This month our worship theme is joy. As I listen to the news, bracing for the next installment of ‘He said – He said’, seldom has a theme seemed less relevant. Still, spiritual practice is about staying awake and present to how things are, not just how we wish them to be. Thus, for me, we enter a fertile field in which to pay more attention and allow ourselves to be called to something more demanding than despair.
So, while many of us may not relate to joy except as connected to hope for what is to come, we will together explore joy all month. Maybe we will find we aren’t all that open to it. Joko Beck, the late Zen Buddhist teacher, once said, “Our inability to experience joy is directly related to our inability to forgive.” Or maybe we will find that it is steeped in and throughout all that we do recalling Rabindranath Tagore’s reflection: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Or maybe we will find as Molly Fumia asserted: “To be joyful in the universe is a brave and reckless act.” Or maybe we will find joy is easier to access in the refulgence of summer.
Speaking of our summer, our monthly themes begin in September and end in June. Last summer, Rev. Eric and I used that opening to preach a sermon series through July and August on qualities of spiritual maturity. This summer, in order to give Eric some well-earned time off, we will offer two separate sermon series. In July, I will explore democracy. By our fifth principle, Unitarian Universalists agree to affirm and promote the democratic process in our congregations and society at large. As a people, we have long held a belief that all people are equal. And yet, as a country, people on all sides of the aisle fear for democracy’s survival.
Our religion which offers a spiritual center and a civic circumference, invites us to help it survive and thrive. So, we will wonder together what it might take to get beyond cynicism and enter the discipline of healing our hearts to strengthen them for a democracy “worthy of the human spirit,” as Parker Palmer described. If, as it has been said, we are the ones we have been waiting for, this is our work. What a blessing we can do it together!