Show the video clip or read the following sermon excerpt aloud. (This video and written sermon come from the closing worship of the 47th UUA General Assembly on June 24, 2007 in Portland, Oregon. This sermon excerpt is used with permission of Rev. Joshua Mason Pawelek [paw' lek] and the Unitarian Universalist Association.)
Of course, one does not preach alone: one preaches ... with those who've gone before—the saints, the souls, the forbears who articulated and preserved the preacher's tradition; the leaders who envisioned the future in which the preacher's community now lives; the prophets who challenged the tradition to transform; the heretics and resistors who said, "wait—we're not getting this right," and practiced the tradition in new forms; all those who, through the ages, carried the tradition along; all those who, through their blood, their spirit, their struggle, their love sought to pass on something of meaning and value to those who would come after. The ancestors: we carry them in our hearts precisely because they carried us in theirs. One preaches, always, with the ancestors. One worships, always, with the ancestors.
Before I go further, there is a word from the western religious lexicon I wish for us to embrace this afternoon. It is an ancestral word for those who claim Jewish and Christian heritage. It is an ancient Hebrew word or cry or shout of gratitude, praise, and joy: Hallelujah! Let me hear you say Hallelujah!
I believe it is a sign of spiritual health when we practice remembering and honoring those upon whose shoulders we rest. I believe it is a path to spiritual wisdom when we seek to know our ancestors' stories. What obstacles did they face? If they were enslaved, how did they achieve liberation? If they wandered in the wilderness, how did they survive? What was their relationship to the Most Holy? For what were they thankful? What did they pass on to us? As we know more clearly who our ancestors were, we know more clearly who we are. As we know more clearly who we are, we make ourselves ready to face the challenges of our time.
Let us, then, remember and honor the ancestors of our families, those into which we were born and those into which we were adopted —sometimes known, sometimes unknown—who struggled, perhaps, through more difficult times than ours, perhaps under more difficult circumstances than ours, so they could pass on something of value to us. We worship with them. Hallelujah!