Message from the Minister

— by William Levwood, UUCT Minister

After months of anticipation, it is so wonderful to begin my ministry here at UUCT!

Though I don’t begin leading services until we celebrate Water Communion together on September 9th, my ministry has begun in full force. My schedule has been full with meetings as I get to know you as a congregation.
There are so many stories.

Stories that have been told hundreds, or even thousands, of times.
Stories left unspoken for years.
Stories not yet ripe for speaking.
Each of you have so many stories within you.
And the congregation itself is alive with stories, past and present.

As in a family, even when we share a story, we likely didn’t experience it the same way. We don’t remember it the same way. We don’t tell it the same way. And we don’t interpret it the same way. This is the great power of community.

This is the topic of this week’s worship service and workshop from our guests in the pulpit, Pam and Charley Rogers, who will share a transformative process for telling our stories and for listening deeply to each other’s stories.

Also this week, Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the story of The Divine speaking and Abraham listening. It’s a story that has been told hundreds of thousands of times, and interpreted in a multitude of ways. It’s a problematic, even deeply troubling story, of how The Divine told Abraham to sacrifice his son (though Bruce Feiler notes that in the Hebrew Bible, the specific language tells Abraham to bring his son as an offering).

You see, this is where things get interesting. Many Jews, Christians, and Muslims interpret the story as an example of unwavering, unquestioning faith. Then again, many Jews, Christians, and Muslims, don’t abide by that interpretation at all. In the Hebrew Bible, sacred scripture for both Jews and Christians, the son is Isaac. In the Qur’an, the son is not named, and the prevailing consensus among Muslims is that the son is Ishmael, not Isaac.

Same story, different tellings, different interpretations.

For me, personally, the fruit of the story is about listening. In the Biblical telling, The Divine calls out, “Abraham,” and Abraham responds, “Here I am.” Then Abraham takes his son to the mountain, ties him down, and raises his arm, blade in hand. Just as Abraham is about to take the life of his son, The Divine calls out, “Abraham.” And again, “Abraham.” “Here I am,” Abraham responds. And The Divine tells Abraham he has passed the test, offering a ram in Isaac’s place.

Abraham listens. He hears a voice and follows its lead. (I’m not sure whose voice he really heard that first time. It’s hard to believe it was the voice of anything we would refer to as divine.) What strikes me as so important in the story is that he didn’t stop listening. There is reason to believe he almost stopped listening. Why else would The Divine have to call his name twice the second time? Abraham didn’t stop listening. If he had, tragically, he would have slaughtered his son.

I say to you, with joy in my heart, “Here I am.”
I am here to listen.
To listen to your stories.
To listen to the story of this congregation.
And to keep listening.

I’m certainly not perfect. You may have to call my name a second time.

But I am here. And I am listening.

This congregation is alive with stories.
The stories of the past.
The stories of the present.
And the stories of the future.

May we keep listening, to all the stories, and all the interpretations.

Sermons given by our Minister, William Levwood, can be found on the Worship Recordings Page.

This message was published in the September 23 – October 6, 2018 issue of The Meridian.