Author Archives: revnaomi

Memorial Day 2012 Prayer

Courageous Love we join together in remembrance today, in honor of all those who have died defending their country, in honor all those who have sought to serve freedom and human rights and dignity and sacrificed and died in that service. Courageous Love, let us not forget them, but remember our friends, our family, and our neighbors. Let none who have so sacrificed be a stranger to us. Strengthen us to carry on their stories, to care for their friends, their families, and their neighbors as our own, to give the help they would have given, to mentor the children they would have mentored, to love boldly and truly in their memory. Bring comfort to the families and friends who mourn, waking in the night aware only of their losses, yearning for what can no longer be. Bring comfort to the friends and family who wonder why, who struggle with loneliness, who need others to hold fiercely to the memory of those who are lost. Let us learn the lesson of the great cost of war and from that learn how to be better neighbors to one another, how to love past our differences, how to bring a free peace and the chance for a life of dignity in tribute to and in memory of those who died doing the same. Courageous Love, sometimes we have awful sacrifices to endure; grant us the courage today to help one another endure and find our way in memory to a creating a more loving, a more merciful, and more just world. Amen.

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Rachel Sabbath Prayer: Mothers Day 2012

The Rachel Sabbath is a weekend of learning and prayer and commitment to community action for global maternal health. To learn more about the Rachel Sabbath, or help out, click here for the Religious Institute.

A Prayer for the Rachel Sabbath 2012

Lover of Life strengthen us in our reverence for life and our care for those who bear new life, who bring us the present and the future. On this Mothers Day weekend, let us give thanks for those who brought us into the world, and thanks for those who raised us, thanks for our parents whether blood or adopted or chosen, thanks for those who mentored and supported and sustained us in good times and in ill. Let us give thanks and with our thanksgiving reach out to help one another in raising this new generation, in bearing each other up and on as some among us bear children. Let us remember those who are mothers in dire circumstances, those who struggle to parent, those who struggle for life, and in our remembering, may we recommit ourselves to their care, their health, and their friendship. Lover of Life we have so many blessings to give thanks for, and so many more blessings to care for, grow, and share. On this Mothers Day may we bring blessings to the bearers of life, to the caregivers and caretakers, the blessings of health and help, friendship and care, on this day and in every day of our lives. Amen.

 

Service Project: Rosalind’s Adventure – Shakespeare for Girls

Rosalind’s Adventure: Shakespeare for Girls

Inspired by the Viola Project in Chicago, Rosalind’s Adventure is a series of performance based workshops for middle school and high school girls, where they will learn to speak the speech, go once more into the breech, and give up their kingdom for a horse. Named for one of Shakespeare’s kick butt cross-dressing heroines, Rosalind’s Adventure is an exciting way for girls to explore whomever they want to be, unbound by race, gender, or age — from Lady Macbeth to Hamlet.

Have a deep love of Shakespeare? Want to volunteer? Please contact Andie Arthur at andie.arthur@gmail.com. If you have specific qualifications (such as experience teaching stage combat or if you have spent a decade grappling with the text of Cymbeline), please let her know — so we can best use your gifts.

Our first workshop will be at the Ft. Lauderdale Children’s Theatre on Saturday March 17th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM.

Generosity Day – Today and Every Day

How do we truly know we are loveable and loved?

Meeting generous words and actions helps.

One of the ways we show love is to say ordinary extraordinary things.

We notice what those we love are doing and tell them in encouraging ways.

Another way we show love is through ordinary extraordinary actions.

We do things for and with the people we love from a generous, open-hearted place.

Truth is that one of the ways we share the love we know from the Holy is to be loving with people we do not know with total strangers.

Have you ever been the recipient of someone’s generous, unexpected act? from someone you did not know?

One time, after my wallet was stolen, a stranger fed me and bought me a train ticket home. It changed my life.  I’ve been feeding people I don’t know, people who are scared and lost and hurting, ever since then. Generosity really does make a difference.

One time, after not seeing a former friend for many years, that friend reached out and sought to repair our relationship. It was a generous and bold act. Generosity really does make a difference.

One time…my life is full of those separate ordinary extraordinary experiences of generosity.

Generosity is one of the ways we show love, our love and the love of the Holy.

Today, will you join others in Generosity Day?

Tomorrow, will you carry on that joy?

Your Neighbor’s Dreams

How are you caring for your neighbor’s dreams? Is this a startling question for you? How do you answer it? Do you know your neighbors well enough to know their dreams? How different are your neighbor’s dreams from your own? How similar?

 

Although caring for our neighbor is one of the ways we care for and live our love for the Holy, many of us have learned that caring for our neighbor involves giving time in service to good community and ecological causes, giving money to care for those struggling with poverty, imprisonment, and illness, paying taxes to support healthy communities and a healthy world, and keeping the volume of our personal soundtrack at a personal level, at least during the wee hours of the morning. Our neighbor in all of these scenarios is either abstract or an object, not real people like us with real struggles and real celebrations and real dreams.

 

As we answer the call to live humbly, love the Holy, and love our neighbors (strangers, enemies) as ourselves, how can we do this without knowing and having respect for our neighbors’ dreams?  The neighbors we know, more of us call friends and consider those people in the “ourselves” category, a category that includes friends, kin, country, and self.

 

Do you know your neighbor’s dreams well enough to care for those dreams? Do your neighbors know yours well enough to care for them? Living, healthy, vibrant communities are ones where we can say yes to both of those questions – for they are communities where we connect past the “I” and live into steadfast love of the Holy, present and calling us back to the courage to be vulnerable as well as the courage to care.

Evangelism Weekend

City of Refuge is working with the Beloved to help end hell on earth.

One of the ways we’re answering that call is building a multicultural, multiclass, multigenerational faith community one heart at a time.

If that’s your mission too, we would be honored and delighted to have you join us on an evangelism weekend in western Broward County, Florida.

February 17-20, 2012

This is a weekend for those new to door-to-door evangelism. You can learn  about evangelism and help an emerging Unitarian Universalist faith community  build toward launch. More details to follow. If you’re interested in participating in the weekend, contact our Teaching Pastor, Rev. Naomi – revnaomi@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @RevNaomi

Extraordinary Takes Ordinary Together

Extraordinary people do work with other extraordinary people to accomplish amazing things – for example, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel working together for peace, equality, and justice.

But extraordinary people mostly work with ordinary people like you and me to accomplish amazing things. Ordinary people show up when the going is tough, when life is extra dangerous, when the air reeks of fear, and when the dull tedium of staying fast grinds away at our spirits. These ordinary people are the folks whose generous creative daily endeavors really make the extraordinary possible.

Extraordinary happens when ordinary works together in generous, courageous, creative, steadfast love.

Civil Rights came about in the United States – and continue to be defended when they are threatened, such as with recent efforts to disenfranchise more people – because ordinary people show up generous and present in every day. Irena Sendler was able to be part of saving more than 2500 children in Poland during the Holocaust because of ordinary people who showed up and risked everything. Lives have been saved through crowd-sourcing peace projects like PeaceTxt. Lives are being changed through multifaith youth leadership working together with the Interfaith Youth Core. Name a life-changing project, program, or community event. Chances are that was brought to you by ordinary people committed to extraordinary generosity and steadfast love.

Are you a Jesus follower?  We have the ordinary people Joseph and Mary to thank and so many more ordinary people along the way. Is Moses one of your sources of inspiration and wisdom? We have rebellious midwives and resisting parents to thank, and many, many more ordinary people who were with Moses. Who first was with the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)? Ordinary people were – a slave named Abu Bakr and the Prophet’s wife, Khadija, and a child, Ali Ibn Abou Taleb. Look to your faith tradition: who are the ordinary people showing up in steadfast love to help make the extraordinary happen?

One of our blessings is that we cannot do extraordinary things alone. We need each other, our diverse gifts, our differing experiences, our varied ways of being to accomplish extraordinary goodness. We can contribute to trouble together. We can contribute to generous compassion and courageous love together.

What you do can make a real difference. What you don’t do makes a real difference. How will you show up today, tomorrow, and next week for the extraordinary goodness that can happen through steadfast love?

 

Heri Za Kwanzaa

Heri za Kwanzaa! Happy Kwanzaa!

This post is for intentionally multicultural communities celebrating Kwanzaa. As an intentionally multicultural faith community, the Unitarian Universalist Association encouraged faith leaders to learn more about and honor Kwanzaa this year.

To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit the founder of Kwanzaa’s website
http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/index.shtml 

Kwanzaa is celebrated December 26 through January 1. Kwanzaa invites us into seven pan-African Black Power values. Dr. Maulana Karenga created the first Kwanzaa celebration in 1964. Now, two generations of children have grown up with Kwanzaa and more families choose to celebrate Kwanzaa each year. Intentionally multicultural communities also celebrate Kwanzaa, recognizing both the importance of a holiday honoring pan-African wisdom for everyone and the need to attend to cultivating pride and belonging to those rich sources of wisdom for a part of our community that still faces discrimination daily.
When celebrating Kwanzaa as intentionally multicultural communities, we pay particular attention to not adding values and culture that are from beyond the African Diaspora, so as not to violate the value of self-determination. The demands of assimilation and loss of culture is both a legacy of slavery and part of the daily struggle today, another of the practices of oppression and injustice Kwanzaa turns us away from. When Unitarian Universalists voted in the late 1960s to give a grant to Dr. Karenga for sharing the wisdom of Kwanzaa, we voted as an intentionally multicultural community to honor and support this principle of self-determination. Today, it might seem less revolutionary than it did in the late 1960s that healthy multicultural communities make room to honor each other’s differences and embody the principle of self-determination for each of the cultural communities that are part of the whole. Still, the learning continues for many of us. I am including links to Dr. Karenga’s website to encourage all of us to honor the wisdom of self-determination. http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/celeb-procedures.shtml
Celebrants set out a Mkeka (a woven grass mat) and place the Kinara, the Kwanzaa candle holder, upon it. Seven candles are set into the Kinara. Three of these candles are red, three are green. The center candle is black, celebrating the peoples of the African Diaspora. Red symbolizes the people’s struggle and green hope for the people’s future.  A unity cup, harvest crops, corn, and gifts are also placed on the Mkeka around the Kinara.
Each night, families and communities light candles and share stories, gifts, and wisdom that turn us to each of the Nguzo Saba. I have added questions to be asked in intentionally multicultural communities so that all might learn from the Nguzo Saba and honor self-determination, inviting stories and wisdom from members of the community who belong to the African Disapora.
December 26th – Light the black candle. The first principle is Umoja (Unity) in family, community, nation and race.
Questions for the community: Why is Umoja so important? What current conditions and what history make Umoja so necessary today? How is healthy multicultural community stronger because of Umoja?
December 27th – Light the black candle and the first red candle, symbolizing the people and the people’s struggle. The second principle is Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) in defining and naming ourselves, creating and speaking for ourselves.
Questions for the community: Why is Kujichagulia so important? What history and current conditions make Kujichagulia a value for every day? How do healthy multicultural communities embody Kujichagulia?
December 28th – Light the black candle and two red candles, symbolizing the people and the people’s struggle. The third principle is Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), growing and holding community together, solving our brothers’ and sisters’ problems together.
Questions for the community: Why is Ujima so important? What current conditions and history make Ujima still a struggle for today? How can healthy multicultural communities practice Ujima?
December 29th – Light the black candle and all three red candles, symbolizing the people and the people’s struggle. The fourth principle is Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), building and maintaining own stores, shops, and other businesses and for the the pan-African community to profit from them together.
Questions for the community: Why is Ujamaa so important? What history and current conditions make Ujamaa so important? Where do you and your family spend its money and work? How can healthy multicultural communities support a healthy economy for African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and African immigrants?
December 30th – Light the black candle, all three red candles, and the first green candle, symbolizing the people, the people’s struggle, and the people’s hopes. The fifth principle is Nia (Purpose), creating as our calling the building and development of the community in order to restore peoples of the African Diaspora to traditional greatness.
Questions for the community: Why is Nia so important? What current experiences, barriers, and attitudes challenge and distract from Nia? Why does Nia contribute to hope for the future? How do healthy multicultural communities support and live in solidarity with Nia?
December 31st – Light the black candle, all three red candles, and two green candles, symbolizing the people, the people’s struggle, and the people’s hopes. The sixth principle is Kuumba (Creativity), where we do as much as possible in every way we can to leave the community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.
Questions for the community: Why is Kuumba so important? What conditions, attitudes, barriers, and experiences work against Kuumba? Why does Kuumba contribute to hope for the future? How do healthy multicultural communities live creatively in solidarity and support with Kuumba?
January 1st – Light the black candle, all three red candles, and all three green candles, symbolizing the people, the people’s struggle, and the people’s hopes. The seventh principle is Imani (Faith), believing with all our hearts in our people, parents, teachers, leaders, and righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Questions for the community: Why is Imani so important? What attitudes, barriers, experiences and conditions work against Imani? Why does Imani contribute to hope for the future? How do healthy multicultural communities live in solidarity and support of Imani? Where are all our hearts?

Heri za Kwanzaa! Happy Kwanzaa!

May you have a wonderful Kwanzaa, whether for the first time or as a family tradition! May  our healthy multicultural faith communities honor the Nguzo Saba and grow stronger in our diverse wisdom and gifts!

Rededication

8 Nights of Hanukkah Blessings for Interfaith Families & Multifaith Communities

Hanukkah sweeps in tonight inviting all of us living in interfaith families and multicultural communities to honor the light shining boldly from each window, declaring a house of faith, a house dedicated and committed to the Holy, a house living and thriving in Jewish wisdom.

We need fortitude, forbearance, and fierce compassion to live in healthy interfaith families and multicultural communities. We need to be dedicated to the sources of wisdom, faith, and culture that vivify and guide each and all of us in reverence and faithfulness. There is no room for smashing the temple, desecrating the sacred, or dishonoring and denying what calls us to serve in steadfast love, humbly, and for merciful justice.

 

In addition to the traditional blessings each night when lighting the menorah, we may also choose to add another blessing – the blessings we choose each day in loving interfaith families, the blessings we choose to create in healthy multicultural communities. These additional eight blessings are offered in that spirit, as we turn again in dedicating ourselves to the Holy this Hanukkah.

1st Night

Blessed are You, Beloved, Keeper of the Whole, Creator of this marvelous and diverse world! You bless us with our differences, teaching us each day to choose wisely and preserve what is good. Blessed are You and your bearing us to this time together!

2nd Night

Blessed are You, Holy One, who creates a way where none has been before, a way of hope, a way of turning, a way of steadfast love with all peoples. May we light this way with you, miracle by miracle, wonder by wonder.

3rd Night

Blessed are You, Beloved, who make us part of your story, keepers of your commandments, builders of your way of steadfast love.

4th Night

Blessed are You, Holy One, who gives us every good and wonderful gift, including the gift of this family, this diverse and miracle-filled world.

5th Night

Blessed are You, Beloved, who offers us the blessing of turning back to you, rededicating our hearts each and every day.

6th Night

Blessed are You, Holy One, who has given us the gift of responsibility, the examples of our ancestors, and the health and goodness of this life to tend.

7th Night

Blessed are You, Beloved, who empowers all in your service, for you so blessed Judith and Esther, Ruth and Naomi, Tamar and Deborah, Hagar and Sarah, and so many, many more.

8th Night

Blessed are You, Holy One, Keeper of the Whole, Creator of this marvelous and diverse world. Blessed indeed are the lessons and wonders, the miracles and steadfast love that fruit and feed and blossom in your multicultural, diverse and splendid creation!

 

 

May the blessings of Hanukkah inspire us all and turn us in rededication to the service of Steadfast Love.

The Least of These

Strangers on Holy Ground: Bible Study Assignment & Reflection for Nov. 13

Read:

Matthew 15:21-28 The Canaanite Woman

Luke 10:25-37 The Good Samaritan

Matthew 25:31-46 Sheep and Goats

 Reflection:

This week, our concluding week for this study session, we read three well-known texts from the Christian canon. The commonly known names for these passages are given after their citations, because we’ll be using those names for reference. The first two texts are stories to the contemporary eye and the last connects the prophetic tradition, which bears examples and visions of what happens when we fail and when we live up to our covenant with the Holy. These three passages are also examples of how Jesus taught living faithfully: through his life, through parables, through prophetic speech.

 

Before you read, what do you know about these passages? Where have you met them before?

 

As you read, consider the role of the stranger. How are you, the reader, also a stranger in meeting these texts? How are you being called in covenant within these texts?

 

The Canaanite Woman

Canaan is the land the Hebrew people conquered and inhabited. Perhaps some Canaanites joined Israel; there is some story for that with Joshua 24, when the assembled people at are enjoined to put down their personal gods and join the covenant with the One. But others remained separate, through the Babylonian exile and after. Jesus has been engaged in a number of healings through the land. The Canaanite woman is a person who has little social authority, and if someone can be said to be socially even lower than the usual crowd Jesus associates with, she is that person. We can gather from the woman’s appeal to Jesus, “even the dogs eat crumbs from the master’s table” that Canaanites have learned not to expect to be treated as equals. Yet she asks for healing for her daughter. She’s a parent at wit’s end, having run through every option to help heal her daughter. But then she hears about this stranger teacher, who wanders around and has been doing odd things, including healing people who could not be healed. What compels people to move out of where we are known and know others? Where we feel relatively safe? Why does love move us to become strangers taking huge risks?

 

Jesus turns away from her. This is the mercy, love, serve people, hang out with the rejected guy, and he turns away from her. Don’t just slide past this moment: if he were pitching a baseball game, the umpire would call a balk and a dead ball – nobody goes anywhere. Nobody advances toward home.  How do you feel about Jesus saying “nope, not you”? How do you feel when you’re rejected? How do you feel when you’re rejected after you’ve risked a lot and suffered to reach help and then you are turned aside?

 

Jesus says he is sent only to gather the lost sheep of Israel. Why? Is this a rhetorical device? If so, tell a story about why. Does he change his mind? That would connect to the tradition of appealing apparently unjust actions the Holy seems set on taking (however you view the divinity of Jesus, he’s a representative of the Holy as a prophet-teacher, or he is the Holy). But then he relents. It seems that Jesus has one of those “oh, yeah! Practice what I teach” moments, and then he heals the stranger’s daughter from a distance.

 

 

The Good Samaritan

Really, what must we do to live into the law of our covenant? So the legal scholar asks Jesus, and rather than reply with a short answer, Jesus gives a teaching story, a parable. Teaching stories are also part of the larger tradition. They aren’t supposed to be mysterious. The mysterious bits of the Good Samaritan story come up from the cultural distance of who we are approaching the story.

 

Samaritans are like Canaanites in this story, except we’re talking about a people recognized in the story’s original context as a our near spiritual kin that we’ve had a falling out with. Families can be bitterly estranged from each other. Interfaith and interdenominational disagreements can be extremely bitter. In the United States, there’s the whole history of nativism to appreciate – anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic attitudes, laws, policies, and rhetoric. It still shows up. Every time a politician has to defend his or her beliefs or convictions not to believe, there’s the same suspicion that fueled nativism, a concern about “contamination” or “pollution.” We don’t have to search very far or dig very deep to find that kind of sentiment in how communities approach strangers. Yet, this story teaches that we’re on the wrong track when that sentiment appears. Who most fully and perfectly fulfills the law of mercy and loving the neighbor? The one everyone knows can’t actually do it (yes, if you hear echoes of Jonah’s protest about the Ninehvites being unable to repent, there’s good reason to do so).

 

When was the last time you stopped when you were busy — when you were dressed up and had places to be, when you were on your way to a very important place  — and helped someone you didn’t know? Have you ever been that person in need of help, that person all kinds of people crossed the road to avoid? How did that feel? The Good Samaritan is a story about generosity – the recognition that we are one and belong to one another, and then living that out in an uncomfortable difficult way.

 

Sheep & Goats

The last passage we’re examining belongs to the prophetic tradition. But it is the prophetic tradition as emphasized by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos, not the prophetic tradition emphasized by Ezra and Nehemiah. (If your only encounter with Nehemiah is via the congregation-based community organinizing models, take the time to read Nehemiah in his context. Shared community to rebuild the city is awesome and good work, something I support, but Nehemiah is rebuilding walls in part to purify the city and keep strangers out.) In the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus is talking about weighing how well we’ve lived our covenant, and what will count the most in living that covenant. Have we paid attention to the least in our world – those who have an abundance of suffering and little social power, those who have an abundance of trouble and little considered socially redeeming, those who have an abundance of oppression and hatred and separation and little acceptance, appreciation, or love? Or have we been too busy going where we need to go, tending to “our” people, and living more comfortably? The big test is how we are with strangers.

 

Conclusion:

Once we were strangers. Often we are strangers again. When we live in ways that strangers are our kin, the people we protect and love closely, then we put ourselves in the same risky places that strangers are inhabiting. We also live the risks of imprisonment, rejection, physical danger, loss, and grief. We lose some, or all, of the context that was safe and familiar, our home holy ground. But we also gain. We gain appreciation for holy ground being made and celebrated everywhere love is, everywhere mercy is, everywhere people are taking faithful risks to live generously and compassionately, loving their true neighbors.