Sherlock Holmes, the master of deductive reasoning, tells us in The Sign of the Four: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
His approach minutely analyses a clue, making huge claims about the information it must contain. From a stocking found in the river he arrives at the height, weight, social class and personal history of the victim.
Dr Watson is an undeclared Unitarian. Being a scientist, he methodically collects the clues that Holmes finds and does the boring tests and legwork to make the case hang together. He is unwilling to accept the conclusion until the weight of evidence supports it. Dr Watson favours inductive reasoning.
The Christian world is beginning Holy Week this week. I know that because it always begins the Sunday before Easter with Palm Sunday, the celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I know today is that day because all this week I’ve been inexplicably humming a song I used to teach the children of my parish on Palm Sunday years ago when my theology was more uncritical. I can’t remember all the verses, being old and all, but here are some snippets.
We have decided to hold regular Whanau/Family Gathering Days throughout the year and invite you to join us. Unitarian spirituality is all about connection and building community.
Our first Whanau Day was held this Easter Sunday, 4 April 2021 (see slideshow below). The whole congregation were invited to a nearby member’s home and in the park behind their house, to play, share food, music, conversation, and, of course, to hunt for eggs.
There is no getting around it. Our rationalist faith doesn’t “get” Easter. We get Christmas. Jesus was born. We get Good Friday. Jesus died. We don’t get Easter. If we think about it at all, we struggle with the idea of resurrection. Our first reaction is to dismiss what we don’t understand or can’t relate to. Even if we know the stories about Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, what Christians celebrate as Holy Week, they can feel old, dusty and irrelevant to our lives. Too much suspension of disbelief is required to take them any more seriously than fairy tales. As a result, many Unitarians find Easter as empty of meaning as the tomb. Why bother going to the effort to roll back the stone? There is nothing to see … or is there?
One of the blessings of now being a UU minister, having moved on from Anglicanism, is I don’t have to begin an Easter talk by explaining that the events of Passover and Easter are not history. They are stories, albeit powerful ones. They are not literally true. The blood of the lamb did not protect the Hebrew people from the plague killing Egypt’s first born. The bodily resurrection of Jesus did not take place. That means I can skip right to why the stories have been told for millennia. I can jump in with both feet as to why Unitarians should still tell them, even those of us who are dyed-in-the-wool humanists who have exchanged divinity for reason. Are we open to the possibility that these stories can draw us in and transform us anyway? Are these stories just old, dusty accounts from the past or might they still have some contemporary relevance if we can just shed, even if only for today, our disbelief?
I may have told this story on Easter before, but the Easter story has been recounted a couple of thousand times. So, I have precedents.
daughter had little choice when she was young about being active in
church. She went to a church kindy. She went to an Episcopal School
for girls her first two years in primary while I finished seminary.
She went to Sunday School. She sang in the choir and earned awards
as her skills improved. She was an acolyte when girls were first
allowed to serve at the altar. She was active in the church youth
group. As she was showered with love, affection and attention by the
congregations I served, she didn’t seem to mind her life as a PK (a
In one of my last Easter Day sermons at St Matthew’s I opened with how difficult I found preaching on the Day of Resurrection in a Christian context:
Look out! Here comes the preacher walking the Easter sermon tightrope!
Can he balance the life-giving message of joy and hope that the ancient story of resurrection suggests, with the progressive theology and openness St Matthew’s embodies?
Can he make it across safely to the other side without falling into either the dreaded, dogmatic pit of spirit killing, rigid orthodoxy, or the confusing fog of bland generalities that can mean just about anything?
When I was in seminary, every seminarian was assigned a parish to do field work in for two years. My second Easter, I was given the opportunity to preach on Easter Sunday. A few months later a couple in the congregation came to see me. They brought me a novel the wife had written. In a former life they had been Idaho sheep farmers. The book is about the lonely life of a shepherd who cares for his flock. Continue reading Ignore Easter? So tempting.→
Each week we sing “Roots hold me close; wings set me free.” It is the Spirit of Life residing within each of us. The image resonates with a truth so deeply entrenched in us it could be part of our DNA. The metaphor is universal. I wonder if it might go back to our earliest ancestor, one that we all share. Carl Jung might consider it an archetype: A concept that resides in our collective unconscious the world over. Continue reading Roots and Wings of a Unitarian Lent→