skin in this community.  We indeed do give thanks.

I don’t think we can stop there.  I believe being grateful goes beyond giving thanks for what we have in this moment.  Being grateful and giving thanks is a way of life -- and man is it hard to live this way.  I was at a dinner party Friday night and experienced this sort of giving thanks and gratefulness.  I, and others, plunked down and immediately started discussing what was wrong in our world and local politics.  Our hostess sauntered over to our group and reminded us that there are other sides of the stories we were telling and began to share those stories with us.  It changed the direction our train of despair was heading.  In a flash I was able to feel grateful and able to give thanks.

Later, I thought in order for us to survive and not succumb to despair we needed to intentionally live and think in ways that will save us. I also thought hey, we are Unitarian Universalists, it’s what we do.  Anyone or any group creating change first needs to identify the problems, right?  It’s inevitable, but you can’t live there.  That is, you can’t leave your spirit in those places.  If you make what’s wrong a way of living, you will become the miserable, lethargic, sarcastic being that people are probably already calling you.  Surely you want to prove them wrong!  Your spirit and attitude become stuck and eventually catatonic.  That doesn’t mean we become na├»ve, uninformed, or live in denial.  It means we need to recognize that we live in a world that will break us if we do not intentionally practice giving thanks.  We can visit those dark places but we should not build our houses there.

Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. In addition, behavioral and psychological research has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress.

Two psychologists, Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, wrote an article about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on well-being. The study split several hundred people into three different groups and all of the participants were asked to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day without being told specifically to write about either good or bad things; the second group was told to record their unpleasant experiences; and the last group was instructed to make a daily list of things for which they were grateful. The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.

One of the things such studies show is that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. That's significant, among other things, because just as there’s a certain weight that feels natural to your body and which your body strives to maintain, your basic level of happiness is set at a predetermined point. If something bad happens to you during the day, your happiness can drop momentarily, but then it returns to its natural set-point. Likewise, if something positive happens to you, your level of happiness rises, and then it returns once again to your “happiness set-point”. A practice of gratitude raises your “happiness set-point” so you can remain at a higher level of happiness regardless of outside circumstances.  In addition, Dr. Emmons’ research shows that those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system, and have stronger social relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. He further points out that “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”

We tend to take for granted the good that is already present in our lives. There’s a gratitude exercise that instructs that you should imagine losing some of the things that you take for granted, such as your home, your ability to see or hear, loved ones or anything that currently gives you comfort. Read a newspaper if you’re struggling to imagine losing something.  Then imagine getting each of these things back, one by one, and consider how grateful you would be for each and every one.

We need to find joy in the small things instead of holding out for big triumphs before allowing ourselves to feel gratitude and joy.  Another way to use giving thanks to appreciate life more fully is to use gratitude to help you put things in their proper perspective. When things don’t go your way, remember that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit. In the face of adversity ask yourself: “What’s good about this?”, “What can I learn from this?”, and “How can I benefit from this?”  Not unlike the hostess of the dinner party I mentioned.

Pastor Eddie Lawrence shares with us two big reasons that we need to give thanks.  The first is because we can’t be peaceful if we are not being thankful. Peace and ingratitude cannot sleep in the same bed together, nor do they fellowship in the same person. There is something about the nature of ingratitude that keeps us from being filled with the peace. He writes, “We are told that peace is to rule in our hearts. The word 'rule' in this verse means to serve as an umpire. We cannot release peace to ourselves and others when we are living out of bounds. And the land of ingratitude is definitely outside the boundaries. There are no benefits that come with ingratitude.”

Ask yourself, Do you enjoy hanging out with someone who is always demonstrating how ungrateful they are? They are always negative? Always pointing out what is wrong with everyone else but never see it in their own lives? I would venture to say that none of us here would deliberately choose such a person for our friend. Neither does peace.  If you think about it, when we are being ungrateful, it is a sure sign that we are not at peace with our place in the world.

The second reason is that you can’t be in unity if you are not giving thanks.  As I just mentioned, we find it difficult walking in unity with people who are ungrateful. How can thankful people and unthankful people really walk in unity?  Pastor Lawrence tells us that we have two choices:  “We will live with one of two orientations in our lives: We will be focusing on goodness and blessings, or, we will be constantly complaining about what has not yet happened, or what others are not doing, or what the government is not doing, and on and on it goes. And most people who live this way, seldom see their own irresponsibility or need to change.”

Being unthankful leads us into foolishness and darkness. If we are not a thankful people, we are a foolish people. If we are not a thankful people, we are not choosing light but darkness.
Ingratitude indicates that some darkness has taken root in our hearts and leading us into foolish thinking and living.  There are so many gifts in life, which we perhaps can recognize if we take some time. Let us give our thanks in ways that are true and right for us. May we remember to look for reasons both great and small for giving thanks, and may doing so increase our happiness. Perhaps this is what it means to say, Happy Thanksgiving.

May it be so.

We Give Thanks, a sermon delivered by the Rev. CJ McGregor at 1stUUPB on Nov 22, 2015.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Welcome. Bring a Friend Sunday

You may be a Unitarian Universalist if…
…you think socks are too formal for a summer service.
…even your goldfish gets to vote on family TV viewing choices.
…you consider Charlie Brown & Dilbert to be spiritual leaders.
…you know at least 5 ways to say Happy holidays!
…your Christmas tree has 7 symbols on its top.
…unleavened bread is part of your Easter Brunch.
…you find yourself lighting a chalice before brushing your teeth.
…if when you watch Jaws you root for the shark. ("Hey, sharks have to eat too!")
…belly-dancing has ever been part of a Sunday service.
…on Halloween you explain to everyone the Pagan significance of their costumes.
…you consider Groucho, Harpo & Chico to be the "Holy Trinity."
…the "X-Files" is a regular source of your church's sermons.
…you consider Millard Fillmore one of the greatest U.S. Presidents. (He was a Unitarian).
…you think "Whatever" is a valid theological point

In the book Our Chosen Faith UU layperson Betty Mills describes Unitarian Universalists.  She says, Who are these UU's, standing around the coffee table on Sunday mornings, discussing last night's movie and next Fall's election; reviewing the morning's sermon, designing tomorrow's educations, storming over next century's oceans? [They are] Joyful celebrants of the gift of life, mixing nonsense with the quest of the ages, turning secular need into concerned action, serving wine on the lawn and petitions in the foyer!

You might imagine that I get asked what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist.  I know you do as well. Often, I have used others' words, like the ones that come to me in email or on Facebook, to describe it. Other times, I have used songs, like Iris DeMent's marvelous reminder to "let the mystery be." But most of the time, I, like you, have had to struggle to come up with my own words to describe this faith, and I can assure you it hasn't always been easy.  Unitarian Universalism is a different kind of religion, and how we talk about it will thus reflect these differences. This morning I hope to share with you some ideas that have emerged for me, ideas which have helped me to better share my religion with others.

We’ve asked you to bring friends to join us in our morning service. While these "Bring-a-Friend Sundays" are quite common in UU churches, they can still cause dread in the hearts of many. Despite the fact that over and over again we hear people tell us, "I sure wish I'd learned about UUism sooner," many of us are reluctant to tell people about our church. Yet churches grow most (and best) when people bring their friends. But how to talk to our friends about UUism can be daunting. Hence this sermon, which I hope will help.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, you, or someone like you started coming to church. Perhaps you had been away from church for a long time. Perhaps you found yourself hungry for some unnamed something that was missing in your life. Perhaps your child began asking questions you couldn't answer without the answer sticking in your throat.  Perhaps you went back to the church of your childhood but found that you no longer belonged there. Searching for a place to belong, you made your way to a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Perhaps this one, perhaps another. Entering into this place, or one like it, perhaps you found yourself feeling peculiarly comfortable, energized by the ideas, warmed by the hearts of the people around you, encouraged by the commitment you saw to values not unlike your own. Perhaps you even felt like you had "come home" and began coming regularly and getting involved.

Now our story heads toward its critical moment. One day, at your office, or at a dinner party, or at coffee with friends, it slips out that after all these years, you are going back to church. One of your friends or co-workers asks you, "I don't know much about Unitarian Universalism. What is it you believe?" The fateful question has come. You may stumble, blush, stammer out a few words about what you don't believe. Make a joke or two about it. Then you may give up. Your friends give you a look that makes you feel two feet tall. And you come back to this church you find so meaningful, hoping someone like me will help you come up with a better answer that you can give the next time.

Does that story sound familiar? If it doesn't yet, I imagine that you will find yourself in such a position at some time. Unitarian Universalism is a difficult religion to explain if you approach it from the same perspective as traditional religions.

I, too, have struggled with language to describe the deeply felt convictions I hold in my heart.

 I, too, have been known to tell others first what I don't believe, instead of focusing on the positive aspects of my religion.
I, too, have felt that awkwardness when faced with someone proclaiming firm convictions of the conservative or fundamentalist variety, who cannot understand my faith that is filled with ambiguity and diversity.

I imagine that an evolving faith, as ours is and I trust always will be, brings with it the possibility of faltering words, changing viewpoints, open-ended questions and answers. The challenge before us is to creatively find a means to capture our religious values and beliefs in words and symbols that others (and we) can understand.  One way you can begin thinking about this is related to belief.

Most people, including many of us, I expect, equate religion with belief. That's not unusual. Many religious traditions are based on belief:
belief in a particular kind of deity;
belief in a ritual, such as baptism, as a means for salvation;
belief in a book or books as the only word of God;
belief in a creed that specifies exactly what you must assert as true in order to belong or be saved…

Beliefs are important, and all of us have beliefs that we hold dear and that help us live our lives. But belief is not the collective identity of what our religion is about.

The root of the word religion comes from the same root that gives us the word "ligament." What's a ligament? It's the part of our body that ties our muscles to our bones. So what's a religion? It's that which ties us together. Religion is not a word that equates necessarily with belief. Rather it means something more like "that which binds us together."  For some religious people, beliefs are what bind them together.

But for Unitarian Universalists, what binds us together is not belief but rather our perspective, or our attitude toward life. Where others see their religion as based on a particular set of beliefs, our religion begins with a set of affirmations about life, about the universe, about humankind. Our principles and sources state these affirmations quite beautifully. Unitarian Universalism begins with the deep seated conviction that human life is valuable.

We do not set people apart into groups of saved and unsaved, but rather affirm the dignity and worth of all people.  With this perspective, we are compelled to treat others with compassion and to work for justice for all people. With this world view we cannot easily dismiss the "other" as less than human, and are thus challenged to live with others in peace and as much harmony as we can muster.  And our principles remind us that we see the world as interconnected. The earth, the stars, the universe are not separate from us, they are us. As seekers of truth, we have let the wisdom of scientists and philosophers teach us the deep reality of existence that we, and all living creatures, even inanimate life, are made of the same stuff. We are indeed the stuff of stars, and our religion honors that interconnectedness.  This perspective, from which our religion finds its source, is simple yet also complex. Let me take a few moments to dig a bit deeper, and offer you three responses you might give to your friends, after you say, "I'm a Unitarian Universalist."

The first question your friend might ask you is, "What Bible or religious text do you believe in?" This question has to do with the source of our religious faith. We list six of these sources alongside the principles, because they are enormously helpful in reminding ourselves of the depth and breadth of our religious tradition. These sources include scripture, but they also include our own experience and the experience of others as a guide to truth. One hymn-writer over a century ago perhaps said it best when he wrote: Revelation is not sealed; answering now to our endeavor, truth and right are still revealed. (SLT #190)

"Truth and right are still revealed." In other words, while what others have written and said over generations is important and may be valid to our current understanding, there is always more to learn. And what we are learning may take the form of revelation in the most spiritual meaning of that term.

When your friend asks you about Unitarian Universalism, perhaps you might say this. For us, when it comes to religion, the book is open. As an evolving species on an evolving earth, we are committed, as religious people, to continue learning, to continue seeking, and to accept new revelation that is bound to come. We find revelation in books, in people, even in photographs, for the holy can touch our spirits in ways we may never have dreamed.
The next question we are asked may sound something like this: "I understand UUs can believe anything they want. Is that true?" That question, believe it or not, has to do with heresy. I love telling people that I am proud to be a heretic, though it has been known to take a few by surprise. Heresy, in many people's minds, conjures pictures of those who would not accept orthodoxy and tradition. Well, we certainly fit historically into that category. Our spiritual ancestors were those who questioned, who challenged, who listened first to the inner voice within calling them to what they saw to be the truth.

That image of heresy is important, and I challenge you to learn more about the many heretics who make up our religious history. Today, however, I want you to think of heresy in this way. The word "heresy" derives from a Greek word that means "able to choose." "Able to choose" is a very important aspect of our faith. If we operate out of the assumption that revelation is not sealed, then we have the possibility and the responsibility to choose our religious beliefs as they are revealed to us. Yes, people say of us that we can believe anything we want, but that's not true.

Unitarian Universalists believe what we have to believe, what our senses, our learning, our earth, our communities and our wise people teach us we must believe. We could choose to believe the earth is flat, but that would be against what we have learned to be true. So we choose instead to believe what we know to be true: that the earth is round and that we are a part of its life.

So when your companion over coffee asks you that difficult question, another response could be: We espouse a religion that honors our responsibility and capabilities to choose. Because we know that others, too, must do their own choosing, we value diversity and try to embody a loving acceptance of life's differences. We take responsibility for our religious choices and change them if new knowledge or understanding deem it appropriate. We are heretics, yes, but heretics who believe that the holy is found not in conformity, but in the wide diversity that makes life and our living it so wonderful and rich.

Your friend is not quite satisfied, and asks further: "If your church affirms that revelation can come from many sources, and that you must responsibly choose what you will believe, what holds you together? Do you have a basic belief that undergirds your religious life?" That's a very important question, but one that has, I believe, a simple answer.  Unitarian Universalism is built on a foundation that can be stated like this: We believe and live as if life, indeed all existence, matters. As living creatures, we have been blessed with the greatest gift of all. We did not ask for it, we do not deserve it, yet it is ours to make something with. Life matters not because people alone matter, it matters for itself alone. And because it matters, we find ourselves living life in a way that enables us to make the most of this great gift.
We do that by learning, by choosing, and by giving thanks.
We do it by recognizing that our lives, while valuable, are no more or less valuable than the life of any other person.
We do it by honoring the life of our mother earth, not just human life.
We do it by truly living in this world.

While we may have varying opinions about the possibility of life beyond death, our faith teaches us that it is in this life that we can make a difference.  The price tag for that great gift of life is death. Forrester Church, one of our most thoughtful Unitarian Universalist ministers, reminds us that religion is our response to the dual reality of being born and having to die. Throughout our lives we will struggle to understand the meaning of both. But if we live as if life matters we can face death with the certainty that while we lived we did the best we could. And then we can "let the mystery be" about what comes next. 

Unitarian Universalism is a faith that for many of us uplifts and sustains us through the fullness of our lives. It is my hope that you will find acceptance in this place; that you will feel encouraged to listen to what your heart is teaching you; that you will feel challenged to accept the choices you must make along your journey through life; and that you will feel blessed by the gift of life, and live your life alongside others as if they and you, and the whole of creation matter.  Let us give thanks and praise for the faith which has sustained our ancestors and which sustains us today. May we reach out to each other in fellowship and love, even as we let the mystery be what it will be. And may this circle of kinship open to include all those who seek to celebrate the spirit of life, and live as if it really matters. Because it does.

May it be so.

Welcome. Bring a Friend Sunday, a sermon delivered by the Rev. CJ McGregor at 1stUUPB, Nov 15, 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Process of Becoming

Part of the process of becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister is that you need to complete an internship in a congregation supervised by a minister.  I completed a two year internship in a congregation in Massachusetts.  I am still in relationship with many of the congregants.  The first time I met with my supervising minister was the day after I preached my first sermon for that congregation. He handed me the copy of the sermon I gave him with lots of notes in red ink.  He ripped it apart, told me he hated it, and that it had no worth.  He then told me that he had all the power in our relationship because he would be writing my evaluations. I was so disappointed and left his office feeling like I had failed and questioning whether or not I wanted to continue my ministerial formation process. I sat in my car in the church parking lot crying.  I was humiliated but even worse I thought that to be a minister I was to become like my supervising minister. I believed that that was what ministers needed to be and I knew I couldn’t become such a minister.

I did continue with the internship.  My ministry flourished and I was in deep and meaningful relationships with the congregation and staff.  My resilience coupled with the epiphany that I didn’t need to become that type of minister.  I needed to find my own voice and develop my own ministry.  Once I realized that, my process of becoming led me to unearth things I never knew about myself such as my craving for transparency and authenticity.  I frequently tell you that I am an open book. That hasn’t always been the case.  Because of my difficult early childhood I denied and hid parts of myself in shame.  Once I entered the ministry I knew I could not be in authentic relationship with a congregation without claiming my past and deciding how it had shaped me in my process of becoming.

May Sarton wrote:  Now I become myself. It's taken time, many years and places. I have been dissolved and shaken, Worn other people's faces. . . .

Which of us has not worn, or tried to wear, other people's faces?  To fit some mold because we admire it, or our parents urged it on us; because we just don't think much of ourselves as we are, or want to make ourselves more acceptable in the world; perhaps to take on work and people that don’t really suit us.  There are many reasons, and we may not realize we're distorting our real selves until we've been at it awhile.  But eventually we begin to feel the pain of wearing shoes that do not fit.  We hurt.  Becoming more fully ourselves includes the space we make in our lives for friends and for family, for spouse and for children.  It includes the life of our minds and our hearts, our hobbies and our inner lives, and the causes to which we give ourselves. 

And so, whether we’re just starting out in life, or living in retirement, we do well to listen to the calling of our hearts, to our vocation. When I speak of vocation, I'm speaking of the whole of our lives.  I’m speaking of the choices we make about all these things, from childhood to the last days of our lives, as we are dissolved and shaken and, in the end, become more fully ourselves.  I’m speaking about the lifelong process of becoming the whole becoming who we are called to be..  Writer Gregg Levoy recalls the story of Jonah. He tells us that Jonah was running from his calling to become – a call that rocks the boat. And so it is.  It’s uncomfortable.  Very often, like Jonah, we run from it, sometimes again and again.  But if it’s an authentic calling, it keeps coming back.  It won’t leave us alone.  We turn this way, or that, trying to still the rocking of the boat.  But it won’t go away.  In Levoy’s words, “Being unwilling to bear the hurly-burly of faithfulness to our call, we court disaster -- Latin for "against one's stars" – and we end up agitated anyway.  Although we have the choice not to follow a call, if we do not do so, the Sufi poet Kabir said, our lives will be infected with a kind of "weird failure."  We'll feel alienated from ourselves . . . and fitful with boredom, the common cold of the soul. . . .”   The calls we will not name or follow coalesce into entities that will attempt to tunnel their way into consciousness using any rough tool at hand to remind us of their imperatives, and they will do so through the logic of pain.  As an old Roman saying goes: The fates will lead those who will.  Those who won't they drag.

Understanding ourselves is not easy. Recalling a time when he was in residence at the Quaker community of Pendle Hill, Parker Palmer decided after a decade of conscious vocational search, to convene what Quakers call a "clearness committee" to help him decide whether to accept an invitation to become the president of a small college.  Tell us what attracts you most about it, he was asked.  But all his answers seemed to focus on what he did not like – fund-raising, the politics, giving up his summer vacations, even wearing a suit.  When someone repeated the question, he heard himself saying that, well, he guessed he'd like seeing his picture in the paper with the word "president" under it.  Awkward pause.  Then someone said, "Parker, can you think of an easier way to get your picture in the paper?"  He didn't take the job.

It isn’t easy, because our rational selves can go only so far in understanding hopes and fears and desires that mostly lie deep in the subconscious.  To listen to our hearts, we have to go below the level of the intellect, and beyond the issues of money and status which dominate the culture we live in.   We have to recognize that the “good life" we long for is not just about our standard of living, but our standard of life.  It's about finding wholeness.  It's about becoming who we really are, as we match our deepest longings with "the world's deep hunger." It's in this matching that we find meaning and satisfaction, and what has traditionally been called "vocation," that is, a life that calls to us.

Vocation, Palmer reminds us, is not an act of the will. It's about listening – listening to ourselves.  It's a spiritual journey.  The great religions teach that the spiritual journey is one of growing in awareness.  But it's more than simply living in the moment.  It's about opening all our senses to what's happening both within us and around us in that moment, and to our reactions to it.  It draws alike on intellect and feeling, head and heart.   

Sometimes, when we begin to look within, the chaos that bubbles up can be frightening, as with memories of painful childhood experiences, or abusive ones.  And so we may also benefit from experienced guidance on the journey – mentors, therapists, pastors, doctors; or sometimes just the presence of other seekers in a group we trust -- small groups in safe settings within this Congregation, like Small Group Ministry, the Men’s Group, and others. Or just one-on-one conversations with trusted friends or others who have been through what we are going through.   For me, a holistic approach to religion must embrace both the journey inward of self-awareness, and the journey outward into the world of justice-making and human service.

Without the journey outward, the journey inward by itself can become narcissistic.  Without the journey inward, the outer journey by itself may lead us into burnout, and worse, we may find we are following only the call of ego or guilt, serving our own need more than the world's.   Interwoven, these two journeys can make our lives whole.  The great test comes as years later we look back on our lives.  Have we found the place where the deepest longing of our souls has met the world's greatest hunger?  Have we found not just a living, but a life? 

In the great body of Hasidic wisdom, there's a much-told story about Rabbi Zusya.  Toward the end of his long life, he is said to have declared that "In the coming world, they will not ask me: 'Why were you not Moses?'  They will ask me: 'Why were you not Zusya?'"  How will we answer when our time comes?

Each of us is in the process of becoming – of becoming a person, a more complete or whole person, an authentic person; each of us is in the process of creating a life by what we do and say every day, by what we think and feel moment to moment, by the ways in which we respond to the unexpected, unanticipated and sometimes painful or challenging events of our lives – the way we respond to disappointments or disagreements.  Our ancestors invented various religions as a response to a basic human need in us, the need to make sense out of the experience of being a separate individual, knowing that our individual life is limited and feeling a need to find a sense of meaning, purpose and direction in this life.

You will find that this Congregation is a great source of comfort in finding meaning and purpose.  To me, Unitarian Universalism, in its basic sense, is the lifelong process of making connections with other people, and re-connecting with an ever-changing, aging, failing-and-succeeding self, and a sense of connecting with the natural world of which we are a part.  You join a congregation in order to support it and to feel supported in your own life journey.  Let us continually engage the process of becoming so that we and those we share the journey with clearly see our true selves.  Let us be ever reminded that together we are one.

May it be so.

The Process of Becoming, a sermon delivered by the Rev. CJ McGregor at 1stUUPB, Nov 8, 2015.