Invocation for the Inauguration

Mindful of our Jewish neighbors who are keeping the Sabbath today who can’t be with us body but are with us in spirit let us enter into that spirit of prayer that includes us all. Let us pray

God, Giver of Life and Love, your servant Meister Eckhart once said, “If the only prayer we ever utter is thank you it will be sufficient.” And so we say thank you.

We thank you for this little city on the Tennessee River that we love more than words can say.

We thank you for our newly elected leaders and for their opponents who gave us a contest of ideas that strengthened our democracy.

We thank you for the suffragists memorialized on Market Square who worked hard for this moment.

We thank you for the Knoxville College students who led the civil rights sit-ins that allow us to sit together today and for the storyteller in Morningside Park and his ancestors who remind us to “Find the Good and Praise It.”

We thank you for activists filled with Pride who labored for the day when the Henley Street Bridge would be illuminated by all the colors of the rainbow flag.

Thank you for the organizers of the World’s Fair, the Hola Festival , the Greek fest, the Asian festval, the KUUMBA fest, the Arab fest, India fest, the Rossini festival, the Knoshville Jewish food festival, the Blue Plate Special and so many other events that remind us that ours is a city where people of all kinds can find common ground and work for together for the common good and we can raise our children together to be ready for the world.

We thank you for the civic leaders of the past who looked at boarded up buildings and saw business opportunities, abandoned hotels and saw housing, utility service lines and saw greenways, industrial quarries and saw swimming holes, neglected land and saw urban wilderness and urban farms

We thank you for this new generation of leaders about to take their oath of office who dream new dreams and see new visions. We ask that you guide their feet, their hands, their hearts and their minds while they run our city.

Guide them as they work with us so that together house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood, business by business, we can make our entire city the nicest place in America, a city on a hill with the eyes of the world upon us, a special place that will always be home sweet home. For these and many other blessings we say, thank you and Amen.

(This invocation was given on December 21, 2019 for the Inauguration of Indya Kincannon as Mayor along with new members of City Council)

Inauguration 2019

When Everything Isn’t Enough

When I was in college I decided two things. I decided I did not want to be rich or famous. The impressive thing is I’ve been able to achieve both goals at a relatively young age. You might say I am the Bill Gates of underachievers, the Oprah of obscurity, the Adele of anonymity, the Steve Jobs of simplicity. Or you could just say I “nailed it.”

Of course, I am only 55 years old so there is still time for me to blow it. However, at present I seem to be on track to avoid both wealth and fame. And according to Rabbi Harold Kushner that’s a good thing. In his book When Everything You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough he reminds us “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little different for our having passed through it.”

Of course, in the eyes of much of the world the non-materialistic person is a failure. We give homage to spirituality. We remind each other that “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” We quote the scripture, “Do not store up your treasures on earth, where moths destroy and thieves break in and steal.” And yet one of the fastest growing industries in America is storage space.

Just the other day I noticed a new self-storage business in West Knoxville that is four stories tall, a veritable high rise of storage. It looks like our clutter is moving on up in the world. Economists estimate that there is 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space in our country creating a 38 billion dollar industry.

We are in the midst of the holiday season when gift giving is the order of the day. I believe it is no coincidence that the four story self storage business is right across the street from West Town Mall where the parking lots are full and the streets jammed with traffic because of holiday shopping and people are buying more things that may end up in storage.

Of course, you don’t even have to go to the mall to accumulate possessions anymore. All we have to do is click. However we shop, we have to admit that it is a time of year when it can be tempting to store up our treasures on earth.

Many years ago, I taught a class on Buddhism here at the church and I pointed out that the Buddha stated that it is our desires are what make us miserable. I often say that if you doubt our desires make us miserable all you have to do is take a small child to a Toys R Us store and ask yourself, “Is this child happier than they were before?” Anyone who has witnessed a meltdown on aisle three knows the answer to that question. Such moments are a very dramatic example of the ways our desires can make us miserable. Of course, I believe Toys R Us isn’t even a box store anymore. It’s an on-line business. And this should make us think. How much time do our children and youth spend on-line these days? Is all that time leading to more or less happiness?

Speaking of on-line shopping. By now everyone on earth has heard of the show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and we are all familiar with her advise that we should go through our homes, pick up things and ask ourselves the question, “Does it spark joy?” If it does we should keep it. If it does not we should let it go in order to simplify our lives.

Of course, paradoxically, Marie Kondo now has her own on-line store so that you can buy more stuff. Her website says, “The goal of tidying is to make room for meaningful objects, people and experiences. I can think of no greater happiness in life than being surrounded only by the things I love.” Hmmmmmm, well this may be true, but if we are not carefully even the most meaningful objects might end up in a storage unit.

The proverb tells us, “Money can’t buy happiness.” However, the link between the spiritual world and the material world is not that simple. Those who make less that $10,000 a year report the highest levels of depression in our country. However, those who earn more than $80,000 report more depression than those who make between $30,000-$39,000. How do we account for that? I don’t know for certain – but I do have a theory. Perhaps it is because when we are poor we are depressed because we can’t have anything we want. Whereas when we are wealthier we are depressed because we cannot have everything we want.

To use my Toys R Us metaphor – If we can’t afford to go to the toy store we may be miserable but if we can go to the toy store and we can make it to aisle three then we may be miserable for entirely different reasons.

The Tao Te Ching says that a society where people value owning a lot of possessions will be a society with a lot of burglaries, theft and crime. A society where there is a lot of conspicuous consumption will be a place where there is very little peace.

Greed

When the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association was in Long Beach, CA, I discovered I could take the Metro Rail to Hollywood. On that Metro Line there were moments when I was the only white person in the car as we traveled through neighborhoods of every income level from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. The closer we got to the wealth the more white people there were on the train. By the time I got to Hollywood I understood why Los Angeles periodically erupts in rioting.

Mahatma Gandhi was a religious leader but he said it is wrong to talk about religion to the hungry, “To the poor God can only appear as bread.” To the homeless God can only appear as shelter and warmth. When it comes to basic necessities, food, water, shelter, we need to get some basic requirements met before we can contemplate the more spiritual dimensions of living.

And yet once these basic requirements are met we may begin to hunger for meaning, thirst for purpose, seek the warmth of a spiritual community, a church, a synagogue, a mosque.

Western countries that have doubled or tripled their wealth over the last 50 years have not doubled or tripled their level of happiness. As living standards increase expectations change, new desires emerge and other options open up. So living standards improve but happiness rates remain relatively flat.

If the Unitarian Universalist church has a patron saint of simplicity it is Henry David Thoreau, who grew up in a Unitarian church but chose to live the life of a hermit on the shores of Walden Pond for a period of his life, building his own home, living close to nature, spending less time earning a living and more time on life. When our youth group goes on its Boston Heritage Trip we always take a pilgrimage to Walden Pond.

Here are some things Henry David Thoreau had to say about material possessions, “Superfluous wealth can buy only superfluities. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.””Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity, I say let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail.” “Most luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensible, but positive hindrances to the elevation of (hu)mankind. The ancient philosophers, Chinese, Hindoo, Persian and Greek, were a class than which none has been poorer in outward riches, none so rich in inward.”

Of course, one of the reasons Thoreau could lead such a simple life is because he was single. He did not have a brood of children looking forward to a visit from Santa Claus. If he ever did have kids I’d hate to think how disappointed they would be on Christmas morning.

Christmas has even influenced Judaism to be more materialistic this time of year. Any rabbi will tell you that Chanukah isn’t even a very important holiday on the Jewish calendar. However, every Jewish parent will tell you that you need something special this time of year to compete with Christmas. That’s how we got presents for Chanukah. It’s like the comedian Adam Sandler sings,

“Hanukkah is
The Festival of Lights
Instead of one day of presents
We have eight crazy nights!”

Our culture encourages consumerism this time of year, for this reason I decided to schedule this sermon after the church auction. So whatever our religious beliefs this is a challenging time of year to focus on the spiritual more than the material.

If you’re a single man living alone in a hut by a remote pond more power to you. However, the rest of us are going to have to struggle a little harder to find simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! None of us is perfect when it comes to simplicity. For instance why did Thoreau write “simplicity” three times? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to write in once? However, Thoreau is correct that the pursuit of outward riches should never distract us from the discovery of inward ones.

Jonathan Haidt is a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who studies human happiness. In his book The Happiness Hypothesis he writes, “Buddhism and Stoicism teach that striving after external goods is always striving after the wind. Happiness can only be found within, by breaking attachments to external things and cultivating an attitude of acceptance.” “…striving to obtain goods and goals in the external world cannot bring you more than momentary happiness. You must work on your internal world….people today devote themselves to the pursuit of goals that won’t make them happier, in the process neglecting the sort of inner growth and spiritual development that could bring lasting satisfaction.”

Many years ago I took my kids on a science field trip with Spartanburg, South Carolina’s answer to Bill Nye the Science Guy. Mr. Green was his name, and he was the head of the local science center. We took a group of kids on a hike in search of a beaver dam. One of the kids seemed particularly excited as we walked but when we got to the beaver dam he had the equivalent of a meltdown on aisle three. The kid cried out, “I thought we were going to see a beaver lodge!” Without skipping a beat Mr. Green pointed to me and said to the kid, “Do you see this man?” Needless to say I felt put on the spot but M. Green continued, “This man has studied philosophy and all of philosophy can be summed up in one sentence – if you don’t have it appreciate what you do have.”

Mr. Green made a very important point. While it might not be a summary of all of philosophy, it was a good condensing of one of the key points of Buddhist and Stoic philosophy, “If you don’t have it, appreciate what you do have.” Another philosopher summarized it by saying, “Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are.”

So in conclusion let me say, I may not be Bill Gates. I may not be Oprah or Adele or Steve Jobs or Bono or Lady Gaga, nevertheless, I can want what I have, do what I can and be who I am and so can you. Nothing more can be required of us. If we do this much then we can say we nailed it.

(Rev. Chris Buice gave this sermon at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday, December 14, 2020)

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Will Be Well (or Will It?)

The medieval mystic Julian of Norwich offered us words of comfort that have come down through the ages when she wrote, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

These are soothing words, the kind of words we use to reassure children when we tuck them into bed at night. For similar reasons we may use these same words to reassure our selves when we are facing challenging circumstances.

Paradoxically, telling ourselves “All shall be well,” may be most helpful in those moments when we feel like all is not well; when a good outcome is not inevitable, when the worst case scenario seems plausible, when everything is falling apart and nothing is going right.

A pure rationalist will want to discount these words. After all how can you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that all shall be well? To assert, “All shall be well,” is not a very rational thing to do. To say “All shall be well” is to make a statement of faith not fact.

I have a friend who grew up in a Unitarian church in California. She once told a theology school professor about a conversation she had with her father when she was a little girl. The two were watching the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean when she asked, “Will the sun go down every night?” and her father responded, “Well thus far it has gone down every night so it is pretty safe to assume it will continue to do so.” Alice’s professor chimed in, “You’ve just told me a lot about your (Unitarian) faith.”

Yes, Unitarians are different. Of course, a pure rationalist will want to point out that the sun does not actually go down at night. The sun does not rise or set. It is the earth that is turning. So Alice’s father could have just as easily said, “No Alice the sun will not go down at night every night but it is pretty safe to assume that earth will continue rotating on it’s axis.”

I mention this story because we are in that time of year when days are getting shorter and nights are getting longer and there is some evidence that this change caused early human beings a lot of anxiety. When Elton John wrote the song, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” he was giving voice to a very ancient fear. For this reason, human beings came up with rituals to mark the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, rituals that serve as a reminder that the sun will not go away forever; that we do not live in an arbitrary universe. There are cycles and seasons. Marking such occasions can be our way of telling our selves ““all shall be well.”

Quotation-Julian-of-Norwich-All-shall-be-well-and-all-shall-be-well-and-35-82-04

In other words, the neo-lithic standing stones of Avesbury, Carnac and Stonehenge or the Mayan pyramids of Central America and other monuments throughout the world serve as a sort of comfort to human beings in the midst of a world that is constantly turning and rotating around the sun.

I recently saw a segment from a late night comedy show that really drove home what is wrong with the world today. The host Jimmy Kimmel told his studio audience that the United Nations had released a report that millions of species are in danger of extinction so he decided to send a reporter out on the streets to ask people the question, “Are the homo sapiens worth saving?” A surprising number of people didn’t think so. As one person answered, “ I don’t know what a homo sapien is. If they are going extinct it is very sad. But at the end of the day I don’t care.” Another person suggested our money might be better spent improving the highways and the railroads rather than saving the “homo sapiens.” Another seemed particularly hostile saying, “Homo sapiens, let them die. Save the humans.”

Well that television segment goes a long way toward illustrating the problems we are facing as a species since “homo sapiens” is just another word for human beings. I am reminded of the words of Rabbi Hillel, “If we are not for ourselves who will be?”

Anthropologists have noted that one of the things that make homo sapiens different from other species is our use of ritual. We are ritual creating animals. Many of these rituals involve the mysteries of birth and death or the cycles of the seasons. As the philosopher Immaneul Kant once observed, “Two things fill me with breathless awe-the starry night above and the moral law within.” Rituals are a way to align our inner lives with the outward universe creating a sense of order from what might otherwise feel like chaos.

During the recent celebration of the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, my friend Bhavna Vora posted these words on her Facebook page, “I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.”

She is touching on a theme that can be found is Diwali but also in Chanukah or Saint Lucia day or Kwaanza or Advent or Christmas or the Winter Solstice. This is a time of year when we participate in rituals that celebrate light in a time of darkness. I hate to admit it but even the tackiest display of holiday lights tends to cheer me up. I remember there was one house where the light show created the image of Santa being shot from a canon into a chimney. It was tacky but it did cheer me up.

The kinds of rituals may have been created to address anxiety; fears that the sun would go down forever and that light might never return. However, the rituals also help in response to depression. For this is the time of seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D. when the absence of light can lead people to feel down and depressed. Indeed medical science has show that there is a very close link between longer periods of darkness and anxiety and depression. So we are in the midst of a season of rituals that help us adjust to the changes in the world around us.

When I was in college my friend Kahin used to throw parties in the middle of winter and Bob Marley was always a big part of the soundtrack and we would all join in singing, “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing is going to be all right.” Friends that’s the reggae version of Julian Norwich’s “All shall be well.”

During the cold winter months it can be tempting to isolate and hibernate. The problem is isolation tends to deepen depression. One of the ways to combat depression is to circulate and socialize. So going to a party or an open house can be such a ritual.

Of course, sometimes the party comes to us in the form of Christmas carolers who knock on our door and put on an impromptu concert. I recognize that in a multi-cultural society Christmas carolers might cause offense if you are Jewish or Muslim or humanist or something else. But in my experience Christmas caroling is not about converting people so much as an effort to brighten someone’s long winter night. It’s less about theology and more about community. A Bob Marley song on our doorstep might have the same effect. It can be a way for strangers to reach out to each other in a season of depression and say, “Don’t worry, every little thing is gonna be alright.” “All shall be well.”

The Sermon the Mount tells us not to worry about a thing; to be like the lilies of the field. This is easier said than done. The problem is we are not lilies of the field. We are homo sapiens. So we may need a different strategy than flowers.

The Dalai Lama of Tibet offers us a more human strategy to combat worries. He reminds us that worrying about a problem does not really address the problem. If we can do something about the problem then we should do it and stop worrying about it. If we cannot do anything about it then we should stop worrying because no amount of worry will do any good.

Of course, in the reading I shared earlier Rosemary Bray McNatt reminds us that some of us worry more than others for good reason. Some of us are more vulnerable than others in an age when it is not abundantly clear that black lives matter. In many ways, worrying is a very logical and rational thing to do based on the evidence. To tell someone else, “Don’t worry” can come across as a very privileged position. So the Sermon on the Mount says don’t worry and Rosemary Bray McNatt says it’s okay to worry and that paradox will not be resolved by this sermon this morning.

Even so, I am reminded of spiritual writer Corrie Ten Boom who belonged to a family in the Netherlands that helped harbor Jews from the Nazi Holocaust. So needless to say her childhood was not anxiety free. Nevertheless she said, “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once.” To use the language of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step programs when it comes to worrying we need to take things one day at a time, to use today’s strength for today.

This winter has been a season of loss for us here at this church. This week there was death close the congregation. Rick Wise, the former spouse of our church administrator Claudia Pressley, died, the father of Arman and Kimmie. On Tuesday Claudia told me that on the week before Rick died one of his friends took it upon herself to decorate his home for the holidays, bringing some Christmas lights into a time of darkness. This ritual might not work for everyone. Bob Porter, of blessed memory, hated Christmas. However, the decorations worked for Rick. Personally, I got a little teary eyed as Claudia was telling me the story because I realized it would work for me under similar circumstances. In a season of darkness it is good to feel surrounded by love and light. We homo sapiens need rituals when we are coming into the world and when we are leaving, rituals of comfort.

This week my sister reminded me that it had been 13 years since our mother died. When my mom was dying my siblings and I warned her that we were going to read all her journals after she died. That gave her time to burn any incriminating evidence.

And so after her death I found myself reading her words in her journal about the day I was born. My birth was not an easy birth. I got the umbilical chord wrapped around my neck. I was at risk of strangulation and so they had to do a cesarean section. So for the rest of her life my mom had a scar on her body where I came into the world. In her diary I read about her fears and anxieties on the day I was born. I also read the words she repeated to herself to give herself comfort during my very problematic and dangerous birth, “all shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

So I came into this world with those words and I may very well go out of this world with those words and so I will end this sermon by inviting everyone to say those words to each other, “all shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

(Rev. Chris Buice gave this sermon on Sunday, December 8, 2019, at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church)

 

Imperfect Thanksgivings

Recently Anne Whitney shared with me a different version of the song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” that goes like this,

If you are happy and you know it overthink. If you are happy and you know it overthink. If you are happy and you know it give your brain a chance to blow it. If you are happy and you know it overthink.

Perhaps she was moved to share this with me because I have a tendency to overthink. There are days when I have stock phrase when someone asks me the standard question, “How are things going?” My stock answer is, “Everything is going very, very well but that does not prevent me from having a bad attitude about it.”

I am pretty sure I am not the only person in this room who has brought a bad attitude to an otherwise wonderful day. As John Milton so aptly observed, ““The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..”

I remember when I was a new minister I found many different ways to make myself miserable. After a service if someone came up to me and said, “That was a great sermon!” instead of feeling grateful I would hear some deeply dysfunctional inner voice say, “Wow, now you’ve got to do the same thing NEXT WEEK.! Man, that’s a lot of PRESSURE!” Now, this sounds comical but I assure you at the time it was very real and led to very real misery. However, I am happy to say that I have experienced spiritual growth since that time and so now if someone compliments a sermon I will simply say, “Thank you.”

One of the obstacles to happiness is the idea that we have to get everything right. Perfectionism is the enemy of inner peace. At such times we are wise to remember the words of the poet Killian McDonnell who reminds us,

the Venus de Milo
has no arms,
the Liberty Bell is
cracked
.

Imperfection need not blind us to the beauty of life. I am reminded of the story of a Buddhist monk who joined a monastery and took a vow of silence. Once a year he was allowed to say two words to his teacher. The first year he said, “Bed hard.” The second year he said, “Food bad.” The third year he said, “Rooms cold.” And on the fourth year he said, “I quit.” His teacher replied, “I’m not surprised, ever since you got here all you’ve done is complain.”

In Buddhism it is believed that good actions result in good consequences or good karma and that bad actions result in bad consequences or bad karma. So occasionally there will be a debate what actions produce the worst karma And while some might suggest that lying or cheating or stealing or killing might be the worst karma I once heard a Buddhist teacher say, “The worst karma is to be ungrateful. If you suffer from ungratefulness then it won’t matter what goodness exists in your life, you won’t be capable of receiving it.”

I think most of us, at some time or another, practice this the worst form of karma. We are so aware of the hard bed that we forget to be grateful for the roof over our head. We are so aware of the bad food that we forget to be grateful that we will not go hungry today.

There is a proverb that tells us, “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.” Oddly enough medical research backs up the proverb. I was recently reading an article published by the Harvard Medical School about an experiment. Researchers created three groups. They asked one group to keep a gratitude journal where they wrote about things they were thankful for. They asked another group to keep a journal of their daily irritations and pet peeves. They asked a third group simply to keep a journal. At the end of the study they discovered that the people who kept the gratitude journal were not only happier but also healthier – reporting fewer medical conditions or trips to a physicians office. For this reason the Harvard Medical School actually prescribes gratitude and recommends specific actions like keep a gratitude journal, write a thank you note, pray or meditate or find some other way to count your blessings on a daily basis. In other words, gratitude is just what the doctor ordered.

Last weekend I was out of town for the ordination and installation of Kim Mason as minister of the First Unitarian Church of Saint Louis. You can give a “Woot!” if you’d like to for our former Director of Lifespan Religious Education. This morning I am also very thankful for Catherine Farmer Loya who so ably leads the program now and has brought so much creativity and hard work to the cornbread communion ritual we will share today.

While in Saint Louis I went to the museum at the Gateway Arch where I spent extra time on a section dedicated to Native American culture I looked up to see these words projected onto the wall, “From 1778 to 1871, the United States government entered into more than 500 treaties with the Native American tribes; all of these treaties have since been violated in some way or outright broken by the US government.”

These words remind us that Thanksgiving is a very problematic holiday so much so that some Native American have renamed it Thanks-grieving – a time to grieve betrayal, grieve genocide, grieve forced relocation, grieve lost cultures. Too often this holiday gives us an oversimplified narrative of a painful history. We hear stories of the Pilgrims and the Indians eating together in peace and not the Trail of Tears or the massacre at Sand Creek. At this year’s General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association we will be taking an honest backward look as part of the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock.

standing rock

When I first heard the term Thanks-grieving it sounded like a contradiction in terms. However, the more I think about it the more I realize how interwoven grief is with thankfulness. Our congregation is in the midst of a season of loss. Last week we had a memorial service for Jerry Anderson. Yesterday we said goodbye to BJ McNair. This afternoon there is an open house where we will say goodbye to Bob Porter. Next Saturday we will say goodbye to Kenneth Honeycutt. I am reminded of the words of the poet William Blake, “Joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine. Under every grief and pine, runs a joy with silken twine.” We are saddened by the death of friends but we are also grateful that they lived and that we had the chance to know them.

On World AIDS Day we are reminded of all the beautiful people who have been taken from us because of this terrible disease. Grateful for life, saddened by death, today is a day of thanks-grieving.

My friend Johnny Skinner, minister of the Mount Zion Baptist Church often says, “The scripture tells us, ‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ it does not say, ‘Give thanks for all circumstances.” In other words, our thanksgiving can be mixed with thanks-grieving.

The Shawnee chief Tecumseh was no stranger to betrayal or broken treaties. He was no stranger to grieving. He once said (and this is relevant for thanksgiving), “When the white men first set foot on our grounds, they were hungry; they had no place on which to spread their blankets, or to kindle their fires. They were feeble; they could do nothing for themselves. Our fathers commiserated their distress, and shared freely with them whatever the Great Spirit had given his red children. They gave them food when hungry, medicine when sick, spread skins for them to sleep on, and gave them grounds, that they might hunt and raise corn. The white people came among us feeble; and now that we have made them strong, they wish to kill us, or drive us back, as they would wolves and panthers.”

We remember Tecumseh in part because he decided to fight back. He organized a confederacy of tribes to serve as resistance to oppression. But his odds for success were never great and he ultimately died a courageous death for the cause. He could have been a bitter or angry man. Instead history remembers him as a man who practiced gratitude. He did not resist oppression because he was bitter or angry (although those feelings were present.) He resisted because he was grateful for his tribe, grateful for his loved ones, grateful for life.

As he once said, “When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

So in this time of Thanksgiving (and in this time of thanks-grieving) I invite you remember the words of Tecumseh. And if in the midst of your sorrow you can also feel gratitude and joy then – don’t overthink.

(Rev. Chris Buice gave this sermon on Sunday December 1, 2019 at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.)