By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Dec 11, 2008

>> Chalice Lighting.

Every month, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists has a "Global Chalice Lighting"
and distributes a reading that many congregations use for one service every month.
The following is the December 2008 chalice lighting, in Khasi (from India) and English:
Ha kane jingiaseng jongngi,
Ngi ieng ban nguh ha kjat jong Phi;
Ai ba baroh jongngi ki mon,
Ha ka Mon jong Phi kin dem ngon.

We rise to bow before You, Almighty,
With gratitude and in humility;
May our individual wills
Be one and bow before Your Holy Will.

Ha kane jingiaseng, A Blei,
Ai jingmut kin thanda, kin palei;
Da jingjemnud ngin iashahshkor,
Ia ki ktien Jingshisha kordor.

As we congregate here this day,
May our thoughts be simple and noble;
With receptive hearts may we heed
The precious words of Truth.

Ka spah bad jingsngewbha pyrthei,
Kim lah ai jinghun da lei lei;
Ka jingsuk batam eh iangi,
Long ban ieit bad shaniah ha Phi.

Worldly riches and pleasures
Give but momentary satisfaction;
But everlasting peace for us will be,
When we love You and trust in You.

 -- Khasi hymn #56 by Hajom Kissor Singh
 -- Unitarian Union of North East India

>> Opening Song.

We'll open with one of my favorite UU hymns.
We're now in the season of Advent, which for Christians is the time of the year to prepare for the birth of Jesus.
It is a time of awakening as the days get shorter, as people prepare for the future: cooking, getting gifts, writing cards.
This hymn tells us to wake up those parts of our being that we might have let sleep recently.

This is the from the set of recordings from the UU Church of Nashua, New Hampshire.

Let's continue with our service now as we sing together our opening hymn, Number 298,
"Wake Now My Senses"

Wake, now, my senses, and hear the earth call;
Feel the deep power of being in all;
Keep, with the web of creation your vow,
Giving, receiving as love shows us how.

Wake, now my reason, reach out to the new;
Join with each pilgrim who quests for the true
Honor the beauty and wisdom of time;
Suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime.

Wake, now, compassion, give heed to the cry;
Voices of suffering fill the wide sky;
Take as your neighbor both stranger and friend,
Praying and striving their hardship to end.

Wake, now, my conscience, with justice thy guide
Join with all people whose rights are denied;
Take not for granted a privileged place;
God's love embraces the whole human race.

Wake, now, my vision of ministry clear;
Brighten my pathway with radiance here;
Mingle my calling with all who will share;
Work toward a planet transformed by our care.



>> Reading

A few weeks ago I mentioned the seven Principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association,
a covenant that binds together the member congregations.
I'm going to talk about one part of the third Principle: to affirm and promote
acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

The reading are the proposed changes to the Principles, to be voted on this coming June during General Assembly
in Salt Lake City.
The basic message is essentially unchanged from the current Principles, but there is a some commentary included.
Also, the Third and Fifth Frinciples have changed their wording a little bit.

In order that we might work together in harmony to make our communities and our world more likely
to protect and nurture all that is positive and hopeful;
and in order that members of our congregations might find spiritual challenge to become their
best selves as they worship and work together to create the Beloved Community,
we, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to honor and uphold:

-- The inherent worth and dignity of every person

    At the core of Unitarian Universalism is recognition of the sanctity of every human being across the lifespan.
    We are relational creatures, capable of both good and evil.
    We have experienced enough brokenness, including in ourselves, to seek the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
    We are called to make choices that help to heal and transform ourselves and the world, and to move toward solidarity with all beings.

-- Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations

    Grateful for the gift of life and mindful of our own mortality, we seek to respond with generosity and loving action.
    We are called to live in right relationship with others.

-- Acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth

    We seek to enter dialogue with one another in mutual love and respect, honoring our varied backgrounds and paths.
    We are called to stretch and deepen our faith through religious education, creative engagement,
    and spiritual practice in our congregations and in our lives.

-- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

    Unitarian Universalism is an evolutionary religion that encourages and supports lifelong spiritual exploration.
    Unitarian Universalist religious authority lies in the individual, nurtured and tested in congregation and wider community.
    In a spirit of humility and openness, we are called to seek truth and meaning, wherever found, through experience,
    reason, intuition, and emotion.

-- The right of conscience and the use of democratic processes

    We seek to ensure that all voices are heard, especially those often left out on the margins.
    We are called to promote fairness, accountability, honesty, and transparency.

-- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

    We seek to create, sustain, and celebrate multigenerational and multicultural communities where
    oppression cannot thrive and where hope and peace flourish.
    We are called to counter legacies of injustice and to foster reconciliation.

-- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

    Inspired by the beauty and holiness of the Earth, we become more willing to relinquish material desires.
    We recognize the need for sacrifice as we build a world that is both just and sustainable.
    We are called to be good stewards, restoring the Earth and protecting all beings.

As free yet interdependent congregations, we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust, kindness, and support.
Should we break this covenant, we will seek to repair the relationship and recommit to the promises we have made.

>> Homily "Acceptance"

The third Principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association encourages "acceptance of one
another and encouragement of spiritual growth in our congregations."
And for me personally, it is the most difficult principle to live up to.

Acceptance is what is asked for in the Third Principle--beyond tolerance.

Tolerance is living with a situation that you fundamentally disagree with.
When we are practicing toleration, we sit quietly and don't listen.
But there is no true communication when we are merely being tolerant.
When we are merely tolerating, we all agree to disagree.

Tolerance is the minimum of civility that we should all practice.
Intolerance--actively, loudly yelling, for example--is generally unacceptable in most situations.
In fact, here in Second Life it's against the Terms of Service to be loudly intolerant.

But mere tolerance is not adequate for living in a right relationship with our community;
at some level, we should strive to accept everyone in our community.
- - -
From the opening hymn:
  Wake, now my reason, reach out to the new;
  Join with each pilgrim who quests for the true
  Honor the beauty and wisdom of time;
  Suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime.

Acceptance of one another is one aspect of reaching out for the new.
Who better among us to show us the new, than those whom we choose with to live closest?

Acceptance is to "suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime."
It's easy to accept someone and something that you entirely agree with.
But when we encounter someone in our midst whom we disagree, the hymn tell us
that we must "suffer our limit"--endure the situation that we find ourselves in.
Then we must "praise the sublime"--find that small, subtle thing that can start us
in moving past just tolerance, then into acceptance.

I don't find this a serious problem here in Second Life; at some level, this is a sort of game.
And even though I myself tend to play "real" in this place, I don't expect others to be.
So if one of you prefer to interact with me as an animal, or a tree, or even a random gender,
I can accept that easily in the context of this game.

With Real Life, and even a very few of the people behind the keyboard here at UUSL, I sometimes have a problem.
Where I have problems with acceptance is based on my personality; a Myers-Briggs classification of INTJ.
For those of you not familiar with Myers-Briggs, the code refers to how I prefer to interact with the world.
INTJ is the "scientist" stereotype; seeking understanding, but skeptical unless I can experience it.

So I will admit, when someone in my RL church tries to tell me about the healing powers of crystals,
the conspiracy that keeps some people disadvantaged, or even the great things about the Republican party--
at first I tend to switch them off.
But especially with the recent election, I have been trying to be more open with those whom I disagree strongly.
This is important since I'm the lone liberal in my close family--about the only other family member close to
me who is also remotely liberal is my grandmother.

I have learned something about myself in this small journey; even the most disagreeable position does have a glimmer
of something that I can start to accept.
Crystal therapy can have a large placebo effect, and many times that is more effective than anything else;
I do believe that one can "think themselves sick"--I know that I have--and whatever it takes to break the
cycle, even something that has no detectable physical effect, can have a powerful emotional one.
And Republicans do have a few great ideas, more in the past then presently, but an intelligent and
principled political opposition can be useful for the betterment of our nation.

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative