Given by Rob Burnham on June 18, 2017.
I will begin with a reading from the book of Psalms: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
I was raised in a Congregational Sunday school where Bible readings were common. Over the years, I have become accustomed to morning readings to help guide my thoughts and behavior throughout the day. The Psalm I just read is one of them. I also enjoy the words of Thich Nhat Hanh: “Waking up this morning I smile. 24 new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
However, my personal version would go something like this: The Universe has presented a new day, another 24-hour spin on the dirt ball. May we enjoy the ride as we meet the opportunities and challenges that come our way.
As a child I was taught a bedtime prayer. The only other practice that my family had was to say a table grace on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
The first religious conversation I remember was with a Catholic neighbor when we were very young. He said, “You are Protestant so you are going to hell. I’m Catholic, but I’m bad, so I am going to hell. Let’s go play baseball.”
Yes, baseball, common ground.
Later I became a seeker to find meaning about God, Jesus, Christianity and life. After many years in the Congregational church, I explored other religions and spent several years with the Religious Society of Friends, and a brief period with the Christian Scientists. I learned important things and drew inspiration from those and a variety of other sources:
From Quaker Rufus Jones:
The work of this world will not be done from the sky or by angels. It will be done by human hands, but if it is well done, it will be done under divine guidance and divine inspiration.
And from the writings of humanist, Paul Kurtz:
It is you who are the center of your life world, of consciousness and attention, of dreams and reveries, of plans and projects; it is your action undertaken to fulfill them. Thus you are free! This freedom is not unlimited, for your choices operate within the boundaries present in the natural and social environment…. Nevertheless, your choices are yours: you are responsible for your own destiny.
At one point during the journey while I was painting a gable end of the house on a Saturday, the sky was blue, the clouds were white. A thought came to mind; what service will I go to tomorrow? Am I a Congregationalist, a Christian Scientist or a Quaker? The small still voice within spoke, “right now you are a painter, paint the house!”
When I discovered Unitarian Universalism, I found a congregation and a meetinghouse that offered me a place, people, and principles that support and guide my journey of faith and purpose. I joined FRSUU in 1995 during Doris Hunter’s interim ministry. She said, “Now it’s time to grab an oar, what committee do you want to join”? Since then I’ve served on the Hospitality Committee, the Social Action Committee, and as a Representative to the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
I also enjoy special programs at FRS such as Zen meditation, and recently Reverend Milnor’s God Reflections class.
Over the years, I have gathered an array of ideas about God. My favorite synonyms for God are Spirit of Life, Great Spirit, Source of All, and Divine Presence. I have come to believe that God is a state of mind that we choose. To be God-centered is to be rooted and grounded in love, kindness and compassion.
In closing, I’d like to read from the mission statement of Salve Regina University, from which my beloved granddaughter Astrid just graduated:
In keeping with the traditions of the Sisters of Mercy, and recognizing that all people are stewards of God’s creation, (we) encourage students to work for a world that is harmonious, just and merciful.