Genesis 1:1-5, Mark 1:4-11 and an Excerpt from In His Spirit by Richard J. Hauser

Sunday January 10th, 2021


Good morning and Happy New Year! I am grateful to be back among you after a time of rest. Thank you to Jackie for curating such a wonderful worship service last Sunday while I was away. If you missed it, you will want to visit cucclivestream.com to experience joy and wisdom from three of our sages.


As we come to this time in our gathering, I invite you to take a deep breath and let yourself be here as fully as you are able, arriving to a place of openness, to receive whatever word there is for you today. So, as you are so moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer and centering from Psalm 19. God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.


Anger. Sadness. Rage. Fear. Insurrection. A mob. An attempted coup. Violence. Death. An attempt to stop something new…


The truth was unveiled for us once again. Showing us without apology what is. Because we saw this summer when protestors with the movement for Black Lives were met at the Capitol with an army and lines and lines of law enforcement, equipped with tear gas, shields and military-grade weapons. And then on Wednesday, even given that the U.S. military spending is estimated at $934 billion, on a precious day in our democratic process, Confederate flags and yellow banners that read “Jesus Saves” and men in hoodies with the words Civil War- on that precious day White Supremacy was allowed entrance into a sacred American site during a sacred American process and now five people are dead. Elie Mystal said, “The Confederacy finally stormed the Capitol…Frederick Douglass said that power never concedes anything without a demand. And what we saw this week was power not conceding. White Supremacists have never conceded defeat. Not once. And we have to always be ready to fight.”


With those in the highest office in our land denying that race is a construct and that our systems have privileged those of us with white skin and that this nation was constructed on stolen labor and land, these denials of the truth unleashed more hate and gave permission to attempt to undo our experiment in a multi-racial democracy with a government for and by the people. It is clear now that we have not reconciled our sin of slavery- that we have not spoken the truth of our history, that we have not yet repented in the way that we must, in order to be the country we are summoned to be.


I trust that the Holy Spirit is not just with us, but ahead of us because the assigned text for us this Sunday, is a story where the first thing we hear is about repentance. We read that John, Jesus’s cousin showed up in the wilderness yelling about repentance. And we could easily miss that this is how it starts, because after all, the story of Jesus’ baptism is one where the details are plentiful and fascinating. There is John, Jesus’ cousin who is adorned in a camel hair robe with a leather belt and brags about eating bugs dipped in honey. And then there is the word that people from across the countryside were rushing to the Jordan River to do the same thing. And then there is the blessing that is heard when Jesus comes up out of the water, “You…are…the beloved.”


Because there is so much in this core story in the Christian tradition that we could miss, that the very first thing we hear, the start of this, the beginning of receiving and remembering the blessing that we are beloved, is this: repent.


I suspect for many among us repentance is a word laden with baggage or perhaps even a concept rejected entirely as unnecessary. And yet, to repent, in our tradition isn’t about a theologically grounded self-loathing or a sense of unworthiness in light of our sinful nature, rather it refers to a lifelong commitment to changing, of turning ourself closer to and radiant of a Greater Love. You might already know that the Greek word for repentance is metanoia and it translates to this: a change of mind and a change in the inner person. Metanoia is about acknowledging what is wrong and expressing regret but not in a hollow way, it an acknowledgement of what is wrong that is accompanied by a change.


It must be no accident then that throughout the Gospels we read of Jesus shouting Repent! Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.


Perhaps this is another way of saying, be willing to change inside by acknowledging the truth. And you will be in heaven because you will know joy and true love and you will do justice and you will then live and share that holy name with people and places, the name you were given from the start: beloved.


As you heard from the poet Jan Richardson, this blessing is one in which we must live into. She writes that we must, “Keep saying it and though it may sound strange at first, watch how it becomes part of you, how it becomes you, as if you never could have known yourself anything else, as if you could ever have been other than this: Beloved.”


Now we have clarity that we have not reconciled our sin of slavery, we must repent and move toward something where people of every skin color can live safely and fully and know they are beloved by God, created beautifully and powerfully in the image of the Holy, to live this gift, this blessing we have been given.


And we don’t do this alone. The other important part of this baptism story is that the Holy Spirit is present. And as Richard J. Hauser reminds us in his writing, we are free to choose not to follow or join this Spirit, but still it is with us.


He writes, “at this level we remain free to choose to move or not to move with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is indeed active in us at all times drawing us toward greater love and service of God and others, but the Spirit does not control our response. That flows from our freedom.”


And I believe that now it is time to use our freedom, our power, our faith, our privileges to change, to speak the truth, to repent and repair. As our church engages in a lifelong commitment to dismantle racism within ourselves, within our congregation, our community and our institutions, I wonder how we are called individually and collectively to repent? How is Boulder County called to repent? How could our church rise to the tasks of this time? How might we support shifts from charity to justice, shifts from prayers and good intentions to reparations? I don’t have all of the answers, but I have learned that isn’t necessary for us to follow where the Holy Spirit is leading.


It is clear now that we have not reconciled our sin- that we have not spoken the truth of our history, that we have not yet repented in the way that we must. The Holy Spirit is indeed active in us and around us. Let us not turn away. Let us push for accountability, let us continue to speak the truth and live the truth, our word and our actions build a field of energy that is and creates beloved community.


Anger. Sadness. Rage. Fear. Insurrection. A mob. An attempted coup. Violence. Death. An attempt to stop something new… But our belovedness and the truth are too powerful, too deep, too wide, they’re already breaking through. Repent. The Spirit is with us. Amen.


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Christmas Eve Meditation 2020

Fear not! Do not be afraid! Some version of these phrases are used over 100 times throughout the Bible and in almost every encounter with angels in the Gospels, a similar message is proclaimed.

When the angel comes to Joseph, the message is this, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,”


When the angel comes to Mary, the message is this: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”


And when the angel comes to the shepherds in the field, the message is this, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”


Imagine hearing this message in a time heavy with grief, clouded by uncertainty, where the rulers of the day aim only for profit, power and property: Fear not! Do not be afraid!


Imagine hearing this message as an expectant young mother in a dangerous political climate, requiring a move right before the due date, with no space indoors for the birth and at least as far as the stories go, a bit of a lack of clarity about the status of her partner.

Do not be afraid.

It is of course a message for us in this moment too. As we are also in a time heavy with grief, clouded by uncertainty, where the rulers of the day seem to aim away, from the common good. I have heard how many of us are living in fear: fear of losing a loved one or the fear of now living without them, fear of catching the virus, fear of the future with ongoing economic hardship, fear of what this time is revealing about our inability to act collectively when we need to. We have much to fear.

And yet, what if this moment in history has offered us a special window, to shift things? Because we see what happens when fear is allowed to lead. What if that Christmas Star, the Great Convergence, the new voices being raised, what if our angels are saying to us this night, do not be afraid? Fear not!

What I mean, is that what if part of the magic of this sacred and timeless chronicle that we retell on this night, is remembering that the opposite of faith, just might be fear. Not unbelief, but being led by fear.


I am not saying that being afraid is bad, but living in fear is bad for our bodies and our lives. Science tells us that fear weakens our immune system, causing cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems and more. And here’s the other thing, fear and anger lead us away from the Holy, away from Love. Being led by fear leads to harm.


Bryan Stevenson, lawyer, social justice activist, writer, founder/executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and law professor at New York University School of Law, wrote that “ Fear and anger are the essential ingredients of injustice, of oppression, of inequality.” He said, “Go anywhere in the world where people are being abused or mistreated, where their rights are not protected, and you’ll find people justifying those violations of rights with these narratives of fear and anger...”


Fear is one of the ingredients for the world we do not want. Perhaps, the opposite of faith, just might be fear, it just might be when we give in to our smallest selves, our angriest impulses, our worries. And maybe faith is being open, being willing, even when it is messy and hard and uncomfortable?

We often tidy up this Christmas story. But the true story of this night is that a young refugee family fled their home to protect their baby, leaving in the dark of night, not knowing exactly how it would unfold, but knowing for sure that if they didn’t go, their baby could be torn from her bosom. The true story is that Mary was an expectant young mother in a dangerous political climate, with no space indoors and still she had faith. It was after all a story of birth. In the words of the poet, Kaitlin Hardy Shetler, birthing Jesus, was the expulsion of blood

and smell of sweat,

the salt of a mother’s tears

onto the soft head of the Salt of the Earth,

feeling lonely

and tired

hungry

annoyed

overwhelmed

loving

This is a precious story of living through what is marvelous and messy: fear not!

That doesn’t mean she wasn’t still afraid, but I think it does mean that she didn’t let fear stop her, or lead her.

It’s okay to be afraid, but we must keep our hearts open and keep going, in the words of Audre Lorde, “When (we) dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether (we) are afraid.”


Maybe faith is being open, being willing to be powerful to use our strength in service of the vision we hold for our individual and collective lives, even when it is messy and hard and uncomfortable? We don’t need to know everything to know the path we don’t want to take is the one lead by: fear and anger. Keep going. Through the salty tears and the loneliness and the tired days and the hungry hearted nights and the annoyed spans of time, where there is overwhelm, know there is also Love because you are still showing up for all of it. Don’t worry if you are afraid, just don’t let your fears stop you from seeing wonder and hearing from angels. Beloved of God, Fear not!


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Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26; Luke 1:26-38; 46b-55 and Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chödrön

Sunday December 20th, 2020


Good morning on this fourth Sunday of Advent! It is a gift to be speaking to you live from a most spectacular wintry landscape along Bear Creek right here in South Boulder. Thank you for being here today.


As we come to this time in our gathering, I invite you to take a deep breath and let yourself be here as fully as you are able. And as you are so moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer and centering. God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19 verse 14)


I continue to feel how much it means that we keep showing up for one another. Because in some ways we have to work harder to do it. We don’t have to travel, but we actually have to be more focused, more present, because even though we are sharing an experience, we are at a distance and we can’t even hug. Some of us are so weary that we wonder how we can possibly make it to the end of this.


Last week I just couldn’t show up in person. My body basically gave out and I wasn’t well, so for just the second time in all of my ministry, it wasn’t possible for me to lead worship. I managed to get myself here to give Phillip my worship folder where he read every word beautifully. What a beautiful worship service it was and what a perfect Christmas pageant Leanne and Heather and our kids put together. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And thank you to those who reached out to express concern. I was compelled to take seriously the need for my body to rest.


And I know I am not the only one who is worn out, sapped and low. As you might imagine, those of us with the privilege of this vocation have some of the inside scoop on how people are doing and I know many of you are struggling in your own way too, navigating sick siblings, grieving family, struggling grandkids, hurting loved ones, isolation, a deprivation of dreams, you are enduring a lot. We are in a place that feels like a valley of the shadow of death, a tunnel without even so much as a pin light, wandering in the wilderness without a map.


There is a palpable impatience among us. We seem to have lost patience with the idea that these nine months could be a time of growth, infused with lessons learned, insights gained, capacities created that will serve us later. It’s not that this isn’t true. To be sure, we have been adapted quickly. But now it’s as if we find ourselves a tad exasperated. Learning, moving, growing, shifting, bending is one thing, but breaking- is another thing. Many of us are begging God/Universe/Spirit to tell us, at what point does the deep dark night turn to dawn?


That is the question the Women’s Group posed to me for this sermon today. Where is the light at the end? When will a new day dawn?


And while I don’t know all that awaits, and I definitely don’t have clarity about all that will be asked of us or all that the Spirit might be doing, but I want you to know today that I really do believe that there is a light at the end, that there is a ray in sight, because we are turning... I don’t mean this in a metaphorical way- what I mean is that we have arrived at a magical place, that is pregnant, something different is in gestation, we are at a tipping point.


The fact that we were forced to stop, forced to see the fractures of the system we have created, forced to see the consequences of a for-profit healthcare system, forced to see the truth that our system punishes the poor, the disabled and those in need of mental healthcare. We can no longer say we don’t know. The graveyard of despair is where we are right now, since this virus has taken 300,000 lives.


But it is forcing us to evolve, if we will but come.


It turns out, throughout the history of life on planet earth, viruses have played an essential role in forcing evolution. In 2016, a Stanford University study discovered that at least 1/3 of all adaptations in humans were propelled by viruses. And now here we are, once again, living through a forced evolution. The question is not whether we will be changed by this, but how? Which is where the hope, good news, the light at the end, the ray in sight comes in. We are at a magical place that is pregnant because we are at a tipping point.


University of Pennsylvania Social Scientist Damon Centola has studied change and contends that when 10, 15, or even 20% of a population welcomes an idea, movement is extremely slow, but when just a few more, just a handful more, are willing, quickly everything is different.


For a long time, we thought that significant change could only happen when over half of us are ready, but that 51% is kind of a myth. What is required for the burst of light, the ray of a whole new way, the twist toward the turning, needs just one quarter of us on board. And then suddenly, there will be an explosion of change.


And that is where we are right now- a tipping point where nothing will be impossible. This year sped up what is wrong, which means it could also speed up what is right! Enough of us believe that we set this up and we can set up something else. Enough of us understand that when the Pentagon spends more than $2 billion every day, more than $1 million every minute, on endless wars, we can no longer accept the mantra that there isn’t enough money for what is needed, in education, healthcare and earth friendly transportation. Enough of us are learning the history to know the hypocrisy of the war on drugs where even here in Colorado White men now profit from the very thing that has Black men still enslaved in prison cells. Enough of us are hearing the cry for help when we learn that since 1970, North America has lost almost 3 billion birds. Enough of us know that on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, we can choose a freedom that comes with the responsibility to keep our kids safe.


We are a tipping point, where despite what you hear in the corporate funded media, there are more of us who believe in justice and love. This is a time where nothing will be impossible because enough of us have said, enough!


For nothing will be impossible with God- that’s what the angel said to Mary, the mother of Jesus. With God, nothing will be impossible. And I think maybe that is part of why this powerful story of light coming into the world, why this is included- not because Mary felt that she could do anything, but she knew God needed her to act like it. Let me say that again. We get this detail, not necessarily because Mary felt that she could do anything, but she knew God needed her to act like she could. The Universe needed her to say yes, even while she was shaking inside.


We don’t need to wait until we feel like we are capable or ready to accomplish most anything, instead what if we just acted like it? What if we got out of bed each day and acted as if nothing was out of reach? What if that’s what the Universe needs from all of us right now? Get behind me Satan, nothing will be impossible!


“Here I am” I can do anything.


Mary’s role in the greater vision, her part in a sort of forced evolution was this: live right now, as if nothing will be impossible, get up tomorrow and act as if anything is possible, plan for next week, next month, next year as if nothing will be impossible- as if you are birthing a whole new world. Even if you feel lowly or unworthy or unready. That is what is needed. That is what God is asking of her and of us. Leave fear behind and be open to magic, to being an agent of something bigger, to being an instrument for a movement that is needed in this moment. Live as if nothing will be impossible.


As we heard from, Pema Chödrön, being open to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of our own being and of reality, allows us to increase our capacities and to shift how we see what is possible.


And there are signs in the sky! You may have already read that tomorrow night, December 21, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will get so close that they will “spoon” among the stars and appear to us as a double planet. This closeness is called a conjunction and it happens every 20 years, but this one is so wondrous that some are calling it a Great Conjunction. It is at the very least extraordinary. They haven’t gotten this close since 1226. Maybe it means nothing…or maybe it means something?


Beloved ones, there is a light at the end, a ray of hope in sight. We are at a magical place that is pregnant because we are at a tipping point where nothing will be impossible because enough of us have said enough!


The task for all of us now living through another forced evolution is this: act as if anything is possible. In the words of Ralph Bahro, “When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.” So, share and try wild ideas for love. Deploy experiments in justice. Venture to what they told us was too idealistic. Take risks to tell new stories about what could be. Build relationships that are shocking. A new day is dawning and you don’t need to change anything about yourself, all of us simply must be open to the change that is coming, let us be willing to be insecure.


Fear not! Leave the fear behind and be open to magic, to being an agent of something bigger, to being an instrument for a movement that is needed in this moment. We are at a tipping point. Let us put our impatience, our weariness, and pain to our power. We are alive for a great conjunction! Let us live as if nothing will be impossible…and that’s how it all becomes possible. May it be so!


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