Unitarian Universalist Congregation East

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June News and Notes

Today we had a video sermon by Dr Arvid Straub talking about the Spirituality of Imperfection.  It was inspired by the Japanese teaching of wabi-sabi.  Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s about embracing the simple, the slow, and the uncluttered.  Wabi-sabi is all about small. locally owned stores; aged wood furniture; glass and paper instead of plastic. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use bestow. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

We are imperfect creatures and we make mistakes.  These mistakes aren’t failure, they aren’t representative of our fall from grace, they just who we are.  If good were one color and bad were another color, we would all be streaked.

The early Christians started a teaching that nature was perfect and humans were flawed.  Humans were apart from nature because of Original Sin.  However, Dr. Straub teaches that nothing in nature is perfect, and that is lovely.  We have (at least some of us have) an idea in our heads of perfection and we create suffering in ourselves as we fail to live up to that standard.  If nothing less than perfect is tolerated, then we will be perpetually unhappy.

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love.  She speaks in terms of worthy human beings.  The tragedy in life is that it is difficult to connect with people unless we show them our authentic selves.  People who are tied up in the quest for perfection find it difficult to show their authentic self… because the authentic self is flawed.  People bound to seek perfection, well, they are actually busy hiding their authentic self.  People who live in joy, compassion, have the courage to be imperfect – they let go of who they think they should be.

Rejoice when you find a new vulnerability.  Don’t fuss to much.

Our collective Joy today as a community is that Betty is out of the hospital and at home recovering.

Peace,

Rick

Posted 9 months ago at 9:25 am.

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May 19th News and Notes

Today we discussed the Seven Principles of Unitarianism.  And here they are;

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

We had a very interesting discussion about how to deal with someone who does not believe in them.  If that person does not believe in Justice, equality or compassion, then that person poisons the well.  That person cannot be given full tolerance, because, if so, they would use that space to take away the rights of people.  A sticky situation.

Peace,

Rick

Posted 9 months, 2 weeks ago at 12:08 am.

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April 21 News and Notes

Today, Jan Karlak spoke to us about The Unfortunate History of Antisemitism.  Antisemitism is prejudice, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. A person who holds such positions is called an “antisemite”. It is considered by most scientists to be a form of racism.  While the term’s etymology might suggest that antisemitism is directed against all Semitic peoples, the term was coined in the late 19th century in Germany as a more scientific-sounding term for Judenhass (“Jew-hatred”), and that has been its normal use since then.  Unfortunately, Martin Luther wrote many virulently antisemitic statements.  He even went so far that he wanted all the Jewish temples to be burned.  Today, the Lutheran church has repudiated those notions.

The term Social Darwinism has also been used to disguise motivations that are antisemitism in their true actions.

There is a long list of stereotypes that are used to justify discrimination against the Jews which I shall not  go into here for lack of space and inclination.

Interestingly, it was a Catholic Pope, Pope John the XXIII who lead the way for the Lutherans and other denominations to stop discrimination against the Jews.  His passionate views on equality were summed up in his famous statement ‘We were all made in God’s image, and thus, we are all Godly alike.”  He called for an end to the teaching that Jews were lesser people in God’s eyes because they authorized the execution of Jesus.  With that one decision in 1963, the most virulent versions of antisemitism began to ebb.

Posted 9 months, 2 weeks ago at 11:30 pm.

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April 8 News and notes

Phil Hart came to speak to us today about his experience with Christian Peacemakers in Columbia.  They are, essentially, unarmed bodyguards for oppressed people.  The theory is that humans often are willing to cheat and steal from the poor and less powerful people if they think no one is watching or that they can get away with it, but they are less inclined to do it if there are witnesses.  So, the Christian Peacemakers go to the unlikely corners of the earth in order to serve as witnesses.  In Columbia, far back into the middle of the country is Las Pavas.  The people who have made their home on that land were relatively undisturbed until Pablo Escobar moved into the surrounding lands and confiscated it.  He was a power all unto himself in a time when power was defined by the size of the army you commanded.  When Pablo Escobar was killed, the Government took over the land.  The Columbian law does protect the farmers who live there, but a palm oil plantation wanted the land and moved onto it.  The government did not enforce the peasants ownership rights, instead they protected the palm oil company owners.  They cleared the land and pushed the peasants off again.

On April 4, 2011, the local farmers moved onto the land.  It was orchestrated to be witnessed by the American Christian Peacemakers and to have such publicity that the palm oil plantation owners could not stop them.  However, by the spring of 2012, waiting until the farmers were fully invested in their crops… the publicity had died down and the witnesses away, the plantation owners came in and cut down the farmer’s crops.  Homesteads were burned.  The local government authorities did nothing to stop them.

Incidentally, the Columbian farmers are considered internal economic refugees.  They are ineligible for refugee status in the U.S. which is only for political refugees.

Peace,

Rick

Posted 9 months, 2 weeks ago at 11:02 pm.

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April 14, 2013 News and Notes

Today Melissa taught us all about “Ein Deutsches Requiem” opus 45 by Johannes Brahms (The Brahms Requiem.)  I must say that this was a Sunday of the most uplifting and enlightened joy that we have done in a while.  We learned some things about Johannes and we learned how he wove those events of his life into the various movements of the music.  Melissa played excerpts from Brahms Requiem as she explained what was going on in each movement (perhaps not enough excerpts for my taste, but probably too many excerpts for the taste of others, so it was probably a good balance.)  Did you know that this guy used to play in bars and brothels?  Also, Brahms was a humanist.  He left out of his Requiem lines that other Requiem writers put in their works about the redemption of people by Jesus.  (See upcoming Sunday session on the Nicene Creed and the ability to redeem people who have no business being redeemed.  But, heck, in Christianity’s first entitlement program, you can say the right words and automatically get the golden ring.)

Peace,
Rick

Posted 11 months, 4 weeks ago at 11:57 pm.

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