Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Open and Affirming at The Dover Church

Open and Affirming at The Dover Church

We are here this morning to talk about what kind of church we have been, what kind of church we are, and what kind of church we are going to be
The words we are using are Open and Affirming
why we're having this conversation grew out of two impeti
the words welcoming community in our church catch phrase - welcoming community of faith and service since 1762 - do we really mean everyone?
our parent denomination United Church of Christ - since 1985 - extravagant, all inclusive without exception welcome - UUA welcoming congregations - means the same thing - about gay, lesbian, etc., because traditionally ostracized and demonized by churches and church folks
Motion raised at Annual Meeting in January to clear this up after 10 years of tabling it
Want to do several things in this sermon
Open and Affirming is our DNA
Open and Affirming has been your experience
Open and Affirming is our deepest held communal conviction and aspiration
What's going to happen?
What will it mean?
How will it live out? What will change?
What's in it for us? Or, and here comes my enthusiasm for this - how much more awesome this is going to make our life together in this church
Open is our congregational heritage on both sides - our DNA
non creedal - no set of beliefs we have to agree to
covenant - agree to promises - to God, to each other
everyone who can make these promises is welcome
truth be told - don't even have to make the promises, just can't try to keep the promise keepers from trying to live into their promises
The Dover Church - 1938 merger of Unitarians and Trinitarians - name has neither taking precedence - openness to others and affirming of difference
covenant makes us Christian, not necessarily Trinitarian - certainly far from Unitarianism now
community church - Walter Kraft - different forms of Protestant worship every week so that everyone would feel welcome
UCC - denomination we are member of - UUA - denomination who helped shape us
both seeking to hear how God is speaking in new ways to the ever evolving context of each new generation
treasure tradition, but not bound by it
both forefront of welcome
first in ordaining people who were not white, heterosexual men: women, African Americans, other ethnicities who left ethnic churches to be with us, gays, lesbians, firsts on all counts
all who feel called by God to Christian ministry who are affirmed by local churches and associations as possessing the gifts necessary for such ministry
Welcoming Community
Deacons discussion and survey - this is both who we are, who we want to be, and who we are trying to be
this is most important to most people
what drew you here, what you found here, what you treasure about here
prioritize warm welcome, acceptance and inclusion over any faith stance
this is our faith stance - the affirming part - spiritual DNA
God of love - big embrace - inclusive embrace
this is the God we worship - this is our theologyzA
with this initiative - we are adopting the position denominational rubric - that is recognized by insiders and outsiders as a church of extravagant welcome to everyone and treasuring everyone, without exception, just as we are
what's going to happen?
conversation opportunities
Council form a writing team - statement - words for what our form of ONA will live and look like - volunteers?
review and ultimately approve by Deacons and Council
present to congregation for discussion, possible revision, ultimate approval
then we will be ONA and it will be in our documents, website, and I'll come back to the rainbow out front in a  moment
What will it mean?
Isn't this who we already are?
If it is, then why can't we just say so? I think so, but we have to agree and then we will say so emphatically so people outside these walls can hear it - maybe in our secret hearts, but there's always talk about "some people who might object"
why emphatic?
Community Christian Church - says everything without saying anything
plenty of Christian Community Churches who are leading the persecution, demeaning and exclusion of non-heterosexual people
the flag or something on our sign, website, publications
not us. not here. no way - We are the YES church
go by Eliot church in South Natick coming from Wellesley - very decorous rainbow
Will we become the gay church?
will people move from Ptown, Northampton, San Francisco to be with us
ONA churches already in Natick, Needham, Wellesley, Holliston, Norwood, Milton, Newton
might come from Medfield or sherborn where no ONA churches
story of Tivin
what church wouldn't want new members who just love the church what welcomed their family and affirmed their kids? Those people are going to make this church fly
Will we start teaching homosexuality?
keep trying to teach Jesus, who never said a word about homosexuality or gender identity, except to lift up outsiders and teach love
Next minister gay or lesbian? Not that I plan to go anywhere soon,  but the odds are yes if you want the best candidate, best preacher, most caring, lot of my most gifted colleagues have different kinds of families from mine
what's going to change in how we do church?
we're going to have be more overtly welcoming of absolutely everyone
good for us reserved, uptight Yankees
traditional model - newbies get with our program - shoe horn them in where needed - see what gifts they bring and watch what new thing God is doing in our midst through them
perfect spiritual remedy for the perfectionism of our community
success to afford a house here
beauty and charisma to be popular here
wealth and connection to join clubs
intelligence and hard work for kids at school
athleticism to make the A team
we can loosen our ties and bodices and just try to breath and be who we really are - no judgments - long way to go on this one, but this will make this agenda item 1
might save some teenagers life and his or her relationship with parents - big cause of suicide, self destructive behavior, alienation, homelessness, broken families
In the end, it all comes down to real people, just like us - trying to live into Jesus' commandment that we love one another without distinction
go out on a limb
who knows someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered?
please rise if you love this person
say his or her name

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter and Failure

Easter Sermon

1.       Traditional Christianity as practiced in the US would have fascinated Jesus
2.     misses 90% of the goodness of the Good News
3.     spend a lot of our time confessing our failures and shortcomings
1.       didn't do this
2.     hadn't done that
3.     don't think this
4.     not loving them
5.     sorry, sorry, sorry - feel like we'll never live up - God's hope for us unattainable - God's love, experience of God's love unattainable
4.     that all may be true, but that's not even close to half the truth
1.       not what we really think and feel
2.     at least it's not what I think and feel
5.     We certainly fall short at our end of the bargain, but it sure looks like God fails too
1.       all the sickness and violence, accidents and tragedy, broken relations and betrayed love, oppression and addiction, falsehood and futility, death
2.     Hitler and the Holocaust, ISIS, Boko Haram
3.     why don't you do something, God? Almighty, my eye!
1.       funny how we want an almighty God for the bad stuff, but not to keep us from doing what we want, thinking what we want
4.     Are you even there?
5.     Big loser
6.     Big faker
7.      all your big promises and this is what we get?
8.     what's good about that? I mean, taken on average?
6.     Easter begins with the truth - mutual failure - humanity failed God and God failed humanity - it didn't seem like it. It was it. we both failed
1.       humanity killed the Messiah - the whole "died for our sins" thing - we probably would have done the same thing in their shoes
2.     the Messiah ...died
7.      Easter started off not going to see the Resurrection - going to see a dead body - failure and futility
1.       who will roll the huge stone away for us? failure - obstacle
2.     just another this is how it always ends...except it wasn't supposed to this time
3.     except it did, again, big faker
8.     If they had found a body there, Jesus' body in the tomb where they saw them place it. Jesus' crucified body - if no Resurrection - total failure and futility, no point to Jesus - plenty of compassionate,moral and ethical teachers in the world
1.       the body in the tomb would have been proof of human and divine failure. would have been conviction of human and divine failure
9.     James Carrol's Christ Actually: The Son of God for a Secular Age
1.       The solidarity of the commonwealth of God is the mutuality of failure forgiven
2.     Easter is mutuality of failure forgiven
3.     no resurrection - no forgiveness - God hadn't forgiven us our failures and we wouldn't forgive God God's failures
10.  In spite of everything - God believes in us. God not staying dead is God's vote of confidence in us  don't stay dead or dying - get up
1.       power of the resurrection which we see all around us
2.     in spite of everything, let's go
3.     in spite of everything, people living in the love of God, living the love of God, loving the love God
11.    In spite of everything, we believe in God
1.       approached, stumbled into, awoken to, just noticed the presence
2.     felt the power, seen the power in others, heard about the power in others
3.     followed the compass
4.     bathed in the comfort
5.     looked to the hope
6.     the very fact that we want to believe is the power of the Resurrection
12.  here is where the truest part of Mark's Resurrectuon story comes
1.       what do the women do when they realize what has happened?
2.     they are terrified and run away
3.     we would have done the same thing
4.     we do the same thing
5.     the question is which way do you run
13.  This all sounds nice, hypothetical, yet another Easter sermon, we don't have run away, we can sort of just move on
14.  Except it's not hypothetical - can't run away, not really
15.  My baby sister died yesterday morning. Turned 45 on March 25. Got a new knee last Wednesday and something went wrong - aneurism maybe
16.  Kirsten's death at 45 looks like a failure, for her, for God
17.   Her life an incredible story of failure and resurrection, over and over life knocked her down and tried to bury her, she got up, she believed
18.  So, every Easter, we ask ourselves hypothetcially, rhetorically, boastfully becasue we're all alive here, "Where, O death is they sting?"
19.  Oh, it's still there. The sting still stings. My heart is broken. I spent yesterday afternoon visiting with my parents to tell them their baby had died.
20. Those of you who have been where I am know - life can feel unreal. The most real times feel the most unreal - like the Easter story
21.  But I know this is not the end. Because Jesus is risen, Kirsten got up all the days of her life. Because Jeu is risen I can get up. Because he got up, we can get up.
the question is which way do we run, away from death and futility, or towards life in the Gallilees of our lives. The Resurrection makes

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dover Sherborn Baccalaureate Message

Believe it or not, I can still remember clearly what it was like being me thirty three years ago when I was who you are right now.
I remember, for example, that I had three very clear goals for college in the fall. What I didn't realize at the time was that my three goals were mutually exclusive - if I really succeeded at any one of them, I would probably be unable to succeed at the other two.
My first goal, and I say first because it was the clearest, it was the one I thought I knew most exactly how to achieve, my first goal was to make the rowing team, win the national championship, and maybe make the Olympic Team. Like I said, having rowed in high school I thought I knew what it would take to achieve this goal.
My second goal was to do well in school. This came second because I knew I didn't really know what I was in for with college studies, or even to be honest why I wanted to do well. My motivation started out as external, to please my parents or to keep them off my back, depending on how rebellious I felt on any given day, but it became more personal as I went along, when I found a subject I loved and wanted do well badly enough so that I would to be able to keep doing it in graduate school and beyond.
So, #1  being a rowing superhero. #2 be a good student. You can probably guess what #3 was. My #3 was #3 because I couldn't actually say it aloud in front of my parents. They only knew about #s 1 and 2, and not in that order. Goal #3 - I wanted to go to college and have a blast, go to every party I could find on campus. To quote Rob Gronkowski, "Yo soy fiesta" was going to be my motto. I was a very busy bee who wanted to suck every last drop of nectar out of life.
Like I said, mutually exclusive goals - success at one would seem to exclude success at the others. Academic excellence is hard to achieve when you have exercised strenuously for 4 hours, starting at 5 in the morning, and vice versa. And, of course, partying promotes neither physical fitness nor academic achievement.
In the end, I made the team but didn't win the championship and was smoked at the national tryouts. It wasn't the subject I majored in as a freshman, but I fell in love with a subject which took me on a knowledge adventure for the next two decades and lead into the one that continues to this day as I thrill at learning more and more about new things. And the parties, well...yes...yo fui fiesta, and it was fun.
But this isn't about me. It's about you. And this is what I think you can put in the backpacks of your mind and bring with you on your journey. All the things I thought my goals were about weren't actually what they were about. What I thought were the ends were actually only the means to much bigger ends. The rowing was actually about the value and joy of teamwork, hard work, exploring limits, delighting in the physicality of life, never quitting, and finding some of my best friends for life. The studies became my way of life. A day without some new knowledge feels desolate and I try to learn something new and big every year. And the parties were about friendships, relationships, enjoying life, particularly the present moment. But I didn't realize any of this while I was living it because I wasn't paying attention because I was running so hard to the goals I set out before me on the horizon. But most importantly, I now know I didn't see because I was trying to go it alone, the rugged individualist. I didn't have anyone, a mentor, to show me as you can see now that my goals weren't mutually exclusive. They were all parts of who my soul longed to become.
  Live your lives. Don't let them live you. You are setting out on a grand adventure and there will be many forks in the road. Don't take anything for granted or see anything as meaningless. Whatever or whoever it is may well be the moment of a new beginning or a the turn down a new path. Your life has meaning and purpose. Right now, each and every one of you has someone waiting for you out there, a mentor who is going to show you how to be you, your Obi-Wan, your Yoda, your Merlin or Gandalf, your special person who is going to introduce you to the meaning and purpose of your life, the same way your parents and coaches, your teachers and spiritual leaders, your scout and youth leaders have up to this point. It may be a professor or a priest, an advisor or a coach, a rabbi or an older student, a boss or someone you meet along the way, but she or he is waiting for you. Don't sweat it if she or he doesn't materialize at orientation. He or she will when the time is right. And in the meantime, all of us here at home will be wishing you well, praying for you, and being ready to celebrate and welcome you when you return.