Friday, April 06, 2007

I want to preach about Jesus...

and I'm going to, this Sunday. In the past, on Easter, I've circled around the topic, using all the symbology of spring to develop my sermon. One year I focused on the psychological aspects which might explain the resurrection and that was kind of interesting.

But I was brought up an American Baptist in a preacher's household, and Jesus was the whole point of Easter. The story of Jesus, right up through the Passion and the crucifixion, was an exciting narrative of wisdom, parables, and dangerous confrontations with authority. It was thrilling as all get out, but at the very end, it turned into a ghost story which somehow muddled the message of the earlier years of his life.

Unitarian Universalists are ambivalent about Jesus and that's why I want to preach about his life and his message, at this Eastertide. I think we have been repelled by "pop" Christianity (religion that focuses on fears, exclusion, and prosperity) and have forgotten that Jesus's teachings are actually justice, kindness, compassion, mercy, understanding, humility, and generosity.

I want to invite people back into an understanding of the man Jesus and a recognition of the similarities between the teachings of Jesus and our values as Unitarian Universalists.

Our UU heritage is deeply Christian and yet we are not really a Christian faith. We are too pluralistic in our makeup to be truly Christian. We do religion differently from other faith traditions. And yet our foundational values come from Jesus and from other prophets who espoused the same values, some ancient, some modern.

For us, salvation is found in joyous daily living, not in heaven. So we are not moved by promises of a celestial home nor by threats of a fiery pit. We are moved by what we can do here on earth to make our lives and the lives of others more joyful.

I'm not sure how the sermon is going to turn out; the title comes from Millay's poetic work "Renascence" and I want to use parts of the poem as a reading. But we'll see. It's interesting that I'm not yet finished with the sermon. Here it is Friday afternoon and I'm still thinking about it. I like to be done by now and have Saturday to refine it. We'll see how it all turns out.


Will said...

Go for it, Ms. Kitty. Often times we are too sensitive as a group about "the Jesus thing".

Spring is the time of resurrection and the central message that Jesus delivered--that we should love others as we would want to be loved ourselves--is inalienable.

Best wishes.

Joel said...

I'm going to guess that you probably don't want any suggestions from me. :)

Joel Monka said...

Go for it- and I wish I could be there... I've never heard a flat-out sermon about Jesus in a UU church, unafraid and unashamed.

LinguistFriend said...

As you describe the enduring values associated with Jesus, they seem by and large to be the ethical values associated with Talmudic Judaism. (The message that Will mentions, of course, is that of Rabbi Hillel.) Our knowledge about Jesus is limited, but some view that it is more extensive than that about any other such figure in early pre-Islamic religious history. It certainly make sense only in a Jewish context. We tend to attribute the positive values of late Judaism to Jesus's teaching even when that is questionable, as in Fausto's and my discussion of "good will to men" in L 2:14.
I cannot attribute any biological significance to the resurrection of Jesus, but it is
one way in which, in the Hellenistic age, the fact of the enduring character of such values could be portrayed, which merged with Pharisaic notions of a resurrection of the dead. That in turn has been joined to pagan notions of the annual revival of nature in spring. What distinguishes this case from the common merger in pagan mythologies of the resurrection of man-like gods and heroes with the change of seasons, is the replacement of the man-like god or hero figure by a historical figure who is seen as the embodiment of ethical values. Early Christian religion carried this replacement through only half-way, while a historical view completes the substitution. That is a more useful understanding than my earlier frustrated comments, I think, although you have your own development by now.

Mile High Pixie said...

"We were very tired, we were very merry/We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry..." Isn't that the one? No, that's "Recuerdo." Wrong Millay poem.

Go for it. Regardless of how puch one buys the Jesus story, one cannot deny his existence and his timeless message of peace and, yes indeed, tolerance. Go forth and remind everyone that his ideas and teachings need a renaissance of their own.