Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough

The prophet Isaiah envisioned a day when, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”

In recent days, we’ve been inspired by the leadership of the young. We’ve seen more leadership coming out of Parkland, Florida, in the last few weeks than we’ve seen coming out of Washington in years.

Where elders have been cautious, the young have been brave.

Where elders have been silent, the young are speaking out.

Where the elders are sitting still, the young are walking out.

Where elders have been evasive, the young have been clear.

Where elders have been bought and paid for, the young have reminded us we still live in a free country.

We may not be able to agree on everything but surely we can agree that thoughts and prayers are not enough. Faith without works is dead.

Thoughts and Prayers

On Sunday February 25th our congregation, the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, held a vigil for the 17 students, teachers and staff killed at the Stoneman Douglass High School and for victims of gun violence all over the country who do not garner so much publicity. For the most part our speakers were young including child survivors of the shooting in our church on July 27, 2008, who are now teens and young adults.

We heard from close friends and mentors of Zaevion Dobson, an innocent victim and hero gunned down in a drive by shooting. We heard from activists in the Black Lives Matter movement and grassroots neighborhood activists trying to save lives. After the vigil there was much organizing for action, , signing petitions, sending postcards planning school walk outs and recruiting for the March for Our Lives in Washington DC on March 24.

I will leave you with some thoughts from Jennifer Kitts, a child survivor of the TVUUC church shooting who is now a young adult serving overseas in the Peace Corp “This time feels different. It didn’t at first but as the days passed and the debate became more thoughtful instead of the same re-used arguments I felt my spirit become energized. I watched as thousands of high schoolers dominated the most distractible news outlets for a week and a half. I have seen even the slimiest of politicians begin to lose their grip on the gun lobbies ‘sacred’ agenda. That is something. And most importantly, I have seen parents, teachers, survivors of so many previous tragedies come together to support each other and push forward for change. I see their strength and I feel their energy from 5,000 miles away. I never want to see another human being suffer the way I and so many others have. We must ban the gun that has been used in the 7 deadliest mass shootings in resent memory. The AR 15 has no place in the Unites States of America. I have to believe that this time is different, because it has to be.”

(Below are some links you can click on in order to see and listen to the young speak out.)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YweGJJC41aE&list=PLgup_gL_2CJFKfP9O5QOGJpNXfdDnFf7k

 

http://www.wbir.com/article/news/local/hundreds-gather-to-honor-gun-violence-victims-demand-change/51-523261959?utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_content=5a9386459ebbef0007f593bf&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook

 

https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/2018/02/25/parkland-shooting-vigil-knoxville-unitarian-universalist-church/367092002/

 

 

The Doors of Perception

My mind is prone to tangents. Recently, I’ve been listening to the music of the 1960’s rock group The Doors and pondering the words of William Blake that inspired the name of the band, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to us as it is, Infinite.” (Well actually he said “man” but I decided to expand it to “us.”)

Perception is a powerful thing. Related to my most recent mental tangent I read the biography of Jim Morrison No One Gets Out of Here Alive. (Apropos of nothing I got a real bargain on it, seventy five cents at a used book store.) Reading this book I couldn’t help but feel that the lead singer of The Doors was a real a$$hole. (I was going to use another word but my computer thesaurus didn’t have one -no results found.) Then I read another book Light My Fire by the band’s keyboardist Ray Manzarek and I came away with the impression that Morrison was sensitive, poetic, polite, witty, wise, prophetic, spiritual, a great friend and also capable of being a real a$$hole.

From these two books I conclude we are saved by friendship. Our friends see the good in us even if others can only see the bad. Our friends appreciate us even when others are repelled. The world may look at us through a glass darkly but our friends see us when the doors of perception are cleansed.

TheDoors_LightMyFire_Digital_Cover

One of the main reasons to join a church is to make friends. We need communities where others see us and value us. For this reason, we all have to do the work of keeping the doors of perception cleansed so that we can see each other and appreciate each other for what we really are, Infinite.

Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception was about mescaline but one does not need drugs to awaken to realization (and the high levels of addiction in our culture suggest need more sustainable and less consumerist paths to experiences of the transcendent – meditation, music, art, creativity, prayer, mindfulness etc.) The Quakers are known for their sobriety, even so, they tell us to look for “that of God in every person.” Many of 19th century Unitarians were teetotalers but they advised us to seek “the divine spark in every person.” The poet William Blake would tell us that we can hold infinity in the palm of our hand and “eternity in an hour.”

My mental tangent about The Doors began in December when I decided a good title for the homily for the Christmas Eve candlelight service would be, “Come On Baby, Light My Fire” as a way of bringing together the nativity story with the fire related traditions of Hanukkah, Advent, Kwanzaa and  winter solstice. If you missed this homily you can check it out on YouTube and sing along with everybody else (see below link.) To paraphrase the words of the religious educator Sophia Fahs, “When the doors of perception are cleansed every night is a holy night and every child a holy child.” That’s a good thought for Christmas eve or any night or day of the year.

My mind is prone to tangents. I like to explore new areas of thought. “There are the things you know about and the things you don’t,” said Jim Morrison, “the known and the unknown, and in between there are the doors.” I suppose every poet/songwriter has an element of pretentiousness. Even so, this should not deter us from walking through the doors of our church, greeting a new person, turning a stranger into a friend and by so doing discover the Infinite.