Friday, January 5, 2024

A Delightful Faith by Reverend Tom Capo preached on August 6, 2023

I want to start today talking to those people who have never been to a Unitarian Universalist Congregation or who have attended a few times, but are still unsure what we are all about.  I do this because it is easy for me or anyone preaching from this pulpit to preach only to the members and friends of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami – but there may be some people who don’t know what short-hand terms like UU or RE mean; who don’t know the history of Unitarianism or Universalism or Unitarian Universalism; who don’t know what UUs, Unitarian Universalists, believe.  

And so, when I say something like “Unitarian Universalism is where you go to get your answers questioned” they might feel confused, like “questions about what, exactly?”  Here we believe that each person takes responsibility for their own personal spiritual journey.  We also believe that this community is also on a shared spiritual journey.  My role as a minister is not to tell you what to believe, but to encourage you to look within and to have meaningful conversations with each other as you explore truth, purpose, meaning, as you consider how to be your best self, and as you determine how to make a positive difference in the world.  

For those of you who have been here a while, how would you answer this query: You May Be A Unitarian Universalist If…
   Here are some other answers I have heard over the years in my ministry:
You may be a Unitarian Universalist if:
 Blowing bubbles or tossing around a beach ball or making a collage or walking out among the trees to connect with nature has ever been a Sunday service or part of a Sunday service;
    on Hallowe'en or Winter Solstice you ever heard someone talk about what they’re wearing in terms of their Pagan belief system;
    you have heard civil conversations about the gender or genders of god or about whether there are one, many or no deities at all;
you have heard "I don’t know" and considered it a valid theological/spiritual viewpoint
you think a Holy day of Obligation is when it’s your turn to bring food for the after-service lunch.

If you have any questions about the meaning of these statements get with me or some of our members after the service and we would be happy to explain.

I am being a little playful with you this morning because I delight in being a Unitarian Universalist.  When I say delight, what does that word mean to you?  Some of you might think that delight is the same as joy or happiness.  Some might think delight is about pleasure or satisfaction. Or that delight is a happy surprise.  

(Blow some bubbles, then hand out a few bottles of soap for others to create bubbles)

I think delight is embodied joy or pleasure.  An elevation of spirit that is felt and expressed physically—perhaps a smile, or a movement, or laugh, or a sparkle in one’s eyes—through your whole self.
(Toss out a plastic beach ball)
I’ve been told that delight describes a spiritual practice.  Perhaps that is what you are doing right now, practicing delight.  
Sri Chinmoy is an Indian spiritual leader who taught meditation in the United States.  He wrote: “Joy and happiness are something ordinary in comparison to delight. Joy is limited, happiness is limited. We can experience them even in our ordinary unaspiring life. But delight we experience only when we lead an aspiring life. Only in the life of aspiration can we get delight..”  He goes on to suggest that “Delight comes from the soul's region.”  Take a moment to consider your response this idea.  In many faith communities you might hear an “Amen” when you hear something you resonate with.  In this faith community, it more likely that you will hear “Hmmm” in thoughtful and soulful consideration from those around you.  Sometimes you might hear some finger-snapping, too.

Thinking of delight from a soulful or spiritual perspective brings me to the story of the monk, the tigers, the mouse, and the strawberry.  When you heard this story, what meaning did you make from it? Maybe you thought it had no meaning or perhaps that the choice the monk makes to eat the strawberry is ridiculous.  I have heard it said that the tiger above and the tiger below represent one’s past and the future—the past, guilts and resentments that still stalk you and worries and fears about the future that you are harboring.  And you are here in the present, hanging by a vine with a mouse eating away at it.  Do you ever feel that way?  How do you respond when you feel that way?  Do you look for another vine?  Do you prepare for the fall to the tiger below or prepare for fight/flight with the tiger above?  Or do you reach for the rich, juicy strawberry that is right before you in this moment and delight in it?  Zen Buddhism might suggest that this crazy notion of staying in the present, looking for the delightful experience in the here and now is perhaps the most spiritually healthy choice.  But surrounded by urgencies, how often do we make that choice?  Do you practice mindfulness, staying in the present, feeling, embodying the many delights that the present offers?  Or are these too many pressing concerns for you to feel like you have the luxury of doing that?

Why do you come to this congregation, to this sanctuary on Sunday morning?  Are you here because of the past or the future, what stalks or what awaits you?  Welcome friend; we’re here to help ground and support you.  Or are you here for what delights you might experience in the present? Welcome, friend; we’re here to share in the joys of what you discover. Is being in this place with these people at this moment about healing, about friendship, about acceptance, about affirming certain values or Principles?  Welcome friend; you’ve found a home here.  Is it about being in a community where “we come to be assured that [siblings] surround us, to restore their images on our eyes.” Where “we enlarge our voices in common speaking and singing.” Where “it is good to be with one another” (Kenneth Patton).  Welcome friend; it is good to be with you.  Here we thinking about the value of past or future moments in this place.  Are we think about the time, treasure and talent needed to keep this place vital and thriving, not only for us but for anyone today, tomorrow and far into the future.  Here we seek actionable responses to the racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other prejudices, biases, and hatreds that are so prominent in the world around us.  I ask you to close your eyes for a moment.  Take a deep breath in and along slow breath out.  (pause)
Where is your strawberry, that moment of delight?  What does it look like?  (pause)
Open your eyes.

People come here not to have their bucket emptied, but to have their bucket filled.  To fill their heart and soul’s bucket up with peace, with love, with joy, with whatever strawberries they need to be able to cope with a world that is not always kind or peaceful, or loving, or joyful.  People come here for hope and healing; people come here to look more deeply within themselves as they search for truth, meaning and purpose strawberry that is offered on the vine before them.  And people come here, even though they might not always know it, for mindful, embodied delight.

So, my friends, let us take this time, this space, on Sunday mornings together to look for the delight that is already right there in front of you, even when you feel like there are tigers above, tigers below, and a mouse eating away at the vine you are holding on for your life.  In this place, with this community, there will always be strawberries awaiting right in front of you, if allow yourself to be in the moment. And I invite you to express gratitude for the strawberries, to help you remember that they exist, to seal them on your heart, as you go forth to do the work of the world.  As Adrienne Maree Brown, writer, activist and facilitator, wrote:  “put your attention on suffering – which is constant and everywhere – and it is all you will see. Joy will come, and laughter, but you will find it brief, possibly a distraction. Put your attention on joy [and delight], being connected and feeling whole, and you will find it everywhere. Your heart will still break. You will know grief, but you will find it a reasonable cost for the random abundance of miracles, and the soft wild rhythms of love.”  May it be so.

No comments:

Post a Comment