We Went to See Moonlight: And I Give it a Reluctant, but strong Recommendation.

Yesterday Jan and I followed our almost regular program of going to a late matinee and then to dinner.We'd feared we were going to miss Moonlight, but I think because of Oscar buzz it has had a second life. And, so, we were able to get to the theater while it is still making the rounds as first run.If you google "moonlight" and "review" you will see it is wildly popular among the professional reviewers. My google search has A. O. Scott from the New York Times telling us "Perhaps the most … [Read more...]

BENDING TOWARD JUSTICE Theodore Parker’s Religion, and Ours

BENDING TOWARD JUSTICE Theodore Parker's Religion, and OursJames Ishmael FordA Sermon5 February 2017 Unitarian Universalist Church Long Beach, CaliforniaTheodore Parker was born on the family farm in Lexington, Massachusetts, on August the 24th, 1810. His paternal grandfather, John, was in command of the Minutemen on that day thirty-five years earlier. When the Minutemen confronted the British regulars, he declared, “If they mean to have war, let it begin here.” And there it … [Read more...]

Recalling the Mother of the Freedom Movement

Rosa Louise McCauley, later Parks, was born on this day in 1913.Sometimes called the mother of the freedom movement, sometimes the first lady of civil rights, on the 1st of December, 1955, she refused to give up her seat for a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama.And with that sparked something that continues to burn bright to this day.Thank you, Rosa!Thank you... … [Read more...]

Recalling the Immortal Chaplains

It was seventy-four years ago, today.Methodist minister George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Reformed minister Clark Poling, and Catholic priest John Washington were aboard the troop ship SS Dorchester. They were all commissioned first lieutenants, they were all chaplains.At twelve fifty-five a.m. on the 3rd of February, 1943, the Dorchester was torpedoed off the coast of Newfoundland.As the ship began to sink the chaplains helped as many troops and civilians as they could into the … [Read more...]

Who is Our Neighbor: A Zen Buddhist Reflection on a Christian America

I was distressed to see a new Pew survey written up at FiveThirtyEight that shows that a majority of Americans think being an American also means being a Christian. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed stated they believed it is very important to be a Christian if one is to be an American, while a softer nineteen percent only felt it "somewhat important." Together that counted for fifty-one percent. Of course that does mean almost the same number believed it wasn't very important (seventeen … [Read more...]

The British Invade!

It was on this day fifty-two years ago that a British band's single hit number one on the American pop charts. And with that the British invasion can be said to have established its beach head.One can safely say that nothing has been the same, since... … [Read more...]

The World is a Burning Hut: A Zen Meditation

There was an old woman who supported a hermit. For twenty years she always had a girl, sixteen or seventeen years old, take the hermit his food and wait on him. One day she told the girl to give the monk a close hug and ask, “What do you feel just now?”The hermit responded,An old tree on a cold cliff; Midwinter – no warmth.The girl went back and told this to the old woman. The woman said, “For twenty years I’ve supported this vulgar good-for-nothing!” So saying, she threw the monk o … [Read more...]

Building Fences, Tearing Down Fences: A Review of the Movie Fences

Sometimes the timing is just perfect. For me yesterday morning I preached a sermon at the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church in Canoga Park, California on the book of Jonah. There I reflected on how we can, whoever we are, and whatever our limitations, live into something larger. In that case the story of a complete jerk being a prophet speaking true. Then, in the evening Jan and I went to see Fences.Now one of the reasons I'm hesitant to call my reflections on the movies we see "reviews" … [Read more...]

A SONG OF JONAH: Or, What Happens When the Prophet is a Jerk

A SONG OF JONAH Or, What Happens When the Prophet is a JerkJames Ishmael FordA Sermon Delivered at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church Canoga Park, California29 January 2017A StoryNow God said to Jonah, “Arise, go to Los Angeles, that great city, and cry against their wickedness.” But instead Jonah rose up to flee to Seattle and went and found a ship. God sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest, so that the ship was about to be broken up off t … [Read more...]

Zen & the Bodhisattva Way: A Meditation on the Three Pure Precepts

Zen & the Bodhisattva WayA Meditation on the Three Pure PreceptsJames Ishmael FordBack in 2002 I gave a talk on Zen's "Three Pure Precepts," suggesting they could be understood as a summation of the Bodhisattva way. I continue to feel that's true. Here it is, with just a few tweaks.These three precepts are, in our Zen tradition, framed as:"Renounce all evil, practice all good, and save the many beings."Another way of rendering them is "Cease from evil, do good, and do … [Read more...]