About every two years I find myself sitting down and reviewing my new understanding and feelings about God. Each time I do it, it’s a rich experience. The topic of God taps, for me, a unique blend of joy, sadness, depth, gravitas, and the pull to be a better person. Often “touching the topic of God” brings a renewed conviction that I should work on “our” relationship. Although, because of my general disbelief in God, that is confusing. God is, for me, both very personal and untouchable, a relationship that involves the confusing dynamic where the more I think about God, the less I believe, and yet the more I believe, the happier I think I am. I think. Not by a large degree. I know, it’s confusing. I give myself spiritual permission to have a confusing relationship with God. In general, I think of it as a good and rich confusion I am used to.
This time my renewed, more intimate relationship with the concept and personality that is God was kicked off by our Sunday afternoon Zoom call. I said, “Tell me what I’m going to talk about on May 31st.” This prompt started a cascade of thoughts and feelings on the most inexplicable relationship I – and many of you – have. I officially don’t believe in God, but yet still we have a thing. I suspect you might be similar. What started out as the prompt for a single sermon turned into a three-part-series. I particularly enjoyed working on these offerings, because I felt like I had you as co-conspirators and muses.
When I listened in on the call dedicated to a “God for UUs” hosted by Vivien and facilitated by Diana Durham, I realized that the general thoughtfulness of the handful of professionals who wrote for UUA websites was also evident in the dozen of our own who participated in Vivien’s call. My colleagues had impressed me with the heart and soul that they infused into their theological positions on/with God. Our own lay theologians, in addition to depth, laid out many of the thoughts, positions, leanings, and questions that a generation of articulate moderns hold and grapple with regarding the word that causes a pause. Together, our callers and scholars were a great representation of our denomination’s theological diversity.
One of our newest attendees, Suzanne Lewsadder, although coming from a more doctrinal background, is exploring truth with us with humility and earnestness. Our own Diana Durham spoke poignantly about walking in the legacy of faithful people within her family working to educate their rural neighbors. On that simple one-hour call, I heard from our Board president Gary Hart who spoke about living out a moral atheism that never feels worn on his sleeve, even if it is periodically worn on his hat. In our Pacific Unitarian ranks and on that call was Val, an experienced meditation and yoga instructor, who, although hardly a zealot for any singular philosophy, spoke about being inspired by the intelligence that undergirds our planet and larger universe.
I love being your minister and not having to be the smartest person in the room.
In the theological-go-round that was the bulk of the call that Sunday afternoon, Vivien captured Unitarian Universalists’ instinct for self-reflection when she uttered the almost comical refrain: that she wondered just what it was that those who believe know that she doesn’t, and exactly what it is she knows that they don’t. Our congregation’s membership committee chair, Judi Carter, who, although raised in a fundamentalist family, spoke about turning to science for truth after a heartfelt prayer that went unanswered led her to the decision – really, the hypothesis – that there was no God listening. Like so many UU’s who struggle to define what label best defines them, Pam Harris said she was clear that “God was probably best expressed via love and the kind things that people do for one another.” Thank you, Pam. Also on the call was Kellie Kinsman, Steven Schlegel’s daughter and friend of Pacific Unitarian, who, although not a UU, like many of us, spoke about coming to see all religion as mythology, and working in her own life seeking meaning in those metaphors.
All around us in this church and denomination, we have people unafraid to think for themselves and to acknowledge the obvious truth that they are a product of all those forces that have informed them. Karen Merickel, who grew up in the church of Religious Science and continues to call herself a Christian, allows herself the freedom to mix her religious heritage in with an appreciation of all she has learned being a biologist. Likewise, Lee Ann Hart spoke about her appreciation for the flexibility offered in the various terms and phrases her fellow UUs have come up with an attempt to poetically define the holy.
In preparing for this service, a slightly interesting thing happened. Both Vivien and I serendipitously went to the same UUA website on God for research. While I was plumbing the site for UU perspectives to write this sermon – and, unknowingly, two more – unbeknownst to me, Vivien was forwarding the content of the website to the group that tuned in for her 3 PM call. Really, this piece is little more than advertisement for our upcoming services on God, and a prompt to read the handful of takes on the subject in this UUA section titled “Unitarian Universalist Views of God”, found here in the link https://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/higher-power/views.
As preparation for our upcoming services on May 31st, June 7th, and 14th I hope you read ahead. I’ll bet you one of our delicious $5 lunches on the patio – when we’re back together and serving food – that you will find some language in there that expresses what you think better than you can.
Rev. Steve Wilson