The DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church exists as a beacon of liberal religious thought and practice. Amid the challenges and changes of a chaotic world, we aspire to proclaim and embody the possibilities of meaning in human life, of freedom in human thought, and of peace and justice in human community.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sunday Service: Food and Religion - November 23st, 2014

Food and Religion
By Reverend Tom Capo
Preached on November 23, 2014

    What is the significance of food as it relates to spirituality or religious tradition?  In Steve’s story, little Carrie travels to different homes looking for her brother, but instead finds various cultural dishes made with rice.  Just like Carrie, I spent much of last week exploring the ways in which various religions include food in their rituals and traditions.  In this journey from virtual house to house, I was surprised by what I feasted upon.
    Our journey starts with the Sikh religious home. The Golden Temple Complex is the Central worship place for Sikhs around the world, and it is in Punjab, India.  The Sikhs are serving a free communal meal known as Langar.  The concept of `Langar' is a very old tradition of great importance for the Sikhs.  This tradition was started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, color, creed, age, gender or social status.  This was a revolutionary concept in the caste-ordered society of 16th century India where Sikhism began. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind.
    Let’s now head to the Christian religious home.  I grew up Catholic and I felt I had some knowledge of this religion and food.  Communion.  The little wafer and a sip of wine that is given out in remembrance of Jesus Christ.   According to the Catholic faith, this wafer and wine is transubstantiated, actually becomes, the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  In Protestant Christian traditions, this wafer and wine is either though to be consubstantiated, that is, becoming the body and blood of Christ while still being wafer and wine, or is thought of more metaphorically, not actually changing.  The wafer and wine are used to remember Jesus, his wisdom and life.  But what is interesting to me is that this tradition of bread and wine didn’t really become part of the worship service in the Catholic Church until the time of Constantine around 313 CE.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sunday Service: ISIS and the Middle East - November 16th, 2014

   ISIS and the Middle East
By Reverend Tom Capo  

    “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up swords against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall all sit under their own vines and fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”  This quote from the Jewish Bible prophet Micah is a statement of hope for our world.  I wish I could say that this is happening right now, but I’d have to be blind to the many wars and atrocities that are occurring in so many places.  This image of the Tao with peace and justice represents the complexity that we face.  I believe all of us would prefer that the human race would sit together peacefully under vines and trees with no-one prodding us, through words or actions, to be afraid, but that, most emphatically, is not the world we live in.  How do we balance justice with peace? 
     What has been on my heart for some time has been the group ISIS, also known as ISL or the Islamic State or Isil or Daesh.  This splinter group from the Al-Queda network has taken over vast swaths of Iraq and Syria.  They are well armed, extremely well-funded, and have lots of people from around the world volunteering to fight for them.  They have used mass killings, beheadings, intimidation, and fear to control their own soldiers as well as the people in the cities that they have taken over.  As far as I know, they seem to have no interest in peaceful dialogue as a means to their ends.   Unitarian minister, Transcendentalist, orator, and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.”  So how do we reach an understanding with people who have no interest in any understanding beyond, “join us or die?” How do we reconcile Emerson’s lofty philosophy with the fact of a violent fundamentalist group whose rampage must be halted?
    I am increasingly disturbed and, let’s be honest, afraid of what they are doing and what they might do.  I am having some flashbacks to feelings that I had during 9-11 when the twin towers were destroyed and the country was afraid—having experienced a  catastrophic foreign terrorist attack on United States soil for the first time in modern history.  I remember my irrational fear while interacting with a Middle-eastern stranger in a grocery store a few days after the attack.  Yet, after a time, I was able to find an inner peace. I chose not to live in fear; I chose not to give power over my behavior to a group that wanted me to be afraid; and I chose not to treat my Middle-eastern and Islamic brothers and sisters differently because of what some extremists chose to do.
     What’s helping me cope this time is an experience I had about 6 years ago, while serving in Cedar Rapids.  Tensions were high between the Jewish and the Islamic communities due to what was going on in the Middle East.  People here in the United States had family and friends who had been wounded or were in imminent danger due to the fighting in Israel.   The Rabbi at the time defended the right of the people of Israel to protect themselves against the bombings of innocents, and one of the Imams compared the Israelis’ persecution of the Palestinians along the West Bank to the Holocaust.  They took this dialogue to Facebook, and predictably, the tension between the two groups escalated.  A number of faith leaders in Cedar Rapids, of which I was one, decided to hold a Peace service on neutral ground, the Unitarian Universalist church that I was serving.  Both the Imam and the Rabbi were invited and attended.  They consciously put aside their reactive and inflammatory words.  The Rabbi said a beautiful, elegant, and loving prayer for the Palestinian children along the West Bank.  Then the Iman stood up, thanking the Rabbi for his words while he shook his hand, and then prayed for peace for all the people who live in Israel.  Some of you may be sitting there thinking, “so what? That didn’t solve the conflict in the Middle East.”  And you’re right, it didn’t.   But it did bring peace to our own multi-national community.  In a sense, we thought globally and acted locally, and the result was peace between the Jewish and Islamic communities in Cedar Rapids.
    The Rabbi prayed for the children, just as we did today in our prayer.  But again I wonder what is the balance between protection and love—how do we know when we go too far in one direction, thinking of protection, and believing that we are at war primarily because we are safeguarding the world for our children or our children’s children?  Mother Teresa wrote:  “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  The Rabbi and the Imam remembered that we belong to one another, but there are so many in our world who forget.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sunday Service: Spiritual Practices - November 9th, 2014

Spiritual Practices  
By Reverend Tom Capo  
As one of my spiritual practices, I read and reflect on a number of passages from different religious traditions.  Many of the passages I receive by email each day.  On October 26, I received this passage from Eknath Easwaran, the founder of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation: “Without a tank full of gas, no car can drive very far. The mind, too, needs a full tank of vitality to draw on for patience, resilience, and creativity. Filling that tank every morning is one of the most practical purposes of meditation. The test of your meditation is: How long can you be patient with those around you? In the beginning, you should aim to make it at least to noon acting like the proverbial angel.  Most of us, however, even if we start with a full tank, have little control over the thousand and one little pinpricks that drain vitality as we go along: worry, vacillation, irritation, daydreaming. By lunchtime the indicator may be hovering around empty.  Then it is that you have to be acutely vigilant. The tank is nearly empty, but by sheer effort and deft defensive driving, and using the mantram, you manage to coast through to the end of the day without any serious accidents.  The more effort you make, the more endurance you gain. The next day you may find the tank itself a little larger; you start the next day with a greater capacity for love and patience than before.” A spiritual practice, at least from my perspective, serves a number of purposes:  filling our vitality tank, grounding us in the truest part of ourselves, opening us up for enlightenment or deeper understanding of ourselves and the world, and connecting us to something greater than our own desires, needs, and feelings.

Ok, so, those are some purposes, but what the heck is a spiritual practice?  Well, let’s start with characteristics and then consider a definition that might be useful, that might help us to decide what spiritual practice we could incorporate into our lives or what characteristics we might add to our current practices.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sunday Service: Environmental Justice - October 19th, 2014

Environmental Justice
By Reverend Tom Capo
10 19 2014

The story of Jonah and the Very Big Fish is memorable.  When I was young all I remember is Jonah getting eaten by the whale and traveling around the sea.  But as you heard there is much more to this story.  Jonah didn’t want to help or warn the people of Nineveh because he didn’t feel they were worthy—they were wicked and an enemy of Israel.  Eventually he gave in and passed on the message and the people changed.  Now I am not Jonah nor are you.  But aren’t there times, when you feel like feel like a Jonah?  You try to tell others about the need to care for mother earth.  You do it over and over and again, until you just get tired.  You don’t think people are hearing you anyway, so why tell them one more time?  Like Jonah, you come to think of those people who refuse to listen as enemies.  People who aren’t helping mother earth, who are denying climate change, who aren’t going to listen to you anyway because they’re just, well, “wicked.”  You find no motivation within yourself to keep speaking truth to power, because power just doesn’t care.  So where can you find the motivation to continue working for environmental justice?