Called Beyond Tolerance: Sermon for December 29, 2013 Rev. Victoria Ingram
First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, Ontario
It’s the holiday season – for many a chance to be around people to celebrate and share time together. Also a time to be reminded of why you don’t spend time with some of these people the rest of the year. Perhaps it’s hard to believe that your brother or sister – raised in the same home by the same parents – turned out so wrong‐headed or small‐minded. You only put up with Uncle Arlen because he’s married to your favorite Aunt Stella, but not one can figure out how she tolerates him. You get the picture…. And, its is not only in this season of peace and goodwill, that we can find ourselves frustrated by our fellow travelers in life. Challenged by people and their differences, trying to be tolerant and open, but also finding ourselves, at times, frustrated and tire, raw and judgmental. We work on expanding our boundaries of understanding and patience only to be confronted by a situation or person that further pushes our limits, tries our resolve to be more accepting. Welcome to life’s little way of helping us to engage in spiritual growth. Our UU Principles call on us to respect the worth and dignity of every person as a foundation of our covenant in community. Further, we are called not to simple put up with one another, but to practice acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth. RE: responsive reading #662 Church systems are much like family systems. We know it takes all kinds. As a faith community, we aim to open our embrace of others as wide as possible to accept into our ranks those who share our values, beliefs, and goals. But even like‐minded people are not all alike. Each of us arrives and hopefully, thrives, in this community with a variety of strengths, talents, quirks, and uniquenesses. Tolerance is putting up with. Tolerance means I don’t understand, but I won’t say anything or I won’t interact at anything but a superficial level. Tolerance always leaves us in a certain level of tension – we don’t know enough. We don’t feel able to trust, we feel some level of fear or danger. Reminds me of bumper cars – at those points where we interact with others, there is a jolt/collision. Acceptance has a different flavor ‐ a sense of mutuality. Acceptance implies a level of understanding – which is built when we take the time to hear one another’s stories and learn about the part of our lives that make us who we are. Acceptance implies a willingness to be in relationship beyond the superficial; moving to a level of engagement that allows us to see each other in our glory as well as in our humanness, our triumphs as well as our defeats. Working with feeling threatened, cautious – finding a way beyond. Accepting others is easier when we know and accept ourselves. What I can’t acknowledge or accept about myself, I won’t be able to accept in others. Acceptance implies that we are willing to be impacted by another person – we are willing to listen and reflect and have our assumptions and certainties upset by the experience, wisdom, or point of view of
another. We are open to being changed by our interaction with another – to have our comfortable selves upset or rocked into a new awareness. We are open to spiritual growth, in these interactions – to learning, change, reconsideration. Acceptance is not capitulation or endorsement. May not identify with everyone. We are still responsible for our actions ‐ may not find some behaviors or points of view acceptable. (Prison pen pals examples.) However, we may choose to stay in relationship to understand and work with it. To find ourselves at a place where we can say, “ I can see where you are coming from and why you feel the way you do.” From that place, we may be able to move on to other issues. We are moving toward a new year – a chance for new possibilities, renewed commitment, fresh hope. Time to consider how we choose to live our lives – in love or in fear, in scarcity or abundance, in tolerance or in acceptance. As our unison reading and words of support remind us – may we learn to not separate ourselves from joy and to come to dwell in spacious equanimity beyond craving, fear, and ignorance. Let the start of the new year find us, once again, recommitting ourselves to spiritual growth, to learning, to breathing into and through our fears and ignorance, to choosing love, acceptance, compassion for ourselves and for each other. May it be so.