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A Universalist Sermon for the Fourth of July



What’s Incorrect, and What Is likely to be Proper

James Ishmael Ford

What a time. What a time.

In truth, an excessive amount of all of sudden.

9 days in the past, Donald Trump’s… Really, on this regard Trump is Mitch McConnell’s cat’s paw. So, actually, McConnell’s supreme courtroom has declared Roe null and void. With that set off legal guidelines have been triggered. And as of at present, abortion is authorized in solely twenty states and the District of Columbia.

Alongside the best way in these previous few weeks McConnell’s supreme courtroom has additionally made gun management more and more troublesome, has begun to dismantle the wall between church and state, and has hogtied the Environmental Safety Company even because the world’s local weather disaster has loomed into an existential menace for all of us.

On the similar time the January 6th committee has been choosing up quite a lot of rocks and seeing quite a lot of bugs scurrying round. In fact, the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, and refugees are flooding each internally and into Europe. The close to East, Afghanistan, China, swaths of Africa. Struggle and starvation. Struggle and starvation. Racism. Homophobia. Refugees and immigrants. A number of innocents turning into scapegoats. And throughout the globe quite a lot of romancing of huge males on white horses coming to place every thing proper. These are laborious occasions.

Turning again Roe looks like some final straw. A number of false piety and concern expressed for hypothetical infants. Butter wouldn’t soften in these mouths, at the same time as they make the true world hellish for an increasing number of individuals.

Actually, I don’t really feel prepared to provide voice to our neighborhood’s anguish, nor to discover a phrase of hope inside this mess throughout us.

And. I drew the quick straw.

So, right here I’m. On this time of political disaster in our republic, on this time the place we because the American individuals are about as near polarized as might be with out truly capturing at one another, and even that more and more feels to be on the desk; with all that, what can I say?

Anybody who tells you they understand how all that is going to end up, nicely, they’re mendacity. These are, as was mentioned of one other wildly open second, occasions to attempt human hearts. With that there are some things we will know. We’re referred to as to make selections. And each alternative, together with resting inside one’s privileges and attempting to take a seat it out, all may have penalties.

As we’re all conscious, tomorrow, the 4th of July rolls round. Historically it’s a time for barbecues, for fireworks, and for celebrating one thing attention-grabbing. A dream if you’ll. Goals are intriguing issues, typically they comprise treasures. There may even be hope lurking inside one dream or one other.

I discover myself pondering once more of that story about when Dr Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated. It lives in my coronary heart. It tells me one thing. And I share it. After the police and FBI arrived, throughout all of the confusion, individuals operating round, brokers attempting to get a deal with on what had occurred, one agent knowledgeable his superior on a walkie-talkie how he simply heard Coretta Scott King say that Martin’s dream would by no means die. There was, I collect, a pause. Then the agent’s superior instructed him to, “Discover out what that dream was.”

What’s the dream? Dr King’s dream. I’ve considered that anecdote. Lots. And at present, particularly, it appears essential.

Goals. A fact is that we’re all woven of desires. Our personal. Different peoples. They arrive collectively in numerous methods, weaving, mutating, shaping. After which, mysteriously these desires coalesce and turn out to be issues. Goals turn out to be flesh. Little doubt.

So, Dr King and his dream. What’s the factor out of that dream that fleshes into the world? And what can it imply at this second? Our second? If the 4th of July captures a communal dream, what’s the dream for the 5th of July? What comes subsequent? What dream will form our actioins? What dream carries us ahead?

I discover myself pondering of one of many cradles of the dream. Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. It was the church that Dr King co-pastored till his assassination. It was the church Consultant John Lewis, of blessed reminiscence, belonged to. Additionally, as you nearly actually know its most up-to-date paster, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, who led that neighborhood for fifteen years, is now the primary African American Democrat ever elected to the senate from a former Accomplice State.

I take into consideration that church. Goals birthing into this world. And the cradles of these desires. I take into consideration the locations the place desires are nourished and delivered to life.

With that I take into consideration this church.

Today we stand within the wreck of a nation delivered to its knees by a rightwing demagogue, holding an upside-down Bible in a single hand, and a lit match within the different. After being swept away in an awesome rebuke, he even tried to sponsor a coup. He failed. At the very least I hope he failed. Whereas he has lumbered off to Mar-a-Lago, the hatreds he fanned proceed to smolder and dominate the Republican celebration’s main elections.

There are many desires contending for our hearts.

I recommend we’re at an inflection level. The query is which desires will prevail on the 5th of July? What is going to our world form into? What desires will information us as we put flesh on them?

Nicely. How about Martin’s dream? How about Raphael’s? The Reverend William Barber, his dream? Sister Simone Campbell, her dream? Rabbi Laurie Coskey, her dream? Zen priest and social justice activist Alan Senauke, his dream? Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, his dream? Progressive Jewish chief Stosh Cotler, her dream? Sister Helen Prejean, her dream?

Taken collectively they is likely to be referred to as the Non secular Left. The Non secular Left. What’s the dream of that nice cloud of witnesses? And the way do we discover ourselves, us, you, me, inside that dream? And. And. How can that dream form the 5th of July?

I consider these individuals of the spiritual left. They, we, come from many religious traditions. They embody Christians and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and followers of indigenous religions. Every coming along with one thing greater than a imprecise feeling of excellent will, and a few sense of tolerance.

There are a passing unusual crowd. From one angle they will solely appear totally incompatible. From one other, we will see the dream. The dream, the factor that may bind us, that may information us, that may, let me say it. The dream that may save this poor damaged world. It’s a golden thread binding collectively those that at first look appear completely incompatible. It’s about one thing vastly greater than tolerance.

For at present, to assist focus us, let’s take into account Dr King’s dream. It articulates one thing that transcends sectarianism, these numerous divisions of Christianity and Judaism and Islam and Buddhism and Unitarian Universalism to start the checklist of the communities sure collectively as sheltering the Non secular Left. This can be a dream rooted within the religious, within the spiritual. It’s the lifetime of our human hearts. If we discover it, this dream might be our north star in very harmful occasions. Like these occasions.

So. What’s that dream? Dr King sang that dream proper into our hearts. I like how our UU Hymnal captures his phrases and folded them into one of many extra compelling paragraphs informing my life:

“We’re caught in an inescapable community of mutuality, tied in a single garment of future. Injustice wherever is a menace to justice all over the place. There are some issues in our social system to which all of us should be maladjusted. Hatred and bitterness can by no means remedy the illness of concern; solely love can try this. We should evolve for all human battle a technique, which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The muse of such a technique is love. Earlier than it’s too late, we should slim the gaping chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds which precipitate and perpetuate conflict. Someday we should come to see that peace just isn’t merely a distant aim that we search however a method by which we arrive at that aim. We should pursue peaceable ends by way of peaceable means. We will hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

Right here we discover the dream, the deep dream, dreamed into our lives throughout cultures and all through time from the deepest locations of our hearts, from essentially the most profound figuring out of our beings. Love. That is the reality. We’re all caught up collectively extra intimately than phrases can ever convey. Real love. It’s not trapped by the concept of 1. It’s not trapped by the concept of many. It’s a hand giving bread to a different.

Goals. I discover myself pondering of that the majority mysterious of phrases, love.

Love that ranges from friendship to need, to easily being one other identify for God. Love, like all desires, doesn’t exist with out flesh. It’s at all times your love. It’s at all times my love. It’s at all times some particular love. Just like the style of bread. With that love turns into flesh. It turns into a hand reaching out to a different.

As Thich Nhat Hanh taught us, “Being peace.” Not exactly two. Not precisely one. Being and peace as an everlasting dance. As they are saying justice is what love appears like in motion. Being and doing, once more, not precisely one, not exactly two. Love dreamed into the world.

It truly is a common dream. No faith owns love, though all partake of it to at least one diploma or one other. And, truthfully, some articulate it higher. Though what is best within the particular is usually a bit completely different for every of us. Like some nice puzzle the place every bit issues in some bigger means we will solely understand partly. From our half.

Really, puzzle doesn’t fairly work. It isn’t static, it’s dynamic. And so, in some methods Dr King’s expression of it being like a community might be extra useful. After which, typically we do discover it extra like a garment, the sense of our connection, our feeling high quality of it, typically placed on, typically dropped off.

After which there’s how we see it inside our radical congregations. Like this one.

I’ve an curiosity within the work of up to date Christian theologians Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, in addition to some others who’re condemned by Fundamentalists as, heaven assist us, “universalists.” I admit anybody accused of universalism goes to be attention-grabbing to me – as a result of universalism is one other strategy to converse of that nice dream of our intimacy. Love.

Because it occurs, for good and for in poor health, we’re the organized expression of universalism in our time and place. Okay, barely organized. At all times on the fringe of falling aside. However right here we’re.

Reverend McLaren was requested what in regards to the Unitarian Universalists? In his response he was for essentially the most half beneficiant with us. He noticed how we’ve walked away from the problematic assertions of the orthodox Christian church out of which we come. However he additionally famous “a spiritual neighborhood (which) deconstructs with out reconstructing will put it at an obstacle.”

That mentioned, he additionally sees issues happening. He sees us within the act of reconstructing, of discovering our expression of the deeper truths. So he joins with that different attention-grabbing Christian theologian who is aware of us so nicely, John Cobb, who noticed how “one of the best contributions of (the) Unitarians are of their future, and what they are often has not but been totally manifested.”

I recommend it’s as Universalists that the dream is manifesting. It’s Universalism that’s sowing seeds of hope and chance. Goals of hope. Goals of chance. Dreaming love into the world.

And that is essential. I discover myself pondering of one thing former Common after which Secretary of State Colin Powell as soon as famous. “A dream doesn’t turn out to be actuality by way of magic; it takes sweat, dedication and laborious work.” I’d say we’re additional alongside in that reconstruction than a few of our mates suppose. We’re starting to articulate the deep dream in very attention-grabbing and, I consider with all my coronary heart, helpful and compelling methods. Cradled in sanctuaries of the Universalist dream like this congregation.

You, and also you, and also you, and me, every certainly one of us are born valuable and distinctive, a present. Every of us as we leap into the world, lovely and passing. The political engagement of our custom as a part of the Non secular Left is a vital a part of what we’re doing. However, under no circumstances all of it. That is about our particular person lives as a lot as our communal lives. This can be a calling to intimacy inside and with out. It’s a path of therapeutic.

We now have discovered the key of who we actually are, or fairly some a part of us noticed it, spoke it, and sang it. However as a result of they did, we now can hear it, and we will from that listening to, dwell it. This can be a lifestyle we’re being referred to as into. Our progressive and dynamic religious means is a therapeutic message, and a map for us to comply with. It’s the Universalist means. It’s the Intimate Means.

So. Keep in mind. There are various desires manifesting. These are most harmful occasions. But additionally, prospects are extensive open. We must be cautious. And we must be attentive. And, I recommend, we have to attend to the cradles of chance.

As one of many nice academics of the intimate means sang to us,

The dominion of heaven is sort of a mustard seed that somebody took and sowed in a discipline; it’s the smallest of all of the seeds, however when it has grown it’s the biggest of shrubs and turns into a tree, in order that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

The good dream. And it’s cradles. Like a mustard seed and the nice bush, a nest for these birds of heaven.  Like the dominion of Heaven. Like, nicely, like our congregation. This one.


Once more, these are harmful occasions. Goals are birthing into the world. Which we could midwife? The selection, expensive ones, is in our arms.


So, an invite. Allow us to be part of collectively within the nice work. Allow us to discover inside ourselves and inside one another the nice thriller of the intimate means. Let this be the dream that prevails. Let this be the dream that turns into the flesh of the world.


Allow us to manifest all of the mysteries of affection. Allow us to discover ways to manifest justice. Allow us to assist one another within the therapeutic of this world.

Our dream. Our 5th of July dream.

Amen. And, amen.



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