Yesterday Teaches Tomorrow: UUAA 01/31/16

Today’s front quote:

“Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” ~ Paul Gaugin

Today’s hymns (numbers from Singing the Living Tradition):
38 Morning Has Broken
187 It Sounds Along The Ages
67 We Sing Now Together
158 Praise the Source of Faith and Learning (commissioned for our congregation!)
299 Make Channels for the Streams of Love

Today’s service was quite nice. The choir did a piece called From the State of Emptiness (Catherine Dalton), which is inspired by/based on chants ofTibetan monks — I am not sure if this counts as cultural appropriation, and fidgeted uncomfortably a couple times thinking about it, but it was very pretty. The reading was a translation and excerpt of a Buddhist (Therevadan?) creation/how people became as they are story.

Quick summary: humans were originally beings that lived for 80,000 years, could fly, and emitted light from within. Then one day, one of them flew down and tasted a white frothy substance that was on the earth, and it was sweet. Soon everyone was eating this delicious food. Their bodies grew heavy, they became unable to fly, and they ceased to carry their own light. They also began to exhibit or to become aware of differences between them — some were men and some were women. Soon a couple discovered sexual intercourse, and all the others shamed them and pelted them with mud. So they built a house to protect themselves, stored rice inside the house so they would not have to go out, and became lazy. The separation created by living in houses caused people to develop greed, and theft, and things got worse until they got a king, who could enforce rule of law.

Glen Thomas, our music minister, gave the sermon, which drew parallels between this Buddhist story and the book of Genesis. He named three harmful things that people do that we can see arise in each story:

1. The use of difference to rank ourselves
2. The disposal of fairness in favor of having
3. The use of the earth’s resources, the very mud of the earth, to harm others

He also linked these three things to three problems that Martin Luther King identified with modern American society:

1. Racism
2. (Greed? Capitalism? I don’t remember exactly what he said here)
3. Militarism

He suggested that as people with privilege, it is up to us to look at these three things, and at the end of the day to ask ourselves, “What have I done about that?” What have I done about the fact that we continue to use difference to rank ourselves, continue to dispose of fairness in favor of having, and continue to use the very stuff of our Earth to harm each other?

The goal of my faith, our senior minister likes to say, is “to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable,” that is, to point out what we the comfortable don’t want to think about: that we could be doing more to help bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice. As calls to action go today’s was pretty comprehensive. 🙂 I wish I had written down bits of the benediction; it was something with the same sentiment as “go with love on your mind, and justice in the very soles of your feet.”

Also, it was really nice to have a sermon talk about religions besides Christianity for once. I am an atheist and was raised UU, and am only Christian in that I have generally celebrated Christmas, and by singing carols and hymns based on the story of Jesus. We’ve had more jesus and god in our sermons and hymns since Glen Thomas and Lindasusan (our assistant minister) started giving sermons and developing worship services, and it has been making me feel a little sidelined and vaguely uncomfortable.