Thursday, January 28, 2016

What Would Martin Say?

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to be a part of your Dr. Martin Luther King Sunday. My husband Joe and I bring you greetings from the UU Congregation at Montclair, NJ, where your member Terry Last has dual citizenship.

I had not been a member of a congregation of any denomination for well over 40 years when I signed the book at UU Montclair. What moved me to join was the congregation responded to the backlash against Muslims after the September 11 attacks. As a group, we visited a nearby Muslim Center that had received death threats. And we continued the dialogue over potluck dinners and meetings for several months thereafter.

Brother Martin said: In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends. Martin Luther King has been a part of my life for almost 60 years and so when Judy [Bonner, chair, 1stUUPB Justice Action Ministry] asked for a title of my talk today, I answered “ What Would Martin Say?”

Not only because it is MLK Sunday, but also because it is a question I have been thinking about since Black Lives Matter emerged. The origins of the BLM movement are so different than that of the civil rights era of Dr. King that one could conclude that they contradict each other. Just compare the deeply religious Christian base of Dr. King with a movement that was started by three Lesbian women of color and has no prominent national leader or spokesperson.

But the movements have more in common than outward appearances reflect. Martin was a radical leader who understood the significance of confrontation and used the media to shine a light on injustices. He would have been out there supporting the young leaders of BLM and urging them to keep the movement non-violent.

Dr. King’s call to action emboldened Black people to stand up for their rights in a regime that had enslaved and terrorized Black people for over 300 years. Their courage and determination stirred the conscience of the entire country and some progress was made.

Now, almost 60 years later, the BLM call to conscience is forcing white people to stop ignoring the reign of terror that is afflicting people of color across the country. We have to say that Black lives matter, because
- we are living in a society where the public  school system is preparing poor children of color for prison and not for college.
- we are living in a society where people who are mentally ill or drug addicted are imprisoned and not treated.
- we are living in a society where serving time in prison no longer means that you have paid your debt to society. A criminal record condemns you to a lifetime of disenfranchisement and economic disaster.

It is in fact The New Jim Crow.

These injustices are happening in our name because they are public policies and practices paid for with our tax dollars.

Dr. King said: Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in that purpose, they become the dangerously, structured dams that block the flow of social progress.
So fellow and sister UU’s, I invoke the spirit of Dr. King to encourage those who have already taken up the mantle of BLM to keep on keeping on…

For those of you who have succumbed to the rubric that “ All Lives Matter”, I urge you to remember who is suffering; who is being senselessly killed daily??

This systematic slaughter of young people of color at the hands of law enforcement is white supremacy on the rampage. There is an unwritten law that they will not be held accountable and so it continues….

Very close to home you have had two very accomplished young African- American men gunned down by local law enforcement under extremely questionable circumstances. The killing of Jermaine McBean in Broward County almost 3 years ago and the more recent killing of Cory Jones just a few months ago in our own county have both gained national attention.  They have gained national attention because the BLM movement refused to let the reign of terror continue without protest and a demand for justice.

At the recent UU General Assembly, antiracism  activist Chris Crass challenged UUs:

The question for us as UUs is not how many people of color we can get into our pews; it’s how much damage can we do to white supremacy.

So what CAN we do? Here are a few ideas to start:

- Stand in solidarity with BLM and others who call for justice. We must be persistent if these families are ever to see justice for the loss of their children.
- Write letters; make phone calls, blog, tweet.
- Start conversations on BLM to educate and motivate your friends and family members to join you.
- In New Jersey we are using our statewide legislative network to promote bills that would help to end mass incarceration and that would also hold law enforcement more accountable. I would be happy to talk about legislation at our discussion hour after the service.

On this weekend when we remember Martin with speeches and parades, let us also remember him with service and action. Martin said:
Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle and the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
That is what BLM is about. Let us work to be in that number.

Amen. Amen. Amen

What Would Martin Say ?, a sermon delivered by Rebecca Doggett at 1stUUPB on Jan 17, 2015.
Mrs. Doggett is chair of the Undoing Racism Committee, UU Congregation at Montclair, NJ.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Democratizing the Pulpit

On Christmas Eve Richard and I sometimes visit a Catholic church.  We were both raised Catholic and the bells and smells -- as they say -- around the holidays are comforting.  There was one Christmas Eve that we both wish we hadn’t.  We arrived and thought it was funny that the women all had veils on their heads and that we couldn’t understand a word that the choir was singing or what the priest was saying.  We realized we had stumbled into a Latin mass.  What could we do?  We started planning our escape immediately.  We both agreed that at the time of the offertory the congregation might be distracted enough that we could make a run for it.  And so we did.

I later realized that in order for that worship service to happen none of us in the pews needed to be there.  The priest who ignored us the whole time and who was speaking in such a low voice we couldn’t hear the liturgy — it was in Latin anyway.  The choir sang the hymns.  We didn’t even need to offer our voices.

In the National Catholic Review, Priest Peter Schineller writes, “During the celebration I felt very uncomfortable. It was strange and foreign. Even though I was very familiar with the Tridentine Mass from my childhood, it seemed remote and distant. The Mass seemed to focus on the priest whose words for the most part could not be heard and who rarely faced the people. The choir performed well and their singing overrode the priest, who had to wait several times until they finished singing. In my mind I could not but think back to the Second Vatican Council, and all that the Council and subsequent documents tried to bring about – active participation, emphasis on the important things, vernacular, elimination of repetitions, etc. It was sad and disheartening. What happened? Why would the Catholic faithful seek out and attend this older form of the Mass? After the Mass, I was tempted to talk with some of those present. But I decided not to as I feared I would have been negative and perhaps controversial. My feelings were still very raw. One thing I know: I myself will never freely choose to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.”

In our own tradition, Unitarian Universalism, we have had similar reactions to worship.  Because Unitarianism was an intellectual movement you received a sermon that was more like a lecture and people were happy, and in the 1960’s humanism became the dominant theology of Unitarian Universalism.

But that's changing.  More and more people that come to our congregations want to celebrate, be moved, be challenged and connect with their personal theology and have an experience of the heart and spirit.  I know this because I meet with most of them and they all ask me how they will find spirituality here.  I say, lectures are held at the Palm Beach County Library on Tuesdays at 11 o’clock.  Here we arrive for sustenance for our hearts and our minds.  We prepare one another for another week outside our sanctuary through spiritual practice, trusting people and sharing the joys and sorrows deep within us, we are transformed.  This is not a Sunday adult program.  It’s a place to reflect on life, to be vulnerable, and to examine our call to our free faith.  That’s a big change for how Sundays in Unitarian Universalist churches were used decades ago.

Another change that is happening in our services is how the minister and the congregation connect on Sunday mornings.  In our tradition we have what is called the free pulpit. The minister is expected to express his/her values, views, and commitments without fear or favor. It's not a polite courtesy congregations offer their clergy -- not a legal nicety.  It's an obligation — and I take it as a spiritual and a moral obligation — that comes with the call to minister to a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Expressing my values, views and commitments is not something I can do if I feel like it. It’s something I must do regardless of how I feel about it.

I confess I am not aware of the historical literature that directly addresses and explains the origins and development of the free pulpit tradition. I’ve been researching it over the past few weeks and I don’t see a lot written on it (which doesn’t mean it’s not there, just that my research hasn’t been successful). There are volumes and volumes written about freedom of and in religion. There are volumes written about the free church tradition. But the term “free pulpit” doesn’t show up in the indexes of the Unitarian and Universalist histories I’ve examined. It’s possible that it has evolved primarily as a contractual understanding between ministers and congregations, and hence it doesn’t get much play in the histories.

In efforts to explain the free pulpit tradition, one often-quoted document is the Transylvanian King John Sigismund’s 1568 “Act of Religious Tolerance and Freedom of Conscience,” an important precursor to the free pulpit in America. “In every place,” the Act explains, “the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel, each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well, if not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied.”

Another often-quoted free pulpit reference is from the conclusion of Theodore Parker’s 1841 sermon, “The Transient and the Permanent in Christianity.” That sermon is one of the most famous of American Unitarian preaching. He delivered it at the ordination of the Rev. Charles Shackford. His comment on the free pulpit came at the end of the sermon when he spoke to the congregation about how to relate to its new minister. He said truth “speaks in a thousand tongues, and with a pen graves her sentence on the rock forever. You may prevent the freedom of speech in this pulpit if you will. You may hire your servants to preach as you bid; to spare your vices and flatter your follies; to prophecy smooth things, and say, It is peace, when there is no peace. Yet in so doing you weaken and enthrall yourselves …. But, on the other hand, you may encourage your brother to tell you the truth …. You will then have his best words, his brightest thoughts, and his most hearty prayers.”

In both quotes we see a turning away from a centralized and hierarchical reliance on doctrine and dogma, a turning away from the authority of the church over the individual, a turning away from complacency in thought and spirituality, and a turning towards freedom, towards conscience, towards integrity, towards the individual’s search. We see a recognition that “Truth speaks in a thousand tongues” and a desire to honor the truth as each tongue proclaims it.

Unitarian Universalists are not the only ones who lay claim to the free pulpit tradition. Baptists have their version of it. So do the Congregational churches.  I do not remember ever having such a clause in any of my church calls, although it was always understood that I was free to preach on whatever I chose.  While Unitarian Universalists are not the only bearers of the free pulpit tradition, it is nevertheless rare in the broad sweep of American religion. In a blog entitled Nagoonberry, a former Presbyterian minister named Heather, who is now seeking fellowship as a Unitarian Universalist minister, wrote these words about the free pulpit:

“The free pulpit is a long-standing tradition within Unitarian Universalism, in that we allow our ministers to speak their minds rather than be restricted by a particular tenet or creed. As I look back on my time as a Presbyterian minister, I do remember that there were limits on my freedom as a preacher.  There were things one simply did not say.  A preacher who consistently strayed beyond the borders of orthodoxy might find herself in a bit of trouble -- or a lot of trouble.”

Unitarian Universalist ministers are moving even further.  They are democratizing their pulpits.  Something I’ve been studying for a while now. Democratizing the pulpit is daring to poll the members of a congregation about issues that matter to them versus the minister solely choosing the topics preached in the pulpit.  Getting the perspective of those in the seats opposite the pulpit, what are the moral issues of the time?  What are congregants struggling with publicly and personally.  When democratizing the pulpit the concerns of the people can be used to brush off the liturgical dust and cleanse the sanctuary of spectators and fill the seats with stakeholders.  In Unitarian Universalism there is no higher authority than the gathered members.  So democratizing the pulpit means that you will have a hand in what is preached from this pulpit.

In just a few minutes I will ask you for suggestions for sermon topics. I wonder what you will write?  What are the moral, political and personal issues you want to hear sermonized?  Another area to democratize is the board room, ever increasing the views from the congregation solicited by the board in order to close up a gap. There is a movement for boards of Unitarian Universalist congregations to ask the congregation more questions about who they want to be.

Democratizing the pulpit not only invites people to help choose the sermon topics but also invites them to participate in co-creating services.  By democratizing the pulpit ultimately congregants change roles.  The congregation moves from spectators to liturgical stakeholders.  I believe that ministry does not only come from the minister.  Each of us has the potential to minister and develop personal ministries in this congregation.  Likewise I believe that the minister is not the only one who understands what we need to hear from the pulpit.  So today I invite you to live our shared ministry.  I invite you to become stakeholders of our liturgy. I’ve heard many times, “I wish CJ would talk about this.”  Here is your moment.  

Democratizing the Pulpit, a sermon delivered by the Rev CJ McGregor at 1stUUPB, Jan 10, 2016.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Truth Will Set You Free

John Chapter 8 verse 32: “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  This quote has been used for various purposes in our past and present.  Over the past four centuries it has been used most in academia.  It’s common to find an academic institution with a version of the quote over its doors or in its mission, as academia believes knowledge as truth will set you free. 

In John Chapter 8 verse 32 we are promised a spiritual freedom.  A release from the life of unrighteousness.  This idea can easily be translated into Unitarian Universalist speak.  But I have a couple of questions, questions we will be focusing on this morning.

One, How do we know what the truth is when the truth changes and is subjective? and two, what are we being released from when we hold the supposed truth?

Rather than John, I prefer the philosophy of Gloria Steinem.  She writes, “The truth will set you free, but first it pisses you off.”  More about that in a minute.

I returned to an article in the December 2010 New Yorker that I had flagged long ago knowing I would use it sometime. The article titled, The Truth Wears Off, asks if there is something wrong with the scientific method.  It seems we can no longer trust what we thought to be true.  The article reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything.  The columnist Jonah Lehrer writes, “We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us, but that’s often not the case.  Just because an idea is true does not mean it can be proven, and just because an idea is proven does not mean it is truth.”  Let me say that again, “Just because an idea is true does not mean it can be proven, and just because an idea is proven does not mean it is truth.”  He continues, “When the experiments are done we still have to choose what to believe.”

What happens when what we believe is truth can no longer be replicated?  Here is a good example from the article:
“Jonathan Schooler was a young graduate student at the University of Washington in the nineteen-eighties when he discovered a surprising new fact about language and memory. At the time, it was widely believed that the act of describing our memories improved them. But, in a series of clever experiments, Schooler demonstrated that subjects shown a face and asked to describe it were much less likely to recognize the face when shown it later than those who had simply looked at it. Schooler called the phenomenon “verbal overshadowing.” 

The study turned him into an academic star. Since its initial publication in 1990, it has been cited more than 400 times. Before long, Schooler had extended the model to a variety of other tasks, such as remembering the taste of a wine, identifying the best strawberry jam, and solving difficult creative puzzles. In each instance, asking people to put their perceptions into words led to dramatic decreases in performance.

But while Schooler was publishing those results in highly reputable journals, a secret worry gnawed at him: it was proving difficult to replicate his earlier findings. “I’d often still see an effect, but the effect just wouldn’t be as strong. It was as if verbal overshadowing, my big new idea, was getting weaker.” At first, he assumed that he’d made an error in experimental design or a statistical miscalculation. But he couldn’t find anything wrong with his research. He then concluded that his initial batch of research subjects must have been unusually susceptible to verbal overshadowing. “It wasn’t a very satisfying explanation,” Schooler says. “One of my mentors told me that my real mistake was trying to replicate my work. He told me doing that was just setting myself up for disappointment.”

Such anomalies demonstrate the slipperiness of empiricism. Although many scientific ideas generate conflicting results and suffer from falling effect sizes, they continue to get cited in the textbooks and drive standard medical practice. Why? Because the ideas seem true. Because they make sense. Because we can’t bear to let them go. And that is why what is called the decline effect is so troubling. Not because it reveals the human fallibility of science, in which data are tweaked and beliefs shape perceptions. And not because it reveals that many of our most exciting theories are fleeting fads and will soon be rejected.

The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that’s often not the case. "Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.”

And so the truth is subjective, can be wrong, and changing or fluid.  With this in mind let’s move on to ourselves.  Remember what Gloria Steinham said?  Richard told me of a recent film where the robot in the film explained that it was programmed to not tell people the truth.  What does this say about us?  The truth may set us free but first it makes us miserable. 

You may remember a film from the 1990’s called A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson.  There is a naval court scene where Tom Cruise is an officer interrogating Jack Nicholson.  Nicholson is not that forthcoming with the truth and Cruise says, “I want the truth!”  Nicholson replies, “You can’t handle the truth!”  That is the truth.  We can’t handle the truth,  I’ve shared with many of you that denial is a lovely place to visit.  Denial serves its purpose but we can’t live there.  It will surely deplete and destroy us.

What happens when the truth we craft about ourselves or our world can no longer be replicated?  There is a quote attributed to the Talmud, “We don’t see the world as it is.  We see the world as we are.” Psychologist William Berry tells us that this quote “summarizes the idea that truth that one perceives is illusory and inexact.”

We have long been taught to seek the truth, but what if there is no absolute truth. What, then, are we chasing?  What if the correct truth hurts us?  What if there are degrees of truth that we tell ourselves, which isn’t absolute truth and may fall into the category of lies?  

Berry writes, “Meaning is created in life. Neutral events are made subjective by interpreting them through the lens of perception. 'Truth' is merely a product of perceptions; perceptions are colored by experience, which is then filtered through the current state of mind and altered even further. By the time the neutral event is processed in this manner, it is little more truth than fiction. Yet personal truth is accepted wholeheartedly.”

We are often not only wrong about the truth, we are unaware of the truth.  When we become aware we are the creator of the truth and the story. How do you write yourself into your story?  In my creation of my truth, my story I am 22 years old, thinner, stronger, and the rest.   When I become aware of my truth through minor health episodes, reminders that my locks were lost down the drain ages ago, and my metabolism is lethargic, I am miserable and you know, I sometimes can’t handle the truth.  I like being unaware of my truth when writing my own story.  Who wouldn’t?  But, it’s illusory, changing, and not real. 

As the creator of my truth I am not free.  Being set free from our subjective truth will detach us, set us free, of suffering.  Now, if you are willing to suspend your truth for a moment, and to even momentarily accept that much of what you believe may only be your version of the truth; or that what you believe is not the absolute truth, you may wonder how this is helpful to your state of mind. Despite an initially discouraging reaction to finding you are not as in touch with truth as you had believed, the benefit to this understanding is substantial.

Becoming aware we are the creators of the story, fashioning the meaning of events that construct the meaning of life, can thereby help reframe thinking. The ability to step back from thinking, to actually think about the thought process, is a cornerstone of cognitive therapy. In cognitive therapy clients are taught to step back from their thinking, evaluate it objectively, determine if it is possible thinking is distorted, and challenge the distortions. Finally, they are to reframe the event in a more rational and productive manner. The ability to be neutral and objective can be of great benefit in finding or producing happiness.

That ability is also a cornerstone of Buddhism. In Buddhism one works at being objective, at being detached from events in life. In understanding you are creating the meaning of events, and in practicing the ability to step back from your “truth,” one is closer to a detached, and objective, position. According to Buddhism, this is a path to enlightenment, and perhaps, even before becoming enlightened, to happiness.

Once the awareness that meaning is generated from within grows, the ability to challenge thinking and create a more profitable meaning is available. That allows us to design more happiness in our lives, or to at least eliminate some of our sorrow.

That is not to say we should lie to ourselves, nor is it a call to lie to others. Honesty is essential in evaluating one’s beliefs. It is also essential in dealing with others, especially those considered close. In overcoming self-hate, the Dalai Lama discusses how when one has honest and compassionate motivation, even failure should not affect one's self worth. It requires the ability to honestly evaluate one’s motives, and to be honest with others.

Detachment and the challenging and reframing of thoughts and meaning are meant to procure a happier existence for all, and to allow for less conflict in one’s life. It is not a panacea. It takes great effort to detach from one’s beliefs and thoughts, challenge them, reframe them, and develop new, healthier beliefs. But with practice, which begins with an awareness of one’s thoughts as well as an understanding that meaning is applied to events, not inherent in them, one can achieve a happier, more peaceful life.

Let us be aware.  Let us see the truth and understand its changing nature.  Let us set ourselves free and release ourselves from self-induced suffering of not knowing or being able to handle the truth.  Let us understand that truth evolves and evolve with it.  May it be so.

The Truth Will Set You Free, a sermon delivered by the Rev CJ McGregor at 1stUUPB, Jan 3, 2016.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

'Til the Season Comes 'Round Again

It’s the last Sunday of 2015.  Are you wondering, like me, where the year went?  It seems like we’ve just gotten used to writing 2015, and I don’t know about you, but I know it’s going to take me weeks before I stop writing the wrong year.  But I know some people are ready to move on.  They are tired of the holidays, they’re thinking that all they really wanted for Christmas was for Mariah Carey to stop singing, they’ve taken down their decorations, if they had any up in the first place, and they are already looking past New Year’s to our next big national celebration, Super Bowl Sunday.

This is a time of year when people often talk about endings and beginnings.  It’s the end of one year, the beginning of the next, at least for those of us who follow the Gregorian calendar.  But not all cultures do this, there are other New Year’s observances, so our New Year’s celebration can be considered an arbitrary beginning, an arbitrary end.  So I’m not going to talk about endings and beginnings.  I prefer to focus on two ideas, or activities if you will that are prevalent through the holidays, reflection and anticipation.

I think it’s natural to start reflecting on the past year and even farther back during the holidays.  It’s a time we traditionally gather with family and friends, and there is a lot of storytelling that goes on.  My mother used to roll her eyes as my dad started to tell the same stories about his childhood or about his army experiences during World War II that he told pretty much every year at either Thanksgiving or Christmas or both.  It’s not unusual for sentences at holiday gatherings to begin, “remember when…,” to be followed by a description of some memorable event.  It might be some memorable life event, for instance, the first time you celebrated the holidays together as a couple, or it may be an occasion that lives in family lore for other reasons, such as what is known in our household as the great Thanksgiving turkey brine disaster, the title of which I think is self-explanatory.  Let’s just say that I haven’t tried to brine a turkey since.

Holidays are all about those memories and stories, whether they are our family stories or those of our traditions, be it jars of oil or shepherds and angels.  And I loved what Rev. Janet Onnie told us about stories a few weeks ago: stories don’t need to have happened to be true.  They are part of our memories, and one of the most important parts of the holidays, at least to my mind, is making new memories.  But sometimes we are so caught up in the trappings of the holidays, decorating so the house looks like something on a Pinterest board, choosing the perfect gift, or cooking that perfect turkey.  We have to remember that the personal is more important than the perfect, because the personal is what is going to make the memory.

So to me, the holiday season can also be called reflection season, and it starts around Thanksgiving, as we start to consider the things we’re thankful for.  Those feelings of gratitude carry through the new year.  And this attitude of reflection and gratitude is healthy for us and those around us.  I’m reminded of a saying — and I don’t know its source — “it is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy.”  I find myself at this time of year being grateful for little things.  Now, most of you know that I’m a musician, specifically a singer, and though I don’t own one, I’ve seen a t-shirt that says “75% of my brain capacity is wasted on song lyrics.”  I’m not sure I agree with the wasted part of that, but 75% sounds about right, or maybe even on the low side.  But it’s true that I have a song lyric for every occasion, and I am always reminded at this time of year of a song written by Teresa Jennings, a wonderful songwriter who specializes in music for primary schools.  The song is called “Grateful for the Little Things,” and it lists lots of things that kids, and grownups, too, might grateful for, such as puppies, seashells, laughter, and family.  It’s the last line that puts it all in perspective:  “It’s the little things that matter most, they’re really not that small.  In fact, they’re the greatest of all.”  I think that’s the perfect attitude for our reflection and gratitude this time of year.  And it’s certainly a time when we should consider and be grateful for the gifts, large and small, that others have brought into our lives, and the lessons we have learned from one another.  To quote another of my favorite songs, “because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”  Personally, this year I’m grateful for the friend who suggested we come here and for the members and friends of this Congregation who welcomed and encouraged Ken and me on our new journey as Unitarian Universalists.

Hand in hand with reflection goes anticipation.  Although anticipation is something we experience year round, it increases with the holiday season.  We anticipate the arrival of family or travel to be with family.  We anticipate the fellowship of sharing a wonderful meal.  The child in us anticipates the gifts under the Christmas tree.  The adult in us anticipates the pleasure that our gifts to others will bring. 

As we look to the new year, we anticipate what the future will bring.  Author Caroline Kepnes calls anticipation an invitation into the future.  It may be looking forward to little things: appointments on our calendar for the next few weeks, or it may be life-changing events — moving into a new home, the birth of a child or grandchild.

How do we view the future? It’s a pertinent question.  One view is that expressed by British comedian and actor Russell Brand, who writes, “people don’t seem to realize that the future is just like now, but in a little while, so they say they’re going to do things in anticipation of some kind of seismic shift in their worldview that never actually materializes.  Tomorrow is not some mythical kingdom where you’ll grow butterfly wings and be able to talk to animals — you’ll basically feel pretty much the same way you do at the moment.”  While I agree with Brand that the world isn’t going to change at 12:01am on January 1st, I think it’s important to be more optimistic than that.  Why can’t we look forward to not just personal happiness, but a better, more caring world?  We may not, as the reading suggests, be able to ring out the old and ring in the new, and would we really want to sweep away everything?  As Carly Simon’s song says, “we may never know the things to come,” but if we anticipate a better world, if we do more than just hope for the best, but resolve to do our parts, large and small, then we have a chance of achieving that brighter future, of ringing out the dark and ringing in the light.

For all our talk of beginnings and endings, so much of our lives, like the years, is circular.  This week I’ve been reminiscing about last Christmas, and the differences between then and now.  As we get older, the years run faster, and the next holiday season is too soon upon us. And, as usual for me, there’s a song that expresses it much better than I can, so I’d like to share this song that speaks to the ideas of reminiscences, anticipation, and that circle of life.  May we love and laugh in the time that we have, ‘til the season comes ‘round again.

 'Til the Season Comes 'Round Again, a sermon delivered by Lynn Pernezny at 1stUUPB, Dec 27, 2015.

[The sermon ends with Lynn singing 'Til the Season Comes 'Round Again (lyrics below)]

Come and gather around at the table
In the spirit of family and friends
And we'll all join hands and remember this moment
'Til the season comes 'round again.

Let's all try to smile for the picture
And we'll hold it as long as we can
May it carry us through
Should we ever get lonely
'Til the season comes 'round again.

One night holy and bright
Shining with love from our hearts
By a warm fire
Let's left our heads high
And be thankful we're here
'Til this time next year.

May the new year be blessed
With good tidings
'Til the next time I see you again
If we must say goodbye
Let the spirit go with you
'Til the season comes 'round again.

One night holy and bright
Shining with love from our hearts
By a warm fire
Let's left our heads high
And be thankful we're here
'Til this time next year.

May the new year be blessed
With good tidings
Till the next time I see you again
If we must say goodbye
Let the spirit go with you
And we'll love and we'll laugh
In the time that we had
'Til the season comes 'round again

'Til the Season Comes 'Round Again lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, ROUND HILL MUSIC