The energy of action means that we, as Unitarian Universalists, have a sacred obligation to keep the fire burning and to light it where it doesn’t burn! Join us as we kick off our annual canvass campaign and reflect on the energy of our action and how it impacts the life of South Fraser Unitarians.
Please note that this is an approximation of the sermon delivered. Often Rev. Samaya will add or delete portions of the sermon in the moment.
Hmm … can you feel the love in the room? Let’s just take a moment breathing it in together, breathing in the love that’s here, breathing this love deeply into your body. Allow this love to fill your entire being, for what we do here in this sacred time matters. When we allow this love to penetrate our entire being, we allow – no, it’s more like we open ourselves for this time to allow the spirit of this love to hold us, to nurture us, to transform us. We come into this place knowing full well that we are human beings and will make mistakes – knowing that we break our vows to ourselves and to each other on a frequent basis. And yet, even though we’ve broken our vows a thousand times, we know that in this place we are invited each time to come in and that we are welcome. And that kind of welcome that we provide in this place ripples out into the world and transforms it. What we do here as a community of faith matters.
We come together each week to be held, to be nurtured, to be sustained so that we can experience this transformation and be the change we wish to see in the world. We come together knowing that the power of this community comes in to being each time we walk with each other through a difficult part of life, each time we sing together, each time we cry together and laugh together. There is something that we do one thing together at almost every Unitarian Universalist gathering that symbolizes we are moving into that time and space of transformational love – we light our chalice.
A cup that represents the common bowl of humanity – that we are all one; the candle that represents our physical lives here on this earth – that we are grounded in our faith; and the flame which is the representation of that transformation that happens in sacred space. One of my professors, Susan Ritchie, says this about the flaming chalice. “At its most literal level of meaning, the flaming chalice signals Unitarian Universalist identity. … It suggests the transformations that take place when we are held within religious community. When we light the chalice in worship, we illuminate a world that we feel called upon to serve with love and a sense of justice. The flame is what one of our beloved congregational hymns terms ‘The Fire of Commitment.’”1
So I invite you now, to turn to the people around you – in groups of four or so – and talk about how you’ve been transformed by being involved with South Fraser Unitarians. If you are relatively new here, think about your first visit here. What happened for you that made you decide to find out more about us and visit us, either for the first time, or again.
The Energy of Action – Part II
Joyce Poley, the composer and author of the hymn we just sang had no idea when she penned those words in 1987 how important they would become for us today. We are becoming aware almost on a daily basis that none of us is truly free unless we are all free – and how many people are denied so much just by the colour of their skin, who they love, or even what abilities they have. Today there is a rising ebb of hatred in the world that is seeking to undermine the rights of the very people who hold these identities. People who are in our lives and who many of us hold in love.
I’ve often said that when you walk through these doors, the real work of figuring out what you believe in – what you are willing to put your time, talents, and resources to will come into question. You see, the fire that we kindle each and every time we meet reminds us of our duty to question, to challenge, to demand real differences in the world and in our own lives.
How many of you were present for last week’s service when we honoured our ancestors? If you were, you probably saw one of our ancestors come to life last week – thanks to Robert for an excellent performance. Robert channelled one of our Unitarian ancestors, Michael Servetus who died on October 27th in 1553 for his beliefs. It’s hard to imagine but he walked to the stake to be burned alive with his theses chained to his legs. The fire that consumed him was a fire that we as current day Unitarian Universalists claim as our history. The energy of his actions remind us each and every time we light our chalice that we have an impact on the world and have the ability to enrich the world for all peoples – and in fact, we have a sacred obligation to keep that fire burning and to light it in places where it does not burn.
It takes a community to tend such a fire, to build such fires. In a few short months, we’ll be celebrating the birth of 30 years of this community. We are here together as a community because there were those who sought to build a fire in a place where it didn’t burn – here in the South Fraser area of Metro Vancouver. And let me tell you, our love, our transforming love is needed in our wider world!
Think for a moment about the sacred fire that burns here in this community of South Fraser Unitarians. We have inherited a legacy where we have been greatly provided for by our ancestors; ancestors who built a strong fire – one that burned brightly – built on their time, their talents, and their resources. It was present in the energy of Russ Murrell’s actions, one of the founding members of this congregation. In 1995, at the celebration of life for Russ, your then minister, the Rev. Brian Kiely, reports that when his eldest son got up to speak, not only did he offer a remembrance of his father, he also “offered heartfelt thanks to the members and friends of South Fraser Unitarian Congregation for our support of his Dad. Russ said that in his father’s last years, this place had become his cause, his main preoccupation and his oasis in the world.”2 I’m sure there are other ancestors of this congregation that could also claim that and we are living off the energy of their actions.
John and the other ancestors are present each time that we gather, each time we light this chalice. The energy of their actions is present and visible in all that we do, in how we gather together, and how we are able to provide this transforming power of love to our lives and to the communities we engage with in our wider world.
I ask you to think seriously and deeply about the health of the sacred fire that is South Fraser Unitarians today. As yourself if we are we able to maintain and sustain this community in healthy ways ensuring that this transforming power of love that we hold, that we all have experienced, that we have warmed ourselves by and found comfort in times of sorrow– is able to exist today and in the future?
It is the energy of our actions today and in the years to follow that will determine the vibrancy and strength of this sacred fire that we call South Fraser Unitarians. It’s going to take everyone’s time, everyone’s talents, and everyone’s resources to build a fire that exists in the future. At yesterday’s Harvest the Power session, the observation was made that everyone is a leader in this community whether we like it or not. Even if you don’t hold an official position of leadership in this community, you are leading in a myriad of different ways. You are leading the way by your very presence, by the way you give of your resources, and by the way you get involved in the life of this community, and by the way you contribute your talents and energy to this Beloved Community. Together, let us build a sacred fire of transforming love that will serve our needs today, and in the generations to come. Together, we make it so with the fire of our commitment.
- “Getting From There to Here: A History of South Fraser” the Rev. Brian J. Kiely, October 22, 1995