Religion is often singled out for the evil it is responsible for in the world, from the Crusades to 9/11. Jonathan Mason has used his opportunity from winning the Service Auction item to select the following sermon topic: Considering religions’ responsibility for wars and intolerance, explain the positive elements of world religion and spirituality. He and I have a friendly repartee about a variety of subjects so I’m not sure if he is trying to hoist me on my own petard or he sincerely wants to know, so he is asking someone who is on a first name basis with the devil we know as religion, after my 40-plus years in the business.
I unashamedly stole the title for my musings from a sermon by Unitarian Universalist Joshua Pawelek. I liked how he played with a verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans (6:23): “for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”
I agree with Pawelek’s implication that Paul is inviting us to trust Jesus if we want to live. Paul understands sin to be disconnection from God. Disconnected we die. Trusting Jesus connects us to our creator giving us not just life but eternal life. This one verse is the doctrinal core of Christianity. It all boils down to whom do you trust? Unitarians have a different view but I will get to that later. Stay tuned.
When I offer a sermon topic of your choice at our annual Service Auction, I take a big risk. David Fougere might win it. Today’s musing is courtesy of David. He asked me to reflect on “The Overview Effect.” The what?!?!
It turns out to be awe and wonder on steroids. The term was created by astronaut Frank White. The overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from outer space. As of 17 June, 2021, only 570 astronauts from 41 countries have had the opportunity to experience it.
If the penny hasn’t dropped yet, the title is facetious. I’ve been musing this week about how good we are at avoiding being vulnerable. Each Sunday I invite you into small groups to discuss a question. I explain the groups should be small, ideally four or five. That is an opportune size to practise being vulnerable. Some of you have figured that out, and create groups of six to twelve. Easier to hide in a larger group. It is also easier to stay in our heads if we have to say something –– we are rational UUs of course. Sharing emotions and feelings is outside our comfort zone.
How good are you at letting go? Personally, I find it a struggle even when it involves letting go of negative things in my life.
There are plenty of things to practise on. I think of derogatory or critical things people in authority –– parents, teachers, coaches, ministers –– said to me that I let define or limit me. I can think of things I didn’t try or insufferable things I endured or bad choices I made because I didn’t let go of those diminishing words. If I ever find out who instilled in me that my purpose in life was to meet others’ expectations, I have a few choice words I want to share. Yet, I have to ask myself why I didn’t let go of something so toxic to my well-being long ago? It took someone I loved and trusted to point out the obvious, before I could let go and be fully my authentic self.
Thirty years ago, it was January 1991.. I had just moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Boulder, Colorado, with my fiance who assured me that Boulder was the ‘healthiest city in the America…
We had just bought a house and were planning to be married that summer, and Life was opening up. In April, I flew home to Philadelphia to finish off a required weekend seminar for my Masters degree programme in Spiritual Psychology and mom and dad picked me up at the airport on a Thursday night.
As my 3 younger sisters had all moved out from home, I spent a quiet evening with just the three of us..mom, dad, and me. The very next morning, I was jarred awake from a deep sleep by my mother…’Sally, it’s Dad!..’ She had received a call from my dad’s office wondering why he wasn’t at work yet. She then heard the radio playing in the bathroom and found my father lying there, on his back on the bathroom floor…he had died suddenly of a massive heart attack. He was 60 years old…….Last year, I turned 60….
In 1964 I lived in a small town near the top of the Rockies, 60 miles from a town of any size. It was the year I got my learner’s permit to drive. Like most males of that age I took every opportunity to practise driving our new car, our third, but our first with an AM radio. As it was in the top 10 on the charts, I frequently heard Dylan’s new hit, warning that, “The times they are a-changin’”. Even at 15that seemed obvious. It had been only six months since JFK was assassinated. As a country we were still grieving. But whether we were ready or not for more change, 1964 was to be momentous. The Beatles kicked off the year, invading in February. The closest I got to them was watching them on the Ed Sullivan show. Besides, I wasn’t impressed, and thought the Fab Four were just a flash-in-the-pan fad. Little did I suspect I would have in my music library all of their albums by the time I was wondering who would still need me at 64. Nor did I suspect that my next birthday would be celebrated living in LA going to a high school six times larger than my previous one.
To be a Unitarian Universalist is to have a sense of humour, even about ourselves. There are so many jokes about us. Garrison Keeler, of course, teased us constantly. The comedian, Lenny Bruce, said this about us: “I know my humour is outrageous when it makes the Unitarians so mad they burn a question mark on my front lawn.” Somerset Maugham in his classic “Of Human Bondage” said “A Unitarian very earnestly disbelieves in almost everything that anybody else believes, and he has a very lively sustaining faith in he doesn’t quite know what.” On a M.A.S.H. episode the character, Col. Sherman Potter, said: “The General answers his own phone. Must be a Unitarian.”
Then there are the UU bumper stickers; there is lots of folk wisdom condensed into bumper stickers, by the way. One I saw said: “Honk If You’re Not Sure”. Another says: “We have questions for all your answers.”
We have just heard Polonius’ collection of proverbs as advice to his son Laertes, who is off to university in Paris. It contains one of Shakespeare’s most oft quoted lines in valedictory speeches, blogs, music and films, “To thine own self be true.”
Third Lightning Round (Multiple choice:- What does “To thine own self be true” actually mean?
Don’t change who you are?
Follow your own convictions?
Don’t lie to yourself?
All of the above?
None of the above?
I wager that the correct answer is 7. It depends to some extent upon the meaning of “self,” the meaning of “true,” and perhaps even the meaning of “meaning.”
The pandemic is a great rupture. Those who seek hastily to sew up the rupture and return to pre-pandemic normal are seeking to preserve a world where wealth is funnelled to the already wealthy at alarming rates, while millions upon millions pay.
The alternatives to a return to normal are political. It is a cliché that politics is the art of the possible. We are at a moment in the arc of history where what once was politically impossible is possible. We can now perform the art of the impossible. It will take all of us.