Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia
November 19, 2017
Rev. Jeff Liebmann
From Harvard Address by J.K. Rowling
We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.
The Meanings of Words
How many of you have ever used a dictionary? Perhaps you have used a book version, or an online version. Why do you use a dictionary?
Knowing the meaning of a word is very important. Sometimes, knowing where a word comes from is just as important.
The word “religion” comes from an ancient language more than 2,000 years ago. The root word ligio meant “binding together.” There is another English word that comes from the ancient word ligio. When we study the human body, we examine bones, blood vessels, organs, and muscles. There are also ligaments, strands that bind two bones together and allow the muscles to move them.
So, religion is something that binds people together. And adding the prefix re- means that religion binds people together again and again.
What does the word “worship” mean? This word is not quite as old and means “celebrating that which is of worth.” So when we gather in “worship,” we are celebrating things we consider worthy, things of value. What kinds of things do we Unitarian Universalists consider worthy of celebrating?
So when people come together again and again to celebrate things they agree are worthy, that is called a fellowship, church, mosque, synagogue, or temple depending on which religion we are discussing.
From the Book of Acts, Chapter 20
When we try to understand other people, we might examine their religion – beliefs that bring them together again and again. And we might examine their form of worship – identifying what they consider worthy. This passage from the Book of Acts discusses the Christian religion and the relative worth of things that matter. In this story, the apostle Paul has traveled to the city of Ephesus to meet with the church elders there.
I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace…
I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing.
You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Adapted from the book by Doreen Cronin
Once upon a time, there was a farmer named Brown. On his farm there were cows (pause to let them “moo”), chickens (pause to let them “cluck”), and ducks (pause to let them “quack”). Farmer Brown took care of the cows, chickens, and ducks, and in return, they gave him milk, eggs, and downy feathers to use in pillows.
The farm was a wonderful place and everyone was happy – except for one thing. The barn was very old and filled with holes. At night, when it got cold outside, it often also got very cold inside. As a result, the cows would shiver. They couldn’t sleep well, and they woke up in the morning feeling crabby.
One day, the cows decided to tell Farmer Brown that they could not take the cold nights anymore. So when Farmer Brown came into the barn to milk them, they told him that they wanted electric blankets. Of course, since they could only moo, Farmer Brown could not understand them.
The cows realized that Farmer Brown did not speak moo. So, the next day, the cows decided to act out their wishes. But being four-legged and lacking fingers, they could not make Farmer Brown understand.
The next day, Farmer Brown’s niece Maria came to visit. Maria lived in the city. She liked visiting the farm, but she missed her friends back home. Maria brought her laptop computer and printer so she could stay in touch.
The best place for internet reception on the farm was in the barn, so Maria left her laptop there. That night, the cows realized that this was a chance for them to make Farmer Brown understand their wish. When he went to bed, Farmer Brown though he heard the sound of “Click, clack, moo. Click, clack, moo. Clickety, clack, moo.”
The next morning, Farmer Brown got up and started to go to the barn. When he walked out onto the porch, a duck stood there with a piece of paper in his bill. The paper read:
We are very cold at night. Please buy us electric blankets.
Farmer Brown yelled, “Electric blankets! No way!”
That night, Farmer Brown again heard the sound of “Click, clack, moo. Click, clack, moo. Clickety, clack, moo.” The next morning, the duck returned to the porch with another piece of paper.
We are on strike. No milk today.
Furious, Farmer Brown went into the farmhouse and slammed the door behind him. Later, he heard the sound of “Click, clack, moo, cluck. Click, clack, moo, cluck. Clickety, clack, moo, cluck.”
The next morning, Farmer Brown found the duck on the porch again with a new note.
The hens are cold, too. They also want electric blankets.
Farmer Brown decided he had had enough. He stormed to the barn, only to find the door closed with a note posted that read:
p.s. The hens are on strike, too. No eggs today!
Farmer Brown decided to fight fire with fire. He went back to the farmhouse and typed out his own message. He went to the duck and asked him to take the note to the cows and hens. When he got there, the animals read the note:
There will be no electric blankets.
You are cows and hens. I demand milk and eggs.
That night, the cows and hens held an emergency meeting. “Click, clack, moo, cluck. Click, clack, moo, cluck. Clickety, clack, moo, cluck.”
The next morning, duck delivered a note to Farmer Brown.
We will exchange the computer for electric blankets.
Leave them outside the barn door and
we will send Duck over with the computer.
In the spirit of compromise,
The cows and the hens
Maria told Farmer Brown that this was a fair compromise and Farmer Brown agreed. So, he drove into town and bought every electric blanket he could find. He drove home and left the blankets outside the barn door.
But the duck had other ideas.
That night, Farmer Brown thought he could hear the sound of “Click, clack, quack. Click, clack, quack. Clickety, clack, quack” down by the pond.
The next morning, Farmer Brown found a note on the farmhouse door.
The pond is quite boring. We’d like a diving board.
That day, Farmer Brown built a diving board over the pond, and Maria brought her laptop and printer in to the farmhouse. Inside the printer lay a note.
The cows, the hens, and the ducks
By using the tools of nonviolence, non-cooperation, coalition building, and empowerment, the animals learned how to communicate their needs and to be appreciated for their gifts.
The Cornbread Communion is a tradition in some of our congregations at this time of year. With gratitude for our freedom and for our abundance, let us celebrate this ritual mindful of Syrians and other refugees who are unable to go home, those for whom we pray safe passage, and a welcoming reception as they arrive at their destinations.
Food is often a symbol of home. But what if you suddenly found yourself in a place where everything about the food was different? Imagine what it might be like to flee your homeland and the foods to which you are accustomed. Imagine finding yourself somewhere where you not only don’t speak the language, but where even the basic fruits, vegetables, and grains are different.
Just as tef is indigenous to the African continent, and millet is indigenous to the Asian continent, corn is indigenous to the North American continent. As we share our cornbread this morning,
- Let us hold in our hearts all those, here and abroad, for whom home is no longer a place of safety;
- Let us hold in our hearts all those, here and abroad, who have been forced to leave their homes; and
- Let us hold in our hearts all those, here and abroad, for whom home no longer exists.
Eat the muffin.
Like most of us, the apples we buy in the grocery store are all immigrants to North America. They came originally from Asia, through the Middle East into Europe, and then on to America.
As we share our apple cider this morning, may it symbolize the sweetness that can come from being open to new experiences – whether it be new foods, or new people. Let us remember how our lives are enriched when people share their gifts with one another.
Drink the Juice.
Spirit of life and love, be with us now as we reflect on thanks and gratitude.
When we come together here in worship, we mark a special time. Out of a long busy week of work and school, lessons and chores, we set aside this short time to celebrate things we consider worthy. We do this as Unitarian Universalists because ours is a religion that binds us together again and again with the power of our shared beliefs.
I am grateful that each of you is here today. I am especially grateful for our
children sharing our sanctuary with us. One of the essential purposes of a church community is to pass on our traditions and spiritual practices and to be together respecting the inherent worth and dignity of each of us.
So while we may have fun, or we may be very serious, this is an important
time for us all to be together. May we leave today lifted up and ready to face
a new week with gratitude.
Amen, Blessed Be, and Let it be so.
If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.