About God

The Creator gathered all of Creation and said,
"I want to hide something from the humans
until they are ready for it."

The eagle said,
"Give it to me, I will take it to the moon."

The Creator said,
"No. One day they will go there and find it."

The salmon said,
"I will bury it on the bottom of the ocean."

The Creator said,
"No. They will go there too."

The buffalo said,
"I will bury it on the Great Plains."

The Creator said,
"They will cut into the skin of the Earth and find it even there."

Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said,
"Put it inside of them."

And the Creator said,
"It is done." 



A few years ago, our cousins in the US – The Unitarian Universalist Association – decided to do a big expensive advertising campaign. 

In the end, they put a full-page advertisement in Time Magazine. In bold letters in the middle of a blank white page, it read “Is God keeping you from going to church?” 

I don’t know how big a response it got – but for me, it encapsulates a lot of what we struggle with as 21st century Unitarians in Britain. 

When I first went to a Unitarian service, I was 35 years old. You have to understand that I resisted that move for nearly 20 years as the Universe kept nudging and poking me… I unknowingly attended a University originated by some of our religious ancestors – the Universalists. I got married in a Unitarian church without taking any real notice, I unknowingly did my post-doctoral work at another University started by Universalists. Andy? Andy? Hello! Is anyone in there? 

Why didn’t I go sooner? What was my obstacle? The answer is surely that God was keeping me away. 

Of course, I don’t mean that some being named God was actively blocking my path – if there is such an entity, it seems that it was quite insistent on getting me in the door. 

No, I mean that the word God and all the baggage that comes with that word were pushing me away. 

As Tom Barrett put it, I had ‘been frightened--sat on 'till the spirit cried "uncle."’ 

Like most of you, I don’t believe that there is an entity – a personality – a super-being – that controls our lives. I don’t believe that the miracles of the world’s scriptures are literally true. And I don’t believe that God is like shopping on Amazon or eBay: I can’t ask a God for something and expect to have it delivered to me. 

And since I understood that this kind of image of God was central to the being of any religious organization, there was no way I was going to subject myself to that. Well, I was wrong about that understanding, but only a little bit wrong since we Unitarians are nearly unique in being open to very different and very diverse notions of the divine. 

I have to applaud all of you. Somehow, despite all the traditional baggage associated with a place called “church” and despite the strange looks you get from friends when you mention where you go on a Sunday morning, you got yourself in here. I’m honestly amazed and very proud every time one of you manages that feat – especially in a country where being religious is so rare and so frowned upon. 

So, I made it to a Unitarian service and to my surprise, Unitarianism turned out not to be a place where a traditional notion of God was pushed or even strongly suggested. 

It left me to figure out for myself what I wanted to do with that word and that concept – a challenge that I have struggled with ever since. But a challenge that enriches me every time I engage with it. 

As Tom Barrett offers: 
 

“I can't talk about God and make any sense, 
And I can't not talk about God and make any sense."

 


And then he adds a line tailor-made for the English:

 

"So we talk about the weather, and we are talking about God.” 


We do love to talk about the weather… 

Don’t get me wrong though – I am entirely glad that the old images of God have crumbled away. Barrett again: 

“I miss the old temples where you could hang out with God.” 

He goes on playfully to suggest puppies as an alternative… 

If I could, I think I would believe in the old-style God – not the angry judgmental one, but the nice loving, justice-seeking one that we find in places in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. 

I would be comforted by God’s unconditional love. I would ask him [male, of course] to help me with my problems and – if not fix them – guide me toward a solution. 

I would ask God to show me the right path to take in any difficult choice. I would ask him for courage and strength and patience. I would ask him to make me the person I want to be. 

I would beg God to fix the problems of the world – end the suffering, eliminate intolerance and hatred, heal the sick. 

And when I was suffering, I would turn to God to take away my pain. 

I would if I could, but I can not believe in this kind of God. 

Does this mean there is no possibility for guidance? for unconditional love? For justice? For hope? For healing? For comfort in our suffering? 

I think that would leave me very sad if I did not have another way around these questions – and I don’t intend to leave you sad today either. 

In this congregation, we refer often to the power of community. We speak about how much we can give to each other and what a source of strength we can be both individually and as a group. 

For some of us, this will be heard in a very human way and for others, perhaps with a more super-natural tone to it. 

I must tell you that last Sunday, the day a candle was lit in this congregation and you all thought of my mother and me as we struggled through her illness, that day was the most positive of her long recovery thus far. 

I won’t try to explain that or explain it away, but I know that – often in ways we can not explain – we can offer much more than kindness to one another. 
 

The Creator gathered all of Creation and said,

"I want to hide something from the humans

until they are ready for it." 

 

Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said,

"Put it inside of them."

And the Creator said,

"It is done." 


In nearly every one of the world’s religious traditions, there is a notion of the divinity within us. It is present in the Judaeo-Christian soul, in the Hindu Atman, in our Buddha nature, and in the sparks of the divine residing within each of us according to Jewish mythology. 

Perhaps there was a time when we were not yet ready to find this power, so it was hidden. It is there, within us – within each and every one of us. 

When I was a kid, I watched a cartoon show about a giant magical Genii who could be summoned by two children to solve problems, defeat evil, save the world… you know, typical superhero stuff. 

But the kids could not summon the power on their own. Only by joining their matching rings and shouting “Shazam” would the genii appear. 

Our community has a power that is not unlike the cartoon version. It is weak when we are separate, but together, “Shazam”. 

This particular genii of community requires more from us than a magic word and alignment of jewellery though. 

The strength that is within us becomes present only when we create an environment that allows it to emerge. It is a powerful thing, but also tender. It needs safety and nurture to grow strong. 

Our task is to create the place where our shared divinity can be realized. Such a community is characterized by openness, acceptance, and love. It is strengthened every time we put aside a judgemental thought and put curiosity in its place. It grows each time we listen carefully and deeply for the meaning beneath the words. It expands each time we look beneath the visible exterior to see the beauty within each person. 

The end of our work is a place that some call the Beloved Community – a circle of safety and love in which the divine within each of us is fully realized. 

We sang Ubi Caritas a few moments ago. In English: “Where charity and love abound, God is there.” Where we open our hearts to caring and love, the divinity within emerges and is present among us. 

Let us rededicate ourselves to this work so that the spirit of guidance, of healing, and of love may truly be realized among us. 

May it be so. 

Shazam!