One of the reasons I’d like to see more ministers blogging is that it can help demystify what ministry is all about. Some of the best minister/bloggers out there seek to make transparent the processes behind much of what they do: from planning the liturgical year to writing their weekly sermons. And in the spirit of true blogging, they even actively solicit feedback on what they’re up to. So…I thought I’d take a moment to share a sermon project that I’m currently working on. You see, since I don’t preach in the same place every Sunday, I have the luxury of writing only one or two sermons a year. And with two preaching gigs coming up right after the new year (January 6 in Saint Cloud, Minnesota, and January 13 in Northfield, Minnesota), I figured that I’d better get working on a new sermon.
I’ve already come up with a title and a blurb (something congregations always ask for, sometime several months in advance, other times the week before my visit). I’m calling it “Starting Small,” and the blurb goes something like this:
Sometimes it seems UUs believe that the bigger the idea, the better. But when it comes to building the Beloved Community, starting small makes much more sense.
Of course, often times the title and the blurb end up having nothing at all to do with the actual sermon (which is why “Something about [fill in the blank]” is the best sermon title imaginable!), but in this case, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to preach about, and it does include the notion of starting small rather than big. So here’s my line of thinking as of today.
Unitarian Universalists do, indeed, love big ideas. Our Universalist forebears had the audacity to believe–and unashamedly promote–the big idea that God was just too loving of a being to condemn anyone to eternal damnation. In fact, Universalism has often been described as “the biggest word in the English language.” And even when humanist Unitarian Universalists remove God from the equation, our ideas remain just as grand, if not grander. Consider this vision of the future from Humanist Manifesto II (which was signed by such notable UUs a Khoren Arisian and William Schulz):
The next century can be and should be the humanistic century….We have virtually conquered the planet, explored the moon, overcome the natural limits of travel and communication; we stand at the dawn of a new age, ready to move farther into space and perhaps inhabit other planets. Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.
Phew! Why not throw in world peace while you’re at it. Which is, of course, exactly what we did in our relatively down-to-earth Principles and Purposes, where we couldn’t help but include such grandiose concepts as “The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.” Heck, even Prairie Star’s mission statement gets into the game when it proclaims that “The purpose of the Prairie Star District is to work to achieve…a world which lives by UU principles.”
But there’s a downside to these big ideas. If we stare too long into the bright and shiny future they present, we can lose our ability to see the less spectacular (but no less important) opportunities to change the world that are right in front of us.
(Okay, so that’s where I am at the moment. More on this sermon as it develops!)