A Sermon for First UU Church of New Orleans
and Community Church of New Orleans
Sunday, August 27, 2006
First Presbyterian Church
The clouds gather and the rumbling is enough to unsettle anyone. The thunderous sounds all across the sky bring up all kinds of memories, even memories from a time when we might not be able to explain what is causing the sound. As the clouds gather, the sky darkens, until it feels like nighttime is upon us, because indeed it is.
What extraordinary spectacles are these storms emerging from the Gulf: Extraordinary to marvel at, and at the same time, extra-ordinary as in atypical, and hence, as we have seen, devastating. And then, almost at a blink of an eye, the openness that is the warmth of the sun emerges...
Today we remember, not in the sense that we could ever forget, but in the intentional sense that we have brought forth into this sacred space, the names of those who have gone before us into the Great Mystery.
Today we celebrate too, that we as two communities worshipping as one, have had the great good fortune to survive. We celebrate that we are alive, that in these bodies are beating hearts whose beat keeps time for a city still grieving. We celebrate that we are still here to tell the stories, and to create the stories of the future.
One year later New Orleans is literally still in the dark, the heavy, gray/black clouds still hovering, but if New Orleans is to emerge as a city "bigger and better", than let us commit to being bearers of light to guide the others out of the darkness. Let the swirl of the clouds hover above us, as we take to the streets of humanity feeding our brothers and sisters the elixir that is love .
In the words of Diane Thornton: "Give yourself to giving, and you'll find that the things that matter are returning." The things that matter cannot return unless we actively bring them back, unless we pull them out of the darkness of no return, and shine the light of possibility on them. Possibilities that are as diverse as we are, inside and outside of these four walls.
To be a bearer of light is to hold in the highest esteem, the building of relationships. As Rumi wrote, "This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival." Each day we have an opportunity to build a new relationship where previously none existed.
A bearer of light is not concerned with what they can take, but with what they can give to any situation, even one that might rile them, or aspire to throw them off course.
A bearer of light while it can have a spiritual significance as what Thomas has stated in his gospel, it does not have to. It can be a commitment one makes to lighten an experience that might seem heavy, to share an insight even when it might scare you to do so, to act the clown when everyone around you is being so serious.
It can be a commitment to be that ray of sun that emerges at the blink of an eye.
It can be a commitment to remain calm, when all around you the world is spinning, to remain grounded when the urge is to take flight, to remain loving when the devil is knocking on your door, pushing you into the abyss that is misdirected anger.
As you consider your role as a bearer of light, I offer you these tools to help create the "bigger and better" New Orleans that our spirits need.
- Intention: As a spiritual communities where, and what is our intention? However we each answer that hopefully will bind us in a common unity. But as an individual, where and what is your intention? Is it focused on your relationship with those around you, or is it to aspire to a higher way of being, above the day to day grind that can wear one down?
- Relationships: We are all interconnected with each other through our own perceptions of what "the Light" means. As a Christian the Light may mean Jesus; as a Humanist or atheist the face of your neighbor; as a Pagan it may mean Mother Earth, as a Muslim, Mohammad; the concept is the same, and as such could be the force that unites us. If we can agree that the prized pearl of our existence is acknowledging that a Light exists in each of us.
- Diversity: If you agree with me that we are interconnected, then we must accept the diversity that represents, which is the diversity of the universe. Rumi tells us to "treat each guest honorably. He [or she] may be clearing you out for some new delight."
- Possibility: Sometimes this light is viewed as a creative spark, and because of that spark, all things are possible. Yet with possibility comes uncertainty, so we must hold that tool as well and know that it is useful in its own way as we face the uncertainty in our own lives.
- Openness: Be like a child, be spontaneous. Don't judge, don't scorn, do forgive, even as we know that others can do us harm. Yes, we need to be aware of the risk and realities, and still choose to take an open stance.
- Love: Love brings us closer to that which we hold in ultimate esteem. Love is emotional harmony with the Great Mystery, God, Allah, Gaia, whatever you call it, and that harmony enlarges our individual power. Love can also be the agreement, the covenant that we hold in each community, an understanding that surpasses who we are as individuals, for the sake of the group.
My friends, there will be so many more challenges ahead for New Orleans, that it will be crucial for us to know what it is beyond the fact that we are Unitarian Universalists, beyond our history, beyond even our Principles, that bind us one to the other. Our "bigger and better" New Orleans must encompass a new way of living that does not refute the individual or the community.
This is our time to see ourselves as bearers of light, bringing new life to a city that has been in desperate need of it since before Hurricane Katrina.
Thanks to Katrina we have been blessed in so many ways and we have been left to survive for reasons only we can discover. Yet what we know to be true is that UUs across the country believe in us, they believe in our possibilities, and because of it, one of the biggest blessings has emerged, that is of new relationships with our denominational headquarters, between congregations, within congregations, as well as ecumenically and in interfaith settings.
We have been blessed by the currency that is money running through our congregational veins, but the fuller sustenance comes from having the opportunity of sharing our stories. We have blessed others by helping them find their skills, and welcoming them into this jigsaw puzzle that is our recovery effort.
We have blessed others by choosing to survive in a situation that seems hopeless at times, by giving them the gift of being needed and the chance to respond to the call.
Although at times it may feel that all we do is receive, we are giving to others what money can never buy. Underneath it all, we are working to keep Unitarian Universalism alive in our hearts. We are using the Principles to guide our relationships with each other, and now, it is time to use them to guide our relationships with the larger community. We have been blessed with much, and now it is time to give back to New Orleans.
Let us give ourselves to giving, and so that we can l find that the things that matter are returning.
Que asi sea. So may it be. Blessed be.
© All right reserved. Do not duplicate without permission.
Notes of the six tools taken from: Bearer of Light: From Jesus to the New Age of Enlightenment by Paul Deslauriers.