14 April Minister Moment

Today is Good Friday: the day Jesus was executed by the Roman occupiers of Judea. In the two thousand years since then, governments have developed even more cruel ways of ending lives. In recent years we have a concept of humane execution. Just this week the debate raged over proper chemicals to execute eight prisoners in Arkansas. Would the execution be humane? Or would it be cruel and unusual… Arkansas, Ohio, Virginia. Any execution is cruel and unusual.

As a kid, I wondered what was “Good” about Good Friday, and Unitarian-me found good in the story. The way others helped Jesus. I wondered if the thieves being crucified beside him had friends or if strangers helped them as well. The way the working stiffs, given the job of guarding the dying men would hasten the executees’ deaths as a way to ease suffering. And the way the dying men talked while dying. The whole gruesome story has its moments of good. It is a rather awful founding story.

Pesach or Passover began last Monday and continues until Tuesday. Several of you have told me of attending Seder dinners at the homes of Jewish friends — a meal recalling Moses and Pharaoh and the flight from slavery in Egypt. Repeating this foundational story of Judaism can provide a ritual way of teaching heritage and also provides an opportunity to reflect on current life. Mourning the plague deaths of children caused by the struggle between Pharaoh and God may be included in the evening’s rituals, as well as the death of charioteers who died in the Red Sea pursuing the Hebrew peoples. The un-civil war in Syria provides plenty of modern parallels. This otherwise joyous holiday contains elements of bitter sadness.

“Real people, broken and mended,” our Board Greeting words are a bit ambiguous: Are we all mended people who were once broken? Or are some of us seeking mending in community. Are, indeed, some of us coming to church to discover our own brokenness? As Leonard Cohen sang: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” I see our community in diversity. Some are thankful for their mending, some are in despair, and some know that there is something bigger beyond their own experience, Something to be learned, to be experienced, to be felt. In our mission, “foster courageous spiritual growth” can apply to any and all. How does this apply to Sunday?

For many churches, Easter is the biggest Sunday of the year. We will probably be more crowded, with many more visitors. I will be speaking about a Gospel of Jesus. Some of you very much want services which touch on Christian themes through a Unitarian Universalist lens. For others, you have dismissed Bible stories for many very good reasons. Here is the tension. As a community, we travel together in our diversity. This Sunday is a chance for you to live our vision: fostering courageous spiritual growth. Do this by making sure the service is a success, doing your part to welcome visitors, making sure everyone has access to coffee after the service (it is a bit crowded in that corner!)… Especially if this is not your theology, this is a chance to transform yourself from a “consumer” who avoids thought that doesn’t match, and be a nurturer of community. Some folks say they want a congregation where others think the way they do. I want UCN to be full of people who think differently and who covenant together to help each other, nurture each other through compassionate action. Do you?

In two weeks we will begin our Stewardship campaign, pledging money for next year’s congregational expenses. A team of members has set this year up as a set of group discussions following the April 30 Flower Communion service. PLEASE plan to stay for a group discussion following the service. Our community needs to hear your voice. PLEASE answer “YES” when asked to help – there will be lots of small jobs that day, from coffee distribution to the groups to helping with room setup and clean up. Please make the Stewardship Committee’s work easier as they do our annual spring ritual. Oh, and bring a flower to share April 30… it’s Flower Communion!

There’s hardly room for this week’s many thank yous: For the great Social Justice charts created last week, for the planners of tomorrow’s Saturday Cleanup at 809, to Robin and Stacia and Matt for last week’s music, to last week’s flower sale and the many flowers filling Hampton Roads. Thank you.
I love you,
Rev Charlie