“The Wisdom to Know the Difference”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Stars I hope this finds each of you well in every way. I hope you are savouring the warmth of the sun and the splendour of the stars in this strange summer, as we continue to find our way through a time of pandemic, navigating this strange new world that involves masks, and bubbles, and the “cohorting” of our kids. So many aspects of our lives have become an awkward negotiation. In such times, we may feel, simultaneously, the overwhelm of all that seems beyond our control and the great burden of all that falls to us to decide or to act on. In my sermon on Sunday, I’ll be inviting us to consider what it means—echoing the words of Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous “Serenity Prayer”—to have the wisdom to know the difference between what is ours to accept and what is ours to change.

Returning from my summer break, I was deeply moved to learn that we, as a congregation, have surpassed our goal for this year’s annual canvass. This is extraordinary! And it speaks powerfully to the commitment and courage of our coming together in this time of uncertainty to ensure that First Unitarian not only survives but thrives through these times. I offer my great gratitude to each of you. With everyone doing what they can, we will be able to sustain our congregation for the year ahead, confident in our ability to offer ongoing worship, connection, and progammes that make a difference in our lives and our world. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I especially want to thank Catherine Lake, our amazing chair of Team Generosity, for guiding us to this happy result.

I leave you (again) with these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his “Divinity School Address,” given in July 1838. While an enduring reminder of the gifts of summer, these words and the invitation they offer to truly pay attention and connect with life are, I think, especially important now:

“In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life. The grass grows, the buds burst, the meadow is spotted with fire and gold in the tint of flowers. The air is full of birds, and sweet with the breath of the pine, the balm-of-Gilead, and the new hay. Night brings no gloom to the heart with its welcome shade. Through the transparent darkness the stars pour their almost spiritual rays…. The cool night bathes the world as with a river, and prepares [our] eyes again for the crimson dawn. The mystery of nature was never displayed more happily. The corn and the wine have been freely dealt to all creatures, and the never-broken silence with which the old bounty goes forward, has not yielded yet one word of explanation. One is constrained to respect the perfection of this world, in which our senses converse.”

Take good care, of yourself and each other.

In faith and love,

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