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Winter Share – January 30, 2011

How wonderful and wild is nature? It is so complex, so ever-changing, so deeply and fantastically interwoven that the abundant strangeness and variety of our planet is inescapable. We human beings have, for millennia, made it our business to bend and contort and otherwise manipulate the natural world into shapes more convenient to our chosen ways of living. Last week, I spoke about the dangers of this habit when taken to extremes, as it has been in our era. The Earth, made to conform to a shape too narrow and too crooked, threatens to spring back and enforce upon us a way of living not of our choosing, but our necessity. Read More >>

Everything Is On Fire – January 23, 2011

We human beings are storytelling animals. We tell stories to each other about the way things are, the way we wish they were, or that we fear they might yet be. We tell stories that have just happened, others that happened long ago, and some that never happened at all. There are some stories that we just love to tell, over and over again – the sort that are like comfort food. They taste good, they go down smoothly, and they leave us with a warming satisfaction when they’re done. This is not the kind of story that I have for you today. As people of faith we know that it is sometimes the difficult, challenging stories that we are most in need of hearing. Read More >>

In Defense of Uncertainty – January 9, 2011

There is a story told in the Taoist tradition of a farmer living many centuries ago in rural China. His household was small, and had only one child – a teenage son – and his farm was also rather little: he had only a narrow plot of land, and one horse to till the fields with. One day, the farmer rose in the morning to find that his only horse had bolted from the stable in the night, and was nowhere to be found. Hearing of this, the neighbor on the nearest property came by later that day to commiserate, saying, “What a terrible loss has befallen you!” Read More >>

Retractions and Corrections

January, 2011

It is a common practice, in the newspaper business, to print corrections and retractions, when an error has been discovered in their reporting. In preaching, too, mistakes can be made, and so I would like to make the following correction:

On December 21st, at our annual Winter Solstice service, I mentioned in my remarks that our planet was then at its greatest possible distance from the Sun. I was entirely wrong; on December 21st, the Earth is actually physically closer to the Sun than it is for most of the rest of the year. I had remembered to picture the Earth’s orbit as an ellipse rather than a circle, but I had forgotten that the Sun is not at the center of that ellipse – it actually centers one of the ends. I am usually more careful about references I make to scientific facts, particularly in worship. Our faith is distinguished, in part, by its reverence for scientific inquiry and the insights of observation, reason, and1 experimentation. I was raised by a scientist, one who just so happened to be in attendance on the evening of December 21st. My father came up to me after the service, congratulated me warmly on it and, very gently, suggested that we make a little time to brush up on my knowledge of celestial mechanics. It was just a little bit mortifying, I’ll admit, but if we are to be called on our mistakes – and friends, we all need that sometimes – it is nice to be called out with compassion, by the people who care about us. Read More >>

Two Truths and a Lie – January 2, 2011

Sometime ago, I was at a gathering of other Unitarian Universalist religious leaders. The whole group of us were up just a little bit past our normal bedtimes and someone, possessed momentarily by the mischievous spirit of the hour, suggested that we play a game that’s popular among Unitarian Universalist youth. The game is a storytelling and get-to-know you exercise called “Two Truths and a Lie,” and it works like this: Read More >>


First Parish Church

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