Sunday Service April 2, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The 2nd Source of Faith, Our Words and Deeds that Confront Evil with Justice & Compassion

Rev Paul Daniel

The second source of our faith calls for not just the ordained clergy but all of us to fight against and resist any power or structures of evil, including our government at times. We do this by demanding justice for all peoples of the world by marshaling our hearts for compassion combined with the universal power of love.

Sunday Service April 9, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

What Am I Doing Here? A Unitarian Universalist Confronts Palm Sunday

Speaker: Rev. Dave Hunter

Rev. Hunter explores how we might answer the question “How (if at all) do Unitarian Universalists celebrate Palm Sunday?” Rev. Dave Hunter and his wife, the Rev. Kerry Mueller, are members of the Mainline Unitarian Church and, until they retire at the end of June, the co-consulting ministers for the Unitarian Universalists of Gettysburg.

Dave was last with us in July 2016.

Sunday Service April 16, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Flower communion    Rev Paul Daniel

The circle of life is completed in the birth, life and death of Jesus. We learn humility through his ministry that gave hope to a hurting world of Roman times and today.

I will share some thoughts on living an ethical and moral life that can lead to a renewal and reconciliation of communities.

Please remember to bring flowers to share.

Easter Sunday: No potluck today

Sunday Service, April 23, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Emerald Studded World           Lay Leader: Emily Quarles-Mowrer

We take plants for granted. They form the background in our landscapes. They appear as food on our table. But plants are not just those things that we try with varying levels of success to keep from sprouting in the driveway. They play a vital role not just in our lives, but in the evolution of the entire planet.

Join us as we consider the “green” in our blue-green world.

Sunday Sermon – Our Second Source – April 2nd, 2017

4/2/17  Resist

Our Second Source

Words and Deeds of Prophetic women and men,
which challenge us to confront, powers and
structures of evil with justice, compassion, and
the transforming power of love.

Rev. Paul D. Daniel, Minister

 

The voice of the prophet belongs not just to the ordained clergy. Rather, we are all called to raise our voices to condemn injustice and inequality with the intention of transforming our society with love and compassion.

 

That need is even greater since the recent election where the new administration has enacted policies and executive orders that are at variance with our UU values. We must resist all such action that violate our ethics and principles. It is only through our joint and concerted effort can we have any realistic hope of saving our world often overcome by bigotry and hatred, indifference and a growing cacophony of despair.

 

Our world is in imminent danger of being overwhelmed by the evils of terrorism and war, famine, economic injustice, global climate change and assaults on human right here and across the globe. The current assault on our civil liberties by the fearmongering of the “Alt-right” conspiracy theorists is alarming

 

especially for Muslims immigrant’s and other minorities.

 

Our Second source of wisdom, the” Words and Deeds of Prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of
evil with justice, compassion, and the

transforming power of love” impels us to adapt a theology of social witness and action to counter the forces of repression and offer faithful truth telling with compassion and love to counter repression, false news and lies.

 

If we are to embody our values, we must serve as priests and prophets of those principles that call us to action. The UU theologian James Luther Adams is our seer and we are wise to heed his words arcane as they may be to modern ears.

 

He writes, “The Priest invokes the divine presence for blessing and seeks to bring spiritual healing.” The prophets are also exalted and reviled, for they take on the odious duty of “invoking divine judgment upon injustice as they seek radical spiritual and social transformation. t is their voice that shakes us out of our pride and lethargy and calls for to a change of heart, mind and action. With fear and trembling the prophet announces crisis and demands ethical decisions and moral action here and now.” We all are both the prophet and priest for our own time.

 

The pastoral letter 12 years ago, of former UUA president William Sinkford is a case in point. He warned of evil tidings if we do not participate in our electoral process. We saw the recent results of our 2016 election when millions of Americans did not vote.

 

Sinkford calls us to action to preserve our values and to take steps against that which threatens our constitution, our faith and way of life. He said, “the greatest service our faith community can perform right now is to help Americans reclaim our democracy.

 

We should never again have a president or legislature elected by only 58% of eligible voters according to NPR in 2012 and again this last election.” Ninety-Million eligible voters did not go to the polls in 2016. That is shameful, irresponsible and a threat to democracy.

We must do better!

 

He calls us to work to increase voter registration and turnout as an act of faith. I also believe we must also counter gerrymanding and voter suppression. Sinkford contends that the consequences of inaction will be to cede the political and social agenda to the religious and political right and their tendency to repress what they cannot control.

 

How sadly prophetic he was 12 years ago and again today. The Republican political agenda is already rolling back our social justice safety net.

 

 Here is just a short list of

programs in danger:

“the Affordable Care act,

Medicaid,  

Medicare,

environmental protection and the EPA

GLBT? rights that will lead to the limitations of all our rights.

Religious and political conservatives are now emboldened to redouble their efforts to limit or eliminate woman’s reproductive right. Fresh attempts to limit others personal freedom are being contemplated.

 

A recent executive order now allows federal contractors to discriminate against GLBT? Citizens.  There is a move afoot to reverse marriage equality perhaps with the nomination to the supreme court of Justice Gorsuch.

 

Family planning agencies are under assault. Mass incarceration of minorities are likely to accelerate as will stop and frisk laws. Such actions surely are an anathema to   freethinking religious liberals.

 

It would be a mistake to assume that because most of us are average middle class that we are not at risk. We should all be chilled to the bone at the potential erosion of our liberties. All thinking American should be alarmed by the growing Russian hacking scandal and the tweet storm of lies and false new news coming out of the White House that serve only to undermine our faith in the government and democracy itself.

 

This is not a partisan issue because all Americans are effected. Make no mistake about it; all our rights are in jeopardy. These times demand that we marshal our forces of love, justice and compassion now. Unless we are willing to resist the repressive elements of laws like the proposed ban of Muslim immigrants we are in peril of repeat the excesses of the McCarthy era of the 1950s or worse.

 

As UU we are called to oppose the divisions that are fracturing our society. Support for the government is appropriate and necessary when it is in keeping with our values. Loyal opposition is called for when our principles are being violated. These issues are the core of our faith.

 

Our first line of defense again such repression must be to give voice to our UU values in keeping with our individual conscience. We cannot allow the current domestic fear of terrorism to override our democratic principles, our constitution and our especially our second principle. (see hymnal)

 

As Wendy Kaminer, another of our prophetic voices wrote, “our fear of terrorism is much stronger than the fear of domestic repression, or love of liberty. A commitment to liberty is a commitment to defend the rights of people you fear or distain.

 

We are obliged to protest and challenge repressive laws.

It is our responsibility to question

our government, to demand that we be heard before such laws are passed. We can do that effectively by actively participating in the electoral process and in government at all levels, local state and national level. If we don’t exercise our rights, we will surely loose them.

 

In 2001, former Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft’s was an early proponent of such repressive proposals we see being proposed today He said, “people who exercise our right of dissent to criticize the administration only aid terrorists”. The president is doubling down on that repression. He has demonized the free press, undermined our courts challenged the bedrock principle of separation of powers. and created a “post truth” and “post fact” environment by repeating and expanding upon what he calls false news stories and denying what all the intelligent agencies believe about Russia. The administration also denies what all reputable scientists tell us of a global warming crisis and the environmental dangers we face. This nonsense calls us to respond.

 

There is work to be done my friends,

by the priest and prophets among us if we are to restore the promise of democracy and fulfill the call of our faith. Like the Old Testament prophets, we will surely be met with indifference and hostility; but ours is not a popularity contest but a battle for the very soul of democracy and social transformation. Resistance is a moral faithful imperative. Our UU principles (UUA.org) demand no less.

 

The prophets of old called the people of their time to see reality and to act. We must answer that same called today.  We may become as unpopular as they were and just as unlikely to be invited back a second time to a dinner party when we speak up for the oppressed?

 

Even today the prophets in our own faith are not always heeded even though as a religious movement, we encourage and value the voices of dissent that confront powers and structures of evil.

 

We Unitarian Universalists believe we can make a positive difference in our own lives and for the lives of all others in our own times. Ours is a faith of deeds not creeds. Our inaction can only lead to the evils we fear.

 

James Luther Adams again said it best, “a church that does not concern itself with the struggle in history for human decency and justice, a church that does not show concern for the shape of things to come, a church that does not attempt to interpret the signs of the times, is not a prophetic church.

 

We have long held to the UU idea of the priesthood of all believers, the idea that all believers have direct access to the ultimate resources of the religious life and that every believer has the responsibility of achieving an explicit faith for a free people. In others word, “speak up” As a faith based on a radical congregational polity to the exclusion of ecclesiastical control and influence we are by faith disposed to a firm belief in the prophethood of all believers (the voice of the laity).

 

The prophetic liberal church is not a church in which the prophetic function is assigned not merely to the few. The prophetic liberal progressive church is the church in which persons think and work together to

interpret the signs of the times in the light of their faith, to make explicit through discussion, the highly significant thinking that the
times demand.

 

The prophetic liberal church is the church in which all share the common responsibility to attempt to foresee the consequences of human action and behavior, both individual and institutional, with the intention of making history (to cause change) in place of merely being pushed around by it.

 

Only through the prophethood of
all believers can we together foresee doom and mend our common ways. Hope is certainly a virtue, but only when it is accompanied by prediction and by the daring venture of new decisions, only where the rophethood of all believers creates epochal thinking.

 

If this foresight and this larger vision does not emerge from the churches, they must come from outside the church. Humanity can surpass itself. We can and must do better if we are to affect the course of democracy to bring justice, equity and compassion to the whole of humanity

 

Do we as religious liberals have access to the religious resources for this surpassing of the present? We must if our prophetic voices are to be heard and matter.” Our faith demand that we heed the voices of the prophets and priests like those of President Sinkford, Wendy Kaminer and James Luther Adams. For they push and pull us to social
transformation.

 

Complacency and action both have their consequences. Evil prevails when good people of all political and religious beliefs remain silent. What will you do to counter the power and structures of evil? What will you do to bring more compassion, justice and love to our country? If not you then who?

 Paul

From the Minister’s Desk, April 2017

                  From the Minister’s Desk

                              Faith and Renewal          

As Easter approaches I am reminded that like Jesus many of us have been wounded by life, suffered for our misdeeds as well as our good deeds, hurt by each other and life, all part of the fragile human condition. Each of us in our own way are part of a vast army of the “walking wounded”; hurt to the core of our being; perhaps stumbling in an emotional haze of pain. We struggle how to define ourselves and give meaning to so much loss and sorrow. We are challenged to stretch, to grow to understand who we are and to find ways to move beyond our pain and loss. We must ask ourselves, can we find the good out of all the bad?

I think the answer is a hesitant yes, because our lessons in suffering and humility have given us empathy for another plight. Our souls bear the battle scars of our struggle to be more loving, less separated, more connected and compassionate as we seek the holy in our daily lives. As Jesus did before us, he modeled what it meant to be the “wounded healer”. Can we, who walk in his shadow, live a life of conviction and dedication to the good in each other?  Can we, despite our own demons and doubts, become more like him? Can we serve as that wounded healer and offer wholeness out of our own fragmented lives?

I believe we can! Herein lies the truth…it is only through our own loss that we can truly understand and heal others in need. It is in this spiritual reaching out, heart to heart, soul-to-soul that we become whole ourselves. This is the grandeur of Easter. Jesus’ death and resurrection, his suffering and redemption leads us to the renewal of our own lives. This new birth of hope arising out of his sacrifice blazed a new path to begin again with love and compassion to find real meaning in our life.

                                 Yours in Our Shared Ministry,

     Rev. Paul

                     678-939-4854        minister@uupottstown.org

Sunday Sermon – Reclaiming Jesus – March 31st, 2017

3/31/13 Sermon

Reclaiming Jesus

Rev. Paul D. Daniel, Minister

Jesus’ life and crucifixion and resurrection complete the circle of life we all experience. We transition from life unto death and from joy and hope too pain and despair and then back again, as the flowers do each spring.

 

This extraordinary human being, this Jesus of Nazareth, offers us the hope

of redemption when we face life’s existential questions. Our Unitarian Universalist faith and seven principles embrace the Christian story and are inspired by the love and hope Jesus offers. We are enriched by this life affirming human’s message embodied in his spiritual wisdom and teachings.

 

 

This is true even for those of us who do not identify as Christian.  UUs need to acknowledge our faith stems from Christian roots. We also must acknowledge our centuries old struggle about the nature and personhood of Jesus. We have from our beginnings in sixteenth century Transylvania accepted the unity of God but not the Trinity.

 

Following in this tradition, UU minister William Ellery Channing in 1821 said of Christianity, “it is an exalting and consoling influence, a power to confer the true happiness of human nature, to give that peace which the world cannot give.”

 

Over generations, Jesus has offered

UUs profound hope, courage, and comfort; central to all religion. To the extent that our UU faith embodies these teachings, we can with integrity share the values and ethics for which Jesus died.

 

Christianity offers us an important and comforting source of strength, if

we are willing to accept and honor the long-held Unitarian Universalist relationship with Jesus as a worthy exemplar but not necessary part of a triune God, father, son and holy ghost.

 

Rev. Bruce Clear writes, “The distinction between a Unitarian Christian and a Trinitarian Christian is

perhaps best explained, “by the distinction Unitarian Universalists often make between “the religion of Jesus (the religion that Jesus taught) and the religion about Jesus” (the religion that centers on who Jesus was).

 

If we examine only the words Jesus spoke, we will find nothing remotely resembling a Trinity in the

New Testament that asks us to worship him as if he were a god.

 

All such talk came from those who lived after Jesus’ death. Easter, the holiest day of the Christian calendar  

 

 

an important part of both our American culture and UU faith. Many UUs turn their attention at Easter time only to Jesus’ as human prophetic voice. His teachings are enough for us to believe in a rebirth of hope and the possibility of spiritual resurrection. It is true that Christian theological language is understood in different ways within this congregation, from literal to mythic. The vital thing is that we honor the many ways we experience Jesus and the Christ. As a Jewish, non-Christian UU, I find the message of hope Jesus offers can be universally renewing and healing.

 

Perhaps those who deny their Christian heritage might find it helpful

to change focus, away from Jesus’

violent death on the cross and the

mythic story of bodily resurrection;

towards the more peaceful loving humble gardener as he first appeared to Mary Magdalene when she found the tomb empty. That’s how he was solely depicted into the tenth century.

After that he was portrayed mostly as the agonized Jesus of the cross. A dark turn to be sure. 

 

Perhaps most of us resonate with the simple human pastoral Sheppard, healer of the sick at heart and the lame; or the social justice warrior prophet, defender of the poor and oppressed.

 

I wonder if the idea of Jesus as the Christ is just too distant, too impossible to contemplate that we to can attain the status of a God.

Isn’t the human Jesus more accessible and a worthy exemplar to follow? Surely, we would become my loving and compassionate people if we were to follow the prophet Jesus and live a life of love, simplicity and humility.

 

I wonder why we sometimes hesitate to follow his example, Why, we fail to demonstrate devotion to a cause, Why, do some of us hold back from offering public witness to a principle or value. or exhibit moral courage

and strength in face of adversity and challenge. I believe following Jesus’ example can lead us to a rededication to our values, a reanimation of our lives, and a rebirth of hope.

 

The teachings of Jesus were primarily ethical and a precursor to our own seven principles which teach us how to live in right relations, how to treat others with dignity and respect. When Jesus was asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He did not answer with a creed to be believed. He answered by saying, “You must love God, and you must love your neighbor as yourself.” That is all you are required to do.  The ethical and moral religion of Jesus is reflected in the love he felt for humanity and in his willingness to die on the cross for human salvation.

 

The Sermon on the Mount  and other preaching’s are one of the more often quoted sayings of Jesus.  His words there are a beckon for light to bring us back home safety to our moral and ethical core.” So, whatever you wish others would do to you, do so to them”. Seek reconciliation with those with whom you are in conflict—

in fact, love your enemy as yourself

and pray for those who persecute you.

 

His advice came from a place of moral humility: “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? First, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” He offers comfort and healing to those who are troubled: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted….” He advises us to live a life of spiritual humility, practice your piety,

your prayer,

your spirituality, in private.

 

And he offers hope and inspiration:

“You are the light of the world…

Let your light shine so that others may see your good works. Such messages are universal across all faiths….  Long before Jesus, Mica of the Old testament prophet said the same, the “LORD requires that we,

act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

 

The Koran similarly tells us: “Peace be upon you. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

And this from their God, I have forbidden injustice from myself and forbade it for you. So, avoid being unjust to one another.” (Saheeh Muslim)

 

Today Christian, Jewish and Islamic wisdom are part of our faith and practice: love your enemies, care for the needy, practice your principles over power and structures of evil,

accept all diversity and the worth and dignity of everyone within the connected web of existence. Do that and your life will preach the good news of Unitarian Universalist

to heal the poor and sick, release the captives of all colors and nations,

free the oppressed and marginalized.” Bring the goodness of Jesus and all faiths back into your conscious purposeful living.

 

Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly. This is the powerful and meaningful religion of Jesus, the story of the holy living among us

in human form that I believe Unitarian Universalists can accept. This is the spiritual meaning of Easter. It is one of human transformation into a better more loving being. Remember, he had faith enough in us to sacrifice his own life; while preaching about the worth and dignity of every human being. We UUs can rationally hope to

More easily follow Jesus if he is human, occasionally afraid, fallible and weak. We can also rise to his challenge to; becoming humbler,

more loving, more compassionate,

more dedicated to justice and more authentically human.

 

Jesus’ life celebrates the divine nature of in all of us. Therefore, we celebrate Easter and honor our pluralistic heritage at the same time. By doing so, we can finally achieve

real healing, a rebirth of hope and a renewal of the spirit that these flowers before us represent. The paradise of the humble Sheppard then is not lost.

 

Jesus waits for us in the peaceful garden here on the earth that we co-create,

if we but open or hearts to him.

 

Happy Easter!

Sunday Sermon – Spiritual but not Religious – March 26th, 2017

3/26/17 Sermon

Spiritual but not Religious

Rev. Paul D. Daniel, Minister

 

How many times have you said or heard, I’m Spiritual but not religious?

 

Spiritual but not religious…really?  What does that even mean?

 

I think this notion; this artificial split creates a false dichotomy.

 

Spirituality and Religion are not in competition, but rather

 

complement each other, as if they were two sides of the same coin.

 

The same could apply to our understanding of body and spirit,

the sacred and the profane, and

rational verses the mystical.

 

Over the centuries, literature and common usage have yoked these ideas together.

 

In our inclusive UU religion, we have

 

created a bridge connecting the secular and mundane to the sacred, which we identify as spirituality.

 

The Catholic Mystic theologian Thomas Merton, admonishes us not to split these two concepts. He writes, “When these two dimensions become split, one turns into egotistic secularism and the other into jealous and defensive religious demagoguery”.  

 

Even so, many people make this distinction.

 

Statistics tell us more than 20% of Americans, mostly the “un-churched”, often millennials describe themselves as spiritual but not religious.

 

Robert C. Fuller writes, “Religion is spiritual and spirituality is religious. Spirituality tends to be more personal and private while Religion tends to incorporate public rituals, such as sharing our joys and sorrows, reciting a mission statement or our seven principles.

 

The lines between one and the other are not clear and distinct —they are each point on the spectrum of a belief system called religion. Religion like spirituality calls us to do something, take some action to enhance our human connection to the transcendent. Religion is how we put into practice the love our ethical and moral values call us to in the real world.  

 

Neither religion nor spirituality excludes the other. These concepts probably mean different things to each of us.

 

Confusion stems from the fact that the words “spiritual” and “religious” are really synonyms. Both suggest a belief in transcendence, a longing for an intense relationship with mystery beyond our own understanding and consciousness. Both call us to a deeper connection with the holy that some find within themselves and others within community in shared public worship. Some call this love, other God or nature; the ground of all being in the philosopher Paul Tillich’s word. They both embody all those things and more.

 

Both spirituality and religion are relational. They embody a solo and corporate interest in rituals and practices each designed to enrich relationships with ourselves, with other and to that which we find transcendent and holy.

 

Historically, the terms religious and spiritual were used interchangeably until the 20th century when it became fashionable for rationalist to accentuate the differences between the “private” and “public” spheres of life.

 

I suspect we humanist’s, agnostics and atheists can take some credit for this.  Fuller writes, “The increasing prestige of the sciences, the insights of modern biblical scholarship, and greater awareness of cultural relativism all make it more difficult for educated American to sustain an unqualified loyalty to religious institutions. Many began to associate genuine faith with the “private” realm of personal experience rather than with the “public” realm of institutions, creeds, and rituals that we create together through group worship and church activities.  

 

Several social scientists studied 346 people representing a wide range of religious backgrounds to clarify what is implied when individuals describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.”  They found, those describing themselves as religious were associated with higher levels of interest in church attendance and commitment to orthodox beliefs.

 

Those who describe themselves as Spiritual showed a higher interest in mysticism, experimentation with unorthodox beliefs and practices, and negative feelings toward both clergy and churches.

 

Most respondents in this study did however try to integrate elements of religion and spirituality.

 

The 20 percent who described themselves as “spiritual, not religious” were less likely to evaluate the idea of religion positively, less likely to engage in traditional forms of worship such as church attendance and prayer, less likely to engage in group experiences related to spiritual growth. More likely they would describe themselves to be agnostic or atheist, more likely to characterize religion and spirituality as different and non-overlapping concepts, more likely to hold nontraditional beliefs, and more likely to have had mystical experiences.

 

Sociologists tell us, those who seek a more individual path, often are more likely than other Americans to have a college education, to belong to a white-collar profession, to be liberal in their political views, to have parents who attended church less frequently, and to be more independent in the sense of having weaker social relationships outside the church. Many felt a greater sense of isolation due to a lack of person to person interactions.

 

Like Merton, I see both of equal value. Each one serves to connect us in an intimate way to ourselves and to the holy in another. They join us to holy mystery, the sacred source of love. Both help us to find, the moral and ethical core of our lives that serve to guide us to living authentic individual lives within community. Albert Schweitzer held, “Spirituality means human to human connection where we learn to connect to the great chain of life…with all life that comes within our reach”.

 

These two elements exist whenever we struggle with the issue of how our lives connect with the rest of humanity and how we fit into the greater cosmic scheme of things.

 

Religion helps create a framework to support our spiritual questioning, which occurs every time we wonder where the universe comes from, what is our life’s purpose, or what happens when we die.

 

Spirituality embodies an emotional response to the world around us

which we experience as beauty, love, or through creativity. These emotions reveal meaning beyond our conscious knowing.

 

Religion helps to place those emotional responses in context in the real world.

 

An idea or practice is “spiritual” and/or “religious” when it reveals something about our personal desire to establish an emotionally connected relationship with the deepest meaning that governs our inner lives. It is the link, between and beyond our isolated selves, to something larger, more powerful and more enduring then ourselves. We start this journey to find our spiritual home in silence, entering the stillness within our souls.

We begin by first coming to accept and love ourselves and then through our faith, our religion, we are empowered to move outward to engage the rest of humanity. Home is within the self. 

 

As my friend, mentor and colleague Ken Collier wrote: “This is the starting point. It is the long overdue journey to re-merge religious and spiritual love and yearning. It is time to bring spirituality home, close to the heart and connected to our ordinary lives”.

 

Spirituality and religion unite at the cusp of conscious life and spirit. Together they embody the love that enriches our lives and connects us to all that is holy and sacred.

May it be so!