June 23, 2011
I have had the pleasure of being part of study group with a great group of clergy, mostly Baptist. We have read some wonderful books and talked about them, mostly encouraged each other that we were not alone in enjoying these books. We read Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” and decided that we were all willing to call Rob and ourselves universalists, even if Rob was afraid of that label. We went on from there to read the much more dense, or at least wordy, theological work of N.T. Wright “Surprised by Hope” which we also liked. Wright is an Anglican Bishop, but we won’t hold that against him. He is a good, creative and Universalist Christian who affirms the bodily ressurection as literally as possible.
After the great food and good conversation the Baptists gave me a certificate as a parting present naming me “An Honorary Baptist” and I conferred on them all honorary UU status.
Looking back over Wright’s writings I came across this quote:
“Just as many who were brought up to think of God as a bearded old gentleman sitting on a cloud decided that when they stopped believing in such a being they had therefore stopped believing in God, so many who were taught to think of hell as a literal underground location full of worms and fire…decided that when they stopped believing in that, so they stopped believing in hell. The first group decided that because they couldn’t believe in childish images of God, they must be atheists. The second decided that because they couldn’t believe in childish images of hell, they must be universalists.”
— N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
It made me laugh. In part because after the meal one of the Baptists told me that in all the decades of his ministry, in several different cities, he had heard of Unitarian Universalists but he had never met one. “Never met one” were his exact words. It seemed sad to think of how many opportunities had been missed over the decades because UUs who should know that the light shines everywhere had not reached out to find this person who had been for me an ally and friend. Through these sorts of ecumenical groups I always find that the Beloved Community has more members than we usually can see. From Anglicans to Baptists the universalist spirit lives. If we have that spirit then we all have the right stuff.
June 14, 2011
Be bold my friends…
This past Sunday was our “Animal Blessing” Sunday. The title of the day is a pun on the fact that we bless the animals (show our approval of them and our hopes for their well being), and the fact that all non-human animals are a blessing on and for us. Our very dedicated Director of Youth Programs told the story of “St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio” (the saint helps a village and a wolf become friends) and she added many thoughts about animals in our lives. Then she went around and touched each dog, cat, rat, or etc. with a little water on the tips of her fingers. It was very positive and life affirming ritual. I was proud that my dog Socks was perfectly well behaved, considering he had a box of kittens sitting only three feet from his nose.
The sermon this day was given by the very talented and smart Rev. Barbara Child, visiting as our Ministerial Settlement Representative. The sermon was perfect ministry to me and the congregation facing our last Sunday together before I move to a new (to me) city and congregation. Her sermon was titled “Boldness in the Face of Uncertainty”.
In-between the ritual and the sermon I had planned a meditation, but the story and blessing of so many animals took longer than I had expected. So I moved on and let “Spirit of Life” be the time of meditation. Barbara also ended her sermon with a brief prayer/meditation also, so that was good.
But I missed sharing the meditation. As a bridge between the animals and boldness I chose “Bats” by Rev. Lynn Ungar. I know the original poem is set in the autumn, so I would have replaced “Certainly these days” with “It seems on some days”. Here it is as she had it published:
Perhaps you have not loved
this miracle–the bats
on their flickering wings
ushering in the night.
Certainly these days the darkness
comes too soon, and dimness
has outlasted color. But still,
there is the way they love
what you do not desire,
the way the appear, like stars,
without arriving. There is the
way their furred bodies shimmer
above the earth like angels,
the way they hear what we
have lost. Haven’t you always
longed for wings? Imagine
hanging by your toes in some
cave or tree or belfry,
how gently the darkness opens,
how the night is filled
with imperceptible singing.
Be as bold as bats, and as those who love the blessing of bats. Sing, even imperceptibly in your daily work, or be one of those who hear the singing and are lifted by it.