April 12, 2019

Deep Peace

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:58 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

In ministry, I nurture harmony, wholeness and integrity. In one word, Peace.

For example, when our nation was gearing up for war with Iraq in 2001 and early 2002, I was unequivocally opposed. At least one member in my congregation was supportive of military action in general and that war in specific. Many more were uncertain. I listened to all people carefully. This openness I later came to learn was key to creating a culture of trust, starting Creative Interchange and engaging in Appreciative Inquiry.

On Veterans Day, we honored those in the congregation who were veterans. In the sermon that day, I explained the position of those who valued our armed forces, as well my vision of just limits on war. In that context, I told why I believed the United States should go no further than Afghanistan, where we would be entangled for decades. I checked in with my pro-military church-member afterward. He disagreed with me on my assessment of the situation but said that it was “a very good sermon.” Part of all good ministry is the ability to disagree in love.

At Christmastime, our worship services invoked a theme of Deep Peace, using the justice-based understandings of ‘shalom.’ We encouraged daily practices of peacemaking and peacebuilding. In February of 2002, I marched with many congregants and friends in a snow-storm to protest the war. I spoke about the ethical and the spiritual reasons to oppose war and build peace. Part of Appreciative Inquiry is to build a positive vision of the future and then develop practices for getting there. In a congregation of 150 or 450 the principles are the same.

Through all this, that conservative member of my church remained active and respected in our UU congregation. He told me he liked my sense of humor and my kindness. A few years later, when he was in the hospital, the caring visits by me and many others in the church moved him deeply. He said that the acceptance of the church helped his healing. I have found that in a large congregation the challenge is to create integration between the many layers so that such persons are not lost.

In 1964, the pacifist, Vera Brittain, said, “Our task today is to find a method of helping and healing which provides a revolutionary constructive substitute for war.” As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I balance the integrity of the individual and the wholeness of the congregation to build Beloved Community and Deep Peace.

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January 21, 2019

Moon Wonders

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:46 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Last night my mind was so full of wonders and joys I almost missed another. After a week of immersion in the lives and writings of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior., the weekend was full of joy. A wonderful ordination on Saturday, great worship on Sunday, all three granddaughters on Sunday afternoon.

Around 9 PM I took my dog up for a walk atop my daughter’s apartment building. The air was crisp and clear. I looked up, and there above and toward the east was a crescent moon. It seemed that it had been full just a day or so before. But I had been busy. Then I realized that it was in the wrong part of the sky for a crescent. At that time of night, if it was a waning, crescent it would not be in the sky. A waxing crescent would be low in the west.

Finally, I struggled with why it was at such an odd angle. Long ago, I learned a little cross-language and theological mnomic. A waxing crescent looks like a “D” for Dios because God is first. A waning crescent should look like a “C” since Christo comes second. But, this crescent looked more like a bowl. And the dark part glowed strangely.

It seemed utterly mysterious. I was going to ask Google when I got back to the apartment. However, I stopped wondering when I got back to the grand-babies.

It was not until this afternoon that I remembered all those notifications about a lunar eclipse!

Often wonders unfold unnoticed all around. Yet there they remain forever wondrous.

December 2, 2018

Google UU Church

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:42 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Today Google informed me that my Google business listing was recategorized. Looking further I discovered that Cedars is no longer listed as ”church” and now is listed as ”Unitarin Universalist Church.” How interesting that even Google Analytics can tell that we no longer fit in an unqualified way within that one old Western religious category. But I wonder, are UU Congregation, or Fellowship, or Society different categories in Google Businesses or variations of UU Church? What does our Google category say about our identity, what we have to offer, or how we identify our competitors in the marketplace of ideas?

April 4, 2018

CREATION IN EIGHT DAYS – A SCIENTIFIC VERSION

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:51 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

The English versions of the book of Genesis open: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
But then the account drifts counter to current, scientific, understandings. The scriptures were written with the best science of their time and were written to sanctify the seven-day week. I have created my own UU version, using the results of science while honoring the rhythm of the week, and using the word God as a metaphor for the mystery of the source of creation.

CREATION IN EIGHT DAYS – A SCIENTIFIC VERSION

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the Universe was one, singular, formless and empty. There was not darkness nor light, not distance nor time, and the Spirit of God hovered in and around all.

Then the spirit moved , and there was light, and heat. There and then formed hydrogen and helium, oxygen, and all the elements. God saw that this was good. The seas of hot dust clumped and congealed into balls of light, separated by darkness and cold space within. Light and darkness, the fist day. (But there was no Earth or oceans, no life or people, so we rest on this day and worship the wonder of being.)

Then God said, “Let the solar system be born.” So, one cloud centered and churned until it burst into nuclear fire, our Sun. Whorls and eddies became planets around it. The Earth formed, and one great lump collided with Earth. Moon and Earth cooled and danced together. God saw this was good. From morning to night, one billion years, the second day. (But there was no oceans, life or human beings.)

Then, God said, “Let water separate from the land.” Rain fell, rocks cooled, oxygen was liberated to change the atmosphere to air. Air, earth, fire, and water, was the surface of Earth, and God saw this was good. Morning with the sun shining on the seas and night with the moon shimmering on the waters, the third day.

Then God said, “Let there be life in the waters.” In shallow seas, it began as simple things that fed on sunlight. Life grew and changed and formed the Ediacaran garden. Fronds and tubes carpeted the oceans for 100 million years until new creatures formed. Then trilobites, sea scorpions, the earliest fish and sharks filled the waters. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” and life was rich and varied and God saw it was good; morning and night, the fourth day.

Then God said, “Let living things arise on land.” Plants came first, moss, then ferns, then woody plants and seed-bearing plants formed forests. Next, creatures began to move about and change until there were sail-backed dimetrodons and lizard like creatures of all sorts. Giant beasts swam in the oceans, and giant dragonflies flew through the forests. For two hundred million years animals and plants filled the earth, and God saw they were good. Then the evening came, and countless forms of life faded and vanished in the night of the fifth day.

Then God said, [at the beginning of one of my favorite days,] “Let there be dinosaurs.” And there were dinosaurs, and God saw they were good. For two hundred and fifty thousand million years dinosaurs thrived and took all sorts of forms. Some were small as cats, while others were the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth. Some ate only plants, while some ate other dinosaurs. From the early dinosaurs till triceratops walked under the twilight moon, two hundred million years.

Then God said, “Let mammals dominate the earth.” An enormous meteor hit the Earth and so much changed. Dinosaurs did not survive the change, though some few transformed into birds that flew across the arc of the sky. Many creatures and plants, from sharks and snakes, to ferns and pine trees, changed very little. But mammals thrived. At first, they were few and small, but they developed into Elephant like mastodons, and huge saber-tooth tigers, early canines became huge wolves. God said, “Be fruitful and increase” and so they did. Somewhere near the end of this day, several kinds of primates developed tools. Creatures had long used sounds to communicate, but some of these new creatures spoke languages and sang songs.

We gather on Sunday to remember the first day of creation when there was only dust and light. We also celebrate that a new week is beginning. We are the latest of creation, and we must live in harmony with all the rest of the Earth. What will the world be like in a million years, or two hundred million? Will we have faded away, or will we survive to carry life and wonder and love out to other stars? Will we be smarter and healthier, or not? We Unitarian Universalists have chosen to work with the Creator Spirit who first said, “Let there be light.” May we be a blessing in this wonderous universe.

January 11, 2018

The Cry of Cthulhu

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:48 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I just finished reading Crispin’s Model, by Max Gladstone at Tor.com. The story is a fun variation on H. P. Lovecraft style stories. I read through Lovecraft’s short horror stories when I was in high school and have noted various appearances and influences of his work in other media, especially Mignolia’s “Hellboy” saga. But Lovecraftian themes also appear in humorous occurrences like Hello Cthulhu, or “Cuthulu for President” bumper stickers that proclaim, “No lives matter,” or ask, “Why choose the lesser of evils?”

The basic theology (mythos or meta meaning structure) of Lovecraft’s writing is that in the time before time, there dwelled in this universe old powers. Though they were part of the foundation of the earth and universe, they were banished or put to sleep. They care not at all about us, except that through us they can be called back into this universe to destroy it and remake it into a realm that fits their horrific tastes. To look upon them pushes most people to the brink of madness, or beyond.

The short story, Crispin’s Model, is written like Lovecraft’s stories. It is a first-person narrative about someone drawn inexorably into a near encounter with one of these Old Ones. (Spoiler alert, do not read further if you want the story to surprise you on its own terms.) But wonderfully, the story ends unlike Lovecraft’s works. Instead of our protagonist staving off an inevitable doom, or shadowing all her days with the horrors that lie curled at the root of all things, Crispin’s model overturns the genre and overpowers evil. She uses her will to love and to live to blot out the horrors. She uses conversation and honesty to bring the painter, Mr. Crispin, back from madness.

In this affirmation of human power and compassion as allied with the deeper power of love and justice the story takes a liberal-religious and humanistic turn. Most horror is pretty morose and tilts toward despair. The evil remains at large in the last lines of Gladstone’s story, and lives have been lost. But love and honesty have show their power and shown they are greater than mighty and ancient ills. I don’t know if this implies James Luther Adams’ “cosmic optimism” but it does have some of our spirit.

August 30, 2017

The Great Flood

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:40 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

The flooding in Huston and in the surrounding region, is a disaster!  Over 30 people have died and the loss to homes and business is huge.  This month has ended with the worse flooding ever seen in the history of the US.

It is impossible to really compare troubles and disasters, because so much depends on the context and the spiritual grounding of the people involved.  But, it should be noted that over 1000 people died this summer in floods around Mumbai, India, and the south Asian region including Bangladesh and Nepal.  They are still suffering an ongoing disaster there.

I understand the moral imperative of caring for those near to home first.  I am OK with the slogan “America first,” so long as it includes, “within a healthy global community.”  The implication of the slogan seems to be, “America first, and to hell with everybody else.”

The human world is increasingly interconnected, and we are woven into the web of life.  Our impact on climate effects everyone, everywhere.  Thus, we have a responsibility to share in limiting climate change and mitigating the damage and suffering it causes.  Furthermore, if we understand that compassion and sympathetic-joy are the two highest emotional states, “the abodes of heaven,” then we must not limit our compassion only to those with certain labels, or within certain boundaries.

As Jesus put it, according to Matthew 5, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect [in your love], therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  And the apostle Paul expanded on this teaching in his letter to the Romans, chapter 12.  

June 11, 2017

Universal Good

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:41 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

We struggle for justice, not because it is achievable, but because struggling for it is the source of our well being. This is the root of our morality and our demand for progress. It arises from the Unitarian, and the Universalist wells of our heritage.
To be more specific, here is a quote inspired by a story of Hoseah Ballou, but you can replace the words “steal a horse” with “say something we feel is racist” and it still applies: “The Universalists taught that people act morally, or in their words, practice holiness, because this is what leads to true happiness. In other words, stealing a horse would not occur to a Universalist, not because Universalists are better people than others, but because Universalists know a secret, one not obvious to everyone, but deeply true nonetheless: that true happiness requires living from principles of justice, equity, and compassion. In the words of the 1793 Winchester Profession, the Universalists of the time all agreed, “We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men.” Quoted from Erica Baron on Nature’s Path blog, June 9

May 15, 2017

Warning

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:16 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Years ago the Motivators posters were all the rage.  You can still see them on office walls today. They have beautiful, high-resolution photos of something like a group of people rowing a boat into a sunrise. At the top, a single word, like “TEAMWORK.”  Below the image a few sentences like, “Teamwork is the ability to direct individual accomplishment toward shared goals.  It is the pull that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

Of course, these posters inspired many parodies.  In one is a similar image of a rowing team in the early morning, all pulling together, the word “teamwork” in a similar font.  But below are the words, “When we fail as individuals, the fault is ours alone.  But when we fail as a team, it is always some other idiot’s fault.” My particular favorite was the image of a sunken ship, only the prow above the blue water as the sky turns to orange and yellow.  Above is the word “MISTAKES.”  Below, the text reads, “It could be that the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others.”

I thought of that poster yet again when I came across the latest installment of Sightings.   Out of University of Chicago’s Divinity school and the Martin Marty Center, this column has come out twice a week for decades sharing insights to the appearance of religion in public media.  On May 5, 2017, Martin Marty himself wrote on “Taking the Unitarian Universalist Diversity Crisis Seriously,” with a picture of our past UUA President at the top.  You should follow the link below to read the article but to my first reading, Dr. Marty’s point is this: Sometimes the purpose of your deep troubles is to serve as a warning to others.

Sightings, on UU Diversity Crisis

Mistakes

February 10, 2017

Sanctuary

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:46 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

WORDS SPOKEN AT A VIGIL IN SUPPORT OF A CITY COUNCIL DECISION TO DECLARE OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON, AS A SANCTUARY CITY

download

2017-FEB-7

My name is Reverend Thomas, lead minister at the Olympia UU Congregation. Tonight I want to speak about fear.

I understand, very well, the fear of terrorism. I want to live where I am not afraid of terrorist attacks, and because of that, I want others also to live free from terrorism.  I want to share the safety I feel here, with those who are fleeing violence and terror in this world.

I also fear to lose the protection of the law.  I want to know that I can call the police, or military, to protect me if need be.  I want others to have the same knowledge.  But there are people who fear the police and the military of their countries. I want them to share in the protections I enjoy.

I am glad I can thrive within the laws of this land, and this lovely city.  I want the law to protect me and all I hold valuable.  But if the laws of this land are unfair, unjust, or hurt people, then I will demand that they be changed.  And, if those in power do not act, I will resist those laws to draw attention to the need to make laws that are more just, equitable and compassionate.

Tonight we affirm our decision to be a sanctuary city.  That means we will not use our public resources to enforce national immigration laws.  I cannot tell you what to do, but I can ask ‘what exactly does that mean?’  Does it mean that we will not use our public resources, to harm others? Or does it mean we will use public resources to provide shelter and sanctuary from that harm?  Does it mean that we will passively resist, or that we will actively use our private homes to offer sanctuary, or will we put our bodies in between those we are called to protect and the foes that threaten them?

There are many people seeking sanctuary.  May we all feel safe and free of fear.  May we find the power to maintain all that keeps us safe. May we, tonight, extend the circle of care and protection we feel to all in Olympia, and to all who need it.

Amen

December 18, 2016

Make America Wake Again

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:03 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Oh, the Trump train is boarding, and all the powerful schemers are climbing abord. They are going to a land called America Great Again and they think we all will go with them.  But they are confused, most of America is confused, about where they are actually going.  They believe that America is Great is where each generation has more money, more financial opportunity, than the generation before.  

For example, The New York Times just published an article (“The American Dream, Quantified at Last,” by David Leonhardt) which begins with the fact that historian James Truslow Adams coined the term “American Dream” in his 1931 book The Epic of America.  They quote his definition of the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”  

The problem is that they use this definition to only focus on income, as revealed in income tax data.   But Adams went on, immediatly after the words quoted, to say that the dream was not just about income and because of that people msunderstand the dream.   Adams said, “It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

That sounds like the UU dream, the one that causes to wake up to the social order of the day.  We see the social order does not recognize people as they are, or empower them to attain their fullest stature.  Instead, the social order uses the sugar of income to ensure the oppressing, alienating, degrading and marginalizing of so many of us.  We wake each tme we mark the Transgender Day of Rememberance, or stand with those who say “Black Lives Don’t Matter Enough Yet.”  If we are moved by the True American Dream, and relize it is still only a dream, it moves us to leave the Trump Train and seek instead the most holy and beautiful, Peace Train. The dream causes us to wake up and “stay woke” as my allies put it.  

Please, join with me in making America “woke” again, seeking not the dream of money and cars only, but also the dream of peace, love justce and compassion.

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