Friday, June 18, 2010

Universalism and Mission

I am a Universalist.

I am a "missionalist."

And I find it very difficult to speak of one without speaking of the other.

One of the dangers of being missional, if you are a Christian, is that they will call you ... (dramatic intake of breath)

A universalist.

Few of the non-UU missionalists will admit to being a universalist, but what is interesting is how many do not quite deny it, either.  They are coy.  They plead humility, something I wish more of us would do.  "Hey, God can do anything -- I certainly can't say he won't save everyone," they say.

But they eschew the label.

I embrace the label, I roll it around me, enjoy its soft comfort, its organic feel.  I am a mother and I will admit that I naively just don't understand how any loving mother could not be a universalist.  It just comes to something so simple and basic for me.  This love I have for these four little creatures -- no matter what they could ever do, I would not want them to suffer eternal torment.  I would not want them to be separated from me for eternity.  I will always love them.  No matter what.  And how could "heaven" be "heaven" to me, if I knew they were suffering? 

"But is that what you believe?  That we're all going to heaven when we die?"

Not exactly.  And frankly, it's not something I spend much time thinking about.  And this is why I am a Universalist Missionalist.

To quote Rebecca Ann Parker:  “…it’s not just that we’re moving on towards a heavenly world,
a world in which we have fully embodied the beloved community. It is also that heaven is here and now, and it is a matter of realizing it and participating in it.”  In The Social Implications of
Universalism
, Clarence Skinner explained,
A new valuation is being placed upon life. We accept the world for the joyous place it was
meant to be. We like it, despite the fact that belated theologians look upon it with inherited
suspicion … The dominant motive, therefore, is no longer to escape from earthly
existence, but to make earthly existence as abundant and happy as it can be made. Modern
religion …must speed those readjustments which will make life here and now justify our
hopes.
I am hanging out, talking with, and taking classes from other missionalists, all of them Christians.  They have come from all directions:  Southern Baptist, AME, non-denominational, Episcopalian.  For all of us, the heart of being missional is that we believe in inhabiting and working in the Kingdom of God.  Right here and now.

Don't like Kingdom?  Or God?  That's fine.  Many of them actually use the term "Shalom."  Shalom, in its deep and rich meaning which far exceeds the simple translation of Peace.  Wholeness.  Harmony.  Unity.

"“Heaven can be experienced here and now as well, when we treat one another 
with loving-kindness, justice and compassion.” -- Hosea Ballou


I have written before that my goal in life is to try to love the hell out of the world.  This is simply a response to the fact that I feel like the world tried to love the hell out of me.

“All persons are children of a single family, members of a single tribe, heirs of a single hope, and bearers of a single destiny, namely, the care and management of all of God’s creation.” 
-- Living a Vision, Walter Brueggemann

When LW had cancer this last time, the World came to my doorstep.  Total strangers, many of them.  They sent cards, good deeds,  hats, handmade clothes, prayers.  Cancer is hell, and hell was physically in LW and emotionally in me.  And the World tried to love it out of all of our family.  The World, made up of Christians, UUs, Jews, none of the above.  People of all different income and educational levels.  And all different politics.  They all had Love to give.  They gave it abundantly.

“The very notion that the church can be successful apart from an improved world reflects a
disconnect from God’s mission and even raises the question of whether or not people who think
this way are even recognized by God as his people.” -- Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal

For me, God is a process.  A persuasive verb.  An arc that bends toward justice, if you will.  And this force of love, running through all who will open themselves up to it, calls us -- each of us, little "events" ourselves -- to be the hands and feet of God, of love, of whatever you want to call it. 

“God loves everyone. No exceptions. It’s that simple.” -- Micah's Porch Website

I am watching people be struck with the bolt of lightning that is missional thinking, in my missional theology class.  I can't tell yet what it is that causes the change.  But it's dramatic, like when you're at the eye doctor and the fuzzy bits of glass in front of your eyes suddenly get flipped the right way, and suddenly, you can see like you haven't seen before.  It's a whole other way of imagining "church."  I know when it happened to me.  And I saw it happen to a classmate this week. 

He is an older man, already an experienced AME pastor.  I have known him for a while, and he has always been full of confidence, with a loud, booming voice.

Monday night, his voice was quiet.  "I am ashamed," he said.

"I have a church drawer full of laminated cards I made that have 'God's plan for salvation' printed on them. I have just realized that Jesus did not present a 'Plan for Salvation.'  Instead, he told of the plan for making the Kingdom of God."

But his face glowed.  And later, the professor asked this provocative question:

"Is God's grace bigger than 'bad belief'?"

No one would say No.  And I swear, you could see some minds opening.

I believe God's grace is bigger than anything.

But then, I am a Universalist.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Imagine a Religion!

Imagine you're a UU student in an evangelical seminary.

Imagine someone in one of your classes says, "After reading your paper, I think I'm a Unitarian Universalist."

Now imagine ... it's the professor.

Yesterday, it happened.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Just a stick

It was just a stick, that looked like a snake.  Phew.

In other words, benign. 

How YOU doing?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

So, about that snake ...

Okay, so, after being careful not to look into the woods last week, I took a walk this week, still keeping my eyes firmly on the path.


And stepped on  a snake.  I don't think it's poisonous.  But we're sending it to the lab to be sure.

okay, okay.  there's a certain point at which a metaphor exists solely to give you a headache.

I was, in truth, taking a walk on my beloved trail when I got the phone call.  Damn iPhone. Appointment with a doctor tomorrow at 8:20 am, biopsy at 9:00. 

I'm not too worried, as long as I keep on my rational head.  My mom had the same ezakkle thing back in the 80's, and all was fine. 

It's the Night Before, though, and occasionally my rational head falls off my body, so blindly, I stumble around, and sometimes, rather than putting my rational head back on, I pick up my biggest-fears head and put it on, kinda like when you get dressed in the dark and accidentally put on one black shoe and one blue shoe.  Not that I've ever done that before.  Anyway, you can't prove it.

And my biggest fears head brings up all those other experiences we've had, the ones that resulted in, "I'm sorry, but it's malignant ..."

The BFF-DRE thinks that, just like when you do jury-duty time, you get a certain period of time where they don't even call you, putting in cancer-time should earn you a credit.  I vote for that.

Anyway, The Boy is about to come home from Band Fish Camp and then the entire family must, by law, dance like crazy to "School's Out," as is our tradition on the last day of school, which today was.  So I need to go take off this head, which frankly, doesn't fit very well anyway, and screw my rational head back on. 

I'll be sure to hold it on very tight during the dancing.