The Art of Interfaith Homiletics?
This summer, I had the honor of preaching a sermon on interfaith engagement to eight different Unitarian Universalist congregations in Illinois and Wisconsin. The sermon was entitled, “Acts of Faith: Interreligious Engagement as Spiritual Practice,” and won the District Sermon Contest Award in my faith tradition.
Based on the themes found within Eboo Patel’s book, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, The Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, my experiences delivering this sermon for two straight months gave me an opportunity to reflect on not only the place of interfaith engagement within the spiritual formations of individuals within my own religious tradition, but also on the art of homiletics.
At this stage of my formation as a Unitarian Universalist minister, it is a privilege to be able to preach this often, and so I am glad to have been able to share a message that is deeply personal to my ministry and UU identity: Does being a socially and ethically responsible person in the 21st century require one to build authentic, supportive relationships with people from different religious and philosophical backgrounds?
The answer for me, and I would bet Dr. Patel, is yes. Coming together around our moral commitments, whether they are derived from ancient writings or recent ones, from prophets, sages, or philosophers, from the East or the West or from any direction, is an act of faith that fulfills a core belief of many traditions, our interdependence. The 7thUnitarian Universalist Principle is that we are all a part of an interconnected web of existence. This means we all have a stake in each other’s lives, that we need to come together, and work together to make the world a better place for all.
And in these reunions, when we can come together across lines of difference, a powerful revelation is made visible: a vision of a world where cooperation and collective activism are the norms, and peace and justice are the pillars of our shared strength. Unitarian Universalists work towards this goal of local and global human liberation from injustice. But, as progressive religious people, we could do more to engage with our religious neighbors who are just down the street from our communities. However, as I shared this sermon, it became very apparent that this awakening to our interconnectedness is a journey that all people are on, and each are at their own place along this journey. But, we are all moving closer to this reality of coming together to work for the greater good.
Finally, I wanted to reflect upon the art of homiletics, because sharing this sermon many times opened my eyes to the power of prophetic preaching and a curiosity regarding its place in the interfaith movement. In times as turbulent as these, as divisive as these, we need religious and moral leaders to stand up and share a vision of how we can unite around our diversity, not be destroyed by our diversity, in order to live out our moral and/or religious convictions more fully and beautifully.
State of Formation is helping in this journey by bringing emerging leaders together who believe in a world that is being built with every blog post and reinforced with every connection made between people from diverse life journeys. I am proud to be able to do my part and I thank you all for continuing your journeys, as well.