In our culture we are taught to strive for success, which often includes material gain. On this Stewardship Sunday we will explore the idea of being rich, how it is manifested in our lives, and specifically how it is embodied in our connection to UUCD.
Rev. Lori Kyle joined the UUCD family as our congregation's spiritual leader in October 2014. Following her recent successful interview with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee in Boston, Lori was ordained at Toronto First on June 14, 2015. Lori is a native of Kansas City, Missouri and moved to Canada in 2009 with her family. Currently she resides in eastern Toronto with her fiancée Margaret, her children Maddie and Nathan, and their yellow lab Sally.
The complete sermon can be read below:
Comedian Bill Murray once said, “A few decades ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please don’t let Kevin Bacon die!” I’m not sure if he meant bacon in the ‘eggs and bacon’ sense, or if perhaps he meant ‘bringing home the bacon’.
I suppose one could apply the adage “Bringing home the bacon” to a congregation’s stewardship celebration, since it denotes earning or bringing money/material riches, especially to one’s family.
I don’t suppose, though, that this popular phrase ever meant riches of the other kind - riches of the spirit. You might be surprised to hear that the foundation of our stewardship efforts is about spiritual riches as much, or more, than material riches.
It’s the same kind of richness that Mary Oliver addresses in her poem that you might remember from last month called “Other Kingdoms” where she speaks about the infallible sense of animals regarding what their lives are meant to be.
In it she says,
“The world can grow rich and wild,
and you too, can grow rich, and sweetly wild,
as you were born to be.”
We’ve been hearing about a different way of looking at the concept of being rich this past month, with the help of our prophetic men. Born into wealth, St. Francis became truly rich when he gave up material wealth. And Thoreau believed that real wealth is the ability to fully experience life. For him being rich was intimately linked to our first Source of the directly experience of transcending mystery and wonder.
These things you know…we’ve taken them head on. But there’s something else about richness, not so obvious, that we’ve been taking on in our congregation this past month.
Recently we’ve revamped our Marketing Task Force with the simple purpose of one thing: marketing UUCD to the wider community so that we may grow. And at our first meeting we determined that one of our primary tasks is to identify what benefit we offer to people. In other words…how would people’s lives be enriched by UUCD?
The beginning point to that question is …how are you enriched by being a part of UUCD? I actually asked that question of several UUCD’ers. The pool of those surveyed is rather small and quite age-diverse…responses came from a young sprout, a youth, a middle-ager, and an elderly congregant. I’ll let you surmise who offered which of these responses:
“It’s nice being a part of a group with others that aren’t family. I like meeting and visiting. It means fun on Sundays.”
“Coming to UUCD keeps my brain working. I also like the friendship I have here. This is not like the rest of the religious churches. These sermons make me think….it’s not the same thing over and over.”
“I like UUCD because I can be ‘authentic’ and don’t have to pretend to agree with a list of understood beliefs in order to feel comfortable.”
“I like the UUCD because I know that no matter what I believe in, I will still be welcome.”
Fun. Friendship. Authenticity. Comfort. Welcome.
Corrine McLaughlin says:
“Community means different things to different people. To some it’s a safe haven where survival is assured through mutual cooperation. To others it’s a place of emotional support, with deep sharing and bonding with close friends. Some see community as an intense crucible for personal growth. For others, it is primarily a place to pioneer their dreams.”
I see a spiritual community – OUR spiritual community – as all of these things.
As a place where we unabashedly bring our hearts to be touched, where we bring our souls to be nourished, where we bring our minds to be stretched and challenged and ultimately freed.
So if we, as a community, are doing anything – anything at all – my sincere hope is that we are being an intense crucible for personal growth. And then, out of that growth we build dreams together. And are deeply enriched all the while.
But that’s my hope, my perspective. It’s not necessarily yours. Only you can speak to how rich you are because you call this place home.
ScotiaBank’s tagline “You’re Richer Than You Think” was blatantly borrowed for today, and I intended to heartily convince of just how enriched you are by UUCD, and to encourage you to pause long enough to really grasp this richness, with the bottom line being...you’re richer than you think.
Then it occurred to me…there’s no convincing someone of how enriched they are. The bottom line isn’t convincing that you’re enriched, but instead it’s to ask… what do you believe as a result of however rich you are.
The enrichment part is more passive, something that we receive. The belief part is more active, something that fuels us and gives us undeniable resolve. This became clear to me during a pastoral visit in a nursing care home just last week. I have a meditation booklet entitled “I Am Divine: Affirming our Divine Nature in Everyday Life” by Barbara Burke, given to me by a congregant in the TO First congregation. One of the meditations is on belief, and as I shared this passage last week I couldn’t help but think of us, of how we behave when we believe we’re rich.
The passage says:
When one believes in an idea or thought,
the thought becomes part of our distinct reality.
Belief powers our creative thought.
An important aspect of belief entails
you “being” the thought by bringing energy to it.
You are being asked to look at your beliefs today.
These core beliefs construct your core reality.
Do these beliefs reflect the world you choose to live in?
Do the beliefs you hold about yourself reflect your sacred essence?
What beliefs are you ready to let go of that do not serve you?
May you be supported in strengthening the beliefs that will hold the vision of your true sacred essence.
Indeed, you are being asked to look at your beliefs today.
Your beliefs about Unitarian Universalism.
Your beliefs about the importance of UUism in Durham.
Your beliefs about how enriched you are by UUCD,
and about this congregation’s potential to do good in the world. Think of what we could do if we all got in touch with our spiritual wealth, and what we truly believe we can accomplish!
I have a story to share with you about how one man believed, and what he accomplished because of it.
It’s about a man named Bill, who was in his late 30s, and who had been working for a mobile phone company as an accountant for numerous years. One day his company went out of business, and Bill was suddenly jobless. He had always played with the idea of starting his own business of selling his own handmade wooden crafts.
It was his real love, and he had a garage filled with the pleasant smell of wood pulp and shavings to show for it. But, as many of us do, he had convinced himself that he could not do it. He believed that it probably won’t work and that no one would be interested in his business of crafts. He also didn’t want to risk all his money he had been saving.
Bill decided to take a walk in the park near his home to organize his thoughts. (He had ample time for walks in the park in those days). As he sat on a park bench feeding the birds, a nicely dressed older gentleman walked up and sat beside him. A conversation struck up, and Bill explained what had happened and his ideas of selling the crafts. He also told the older man that he believed that his ideas would fail and he didn’t want to take risk.
The old man listened intently, then stood up and said, “In my many years as president of a large bank, I have met a number of people like you. I feel that if you believe that you will succeed and affirm that belief to yourself often, then you will.” Bill didn’t want to be impolite, but he said, ”I don’t believe I can and, I am afraid to fail.”
The old man said, “Son, I can help you.” Then he did something that astonished Bill. Pushing a cheque into Bill’s hand he said, “I am old and don’t have many years left to spend the money I have saved. Use this cheque to start your business and meet me here again in a handful of months - I’m frequently here - and you can pay me back this loan then.” And the well dressed old man then walked away.
Bill couldn’t believe what had just happened. He felt like it was a scene from some movie….he had just been handed a cheque for ten thousand dollars by a stranger. His first inclination was to go to bank to cash it, but instead he held on to it knowing that he could draw it any time. He now had a new feeling of hope, and determination, and started telling himself that, “I can’t fail. I have ten thousand dollars to fall back on!”
Over the next months Bill worked very hard building his business, and he actually began to be successful. He worked day and night in his garage, and soon had to add on to the garage in order to accommodate his space needs. And he never had to cash the cheque.
He never, however, forgot the deal that he was to return to the park to pay the man back, and he was delighted to not only do so, but to be able to say, “I did it!” He wasn’t someone who frequented the park, but he had gone a couple of times to that same park bench around the same time of day, hoping to see the elderly man, but he was never there.
It was a long shot, but it still would have been a happy ending to this Hollywood story if he could see the old man again. And then one day, when he was walking through the park to home on his way back from a quick run to a convenience story, he saw the man, sitting on the same bench.
Bill was delighted and his steps quickened to get to the man. But before he could, a lady in nurse uniform ran quickly up and grabbed the old man’s arm. She apologized to Bill, who looked surprised and dismayed, and said, “I’m so glad that I found him. I hope he hasn’t been bothering anyone. He’s always wandering away from nursing home and going around telling people he’s the president of some large bank.” She took the old man’s arm and took him away.
Bill’s legs felt numb, and he sat heavily on the bench where the man had been moments before. All these months he had been working at his business with passion, believing that he had a cheque of $10,000 and that he could cash it any time. It suddenly dawned on him that he had made his business successful based upon his belief in himself and the attitude that he could achieve what he truly desired.
This story reminds me of the words of Rev. Fulgence, a recently imprisoned UU minister in Burundi, Africa. He said:
When strangers meet, endless possibilities emerge:
New experiences, new ways of understanding,
and new ways of taking action.
When strangers meet, each pays special attention to the other.
Each is called to serve something larger than the self.
Today, this morning, we’ve lit the chalice:
For openness, For willingness to grow,
For rich curiosity, and for common purpose.
Each of us was a stranger before we met, and look what we’ve formed. Imagine the possibilities if we truly believe we can realize our dreams together.
Recall the words from our meditation:
What shape waits in the seed of us to grow
and spread our branches against a future sky?
Is it waiting in what we can imagine for ourselves?
In the open and lovely white page on the waiting desk?
The future of our congregation and how our story plays out is largely ours to write. What shape waits in our seed, and how will that shape and that growth be impacted by you personally? It’s for each of us to decide.
Today is a day to know of our wealth, and to live our beliefs so that our dreams can be brought to life.
May it be so.
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