In our theme-based ministry this month, we are considering redemption. In most of the Christian world, redemption is linked to Jesus’ death on the cross and, more specifically, atonement theology. Atonement theology includes a wide array of theological beliefs, among which is that all humans are born with original sin. Thus Jesus, as the son of God, died in order to atone for all of humanity’s sin. A common description is “the ultimate sacrifice to repay the ultimate debt.”
In case you hadn’t guessed, we Unitarian Universalists simply do not support atonement theology. We believe each child is born with gifts and a unique spirit, which sing to the universe. Our job is to help our children cultivate these gifts. Sure, we also know that humans can cause horrible violence and pain. But the story of humanity is not grounded in a sinful nature, but in a gifted nature that requires cultivation, care and love. We hold up the beautiful and believe in the restoration of what is broken.
As for Jesus’ death, we Unitarian Universalists believe it to be a horrendous moment in the history of hurt and violence perpetuated against some of our most visionary and inspiring leaders. We seek knowledge and inspiration from Jesus’ life rather than his death. We believe in a resurrection of the spirit. Simply put, that the lives of those gone before live on in our love and memory. So we focus on how Jesus’ lived and what his life can offer us today.
So what does redemption have to do, if at all, with Unitarian Universalism?
We also believe as Unitarian Universalists that we are all connected and all worthy. This includes the heroes like Jesus who we want to be connected with as well as those who have caused great harm. We believe we are all worthy, even those we might like to dismiss, turn away from or pretend don’t have as much worth as we do.
And we know, as a relational faith that the only way to grow and love is within the context of community. We learn about ourselves by being in relationship with each other. We learn how to love being in relationships, from our families, to friends, and our families of choice.
Unitarian Universalists know what it is to be redeemed by community. In a culture so often about saving face, we strive to save lives by living up to our covenant. As we say each Sunday, “we light our flaming chalice to illuminate the world we seek. In the search for truth, may we be just. In the search for justice, may we be loving. And in loving, may we find peace.”
The Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Dr. Forest Church compared redemption in Unitarian Universalism to grocery store coupons. In our faith, we believe we each have received these unique gifts. It is in community that we seek to find the loving, justice-making and honest ways to use these gifts, or redeem these coupons. It is within community that we discern how to redeem these coupons. Just like a coupon for the grocery store, part of getting the best value (or in our case the peace we seek) is matching our gifts to their purpose.
It is our hope that this place we call our spiritual home, PUUC, helps you discover how to redeem your spiritual coupons, discovering the peace of our gifts meeting the world’s great needs.
Redemption in Unitarian Universalism: The journey of discovering the places where our gifts and the world’s needs meet. In other words, it is a state of being saved and valued by and through the gathered community.
Peace to you on the journey. All coupons welcome!
In faith and love,