Saturday, February 28, 2009

the Soul's Teacher...

Two themes in today's meditation for lent resonate with me. One of the primary ways that I have always approached Jesus, through all of my incarnations, is as teacher (the icon at right is of Jesus as teacher.) Second is the great truth that this education of the soul is the work of a lifetime. And it is good work...

"THE SYNAGOGUE AT NAZARETH". (Scripture reading)

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: .And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.
And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
Luke Iv.

THE SYNAGOGUE AT NAZARETH. (Tilden's Meditation)

JESUS stood up in the synagogue of his native Nazareth, and held the sacred roll containing the prophecy of Isaiah. He unrolled the parchment till he came to the sixty-first chapter of the roll. Here he read, " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." The Spirit had spoken to him; he felt its anointing. Behold, The Great Teacher. The work which Christ came to do for the soul is not the work of an hour or a day. It is the work of a life. Reverently to receive him as the Soul's Teacher, is the beginning of the work. The central word in this new Gospel is Love; for Gospel means glad tidings, and glad tidings without Love were impossible; for Love originated the tidings, and Love made them glad. Healing, sight, and liberty! gracious words these to rich as well as poor; to those at ease as well as those in trouble. Jesus does not come to take the place of God. He comes to take us by the hand and lead us to his Father and our Father."


Friday, February 27, 2009

waked from the sleep of the senses...

Much of great value has been written on various blogs in the last few months about the process of becoming an ordained personage. It is a deeply important subject that I have great interest in myself. But in today's meditation, Brother Tilden reminds us of the nature and joy of the true call and its availability to all people:

"The Fishers' Call (Scripture reading)

"And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers.
And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets: and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people.
And his fame went throughout all Syria: And they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. (Matt iv)

The Fishers' Call (Tilden's meditation)

WHY were they the first to hear him gladly ?
As Jesus walked by the sea he called these young brothers, because he knew their hearts were free and full of ready zeal. So when he said, " Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men," they needed no second call. Immediately they left their nets and their father, and followed him; not to listen merely, but to work. Jesus would show these common toilers for their daily bread that God had great blessings in store for them here; that a man might own half the boats on the lake and yet be wretchedly poor, while another who did not own his own fishing-tackle might be rich in the nobleness of a man. Man must be waked from the sleep of the senses, and brought out on the hill-sides of a new life; for the Sun of Righteousness was already flushing the East; the Morning Light was breaking; God was coming with fresh tokens of love to open his eyes, that he might see this new light that was to flood the world. Let us follow, listen, and work."
May we all follow, listen, and work this season of Lent. Blessings

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Face the sunrise...

John the Baptist holds a fascination for me (maybe since the day a few years ago in which, as a DRE new to my town, I agreed to dress up like him, hide behind a rock at a popular reservation space near our church, to jump out from behind said rock to proclaim repentance to our 5th and 6th grade class, to not wear my glasses because it would not be historically accurate, to then jump out at a group of unwitting walkers who, no doubt thought a lunatic was on the loose, and finally to skulk back again behind my rock...not one of my more dignified moments!)
John Dominic Crossan wrote one of my favorite theological sentences of John the Baptist, saying that he was sending out from the Jordan, "Ticking time bombs of apocalyptic expectation."
William Phillips Tilden takes a equally passionate (though more traditional) view in today's devotion for Lent"

"THE BAPTISM." (scripture readings)

"AND as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptise you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptised of him.
But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptised of thee; and comest thou to me?
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

Jesus being baptised, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son: in thee I am well pleased.

And John bare record, saying, . . . he that sent me to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth -with the Holy Ghost.
Matt. iii. Mark i. Luke HI. John i.

JOHN'S voice was sharp and clear, — Repent; re-turn; face the sunrise; open your eyes; leave off sinning; live in the light of God. Jesus hears the voice. It has been borne on the swift wings of a thousand tongues to Nazareth, sixty miles away. He hastens to the Jordan and steps forward and asks of John for baptism. How can John do it ? John's voice was not for him. But Jesus says persuasively, " Suffer it to be so now;" and they both go down into the water. As they came up Jesus prayed. Of that prayer in such an hour, from such a soul, at the opening of such a ministry, would we knew the words; but it was made to God, not for man. Heaven was opened, and the Dove of the Spirit rested on him, and a voice was heard, " Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." John was a voice. Jesus was a life. John came to preach the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus came to build up that kingdom in the world. O Blessed Jesus! shall we ever know him ?"

Face the sunrise and live in the light! Blessings

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dark and tangled paths...

This will mark my second Ash Wednesday free of a particular burden that dominated my lenten observance for many years. Self examination, hope and return all too often degenerated into (as Peacebang put it so well yesterday) a "40 day carnival of self loathing." The path was a "dark and tangled" one. And yet, each year, the flicker of the fire of hope would burn, though ever more faintly...
William Phillips Tilden talks about these paths and this fire in his Leaflets for Lent (remember that these Lenten meditations were compiled after his death by his daughter and are arranged in two page segments, the first page of which contains scripture readings and the second, a meditation from the words of Brother Tilden)


'THEREFORE also now, saith the Lord, turn ye, even to me with all your heart. . . . Turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.

Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; . . . and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you:

" What is this that stirs within
Loving goodness, hating sin?
'Tis the soul, mysterious name.
Him it seeks from whom it came."

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and break every yoke ?

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Joel ii. Isaiah Ivili. Matt. vi.


JESUS found the way to God, and waits to show that way to us. He saw the truth of God, and seeks to show it to darkened minds. He lived the life divine, and calls on every child of God to follow. Man is God's child...born out of the bosom of Divine Love, bearing the Father's image and likeness; and though he wanders oft in dark and tangled paths, God loves him still, and ever seeks to win him back from sin and its retribution to goodness and its blessed rewards.

" Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove,
With all thy quickening powers:
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.

Come, shed abroad a Saviour's love,
And that shall kindle ours."

The fire we need must be kindled on our own altars. May the Heavenly Father, who is our Life, and the Spirit of His dearly beloved Son, and the communion of all holy influences, keep our souls on fire with the purpose of being followers of God as dear children.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Season of Light

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the forty days of penitence, and preparation preceding Easter. Commemorating the 40 days Jesus spent in the Wilderness enduring temptation, it is a season of renewal, re-commitment and service to others. For some, it is like a forty day New Year's resolution and the diet is trotted out or a particular vice is railed against again (For many years Lent was a such a time for me...)
Lent in not one of your bigger Unitarian Universalist seasons...I must admit, however, to "loving" Lent-often painfully and usually with regret. Yet the promise of renewal and the strengthening of "the better angels of our nature" calls me each year.

And for the past four years or so, my devotional companion on the Lenten path has been a wonderful book called Leaflets For Lent, compiled by Laura Tilden from the writings, sermons etc...of William Phillips Tilden who, regular readers will know, is a particular teacher of mine.

During this season of Lent, I invite everyone to walk the path with Brother Tilden. I will excerpt the daily selection and (amazingly) the full text of the book can be found at (Google Books)

Selections from the Leaflets in preparation for Lent:

"Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways; they take delight in approaching to God." Isaiah Iviii.

"Do we take delight in approaching to God ? Are we not too much absorbed in things that perish in the using ? Have we not some weak points that need strengthening ? Some vulnerable places in the wall of character, where the tempter has made a breach before, and will again, if we are not on our guard ? Do we all live as we believe ? I know one who does not, and who would keep Lent with you, in the hope that it may help him in coming a little nearer to living as he believes, all the year round. So this Lent shall be to us, not a season of darkness but of Light, of getting and giving Light; and instead of sackcloth and ashes, let us put on the Garments of Praise.
"Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward."


"Rise; He calleth thee."


Monday, February 23, 2009

Az Úr imádsága

We were blessed at church yesterday morning with a visit from the minister of our partner church in Transylvania. The service was led by our minister emeritus who started our association with the partner church program 17 years ago. He retired in 2000 after more than 30 years at our church and though I came here after his retirement, it was a joy to hear him and to feel the bond that he still has with many in our congregation.
Our visiting minister (her first time out of her country) told the children a folktale, gave a wonderful talk on the "consoling church" and the joy of the love of God, and, in what was one of my favorite moments, said the Lord's Prayer in Hungarian to which we responded in English. She later presented us with a beautiful flag and some embroidery and then sang two folk songs.
It was a joyous day and I am filled with gratitude for just having witnessed it. Blessings

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thy will be done...

About a year and a half ago, I was at a particular low point and among the things that conspired to drag me up again was a radical acceptance of "Thy will (not mine) be done." A particularly difficult notion for Unitarians (and most everyone) to abide by, turning over one's will is not a cheap way out or a shallow fatalism but a spur to healing and positive action as Henry Wilder Foote reminds us in his continuing series on the Lord's Prayer:

"Thy Will Be Done"

Jesus taught his disciples to pray in these words, which are the essence of Christian trust, and which indeed are the essence of all prayer, if we interpret them in their Christian breadth actively as well as passively.

We beware first of all of a fatalistic way of viewing the connection of Providence with our earthly lives. There are certain black moods of the mind which are most likely to come upon us when some untoward thing has thwarted the direction of our lives, — a well-devised plan brought to nothing, a cherished hope crushed ; or when all the powers of evil seem to encamp around the soul like savages in the woods around a frontier fort, and to be gradually but surely overcoming its resistance to temptation. Then we may easily find ourselves, weary and sick at heart, looking on the world as a great machine with most complicated mechanism, driven by the mighty engine of a relentless destiny, that seems to be shutting us up continually within narrower limits. In such a mood we fold the hands with a feeling of despair ; and though we say, " Thy will be done," the voice within us seems rather to murmur, with the writer of Ecclesiastes, " Time and chance happeneth to them all."

Yet I hardly need argue that this is a feeling which we ought to resist with all the strength of our souls, — morbid and weakening, if we yield to it till it becomes the habitual state of the mind. He utters the Lord's Prayer with no true comprehension of its meaning who makes it an excuse to himself for supineness, and sits lazily by as the various events of life rush swiftly' past him, doing no more to direct their course than the man who lives beside a rushing stream can do to control it when the rains have descended and the floods have come. "Thy will be done!" we say. But that it may be done on earth, our hands and our hearts are needed.

And when we look within our own souls do not reason and faith and plain common sense (which, when touched with religion, is reason transfigured by faith), — do they not all revolt at the idea that we can forget to repent and reform, and then, forsooth, think it enough to accept the consequences of our own faults (which we ought never to have committed), and attribute it to the mysterious will of God, whose holy will really was that we never should commit them at all ? No! we never were taught to say, " Thy will be done," merely as an easy way of shifting our own responsibility upon Heaven; but in order that we might, as the Apostle says, " gird up the loins of our mind " to perform every duty religiously, and thus make ourselves the instruments of God in the doing of His holy and acceptable and perfect will."

Tomorrow, more on this pivotal notion. Blessings.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Light the mighty world of mind!

A Saturday evening hymn in preparation for the Sabbath and dedicated to all who will teach tomorrow in our Sunday schools. It is noble work.
"The Teachers"

"Mighty One, before whose face
Wisdom had her glorious seat,
When the orbs that people space
Sprang to birth beneath Thy feet;

Source of Truth, whose rays alone
Light the mighty world of mind!
God of Love, who from Thy throne
Kindly watchest all mankind!

Shed on those who in Thy name
Teach the way of truth and right,
Shed that Love's undying flame,
Shed that Wisdom's guiding light."

Have a blessed Sabbath

Friday, February 20, 2009

true thrift...

Picked up random Emerson this morning-"Wealth"-from Conduct of Life, a later collection and one of my favorites. Some exerpts:


"As soon as a stranger is introduced into any company, one of the first questions which all wish to have answered, is, How does that man get his living? And with reason. He is no whole man until he knows how to earn a blameless livelihood. Society is barbarous, until every industrious man can get his living without dishonest customs.

He is the rich man who can avail himself of all men's faculties...To be rich is to have a ticket of admission to the master-works and chief men of each race. It is to have the sea, by voyaging; to visit the mountains, Niagara, the Nile, the desert, Rome, Paris, Constantinople; to see galleries, libraries, arsenals, manufactories...The Persians say, "'Tis the same to him who wears a shoe, as if the whole earth were covered with leather."

Kings are said to have long arms, but every man should have long arms, and should pluck his living, his instruments, his power, and his knowing, from the sun, moon, and stars. Is not then the demand to be rich legitimate? Yet, I have never seen a rich man. I have never seen a man as rich as all men ought to be, or, with an adequate command of nature.

There is a refining influence from the arts of Design on a prepared mind, which is as positive as that of music, and not to be supplied from any other source. But pictures, engravings, statues, and casts, beside their first cost, entail expenses, as of galleries and keepers for the exhibition; and the use which any man can make of them is rare, and their value, too, is much enhanced by the numbers of men who can share their enjoyment. In the Greek cities, it was reckoned profane, that any person should pretend a property in a work of art, which belonged to all who could behold it...If properties of this kind were owned by states, towns, and lyceums, they would draw the bonds of neighborhood closer. A town would exist to an intellectual purpose. In Europe, where the feudal forms secure the permanence of wealth in certain families, those families buy and preserve these things, and lay them open to the public. But in America, where democratic institutions divide every estate into small portions, after a few years, the public should step into the place of these proprietors, and provide this culture and inspiration for the citizens.

All things ascend, and the royal rule of economy is, that it should ascend also, or, whatever we do must always have a higher aim.

The true thrift is always to spend on the higher plane; to invest and invest, with keener avarice, that he may spend in spiritual creation, and not in augmenting animal existence. Nor is the man enriched, in repeating the old experiments of animal sensation, nor unless through new powers and ascending pleasures, he knows himself by the actual experience of higher good, to be already on the way to the highest."


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

O Lord its hard to be humble...

Humility is a difficult word and an even more difficult place to live. John Emery Abbot navigates the waters of humility in his sermon:

"False and True Humility"

"The humility of the gospel is often confounded with other qualities. It is often supposed to imply a mean and debasing opinion of ourselves, particularly of our own intellectual and moral capacities and powers. But this it by no means implies. This is a great weakness, and is often extremely injurious to the character.

Nor does a Christian humility require us to debase ourselves below the truth with regard to our characters. The contemplation of virtue and excellence, in whatever degree and wherever it be found, must ever be attended with pleasure to an intelligent and moral being. If the Christian be conscious of it in himself, why should he not view it with complacency and joy ? It is the voice of God which speaks in the whispers of conscience. There is a pure feeling of self-approbation, which as an earthly reward is inseparably connected with virtue. The humility of the gospel does not require this feeling to be stifled and extinguished...

The greatest difficulty in describing the humility of the gospel arises from the necessity of giving such a representation of the nature and sources of it, as may include the humility of him who was holy, harmless, and separate from sin. The views from which the humility of our Saviour arose form part of the sources of that of his disciples.

The first source of Christian humility is a deep sense and devout veneration of the perfections of God. Let the mind once be impressed with the divine character; let the heart feel the full conviction of its awful majesty; let the soul once be conscious of the immediate presence of the infinite and eternal God ; and you could not but be humble. There is something in the contemplation of any high degree of purity and sanctity, which awakens in every good mind, a feeling of awe and loveliness ; and how greatly should it be awakened in the contemplation of perfect, unchangeable, inconceivable holiness!

Another source of christian humility arises from just and benevolent views of mankind. This was a great source of the humility of Christ. It was this which made him willing to relinquish his own happiness, and neglect the glory he had with the Father, and humble himself to the form of a servant, and enter our world of sorrow and sin. The same spirit is to influence his followers. We are ever to remember how noble is the nature, how vast the capacity of moral improvement and happiness, with which every human being is endowed. However sunk in misery, bowed down in want, loathsome in disease, or degraded by guilt; we are to remember that all were created capable of endless improvement and of immortal glory. Bear these views with you when you go into the world, and they will produce in the cause of benevolence an oblivion of yourselves. They will free you from self-conceit, excite you to a respect of all human beings; teach you to disregard the little advantages God has given you over them, and to waive many of your own rights, and sacrifice much of your present comfort, to promote their advancement, safety, and peace. The benevolent affections thus go to form part of the humility of a Christian, as they did to form that of his great exemplar and guide.

The natural effect of humility is to make the Christian desire better to know and to perform his duty; and this desire the grace of God enables him to fulfil. The humble in heart he gives to know, and to obey the truth. He enlightens his path, guards his frailty, helps his infirmities, aids him amidst his temptations and trials, and strengthens and animates him in his christian course. " God giveth grace to the humble."


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Truly liberal...

John Emery Abbot was a very young man when he died, and his sickness had been longstanding. Yet in the time he had, he made a deep and lasting impact on those whose lives he touched. Henry Ware Jr. writes of his character thus: "Habitual and fervent piety was his ruling principle. It was this which gave its complexion to his whole character...I do not believe that he had a particle of asperity in him. He indulged no ill will; he would not willingly hurt the feelings of the meanest, and never allowed himself to feel uncharitably towards those who differed from him. He was truly liberal." This from JEA's sermon:


"Devotion is not a distinct and single quality, but a general state of mind and heart...Devotion is often supposed to consist entirely in the performance of secret and retired duties of meditation and prayer ; whereas it is an all pervading spirit, which warms at the heart, directing all its desires, and feelings, and hopes, and whose influence is felt through the whole conduct. It does not require the knees to be always bowed, and the voice to be always ascending ; it waits not for stated periods, and is not confined to the closet or the temple. God will be acceptably worshipped wherever the heart rises to him, whether it be from amidst the activity of business, or in silence and solitude.

...the influence of the spirit of devotion is felt on prayer as well as on other parts of the christian life; for to the devout man, prayer is not merely a means and a duty, but a privilege and a delight. He rejoices in approaching to God, as the being in whom he lives, and moves, and enjoys, the healer of his infirmities, and the forgiver of his sins—in casting himself on his care, and in pouring out at his feet the overflowing expressions of a heart too full to be restrained.

The spirit of devotion opens "a new heaven and a new earth," to the soul it has touched and sanctified. It purges the eye that it may see the divinity in all the grandeur and beauty of his works; it opens the dull ear that it may hear the endless voices of thanksgiving and praise, which ascend from the wide creation his hand sustains and his bounty blesses; and with consoling, prophetic hope, it calls him to look forward to the world where he shall see God as he is, and be the object and the witness of mightier displays of his wisdom and mercy.

Devotion regards the principles as well as the feelings; is a powerful motive and rule of conduct. A devout man carries his pious feelings and views to the ordinary scenes and labors of life...In this view, no action, however trifling, is insignificant, and the daily concerns of life acquire a new interest and higher importance. And those actions and calls of ordinary life which others leave to accident and chance, become the means and opportunities of religious service...This is that worship of the spirit, which our Saviour enjoins. This is the life to which the apostle exhorts—" Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
To "purge the eye" and "open the dull ear" to the "divinity in all." Truly liberal indeed. Blessings

Monday, February 16, 2009

pure and elevated graces

John Emery Abbot's views on denying the world elicited a couple of fine responses. Today, more of the same from Rev. Abbot. What do you think about the necessity for some form of rejection of "the world" in developing a spiritual or religious life?

"It is this view which I now wish you to consider—that while the gospel insists on the practice of the ordinary moral virtues, it demands, also, the highest cultivation of the heart.
1. We are commanded as expressly in the gospel to acquire and maintain dispositions of humility, devotion, heavenly-mindedness, as we are to practise the most necessary duties of active life. The obligation is equal in respect to both. We are no more at liberty to neglect one branch of commands, than the other...
2. The moral habits of justice, fidelity, and honorable usefulness, are duties relating directly to men only; but there are dispositions and duties enjoined, of which God and his Son are the direct and immediate objects—reverence, fervent gratitude, trust, affection, a sense of accountability, constant reference to the divine will, and all-controlling desires of the divine approbation.
3. No disposition is more strictly condemned than that of conformity to the world; none urged with more frequency and force, than that whose desires and affections rest supremely on heaven. That practical love of Christ which leads to effort, to vigilance, to self-denial, is ever preferred to the most praiseworthy of human affections.
4. Christianity is indeed something more than a code of moral rules for the regulation of the practice, to which appropriate sanctions are annexed. It is even more conversant with dispositions, principles, and habits of mind. It is peculiarly a religion of the affections. Its seat is in the heart. It operates not merely by the simplicity of its practical rules, and the solemnity of its final retributions ; but would elevate and sanctify all the sentiments, desires, and feelings of the human soul, by the influence of its revelations, by the lofty views it discloses of the character and government of God, and the moral relations and final destiny of man...The gospel calls us to act upon higher and purer motives. It is where the practical virtues of ordinary life spring from principles and feelings which Christianity has formed and sanctified, where they are the manifestations of a sound piety burning deeply in the heart, where they are intimately connected with the pure and elevated graces of a devout and humble spirit, that we can consider them as the sure and adequate evidences of christian character."

Many blessings

Sunday, February 15, 2009

in the making...

On this Sabbath morning Henry Wilder Foote continues his sermon series on the Lord's Prayer with a reminder that all things are and are still to be...

"Thy Kingdom Come"

I think there is nothing which we so much need as this great and hopeful faith in the present, ruling God. The imperfections of this world, and of ourselves, are not difficult to perceive. The fact that this world is in the making, only, is plain enough to every one.

Men have always grasped, from the beginning, this great fact; religious men have laid hold upon it as giving a clue full of light and comfort to the darkest mysteries of this human life; and even those who could find no light or hope in it have felt its power, like the iron stroke of a flail beating on their hearts. The truth that the Almighty Maker of our lives and Father of our spirits has placed us here not as He might have done, doubtless, with finished and symmetrical lives, everything happy and smooth about us, everything bright and easy within us, characters complete and rounded, minds and hearts whose even pulse-beat kept temperate time, the voices of neighbors and friends making harmonious music on our way, the business of our calling running with untangled threads, no shadow of disease, no dread of loss, no agony of parting; but, instead, in a world overhung with mystery and filled with discipline, the machinery of life needing constantly to be oiled and tended, and even then getting out of running gear, the human relations of it so complicated, so difficult, hardest to do one's full duty in for those whose conscience in duty is keenest, our own selves the most unquiet kingdom for ourselves to rule, with puzzles of heart and will and brain and conscience, and over all the shadows which men knew of old as the visitings of Fate, and which, though they know them now as the touch of a merciful God, gathering the soul into the hollow of His hand, they still must see in part as what they are on their earthward side, — change and sickness and pain and loss. The only solution is the double truth: that God has not finished but is still making His world; and that He does not work in this alone, but calls for the co-operation of man and nature with Him.

Have a blessed Sabbath.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love of the World...

is enmity to God. The next few posts will excerpt the sermons (and explore the brief life) of John Emery Abbot .
My devotions this morning began in my favorite book of the Bible, James (Chapter 4.)

"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"?"

And this from JEA's


"There is another christian disposition utterly irreconcilable with a worldly temper. " If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." The formation of pious dispositions, like that of all others, is gradual, and is the result of all continued care, attention, and labor...We need minds, composed, undistracted, and serious.
Is not devotion to the cares or the pleasures of life, fatal to that mental serenity, that devotional seriousness, in which alone the inclination or the capacity exists, of attending to the manifestations of God's character, in such a manner as shall awaken us to a love of him ?...To maintain the love of God, the good impressions which may at any time have been given, must be watched over, deepened, and enlivened, by frequent and long continued reflection.
But this is not all. Attachment to the world has an immediate tendency greatly to impair, if not gradually to destroy, the moral sensibility, so far as devotional feeling is concerned...An unceasing attention to worldly business, by withdrawing our regard from religious truths, by rendering us averse to serious and continued contemplation, and by occupying our minds with the scenes and objects of time and sense, thus impairs the sensibility of our hearts, and renders it difficult, if not at last impossible, to awaken them to lively or permanent feelings of devotion.
In the last place. Love of the world is the source of the most fatal passions, and most trying temptations. To that fountain of bitterness, we may trace most of the envyings and jealousies, hatreds and animosities, which have blasted at once the characters and happiness of individuals, and turned the peace and mutual confidence of society to discord and distrust...Christians—in all this, you see the effects of a love of the world. We, too, betray the cause of our Master, and render all that he hath done for us, vain, when we suffer the world to gain possession of our hearts, and in our pursuit of its business or its pleasures, neglect to form that holiness and spirituality of character, which his teachings, and example, and death, all were designed to urge us to acquire."


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Unitarian a most pregnant word...

Yesterday, Sylvester Judd wrote in favor of "indoctrinating" our sabbath school children with the pure love of Christ. Today, the great Unity of God...

"But while love is chief, it is only one of our doctrines. There is the great and goodly doctrine of the Divine Unity. This primarily means that God is one, that he has no equal. The teacher will show the child how the Bible asserts, and nature in all its manifestations confirms, this doctrine. But the doctrine of the Divine Unity means much more than this ; it expresses other ideas besides the nature of God. Unity, Unitarianism, a most pregnant word, if you but consider its scope and amplitude...This word Unitarian is a glorious word, of a vast and most comprehensive scope. " Unite " is from the same primitive, and the famous word " Atonement" is descended from the same stock. Christ prays that we all may be one together with him, and with God,—unitarianized, atoned. God would gather all things together in one, unitarianize all things. This universal communion is in our minds when we speak of Unitarianism; and such a consummation is what we desire when we plead for the indoctrination of the children.

Unitarianism, as we define it, as we would have it taught, as it lies in the Bible, is no shallow thing, no half-way system, no cold dogma, no barren statement. It is life and spirit. It is like Christ, its great representative, unto us wisdom and sanctification and redemption. It rises, indeed, into the sublimest region of speculation ; but it stays not there, it condescends to our very feet, it grapples with the whole of our being, the full circle of time and eternity. There is the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God, taught, illustrated, beaming like the sun, all through Scripture. There is the doctrine of universal brotherhood,—rare, precious, august doctrine of Christianity. There is the doctrine of the dignity, the worth of human nature, upon which the churches round about, the preaching round about, a thousand influences round about, are perpetually crowding, but which is to be reasserted and defended, and inculcated over and over again ; a doctrine often declared and always implied in Scripture; implied in every law God has given, in every dispensation he has made ; implied alike in cursing and beatitude, alike in penalty and reward ; implied in the very fact of sin, in the possibilities of guilt, in all the heinousness of transgression, as well as in the beauty of holiness and the joys of virtue."


Abraham Lincoln born Feb. 12 1809

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Love is the doctrine...

An unabashed call for the teaching of Unitarian Doctrine in our Sabbath schools from Sylvester Judd...

"There is another point on which I wish to offer some suggestions. It is involved in the question whether you should teach the children doctrines. On the supposition that we have a right idea of the term, I answer, Yes, by all means. Let the children be indoctrinated. Let no child ever leave the Church Sunday school without being thoroughly informed in all the doctrines of the Church. But what do we mean by doctrines ? As has been already indicated, I mean the simple Gospel of the Son of God,— all that of which the Gospel is at once the basis, essence, and repository. I mean Christian doctrines, that is, doctrines which Christ taught. I mean evangelical doctrines, that is, Gospel doctrines. I do not mean what ordinarily passes under the name of doctrines. I mean Gospel doctrine, which is simply Gospel teaching.
But do I mean Unitarian doctrine? I mean precisely that. And what is Unitarian doctrine ? It is what Christ taught. Unitarian doctrines are Christian doctrines, evangelical doctrines, Christ's doctrines, — no more, no less. But does the question still return, What are Unitarian doctrines ? The answer itself resolves into a question. Did Christ teach anything ? Did he utter any important truth ? Did he announce any great principle ? If he did, that is Unitarian doctrine. Did Christ leave any enduring impressions on the minds of his immediate disciples? Did John, or Peter, or Martha, or Mary, derive any appreciable, interesting, or solemn lessons or ideas from him? These are Unitarian doctrines. Did they believe in anything, or have faith in anything? That is our belief, our faith. You are, then, to teach what Christ taught, and that is Unitarianism. I speak advisedly. It is the beauty and the boast of Unitarianism, that it takes off those folds which have been wrapped about the Gospel, exhumes the sacred page, and lets us have it in its original and undiminished glory.

But what is the great Unitarian doctrine ? You mean, rather, what is the great doctrine of Christ, and of Christianity ? or what did Christ most emphatically, elaborately, and plainly teach ? The Apostle seems to furnish an answer to this question in our text. " Now the end of the commandment," he says, " is love, out of a pure heart." He cautions Timothy as to what should not be taught, and then impresses on him what is the sum and substance of all teaching and doctrine, namely, love out of a pure heart. This is the end of the commandment, the grand consummation of the whole matter; all vitality, all essentiality, all fundamentalness of doctrine and belief, is contained in this. This is the fulfilling of the law; and Paul elsewhere seems to speak as if he did not know there was any other commandment.

To return now to the question, Shall we teach the children doctrines? I reply, Yes! But what are doctrines ? I have given you specimens of what are called doctrines, what are everywhere taught for such, and professedly believed. But they are what the Apostle calls fables and genealogies, what Christ calls traditions of men. They are not the genuine Christian doctrines; they are not Unitarian doctrines. I have just given an instance of a Unitarian doctrine, — love out of a pure heart; and this doctrine I want teachers in the Sunday school to teach. I want you to teach it as one of the great, cardinal doctrines of the Unitarian Church, to teach it as a most vital, searching, paramount doctrine of Christianity. You should inculcate it as that* on which all the law and prophets hang, for the voice of inspiration tells us it is so. The faithful teacher will tell the children how love to God and love to man fulfils the law; he will show chapter and verse in the Bible where it is said, " He that loveth is born of God " ; he will impress upon their minds how this love is greater than faith or hope, greater than all conceivable things ; he will demonstrate to them what are the fruits and evidences of it; he will instruct them in the methods of preserving, strengthening, and increasing this chiefest of Christian graces. In a word, he will indoctrinate them in this doctrine. He will so thoroughly indoctrinate them that they will all know the essential element and groundwork of their faith ; and should any one ask them what they believe, or what is a doctrine of the Unitarian Church, they will at once and comprehensively reply, " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbor as thyself."


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cutting up the meat...

Sunday School has always been a part of my life. My parents taught Sunday School in our Lutheran Church when it was their turn, and my mother has been more than once its Superintendent. I helped with Vacation Bible School while in college and since have taught Lutheran, Episcopal and Methodist Sunday School on occasion. My first experience of Unitarian Sunday School was as a DRE and it was an interesting transition to go from Bible based (albeit moderate) curricula to the diverse and far-flung interests of a UU based program. What should or can a non-creedal, often non-theistic church school teach? The question is not new. Here is Sylvester Judd on the Sabbath School:


In addressing myself to the teachers of our Sunday school, let me premise that I consider it a department of the Church, coming fully within the precinct of Church influences and authority ; it is a sort of seed-bed and nursery of the Church. One of its leading objects is to prepare the children to be mature Christians, true Churchmen and Church- women. I hold that all who enter the Sunday school do, to a certain degree, commit themselves to the Church, and to a Christian life.

The office of the Sunday-school teacher is a kind of delegated pastorate. He deals with the undergraduates of religion, he takes the spiritual meat which is served to the people generally, and, so to say, cuts it up for the little ones. The great thing to be taught is Christianity; not in the artificial shapes that abound on every hand, but just as we find it in the simple text of Scripture. And when I say Christianity, I mean, of course, among other things, moral duties.

The Gospel is not a simple book to us. It is wrapped like a mummy in countless folds of ignorance and mistake, and its fresh, beautiful life is smothered and well nigh lost. Ages of misinterpretation obscure it. A superstitious light gleams about it. We approach it under the disadvantage of all the wrong education we have received from our childhood to this day. I could sometimes wish that the Sunday-school teacher, as well as others, might for a moment forget that he had ever seen the Gospel of Jesus, so that he might go to it as a new book, a new history, that he might thus experience all the freshness and beauty of its revelations, and with unbiased mind and childlike heart endeavor to appropriate its great truths. It is of the highest importance that we should understand the New Testament, for the reason that to us it is the sole rule of faith and guide of life. We reject the commonly received creeds and formulas of churches about us, and betake ourselves to the simple word of God, in which all-important rules of duty and forms of faith are simply expressed."

To a degree, we are blessed in our modern Unitarian Sunday schools that the teachings of the Bible (and scripture of all faiths) are often new to our students and can be presented in all their "freshness and beauty." Tomorrow, "the question whether you should teach the children doctrines." Blessings

Monday, February 9, 2009

Angel Voices

Yesterday was Founder's Sunday at our church. Like many Boston Area "First Parishes" we have a wonderful and rich history (and a vibrant and living present.) We celebrated the ancient "angel voices" (from a sermon by a past minister) in our meetinghouse by raising our earthly voices in a closing hymn that was written by "member of the society" for the installation of our most "famous" past minster in 1836. I very slightly edited the lyrics to replace "your" charge with "Our" to emphasize the continuing and comprehensive ministry of all in the church. We sung it to the tune of "O God Our Help in Ages Past"

O thou! Whose chariot is the wind,
Whose word all worlds obey,
Before whose throne archangels bow,
O hear us while we pray.

Thy servant, whom thy Providence
Hath set to guard thy sheep
Give us the strength, the power, the grace,
The will, our charge to keep

Inspire our souls with holy zeal
To herald forth thy truth
To cheer and comfort hoary age:
To guide and counsel youth.

To soothe the mourner, be his care
And point him to thy word-
The fearful, doubting, trembling one,
To lead him to his God.

Pastor and people bless, O Lord!
And may they ne’er be riven,
Till, called by death they part in time,
To meet again in Heaven.

Our Benediction came from the 1865 "Hymns of the Spirit"
Part in peace! With deep thanksgiving
Rendering, as we homeward tread,
Gracious service to the living
Tranquil memory to the dead.
Amen and blessings

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Repent and Return

We all of us at one time or another want an external confirmation or a certainty. Even the most skeptical "free inquirers" among us...though they may find it difficult to admit. The language of "being saved" and "converted" rubs us the wrong way and we accuse those that use it of simplicity or of looking for cheap answers. The language of conversion is the topic of Sylvester Judd's sermon today and it argues for a more Biblical view than that of the Calvinist Orthodoxy then beginning to wane. Though we may not need to be "converted" from Calvinism, Judd's view of what it means to be converted has much to teach us still...



There are many stumbling-blocks in the way of duty. As the true idea of the soul, of Christianity and the Church, begins to unfold, these stumbling- blocks are developed more and more... There are multitudes who will not do any thing for God or the Church, on the ground that they have not been converted. Let us examine what this ground is, how good it is, how substantial.
What is the meaning of the word " conversion" ? It is turning, or turning round. It is, the Latin form of the Saxon expression to turn. It signifies to turn from one state or condition or mode to another. The corresponding Greek word means this, and no more...The allusion, the import, and application of the language in the Bible are exceedingly simple. You are turned from an object, you turn towards it and are converted; as Christ turned (literally, converted himself), and looked towards Peter. You are going a wrong way, you turn and go a right way; you are converted ; as the sinner is converted who is turned from the error of his way. You have neglected your affairs, you now attend to them ; you are converted. You have been indifferent to truth, you become interested in it; you are converted.
Summarily, conversion, according to Bible language, is doing the very thing which you say you must be converted before you can do. Conversion does not lie anywhere between a man and his duty. Whoever faithfully fulfils his duty, having once neglected it, is a converted man. Conversion does not express what a man is, or what happens to him, but what he does. Invariably, I believe, it is referred to by the sacred writers in an active sense.
There is no mystery in conversion, so far as the Gospel is concerned. It is a matter of common sense, of every-day life, of familiar experience... conversion is a returning, mark the word, a returning, a going back to something we have left, a recovery of an old position, a resumption of what we have neglected. Jesus says, " Except ye be converted," — that is, except ye return, turn about, go back, — " and become as little children, ye cannot see the kingdom of God." The child's nature is not corrupt, it is not a vicious condition of being engendered of Adam; it is pure; it is free, I mean, from the stain of sin; and we must return to that simplicity and innocence, that our souls may be saved. This is what Christ teaches. This is what we believe. This is the doctrine of the Church...Conversion, then, in its highest sense, is the returning of the soul to its God, of the child to its Father in heaven, of the wanderer to his home. Repent and be converted; repent and return. By repentance and humiliation, every sinner can and must return to his God...
Nor do we misconceive conversion, we understand it; nor do we pervert its meaning, we elucidate it; or rather, by applying ourselves to the simple word of God, we discover and learn what it is. This explains what I have elsewhere said about Unitarianism being the true interpreter of the Bible. It gets just as near to the mind of Christ as it is possible to do. It goes to the original media of expression; it compares passage with passage; it follows a given word from book to book. Having heard Christ use a phrase once, it stays near him and waits until he uses it again, and then it betakes itself to Paul, to be sure of the sense ; and thus, simply, humbly loving the truth, it is impossible that it should not know the truth.
Let us remember that conversion consists in doing our duty ; that we are being converted just as far and as fast as we do our duty; that there is no conversion, and never can be a genuine conversion, while a man neglects to do his duty."


Friday, February 6, 2009

Sylvester Judd

Sylvester Judd, (1813–1853) Unitarian Minister in Augusta, Maine, transcendentalist and novelist, was most famous for his novel, "Margeret." He was an advocate for peace, against slavery and was a great proponent of infant baptism. The Christian Examiner writes of Judd's formation: " Prompted by a yearning for knowledge and by a most devout religious temper, he worked his way into and through Yale College,-with the idea that he should become an Orthodox minister. But in his college life, and immediately afterwards, the cruelty and " dishonor " of the Calvinistic scheme forced themselves upon his attention, so as to bring him years of mental agony. His devout love of God, his consciousness that he had always loved him, and that God also loved him, made him a Unitarian ; and, setting aside all his older wishes, he entered the Unitarian ministry."
The next few days will be given over to selections from his sermons on "The Church"
Blessings and have a wonderful day.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Walk in it!

Rufus Ellis has been my unexpected Boston Unitarian companion this past week or so and what a joy it has been. Writing as the short life of the heyday of Boston Unitarian Christianity was ending, Ellis sought the most basic common denominators on the Way. Though highly educated and known by his highly educated fellows for his keen intelligence, he consistently insisted on the secondary importance of doctrinal and theological argument in favor of walking the daily walk of faith and service. This message has particular resonance with me these days and I am grateful for it. Some final thoughts from Rufus Ellis:

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall also my servant be. — John, xii. 26.

1. " If any man serve me, let him follow me." It ^ is one of the singular privileges of the Christian life that it is a following. Called after the name of Christ, it is our share in His steadily advancing victory. To possess our souls in patience, to take our law from God's lips and our portion from God's hand, to enter into our rest here and to look for a better rest beyond, while it is not an easy so it is not an untried thing. Jesus has wrought out all this deliverance. We have always before our eyes an example of all holy living and dying, — not what man might haply do and bear if only God were with him, but what man has done and has borne with that Divine help... And lest any should imagine that this wonder of goodness descended upon our earth as it were complete, — a radiant and angelic vision, with no mark of conflict, — Jesus goes before us to the battle, and is careful to make known in part the mystery of His struggling life; and in more than one of the narratives which in the Divine Providence have come down to us we see Him treading the wine-press alone, and doing battle with the very Prince of this world. He has told us in parables of His temptations in the wilderness. We see indeed that they were incident to a transcendent elevation of aim and a singular purity of purpose, and yet they were real. It could be no mean fight which could detain the Son of God forty days and forty nights
2. "If any man serve me, let him follow me." How simple and single our Christian life becomes when it is clearly and heartily recognized as a following ! — no more the inquiry, "What is Truth ; no more a journey of exploration in the hope to find the true Way; no more a mere problem of Life waiting for the solution which the wise may have to offer. If men and women might only begin with the following to which they are often graciously brought at last! If only aims which are so often shadowy, and endeavors which are only a beating of the air might become the loyalty of the follower who hears and obeys the Master's voice! If only to those who have lost the path of life we would not offer treatises upon journeys and journeying and maps of all the universe, but would simply point to the open road and say, Walk in it!
Strive to be like Him,— that is revealed to you as one of the possibilities of your new life. And to be like Him is to be with Him, and to see Him as He is, and to have a hope for other worlds than this. Go forward — not only in thought as so many do, not only in imagination of things which might be, but in very deed and truth. Take your place in the very front rank. It is true that death is there ; but where death is not there can be no larger, higher, better, nobler life; and they who seek first of all for safety must not hope for salvation."


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Heresy and Sin

Imagine when confronting a heresy was as dramatic as the painting posted yesterday and today of St. Augustine doing just that. We still like, on occasion, to think we are dramatically heretical-heretics for the sake of heresy-but, I believe, thinking ourselves so just marginalizes us more and more.
Better the way of positive affirmation-even of sin. Thus Rufus Ellis on "The Way They Call Heresy" (continued from yesterday)

"3. Again, the people called Unitarians are agreed in confining the word " sin" to conscious wrongdoing, and in declaring that such wrong-doing is the worst of calamities here and hereafter, and that there is no salvation worthy of the name which does not promise and go on to accomplish for us a complete deliverance from conscious wrong-doing. " His name shall be called Jesus, because He shall save His people from their sins." It is simply in loyalty to this practical conviction that we protest against all dogmas about birth-sin, and a righteousness which is ours by some theological fiction. We see that we have a lower nature as well as a higher nature, and that we inherit evil tendencies from sinful parents; but we say with the Apostle, " Whosoever knoweth to do good and doeth it not," to him, and to him alone, it is more than a misfortune, more than an infirmity, — it is a sin. And we are satisfied that we must put away sin or die; and that it can be put away only as with the help of God in Christ, we subject the lower nature to the higher, and make that lower nature a blessing through obedience. For us our divine religion, with all its wondrous divine means and its holy mysteries, is unto righteousness. Does the Saviour from His cross pronounce our sins forgiven ? — it is that we may go and sin no more. Do we by baptism declare our children children of God ? — it is that they may live divine lives, and be children indeed through the Spirit of holiness. Do we gather about the Lord's Table ? — it is that we may be enabled to grow into His blameless life. All names and forms are secondary and subsidiary to the creation of character.
And so, at the risk sometimes of seeming to make light of names and forms and doctrines, we put the supreme emphasis upon character, and strive to save men in their sins only that we may save them from, their sins. We hold that the supremely good is the supremely sacred; that only what is sinful is profane: and so find in our Christianity the hope of the triumph, however remote, of all good,— that hope which is the inspiration of modern art, science, literature, government."

"The hope of the triumph...of all good" That is a heresy I can embrace. Blessings

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Way They Call Heresy

I must admit to not sharing what often seems to me the too joyous Unitarian embrace of the label "heretic" American Unitarianism was criticized from the start for being a "negative" religion-a religion against and not for, and this embrace of heresy seems ample confirmation of this old criticism. Is it too inherently contradictory to say we need a heresy for and not against? I suppose it is, but over the next couple of days I will excerpt a sermon called "The Way They Call Heresy" by Rufus Ellis, (given in 1877) that gives the "Boston Unitarian" view:


But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers. — Acts, xxiv. 14.

ON more than one occasion I have tried to say a word in behalf of Unitarian Christianity... I have no criticisms to offer upon other people. I do not pretend that ours is the only Christianity. I do not say, as some one claims we ought to say, that the Trinitarian is an idolater. I do not propose to argue even for my own opinions. Argument has no very large place in religion, and has a sound of weakness; while it always suggests another side. And as to what I have to say, I doubt whether I should declare it any less confidently if our present small minority in Christendom were reduced to the two or three who according to Jesus are enough, if only they are met in His name, to make a church.

1. Let me say first, that it is a religious necessity with the people who are called Unitarians, when they pray, to say, "Our Father;" to turn to this Supreme One an undivided mind and heart. They can worship no other being, however exalted. When in any Christian assembly the prayer of minister and congregation is a prayer to Christ, they cannot go along with it. To God, as He is revealed in Christ, — the God whose compassions are infinite, — they ever pray; and such prayer is very sweet and helpful to them. But to Christ they do not pray; for they believe that God is His Father as our Father, His God as our God ; and that they are to pray with Him, not to Him. Where they use, as in this church, a form of prayer, they fashion it in accordance with this conviction, and include no petitions to a Trinity of Persons, or to God the Son as distinguished from God the Father, or to God the Spirit as to a third person in the Godhead. They gladly celebrate the glory and beauty of the Mediator between God and man, — the Man Christ Jesus, — in anthems and hymns and spiritual songs; but in the supreme act of the adoring soul they look with Jesus to God, who is all in all, and unto whom, says Paul, even the Son shall be made subject."
2. Again, the people called Unitarians believe, and cherish the belief, that God our Father, in revealing Himself to us and drawing near to us in Jesus, was careful to preserve the human nature of that Son of man, with its proper personality, and its capacity to be to us in all things a true human example, — His temptations our temptations, His questions our questions, His trust our trust, His righteousness a human righteousness, His way of life a possibility for all men, if only they will accept the grace which is by Him. Opposed to this vital conception of Jesus as indeed our brother, is the very prevailing opinion that He was in no true sense a man; that what humanity there was about Him was only in appearance, simply the disguise of the supreme God, who somehow — contrary to what Saint James tells us — could be tempted of evil, and could not tell when the end of His own world should come. It is essential to the Unitarian to believe that we have in the life of Jesus a transcendent style of human living, which, however hard it may be to realize, is still man's true divine estate, upon which he is instantly and on this earth to enter, — no dream of philosophy, but a fact of Christian history, witnessed unto by those who have told and have themselves illustrated the Story of Jesus. They believe that Jesus, however pervaded, possessed, mastered, glorified by God, was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and has taught us that there is nothing in our humanity which is common or unclean ; that we may all be temples of the living God, and filled with the blessed Divine fullness. How practical this affirmation is I need not remind you. If I could not join in it I should still be looking for a Saviour, — for One to come out of the bosom of God, and dwell in man. Only in this faith can I say,—

" The true Messiah now appears, The types are all withdrawn : So fly the shadows and the stars Before the rising dawn."


Monday, February 2, 2009

Practice the plain ones...

I just noticed that this will be my 100th post and wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who occasionally gives it a read, all who who have sent encouragement (posted and private), and those that are "followers" It is a joy for me to share my love for the path of the Boston Unitarians and your support and encouragement means much.
And in that spirit, this from Rufus Ellis' sermon "Stewardship Not Ownership"

'Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he was his own.' — Acts, iv. 32.

CHRISTIANITY as it was taught and illustrated by Jesus, as it shines forth in the completeness of here and there a disciple, as it shall one day reign in our world, calls nothing its own. Where we are ready to say ownership, Jesus our Master says stewardship... love for God and man is the elemental principle of Christian morals and the fruitful germ of Christian society; we may derive from it the due ordering of a Christian life. From first to last, in small and in great, Sundays and weekdays, it is stewardship...No matter with what semblance of proprietorship, I am only one of the Father's children in the Father's House; and if I am a true child, His interests are nearer to my heart than any other needs. His interests are identical with truth and right, with justice and mercy, with purity, brotherly kindness, and charity. 'The law of Thy lips,' said the Psalmist, 'is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.' I must live, says the world; the Christian does not see that necessity. God is his life. What life yields in obedience to divine laws and in the exercise of heavenly charities, that is his portion from God : he asks no more.

'This is my commandment,' said Jesus, 'that ye love one another, as I have loved you.' There are texts in the New Testament which are hard to be understood, but surely this is not one of them. The hard texts can wait, — they have waited a long time, and can wait longer; meanwhile let us practice the plain ones.

We shall never know what a glorious thing our Gospel is until all who are intrusted with the training of the young and the guidance of the world's workers understand by a Christian one who calls nothing his own, and have faith enough in the Master to believe that the same mind can be in us which was also in Him. That is what I call believing in Christ. The continuance and the growth of the Christian Church in our modern world is bound up with this creed, and it can be only in accordance with the reception of this law of the Christian life. The first lesson in Christianity is not the story of Eden, nor yet of the manger-cradle of the Divine Babe: it is that we should call nothing our own; that we are here upon the Father's business; that Christ is indeed our life, — the Christ who comes not to be ministered unto but to minister; the Christ in us who asks not, What ought the world to yield to me, and how shall I get it, rushing in before the crowd that I may have my full share ? but, What can I do for the world for the love of Him who made it, and what training will best fit me for my labor...

So the Church grew of old in the light of the Lord's life, and men said, not derisively as since, " See how these Christians love one another." So it shall grow to-day. This is Christ's call to the unconverted. This is the change of heart which all men need; this is the strait gate by which they must enter; this is the way which leads to life on earth, as well as in heaven."

Thanks again and Blessings.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


We had an all church birthday party last night; a wonderful gathering of parishioners and friends old and new. And this morning we will have church...Henry Wilder Foote, in this week's installment of his sermons on The Lord's Prayer, reminds us of the communal necessity of the spiritual life:


After this manner, therefore, pray ye : Our Father which art in heaven. — Matt. vi. 9.

" AFTER this manner!" When Christ bids his followers pray thus, he tells us in substance that the few sentences of the Lord's Prayer are the essence of all prayer. Since prayer addresses God, he teaches us first of all how to think of Him...The first words of this mighty prayer lift us at once to the highest level...

We are heirs of the past to a greater degree than we are aware. From the Middle Ages we inherit the unconscious tendency to measure spiritual feeling by extravagance of expression ; from two centuries of New England parentage, an inborn zest for theological subtleties; and either way, we hold too narrow an idea of what this spiritual affection is. We need to go back to Jesus Christ, and look at it in his light. And when we thus bring the New Testament spirit to bear upon the interpretation of the great commandment, we at once find that in its genuine and true and Scriptural sense, love to God is not a mere sentiment dependent upon the happy possession of a glowing temperament, nor only a fervid expression of devout feeling called into being, quickened by supernatural grace; these are only special manifestations of it in partial forms. But underlying them and manifesting itself in many other ways also quite as true and as worthy, it exists as a great persuasive principle of life, vitalizing the whole being in the soul which religion has entered as a power... Yes! it is a divine, a blessed decree, that in obeying the best impulse of the heart towards what is holy and good and true, we are led into sympathy with Him in whom all perfections are in their fullness.

Mr. Maurice has well said that " much of the practical difficulty of the prayer lies in the first word of it. How can we look round on the people whom we habitually feel to be separated from us by almost impassable barriers, . . . and then teach ourselves to think that in the very highest exercise of our lives they are associated with us; that when we pray we are praying for them and with them; that we cannot speak for ourselves without speaking for them; that if we do not carry their sins to the throne of God's grace, we do not carry our own; that all the good we hope to obtain there belongs to them just as much as to us. ... Yet all this is included in the word 'our;' till we have learned so much we are but spelling at it, we have not learned to pronounce it."
Have we so learned, any one of us, dear friends ? For if we have hard thoughts about any in our hearts; if we find it difficult to hold them graciously and tenderly in our remembrance as we rise to the great thought of God; if we fail to grasp the sublime conception of "the whole family in heaven and earth" which is named of Him, we can hardly pass this portal of our Lord's Prayer into the deeper meaning of the sanctuary within. We do not really pray to Him unless we are willing to kneel, as it were, on the outer step of His temple, beside the publican and the sinner. We can hardly dare to call him Father, unless we will also call them our brethren.

But there is not only a lesson of humility and of charity for us when we begin to say " Our Father," — there is infinite hope and cheer. For if we all come together before him, we may well feel upborne by the praying might of all who are higher than we on the shining ladder that leads to the foot of His throne, — His saints and faithful children, all that great company who are joined in the praises of the Te Deum."

May our Sabbath be a blessed one.