So where do we begin in our search for meaning and suffering? For many people the search begins with their religious tradition. Although different religions may have different ways of understanding the meaning and purpose of human suffering every world religion offers strategies for responding to suffering based on its underlying beliefs. In the Buddhist and Hindu models, for example, suffering is a result of our own negative past actions and is seen as a catalyst for seeking spiritual liberation.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition the universe was created by a good and just God, and even though his master plan may be mysterious and indecipherable at times, our faith and trust in His plan allow us to tolerate our suffering more easily, trusting as the Talmud says, that “Everything God does, He does for the best”. Life may still be painful, but like the pain a woman experiences in childbirth, we trust that the pain will be outweighed by the ultimate good in produces. The challenge in these traditions lies in the fact that, unlike in childbirth, the ultimate good in often not revealed to us. Still those with a strong faith in God are sustained by a belief in God’s ultimate purpose for our suffering, as a Hasidic sage advises “When a man suffers he ought not to say ‘That’s bad! That’s bad!’ Nothing God imposes on man is bad. But it is alright to say ‘That’s bitter! That’s bitter!’ For among medicines there are some that are made with bitter herbs.” So from the Judeo-Christian perspective suffering can serve many purposes: it can test and potentially strengthen our faith, it can bring us closer to God in a very fundamental and intimate way, or it can loosen the bonds to the material world and make us cleave to God as our refuge. Continue reading
I want to start out by being grateful for the group that I am in, here at the Park Forest Unitarian Universalist Church. I have been able to inherit the legacy left behind by our late Fenn Taylor of the Care for the Earth Series. I hope to do as well as Fenn did in his time with it.
I would like to go into a topic of global warming, possible corporate ugliness, testifying in Springfield Illinois, dirty coal, asthma, workers losing their jobs. Got an email from Sierra Club telling of a hearing of 5 coal plants being sold to Dynegy Energy corp out of Texas. Dynegy corp would like a 5 year variance on the pollution control investment or they will close down 2 of the plants. Would I like to come testify or present my point of view in Springfield in front of the Illinois Pollution Control Board? That is like flies on honey for me. Continue reading
This time of year, the lovely crisp fall, is rich in Jewish holidays. It’s the Jewish New Year, among other things. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of the year beginning anew at this time – back to the days of new school supplies, stiff new leather shoes that gave me blisters, and lots of new adventures with a new teacher in a brand new grade.
So when Pat Segner asked me to talk to you today about the Jewish holidays, I agreed immediately – partly because I can never refuse Pat anything. And doing this service gave me a chance to explore more deeply a part of my own heritage that I mostly know through a child’s perspective. So in preparing for this service, doing research and thinking deeply, I can “grow up” my own understanding a bit – and then I get to share it with you.
Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish Calendar – the Day of Atonement. Sundown last night marked the end of the High Holidays which began eleven days ago with Rosh Hashonah, the birthday of the world.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Unitarian Universalist Community Church, Park Forest
Service created and officiated by Jodi Libretti
Good morning, and welcome to our first Sunday service in this new outdoor space.
I was honored and touched when I was asked to lead this service. Several summers ago, I was out here with kids of this church every Sunday for Religious Education. My goal was to build a connection between our young people and the land outside the church doors, to have them learn through nature, which, I believe, has so much to teach us. To open our service, I would like to share the words of Tatânga Mânî, Walking Buffalo, a Stoney Indian who lived in Alberta, Canada and served as a guide and advisor to his people until he died in 1967.
Do you know trees talk? Well, they do. They talk to each other, and they’ll talk to you, if you will listen. I have learned a lot from trees, sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit.
The Great Spirit’s book is the whole of his creation. You can read a big part of that book if you study nature. You know, if you take all your books, lay them out under the sun, and let the snow and rain and insects work on them for a while there will be nothing left. But the Great Spirit has provided you and me with an opportunity for study in nature’s university: the forests, the rivers, the mountains and the animals which include us. Continue reading
18 years ago I found just the right combination of sound, movement, meditation and prayer for me in the Dances of Universal Peace (DUP) which are meditative circle dances introduced in the San Francisco area by Zen scholar and Sufi Master, Samuel Lewis. Sam said, “Eat, pray and dance together.” The dances use mantras from all the world faiths. In the beginning, even if a chant was not “my thing,” I knew it had meant something significant to a culture for thousands of years. I was introduced to DUP by Ed Malik Dixon who was a gracious, spiritual man with a beautiful voice and love for others. Through my work with Malik, who founded the Park Forest Dance Group with me 15 years ago, I immersed myself in the writings and workshops of Murshid Christe Saddi and Neil Douglas Klotz. Saadi has been my Sufi teacher for the last 10 years. I have deepened my spiritual insight and opened my heart through the dances and my Sufi practices. Continue reading
Community can be many things to many people—looking at each other eye-to-eye as we sing Spirit of Life in the closing circle; participating in a work day, sharing food we’ve cooked at a potluck, or sharing ideas and philosophies in a small group.
What community means to me right now is fainting in church and having someone behind you literally cushion your fall with his body, and then hearing people clap as the paramedics wheel you out (as an NFL fan, I know about this custom). Community means having people sit with you in shifts at the hospital and drop into the emergency room to see how you’re doing. It means still other people driving your car home and making sure it’s safely in the garage. Community is having people bring you cover-up clothes and magazines to read in the hospital and calling to say, “I’m coming!” Continue reading
Do you believe in “Providence,” the idea that a higher power sustains us and influences each of our destinies? It is, of course, one of the great unknowns that we are all faced with in this life. What some people might call “purely coincidental events,” others see as a sign that their God is working in their lives and they need to “stay tuned” in order to more clearly perceive the direction that their lives should be headed.
Based on the information that I have reviewed over the years, as well as personal experience, my own opinion has been that we don’t function as if we were tethered to a puppeteer’s strings, simply acting on ideas that have been placed in our heads by a higher power. I prefer to think that the choices I make in life are solely the product of my own thoughts and desires. In other words, I have “free will.” As an aside, an interesting book to read is “Free Will” by Sam Harris. He makes a compelling case that our “free will” really isn’t so free and is in large part shaped by our gender, economic status, where and when we happened to be born, and other factors that together help form the boundaries of our real-world experience and consciousness. Taken together, those random circumstances have the effect of steering us to the choices that we make.
What Wondrous Love (2nd verse)
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down
Beneath my sorrows ground,
Friends to me gather’d round O my soul O my soul
I recently completed a course on Choice Theory, which was developed by a psychiatrist named, William Glasser. He claims that people have five basic needs, survival, love & belonging, Power, freedom, and fun. Each of us has different priorities as to what area is more important. Of all the forces that affect our lives, I believe that the needs to love and beloved are the greatest of all. As we move forward with our lay ministry pastoral care team, our focus on healing and providing compassionate support. A tool we hope to use it to be truly present to others when we are with them. I’d like to talk about on how we can cultivate a spiritual presence within your self and then for others.
Thanks to everyone who continues to bring food and personal items for Respond Now. They are greatly needed. It has been suggested that beginning in August we bring school supplies for Respond Now. They have been having a late summer street fair at which they distribute school supplies to children.
DO YOU KNOW ABOUT POVERTY IN AMERICA?
46 million people lived in poverty here in 2011. That’s 15% of the population. A family of four making less than $23,000 lives in poverty. Over 46 million people in America use food stamps to feed their families. That’s almost one in seven. Of those of working age living in poverty, about half had full or part-time jobs in 2010. The U. S. ranks 31st out of 34 developed nations in terms of income inequality. Slovenia has the most equal income distribution, and Chile has the worst. (Information from Marketplace, at www.marketplace.org)
The June 9 (2013) religious education presentation was a hit. From wild beasts pursuing a young damsel, intrepid mountaineers surviving blinding blizzards, and wise seekers sharing with us some of the wisdom of the world’s religions, all the children did a terrific job. The Golden Rule is truly a universal concept: fairness, kindness and respect are the underpinnings of all successful societies. Our first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of all individuals, echoes this truth. I’d also like to repeat my appreciation for all the RE instructors and assistants. Your dedication and energy made the World Religions curriculum a wonderful success for the kids.
After the rigors of rehearsal and performance, we kicked back and had a picnic at Thorn Creek Nature Preserve. As you can see from the pictures, we had some adventures along the trail. We saw a herd of deer, heard and sometimes felt mosquitoes, and smelled wild onions. Our group became separated, so we had tales to tell when we all got back to the picnic area for our lunch. It was a great way to put an exclamation point on our studies this year. Continue reading