Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves

Jesus has told us that the way to the kingdom is to “love as I have loved.” Somebody asked Mother Teresa about this imperative of Jesus’s one time saying, “Who am I to love?” Mother Teresa is reported to have said, “Whomever life puts in your path.” Pretty simple, right? Whomever life puts in your path you are to love. So I don’t get why the third principle says that we should accept and encourage to spiritual growth people in our congregations. Why not everyone in the whole wide world?

There are a couple of reasons why Unitarian Universalism is such a small religious denomination. First, people use their congregation like a social club and really don’t internalize their faith by incorporating it into practices leading to a richer interior spiritual life, and secondly, they don’t proselytize. It’s a shame really. Why would they limit themselves in their ethic of inclusivity and encouragement to spiritual growth only in their congregations and not to the world? Of course, we don’t need to wait for the leaders of the UUA or our congregation to spread the good word about the seven UU principles. We can do it ourselves person to person.

In Matthew 10 Jesus sends His apostles off two by two with nothing but their tunic and sandals and a walking stick. He tells them the people they encounter will support them and if they don’t move on. Here is what Jesus tells them in verses 5 – 20

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

How would that work if Unitarian Universalists who were to go out and preach the seven principles to the lost sheep of America? What if UUs were to take seriously the teaching of the seven principles? What would that effort look like? Because the seven principles are so counter cultural, if they are seriously applied to daily life, UUs would probably be arrested or at least mocked, ridiculed, shunned, avoided, called unpatriotic, and perhaps killed.

An attack on Unitarian Universalists occurred in July of 2008 at the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church in Tennessee when a gunman went to the church and killed two members and injured seven with a sawed-off shotgun before he was restrained by church members. The gunman said he wanted to kill liberals, African-Americans, homosexuals, and democrats, and he apparently thought the local Unitarian Universalist church was a good place to start. Many UUs were spooked after that, naturally, and became warier for a while when strangers visited their churches.

Jesus said that He was sending his apostles out like sheep among wolves. He said they should be shrewd as snakes and yet innocent as doves. For people who want to pursue or are pursuing a spiritual life, it is a high road not a low road. Jesus says many are called but few are chosen.

Many jokes are made about Unitarian Universalsim and Unitarian Universalists but taken seriously, living a Unitarian Universalist life is serious business. It is not for the faint of heart but for people with great faith, conviction, and love. Not just to attend a Unitarian Universalist church, but to live a Unitarian Universalist life takes dedication, commitment, and what the third principle calls “encouragement to spiritual growth.” As the UU preachers say when they end their sermons, “May it be so.”

1 comment:

  1. I like this essay but it seems a bit strident. It seems to assume that most UUs are slackers and only a few take the faith seriously. I'm not sure if this is true. However, if you ask what difference a UU church makes in any given community, there are only a few where it seems that they make any kind of difference, but I can be wrong. Most people in my area think that UUs are nice people, but not really religious and as long as they don't bother anybody they are cooly tolerated. However, I live in a liberal area. I suppose if we were in the tea party area in the bible belt with a lot of religious right sympathy like Tennessee, it might be a different story.