Sonntag, 18. September 2011

UU Theology I

Christ: the life of mutual love.

Theology: understanding of what is holy, most precious, most salutary, most worthy of our devotion and faithfulness.

God is a shorter name for the reality greater than all, yet present in each.

Love is the doctrine of this church,
The quest of truth is its sacrament,
And service is its prayer.
To dwell together in peace,
To seek knowledge in freedom,
To serve human need,
To the end that all souls shall grow into harmony with the Divine -
Thus do we covenant with each other and with God.

The Ruler of the realm of all nature is generous, not greedy. He makes the grass and the fruits of the earth to grow, the rains to fall and the sun to shine for all the creatures of the earth. Thus he shows his love for all the world. How can we not love God in return! Moreover, our Creator causes us human beings to love one another and our land and animals, as he loves us. We do not need these human kings. We can enter into a political and religious covenant with each other and with God the King of the Universe to be ruled by his holy ways of love and generosity.
Who was the genius who invented this covenantal metaphor? Assigned new meaning to the old words, king and covenant? Was it Noah? Or Abraham? Or Moses? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the idea of a freely entered covenant - with the very nature of loving and lawful reality - became the root idea of the political religion of a people, the ancient Israelites. The Israelites told each other and wrote down stories about their political and religious covenant and their attempts - and their failures - to keep covenant with each other and with God. They created a literature which nourished their memories and their hopes. They fed their dedication, to a loving and freely cooperative way of life, with stories of their great King of the Universe and his care for them, as well as the wrath of his anger when they broke their covenant with him, by doing wrong to one another. Our modern understanding of political democracy evolved from our ancestors’ engagement with and adaptations of Israelite stories.
American democracy was born when members of our own oldest churches in New England focused their attention on the oldest stories in the Bible and said, "We don’t need a human king either. We, too, can be free to live in covenantal fealty, in faithful love, to each other and to God.
And Jesus and his disciples spoke politically; that is, with regard for organization. They said, Lord knows, it is not always easy to figure out what are the ways of love! But even in this empire, we can form covenanted congregations we decide to enter, one by one, and help each other live in a context far larger than the puny Roman Empire which - however strong it looks - will fade sooner or later, as all empires do. Caesar will not like us forming congregations and meeting to worship and to help one another discern what is love requires of us. He will hound us and persecute us for presuming to claim our ultimate loyalty is to something bigger and more important than he is. But, unless we let him intimidate us, he cannot stop anything like all of us from organizing to worship and to learn to live freely in accord with the laws of love.
Find, together what is more meaningful, more loving, more worthy of your attention, and be empowered in devotion to these things. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you. The truth will make you free.
It makes sense to me to believe all the great religious traditions of the world began with somebody’s extraordinary insight into what, in all this great buzzing banging, blooming and silent mystery really matters most for human beings, to love, to understand, to trust and be faithful to, because it is life giving and life enhancing. If anybody wants to call such extraordinary insight revelation, it’s all right by me.
A vital religion keeps us tied together, so we can stand up and move and get things done and live, with love and meaning, together, when a healthy cult is the heart of a culture.

One version of our liberal covenant:
Though our knowledge is incomplete,
our truth partial and our love uneven,
From our own experience and from
the witness of our faith tradition
We believe
that new light is ever waiting to break
through individual hearts and minds
to illumine the ways of humankind,
that there is mutual strength
in willing cooperation,
and that the bonds of love keep open
the gates of freedom.
Therefore we pledge
to walk together in the ways
of truth and affection
as best we know them now
or may learn them in days to come
That we and our children may be fulfilled
And that we may speak to the world
with words and actions

by Alice Blair Wesley, The Minns Lectures 2000.

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