And They Shall Lead Us

March 26, 2017 ()

READING ~ Hebrew Scripture Isaiah 11:6 (New Revised Standard Version)

Isaiah 11:6

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

 

READING ~ Kadyn Frawley “Using Your Universal Translator”

Let me tell you my most memorable terrible familial encounter. A few years ago my grandparents came to my house for Thanksgiving. I have always loved my grandparents to pieces but they have also been the source of many disgruntled nods and “uh huhs” and speeches along the lines of “I know you’re secretly ashamed of my liberal and atypical religious practices, sorry I don’t know how to say grace…” you get the picture.

Within 2 hours of being at my house my grandfather, in a well-meaning and non-hostile way asks me “why are you a democrat? What do democrats support?” Not knowing what to do, with both of my parents and my grandmother awkwardly awaiting my response, I tell him the first thing that pops into my head, the thing I find least arguable. “The right for gay people to marry” I say passive aggressively.

Most of us can assume, given my asking of all the questions about hostile and unwarranted religious arguments that my grandfather went on a rather long tangent attacking the LGBTQ community that eventually led to me fleeing the room in tears.

An hour later, still fuming, my grandmother sits down next to me alone in my living room. “I’m sorry your grandfather upset you so much, it wasn’t intentional”. I was angry beyond belief. Without thinking I sputtered “I’m gay. My friends are gay, my colleagues are gay. I’m mad!”

[Now again, remembering the questions I asked before,] can you think of what my utterly shocked grandmother’s response was?

She softly and bewilderedly responds: “Everyone has their own sins.”

 

SERMON

One young Woman: Linnie McGuire.

Choosing to Say "Hands off the Hijab"   by Kathy Slade

I had tried to talk Linnie out of going to the protest as she had another obligation. I said she'd be one person among thousands and her being there would not matter as much as it would at the meeting she was supposed to attend. But she persisted and got out of her meeting.

Linnie McGuire (center) in Boston’s Copley Square with newly met co-protestors against President Trump’s anti-Muslim ban. Photo by Kathy Slade.

Linnie and I were conspicuously the only people on the T with signs, which I kept tucked by my side. After a while the man standing next to me held up his phone showing the immigration ban protest event on Facebook and asked if we were going. I laughed, pointing to my signs, saying "How did you guess?"  He said he'd sent a text of our sign to his wife. I looked to see which sign was facing him. It was Linnie's sign, "Hands off the Hijab." He said his wife liked it. He was meeting friends at the protest and his wife was newly expecting and very tired so staying home. She wears hijab. We asked him to tell her we were going for her. We talked like old friends and he let us know the T stop we were heading to was closed and he led us to another and together we found our way to the protest. We parted ways at Copley Plaza having exchanged names and stories.

As Linnie and I merged into the periphery of the crowd, women in hijab would spot Linnie's sign and mouth “thank you” as they passed. As one pair of women in hijab approached they burst into tears. One went to hug Linnie and thank her, and the other buried her face in her hands and sobbed. I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. When she looked up we hugged . . . as I whispered in her ear "It's going to be ok" she cried and hugged harder. They switched places and we each repeated the same.

As I wiped the tears of strangers, I admitted I had been wrong: It mattered.

Kathy Slade and her daughter, Linnie McGuire, members of The North Parish of North Andover, Massachusetts, attended an Immigration Ban Protest on January 29, 2017 in Boston’s Copley Square.

 

That story comes to us from Kathy Slade and her daughter Linnie McGuire. They are members of The North Parish of North A.ndover, Massachusetts. On January 29th they both attended an Immigration Ban protest in Boston’s Copley Square. If Linnie McGuire is this clear about the importance of showing up as an ally in the effort to bring true acceptance for our immigrant and also our Muslim neighbors, then I’ll be happy to fall in behind her as she marches forward toward justice and peace.

Another young woman: Kayla Parker.

The meditation this morning comes from the writings of Kayla Parker. The way she describes her recognition of her place in the world is captivating. She demonstrates a self-reflective awareness that many of us do not achieve until much later in life, if at all. She realized what it is to be a girl on the playground when the boys started looking up her dress. At the age of 6 or 7, she was figuring out the difference between girls and boys and that somehow it was better to be a boy. At 19, she realized that she liked other women and at 22 her whiteness became a very real thing with very real implications for her and for nonwhite people.

What I find captivating about this short meditation of hers is not that she experienced a series of self-revelations through her school years. That is normal, I think. What is not as normal is her ability to give a larger meaning to these revelations, and to be surprised and perhaps chagrined that it took her 22 years to notice and comprehend what it means to be white in this country, which is clearly an identity of privilege. Understanding all of that has not been easy for Kayla, as I suppose it has not been easy for most of us. She credits, in part, her faith and her connection to others on the path toward enlightenment with whatever progress she continues to make.

Here she is again, in her words . . .

“I Realized” by Kayla Parker

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of my identities. I ­could add cisgender and ­middle class; I ­could add daughter and lover. When I look at my many identities, I am struck by how old I was when I truly realized the privilege of being white, and how young I was when I understood the oppression of being a woman. Although the discrimination I faced because of my gender hit me in the face pretty early, privilege is a part of my identity and a reality of my culture I ­could not have figured out on my own.

I am grateful to Unitarian Universalism for helping me develop and analyze my identities. This faith has helped me deal with the oppression I face, and realize the privilege I have. I am grateful that my religion has fostered and spurred my development and pushed me to develop aspects of myself as I ­could not have done alone. By growing older amid the support of this community, I have realized many aspects of my identity ….

I am still growing into my many identities, and for that, I am grateful. I know I will never perfectly be any one of them, and so I’ll keep growing and getting better at being the intersection of them all. 

Kayla Parker has a maturity and a sense of herself and how she relates to others with similar and with different identities that far exceeds what I could have claimed at her age. And she shall one day, probably soon, lead us.

A third young woman: Kaydn Frawley.

Kaydn Frawley wrote a sermon titled, “Using Your Universal Translator.” She prepared this sermon at the UU Summer Seminary at Harvard Divinity School in summer 2016. I didn’t even know we had a summer seminary program for youth and young adults! As it turns out, we do. … and lots of young UUs go there to deepen their faith, explore and share their spirituality, and test their interest in an academic theology and UU ministry (either as lay leaders or ordained ministers). Kaydn Frawley delivered her sermon in her home church this past January.

Kaydn’s concept of a Universal Translator is important. She wonders if we all will rush to assume that a Universal Translator is a fancy new app available in the Apple App Store. Not me. Her idea of the universal translator reminds me of Star Trek where all the humanoids from across the galaxies understand each other. Yea, they all have universal translators implanted in their heads. Kaydn probably doesn’t know much of anything about Star Trek, so I’ll leave it right there. What she does know is that if we are to find common ground, we must be willing and able to do two things: speak our own truth AND deeply listen to the truth of others; translating, if necessary, offensive or utterly strange language and concepts into something that is familiar. This is not a replacement plan for what they are saying because that would be disrespectful. But, we let language and world views that don’t match our own disturb us and set up barriers that keep us from knowing different kinds of people -- and that sometimes make us into sharp adversaries when we might have found a way to gain understanding and some common ground. It might also help us keep our family members in a circle of love and care even in the presence of some pretty strong differences. … Kadyn, a young liberal UU with what her conservative Christian grandparents still think are outlandish religious ideas is actively seeking ways to find common ground and keep love alive.

This is how she ends her sermon:

A word of caution when using your Universal Translator: don’t think that using it means you must agree with negative or discriminatory things people say. Rather, your Universal Translator is a tool for more compassionate and calm conversations and allows you to live and speak your values with a better chance of reaching the other person’s heart.

We are a prophet-hood of all believers. With that comes contradiction and struggle but without it we lose the diversity and overwhelming community we value so deeply.

Kadyn is figuring out how to get along with those who see things differently.   Maybe she’ll get an internship with the House of Representatives and save us from bickering lawmakers! And probably, we will see her rise to some level of activism and leadership within our Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. I await that day with confidence in our future.

The voices of our youth and young adults are loud and strong. They are determined to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with their god.

Young Unitarian Universalists are serious about their faith and they are serious about what their faith means in their lives. And, like everyone else, they suffer the pains and insults of growing into their maturity. Yet, they persevere.

I can’t bring you all the voices or experiences of our youth and young adults, but I am trying to give you a glimpse into what they care about and who they are now and who they are becoming.

These are the young Unitarian Universalists who will be leaders soon. They have counterparts in many religious traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and nonsectarian traditions of pagans, spiritual-but-not-religious, humanist, atheist and agnostic. Labels don’t phase them much. Their lives have fluidity of labels and categories that we once regarded as fixed and unchangeable. I think that perhaps they will find common ground and common good where we have seen obstacles and heartache. To all of that I say: BRING THEM ON; I’m ready to follow their lead.

Blessed Be. I Love You. Amen.

 

 


Ella's Song

Lyrics and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon
Songtalk Publishing Co., copyright 1981

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers' sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers' sons

That which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me

To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can but shed some light as they carry us through the gale

The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on
Is when the reins are in the hands of the young, who dare to run against the storm

Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me
I need to be one in the number as we stand against tyranny

Struggling myself don't mean a whole lot, I've come to realize
That teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way my struggle survives

I'm a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I'll bow to no man's word

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

 

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