Rev. Paul D. Daniel, Minister
Jesus’ life and crucifixion and resurrection complete the circle of life we all experience. We transition from life unto death and from joy and hope too pain and despair and then back again, as the flowers do each spring.
This extraordinary human being, this Jesus of Nazareth, offers us the hope
of redemption when we face life’s existential questions. Our Unitarian Universalist faith and seven principles embrace the Christian story and are inspired by the love and hope Jesus offers. We are enriched by this life affirming human’s message embodied in his spiritual wisdom and teachings.
This is true even for those of us who do not identify as Christian. UUs need to acknowledge our faith stems from Christian roots. We also must acknowledge our centuries old struggle about the nature and personhood of Jesus. We have from our beginnings in sixteenth century Transylvania accepted the unity of God but not the Trinity.
Following in this tradition, UU minister William Ellery Channing in 1821 said of Christianity, “it is an exalting and consoling influence, a power to confer the true happiness of human nature, to give that peace which the world cannot give.”
Over generations, Jesus has offered
UUs profound hope, courage, and comfort; central to all religion. To the extent that our UU faith embodies these teachings, we can with integrity share the values and ethics for which Jesus died.
Christianity offers us an important and comforting source of strength, if
we are willing to accept and honor the long-held Unitarian Universalist relationship with Jesus as a worthy exemplar but not necessary part of a triune God, father, son and holy ghost.
Rev. Bruce Clear writes, “The distinction between a Unitarian Christian and a Trinitarian Christian is
perhaps best explained, “by the distinction Unitarian Universalists often make between “the religion of Jesus (the religion that Jesus taught) and the religion about Jesus” (the religion that centers on who Jesus was).
If we examine only the words Jesus spoke, we will find nothing remotely resembling a Trinity in the
New Testament that asks us to worship him as if he were a god.
All such talk came from those who lived after Jesus’ death. Easter, the holiest day of the Christian calendar
an important part of both our American culture and UU faith. Many UUs turn their attention at Easter time only to Jesus’ as human prophetic voice. His teachings are enough for us to believe in a rebirth of hope and the possibility of spiritual resurrection. It is true that Christian theological language is understood in different ways within this congregation, from literal to mythic. The vital thing is that we honor the many ways we experience Jesus and the Christ. As a Jewish, non-Christian UU, I find the message of hope Jesus offers can be universally renewing and healing.
Perhaps those who deny their Christian heritage might find it helpful
to change focus, away from Jesus’
violent death on the cross and the
mythic story of bodily resurrection;
towards the more peaceful loving humble gardener as he first appeared to Mary Magdalene when she found the tomb empty. That’s how he was solely depicted into the tenth century.
After that he was portrayed mostly as the agonized Jesus of the cross. A dark turn to be sure.
Perhaps most of us resonate with the simple human pastoral Sheppard, healer of the sick at heart and the lame; or the social justice warrior prophet, defender of the poor and oppressed.
I wonder if the idea of Jesus as the Christ is just too distant, too impossible to contemplate that we to can attain the status of a God.
Isn’t the human Jesus more accessible and a worthy exemplar to follow? Surely, we would become my loving and compassionate people if we were to follow the prophet Jesus and live a life of love, simplicity and humility.
I wonder why we sometimes hesitate to follow his example, Why, we fail to demonstrate devotion to a cause, Why, do some of us hold back from offering public witness to a principle or value. or exhibit moral courage
and strength in face of adversity and challenge. I believe following Jesus’ example can lead us to a rededication to our values, a reanimation of our lives, and a rebirth of hope.
The teachings of Jesus were primarily ethical and a precursor to our own seven principles which teach us how to live in right relations, how to treat others with dignity and respect. When Jesus was asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He did not answer with a creed to be believed. He answered by saying, “You must love God, and you must love your neighbor as yourself.” That is all you are required to do. The ethical and moral religion of Jesus is reflected in the love he felt for humanity and in his willingness to die on the cross for human salvation.
The Sermon on the Mount and other preaching’s are one of the more often quoted sayings of Jesus. His words there are a beckon for light to bring us back home safety to our moral and ethical core.” So, whatever you wish others would do to you, do so to them”. Seek reconciliation with those with whom you are in conflict—
in fact, love your enemy as yourself
and pray for those who persecute you.
His advice came from a place of moral humility: “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? First, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” He offers comfort and healing to those who are troubled: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted….” He advises us to live a life of spiritual humility, practice your piety,
your spirituality, in private.
And he offers hope and inspiration:
“You are the light of the world…
Let your light shine so that others may see your good works. Such messages are universal across all faiths…. Long before Jesus, Mica of the Old testament prophet said the same, the “LORD requires that we,
act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
The Koran similarly tells us: “Peace be upon you. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
And this from their God, I have forbidden injustice from myself and forbade it for you. So, avoid being unjust to one another.” (Saheeh Muslim)
Today Christian, Jewish and Islamic wisdom are part of our faith and practice: love your enemies, care for the needy, practice your principles over power and structures of evil,
accept all diversity and the worth and dignity of everyone within the connected web of existence. Do that and your life will preach the good news of Unitarian Universalist
to heal the poor and sick, release the captives of all colors and nations,
free the oppressed and marginalized.” Bring the goodness of Jesus and all faiths back into your conscious purposeful living.
Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly. This is the powerful and meaningful religion of Jesus, the story of the holy living among us
in human form that I believe Unitarian Universalists can accept. This is the spiritual meaning of Easter. It is one of human transformation into a better more loving being. Remember, he had faith enough in us to sacrifice his own life; while preaching about the worth and dignity of every human being. We UUs can rationally hope to
More easily follow Jesus if he is human, occasionally afraid, fallible and weak. We can also rise to his challenge to; becoming humbler,
more loving, more compassionate,
more dedicated to justice and more authentically human.
Jesus’ life celebrates the divine nature of in all of us. Therefore, we celebrate Easter and honor our pluralistic heritage at the same time. By doing so, we can finally achieve
real healing, a rebirth of hope and a renewal of the spirit that these flowers before us represent. The paradise of the humble Sheppard then is not lost.
Jesus waits for us in the peaceful garden here on the earth that we co-create,
if we but open or hearts to him.