My Humanist Monster: On a Heritage of Mixed Blessings

Published by AV Coordinator on

Message by Rev. Kaaren Anderson, read by Jessica Wirges

Moment of Perspective – The Mushroom and the Oak Sapling – Emily McKinney and Tom McFarland

This morning’s opening words are Invoking the Past, Present, and Future, by Katie Romano Griffin.

Come, let us enter this space of hope and community.
Come, let us enter this space with our sorrows, our joys, our passion and compassion.
Come, let us enter this space with the stories of our ancestors, for their strength and wisdom beats in our hearts.
Come into this space, present to the beloved companions who move beside us.
Come into this space, mindful that together we are building a future for other generations.
Come: come into this space and let us worship.

I Know This Rose Will Open
Words and Music: Mary E Grigolia
Permission Granted
Performed by the First UU Choir

Where Is Our Holy Church?
Congregational Hymn
Words: Edwin Henry Wilson; UUA Permission Granted
Music: Genevan Psalter; Public Domain

Now Let Us Sing
Words and Music: Anonymous
Public Domain
Performed by the First UU Choir

Yom Kippur, one of the Jewish High Holy Days, ended at sunset last Monday, September 25th. According to the Talmud, God opens three books of destiny on Rosh Hashanah. If our deeds are good, God writes our names in the Book of Life. If our deeds are wicked, God writes our names in the Book of Death – but if our deeds fall somewhere in between, they are written in a third book. God suspends judgment on those whose names God writes in this book. If our names are written in it, we have ten days more to change our hearts and lives – but on Yom Kippur our fates are sealed.

On this theme of death and vulnerability, I’d like to share a reading by adapted from the writing of Rabbi Michael Marmur, with a modern take on Yom Kippur, a time to face one’s failures, vulnerabilities, and inadequacies..
Yom Kippur is a scandalous day for those of us who live in the modern world. It conjures up the prospect of death, still a great taboo in our society. It enjoins healthy and vigorous people to step off their treadmills for a moment and listen to the fragile beating of their own hearts.
Many of us, regardless of denomination or stated belief, find the challenge and scandal of Yom Kippur too difficult to bear. As a consequence, inventive techniques are developed that help keep its subversive message at bay.
We busy ourselves with the business of fasting, or revel in the rebellion of eating as normal. We obsess on the seating arrangements, or the heating arrangements. Some have other, more subtle methods. They allow the nostalgia of tunes and prayers to mask the more uncomfortable implications of the day.
When it comes to the Day of Atonement, there are no experts, and no masters. Each person is exposed as mortal; those of us who like to think of themselves as significant may be particularly offended by the very thought.
My own personal version of preparation for Yom Kippur always begins with a sense of how absurd and limited I am, and how grand I pretend to be. I try to bring to mind the inadequacies and the errors, the times when I was angry instead of smart, and when I was clever instead of genuine.
Whoever is too self-impressed to come to terms with these truths might as well just skip straight forward to Sukkot: Yom Kippur will pass them by.
However macabre it sounds, Yom Kippur is meant to be a near-death experience. Confronted with the scandal of my own inevitable demise, this year or next or in seventy years’ time, I need to acknowledge my weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Categories: Sermon