First Unitarian Church of Worcester

Sermons, Memos and other writings from the newsletter and worship services of the First Unitarian Church of Worcester. The First Unitarian Church is located at 90 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608. Our phone is 508-757-2708 and our webpage is A audio CD is produced for almost every one of our regular services. Call our office or send a note to the office at our website to request that one be shipped to you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Your Resurrection" by Rev. Barbara Merritt Worship Service on Easter, March 23, 3008

First Reading
John 21: 4-8

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked; and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

Second Reading
“Huckleberry Finn”
from an essay by Azar Nafisi an Iranian Professor of American Literature

A small boy named Huckleberry Finn contemplates his friend and runaway slave, Jim. Huck asks himself whether he should “give Jim up” or not. Huck was told in Sunday school that people who let slaves go free go to “everlasting fire.” But then, Huck says he imagines he and Jim in “the day and nighttime, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing.” Huck remembers Jim and their friendship and warmth. He imagines Jim not as a slave but as a human being and he decides that, “alright, then, I’ll go to hell.”

What Huck rejects is not religion but an attitude of self-righteousness and inflexibility. I remember this particular scene out of Huck Finn so vividly today because I associate it with a difficult time in my own life. In the early 1980s, when I taught at the University of Tehran, I, like many others, was expelled. I was very surprised to discover that my staunchest allies were two students who were very active at the university’s powerful Muslim Students’ Association. These young men and I had engaged in very passionate and heated arguments. I had fiercely opposed their ideological stances. But that didn’t stop them from defending me. When I ran into one of them after my expulsion, I thanked him for his support. “We are not as rigid as you imagine us to be, Professor Nafisi,” he responded. “Remember your lectures on Huck Finn? Let’s just say, he is not the only one who can risk going to hell!”

A mysterious connection links individuals to each other despite their vast differences. No amount of political correctness can make us empathize with a child left orphaned in Darfur or a woman taken to a football stadium in Kabul and shot to death because she is improperly dressed. Only curiosity about the fate of others, the ability to put ourselves in their shoes, and the will to enter their world through the magic of imagination creates this shock of recognition. Without this empathy there can be no genuine dialogue, and we as individuals and nations will remain isolated and alien, segregated and fragmented.

I believe that it is only through empathy that the pain experienced by an Algerian woman, a North Korean dissident, a Rwandan child, or an Iraqi prisoner becomes real to me and not just passing news. And it is at times like this when I ask myself, am I prepared—like Huck Finn—to give up Sunday school heaven for the kind of hell that Huck chose?

“Your Resurrection” by Rev. Barbara Merritt

On Easter Sunday, throughout the world, there are a great many people who in liturgy, song, and ritual announce that “Jesus was crucified, dead and buried—he descended into hell, the third day he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God. Or so states the Apostles Creed.”

In the free church, you can reject that dogma, or you can believe it completely. But whether you understand Jesus to be resurrected is not the focus of an Easter celebration at the First Unitarian Church.

What I want you to imagine is your own resurrection. What sort of ongoing life can you look forward to? If you go to hell, even just for a day or two, will there be any transformative event afterwards? Does anything important about you survive tragedy, defeat or death?

I, myself, discovered a personal immortality when I was still an agnostic in college. In my junior year at the university, I took an advanced course in the Greek philosopher, Plato. And the professor, paraphrasing Plato, said very simply, “If you identify with what is transitory and fleeting in yourself, then you will have to die. But if you identify with what is eternal in you (in a spirit of love and truth, which transcends the material body) then you will have immortality.” I remember leaving the classroom metaphorically ten feet off the ground. My imagination had been given a spacious new way to consider life and death. And I suddenly understood a new possibility; that death did not necessarily mean the end of the consciousness or the soul.

Many of us might assume that the religious imagination is something that can be safely relegated to scripture and theologies. But if you pay attention, you will discover that all kinds of disciplines are struggling with describing the nature of reality, and the possibilities that await us all.

And not just ancient philosophers.

I heard a lecture a few weeks ago where the speaker said that “ironically, it may be science that eventually may be responsible for the discovery of God.” Even now, scientists in the realm of theoretical physics are imagining co-existent realities, realms that exist apart from the material world. Scientists, who spent a great many centuries tied to a mechanistic model of cause and effect and observable data, are now saying, “Maybe there is more?” Maybe there are things we can’t measure because we have been thinking in too small and rigid a framework. (Maybe, we might consider fishing on the other side of the boat.)

How you imagine the world has a huge impact on how you experience the world.

In the gospel according to Matthew, there is one line near the end of the last chapter describing the disciples experience of the resurrected Jesus: “They saw him, they worshipped, but some doubted.” So apparently even if the risen Christ is standing right in front of you, that does not necessarily mean you are going to give up thinking about the world that way you always have. Our doubts, our fears, our habitual thinking may be hard-wired. Or perhaps we are mentally stuck, only temporarily in a particular pattern of thought. Can anything break us open to what is new and unexpected? I love the description of Jesus’ fishing lesson to his friends after the resurrection. I swear, the more I read the gospels, the more convinced I am that they were written by early Unitarians.

Jesus has already shown himself to his disciples indoors. Then, on another occasion, he has even allowed the doubtful Thomas to stick his hand through his body. John claims Jesus showed himself over and over again to his skeptical disciples; so many times in fact, that they are not even written down.

Then Simon Peter says, “Ok, time to go fishing,” After a night of unsuccessful fishing, Jesus appears to them again and speaks to them from close to the shore directly asking, “Have you caught anything?” And the disciples (who like all disciples, are as dumb as posts) are reported to have come to this conclusion: “The disciples knew not that it was Jesus.”

Now, I guess at this point, Jesus could have preached a sermon to them, or scolded them, or pointed in a vigorous manner at himself. Instead, he asked for them to do something differently, to lower their nets on a new side of the boat. Now you can just hear the rational arguments: Why change? (Same water on the left as on the right; same Sea of Tiberius; the fish didn’t bite last night, or this morning—why would they bite over there, when nothing is going on over here.) We human beings have strong convictions that we know exactly how the universe operates, and if we only keep doing what we have been doing, eventually things will improve. But Jesus says, “No, do something new.” Change your orientation, imagine that a stranger on the shore might know something that you don’t. And when the disciples moved to the other side, it wasn’t only their nets that became full of fish; their eyes opened, and their hearts awoke and they understood that there were miracles in every direction.

Easter is a story, an important story, about how all of us can see things we’ve never seen before, how we can move past the old, imprisoning assumptions, and beliefs. How the world keeps getting larger, if you pay attention.

Huck Finn is a resurrection story in this context. Huckleberry Finn absolutely believes that he will be “damned to the everlasting hell-fires” if he breaks the law and help a runaway slave. It is not his beliefs that change—he knows about hell (he’s tasted a little of it here on earth.) But he is willing to take the leap of action and say to himself “it doesn’t ultimately matter what I believe. What matters is how I act. And I love my friend Jim, and I will act on his behalf.” As Professor Nafisi observed in the second reading, “the magic of imagination creates this shock of recognition.” And from this empathy, this connection with one another, even with strangers on the other side of the globe, we may just risk hell and then find ourselves entering heaven.

It is not ultimately about what we think; it is about what we actually do.

An eloquent speaker illustrated our predicament to me recently when described a scenario something like this:
“You love your physician. You admire her skill, her devotion to her patients, and her formidable training. You consider the medical building in which she works to be somewhat of a shrine. You gently touch the threshold of the doorway as you enter, in acknowledgement of the great work of healing that occurs in the building. You listen attentively to everything your doctor says to you. You appreciate the thoroughness of her check-up, and the intelligence with which she lays out a plan for your treatment. You believe that she is the “bees knees” a stellar professional. You have faith in a noble and great physician. The one thing you won’t do is take the medicine she prescribes.”

Now, such a foolish patient can only be pitied. But you’d be surprised how many people believe that a church building is sacred ground: that one should listen to the teachings of the saints, that one should hold in very high regards the creeds and rituals and ethical teachings of synagogue and churches and temples. But they can’t quite see that it might be necessary to act differently…to change…to enter into relationships in new and transformative ways. Maybe just believing in the goodness of churches will make a difference? Maybe some one else can do the spiritual work required? Maybe I need to only admire good and trustworthy people and don’t actually have to become one myself?

Which brings me directly to the topic of Your Resurrection. Not Jesus’, not your neighbor’s, but yours.

My colleague and dear friend, The Reverend John Robinson, put it eloquently:

The congregations sing, “Christ the Lord is ris’n today.” Is!” “Today!” They do not sing “Christ was raised one thousand, nine hundred and seventy-six years ago, today.” No, they sing a present fact, a fact that is known in the human heart and spirit that opens itself to the life and wonder of this world around us. Each moment of our lives is a rebirth, if we are but awake to the living that breaks in around us each moment.

The musician listens for the pure note and tunes his or her instrument to it. All too often we hear and tune our lives to the dissonant cacophony of shouted claims around us: to earn more, to spend more, to seek the comfortable, the easier, to the shouts of the television and politicians and causes, to the warnings and fears that beset us. Too seldom do we set our tune to the clear true note which rings still within us.

But each year we are reminded that something “is ris’n,” (call it Christ or what you will), in our lives “today.” To know it we must listen, be awake to be alive.

Thomas Merton, the Trappist Monk, wrote that “the splendor and grace of Easter is meant to raise us, to open our imaginations.”

I don’t know what your personal resurrection means. It might be completely in the realm of the material world. Today, you might commit to be an organ donor—to give the gift of life and sight and hearing to someone who lives on after you die. Today, you might decide to give a scholarship to encourage the next generation to learn, to contribute, to have hope. Today, (or as soon as the ground thaws—say, late May) you may plant a tree, or write a check to UNICEF, or work for the political candidate that you believe can improve the world.
Your personal resurrection may be the way you get up from your pew this morning. Hopefully, with a willingness to fish in a new way—willing to take a second chance—willing to change the way you act. Deciding that, “all right then, this may just take me to hell,” but I’m willing to risk it all to help a friend, to close the distance, to make my love real, incarnate, visible, and constant. “I’m willing to keep changing.” “I’m willing to risk it all.”

The Worcester poet, Stanley Kunitz, in a few lines of his poem entitled “The Layers,” describes the lifelong journey from hell to an ongoing and constantly surprising resurrection.

How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Small deaths, large deaths, great losses, small defeats; they will not be the end of you. Not when you remember that you are in the resurrection business. Always turning your imagination in the direction of radical change, real joy, and the triumph of the spirit.
When we sing together as a community about joy and resurrection, and the “triumphant song of life,” we are doing more than providing a thunderous alleluia chorus. We are also bearing emphatic witness to one another’s struggles. This is not just about my resurrection. In truth, we can’t do this resurrection work alone.

We are calling out to one another: “Have courage! Keep going! Sure, you might go to hell, but it will be worth it. Keep acting on behalf of love and hope, and on behalf of truth and goodness.” And somehow, a mystery will sustain us all. A miraculous abundance will astonish us, and we will find ourselves in the presence of God.

Today there is every reason to be joyful.

"Right Relationship" by Rev. Barbara Merritt Worship Service of Feb. 24, 2008

First Reading
from Isaiah 42 & 58

Here is my servant whom I upheld,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my spirit,
he shall bring forth justice to nations,
I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance?
That a man bow his head like a reed,
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
This, rather is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.

Second Reading
“Stranger on the Bus” by Lawrence Kushner

A light snow was falling and the streets were crowded with people. It was Munich in Nazi Germany. One of my rabbinic students, Shifra Penzias, told me her great-aunt, Sussie, had been riding a city bus home from work when SS storm troopers suddenly stopped the coach and began examining the identification papers of the passengers. Most were annoyed, but a few were terrified. Jews were being told to leave the bus and get into a truck around the corner.

My student’s great-aunt watched from her seat in the rear as the soldiers systematically worked their way down the aisle. She began to tremble, tears streaming down her face. When the man next to her noticed that she was crying, he politely asked her why.

“I don’t have the papers you have. I am a Jew. They’re going to take me.”

The man exploded with disgust. He began to curse and scream at her. “You stupid bitch,” he roared. “I can’t stand being near you!”

The SS men asked what all the yelling was about.

“Damn her,” the man shouted angrily. “”My wife has forgotten her papers again! I’m so fed up. She always does this!”

The soldiers laughed and moved on.

My student said that her great-aunt never saw the man again. She never even knew his name.

You are going about your business when you stumble onto something that has your name on it. Or, to be more accurate, a task with your name on it finds you. Its execution requires inconvenience, self-sacrifice. You step forward and encounter your destiny. This does not mean you must do everything that lands on your doorstep, or that you should assume every risk or make every self-sacrifice. But it does mean that you must tell yourself the truth about where you have been placed and why.

You don’t exercise your freedom by doing what you want. Self-indulgence is not an exercise of freedom. But when you accept the task that destiny seems to have set before you, you become free. Perhaps the only exercise of real freedom comes from doing what you were meant to do all along.

If everything is connected to everything else, then everyone is ultimately responsible for everything. We can blame nothing on anyone else. The more we comprehend our mutual interdependence, the more we fathom the implications of our most trivial acts. We find ourselves within a luminous organism of sacred responsibility.
Even on a bus in Munich.

“Right Relationships” by the Rev. Barbara Merritt

This morning it is my troublesome responsibility to report to you that there are real problems with the professional staff that serves this church. I don’t mean that among the people that you employ for the benefit of this parish there are a few difficult issues. No, there is a systemic problem that affects everyone on the payroll: full-time and part-time, professional and administrative and janitorial. Despite a very clear and well-researched personnel policy manual, the discrepancy between policy and practice persists.

It became glaringly evident last week when our sexton Jim came to me and said that he absolutely refused to accept over-time pay for additional hours worked here over the last few weeks, and that if the personnel policy said that he had to, then we needed to change the policy. Donna, our newsletter editor, refused to take President’s Day off, which is an official First Unitarian holiday, specifically named in said “Personnel Policy.” Why? Because we’ve had a number of snow days when she couldn’t come in, but worked at home. Will, our Choir Master, has put in so many volunteer hours over the years that it is ridiculous. (Just ask him how long it takes to make a CD.) Abby, our RE Assistant, is paid for 10 of the hours she works here on behalf of our kids; the other 10 hours she donates and will not accept money for. Barbara Foley, our Parish Administrator, has been woken up at midnight and come down to the church to fix the alarms. None of this is in the job descriptions.

I could go on and on. But one must ask, Rev. Schade is their supervisor! What kind of behavior is he modeling? Well, Tom refuses to take a raise, and he and Sue are among our most generous pledgers. And me? Well, I work part-time theoretically. As of 2008, I get 10 days off a month. Well, that didn’t happen in January. I only got 7. So I made a really conscientious, determined effort in February. This month I will be taking 5 days off.

Is it in the water? Are those who work here totally unaware of job descriptions, or the precarious economy, or that normal people take the vacation days that are given? Is it possible statistically to hire all work-a-holics in every position in an organization?

The answer to all those questions is, no. I have figured out who is to blame – and it is you. The congregation. When the staff at First Unitarian works with a group of people where the membership and the leadership are generous and committed with both their time and their money; when you spend your day in the company of those who serve freely and cheerfully (and with enthusiasm and good humor) it is contagious! There is no resisting the pull to help in any way you can. There is a culture in this church which inspires visitors, long-time members and those of us on the payroll. This culture is one of service.

Now in Judaism the faith community is by-in-large an inherited relationship, a covenanted body that extends through history and is passed on from generation to generation. The free church, in contrast, has been called a “chosen faith.” Most Unitarian Universalists (even those of us whose parents and grandparents were Unitarians) still imagine ourselves as being in an entirely voluntary community. We come here freely; we can leave freely; and while our children are invited and encouraged to “keep the faith,” they are under no obligation to do so.

Nevertheless, once you sign our membership book, the congregation you walk with is not custom-ordered to your particular political and spiritual preference. What you see is what you get. You are stuck with some who prefer the choir staying with the classical repertoire and some who want more gospel and jazz. In this parish there are some who will spend their vacation helping Katrina victims in New Orleans and some whose lives are already so overwhelming that they can’t volunteer for a single committee, or even attend a coffee hour. The essential question at First Unitarian is not, “What’s in it for me?” The central question is, “What am I here on earth to do?”

Good company is a powerful spiritual force. When any one person focuses his or her energy on caring for their neighbor, offering their talents and working to bring about a better world (and to be a better person) this individual commitment has a profound affect on everyone around them. And I would add, the greater the service and the love we bring, the greater the influence on our surroundings.

I will be the first to admit that a congregation is an odd setting in which to attempt to change the world. Rabbi Kushner, the eloquent author of the reading about the bus in Munich, also serves a congregation near Boston. And he writes about congregations:
“The power of congregational life comes precisely from this involuntariness of association. We look about the room and realize these people are not friends or even acquaintances; we do not agree with them about much; these are simply people we are stuck with. This generates a kind of love both more intense and more complicated than the voluntary variety. These members of our community, just like the people in our family, literally make us who we are.”

People come here to worship and to hopefully move closer to God, to truth, to reality and their own deepest sources of inner strength. This wonderful gift of being “stuck” with one another broadens our horizons and helps to develop “who we are.” And the more time you spend in “good company,” I suspect, the more you will find that you are developing a better prospective, clearer priorities and increased hope. As you engage in all kinds of relationships (congregational, work, family and friends) your aspirations naturally increase to live in right relationships, in harmony, in relationships which are sustainable, life-giving and creative. How do we go about creating such relationships? Who gets to define what is a “right relationship” versus a wrong relationship?

Through the laws of biblical Judaism, the answer is a clear one. God decides. And God issues commandments – very detailed instructions about exactly how you are to relate to your neighbor. The word “relationship” doesn’t appear once in the Bible. Not in the Jewish scripture. And not in the Christian one either. But the words “righteous” and “right” appear hundreds of times: “righteous” meaning that the nature of our interactions with our neighbor needs to be ones of honesty, goodness, excellence, virtue, and what the ancient Hebrews called “holiness.” Kushner said it beautifully. “The more we comprehend our mutual interdependence, the more we fathom the implications of our most trivial acts. We find ourselves within a luminous organism of sacred responsibility.”

Judaism is explicit on this point. What is at the heart of reality has a relationship with each one of us. There is a sacred responsibility between each of us. Especially between those of us who have been blessed with some affluence or resources: we have been given the responsibility to care for the imprisoned and those who live in darkness. Our responsibility is towards those who are burdened, oppressed, hungry, homeless, naked, and perhaps most challenging, our own blood relatives. Do that and you are promised, “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your wounds shall quickly be healed.”

The modern problem with the prophets of biblical Judaism is that they “commanded.” The prophets weren’t big on “advice” or “suggestions.” They never asked, “Have you ever considered ‘holiness’ as an option?” They thundered! They demanded obedience. They said there would be hell to pay if we didn’t take care of these relationships entrusted into our care. We are many millennium away from such language. We may appreciate it as beautiful poetry or inspiring moral teaching, but we would rather participate in the life and troubles of our neighbor on a voluntary basis.

And too often we volunteer to live alone: apart, separate, unengaged, unconscious or as John Muir described us, “like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.” How have we lost our sympathy, our understanding that we are all in this together? Three ways quickly come to mind. Best illustrated by three stories.

First Story: The Black Sheep and the White Sheep by Catholic priest and writer, Anthony DeMello.

A shepherd was grazing his sheep when a passerby said, “That’s a fine flock of sheep you have. Could I ask you something about them?” “Of course,” said the shepherd. Said the man, “How much would you say your sheep walk each day?” “Which ones, the white ones or the black ones?” asked the shepherd. “The white ones.” “Well, the white ones walk about four miles a day.” “And the black ones?” “The black ones too.”

“And how much grass would you say they eat each day?” “Which ones, the white or the black?” “The white ones.” “Well, the white ones eat about four pounds of grass each day.” “And the black ones?” “The black ones eat about four pounds of grass each day.” “And how much wool would you say they give each year?” “Which ones, the white or the black?” “The white ones.” “Well, I’d day the white ones give some six pounds of wool each year at shearing time.” “And the black ones?” “The black ones too.”

The passerby was intrigued. “May I ask you why you have this strange habit of dividing your sheep into white and black each time you answer one of my questions?” “Well,” said the shepherd, “that’s only natural. The white ones are mine, you see.” “Ah! And the black ones?” “The black ones too,” said the shepherd.

And then DeMello adds, “The human mind makes foolish divisions in what Love sees as One.” The first rupture of relationship comes when we separate and divide.

Second story: appearing in a new philosophy book entitled, Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington, DC.

Melvin was dying. He was old, very old, He had seen much suffering in his life. Trudy, his wife, was seated on the edge of the bed, wiping his brow. They had lived together for more than seventy years.

“Tell me, Trudy, do you remember the Depression years when we barely had enough to get by?” he asked her.

“Of course. I remember. I was with you through all that,” Trudy answered.

“Do you remember the lean years after the war, when I was working two jobs and going to school?”

“Of course. I was with you then too, my love.”

“Were you with me when I lost my job?”

“Of course, my love. I’ve been with you. Always.”

Melvin was silent for a moment. Then he looked at his loving wife, “You see Trudy, I think you were bad luck.”

The second rupture of relationship? Blame and criticism, pushing others away and projections.
And the third relationship killer? Something called the inner tyrant—insisting that you get to call the shots, that you must be the one in control, that you get to be the judge and the jury on your own life, and everyone else’s.

This story is true. One of my nephews was asked by his mother (when he was 3 ½ years old), “Please pick up your toys now.” And he turned to his Mom with hands on his hips and said, “You’re not the boss of me!”

What happens when we get older? When adults say to God, say to their neighbor, say to their spouse, say to their boss, “You’re not the boss of me!” While no one ought to be bullied or pushed around, sometimes we take our independence so seriously that we forget that we are called to work with, to comfort and to adjust. But the little, inner tyrant only wants to have its own way.
Divisiveness, blame and arrogance all cut at the root of our connectedness with one another and with God. All of the common human failings call us to repentance. All remind us that we need to turn in new directions. Ashes and sackcloth and traditional fasting will not do. We are called in this Lenten season to return to what is most essential. And when it comes to right relationship there are three actions that can begin to heal our wounds: service, sustainability, and vulnerability.

Beginning with service. Bob Dylan wrote, “You are going to have to serve somebody…well it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody!” But why stop with those two choices? You can serve your own selfish, small agenda or you can serve the Beloved Community. You can serve the least of them or the most powerful. You can serve the highest and most enduring vision you’ve ever encountered, or you can sit at the altar of your television set, and serve the gods of entertainment. When we serve and how we serve and who we serve – these are choices we make with every breath we take.

Next: sustainability. Right relationship takes us immediately into our responsibility for the environment. Once we become conscious that our well-being (and our neighbor in Africa’s well-being) has everything to do with how our resources are used and allotted. (And that there are consequences to what we eat, and how we travel and what we buy and what we throw away) then we find ourselves within a “luminous organism of sacred responsibility.” This becomes our vocation and our privilege.

And the final remedy to bring us back into right relationship would be vulnerability. A subject that I know almost nothing about. Vulnerability is the capacity to face the challenges of your life with an open heart, with trust, with a willingness to take great risks, and to move closer to everyone you meet.

It is a mystery. It happened on that bus in Munich between strangers. It may happen in coffee hour after church today. It is the ongoing miraculous decision not to be afraid, guarded, independent or alone. It is to let the marble fall away from our shining surfaces and to greet one another as just one more struggling soul whom we have the opportunity to bless.

Right relationship, that is our calling. That is our sacred responsibility. That is what will teach us to live in peace.