Robbie Walsh writes:
Some say we get what we deserve in life, but I don’t believe it. We certainly don’t deserve J S Bach for example. What have I done to deserve the Second Brandenburg Concerto? I have not been kind enough; I have not done enough justice; I have not loved my neighbor, or myself, sufficiently; I have not praised God enough to have earned a gift like this.
Life is a gift we have not earned and for which we cannot pay. There is no necessity for there to be a universe, no inevitability about a world moving towards life and then self-awareness. There might have been – nothing at all.
Since we have not earned J S Bach – or friends, or crocuses – the best we can do is express our gratitude for the undeserved gifts, and do our share of the work of creation.
Good morning and welcome to this service at the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains, a time for us to express our gratitude for all of life’s undeserved gifts, and to do our share of the continuing work of creation, the continuing work of building a society and a world in which all may enjoy Bach or the Beatles or the Boomtown Rats, in which all are free to be who they are. I am the Rev. David Usher, Interim Minister until the summer when, we all hope, your next settled ministry will begin.
We strive to be a community of open minds, loving hearts and helping hands. We welcome you regardless of your race, your gender, your economic or educational status or whom you love and how you express that love. I trust you all have the sheet of paper which lists the activities and programs of this coming week. If you have any questions about any of them, please don’t be shy about asking. Join us for refreshments and conversation in the Alcott Room, at the end of the corridor, after the service.
As has become the custom in Unitarian Universalist communities around the world, we light a chalice, and as I do so, I invite you to say the words of affirmation printed on the screen in front of you.
That speech of Dr King’s, standing before the Lincoln Memorial on that hot August day more than half a century ago, must surely rate as one of the greatest speeches in American history. To this day, one needs only say the four words, “I have a dream” and instantly, the world identifies the reference. It was a speech, full of hope and vision and determination, given at a time of great fear and uncertainty, in which King could not have known what the future would bring.
Fifty plus years on, in many ways the racial landscape in this country has changed. And in many ways, frustratingly, it has remained stubbornly the same. African Americans do have the right to vote though, outrageously, many States are actively trying to make it as difficult as possible for them to do so. African Americans are no longer pummeled by water hoses as they gather in the street or savaged by police attack dogs though they continue to be the the disproportionate victims of unchecked and unpunished police brutality and violence. Do you know that more African Americans were killed by police in 2015 than ever were lynched? It was only now that Black Lives Matter had to become a rallying cry.
African Americans are no more likely to commit criminal acts, yet are much more likely to be incarcerated as a way of feeding the lucrative prison industrial complex that makes white businessmen rich. This might be a country whose President had a black father, but it still is not a country in which discrimination against blacks is not rife. Regardless of whether you agree with his politics, he has been subjected to more personal abuse than any President before him. Do you remember, ten or so years ago, when the music group, The Dixie Chicks, made a disparaging throwaway comment about George W Bush? They were pilloried as traitors for their disrespect for the Presidency by the indignant hard right, the very hard right which now is unreserved in what it says about the Presidency because the President is black. The country about which King dreamed remains largely a dream, an elusive distant vision, something for which there is, still, much much waking work to do.
How much more tempting it is to venerate King as a great man, back then, than to think that we are called to our own greatness now. How much easier to think that praising heroes of the past excuses us from heroism in the present. As Carl Wendell Hines writes:
Now that he is safely dead
Let us praise him
Build monuments to his glory
Sing hosannas to his name
Dead men make
Such convenient heroes: They
To challenge the images
We would fashion from their lives
It is easier to build monuments
Than to make a better world.
So, now that he is safely dead
We, with eased consciences
Will teach our children
That he was a great man…knowing
That the cause for which he lived
Is still a cause
And the dream for which he died
Is still a dream
A dead man’s dream…
Dr Martin Luther King Jr had a dream. Do you? Do you have a dream of what might yet be? Do you have a dream, or perhaps it is more a haunting vision, of what you might yet be. Do you have a dream of what it would look like for us, truly, to be color blind?
I invite you to think about what your dream might be. You might not be as eloquent as Dr King, who of us ever could be, and you don’t have forty five minutes to express your dream even if you were, but if you do have a dream, then please come forward and write it on a 3×5 card and place it in the bowl. What might that dream look like? Would it be about the release from prison of so many African American men deliberately profiled and targeted? Would it be about an education system which was not so divided in quality along racial and economic lines? Would it be about housing or employment, access to welfare or voting rights?
You might also add something you think needs to be done, something you personally could do, to help make that dream real. It might be something political, to be worked towards in the public sphere, or it might be some work you need to do on yourself. What lingering prejudices hinder your true openness to equality? What fears, what reluctances, what shames do you harbour?
Don’t put your name to your card. While you are contemplating what your dream of racial equality and justice might look like, and how to move towards its fulfillment, there will be a time of music, and when it seems that everyone has come forward who wants to, I will read out what is written on some of the cards.
Reading the cards
Let us join in a time of shared prayer and meditation
Spirit of Love and Justice, infuse us with a vision of who and how we might be together in community that honors all people, that respects all people, that includes all people, that refuses to relegate some to the margins of opportunity or dignity. And with that vision, infuse us also with the passion which will sustain us through the sometimes dark, disconsoling nights as we work towards such community. May we not grow discouraged or complacent, may our comfort not weaken our resolve to ease the pain of others; may the fact that we have a place at the table of abundance not blind our eyes or block our ears or harden our hearts to the cries of those who are excluded.
May we all have a dream; may it be our inspiration and our consolation, that which goads us to action and comforts us in our rest, may our hearts be filled with the dream; and in our waking hours, our hands work steadfastly for its fulfillment.
Dreams written by congregants
That all people be treated equally regardless of race or all of those other things we judge.
I have a dream that the people in this country of African American descent would attend our UU community and find the acceptance and love that is here for them.
love my enemies.
All people will express loving kindness to all in their daily lives.
Remove barriers to job training and employment for people with prison or arrest records.
I dream that our country will one day invest more money in education than in war.
My dream is to be active in curtailing police surveillance locally, especially in regard to the new edict against medical marijuana.
Education for everyone who wants it – free.
That we will know what racism really looks like.
An end to wars that target people of color.
Education for all that is free.
I have a dream of the education of all children in American be based in the principle of citizenship – where laws and rules are made to ensure the fair treatment of all.
We have a woman President in my lifetime now that we have had a black President.
I dream of an end to global warming, all of the “isms”, economic inequality, violence, hunger and disease. I dream of peace, justice and music for all.
I dream that al children will be encouraged to think for themselves and to ask questions.
I dream of a world of people so blended that no-one can place them in categories.
Peace and justice for all on this earth – and that my own heart be fully opene to all.
I dream that my nieces, nephews and future grandchildren will know the joy of friendship with children of all colors and nations; black, brown, purple, near and far.
That rising above isn’t relative to another.
That we greet one another with a smile and an open heart of love.
Shape justice at UUCM.
The dream that I might grow into the person who stands in courage and raises a voice to injustice rather than falls in the safety of passivity.
We and they become one together.
I will find a form of advocacy that feels productive and possible for me to help others.
Environmental justice: a clean world where some are not forced to live in unhealthy areas.
I have a dream that our politics can be based on facts and rationality so that we can work together on solutions to our many problems.
Unfortunately, nothing we do will be effecting long term – unless we control global warming.
That people will learn to listen to others’ opinions without prejudice and pre-conceived opinions. To find compromise to problems and issues.
I have a dream to rest from strife and striving and to let myself and those around me experience the goodness and truth that there is. Only that way can we share good things and the truth of that which is right. I have the dream of seeing what is good.
American society evolves to one showing compassion to all.
I dream that all children will have opportunities for loving homes, empowering education and the chance to give back more than they take as adults.
That imminent catastrophic climate collapse would so galvanise all nations and peoples that human discrimination would fall away in a grand human coalition to save life on this planet.
I dream of a day when everyone can have plenty of food, water, health and a comfortable home filled with love.
I have a dream that people would live out their religions or take it upon themselves to establish a just line.
I dream that the people of this country will someday mature to get over the divisiveness and prejudices of the past.
I dream that I will speak out my feelings to others.
Express love for all without shaming those who are affected with prejudices that linger deep within.
Medical care, single payer for all.