“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Monday, October 3, 2011

So what is the Universalist spirit, exactly?

Our Mission Statement begins with, “In in the Universalist spirit of love and hope…”

So what is that Universalist spirit, exactly?

Well, simply put: Universalism is the idea that all people are loved and embraced by God. It's not a new idea: Universalist thinking has been around for thousands of years. But it really took root in America, in the 1700 and 1800’s.

These early Universalists could not imagine a loving God who would damn them to hell. But this notion of a loving God was in tension with the dominant thinking of the time, which was that that God was an angry God, and there was only so much love to share with sinful creatures; thus, only some would be “saved.”

The early Universalists said, “Uhm..not so much,” to the idea of an angry, violent God. And as they truly began to imagine and understand the reach of God’s love, they realized that everyone was within that inclusive reach.

So love is at the heart of the Universalist Gospel.  
This is blow your hair back, life changing love.
As Bishop John Shelby Spong says, "Love is the essential power that deepens our relationships and simultaneously expands our humanity. The more we are freed to be ourselves [and that happens when we know we are loved, doesn’t’ it?] the more we are enabled to give our lives and love away to others." 

And that’s what these early Universalist preachers did; knowing themselves to be loved, they preached hope, not hell. Being loved, they gave their lives and their love away to others.  

Many of these early Universalists worked on prison reform, the abolition of slavery, and women's rights. And is it any surprise that Universalists and Unitarians today are involved in immigration issues, are leading the faith based response to the proposed Minnesota Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and are involved in affordable housing issues (and much more)?

Because if love is at the heart of the Universalist Gospel, then all people matter – even if they’re in prison, disabled, or among the outcasts or invisible of society – all people matter and creation itself matters.

That’s what we inherit from our Universalist forbears: God loves everyone. 

It’s mind blowing. 

‘Cause there are some people I think God (Big Mystery, Source of Life, Love, Deep Peace, that which is unnameable, which is in all and bigger than all) probably shouldn’t love. I’m sure you’ve got your list, too! But that’s just my little human brain casting judgment and trying to put things in a box I can understand.

That source, call it what you will, loves the whole creation.

And I 'm pretty sure that we're called to do the same thing...to be called out and stretched by Love, to grow into Love's people.  

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