“With That Moon Language” by Sufi Poet Hafez

Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to
them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us
to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a full
moon in each eye that is always saying,

with that sweet moon language, what every other
eye in this world is dying to hear?

“A Conversion to Humanity”

Love is the spirit of this church.

 Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, what every other eye in this world is dying to hear? Love me.

 I turn my face and hands toward You to behold and hold you precious–our invocation today.

It’s our Universalist faith. This is the reason this Love Language is our guiding light. That’s where it comes from. Our guiding light in all matters, and with all peoples. God is Love. This is what our Universalist faith teaches us.

And this is not just some abstract thing we believe when it’s convenient. We try to live it; live by it. That’s inconvenient. We talked about the requirements of our faith last week–this is one of those requirements. That we try (try being the key word here) to live Love. Even when it’s so hard.

 This brings a date to mind. Let’s go there, just for a minute. November 9, 2016. Does this date mean anything to you?

The election results were in. Trump was our president-elect. I was in seminary at Boston University’s School of Theology at the time. And I drove to school that morning heart-broken over the division. And angry. And mainly scared. I was so thankful to have such a wonderful community to lean on and learn from at BU.

A fellow student at the School of Theology, she was a young Methodist woman who was pursuing military chaplaincy at the time, she decided to make a large sign on November 9th, 2016 and then sat on a bench in Harvard Square for the entire week after the election, holding it. It read: “Support Trump? Please talk to me. I’m hurting. I promise to: just listen, not interrupt, say thank you, offer cookies.” What transpired was, in her words, more powerful than anything she could have imagined. She eventually turned this experience, and the countless heartfelt conversations that she had, into a seminar, which she offered at Boston University, Boston College, and Harvard, about how to have difficult conversations and, “deal with hard stuff without losing hope in one another’s humanity.”

Deal with hard stuff without losing hope in one another’s humanity.

Social scientist Brenè Brown, who has written countless books and offered talks about her research on human connection and belonging, says it this way: “People are hard to hate close up. Move in.”

Let me unpack this a bit. The big bad blurry blob out there is easy to fear and despise. I would even go as far as saying hate. For hatred is in us all. It is easy to hate “Those People.” And it’s very easy to find yourself united in this shared disdain. We are certainly seeing this play out politically right now. On both sides. Shared disdain for those people.

Some of us might even think that this shared disdain, hatred, gives us a sense of belonging or a feeling of connection with our fellows. I’ve had this feeling before. But Brenè Brown points out that it’s a fleeting sense of connection. I’ll say more about that in a moment. But, do you know what I mean? Have you ever spent an evening with friends tearing people down? It’s satisfying for a while, but then a kind of integrity hangover sets it. Right? There is nothing soul nourishing or truly inspiring about an evening spent like this. Once and awhile, sure, have a vent session. But if it’s all that tethers you to your fellows? Ehhhhh.

Brenè Brown refers to what I’m talking about here as ‘counterfeit connection’ because its bonds depend on having a common enemy. What she calls “common enemy intimacy.” So, if the bond we share with others is simply that we hate the same people we simply manifest a community of hate. And we can’t be fully human in a community of hate.

I would say this is because dehumanizing others, dehumanizes ourselves. The interdependent web of existence is real my friends. Unitarian Universalism calls us towards Re-Humanizing, not de-humanizing: for we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. EVERY PERSON.

I call this a Conversion to Humanity. In all our exchanges, words, actions: How might we become more fully human? And encounter one another as more fully human?

And what do I mean when I say CONVERSION. Conversion, at its root, simply means a turning round; to change or transform. A turning towards/around to humanity.

Good grief, aren’t words fun? So many of these religious words feel so scary but they are quite lovely when you get up close.

Dr. Cornel West instructed me in much of this. This conversion to humanity-ness. Dr. West is one of our modern-day prophets. An incredible mind and scholar, who preaches the gospel of radical love and kinship–which he credits the Black Church with. He used to say that when it comes to collective liberation and radical love, “the focus should be on critical compassion and delicate, difficult conversations, rather than responding to terror or injustice or difficulty by imposing terror or injustice on others…” He would say to us week after week in seminary: “You can’t hate your way through this.”

Did any of you ever watch The Oprah Winfrey Show? She once did an episode about people that are easy to hate. And she went to a women’s prison and sat in a circle with women who had all committed horribly violent acts against their kids. Unspeakable. And Oprah asked them to tell their stories–and woman after woman shared about the horrors of their own childhoods, abusive relationships, addiction, and on and on. And after 3 or 4 women shared, Oprah suddenly said A-HA! She used to have a lot of those A-HA moments. But what she said, I will never forget. She said, “you are telling MY story–and I now realize that you just did something different with your pain than I did with mine. You just did something different with your pain than I did with mine.

THIS is a conversion to humanity. When you realize: we’ve got the same pain, we’re just doing something different with it.

And it’s what the Universal Love that is the heartbeat of our religion asks of us–to see “the other” in ourselves, and ourselves in “the other.”. It’s not that we can’t be outraged, heartbroken, incensed or hold people accountable. But we do not succumb to dehumanizing hatred and wholesale condemnation. We have seen where this has gotten us–it is not working. We practice humanity. We Side With Love, always. It is, after all, the spirit of this church.

And listen, do this in small bites. One thing I do, that feels manageable, is to only engage in hard or big conversations in person. No more emails or social media posts. For me, it’s just too easy to forget people’s humanity, human being-ness, this way. So, I don’t do that anymore.

I have yet to sit on a bench and invite people carrying scary signs to sit down and have cookies with me. This scares me. If you are scared, that’s okay. We can be scared together. But can we promise to not let this fear morph into dehumanizing hatred? I’m not going to make it hating my way through this life. None of us are.

Small bites though.

So, take some of this with you this week:

  • As you reflect on our Transgender Siblings on this Day of Remembrance, and their fight to be seen and known as full human beings
  • As you consider our Indigenous siblings who are hurting this week and fighting on behalf of themselves and their ancestors to be seen and known as full human beings
  • As you break bread with family, or chosen family, or friends this week where hurt or difference of belief might be acutely present–or the allure of common enemy intimacy beckons–how might you attempt connecting in a deeper, more humane way, without the worry of an integrity hangover? Nobody needs anymore hangovers this week–the sugar and whatever else you will be enjoying is probably enough.

Small bites. Small steps. Try it. That’s all we can do. Try.

For now, let’s listen to Hafez’s words again. Let them be our prayer in the coming days. For ourselves and each other. God knows we need it.

“With That Moon Language”

Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to
them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us
to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a full
moon in each eye that is always saying,

with that sweet moon language, what every other
eye in this world is dying to hear?

And so, “I love you.”

Amen.

I can’t think of a better hymn to sing today. It reminds me that we are in this together and as close to a UU anthem as you can get: #1064 Blue Boat Home.

Reverend Sophia Lyons
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Rev. Sophia is committed to radical welcome and spreading the good news that is our bold Unitarian Universalist faith. Some of her areas of interest include interfaith partnerships, addictions ministry, spiritual direction, and working towards collective liberation for all. Rev. Sophia aspires to live her life and fulfill her ministry guided by spiritual seeking, big love, and the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism.