Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, September 9, 2001
One Sunday, a member of a Unitarian Universalist church brought a visiting relative to church with her. It was a dicey proposition though, because, you see Aunt Alice wasn’t a UU herself—no, she was a Southern Baptist, a very traditional, quite fundamentalist Baptist, at that. But she went along to church anyway, and sat there through the whole service, growing more and more incredulous and agitated at the heretical ideas that were being spouted there. After the service, at coffee hour, one of the church members asked the visitor, “So, how did you like the sermon?”
“Oh,” Alice said, “I couldn’t believe half the things that minister said!”
“Good,” the UU church member replied, “you’ll fit right in then!”
This, perhaps, could be our creed: “Not that all should think alike, but that all alike should think."
Or, another variation on the same theme: What matters is not that we think alike, but that we all love alike.
But of course, we UUs have no creed—no once-and-for-all, take-it-or-leave-it, carved-in-stone, believe-or-die statement of what we believe, of who we are, of our answers to all the mysteries of the past, present, and future wrapped up and packaged for easy digestion in 100 words or less…
We have no creed. No great “WE BELIEVE in this and that, maker of thus and so…”
But too often, we give others the impression (maybe we give ourselves the impression) that that means we don’t believe in anything. And that, my friends, just ain’t so…
We don’t have a Creed. But we do have credos. Lots of them… thousands of them, across our continent and around our world… probably over 50 or 60 of them, right here in this little room in Stoughton, Massachusetts this very morning.
We have credos (“I believe”s) that we can share with one another: statements of personal belief and faith, not just from the head, because remember: the root of the word “credo” is the Latin word cordia—the heart: Our credo—our “I believe”-- comes straight from the heart, as well as from the mind—not just “I think…” but “I affirm with my whole being, with my heart and soul; I put my whole person—my entire life-- behind this statement…”
That, my friends, is a spiritual atomic bomb of infinite power: a person who knows what he or she believes—a person who knows his heart, her heart: “Show me [those] who knows [their] own heart[s], to [them] I shall belong…” Multiply that by 60 or 80 or 100, or by 200,000—think of the potential for good—the potential that holds for changing the world—for transforming the religious landscape of our communities.
But do we know our hearts? What do we believe? Just what do UUs believe, anyway? That’s not always an easy question to answer…
The Starship Uuniprise is crossing over the Bible belt into the Fundamentalist Zone to respond to a distress call from a lost Association outpost.
Captain Kirk asks, “Mr. Spock, what can you tell me about these people, the UUs?”
“That’s hard to say, Captain,” Spock responds. “The library computer has little information from that particular era. Logically, however, we may deduce from their name “Unitarian Universalist”, that since Unitarian means one and Universalist means everything, these people must believe in one of everything.”
Maybe so. Or at least, we believe in the oneness of everything: the inherent worth and dignity of everyone; the interdependent web of all life; that every experience of life has a lesson to teach us; that every person has a story to tell and something to share; that spirituality isn’t just found in church for us (though sometimes, who knows, it might be)—but in every single aspect of our lives, day after day, year after year, (who knows?) life after life.
This is why I still love this church of ours so much. Because it’s a place where the practical and spiritual dance together so closely. Where no one is too old and no one is too young, and everyone is cherished for the person who they are. Where no one is too poor or even too rich-- too black or too white-- where no one is too straight and no one is too gay-- and where we yearn to hear different voices and see those people that we love both because they’re “just like us” and because they’re not “just like us.”
Y R U A U U ?—Six simple letters that say it all: six letters (and a punctuation mark) to remind us why we’re here:
Y—Why—Religion, for us asks the Big Questions—the “Why?” questions. It doesn’t concern itself with triviality or theological nitpicking. God (if there is a God) doesn’t give a damn about our theology. God cares about how we answer the “Why?” questions of life—what our lives stand for.
R—Are—The verb “to be”—To be or not to be—Religion concerns itself with being— Not just living in our heads; not just mindless do-do-doing; not just religious busy work—But being—living-- the true essence of who we are.
U—You—Not me, but you—The church is not the minister— This church is all of you—all of us—each an individual—each deserving to be heard and respected and cherished for the child of God (child of the Goddess) each one of us is.
A—A—one-- one single soul—one person—not much to look at in the Great Sweep of Creation, perhaps—but this is where it all begins—this is where all real change—all real transformation—begins—in the heart of each one of us.
(Now the two big theological words:)
U—Unitarian—We are one, we are one, all are one underneath the sun… All life is one, a single branching tree—We are part of an interdependent web…
…of all existence—that’s the other U—Universalist—all existence—everything—“Universalism! Why, it’s the biggest word in the language,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning (who wasn’t one) once exclaimed. Indeed, it is. It makes for a faith big enough for all of us to fit in. It is a faith big enough, too, to hold hearts as great as ours.
So there is no reason at all why we should be the best-kept secret in town…
One day, a street corner preacher was standing on a corner, spreading fire and brimstone all over the place. He stopped a man who was passing by, and asked him: “My friend—Do you know what path leads to the denial of God and salvation, straight into the arms of heathenism and heresy?”
“Oh, sure,” the man responded, the Unitarian Universalist church is just two blocks that way.”
Well, maybe that’s not exactly the way we want to be known. But people should know where we are—and what we stand for—and that we exist as a viable, vital religious alternative for the people of our communities.
That’s the work of all of us—not just the Minister, not just the DRE, not just the Board, or the Membership Committee, or the Publicity Committee we’ll be forming soon. But all of us: We all need to make our faith come alive through service to others and care of our earth. We all need to make our faith come alive by living our faith—by sharing our faith—by spreading our faith.
And when our faith comes alive, our church comes alive. And that new aliveness can transform the spiritual landscape of our communities. Then we will know that we are in a new springtime of our church’s life, and not in its fall.
We bid you welcome, who come with weary spirit seeking rest.
Who come with troubles that are too much with you,
Who come hurt and afraid.
We bid you welcome, who come with hope in your heart.
Who come with anticipation in your step,
Who come proud and joyous.
We bid you welcome, who are seekers of a new faith.
Who come to probe and explore.
Who come to learn.
We bid you welcome, who enter this hall as a homecoming,
Who have found here room for your spirit.
Who find in this people a family.
Whoever you are, whatever you are,
Wherever you are on your journey,
We bid you welcome.
So remember: Y R U A U U— Why are you a U U ?
And don’t forget to bring your question mark with you every Sunday!
It’s good to be back with all of you again.