Why I Am a UU Christian

Rev. Don Beaudreault
First Parish Brewster Unitarian Universalist
November 6, 2015

OPENING WORDS: “You are the light of the world…”

You are the light of world. When a lamp is lit, it is not put under a bushel, but on the lampstand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  -Matthew 5:14 (adapted)

MEDITATION WORDS: “A Unitarian Universalist Sermon on the Mount”

Blessed are you, the poor in spirit,
Those who stand in humility and awe before grandeur,
Who humble yourself before the un-answerables of the universe.

Blessed are you, the mourners,
Those who feel deep sorrow when you miss the mark of human connection,
Who seek repentance for your unjust acts toward others.

Blessed are you, the meek,
Those who cooperate with nature,
Who discover the joy of accepting. 

Blessed are you, the hungry and thirsty,
Those who seek goodness and equity for all existence,
Who rail against the injustices of the planet by performing deeds of love. 

Blessed are you, the merciful,
Those of you who help the suffering,
Who cultivate an attitude of caring toward those whose lives are filled with pain. 

Blessed are you, the pure,
Those who have no ulterior motive,
Whose intentions are authentic; whose acts are genuine. 

Blessed are you, the peacemakers,
Those who attempt to follow these beatitudes,
Who are able to blend feeling with thought, desire with action.

SERMON: “Why I Am a UU Christian”

Let me tell you of the different types of Unitarian Universalist Christians who are members of the UU Christian Fellowship, a national organization that is part of the UU Association. This description is according to one pamphlet writer, The Rev. Thomas D. Wintle, a UU minister:

Some gather for worship around a Communion Table, with all the pomp and pageantry of the Episcopalians. Others meet, not in churches, but in living rooms for discussion and Bible study.

Some belong to white-steepled first parish churches on New England town greens where ancient Puritan covenants are faithfully recited every Sunday, where the Lord’s Prayer is a standard part of worship, and where “of course, Unitarians are Christians!”

Others belong to churches where the Bible is seldom read, no cross is evident, and the congregation proudly emphasizes its differences from orthodox Christianity. 

Some could join in saying the Apostles’ Creed in an ecumenical worship service, and others are more comfortable expressing their Christianity in a peace march or working in a shelter for battered woman. Many would do both. What these members of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship have in common is their conviction that one can be BOTH a Unitarian Universalist AND a Christian, both thoroughly modern and faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So you see there are UU’s who are “Christians” – as well as UU’s who are not. Truly, there is not just one way of being a Unitarian Universalist.

John Sanford, a Jungian analyst and Episcopalian priest helps us understand this truth by blending psychology and religion.

In his book The Kingdom With: The Inner Meaning of Jesus’s Sayings, Sanford establishes Jesus as a prototype of the truly individuated human being; that is to say, as a person who was able to integrate the various aspects of his existence – with all their seemingly oppositional nature – thereby becoming a “whole” person.

Jesus, therefore, can become a role model for humanity.

Indeed, the man from Nazareth was on a “mission” – one to gain awareness.

He was speaking of the possibility each one of us has to be more fully integrated in our thoughts, feelings and actions. Jesus is saying that “the kingdom of God” or the “kingdom of heaven” is within us! Here, we can substitute the word “God” for “the good” since the origin of the word “God” has the same root word as “good.”

This Jungian perspective was not what the early Christians held, no doubt. Some believed that Jesus was talking about an actual place – a heaven beyond the earthly existence. And many who thought this way expected a day of judgment to come within their lifetimes.

Still others believed that the “kingdom of God” meant a new political realm. These were called “Zealots” and believed Jesus would be the leader in this new world order.

Sanford prefers to think of such a kingdom as a metaphor for a new state of being within each individual, and consequently for the community.

So when the gospel writer Matthew has Jesus say: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field,” Sanford interprets this to mean that there is within our unconscious a treasure waiting to be found.

What prevents this discovery is our ego, our mask, that which we use to block deeper understanding. For Jesus, the Pharisees are the ones who represent this.

They illustrate that which is rigid, unwilling to change. Jesus calls them “hypocrites” – a Greek word that means “actors.” “Hypokrites” were the people who played roles on the stage; who wore costumes and masks to hide who they really were.

In other words, one must get beneath the external self if one is ever to really understand one’s essence and thereby fully relate to one’s self and to others.

As Jesus said: I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already. (Luke 12:49).

As Sanford puts it: There is a creative power in us working intelligently to bring about our uniqueness.

This theme can be seen in the story of Jesus and his disciples as they encounter a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Terrified, his followers say: “Master! Master! We are going down” which is a way of speaking metaphorically, meaning that they are afraid of discovering that which is beneath the surface of their egos “Where is your faith?” Jesus asks them after he has calmed the storm.

One of the aspects of discovering the inner self is that we will find our “inner adversary.”  It is not that this adversary is either good or bad in itself, but that it represents that inside us which “contradicts whatever conscious attitude we have adopted.” (Sanford).

By accepting the fact that there are adversarial aspects about ourself, we can at least begin to be reconciled. Jesus says:

Come to terms with your opponent…love your enemies.

More often than doing this, however, we project our own unloving selves onto others.

Sanford states: A person who is carrying the burden of our projections is no longer human to us. He (she) becomes in our eyes devilish, sinister, a nonperson. This is why we are so prone to become angry with these people, since they are no longer people but represent to us what angers us in ourselves.

Says Jesus: Do not judge and you will not be judged; because the judgments you give are the judgments you will get.

A further aspect of Jesus as a fully congruent person, is the idea of perfection. He says: You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Translating directly from the Greek, Sanford interprets this to mean that which is “brought to an end state”; to be fulfilled as the person you can be – not to be “perfect” (meaning without blemish).

Thinking of Jesus’ mission in life as bringing harmony between the disparate parts of the human self and community, we can perhaps better understand the following passage from the New Testament book of Ephesians:

For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart…by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God.

For me, John Sanford has shown the struggle toward wholeness that the human man named Jesus undertook. And I sincerely believe as a humanist who is attempting to achieve wholeness in life that to take no account of the Christian message, is to be less than fully human and aware.

Certainly by attempting to appreciate the Jungian perspective of Christianity, I can more readily embrace an essential part of the Unitarian Universalist tradition.

So may we heed the words of Ann Fields as we attempt to understand our lives and purposes:

Let us open our hearts to the images which speak to our lives…for each of us, there is a desert to cross, a star to follow, and a new being within to bring to life.

CLOSING WORDS: “Love is patient…”

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  –I Corinthians 13: 4-6