“Grounding Our Faith”
I sat on my cushion last week, sipping tea and gazing at the birds flitting amid the otherwise empty birch branches outside my window. Our teacher from the Insight Meditation Society for this month of short, guided morning sits was sharing about the Three Jewels – the Three Refuges – as they are called in Buddhist tradition. They were preparing to lead us in a chant. Buddhism takes refuge in the Buddha, of course, right? – the Dharma and the Sangha. Jozen went further in extrapolating which I so appreciated because it gave me insight into our tradition as Unitarian Universalists. We, too, have our Ancient Ones – our lineage. We have our Dharma – our teachings – the Principles we affirm, but also the learning we embrace from all traditions, attributing value to each, none above the other – our seeking and knowing, as individuals and as a whole. And we have this Sangha – the community here this morning on zoom – a wider community that includes those who couldn’t be here today even as they remain connected to us, and our affiliation with the larger Unitarian Universalist Association of which we are a member congregation. I rose that morning with gratitude for this insight, for what it stirred in me, the reminders of what we ground ourselves in.
I began a ten-month course of study and reflection this fall with a Unitarian Universalist Wellsprings group – nine religious professionals and a facilitator exploring our Sources – those things we rely on to inform our faith as UU’s. We started with our personal experiences of Mystery and understanding, and then moved on to the prophetic voices in the history of our tradition. Those of you raised in Unitarian Universalism – or perhaps one or the other before our merger in 1961 – you probably know how far back this history of ours dates. But my guess is that many of the rest of us may not.
Notwithstanding the heretical freethinkers of the early Christian church, some of whom espoused a belief in the oneness of God, with Jesus an emissary of sorts in our midst, and those who took to the idea of universal salvation, it was the 16th century before Unitarianism took off from its roots in Transylvania thanks to the court preacher, Francis David’s finding of no biblical basis for the trinity and his king’s edict of religious toleration in 1568. Ultimately martyred along with others along the way for defying the conventions of Christianity, this notion of choice in religious understanding, free human will, and the loving benevolence of God set us apart. Our Universalist forebears took to the central tenet that there is truth to be found in all religious paths and that there is worth and dignity in all human beings regardless of difference. Do any of these origins resonate with you? I have heard from at least one among us that locating a tradition that did not espouse the divinity of Jesus or his place as the “Son of God” was important to their spiritual path.
Across both traditions there evolved a call to justice, and our prophetic past includes abolitionists, prison reformers, workers on behalf of the imprisoned mentally ill, all the way up to the more recent history of involvement with the civil rights movement, equality for women and other minorities, the rights of LGBTQI persons, and our current delving into anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural work as we recognize our historical complicity and shortcomings in these areas. There is a lineage that we carry with us in our DNA as persons and as institutions –