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My Universalist Specifics – 3/18/2012

Last Sunday, our Director of Religious Education, Deb Sweet, spoke from this pulpit about her understanding of God, and how she arrived at it. Today it is my turn to do the same. Now I will be surprised if you all agree with everything I am about to say to you. In fact, if you find nothing to disagree with, I will be disappointed. There are places where the people in the pews are expected to hold the same theology as the person in the pulpit. This is not one of those places. Even if we do not agree in our beliefs, I am very glad to be in this congregation with you, united by its larger agreement of service and love. So now, having said all that, let us begin:

The sage told his student: “Everything is God. This is the end of all wisdom.” The student heard this, and in an instant he understood: the Divine was all around him and in him, flowing through everything, universal, inescapable, all-embracing. He felt a wellspring of tranquility rise up within him. His soul seemed to expand to fill the earth and sky and reach even beyond the edges of the universe. In a daze of wonder and self-absorption, he wandered out into the road, stumbling in awe. Coming from the opposite direction, there was an elephant, and the driver who sat on the animal’s neck shouted at the student, “Make way! Make way!”

The student could see and hear all of this very clearly, but lost in his ecstasy, he refused to move. ‘Why should I stand aside?’ he asked himself. ‘I am God, and the elephant is God. Is God to live in fear of himself?’ Unafraid, the student walked forward, and at the last possible moment before the collision, the elephant reached out with its trunk and swept the mystic aside. He was knocked out of the road entirely, where he fell into the dust.

In confusion and dismay and covered in dirt, the student returned to the sage. He explained what had happened to him and asked, “Guru, you taught me that everything is God. Including me, including that elephant. If this is true, how could God inflict such indignity on himself?”

The teacher replied, “What I told you is true: everything is God, including you and the elephant. But tell me – why did you not listen to the voice of God, which was yelling from atop the elephant, ‘Make way! Make way!’?” review tip haunted this would it hair this keratin.

is. It matters what you and I and all of us do, and what happens to us. Even when the sun goes out, it will still have happened.

The world is also a companion. The edge of where everything else stops and I begin is fuzzy – we are all constantly taking in new atoms and shedding old ones. At any given

moment we might appear to be alone, but the people who love us and were with us hours or days or years before are still there, and so still here in us. And no matter what we are going through, there have been so many people on earth before us that we can be sure that somewhere in the vastness of time, one of our fellow humans can relate to what we’re going through.

And the holiest thing about everything that exists is our own response to it. If we believe that the world should be a just place, defined by compassion and shaped by love, then it falls to us to accomplish those things. When I marvel at the greatness and complexity of what is: a storm over the sea, the love I feel for my daughter, the power of people, working together, to accomplish what they could not apart. Wondering at these things creates a pull in me, something like the way I imagine the still small voice that the prophet Elijah heard in the Hebrew Bible. It is the pull to renew myself, and the world; the call to heal and to liberate, and to make the whole more beautiful for my having been a part of it. Whenever I worship or pray or bring a careful intention to my living, it is in an effort to listen for that all important voice, even if all it is shouting is, “Make way! Make way!”

[i] Based on a story collected in Heinrich Zimmer’s Wisdom of India.

[ii] From The Best of Robert Ingersoll, Roger E. Greeley, ed., Prometheus Books


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