When Praying is Sufficient

I have done lots of praying this past week but as a person who does not believe in a God who answers prayers, my stating that I have done lots of praying is going to need an explanation.  How could I be praying if I do not believe in a God who answers?  What possible good would my praying have if it is not directed to someone or something?

And for the record, I did not begin my prayer To Whom It May Concern as in the Unitarian Universalist joke.  No my prayers are aimed at no deity other than the mystery of life and my humble role in its unfolding.

We began our service today with The Prayer of St. Francis. It has been attributed to Francis of Assisi, the monk of the 13th century. However, the prayer in its current form can only be traced back to 1912 when it first appeared anonymously in French in La Clochette, a spiritual magazine.  It is most likely not a prayer written by St. Francis.

But regardless of the origin, the prayer has universal appeal to Christians of all stripes as well as people of other faith traditions.  It is a prayer asking for the willingness to change one’s behavior.  A softening of the heart is being sought.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is despair, hope.

This is a prayer that although it petitions a higher power, is also asking the person to focus on behaviors that potentially would change their immediate environment if they were attentive to their surroundings. How might a person sow love where there is hatred?  What might that look like?  What might that look like in the neighborhoods of Gaza and Jerusalem, where hatred has once again spilled over? I saw a photograph of two young boys; one Jewish, one Palestinian arm in arm. Sowing love might look like that, not simply a photograph but the actual friendship between members of the two rival groups.   Or what might it look like here in Alabama where people are upset over the election results and want to secede from the union.  What might a focus on harmony look like in our country? Poking fun at their obvious disdain for the election results is probably not sowing harmony—Just sayin’.

The Prayer of St. Francis is popular because it resonates deeply with human nature.  Everyone one of us has experiences where negative emotions have appeared recalcitrant and wanted to find a way to resolve them.  This prayer addresses these states of the human condition. It leaves the door open as to how these conditions might be resolved but it posits the desire into one’s consciousness which in turn might lead to a specific action. Perhaps an action that one person can do. Perhaps it will be an action that a small group can do or perhaps an action that a sweeping movement can do. How might these seeds of love, hope, compassion be sown in our families, in our communities, in our nation today?

The human condition is also addressed in a Buddhist Metta, a sample line might be “May I live in peace and harmony with all beings.[i]” It is setting the intention and then the desire to focus on this intention with mindfulness.  What would living in peace and harmony with all beings look like?  The Buddhist is examining this thought in the Metta.  The prayer is not addressing a deity but it is setting the intention and is opening the door for the mind to thoughtfully ponder what might be done to achieve this desire.

The Prayer of Jabez became popular a few years ago.  It is the prayer by a person found in the book of First Chronicles in the Hebrew text.  Not much is known about him other than his mother naming him Jabez after a difficult labor which means “he makes sorrowful/ pain”.  He issues a prayer to God requesting blessing and ends the prayer with “that I may not cause pain.”  The text tells us that God granted his request.

It became popular with the prosperity gospel preachers and new thought practitioners as a prayer to gain prosperity.  The difficulty with saying this prayer is the formulaic aspect of it for gaining prosperity.  Say these words in a ritualistic manner every day for at least 30 days and low and behold, you are prosperous in all things. This is the prayer on the surface and it is how Bruce Wilkinson in his book on the Jabez prayer encourages people on how to increase their lot in life.  When the Prayer of Jabez is approached in this manner it encourages magical thinking.  It becomes a potion, an incantation for a life of ease.

Life was never meant to be easy.  Life can be enjoyable.  Life can be an adventure.  Life can be fulfilling. But life is not meant to be easy. It may have easy moments when things are moving along smoothly but those moments are the extent of the easy life.  So those who pray this prayer as a formula for the easy life will be sadly disappointed.   Even Bruce Wilkinson, the author of the popular book was to be sadly disappointed.

In 2002, he used the profits to go to Swaziland to set up an orphanage for children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.  A noble cause.  Certainly this was an increase in his territory. He had grand visions.  But a Wall Street Journal[ii] story reported in 2005, that he “resigned in a huff from the African charity he founded” allegedly because the people of Swaziland did not comply with his demands.  There is a life lesson here and the answer is implied in the very prayer he promoted[iii] but apparently refused to see.

Beneath the surface of this prayer there is something being asked of the pray-er.  ‘Increase my territory’ implies a relationship with the world that is more than just acquiring wealth.   It requires taking on more responsibility and being held accountable for one’s actions. In the case of Mr. Wilkinson’s grand intentions of using his new found wealth, it meant listening to the needs of the people he felt called to serve. Instead he went to be the savior of these children. But what was required of him was to honor their culture in humility. He had a responsibility to honoring the worth and dignity of the people he wanted to help. This noble task was not about him as an evangelist or savior.  It was about being accountable to the territory he was entering.  Being kept from evil requires being attentive not only to the events that are happening around the person but also attentive to the impact of one’s actions so “I may not cause pain.”  This is a prayer that while being addressed to God is also about taking responsibility for one’s journey through the world. It is not a mantra to be repeated in a rote fashion but rather wrestled with in relationship with one’s own life circumstances.

What territory in my life am I required to be responsible for?  How am I being held accountable to the tasks set before me?  How am I being attentive so that I am being kept from harm?  How am I being attentive to the responsibilities that I have so that all who may be impacted by my responsibilities and behaviors are also kept from harm so that I may not cause pain?  These are the questions that are raised with this prayer and the answers are probably not ones that fall from on high into one’s lap.  The answers come from dialog, from being in relationship with others, from being attentive to the needs presented, and they come from walking humbly in the path of life.

The Serenity Prayer is another popular prayer that is about discerning the way through our life. The prayer was written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.  Niebuhr wrote extensively on theological ethics before, during, and after World War Two. The horrors of this war from the Nazi and American concentration camps to the release of the atomic bombs over Japan are the backdrop of his writings and the circumstances in which this prayer was created.

It is a pragmatic prayer not given to the illusion that all things will be fine and dandy.  Again, this is a prayer that while it addresses a higher power, requires the person to wrestle with the words in relationship with their own circumstances.  What are the things in my life that cannot be changed and therefore accepted as they are?  What are the things in my life that can be changed?  Are the things that can be changed worthy of my efforts to change them?  Are there indicators or sign posts that I need to be paying attention to, which would determine something as changeable versus non-changeable in my life?

The practicality of this prayer to be applied to daily life won this prayer into inclusion of Alcoholics Anonymous circles.  The second stanza includes their famous tag line, ‘One day at a time.’  It recognizes that life includes hardship. The second stanza also contains allusions to the last week of Jesus’ life of accepting the world as it is and not fighting it.

Now I told you I have been praying a lot this past week. These were the prayers that I found myself referring to this week.   I prayed that I would be a comforting presence to members of our congregation.  I prayed that I would be mindful in my behaviors to offer the support needed for family members to make critical decisions in the care of their loved ones. I prayed that I would find the right words to share at the right moment to lessen the deep pain, I knew would be felt.  My prayers were not to a deity but they were uttered with the humility of the unfolding mystery called life.  I knew that my words might not make a difference, or that my presence might not make a difference but I believed the attempt was an important one to make. Perhaps in a moment of transcendence, in a moment of grace, the realization of being loved would break through and soften the moment, ease the transition from this life or ease the acceptance of a life transitioning to death.  It matters not to me if the person recognizes that moment as God’s love or human compassion—if only it would provide some comfort in our human hour of need.

There is one more prayer that I find myself uttering.   The 13th century mystic Meister Eckhart said If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.  Thank you is a prayer.  I say thank you when I look at the flowers blooming out front of this church.  I say thank you when I see children laughing and playing.  I say thank you when I observe the members of this congregation be so generous with their time in support of others.  And I say thank you for this life that I am living as it is filled with wonder, filled with interconnections of love. When hardships befall us as they are bound to from time to time, I find myself saying thank you, not for the hardships but for the response of the people around me who step forward with love and compassion.

This past week many people stepped forward and their presence was deeply appreciated.  Thank you… it is the prayer that is more than just two words.  It is a prayer of reception. When a person says thank you, especially in difficult times, it is an acknowledgement of humility. It is an acknowledgement of love shared.  It is an acknowledgement of our interconnective needs of one another.  If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.  Blessed Be.


[iii] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/february/8.76.html

 

“When Praying is Sufficient delivered to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa by  Rev. Fred L Hammond 18 November 2012 ©

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The Cry For Freedom

I received the following quote via twitter this week.  The quote by Ana Levy-Lyons is from an essay she wrote for the recent edition of the UU World, our denomination’s magazine.  She states:  “It seems clear that there should be tension—enormous tension. Until the world is as it should be, until war and hunger are abolished, until power is shared and all voices are heard, we should not be able to fit comfortably into this culture.[i]

She is talking about religious communities being counter-cultural, as being a model of a way of life that prophetically calls society to be different than the way society is currently manifested.  She then calls upon James Luther Adams, our Unitarian Universalist theologian of the 20th century and quotes his words[ii]:

The element of commitment, of change of hearts, of decision so much emphasized in the Gospels, has been neglected by religious liberalism, and that is the prime source of its enfeeblement. We liberals are largely an uncommitted and therefore self-frustrating people. Our first task, then, is to restore to liberalism its own dynamic and its own prophetic genius . . . A holy community must be a militant community with its own explicit faith; and this explicit faith cannot be engendered without disciplines that shape the ethos of the group and that issue in the criticism of the society and of the “religious” community itself.

Harsh words to hear.  First the question of not being counter-cultural and then not committed to restoring liberalism, religious liberalism to its own prophetic genius that critiques society and our religious living within it.  Harsh words indeed.  But are there examples of this happening?

In 2005 I had the privilege of visiting Chiapas, a state in southern Mexico.  Chiapas is much like Alabama in some ways.  It too is among the poorest of its nation.  They too made international news for the ways the government oppresses people there. When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed by the US, Canada, and Mexico, the indigenous people of Chiapas realized that NAFTA was not for their benefit but would actually do them great harm.   All of the resources of this wonderful state, Let me repeat that,  all of the resources are owned not by the indigenous people.  The coffee, the beef cattle, the bananas, the honey, the oil, the electricity, and many other exportable resources; all of it is controlled by the Mexican government and American corporations. The people of Chiapas do not see any of the money produced by these resources.

The people who live here are living in dire poverty and they are exploited not only by their own government but also by the corporations from America and Europe.  But how are their needs presented to us?

In a piece that I wrote for the Chiapas Peace House Newsletter, The Children of El Pacayel[iii], I described the charitable organizations portrayal of such children.  I said I had been taken in by “the international charitable organizations that seek to raise funds by showing third world children.  You know the video clip.  The image of Sally Struthers walking down dirt trodden roads with children cast aside along the way unable to move from hunger or disease is meant to pull at our heart strings to donate money.   The closing clip shows her holding a young girl all gussied up and smiling.  See what your money can do?”

This form of charity, as well meaning as the donors are for those who are destitute does not answer the root causes of the poverty.  Leonardo and Clodovis Boff in their text, Introducing Liberation Theology, state this approach as “a strategy for helping the poor, but treating them as (collective) objects of charity, not as subjects of their own liberation…. There is a failure to see that the poor are oppressed and made poor by others; and what they do possess—strength to resist, capacity to understand their rights, to organize themselves and transform a subhuman situation—tends to be left out of account. Aid increases the dependence of the poor; tying them to help from others, to decisions made by others; again, not enabling them to become their own liberators.”

If some of this argument sounds familiar, it is because this is the argument of conservatives in this nation regarding welfare. Conservative voices might add the belief that poverty is caused by some sort of vice such as “laziness, ignorance, or simply human wickedness.”  Many liberals tend to see this argument as heartless towards those who are poor, not only in third world countries, but right here in America, right here in Alabama.   Liberals response to this argument is to maintain programs of aid to the poor as a form of compassion band aid or as Boff coins it, “objects of pity.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I am one of those liberals who want to keep those welfare programs in tact.  But perhaps, it is time for me to recognize that it is at best a temporary safety net measure and not meant to be a permanent fixture in any one’s life.

And that might be why there is the reform argument which is the response from liberals who believe that with minor restructuring within existing systems the situation of the poor will be improved.  Alas, Boff writes, “Reformism can lead to great feats of development in the poorer nations, but this development is nearly always at the expense of the oppressed poor and very rarely in their favor.”
This is also the belief that third world countries and even poor states like Alabama and Mississippi are poor as a function of backwardness.  In the process of time, if stimulus loans for economic development in Alabama or foreign aid for third world countries were given, then the result would be prosperity and progress.

The problem with reformism is that it is generated not from within the community affected but from outside of the community. Those who are to benefit from reform are “passive objects of action taken by others.”

NAFTA was supposed to be one of those reforms of the system. The thinking was if there was more ease in the production and trading of goods between nations then all would benefit from it.  However over 2 million farmers lost[iv] their ability to farm in Mexico once NAFTA was fully implemented in part because they could no longer compete with factory farms in the US and in Mexico.  In short, the old adage rings true; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

There is a third way to approach and explain the problem of poverty.  It is a dialectical explanation: poverty as oppression.  Boff explains that “poverty [is] the product of the economic organization of society itself, which exploits some—the workers—and excludes others from the production process—the underemployed, unemployed, and all those marginalized in one way or another.”

The way out is not through charitable contributions or through reforms but by replacing the present way of doing things by offering an alternative system—a counter cultural approach.  It is the poor themselves who stand up to create this revolutionary approach to their liberation.

Liberation theology seeks to do this by seeking to first understand the historical context of the poor and oppressed and then find ways to respond in relationship to that context.  Now Liberation theology is steeped in Christology—Jesus teachings about the poor and the transformative process through the death and resurrection of Jesus as being central to Liberation Theology.  As Boff explains, “the poor are not simply poor, as we have seen; they seek life, and ‘to the full’ (John 10:10). This means that questions relevant to or urgent for the poor are bound up with the transcendental questions of conversion, grace, resurrection.”  And conversion, grace, and resurrection are evident in the evolution of the resistance movement Mexico and other Central American countries.

In Chiapas, the Zapatista’s initially rose up and declared war against the Mexican government.  And after blood shed in the early years of their declared war, they decided war was not the answer but rather a sustained resistance to exploitation. This came about after the massacre at Acteal, where some 40 innocent men, women, and children were killed by the Mexican military.  These people were not Zapatistas but happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The world community stood up in protest. Marcos writes in the Sixth Declaration[v]:  “the first thing we saw was that our heart was not the same as before, when we began our struggle. It was larger, because now we had touched the hearts of many good people. And we also saw that our heart was more hurt, it was more wounded. And it was not wounded by the deceits of the bad governments, but because, when we touched the hearts of others, we also touched their sorrows. It was as if we were seeing ourselves in a mirror.”

My visit to the Zapatista community of Oventic revealed a community where a democracy by consensus was being developed.  These were a people who understood the historical context in which they lived.  Not only did they understand their ancestry as indigenous people of Mexico but also their 500 year history as a people living under the domination of the Doctrine of Discovery.  The result of this context enabled them to incorporate into their communities an understanding of their own oppression and empowered them to create something new, an alternative to the corrupt Mexican government.

Anthropologist Duncan Earle writes: [vi][The Zapatistas] had no model except [for] their own indigenous belief that there should be consensus. They have been able to create a para-state that takes care of its own education, health, transportation and economics.”  In response to an article, he stated: “[vii]Chiapas is an island of peace and security, and in the Zapatista zones, good government and no drug cartel activity. That is why tourism is on the rise there, even Zapatourism.”

This approach was recently adopted by the indigenous Purépecha community of Cherán in the Mexican state of Michoacán where the Monarch Butterflies winter.  This was a community besieged by organized crime loggers and drug cartels. Their pleas to the government for intervention and protection went unanswered.  They rose up as a community and stopped the violence.  They kicked out the crime syndicate and removed the corrupt government and set up a council that uses governing principles of their ancestors.  This includes having a series of neighborhood bonfires at night.  They talk, they cook food for one another, and they come to consensus as to how to protect their community and their forest.

A report states this about the community: [viii]Retaking old habits and customs; returning to the idea of la faena, work that’s done by all for the good of everybody. It wasn’t long ago that this tradition was still practiced. The elders will tell you: “we built this school with la faena” and remember how at a wedding or funeral, the tradition dictated that everybody helps with something: food, work, anything so that life is easier for all. This old way keeps people close.”

They have set up a counter-cultural community because the ways set up by the government were not protecting them from the violence of the crime syndicate or from the impotent and corrupt government. This community banned political parties as they see them as divisive.  They are a community under siege not only from the crime syndicate but also from the Mexican government. The community of Cherán is pulling together and creating something new because reform no longer worked.

But what about here?  How does Chiapas and Cherán relate to Tuscaloosa?  Yesterday, I met with Somos Tuskaloosa.  They are working on developing their goals for their future as the possibility of changing the system of immigration becomes feasible in an Obama second term.

Somos Tuskaloosa discussed the need to understand the historical context in which they find themselves.  They are realizing that they cannot simply allow the government to reform immigration without their ability to have a say in how that might be done. They see immigration as a piece of the racist history of the United States. They need to understand that history and the systems developed in response to that racist past.  Their desire to develop a community where all people are respected, not just as a rhetorical statement, but brazenly embraced for who they are is counter-cultural in Alabama.

And isn’t that what we want too?  To be a community that brazenly embraces the other as equal sojourners in life?  As Ana Levy-Lyons challenged us; how would we seek to abolish the war and hunger within our own hearts and in the larger community—figuratively and literally?  What would shared power look like here in this congregation?  How would we ensure that all voices are heard?

What would we need to change if we declared our community as an autonomous Human Rights zone in Alabama?  That is the definition of sanctuary—a place where people are safe and secure from the dangers of the world.   May we find the courage to participate in such a liberation—a liberation that yields to a just society. Blessed Be.


[i] “We should be more Counter-cultural” by Ana Levy-Lyons as found at http://www.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/229846.shtml

[ii] IBID

[iii] http://www.chiapaspeacehouse.org/content/view/276/305/lang,en/ (website is no longer active, currently on hiatus)

[iv]NAFTA and the Mexican Economy, M. Angeles Villarreal, June 3 2010 Congressional Research Services as found at  http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34733.pdf

[vii] Dr. Duncan Earle (not verified) on April 16, 2009 – 01:53  http://hir.harvard.edu/blog/jason-lakin/fifteen-years-after-the-zapatistas

[viii] Pablo Pérez, Translation by Laura Cann  as found at http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2012/07/the-fight-of-cheran-day-it-began.html

 

“The Cry for Freedom” delivered at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa   by Rev. Fred L Hammond 11 November 2012 ©

The God Particle

Back in July, there was a discovery that might be a key to what holds the universe together. I am talking about the elusive Higgs Boson, a sub-atomic particle that if truly has been found as theorists think, it would aid in unifying a theory of everything regarding how matter and energy moves and have their being.

I need to back up a page or two and explain what this is and why we should care.

There appears to be three aspects of the universe; Matter, Force, and Bosons.   We know the universe is made up of matter which can be broken into Mass and Energy. Einstein’s E= MC squared; energy equals matter times speed of light constant squared.  We also know that there are forces in the universe that act on matter.

You might have heard of two of them, gravity and electromagnetism; but there are two more known as strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force.  The strong nuclear force holds the nucleus of an atom together.  The weak nuclear force is what makes a subatomic particle decay into another subatomic particle—think radioactivity as an example of weak nuclear force at work.

Bosons are the link between matter and force.   The best analogy that I have heard is that of a dog leash[i]. The dog sees a squirrel and attempts to run but the owner pulls on the leash and the dog is brought closer to the owner.  The dog is matter, the owner is the gravitational pull on matter, and the bosons are the leash that connects them enabling the gravitational force to act.

There are five currently known Bosons; photons which create electromagnetism; gluons which create strong nuclear force, W and Z Bosons which create weak nuclear force, and Higgs Bosons which creates mass.  Without the Higgs Boson particle there would be no mass and therefore no matter. In other words, we and everything that we can touch and see around us would not exist. There is one other Boson that is only theorized, and that would be the graviton, the particle that initiates gravitational force between the particles with mass and compels them to come together.

The Higgs Boson was theoretical until this year.  The theory was developed by Peter Higgs back in 1964.  He theorized that there was a field of energy that extended through out the universe that when particles cross this field they slow down and create mass.  This field became known as the Higgs Field, and the particle that would instigate this mass, the Higgs Boson.

There is some speculation that what was discovered was not the elusive Higgs boson but rather a Higgs Boson wannabe.  This would be a particle that acts sort of like that of the elusive Higgs boson but not quite.  The Higgs Boson if indeed found would help explain the mass of everything.  Everything.

Leon Lederman who wrote the book The God Particle, explains this quest began about 600 BCE with the Greek philosopher Thales.  “Thales asked himself whether all the varied objects in the universe could be traced back to a single, basic substance, and a simple, overarching principle.[ii]

The nickname for the Higgs Boson, The God Particle, originated as a joke in a speech and was then used as a working title of the book Lederman and Teresi wrote.  The thought it would end up as the title of the book was not considered and as Lederman writes, “the title ended up offending two groups: 1) those who believe in God, and 2) those who do not.[iii]”  Lederman also joked that it really should be called that goddam particle because it has been so difficult to find.

Now it should be no surprise that I would seek to do a sermon on the God Particle because after all, it’s very name oozes with theological nuances.  I looked at what other clergy wrote about this discovery.  The responses were what I would have expected.

Several Christian ministers wrote the Higgs Boson offers the proof of god’s existence, quoting the Letter to the Hebrews that it is by faith that God created the world so that “what is seen is made from things that are not visible.[iv]”  I did not find their argument particularly inspiring for me but I appreciated their need to affirm the existence of god.

A Unity minister[v] saw the god particle as being part of the divine mind, the stream of god consciousness that manifests all creation. For her the Higgs Boson and the Higgs Field was a metaphor for what happens with the thoughts we think. Her point was that our allowing negative thoughts to build would create negative experiences for us.

I found two sermons written by Rabbis on the God Particle, one offered a Rosh Hashanah sermon and the other a Yom Kippur sermon. I found their thoughts to be more compelling than the Christian or Unity preachers.

Rabbi Amy R. Perlin states finding “that “God particle within” that makes us more than mass, weight, protons, neutrons and bosons — that makes us human, breathing beings who love and hate, capable of good and evil; life-givers when we activate the God particle with in us, and tragically life-takers when we ignore the God particle within that teaches us to sanctify life, cherish differences, and embrace the “other” who is also created in God’s image.[vi]

And Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater echoes her on Yom Kippur.  He states, The God particle, the glue that holds us together, becomes visible when we transform our faith into action.  So I ask: Where is the God particle in Syria, as a civil war continues to rage on, with babies slaughtered before our eyes, with the world community sitting on the sidelines?  Where was the God particle when extremists, acting like brutal savages, took the lives of Ambassador Stevens and his staff?  …  Where is the God particle when one in five American children lives in poverty and hunger, where schools are closing, where food is contaminated, where droughts, floods, fires, storms and melting ice caps threaten our planet and all the creatures who call Earth home?  … The God particle remains invisible, remains an elusive and unattainable equation that offers us nothing, if we human beings do not bring it to light, living out our destiny as creatures created in the image of that God particle[vii].”

As a metaphor the god particle is what binds our humanity together and elevates it to actions of compassion and empathy for the other.  We can see the effects of the god particle in the good that is created in the world. It is our highest and best selves being brought to bear on the world. We may not be able to see it directly, but we can feel it and see the results of it in the world around us.

The god particle that creates order and mass, without which the particles of the universe would simply be zooming around at the speed of light, can indeed be a metaphor for that which connects us all in our humanity.  It is what gives rise to compassionate action when we witness the devastation from Tornadoes and Hurricanes in our own communities as well as communities far away.  It is what makes our hearts reach out to care for children who are abandoned or abused.  It is what makes us rescue and assist beached whales and dolphins back into the deep oceans.

It is what inspires the Gandhi’s, the King’s, and the Truth’s of the world to stand up against oppressors to free a people from injustice.  And while Rabbi Grater does not see the god particle in the travesty of Syria’s civil war, or the brutal attack at Benghazi, or even within the poverty in America; there will come forth the stories of incredible bravery, of incredible compassion, of incredible actions even within these travesties.  The stories will come forth out of the northeast where whole neighborhoods were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy or by the secondary causes like the fires that burned uncontrollably. These stories will detail acts of bravery and compassion just as powerful as any recorded in any sacred text.

How can I state this with such confidence?  Because such stories have been told when ever there have been travesties in our history.  We know the stories of brave men and women hiding Jews in Nazi occupied Europe. We know of Martha and Waitstill Sharp, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the ten Booms who sought to protect Jews and smuggle them out of the country or to speak out against the oppressive regime.  We know of the men and women who created the Underground Railroad here in the US to smuggle runaway slaves to freedom.  And we know of the stories in South Africa and in Rwanda and today in Uganda of men and women who found a way to express compassion and justice when compassion and justice to the other could mean death.

I remember when the AIDS pandemic started; it seemed that the entire world had turned its back on young gay men.  But in the midst of the horror of these men becoming sick with a host of illnesses, there stirred a response of compassion that was so vital to turning the tide of that disease. The metaphor of the god particle that binds us to one another was active and compassion and love became not only visible but palpable to the families and individuals impacted by the specter of AIDS.

We have seen the god particle create massive movements for justice in our nation and abroad.  It was present in the civil rights movement, in the migrant farm worker movements, and I believe it is present in the immigrant rights movement.  We only need to be open to its stirring within our hearts.

The god particle, that elusive divine spark all religions acknowledge yet called by many names, moves upon the face of humanity and binds us together to act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly in the world. May we be the field in which the god particle may gain mass and be visible in our communities. Blessed Be.


[ii] The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, what is the question, Leon Lederman / Dick Teresi  © 2006 Houghton Mifflin Company, NY

[iii] Ibid

[v] Rev. Karen Lindvig as found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wj2RkijjPic

[vi] Rabbi Amy Perlin  Sermon as found at http://www.tbs-online.org/listings/rabbi-study/the-god-particle-rosh-hashanah-sermon-57739-17/

[vii] Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater as found at  http://www.pjtc.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=144:the-god-particle-and-life-yom-kippur-5773&catid=94&Itemid=912

The God Particle by Rev. Fred L Hammond

4 November 2012 ©  Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa