Why do you come to church?
Is it an expectation from birth?
From marriage?
What expectations do you carry through the front door about this religious community?

On November 13th many gathered in houses of worship seeking sanctuary, hope, a bright light in the midst of the post-election fog. The following is taken from that morning’s sermon “Hope Inside Us will Lead the Way.” Keep coming to church, your community needs you, I need you and I will be so bold to say that YOU need the connection, the community, the Love that holds us and will not let us go.

See you in church ~Rev. Shelly

We come to church to be reminded:
“It’s a blessing we are born, and it matters what we do.
What we know about God is a piece of the truth.
We let the beauty we love, be what we do,
And we don’t have to do it alone.”
We come to this church, this sacred and holy place of Unitarian Universalism in Northeast Indiana to be comforted, to find solace, in the beauty of difference that fills our sanctuary. Together we call each other to our better selves, reminding ourselves the wisdom of the prophets and teachings that inform our spiritual journeys.

Hope fosters the capacity for each of us to know we are not alone, it is trusting that we are better together, and that we will foster a generative society rather than one of contention. How in the face of despair, anger, of Love’s loss, can we restore Hope?

Our Unitarian Universalist faith and ministries are needed, actually, necessary, if we are to stay the course with Love and not be driven the land of demons. We need to be willing and able to risk putting our lantern burning by the roadside, with directions, just in case. This is a practice learned from Howard Thurman’s Desert Dweller:

“The Desert Dweller” by Howard Thurman
He has lived in the desert so long that all of its moods have long since become a part of the daily rhythm of his life.
But it is not that fact that is of crucial importance.
For many years, it has been his custom
to leave a lighted lantern by the roadside at night
to cheer the weary traveler. Beside the lantern,
there is a note which gives detailed directions
as to where his cottage may be found so that if there is distress or need,
the stranger may find help.
It is a very simple gesture full of beauty and wholeness.
To him, it is not important who the stranger may be,
it is not important how many peoples pass in the night and go on their way.
The important thing is that the lantern burns every night
and every night the note is there, “just in case.”

This is our “just in case” moment.

How does our religious life keep that lantern burning and provide directions?

Salvation, Sanctuary, and Spirit.

The Good News of Unitarian Universalism is in our collective theological understandings of Salvation, Sanctuary, and Spirit.

Our Universalist gospel of universal salvation serves us well in our world today.

In a world that fractures, oppresses, and deifies fear.

We practice a religion with love at its core.

“It is a love,” “that invites all souls to the welcome table, not some.” writes Rev. Rob Hardies, UU minister at All Souls Church in Washington, DC, “A love that can take hold of our hearts and lead us to lives of meaning and purpose.”

This love that takes hold of our hearts may be enough to keep our lantern burning at the roadside, however, we also need directions to the cottage.

“Sanctuary,” Elie Wiesel says, “is often something very small. Not a grandiose gesture, but a small gesture toward alleviating human suffering and preventing humiliation. Sanctuary is a human being. Sanctuary is a dream. That is why you are here and that is why I am here; we are here because of one another. We are in truth, each other’s shelter.”

“Sanctuary is a human being.”

You and I are sanctuaries, whether here in church or at our places of employment, at a committee meeting or at a basketball game.

“Sanctuary is a dream.”

We dream dreams of equality, justice, and peace for all; dreams of nurturing and sustaining our planet; dreams of an economy that will end homelessness and create jobs.

These are dreams that must become reality. On the long road ahead of us, sanctuary is and will be essential to our brown and black siblings, our Muslim and Jewish neighbors, to our LGBTQ families, those who are differently abled, and our children. So, we have the lantern of salvation and the directions to sanctuary and both are energized by Spirit. Our theologies of Spirit are in need of cooperation, for in a spirit of cooperation, one can be bold in the face of a spirit of religious conservatism. Some of us may refer to spirit with a capital S, others do not.

Some of us understand spirit as a metaphor for the divine, others as a metaphor of natural energy defined by science. And this is why I love being a Unitarian Universalist – I am free to combine the multiple understandings respectfully and responsibly.

Khoren Arisian, religious humanist and Unitarian minister, writes “the spirit when it’s unlocked moves us towards others [and] helps us feel responsible for the well being of the world.”

Spirit moves the desert dweller to leave the lantern and directions in spite of his familiarity of the desert because the weary traveler may not be a fellow desert dweller, but a stranger in need of a safe harbor. Salvation, sanctuary, and spirit are the driving force of how we will live into being an inclusive community beacon of social change. Our lanterns burn with a progressive religion grounded in heart and conscience, reason and reverence.

This morning, offers us time to be together, in our differences, free from blame, free to feel, to recall that as Unitarian Universalists we believe and know that our religious work is to take time to grieve what is lost, to educate ourselves and others, create circles of support – study or action; our religious work also includes difficult conversations about our implicit biases; showing up for our dark skinned neighbors when racism comes knocking on the front door, calling on our Muslim and Jewish leaders to let them know we have their backs and are on call, funding Planned Parenthood, creating support systems for LGBT youth (and adults), protecting our Earth, our waters.

The welcome table set by this country that I love is different after Tuesday November 8th.

I will stay at the table, singing, loving, giving from deep within.

Will you stay with me?

I’ll leave the lantern burning, with directions just in case.

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© 2015 Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fort Wayne