Trust, Hope & Action

Sermon by Miriam Kashia
June 14, 2020

A transcript of this sermon follows the video.

Good morning, my dear UU Friends.

After my proposal to lead a summer service on the theme of Trust was accepted by our Worship Associates, I realized “trust” by itself isn’t sufficient – it can’t stand alone. We also need hope and action  – a trifecta, if you will, of who we need to be and what is required of us as we navigate these tragic, perilous and uncertain times. This is a three-part message exploring Trust, Hope and Action as a pathway to a new future.  

Part 1 – Trust the Unfolding

For many years I have relied on the phrase “Trust the Unfolding” as a personal mantra to see me through hard times and to help me embrace my heartache for humanity and for “all life” on Earth. 

The laws of the physical universe involve energy, expansion and balance. While I cannot totally wrap my head around everything that implies, it brings me comfort and calm to know that at the biggest, smallest and deepest levels, everything is unfolding perfectly according to the laws of the Universe.  

At the same time, the human experience is rife with paradox. “Trusting the unfolding” is a way for me to maintain my center amidst harsh realities and truths. Everything may be unfolding perfectly, but many things are also tragically broken.  Trusting removes the burden from me of having to know everything and figuring out how to fix it, although it does not release me from responsibility of acting on what I know to be “good, beautiful and true.”

A contemporary spiritual teacher, Terry Patten, describes it thus:

“We are disoriented. That’s how it is when you’re in transition, in the liminal space on both sides of a threshold. We’ve been taken out of our previous lives and now we’re in a kind of limbo. We understand now that things will never be the same. We’ve all been plunged into a global rite of passage. Something is dying — and something new will be born.

We are being invited to radical trust — to transmute our collective frozen emotions of grief, fear and outrage on behalf of the well-being of the human family and all life…..we are being asked to discover an absolute ground of the faith it takes to keep opening our hearts no matter what!”

What I can count on, what I can trust, is the love of my family and friends –  just as I can count on birdsong to awaken me and the sun to set.  And I count on this beloved community to be steadfast in our covenant to our principles and to one another. And we CAN trust the foundation that sustains the universe, because after all, there will always be things that are “good, beautiful and true.” 

Part 2 – Finding True Hope

It is 1979, and my second, brief, ill-fated marriage is on the rocks. My husband refuses to go with me to marriage counseling, so I go alone.  After hearing my story, the male counselor tells me that my relationship is untenable and by hoping for change I am stuck in a harmful dead end, hanging onto a fantasy. He was right.  Sometimes, abandoning false hope, taking action, and moving on is the healthiest choice.  Perhaps even the only sane choice. Without trust, hope was my futile attempt to avoid facing reality and change. This taught me the difference between denial-based hope and intentional hope that holds a vision and a path.  

There is a tremendous amount of literature, philosophy and spiritual writing about hope. Here are some I find most meaningful and helpful: 

From Vaclev Havel, former president of Czechoslovakia: 

“Hope…. is not the same as joy that things are going well or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not because it stands a chance to succeed.  Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. It is HOPE, above all, which gives the strength to live and continually try new things.”

And an Excerpt From: “A Sermon on Hope” by Quinn Norton 

People often mistake hope for a feeling, but it’s not. It’s a mental discipline, an attentional practice that you can learn.

Hope isn’t just looking at the positive things in this world, or expecting the best. That’s a fragile kind of cheerfulness, something that breaks under the weight of a normal human life. You can’t navigate dark places without a light, and hope is that light for humanity’s dark places.  Our practice of hope cannot be so fragile that understanding the truth can wreck it. 

This hope gives us the strength to live and continually to try new things, even in conditions that seem hopeless. The discipline of hope …. begins in kindness, …it comes from looking for places to serve something larger than yourself…. It comes from cultivating gratitude. Hope teaches you to put the world before yourself, but in doing so, hope teaches you an unfragile happiness in loving the world.”

In her bestselling book, Hope in the Dark,  Rebecca Solnit tell us:

“It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act….Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.  Hope demands things of us that despair does not.”

So True Hope requires intention and a vision!  That is why our UUS Vision and Mission statements and our Covenant serve as a light of Hope based on shared Trust in our Beloved Community – and because they are good, beautiful and true. 

Hope is a glimpse, a promise of what is possible – it’s  integral to transformation, but without the follow-through of shared action, Hope is often apathetic and denial-based, shallow and empty.

Part 3 – On To Action

On October 1, 2016, I was arrested with 29 others in SE Iowa near Keokuk where for weeks a group of water protectors and climate activists were doing everything possible to prevent DAPL from drilling a 30” pipeline under the Mississippi River.  Let me tell you about it…

The scene is deafening, chaotic and confusing.  I can’t hear anything but the thunderous sound of the humongous drill boring under the Mighty Mississippi. There are 100 screaming activists spread around the fence perimeter.  A few begin tackling the eight-foot fence as over 20 law enforcement officers wait inside to apprehend them. My adrenaline is pumping and I’m trying to focus. We don’t really have a plan except to stop that drill, to halt this threat to the Mississippi River, to end the lies and corruption and greed, to terminate the flow of fossil fuels that are killing our planet.  

I’m NOT here to get arrested today.  I recently paid a hefty fine for a prior arrest, attempting to protect the Des Moines River from this same pipeline.  Today I’m only a support person.  

Then I see my 80-year-old friend Ann, who is recovering from knee replacement surgery, scrabbling under the chain-link fence.  She struggles to her feet with the aid of her cane and looks around to get her bearings.  A uniformed officer takes her by the arm and slowly leads her off to a waiting van.   

“Oh hell,” I yell to the screaming crowd behind me on the hill. “Come on!  We have to go together. Let’s do this!  They can’t arrest all of us!  Let’s go! We can stop the drill if we go together!  Follow me!  Come on!” 

I doubt they hear me, and I know they don’t follow me.  I head by myself over a portion of the fence that has just been flattened to the ground by several protesters. I’m stealthily making my way toward the drill.  If I can get to it, they will have to shut it down – if only for an hour or a day. I desperately want to do whatever I can to prevent this menace to the Mississippi. I know in my heart of hearts that they are the offenders, not me. 

One of the officers turns his head and spots me. The jig is up.  I’m caught and cuffed with plastic zip ties and put in a van till we are hauled off to the Lee County Jail.  We are charged with “misdemeanor trespass,” given a hearing date, and released.  The drill didn’t stop – not for a single minute.  I am frustrated and disheartened.   We have made this effort for nothing. If we had gone together, we could have stopped the drill. But we didn’t.  

The strongest environmental protections ever passed happened because 20 million Americans took to the streets on the first Earth Day: Regulations for clean air & water, the Endangered Species Act, the founding of the EPA all came about because “we the people,” in huge numbers, demanded it. Just as today millions of us are demanding racial justice and already the impact is stunning. 

The Reverend Cameron Trimble reminds us: “All of our great movements come from deep disruption.”

But we have to do it together.  Lots and lots and lots of us stepping together outside our comfort zone. There is no one else to do it. It is up to us.

I’m often asked why I’m a climate activist.  The long answer would take hours of sharing stories, experiences, & scientific facts about our existential climate crisis.  The short answer is: “How could I not?”

Summary

I’ve been pointing to the trifecta of Trust, Hope and Action as our doorway to a new future. These are required of us at this time in the history of humanity, because we are in the midst of another trifecta: the Pandemic that is most likely here to stay and only the first that will emerge due to our disruption of nature’s balance; “Black Lives Matter” that is erupting all around the world revealing the vicious underbelly of white supremacy; and the rapidly emerging Climate Crisis that threatens the very existence of life on Earth. 

As Rev. Diane so eloquently reminded us, there is no “somebody else” to do the work that must be done. It is up to us. You. Me. All of us. Together. Each in our own unique and heartfelt way.  Those aren’t just words.  We must bring our hearts, broken and hurting as they are, to the work we are doing together – even as we are working to heal different pieces of our broken world.  As UUs we understand that all injustice is connected and that the consequences fall most heavily on marginalized people. Wherever our hearts and passion lead us in our work to unseat injustice – in all its forms – we are in this together. 

So together we are walking through the doorway – what Rev. Diane recently called a “tunnel” – into a new paradigm, a different future – with a vision in our heads and our hearts of an inclusive, just, equitable, sustainable, resilient, compassionate world. A vision to continually remind us of the direction we are heading. 

Now. Together.  With Trust, Hope and Action. How can we not?