Search for what is larger than ourselves
People often ask me, when they find out that I’m a minister in a faith that has no central teaching or creeds, no requirements of belief or unifying theology, people often ask me in wonder “How do you manage to have church together?”
A few years ago when I invited a Rabbi to preach in my pulpit on a Sunday morning, he was initially thrilled at the prospect of being able to teach/preach on anything in the world in a religious setting. “Anything?!?,” he asked me? “Anything,” I said. A few weeks before his guest appearance he called me “Anything is too much! How do you choose when there are no limits?”
One of the great blessings and therefore challenges of our religious tradition is that we don’t come together in a finite intersection. If we had one sacred text, one holy writ that in which we rooted the expression of our highest values I could simply go back to that well, week after week, dip my proverbial cup into that well, and reflect on that portion of the water that came up.
True, there would be an ability to deeply examine, year after year, the same sources of inspiration. Christian ministers have a lectionary that takes their teachings and reflections on a three-year journey through the Hebrew Bible and their own New Testament. Their lectionary, their guide, comes in Year A, B & C. Our Jewish Friends read the Torah from beginning to end each year, and then begin over.
This allows for a decades’ deep understanding of a text. Because you can think back to the time you last read this scripture, you can read what others have written about this scripture, and you can place your own thoughts into this mixture.
When one returns again and again to the same source material, this method allows for deep reflection.
But we are a religion of constant revelation! We are free to both consider the holy texts of the past and the texts that may...may...someday be revered in some future century.
Where our more orthodox friends have already centuries of thought behind their theological work, we are continually looking into larger circles, farther reaches, trying to make sense of the universe around us.
Each system, when our hearts are open, opens us to the enormity of the universe, or the comfort of the familiar in differing senses of what is sacred.
Humans, as I’ve said before, are meaning makers. In our faith we are free to work within the confines of the familiar as well as breaking new ground, where the edges of meaning are still forming.
In this month of December, with its long nights of holy darkness, may we be reminded to search for what is larger than ourselves. May nights of reading under a blanket or hot tea fueled conversations with friends help open us to what is large, what is broad, what is enormous. And may we be aware enough to face the expanse with gratitude and awe.