The Tide is Rising

Folks, the tide is rising. A sense angst rests on our hearts. Each day, we rise and try to make it as far into our routine as we can without thinking of the many causes for concern that inundate us. We can only seclude ourselves so much though, and before long, a stray thought or a piece of news again reminds us that all is not well. A vast external force, indeed multiple forces, against which we feel powerless, flow ever closer in our minds’ eye. Indeed, the tide is rising. And indeed, if you didn’t think my sermons could get any LESS funny…here we are. 

I asked folks on Facebook this week what is something you are worried about right now on an everyday basis. The response was overwhelming. Literally. I crave social media attention as much as the next person, and my wife would argue I crave it even more. But the level of anxiety that is out there is very high at the moment, and after a while I had to take a break from reading the comments. Here is a list of just some of the things that folks wrote publicly they are worried about: 

“The future of our country. Healthcare. Policing.”


“Money, My kid, My work (deadlines).  Keeping the yard up to HOA standards, cleaning the house, whether the cats are getting the right amount of food. My mom.”

“Why am I trying my very hardest?”

“Forest fires, acidic oceans and the death of coral reefs, environmental collapse generally. The way in which people increasingly experience life through digital and heavily biased media.”

“Running out of time (I turn 64 next month)”

“Student loan debt. Structural racism and inequality. Things I screwed up and can’t change now but still stew over.”

“ Whether I’ll have enough money to retire.”

“…human rights violations”

“Staying true to my path”


“What the end of my life will be like.”

“What I’m going to make for dinner.”

“Am I doing enough?”


“Traffic accidents”

“Doing well in school”

“The future of our faith”




And perhaps most relatable: “The number of emails in my inbox”

I wish to make no value judgments about the content of these worries, but to illustrate that this is a high-anxiety time for many people and for many reasons. Some of the above items were repeated by multiple people, especially climate change. The oceans are rising. I found myself this week Googling “will the Earth turn into Venus?” with a hothouse atmosphere, which Stephen Hawking said last year it would. The good news is that every scientist who responded to that publicly said the answer was no, Earth will not end up with a Venus-like atmosphere. But the bad news is that they all say that climate change represents an existential threat to humanity. 

We’re all worried right now. We are all anxious. I’m worried, too. It’s OK to be anxious. The challenge before us is not to eliminate fear or pretend it does not exist. Rather, we are called to acknowledge our fears but not let them stop us from doing what needs to be done. We have a lot of work to do. The task is mighty. But so are we. 

“And So Are We!”

What was perhaps most troubling about having asked folks what they are worried about, was hearing people of all ages, from college-aged and young adult folks to senior citizens, despair about their futures. Many people in my generation, the Millennial generation, have little or no hope for the future. Many in the wiser generations are wondering what sort of a world they’ll leave behind. I want to encourage everyone this morning to reach out to someone in your life who is not the same generation as you, and offer them words of support and hope. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t welcome that right now.

Overcoming despair and acting collectively is daunting. The task is mighty, but so are we. What makes us mighty is our connections to each other, our relationships. We are a relational faith, defined not by our common beliefs but by our common covenant to be together in the midst of different beliefs, and to continually do the hard work of mutual understanding, trust-building, and risk-taking necessary to live into our covenants. I have been in Unitarian Universalism for 25 years. If there has been one theme, one pattern throughout that whole time, it is the recurrence of conversations that make me deeply uncomfortable, but that ultimately lead to a better understanding of my faith and a stronger commitment to it. 

We are mighty because of our togetherness, and we are only mighty to the extent that we are together. Rev. Severn Towl was the minister of my home congregation growing up, a respected leader in our movement, and she has reminded me time and again: the question is not whether we will get there, but whether we will get there together. We are going on a journey, and we are going together, no one left behind, no one left out, everyone has an important role to play. 

One of my favorite poems, “Say Yes” by Andrea Gibson, elegantly describes why we work together. She writes: 

“When two violins are placed in a room if a chord on one violin is struck

the other violin will sound the note

If this is your definition of hope

This is for you

The ones who know how powerful we are

Who know we can sound the music in the people around us

simply by playing our own strings

for the ones who sing life into broken wings

open their chests and offer their breath

as wind on a still day when nothing seems to be moving

…(This is) for trading our silver platters for something that matters

like the gold that shines from our hands when we hold each other

This is for the grandmother who walked a thousand miles on broken glass

to find that single patch of grass to plant a family tree

where the fruit would grow to laugh

For the ones who know the math of war

has always been subtraction

so they live like an action of addition

For you when you give like every star is wishing on you

and for the people still wishing on stars

this is for you too”

If this is your definition of hope, this is for you. All that is important needs to be done together: the learning and teaching, the acting and reflecting, the losing and grieving, the winning and celebration, the visioning and the dreaming. We are going to get there, and we need to get there together. 

This morning, we are going to symbolize our togetherness, and dispel the myth of our separateness, with our Water Ceremony, an Ingathering of the waters from our summer journeys, whether literal or symbolic. We will use that water throughout the year during our Joys and Sorrows ritual to remind ourselves of our common source, and our common destination. When we have gathered our waters together, let us remember that togetherness throughout the year. When it comes time to work on the Habitat for Humanity Interfaith Build, let’s go forth together. When we’re not sure what to say to our children, let’s rely on each other  and remember there are some things it’s easier to talk about with adults who are not your parents. And when we are talking about important but intractable issues that we have wrestled with for centuries, let us remember to listen, and to move forward together, and that our democratic process means that every one of us has a voice, but not one of us has a veto. Each one of you has more power than you think you do. 

“When two violins are placed in a room if a chord on one

violin is struck

the other violin will sound the note

If this is your definition of hope

This is for you

The ones who know how powerful we are

Who know we can sound the music in the people around us

simply by playing our own strings”

Play your strings, folks.

Just as many drops of water together can carve out a canyon, we will achieve together what none of us can achieve alone. We will resonate with each others’ chords. And when we look back at the miracle of what we have done and where we have come, we will marvel at what we were able to achieve, together. The task is mighty, but so are we.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom, and may it be so. 

Delivered at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation

January 20, 2019

© Rev. Jonathan Rogers