First Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County

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Homily: The Promises We Make

September 11, 2016
Rev. Sandra Fees

A covenant is a promise. It is a promise about how we will be in relationship with each other. How many of you have ever made a promise to someone? We make many promises - to our parents, children, partners, spouses, teachers, co-workers, friends, and church. We make promises to ourselves too. And to our animal friends.

Sometimes we don’t keep our promises. That can really hurt, when someone doesn’t do what they said they would. We have to tell each other in a loving way when we’ve made a mistake and then make a new agreement.

None of us wants to be left out or feel like we can’t count on each other. But there are times when we make promises to each other and forget that to include people who are also affected. In the story, The Agreement, the bear and salmon had an agreement that worked just fine for them. But they never gave a thought to the others like the river who might care and might be impacted.

They weren’t trying to be mean-spirited. They were just so focused on their own needs getting met and on each other that they didn’t think about anyone else. They didn’t think about the bigger picture. At least not until the river became suddenly still. And then they had to pay attention. They had to talk about it and make a new agreement.

On Tuesday night, I was reminded of how much it hurts when people are left out of the promises we make. I lead a worship service to pray for and bring hope to mothers and children from Central America who are being held in a center and can’t leave. They haven’t done anything wrong. They came to this country seeking a safe place to live. Their home countries have extreme violence and they were afraid there.

One hundred and fifty people lit candles of hope for the mothers and children, and sang. How many of you were there? Those of you who were there remember this moment. While we were singing, about 20 or so mothers and children also started to sing. They were singing a different song from the one we were singing. And we were singing in English, and they were singing in Spanish. It was so beautiful and sad and hopeful. We were separated from them by about 50 feet and two fences. But we could hear each other’s voices.

When we are part of a church community like this one, we try to help each other make promises that include people, rather than taking them for granted. We educate each other, inspire each other, and care for each other. We try to help each other think about the bigger picture.

That is why our church has made a promise to work to free the mothers and children and to end family detention. One of my promises as your minister is to continue to advocate for their freedom and for an end to family detention. I do this because I believe we are all part of one human family. I believe that we need to make promises not only to the people in our immediate families and to our friends and to the people in this church but to all people – including the mothers and children who need to be released from the center.

It is especially important to me to speak out for those who are not being treated with dignity, with fairness, and with kindness. This is part of what it means to me to live by our principles of human worth and interconnectedness.

Actually I believe we are not only connected to people but also to the animals, plants, trees, water, rocks, clouds – to the whole wide universe. Caring beyond our relationships makes for a very deep agreement. It means I can’t just take someone for granted – even someone I don’t know. Even mothers and children from another country. Even the river.

In a few minutes, in our water communion, each of us will have a chance to say what we will promise to this community and to this world this year. I hope we can be honest and courageous in making our promises. I hope we will make promises that include people and help us walk together in love.

Amen. Blessed be.