One of the most interesting friendships of our time is the one between Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. Instead of coming together and arguing over who had the right way to God, to Grace, to the Divine…these two came together and discovered where their faiths overlapped and supported one another and the world, from that point of shared-ness. Connection.
We’ve definitely outgrown “being right”. It should be obvious that it’s not really working and is only creating bigger, deeper, more horrible divides. We see it play out in sports. In politics. In basic conversation.
One of my favorite teachers says we converse like this: when someone says something we don’t agree with, we plug our ears until it’s our turn to speak. The person speaking then speaks louder, as if (like our Zachariah story a few weeks back) when we speak louder the other person will better hear us. While the other person begins to sing LaLaLa while formulating their perfect argument in their head instead of listening. We get louder and louder. No one’s listening. No one’s “winning”. We’re just getting more divided.
We’re actually losing. Losing friendships. Losing loved ones. Losing connection. Losing our ability to civilly disagree. Losing our ability to even try to understand where someone else is coming from.
We like to be right. You can see it everywhere. Even within our own faith. Do you want to know how not right we all are? Take a wild guess as to how many denominations of the Christian, just Christian, faith there are in the world. PAUSE.
To be fair, the lowest number I found was 21,000. The largest number I found was 48,000. The number sits somewhere in the 30,000. 30,000 different denominations of the Christian faith. That’s a lot to think about.
Then, we add our friends in faith. In tribute to Desmond Tutu, I want to share one of my favorite stories of him. He would hold these interfaith services where everyone of all faiths was welcome. Once, a Christian preacher cried out to the worshippers, “When are you going to give your life to Jesus?” Tutu (who had this amazing sense of humor and gleeful laugh) turned to the Muslim clerics and rabbis seated next to him and said, “I think he’s speaking to you.”
We debate to be right. Sports. Politics. Basic conversation. To wear a mask, to not wear a mask. God. Jesus. Scripture.
We’ve outgrown it. It’s not working. We debate to be right, not to grow and learn. There’s an innate big problem in that.
There is a place for all of us and none of us has to be right. We can share. And we do. I mean, we do set our foundation on the sacred books of the Jewish people. We already do share. And all (I’ll be conservative) 32,000 Christian denominations can’t be…perfectly ”right”. Or right for everyone. And one faith is not mutually exclusive of another. Just look at the love and friendship between Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. Look at our relationships with friends of other faiths. And if you don’t have any friends of other faiths, I challenge you to seek at least one out this year! To become…friends! To be ok with your differences.
Faith is a lot about Love and living harmoniously in community. PAUSE.
We could choose to move forward from what’s not working. We could begin to have differences of opinions and instead of getting louder, say: Wait, let’s grab a beer (or the faith equivalent of that one) and have a some civil discussions. This will take some humor…we’re going to commit some faux pas and faux pas will be committed “against” us. The Dalai Lama doesn’t dance and Desmond Tutu loves to dance…that created some amusing moments. Maybe that’s why Desmond Tutu cultivated that hilarious laugh. Laughter always lightens the load. Maybe we should say: shared laughter always lightens the load.
Let’s open our hearts AND our ears to one another and listen!!! And not take ourselves so seriously…
We all love the baby Jesus, but we get a little more uncomfortable with the adult Jesus. All of us. We have very different ideas of what Jesus asks of us, within our own faith, but that’s OK (for the most part). There’s room. It is fairly simple…
Let’s start with a question: why do we come to Church? PAUSE. Usually we talk about community and doing good work and even that it’ll help you live longer (that nice scientific study we talked about a few weeks back)….
Are we coming to get the answers we need, to feel forgiven to go into another week, to feel that we’re good and we’re done with faith and God and all this religion stuff for another week? For the record, there is no judgement here…no reason to plug our ears and start formulating arguments or justifications…just think about it for a moment. Be honest with yourself. If we can’t be honest with ourselves here, where in heaven’s name can we be honest?
Why specifically do we come to church each week?
We actually have a unique Gift here in our church. One that comes with a happy mess of challenges, but actually puts us kind of ahead of our times. The future is different belief systems working together, supporting one another, and supporting love in the world. Love being the force of God/Good (whatever that means to us and our friends of faith) in the world.
Why are we ahead of the curve? In this little place in North Orange?
We’re a federated Church. A community Church. We start with two denominations that actually read the Bible differently and have different core tenants. We don’t believe theologically the same thing in this church. The UUA and UCC are just the starting point. Even within UCC and UUA there are differences. That’s before we add our non denominational members that encompass a broad range of Christian and “other” beliefs and “blends” of belief and faith and Questioning.
But it works. We sit together each Sunday and Love.
We work because it’s not about being “right” about Jesus. It’s about behaving like Jesus. It works because whatever our way of reading, or not reading, the Bible is; however we interpret the story the same or differently; however we choose to pray or not pray (to meditate, to reflect, to contemplate, to…) we practice the same thing. We practice Love. We practice Kindness. We practice Hope. We practice Faith. We practice Peace. We practice Trust.
It’s not the correct “answers” but how our time together informs our practice of living. How we take this home and to one another. Not to give others our answers, but to show others how our answers (and our questionings) help us to walk with more Goodness in this world. Not to be perfect. Or right. But to be loving. PAUSE.
Sometimes, the familiar liturgy awakens answers in us and comforts us. Sometimes we wander off the liturgical path when something more seated in what’s happening Now comes to us and needs pondering, reflecting, contemplation, questioning. The answers are everywhere and in us.
For us it is not so much the Bible as Jesus (the baby, the man, the divine, the everything), for some it’s not even Jesus, but the practices that Jesus exemplifies. The practice of Love.
I, personally, am coming at this new year with a new word: Gentleness. I feel that Jesus/Grace/Divine Universe/Whatever asks of us this year to be Gentle. If coming together with our similarities and differences helps us to become more Gentle in the world…it’s working. We’re doing God Work/Good Work. Perhaps that is enough.
Perhaps you have a word, or phrase, or prayer for 2022. Perhaps it helps you too to practice Goodness/Godness in this world…
As we begin the year, we begin it with Peace, Love, Gentleness, and reflections on soul friendships…