A couple of Sundays ago, on Reformation Sunday, our Minister Emeritus, the Rev. Larry Reimer, challenged the congregation with the important quotation from the lips of the great reformer, Martin Luther. After he was condemned for the declarations of conscience that became known as the 95 Theses, Luther wrote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Larry asked us to consider the challenging nature of our own spiritual journey as a congregation and noted, “My point in bringing this up is that throughout history there has been high a cost to being part of a dissenting religious community. I haven’t even touched on the persecution of Jews and the wholesale expulsion of Muslims from Europe in the middle ages. All of this reminds me to ask how important is my faith and my religious community to me in these days of religious freedom? And I ask how important is it to us? Would I stand firm with the beliefs of this church?”
Today I am grateful to have been reminded of that challenge. To remember that, as the great theologian Howard Thurman wrote, “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls. There are two questions that we have to ask ourselves. The 1st is ‘Where am I going?’ and the 2nd is ‘Who will go with me?’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order, you are in trouble.”
In hard times it is important to me, especially today, on November 9, 2016, to rekindle the fire of my own conviction, to remember who I am inside, and to remember that –here I stand, I can do no other than to affirm what I know is true and to know who goes with me. This spiritual community–the United Church of Gainesville–today and every day will continue to be who we are and to do what we do. We will continue to offer opportunities for all people to worship God, however known. We will continue to welcome and to invite differing understandings and opinions with open hearts. We will continue both to lean on our heritage and to learn from our past. We will continue to grow by seeking new insights, the way of compassion, and to seek the peace of the Earth and of all the peoples. We will continue to think deeply, to act justly, and to speak compassionately. The arc of justice bends toward love, and it is often in the crucible of trial that we rediscover our strength in community with one another. Once again, let us choose who we shall be, and where we shall stand, and to go forward in hope, together.