Monday, June 30, 2014

Nerdy Religion Time

For the next two months I’m going to take over Robin’s column in the newsletter while she is busy having babies and not getting a lot of sleep. 

One of my favorite things to do as a minister is explore ancient texts and ideas to figure out what they can teach us today. I’m a pretty nerdy guy, and it shows in the way I think about things. That's why I’m calling this Nerdy Religion Time. One of the topics I get questions about most often at newcomer orientations is about Jesus. What do UUs think of him? What does he mean to us? Here’s my take:

First and foremost I think that UU’s are pretty different, so it's hard to answer what most folks think about Jesus. Both Unitarians and Universalists come out of the Christian tradition and a lot of the moral teaching attributed to Jesus informs what we believe and how we act to this day. For instance, Jesus was one of the first to call into question the idea that poverty and sickness were signs of God’s displeasure (Mark 2:1-12 and many others). This may seem like a pretty archaic idea, but it's still around especially when dealing with addiction and AIDS. Jesus taught that health and wealth were not signs of righteousness and identified God with those who suffer. 

When we speak out against repressing the voting rights of the poor or cutting the social safety net, and whether or not it comes to our mind, we are influenced as a tradition by Jesus’s words: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20), “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40).

Jesus quotes the book of Isaiah from the Hebrew bible to sum up what he thinks his mission is:
‘The Spirit of the God is upon me,
because God has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the God’s favor.’ (Luke 4:18-19)

Now, it might not be the Spirit of God that is upon you, but I hope that there is something that stirs within your soul and calls you to strive for justice. I think that when we are at our best, Jesus’s mission statement would work for us as Unitarian Universalists as well. I’ve done a little translation to fit it into UU vernacular:

The spirit of all that is sacred is upon us,
because we have been anointed by the holy among us;
We have been sent to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim that this is the year of Justice,
this is the year of equality,
this is the year when love for all
will bring comfort to all who mourn;
will provide for those in sorrow all over this world—
to give them courage instead of pain,
gladness instead of mourning,
and praise and celebration instead of a faint heart.

What do you think? Can you get behind Jesus’s mission statement of justice, either its original or adapted forms? What do you think about Jesus? Leave a comment below or send me an email.

See you on Sunday?

Rev. Justin

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