August 4, 2014

Christian Universalism

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 1:31 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

As a Unitarian Universalist minister I can be morally strong and clear without needing to set absolute rules.  I am moral and also free of eternal punishment for moral failings.  I don’t need to condemn others to an eternal Hell in order to tell them I think their actions are wrong. However, there are some people who find any openness or change in moral stance as equal to chaos, or worse. For example, a recent opinion piece by Dr. Michael Brown, posted on the One News Now site, floated to the top of the Google alerts on “Universalism”: Universalism is Next for the Soft Love Crowd

In it Brown says simply that if you become welcoming and affirming of gay and lesbian people, by blessing the marriages of such people, you begin sliding down the slippery slope to having no standards what so ever.

To his credit, Dr. Brown does admit that it is very difficult, even painful, to consider God punishing kind, thoughtful and devoutly compassionate people who do good work in the world. He admits it would seem cruel for God to do so. He writes, “I honestly believe that if questions like this don’t cause us some level of pain then we don’t really have the heart of the Lord.”

His response to this pain is to simplistically assert that it is wrong to move away from preaching about future wrath and divine judgement on issues of anything. Then he encourages his readers to pray that those who disagree with him will be brought “back to the truth as it is found in Jesus”.

Clearly he is writing to his own choir, but he misses two essential points. One is that wrath and judgement are real and serious theological issues, but do not necessarily entail eternal punishment in an eternal Hell. Despite all the condemning passages of scripture one must also deal with passages such as Psalm 30:5, Psalm 107:1, John 12:32, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and Jeremiah 31:34 “…they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

The second point he glosses over is that it is in the Truth of Jesus that people do find love, kindness, acceptance and the spirit of reconciliation that moves them to create a more just and inclusive community, instead of the eternally divisive and unjustly judgmental community created by Dr. Brown.

December 13, 2010

Seasonal Peace

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:42 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

A few days back, I got up early to go jogging with my dog through the new-fallen snow. We were full of energy. The dog saw a squirrel behind every tree and in every yard we passed. There was so much sound: the sound of our feet on the snow, the sound of my hat and earmuffs rubbing against my ears , my coat sleeves swooshing against my sides, the sound of cars taking people to school, the sound of a blue jay startled by our passing. My mind ran through the day’s news, my plans, thoughts of conversations and sermons.

Then we came to the thick woods beside the high school and stopped. No wind blew. The cars were stilled since school had started. No one was outside. One clean, unbroken sheet of snow turned the sport fields into shrines for the contemplation of silence. The trees towered in their white-traced elegance. The words of Wendell Berry came to me: “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

The religious life is like this. Not one of busy activity, nor one of silent contemplation, but of both together. As I stood silently, endorphins from my jogging intensified my awareness. The hyper energy of my dog made his moment of utter stillness awesome. The memory of crowds cheering in the stands, the green of summer, my daughters competing on those fields, all deepened the quiet of that place and time.

Soon my restless dog wanted to be off running. I let him sprint into the woods. before long I had to get back to exercise and the office. This is how it is. We begin engaged in the world. After a time, we must retreat to consider, ponder, and sort. Beyond even that we need to rest in the ultimate grace of life. Then, drawing from that deep well, we are able to return through thought and planning to engage again in the work of our days.

I hope your holiday season is blessed with balance, of vital work and deep peace.

December 15, 2009

The Trees Do Not Care

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:03 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

The trees do not care what we are celebrating, be it Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or Yule. We care. We argue. We party. Of course the trees notice, in their slow, silent, cellular way the shift of the sunlight on their bodies. They notice the freezing of water, and respond to the thaw when it comes. The rhythm of each year is written, visibly recorded, in the rings of trees and the layers of soil. The do notice individually if we cut them down for firewood, or to clear space for our living. But ultimately they are uninvolved in what drives us to plan and work, to spend and travel, worry and anticipate.

This is perhaps one of the most universal insights of all human religion, that there is always something larger than ourselves in which we move and live.  Some people assert they have a special, and thus better, relationship with that larger reality. Some claim their nation is guided by God or that their good fortune is somehow earned or deserved.  Likewise some become convinced that the opposite is true, that the whole world has been turned against them, by Dharma or by God.  Likewise,  some people are certain that the Creator of the Universe expects them to piously honor the birth of Jesus on December 25.

Unitarian Universalists naturally hold humility about these things. We think it is good to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and just as good to enjoy a secular Christmas.  And, if you decide to celebrate on some other day, or to celebrate another holiday, or to not celebrate at all, that is good too.  If you give gifts to your friends and family on one particular morning, or on another, the trees do not mind.  All the trees ask (in their silent, cellular way) and all that we ask, in our verbal and thoughtful way, is that you act justly, love mercy and walk humbly within the web of all living things.

So, though the trees are beyond such sentiment, I hope that you have holidays which awaken you to the wholeness and goodness of life.