Tuesday, December 29, 2015

From everydayracism:
Emmett Till & Tamir Rice: Two innocent black kids murdered 59 years apart.
Both juries refused to even indict, let alone convict, white criminals who were clearly witnessed committing the crimes.

I just read a powerful op-ed piece by Charles Blow -- "Tamir Rice and the Value of Life" -- from last January's New York Times.  This post is an expansion of the response I published to Facebook:

My younger son turns 12 in two days. Tamir Rice could have been him ... except, of course, that he's white. Actually, he is biracial but he takes after his Irish birth mother so completely that, as he used to say, his "brown skin is on the inside."  To look at him is to see a wee lad from the Emerald Isle.  But he belies the notion of clear and strict racial categories, like his older brother who's brown skin is "on the outside" (for him it's his white skin "on the inside").  White ... Black ... those divisions don't hold up too well in a world as multi-hued as ours.  And yet ... And yet it took a police officer less than 2 seconds to decide that this brown-skinned boy was enough of a threat that he felt justified in shooting him, and perhaps even worse, he felt justified in rendering him no aid as if this little boy was disposable.  And why?  Because he was Black, and we have been conditioned as a society to see Black men as more dangerous than White men.  Study after study after study demonstrates the reality of implicit bias -- the unconscious attitudes that, "affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner."  You do not have to be consciously racist to have these unconscious attitudes shape your behavior.  As they most certainly did in the minds of Officer Timothy Loehmann and his partner Frank Garmback on that November afternoon.

Do you want to know why people are shouting "Black Lives Matter" rather than the more universal "All Lives Matter"?

If Tamir had been white, the uproar of outrage at the shooting, the callous treatment, and, now, the lack of indictment of the officers involved would be deafening.  But it's not.  And it's not because those who are shouting the loudest are as easy for white America to dismiss as was the life of this little boy. It is so easy for us -- white Americans -- to nestle down all snug in those safe places we create for ourselves -- those sanctuaries, both literal and metaphorical -- in which we can cocoon ourselves and listen only to our own reality.

We -- again, White Americans -- must make ourselves uncomfortable, disturbed, or, in Dr. Kings memorable word, maladjusted.  We must refuse to let ourselves be lulled into a safe and contented sleep that is, by its very nature, both a symptom and a cause of the problem.  We White Americans can turn off the ugliness of racism.  We have the freedom to set it aside, to insist on our "right" to a little peace and quiet.  This is a luxury and a privilege not, as we so often describe it, and entitlement.

To my White friends ... what can we do ... what can you do ... to keep yourself uncomfortable?  What can you do to keep the cancer of systemic racism in your face all the time?  These are not rhetorical questions, they are a real call to action.  A call for you, whoever you are reading this, to do something to make this struggle as real for you, as important for you, as necessary for you as it is for the family of Tamir Rice ... and the families of all those whose lives are very much uncomfortable, and unsafe, each and every day.

Pax tecum,


A Model for an Annual Spiritual Checkup

I will confess up front that this isn't original to me.  Unfortunately can't remember where I discovered it, so I'm unable to thank the person who created it.  I have made a few minor adjustments so that it is more readily applicable to the average Unitarian Universalist (if there is such a thing).

So ... here are ten questions any person could use as an annual review of his or her spiritual life:
Spiritual Practice
How has your practice been this year? Blossoming? Fading? Faltering? Open? Routine? Is this an area that needs more focus for you?
What have you studied this year (formally or informally)? What have you learned?
Are you worshiping at least weekly? How has that time been? Highs? Lows? Are you taking time to prepare or "just showing up"?
Leader Skills
Do you sense that your capacity to lead has increased? Are you observing the leadership of others? What are you learning?  What have you helped others to learn?
Community Building
How are you helping your congregation to thrive, formally and informally?
Where have you been visible in your faith? What blocks you from action?
Serving Others
Where have you served the wider world this year?
Sense of Growth
Where do you feel you have grown this year – spiritually, emotionally, in terms of relationships, or in terms of knowledge?
How is your sense of living a balanced life? Do you keep any kind of Sabbath?
Growing Edge –  Stretching Beyond the Comfort Zone
If we accept that we are not living in the fullness of beloved community, where are you called to focus in the coming year?

Pax tecum,



Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Birth of the Savior

This is the sermon I offered at the 8:00 pm Christmas Eve service at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, Unitarian Universalist.  You can listen to it if you prefer.

Earlier this week I came across a passage that seemed very apropos for tonight.  It’s from the writings of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, and it’s his take on the traditional Christian teaching that God came into the world, became incarnate in a human being, at the birth so very long ago of Jesus of Nazareth, known in his day as Yeshua ben Miriam:

"Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it – because he is out of place in it, and yet must be in it – his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected because they are regarded as weak; and with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, and are tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst."

Last night many of us attended a rally downtown at the Free Speech Wall.  An interfaith and multi-cultural community was created there, even if only momentarily.  Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists and Humanists, and even we Unitarian Universalists gathered there, bearing a spectrum of skin tones, life experiences, traditions, and practices.  Yet we came together.  We came together to declare to the world that we are … no matter how many things there are that might divide us … that we are united in our belief that each of us is worthy of respect and all of us are deserving of dignity and freedom.

This is not the message we’re hearing too much on the news these days. From politicians seeking the highest office in our country, to seemingly average women and men, we are hearing the call not of unity but of divisiveness.  We are being told that there are some people who are different, not the same as, not as good as, not as safe as, not as deserving as.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the people saying this tend to be White and that the ones they’re talking about tend to be people of color.

The people who are speaking with the voices of fear and hatred tend also to call themselves Christians, yet Father Merton reminds us that it is they who have gotten it wrong.  If the Christ is anywhere it is particularly and specifically with the very people these other people denounce – “those who do not belong, who are rejected ... who are discredited … denied the status of persons … for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.”

This is not a very upbeat reflection for Christmas Eve, is it?  And I’ll admit that it’s an awfully Christian one for a Unitarian Universalist preacher to be preaching.  But to those of you for whom this is not your regular religious language I say, “Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy.”  And to those who fear that this is not the happy and hopeful sermon they were expecting I say, “I do have good news to share tonight.”

For this is a season of miracles, or so we’re told. 

The sun, which has been getting more and more absent from the day has begun to make its return.  And so, we can have faith that good will and common sense, seemingly so long absent, will rise again. 

The lamp oil in the temple, enough for just one night, incredibly lasts for eight, allowing a fresh supply of oil to be prepared.  And when we feel that we just can’t make it any more in the face of all the harm and hurt in the world … well … we can believe that we will persevere for as long as needed. 

And to an oppressed people in a backwater country a child is born who brings with him a rebirth of hope and love.  And, as we’ll say and sing in a moment, each night a child is born – anywhere in this heartbreakingly brokenhearted world – is a holy night and a night of hope.  As Carl Sandburg put it, every time a child is born it’s a sign that God still hasn’t given up on the world.

As Unitarian Universalists we affirm the value of every human life, of every animal life, of every life on this planet, and even the non-living parts of our fragile little home.  Yet we cannot let the universality of that blind us to the need for specific and particular reminders.  And so we join with those who say to a country, and to a world, which seems to have forgotten, or perhaps has never fully known, that black lives matter.  And we reach out in our community to find others who share the conviction that Muslim lives matter.  And we strive through the way we are as a congregation to demonstrate that the lives of people with mental illnesses matter.  We have long shown our assertion that the lives of gays and lesbians matter, and we’re learning how to ever more clearly declare that the lives of bisexual and transgender persons matter.

I could keep going.  But maybe the most radical thing we say, maybe the hardest of them all to hear, is that your life matters.  Whoever you are, your life matters.  My life matters.  We matter – you and I – and we matter not despite our flaws and our failings but because it is those very flaws and failings, combined with our strengths and gifts, that make us who we are.  Whole people.  Real people.  We matter, you and I.    In the unfathomable hugeness of this universe, you matter.  That’s good news, isn’t it?

There’s a quote that’s been going around Facebook in recent days:  “Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there’s room.”  When I reposted it on my wall a friend wrote, “we're also, as we've been told, if we're willing, the manger...”  We’re also, God help us, each and every one of us, that little baby.

We matter, you and I, because if there’s going to be any love in this world, it’s going to have to come from us.  If there is going to be any healing, we’ll have to nurture it.  If there’s going to be freedom, we’re the ones who are going to have to work for it.  And if there’s going to be any real change, we will have to make it.  The story of the birth of a savior is really the story of our births as saviors. 

This season, however we understand it and however we celebrate it, it is my prayer that we will feel birthed within us love, truth, light, and hope; that they will come to dwell in our lives; and that they will flow forth from us into this world so that all might feel at home here and see the world not at its worst but at its best.

Pax tecum,


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Coming of the Sun: a three-part solstice sermon

© Copyright Peter Trimming and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

This is the text of the three-part sermon delivered at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church - Unitarian Universalist on Sunday, December 20th, 2015.  I was weaving worship with two of our lay Worship Weavers.  Given the way our conversations about the theme unfolded, and the nature of the service itself, we decided that each of us would offer a perspective on our topic.  This is a collaborative version of the "jewel" form of sermon construction -- holding up and idea and, as if it were a diamond, turning it took look at several different facets.  You can listen to the sermon if you'd like, as always.  (I'd note that Lucy Wayne became a part of the Worhip Weavers' Guild this year, and then promptly moved with her husband to Israel.  It was especially delightful to be able to welcome her into the pulpit during a visit back to the U.S.)

Part 1:  Lucy Wayne
Today we are exploring our church’s theme for December, expectation. We are also considering the phenomenon of the coming of the sun.
Two days from now is the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice, the time that the sun is absent from the sky for the longest amount of time. This is immediately followed by an increase in light as Earth tilts closer to our big star.
As the longest night of the year approaches, I invite you join me in an inquiry into darkness.
What comes to mind when you hear the word? Art, psychology - even social agreements - form from distinct understandings of what darkness brings.
For many, it brings welcome rest and respite - even relief from physical ailments like a migraine.
Darkness can be a place of things happening unseen, of gestation and the unconscious. It is in the dark oasis of the cocoon that a caterpillar works through its chrysalis stage before becoming a butterfly.
Some equate the word with an idea of badness. In Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness the eponymous land was not only a site of mystery but a place of dread.
Many children fear the dark and what it might contain - many adults too.  
For just a couple of minutes right now, let us consider the darkness of pain. People who have experienced depression often describe it as a dark time. Suffering becomes so vast it eclipses even the expectation of brightness. In this kind of darkness, it feels like it is “always 3 o’clock in the morning” inside of us, to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The contemplative stream of Catholicism has a name for this period. They call it: the Dark Night of the Soul, a phrase that was coined by Saint John of the Cross in the 16th century.
To simplify greatly, the dark night of the soul is when a faithful believer experiences no connection with their God. It is bewildering and scary.
One of the reasons it’s so scary is the fact there’s no “calendar” for when - or if - the dawn will come. This phase lasted astonishing lengths for people considered saints. Saint Paul of the Cross lived through a 45-year dark night of the soul. Mother Theresa beat him with 49 years in the night.
Whether an official dark night of the soul or an emotionally or physically crushing time, sometimes we cannot track where we - and the metaphorical sun - are in the rhythmic cycle.
This brings us to a key question - Are there any advantages to not expecting an increase of light?
If we are not distracted from the present by a hope our hard situation will change, we can fully take stock of reality. This can give us the motivation we would not otherwise have to respond appropriately.
For example, recognizing incompatibility in a failing relationship and letting go of a conviction it can improve can give us the strength to move on.
Similarly, acknowledging a sick loved one is not going to get better - the sun of healing is not coming - can help us do the hard work of being present with someone who is dying.
To further explore this concept, what are disadvantages to expecting the coming of the sun?
In concentration camps during the Holocaust, it was well-known among veteran prisoners that many people died soon after January 1 of each year. This was not due to the weather, but psychology that was tied to the seasons.
Some prisoners’ life strategy was to focus on hoping for change for the better. We might call these people optimistic solstice-waiters. They thought, “By the new year, we will be free.” At first, this conviction was a source of strength and in the autumn they were noticeably more cheerful than their peers as they counted down the months to liberation. However, when January 1 came and went and they remained imprisoned, these optimistic people lost their will to live, which in the camps meant death.
Although it’s an understandable impulse, pinning our resilience on an expectation that “things will be better” can be dangerous - especially when connected to a specific time frame.
Yet there is a strengthening way to await a solstice. We can trust that the darkness itself is a teacher, that there is growth, meaning, purpose in the suffering of a difficult time. Even if we don’t know what the meaning is, we can trust that the lengthened nights of the soul are part of a natural cycle. This is an expectation that can sustain us.  
So when we are in darkness and hear the community’s call reminding us the sun is coming, instead of anticipating the specific outcome that our lives will fill with light, we can be warmed by the sun’s reminder that the darkness is part of the circle of ebb and flow, the turning of our Earth.

Part 2:  Cypress Walker
One morning, a little engine was working in its railroad station. Then a long train asked a large engine to take it over the hill. "I can't; you are too heavy for me", said the large engine. Then the train asked another engine, and another, only to hear excuses and refusals. In desperation, the train asked the little engine to pull it up the hill. "I think I can", puffed the little engine, and put itself in front of the great heavy train. Believing that it could succeed and determined to do so, the little engine kept puffing faster and faster, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."

As it neared the top of the hill, the little engine went more slowly. However, it still kept saying, "I—think—I—can, I—think—I—can." It reached the top by drawing on this expectation that it could. As the little engine went down the hill, it said "I thought I could, I thought I could.”
How many of you are familiar with this story?
If you know the name of the story, please call it out for us to hear. I thought you could, I thought you could tell me the name of the story! 
In this story, the little engine is faced with a seemingly insurmountable task. With the ambitious yet realistic expectation that it could do what others deemed impossible, it was able to draw upon the strength and determination to pull the large train up the slope. I believe that we are not so different than this little engine, because we too need to create and act on expectations that enable us to do what at times seems beyond our power.
Optimistic yet rational expectations of ourselves and each other can compel us to achieve well beyond our initial beliefs of what can be done. A fit individual who embarks on marathon training with the expectation of completing the race may still be awed by what she went through to cross the line on race day. By contrast, irrational expectations may not only be unproductive but even downright harmful. If an individual with a cardiovascular condition resolves to run a marathon, the same expectation is more likely to diminish health rather than boost a sense of accomplishment.
We’re talking about light and darkness this morning.  How do expectations of light and darkness affect our expectations of ourselves and each other.
Though climate change and El Niño weather conditions may affect what we expect of this winter, millennia of seasons suggest that for the most part we can expect a fairly routine shift from winter to spring. Indeed, this pattern is so well established through our observations and measurements that we can look at the day on the calendar and form reasonably accurate predictions about what the weather will be. For those who are curious, weather.com forecasts that on the 2015 Winter Solstice we will have a high temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nature and life hold many mysteries, but when the longest night of the year will be is not generally considered one of them. My question is, if we know when we can confidently expect the sun’s resurgence, why do we have so many rituals to call forth the light? If these rituals are not physically necessary to restore the sun, why do we summon it in the heart of darkness?
I think that it’s because we need to feel that we play a part in the annual resuscitation of brightness. By acting on our hopeful expectations for the earth’s renewed verdant vitality, we may also create and express expectation for ourselves and each other to be resilient. I think I can survive the darkness.  I think you can work through the hard times.  I think that we can help it to be better.  I think I can, I think you can, I think that we can be better.
Optimism that the sun will come may be insufficient. It may even be inappropriate in times where we need the darkness to incubate or instruct us. I personally am craving, and needing, that hibernation and reflection. When it is time to leave the darkness – and I believe that that time always does come – the realistically optimistic expectation of ourselves that we can and should bring more light into the world can increase how brilliantly it shines. Perhaps we don’t bring forth nor brighten the morning star, but we can enable the sun to rise on our own lives. Through song, prayer, connection, action, and the many ways in which people around the world seek to prepare for the sun in the times of greatest darkness, we enact a belief in our human abilities to learn from our own darknesses in readiness to shine greater light in our lives and societies.
Given what I understand of science, it is not realistic to expect that we have much sway in how the solar calendar plays out. Given what I understand of human nature, we can stretch our expectations within reasonable limits to keep growing. Without running from darkness, we can remember and rejoice that there will be light again. Without ignoring reality, we can expect of ourselves to learn from adversity and emerge stronger. Channeling the little engine and expecting light via darkness, I am fueled by this mantra: I think I can, I see we have, I believe we will.

Part 3:  Wik Wikstrom
There is Christmas, of course, and I’ve long argued that there are two distinct religious holidays that bear the same name – I call them “homophonic holy days.”  There is the Christian holy day of Christmas, and a more recent, secular holiday that’s also called Christmas.  There’s Hanukkah, a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar that’s been elevated in stature because of the way Christmas gets all the hype.

But there’s a lot more than these two at this time of year!  There is Diwali –  significant to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains – symbolizing the victory of good over evil; and Loi Krathong in Thailand, when people put lighted candles, incense, and coins into a small lotus-shaped boat made out of banana leaves, place it in a river, and allow the current to carry it, and all a person’s bad luck, away.  There’s the more recent Kwanzaa, of course, the week-long celebration that has its roots in the black nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was established Dr. Maulana Karenga as a means of helping African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage.  In fact, I read somewhere (but was not able to confirm) that there are something like 27 different holidays and holy days during this “holiday season.”

But unquestionably the one that started it all was the solstice – as Lucy said, the day on which the balance between night and day tips as far toward night as it can.  Thousands and thousands of years ago our ancestors were building astonishing stone structures that – whatever else they were built for – were (and still are) amazingly accurate markers of the winter and summer solstices.  Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in England is probably the most famous one, but there are thousands more around the world.  And each one of these stone circles was built by a people saying, “I think I can, I think I can” over and over, and over again.  Just kidding.

Each one of these stone circles was built by people who were deeply connected to the earth, the sea, the sky; people who were deeply connected to nature in all of her many forms.  Neil deGrasse Tyson, today, may inspire many of us when he points out that the iron in our blood is the exact same element as the iron in a comet; and Carl Sagan, in the 80s, may have poetically taught us that “we are made of star stuff;” but the people who built Stonehenge and the other remarkable stone monuments didn’t need to be told these things – they lived that truth.  They did not see themselves apart from the natural world but, rather, as a part of the natural world.

Here in the 21st century we have become so distanced from the world we live in.  Most of us spend much more time with concrete beneath our feet than we do grass and dirt.  For many, if not most of us, the changing of the seasons means little more than the changing of our thermostats and how long we leave our lights on.  But not them.  Not our ancestors’ ancestors.  They didn’t just live in the world; they knew that the world lived in them.

So I’m going to throw out a new idea here – new to me, at least.  It came to me as I was writing this sermon.  It came to me as Lucy and Cypress shared their homilies with me and I reflected on these themes of light and dark and expectation.  Here’s the new idea:  we are the ones who fear the descent into darkness and await the return of the sun.  We, our ultra-civilized selves, and not our so-called primitive ancestors.

They did not fear the shortening days and lengthening nights.  They did not worry about whether the sun would ever come back.  At least that’s what I suddenly realized this week:  I don’t think that they did.  And that’s because for them the cycles and seasons weren’t something out there; the cycles and seasons were part of them.  Integral to them.  Part and parcel of them, and they of it.  There was no doubt that the sun would return.  They expected it.  Their bones told them it would, as did the world in which, with which, and as part of which they lived.  So with all due respect to Cypress, and the notion I held strongly until just this week, I do not believe that all of these light festivals were meant to “call forth the light.”

So why all the celebrations?  Well … don’t you make a big deal of it when you see an old friend who’s been away for a while?  And what better way to welcome back the sun than with fire?  The more fire the better.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas – both the Christian and secular Christmases.  And I value Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.  But when I really want to get in touch with “the reason for the season” I go back to the roots – the roots kept alive by modern Wiccans, and Druids, and Asatrus, and other neo- and paleo-pagan groups.  Because we are made of star stuff, and these seasons and cycles live within us as we live within them no matter how far removed we have tried to make ourselves.  We cannot live over, and above, or outside of the natural world because we are the natural world, as are the rocks and the trees … and the sun and the moon.

We do not need to fear the lack of light – out there or in here – nor do we need to be anxious for its return.  We need to be reminded to trust it … to trust Life … our life  … Life itself.  My prayer for each of us is that in the days to come we find such a reminder, and that we find ourselves because of it able to live with more confidence and more courage.

Pax tecum,


Monday, December 14, 2015

Thoughts on Giving for Giving Tree Sunday 2015

Yesterday, December 13th, was the annual Giving Tree service at the congregation I am privileged to serve, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church - Unitarian Universalist.  Our congregation teams up with social workers in the local school systems to identify families that need a little extra help in this holiday season.  We take their requests for gifts -- toys, clothes, food, etc. -- and make up anonymous gift cards which we then hang on a wooden "tree."  (There are also cards made for people within our own congregational community who are in need.)  Members are then encouraged to pick up a card (or two, or three), to buy and wrap the gift(s), and to bring them to church on ... you guessed it ... Giving Tree Sunday.  It is a really wonderful, truly multi-generational service.  This is the text of the reflection I offered.  As always, you can listen to the podcast if you prefer.  [One note:  a little bit earlier in the service we'd sung the Malvina Reynolds song, "Magic Penny."]

This is going to be one of those hang-in-there-with-me-for-a-moment sermons.  So … hang in there with me for a moment.
It has been said, often by me I think, that there are three kinds of people in the world:  those who are good with math and those who aren’t.  That tells you what kind of person I am.  So I want to quote a technical definition of the mathematical function of “subtraction” that I found on the internet:
Subtraction is a mathematical operation that represents the operation of removing objects from a collection. It is signified by the minus sign (−). For example, in the picture on the right, there are 5 − 2 apples—meaning 5 apples with 2 taken away, which is a total of 3 apples. Therefore, 5 − 2 = 3. Besides counting fruits, subtraction can also represent combining other physical and abstract quantities using different kinds of objects including negative numbers, fractions, irrational numbers, vectors, decimals, functions, and matrices.
[…] It is anticommutative … [and it] is not associative.
I also found a cartoon posted by someone who takes random tweets and pairs them with panels from Peanuts cartoons.  It’s great.  My favorite, I think, has Lucy sitting at her desk at school, holding up a sheet of paper, and saying, “Only in math problems can you buy 60 cantaloupe and no one asks what the [heck] is wrong with you.”  You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?
We are conditioned to think … let me rephrase that … to know that when you take some things from a group of things you end up having less of those things in the original group.  But Malvina Reynolds, good Unitarian Universalist that she was, seems to want to think for herself even when talking about something as set-in-stone as mathematical truths.  “Love is something [that] when you give it away … you end up having more.” 
So how does that work?  Well, let’s look at another idea from mathematics:  infinity.  I’m not going to give you a technical definition this time, but let’s just say that “infinity” is the same as “never ending” or “limitless.”  There is no limit, no end point, to something that is infinite.
So if I go faux Lucy one better and have an infinite number of cantaloupe, and I give 60 to you, how many do I have left?  I still have an infinite number.  Weird, isn’t it?  And no matter how many of my infinite stash of cantaloupe I give to you, and no matter how many people I give cantaloupe to, I will always have an infinite number of them left.  There’s just no way to diminish an infinite amount.
So maybe we can understand Ms. Reynolds to mean that love is infinite, that it’s never ending, that it’s always, and in all ways, is limitless.  So when I gave all my love to my wife, I still had a limitless well of love when our boys came along so that I was able to give all my love to them, too. 
But wait a minute.  She didn’t write that when you give away love you don’t have any less of it, she said – and we all just sang – that you end up having more.  So how does that work?  Well, I think it works in two ways.
First, let’s take what we’ve been saying about infinity and apply it to the smaller, more finite word problem we’re more used to.  If I have five cookies, and I give you two, and I apply the rules of infinitude, then after this transaction I still have five cookies.  I have five, I give you two, and I still have five.  Yet that means that I somehow have magically gotten another two cookies to replace the two I gave to you.  Because I had five, I gave you two, and now I still have five, which means that there are now 7 cookies in play.  And if I keep doing that, keep giving cookies away from my magical, infinite stash, there will keep being more and more and more until they “roll all over the floor” (to be eaten by our dogs, I guess).
But there’s something else cool about love, though.  When I give love away I not only end up with the same amount of love I started with, that’d be cool enough, but I end up with more. It’s like this: if I have five loves, and I give you two, I end up with seven.  Giving love generates more love.  It ups the ante.  And that’s where the magic comes in. 

Actually, it turns out that magic is not needed!  Between the two services, one of our youth worked out the equation:
- nL = nL  
That is, Infinity minus the number of Loves equals Infinity to the power of the number of Loves.  In other words, it’s not additive, it’s exponential!
Now I’m going to use technical language again, so get ready.  In addition to the infinite amount of love that I have, that you have, that everyone has, there’s an infiniter amount of love that rewards us, if you will, whenever we give some of our love away.  Our Universalist ancestors famously said that “God is love,” which said the other way ‘round means that, ultimately, love is what God is.  So our infinite pools of love are fed and sustained by that infiniter pool of love, and Love sure likes to be passed around.
Now those other two kinds of folks – those that are good with math and … those other ones, whoever they are – have been wincing and biting their lips this whole time because this isn’t good mathematical theory.  But it is good theology.  And it just happens to be true.
Love is something that when you give it away you end up having more.  So in this season when so many of us are so focused on giving, let’s make sure that along with all the things we give we make sure to give our love, too.  Because this world sure does need love these days.  And magic pennies, of course.  You can never have too many of those.
Pax tecum,