Thursday, November 30, 2006

Family thoughts redux

There's always more to any story and as I was putting together my sermon for this Sunday, "Surprised by Joy", it occurred to me that I had left out the pain part of my family's story in a previous post "Thoughts About Family". So here it is, lifted in part, from the upcoming sermon.
It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when we hurt each other badly over religion and politics. There was a time when I despaired of ever being on good terms with my family because I had become a UU. My sister, who is now my best friend, refused to participate in or attend my ordination over religious differences. There was some unease over Joel’s conversion to Catholicism. People worried about child-rearing and education and kids who seemed to be going wrong.

As I look back over how this (the change) came to be, I am wrenched all over again by the email conversations I had with my sister when she told me firmly why she couldn’t participate in or attend my ordination. Our religious beliefs clashed too badly for her. And it was devastating, that she would refuse to do this for me.

I was still living in Denver then and had few opportunities to be with my family. But I was planning to return to the Pacific Northwest and hoped to see a lot of my family once I relocated. My heart would sink when I’d think about the challenge of being with them after such a painful exchange.

A few months later, I learned, through a routine physical, that I would need open heart surgery to correct a birth defect, a hole in my heart. I was scared, naturally, afraid I’d not be able to fulfill my dream of ministry, afraid of dying, not sure what it meant in my life.

I called my family members to tell them and my sister’s immediate response was “I’ll be there, I’ll be with you throughout the surgery and as long as you need me to be.”

Her words changed everything and I was flooded with gratitude. Her willingness to be present for me at this very scary turn of events atoned for all the hurt, put our strained relationship back onto a better plane, and changed my attitude toward her. I was surprised by Joy. Where I had expected more hurt, I found hope.


Overnight, the strong west wind came and decimated the 8 inches of snow in my yard. The Chinook wind is not called "the snoweater" for nothing. The best part is that it doesn't just raise the temperature to above freezing, the wind actually helps to evaporate the water, so that the saturated ground gets a bit of a break. Of course, I have broken limbs all over the place, but no trees fell on my house!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Snowed in on an island?

Yep, six inches of snow out there on the deck and more on the way. The power had been flickering all afternoon and about 6 o'clock, it went out entirely. It just came back on, so I fired up the MacBook again out of sheer boredom.

I've been wading through the other two Laurie Pedersen books, mostly because I don't have anything else handy. And though I am tired of the constant sardonic narrative and the stereotypical characters, I am hanging in there to see who Hallie is finally going to lose her virginity to. And let me tell you, it's pure dogged determination to do this with a headlamp, wrapped up in a blanket with the cats flanking me in the big chair.

What a relief to have the lights come back on so I could do something else! But I'm almost done with Book 2, having finished Book 1 in the ferry line Saturday, and I will be very happy to get the chore done. I'm one of these people who has to finish a book, once I've started it. Very rarely do I give up on something unless it's too gory and violent---and predictable.

One thing that I have to say about the Unitarian character in Pedersen's books, she must go to a big church where there are zillions of social action projects, because she's embroiled in every cause that ever crossed a SA committee's agenda. And she must be the only person from her church who does any of this stuff, because she's seldom with a group, she's nearly always by herself, getting arrested or protesting on TV. She and I agree on a lot of her issues, but I hate it that she's so Lone Ranger about them.

Okay, better post this before the lights go out again.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thoughts about family

I realize that not everyone is particularly enthralled with their family members, and I don't intend to wax sentimental about my family. We have a wide variety of folks related to us in one way or another, there are lots of quirks, plenty of ways we don't agree with each other, and yet all the way home today over the pass, I thought about the many facets of family and home.

There are several blended branches on my family tree; there have been several divorces and remarriages, bringing into the family constellation assorted "steps" and "halfs". Nearly every adult present this past holiday had been through at least one divorce, either as a partner or as a child; most of the children present had also experienced this pulling apart of a family. But all are now concentrated in one large extended family, permanently, we expect. And there may be additional children and mates added, as new lives become part of the circle.

We stretch from one end of the religio-political spectrum to the other, fairly evenly spaced across the continuum from conservative to liberal, with devout Catholics, devout Evangelicals, and one devout Unitarian Universalist in the mix. Surprisingly, this does not cause us problems. As I discovered with my sister several years ago, we may not share theology, but we share "church". We avoid talking about doctrine but can talk about what our congregations are doing to reach out. And we can talk, to some extent, about our spiritual lives and practices.

This morning, I attended the christening ceremony for my newest great-niece, Mona Grace Agnes Martin, Joel's 6 month old daughter. Father Chuck Schmitz explained every element of the ceremony as he anointed her squirmy little body with the chrism and then the blessed water. Godparents Scott and Diana solemnly promised their spiritual support and love as the rest of us stood around the font beaming.

And as I headed home, I thought about what it means to me that my family is so diverse and so expanded. I'm not crazy about Moses Lake, but when I'm there, I'm embedded, immersed in family. Sometimes I'm a little bored because there's little to do but read and visit; I spend all my time with family members and hardly have any solitude. Until I acclimate to the changed environment, I'm a little uneasy and restless. But when I let myself relax into the context of family, I am thrilled to see the threads of connection between us.

It's more than Abby's delighted hugs at the door and more than Davy's squeals of laughter when I pretend to tickle him. It's also Joel and Christina's pleasure in their children and their desire to share Mona's christening with the rest of us, even though many of us are not Catholic. It's Scott and Diana's being godparents. It's Jean and Pat's connection to their CMA church and its activities and their taking under their wing Christina's three kids as though they were born into the family. It's Justin's funny stories of his life in the Marines. It's reminiscences about my son Mike and his days growing up with Scott and Justin and Susanna and Joel.

I think it's knowing that we are committed to each other, that religion and politics and other differences do not divide us but make us interesting, that we belong to each other even when we disagree or disapprove. When I moved back to the PNW from Colorado, I knew that this would be one of the gifts of making that move. I have come to appreciate it more than I ever believed I might.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Big Shuffle

ChaliceChick has inspired me to do my own review of Laura Pedersen's latest "The Big Shuffle". CC had started out with the first book in the trilogy, hoping to get a background for the characters, and found it not such great reading, so I decided to start out with the main feature itself and I'm glad I did. I'm not sure I will try to read the first two books; I lack CC's desire to cover the waterfront, as it were.

Pedersen apparently fleshed out her main characters in the first book, so that they appear in "The Big Shuffle" more or less fully formed and the reader is expected to tease out the details from their behavior and the situations.

TBS is darker, as mentioned in previous posts/comments, and this gives Pedersen a canvas on which to show the cast of characters, particularly Hallie, the protagonist, dealing with a huge, almost insurmountable, loss. As a former guidance counselor with youth, I found that a good deal of it didn't ring true; responses to the loss by most characters were often too glib, too pat, too inauthentic. Yet some of the response was truly touching and believable.

Despite the seriousness of the theme, Pedersen seems determined to represent Hallie and family comically. Dialogue and narrative seem inappropriately flip on occasion, as though the whole scenario of loss is a bad joke. I'm not sure why she would do this, unless the subject matter is too serious for her. Or perhaps she's trying to draw in young readers and feels she needs to lighten the mood.

The one Unitarian character is an older woman who spouts sound bytes about social justice and human rights but unfortunately sounds more like a caricature of a real UU, much more shallow than most of the UUs of my acquaintance. She seems like a UU that Garrison Keillor might invent, not a real one who actually does something about social justice.

The real religious leader in the book is the (Episcopalian?) pastor, formerly thought of by Hallie as gay, who comes to help out in the crisis and stays to offer longlasting support and encouragement, though you have to wonder about his boundary issues. He proves to be more useful than most of the other adults in the book.

But you know what? I liked the book just the same. Despite its flaws, it's a good story if you can get past the illogic of a teenage poker queen (or maybe I'm just out of date)who seems to know how to run a household with seven children. I found myself thinking, "gee, so and so might like this story", so I'll pass it along.

My sister will get it first and then she'll be free to hand it off to anyone who might want to check it out. There's a little sex in it, not particularly vivid, but parents might want to read it before handing it on to younger youth.

CC also turned me on to Laurie King's mysteries about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, so I've been working on "The Game". Now there's good writing! Thanks, CC.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Over the river and through the woods...

It's not quite the route to Moses Lake, Washington, but it's the intro to every Thanksgiving journey I've made in the past many years. The road to Moses Lake is more "over the floating bridge and through Snoqualmie Pass", but one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is bound up in this sweet old refrain.

It was November of 1989, I think, when my sister called me in Denver with the awful words, "Mom's had a stroke, it doesn't look good, can you come home?" I flew home to the Pacific Northwest with my heart in my mouth. My brother and his family, my sister and hers, our cousins, aunts and uncles all seemed to converge that November afternoon in Vancouver, Washington, where my mother, Mona Elizabeth Larson Ketcham, was hospitalized with a major stroke.

We had been planning to have Thanksgiving at cousin Katie's, with my mother and all the family who could come. And we did have Thanksgiving there, but immediately thereafter, we all trooped over to the hospital, formed a conga line outside her room, and danced into her room singing "over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's bed we go", much to her delight and the consternation of the nurses.

She couldn't speak. One side of her body was floppy and loose, but half of her face could smile, and smile she did! We were all scared to death but more scared to show it than anything. So when she smiled and laughed at our antics, it was the reprieve we'd hoped for. We knew she wouldn't be leaving us just yet.

So tomorrow I head over the floating bridge and through the pass to spend Thanksgiving with my sister Jean and her husband, their children Joel and Christina and kids, Susanna and Henry and their daughter, Scott and Diana and their puppy, and maybe Justin, if he can get away.

And on Saturday morning, Lord willing, I will be privileged to attend the christening of the newest life in our family, little miss Mona Grace Martin.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Puzzlement

Much as I enjoy attending the South Whidbey Lectionary discussion group, I have to admit that sometimes I am puzzled by the effect of my comments on the group. Today we were talking about the passage in John which is assigned for "Christ the King Sunday", i.e., the Sunday before Advent begins, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

The passage is from John 18 and Jesus is being questioned by Pilate, who essentially asks him "what have you done to make these people angry? Are you calling yourself the king of the Jews?" And Jesus replies "you are saying that I call myself this, but my kingdom is not of this world. I come for this, to preach the truth." (abridged version, of course)

The conversation touched on the idea of kingship, of authority, and the meaning of kingship in this day and age, and then it veered into comments about what Jesus's kingdom was, how he saw himself and his authority, etc. There was a certain amount of substitutionary theology offered, thoughts about whether this is clear evidence of Jesus' offering himself as a substitute for the sins of humankind by his death, and such, which seems to me to miss the point of Jesus' whole life.

I hadn't said much so far, but finally I offered the comment that because I have an understanding of Jesus the Christ as the incarnation of Divine Love, I saw this in terms of Jesus defining his kingdom as a kingdom of love and justice, not of political rule. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable thing to say; I even prefaced it by saying that though I am a Christian, I minister to many people who are not Christian and that speaking of Jesus as a metaphor for love makes Jesus understandable to them.

There was silence in the room. Nobody made eye contact with me. Nobody commented. There was dead silence, as though they were just waiting an appropriate amount of time before they could go on. And then they went on without a single nod to what I had said. I almost commented on their silence but decided not to. It felt more like a stunned silence than an offended silence, but I can't be sure.

I don't know if I shocked them, offended them, irritated them, or just what. I don't think they quite know what to make of me, how to receive what I think without arguing or letting go of their own opinions. I don't think what I said was particularly challenging nor far out. Most of them are fairly liberal themselves, but they do seem to take the scripture more as fact than as metaphor and seem uncomfortable with metaphorizing Jesus.

They are lovely guys, all of them, and I like them a lot. But I wonder about this kind of reaction from them.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hallelujah, the great storm is least for now

Yesterday morning about three, something woke me up and I realized that it was pitch dark, not a glimmer from nightlight, yard light, porch light, moon, clock radio, etc. The high winds and gusty rain had knocked out the power and there was nothing to do but tuck the comforter tighter around my ears and wait until daylight.

Mentally reviewing my power-outage plan through the fog of half-sleep, I realized I didn't have one and that certain normal household functions would be curtailed until I could lay in some jugs of water, some propane cylinders, and more nonperishables than I had in the house. But I did have a caffeine source--------diet Coke! Hurrah! I went back to sleep, untroubled.

At dawn more or less, I got up, lanterned my way down to the paper tube to get the news, decided that probably the outage was pretty widespread, and resigned myself to a cold day. But I had a couple of meetings in Seattle, provided the ferry was running in the storm, and this proved to be my saving grace. Fred Meyer (the local Kroger outlet) had lots of water for sale, plus propane; Trader Joe's replenished my store of good bread and cheese; and the meetings distracted me from the realities of the weather, which was truly awful.

Back on the afternoon ferry, I admit I prayed that the power would be restored, though I doubted God would be likely to intervene. And my back-up prayer was "please help me cope". The power was still off when I got home and I learned from a phone call to the power company that it might be days before it was restored completely. On that dismal thought, I checked the thermometer, discovered that this tight little house is pretty good about keeping the heat in (only got down to 58 inside), and cheered up a bit.

The cats and I spent the evening wrapped up in wooly throws while I read by the light of the lantern and a camping headlamp. At nine, we got under the down comforter together and prepared to wait it out.

About midnight, I awoke suddenly to the sound of the furnace clicking on and realized that the outage was over sooner than predicted and felt awash in gratitude. It hadn't been that bad.

This morning I walked down to get the newspapers with bright moon and stars overhead. The yard is littered with pine branches and a lot of apples came off the tree, but we survived relatively unscathed. This morning I've spent tidying up the clutter from the lightless time---the propane stove which never got lit, the mail which didn't get read, the blinky food from the fridge, the candles which dripped all over, the flower boxes which fell off the sills.

So today is bright and beautiful and they say we should enjoy it, because another storm is coming in this weekend.

It's interesting to be "powerless". Lots of food for thought there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An Experiment with Firefox

I'm experimenting with the options that Firefox allows a blogger. This is huge. This is tiny. This is BOLD (huh?).

This is normal size in italics. This is blue text. Here (oops, how did this get bolded? it's unhighlighted on the toolbar.) These are webdings. Arial. Georgia. Lucida Grande. Times. Trebuchet. Verdana.

Okay, the tabs don't seem to work quite like I would expect. Highlighting them doesn't do what I expect. The tabs apparently have to be highlighted in order NOT to do what I want them to do. And right now "Huge" is actually normal size type. Now "italic" is highlighted and doing what I want. But "bold" is also highlighted and it is not doing what I want. Hmmmm. Now I've used the shortcut to go to bold, and that worked. Now I've used the shortcut to leave italic and that worked. Hmmm.

m not sure what's going on. Better check the help page. Nuttin. How come the size menu keeps hopping back to Huge from Normal Size but the size of the font doesn't actually become huge? Hmmmm.

What's this? It's large, unbolded, unitalicized text. Now it's huge, semi-bolded text. What if I bold it? What if I italicize it? What if I make the text blue? This is supposed to be Arial large. This is supposed to be Courier large. This is Courier normal. This is Courier Small. And COurier tiny.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Okay, okay....

I've left Safari and am trying out Firefox, which, according to the voice of experience, is much better as a blogging browser.

We shall see.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Let the wild rumpus begin!

Rumpus rumpus rumpus, I used to say to my son when we got to that part in Maurice Sendak's wonderful book "Where the Wild Things Are". Son Michael was a bit of a wild thing as a tot, though he has integrated that part of himself nicely into his adult identity.

No, the wild rumpus I'm talking about is the party that continues to happen now that the Dems have regained some measure of influence in Congress and, hopefully, over the trajectory of this nation which has been pretty much downhill over the past several years.

But I hope there's a designated driver or several in the party. This is not the time for every Dem to go on a tear of thanksgiving for power regained, for enemies vanquished, for vengeance exacted. This is not the time for every Dem leader to lord it over the vanquished, screw over the losers, make plans to rub noses in the mud and humiliate the opposition.

This is the time for all of us to cheer wildly for our success and then commit ourselves to integrity, honesty, compassion, and to work for the greater good, not the good of a few.

This is the time for all of us to bask in the satisfaction of a job well done and then bend ourselves to the new work of righting the wrongs that have been committed.

This is the time for all of us to love our enemies, do good to them who despitefully have used us, and walk the very straight and narrow path that leads to salvation. After a lovely wild rumpus, of course.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Voting our Values: a sermon

I'm posting the sermon I preached Sunday at the Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship. A much revised version of this same sermon (to reflect the outcome of the election) will be presented this coming Sunday at the UU Congregation of Whidbey Island.

Rev. Kit Ketcham, Nov. 2006

Do you remember this old song? Sing it with me if you do.

“Gimme that old-time religion, gimme that old-time religion, gimme that old-time religion, it’s good enough for me. It was good for our mothers, it was good for our fathers, it was good enough for them and it’s good enough for me. Gimme that old-time religion, gimme that old-time religion, gimme that old-time religion, it’s good enough for me.”

Except it’s not, is it? That old-time religion is one reason we here today are Unitarian Universalists. That old-time religion doesn’t offer what we are looking for in terms of a spiritual life or a set of beliefs or a way of relating to the world.

That old-time religion, tied as it often has been to a fear of science, a distaste for changing cultural norms, and opposition to doubt and questioning of literal interpretations of the Bible, lost most of us as we began to read other books besides the Bible, as we began to study justice issues, as we began to see that our current world was not well-served by a religion which was living in the past, rejecting new information, following ancient laws without compassion or a sense of justice.

And those of us who were raised UU were not attracted to another more rigid religion because of those very characteristics.

As I was thinking about how my own experience intersects with this topic, I was reminded of kitchen table discussions in my childhood, when my mother and father would bemoan the rising of "modernism" and "worldliness" in human lives, because it meant to them estrangement from God, a rejection of God's word, and too much connection with popular culture.

I’ve always been more an observer of differing opinions rather than a rebeller, so I tucked this thinking away in my brain and brought it out later to hold up against the popular culture I was familiar with, to check its validity.
And it seemed to me that my parents were overly concerned; science didn't seem evil, nor did the effort to understand what the Bible really said in its original languages. I didn't mention my opinion to my parents, not wanting to argue, but it fermented and bubbled during my youth and on into college, where I learned things about Christianity and Jesus that were left out of my Sunday School lessons!

As I prepared to write this sermon, in the context of our current political climate, I attended our district’s annual fall ministers’ retreat, where the topic was “Unitarian Universalism and the Challenges of Religious Identity”.

In conversations with my colleagues and listening to our speaker, the Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor, who is the director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom in Norfolk, VA, I found my own experience and the ideas presented coming together to clarify for me what it means to be a religious liberal, particularly a Unitarian Universalist, and how that influences my choices when I vote, when I attend community events, what causes I support, and where I give my money.

As liberal religious thinkers, you and I tend to be committed to the same things: First, that our religion must live in the present, using modern knowledge and experience. Second, that our religion must be openminded, prizing free intellectual inquiry. And third, that our religion must be credible and relevant; in other words, it has to matter and to make sense.

And we have other commonalities as well: our religion occupies the middle ground between fundamentalism and the secular world, in the real world of contemporary culture. Our religion operates on the belief that reality involves movement and change, interdependence, fluid understanding of truth, with little black and white thinking. Our religion promotes autonomy, thinking for oneself, mistrusting external authority. And our religion bases its ethics on humaneness, not on doctrinal tenets.

As a minister who is engaged with many other clergy and laity of varying faiths, both Christian and non-Christian, I have been struck by what we have in common as liberal religious thinkers. There is not a lot of difference between liberal faiths and their work in the world, if you set aside theological differences.

I notice and appreciate this every time I meet with the South Whidbey lectionary study group, a bunch of ministers on Whidbey, or with the other members of the Religious Coalition for Equality. Here are men and women whose theology is different from mine in many ways but who are working with me to achieve the same goals--------justice, compassion, equity, and a healing community which supports and nurtures our living planet.

Some of these colleagues are Republicans, at least in the original sense of a voter committed to the Republic and its health. Many are Democrats. Others are Libertarian and Green and Independent. We may cast differing votes for different people and issues, based on our knowledge of them and our personal understandings of the ideals they represent.

But these colleagues and I will mostly vote our consciences, not a party or doctrinal line, and we will make our choices based on what we consider to be the important social issues of our cultural milieu, not on religious doctrines which seek to impose theocratic ideals on our nation. We won’t vote to deny human rights; we will vote to uphold freedom and equal opportunity. And we will vote for the human beings who seem to us to exemplify these ideals.

I ask you to think, right now, about how you decide what candidates you will vote for. What are the most important qualities of a candidate that you support? (congregational response)

Here’s how I choose my candidates for office: I look for credibility in a candidate, a person with integrity who I think is less likely to be swayed by political contributions than others; I look for measurable differences between the candidates; if I have personal knowledge of the candidate, either through personal experience or through a credible friend’s experience, that helps me make my decision; I look to see if the candidate has demonstrated values which are life-enhancing for all, not just for a few; and the candidate’s ads tell me whether he/she has ethics which I can accept. I’ve heard you offer some similar techniques just now.

And what about issues? How do you decide which issues you will vote yes on and which you will vote no on? (congregational response)

On issues such as legislative referenda or citizen initiatives, I first look at the financial backers of the initiative or referendum. Are those backers’ values similar to what I believe is life-enhancing for all and good for the planet? Is the issue based on good science and logic? Does it address a core need of society, such as reduction of poverty or equitable treatment of all persons or preservation of the planet? Do I have a personal connection to this issue through those I know who may be affected by its outcome?

I would guess that many, if not most of us, chose Unitarian Universalism in the same ways that we choose who and what to vote for on Election Day.

You voted for this religion, instead of another. How did you make that decision? How did you think that through and come up with UUism as your choice? (congregational response)

I had never heard of UUism until I went to Denver as an American Baptist Home Missionary, to work in the Denver Christian Center. Our preschool class was supported by volunteers from the First Unitarian Church of Denver and they worked side by side with me in that classroom as we taught small children songs, alphabet, games, numbers, and getting along with others.

Later, a handsome young man courted me by taking me to a service at that Unitarian Church and to protest marches sponsored by the First Universalist Church of Denver. We were married by a Unitarian judge.

My decision to become active as a UU was based on my observation that this faith tradition put its money where its mouth was; it supported social justice actions; it was based on reason and science, not supernatural doctrines; its spiritual ancestors were credible men and women, people I admired, both living and dead; it was self-critical, that is, it questioned itself--------it addressed internal racism and homophobia and intolerance.

And I liked the UUs I met. They were smart and funny and serious, all at the same time. They were skeptical of the same things I was skeptical of! And they liked me! I felt at home, welcomed, accepted. And they believed the same things I had come to believe: that Jesus was a good man, but not God; that it was important to change society to be more just, more compassionate; that many faiths had truth and that there were multiple paths to the top of the mountain.

Election Day also challenges us to respond appropriately in another way as well. We endure the political ads, the mudslinging, the debates, the differences of opinion, all the while hoping that our side will win, that the candidates we vote for will come out on top, that the issues we see as critical will be resolved in positive ways, preferably the ways we voted!

This year, it looks as though many political races for our state and federal legislatures are hanging in the balance; the outcome of the election will affect American politics in the coming years. If so and so wins, what will we win? If the other candidate wins, what will we lose?

We speculate and wonder---maybe we even pray “let our candidate win!” But at the end of Election Day, the wait is over. The votes are in.

Some of us stay up late to field the returns as they are coming in. This year I’m betting that many of us will do that, jubilant at the wins, regretful at the losses.

And the next morning, in the newspaper, the headlines will tell the story: So and So wins. Congress looks like this. The pundits offer their interpretations of the results of the election. We look at the results, offer our own thoughts, and move on to the next stage of the democratic process, accepting the results of the election.

If we feel that “our side” won, we are jubilant and eagerly anticipate the changes that we hope will be enacted because of the wins. If we feel that “our side” lost, we are depressed and angry and look for reasons to object to the results.

What will be your reaction on Wednesday morning if your candidates and issues are voted in? (congegational response)

Mine will be a long sigh of relief and hope that perhaps a long siege of corruption and conflict will come to an end.

What will be your reaction if your candidates and issues are rejected? (congregational response)

Mine will be sorrow and weariness at the decision by my fellow Americans to pursue paths that seem to me to be lacking vision and perhaps integrity and I, like you, will gird up my loins for the next stage of being true to my religious values.

Whatever the outcome of this Election Day, we will always have countless challenges and problems to solve democratically. We as liberal religious thinkers will pursue those solutions in certain common ways.

Recently I watched a documentary about the writer and thinker Howard Zinn, whom many of you doubtless know, at least by reputation, as a man whose integrity and commitment to peace and justice are more than admirable; he is truly a prophet in the best sense of the word.

The documentary, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train”, closes with the following quote by Howard Zinn, and I will close with it as well. It says to me that whatever the outcome of this election, it is merely one more instance in an endless series of instances, some good, some bad, and our work for peace and love and justice do not end because of an outcome either desired or feared.

"To be hopeful in bad times is not...foolishly romantic; it is based on the fact that human history is a history of not only cruelty, but of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future - the future is an infinite succession of 'presents,' and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

Let's pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.

BENEDICTION: Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, remembering that as human beings in a democratic society, we have the opportunity and responsibility to speak out for the values which are life-enhancing for all. May we accept this responsibility and act according to our consciences as we go to the polls this week and may our voices be heard as we speak for justice and equity in human life. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.