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My Love Song to Unitarian Universalism ... and Unitarian Universalists. Part 1 of 5

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life."

First thing, let's begin with love. And never let go.

Our Universalist forebears believed in a god of love. A god of such overflowing, unconditional love that the love would pursue you even after death, unrelenting. They believed that to know, really know, that love would mean that it would flow out of you and into everyone whom you then loved.

What if we decided to truly believe in the power of love? Believed that there is a "sustaining, commanding, transforming reality...the reign of love, a love that fulfills and goes beyond justice, a love that 'cares' for the fullest personal good of all." Believed in it down to the bones of our bones and acted out of that?

I believe that we can be the big tent many have dreamed we could be, a big tent that this world aches for. It will take recommitting to an ethic of personal responsibility. And that ethic of personal responsibility is made more possible for us to live into, if we ground ourselves in love.

Real love. Not emotional bosh. The kind of love that is a struggle to embody. Persistent, overflowing love where every day, we wake up with the personal goal to love better that day. To put love into fierce action. To find the ways to love someone the way they want to be loved. To learn how to lift up and empower the people around us. And to accept love, to feel centered in love so deeply that we can relax and let go of our tight grip to ego, to feeling "right," to defensiveness and acting out our of anxiety.

How often do we act out of fear? Fear that someone is challenging us, that someone wants to take away our voice, that they are saying something we don't agree with, that they are saying something that will hurt someone and then that person will leave our church never to return?

An atheist friend reminded me recently of 1 John 4. There is some weird theology there, she said. She added, but that part about fear, and love ... some of it is really beautiful.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

The Universalists (and Unitarians) of old rejected the fear of hell as an effective motivator. I believe it is time for us to consider what that rejection would look like, translated into a modern, broader understanding. Hell can be exclusion, shaming, punitive, treating with contempt. Today's Unitarian Universalism could affirm that coercing people into moral behavior is unethical and inefficient, that shame is not a path to transformation.

But love is.

I am a preacher, and in my worship script, I draw a heart next to the word "sermon." Every week, I draw that heart. Every week, I finish the reading and step away from the pulpit to begin the sermon, but first, my eyes drop to that section. I see the heart and it is a reminder: Remember your love for these people!

It is not difficult to love these people, they are completely lovable. But my head is full of this name or that date, "be sure and remember your third point," and I need a reminder to always begin my sermon by seeing them and loving them. I begin with love, and when I do, something is different. I love them, and that somehow opens something between us. The sermon may be good, it may be poor, but the love is there and somehow that love connects us. The energy in the room is different. Because I feel their acceptance of that love, I am made braver.

What might it look like, if we imagined a heart scrawled above our doors for when we looked up, on our hands for when we looked down, a heart that reminded us to begin with love? If every conversation began by us spying that reminder out of the corner of our eye? We might agree, we might disagree, but we began in love and didn't let go. Love brings in humility. Love brings in a willingness to listen more deeply, listening for understanding rather than points to score.

What might happen to a person who got to know, truly know, love in a covenanted community? A community that agreed in the power of love itself, and worked to make it something everyone could experience? Why, that person might feel the freedom to lay down their defenses and to open their heart. They might join in a mission to love better. To love extravagantly. To grow and to be transformed, because that would further the mission.

I reject fear of hell as a motivation.

I do not believe we can shame the hell out of this world.

I still believe we can love the hell out of this world.



--
Part 2 Personal Responsibility Is Non-Transferable
Part 3 That Whole Guiding Principles Thing
Part 4 Pain Is Inevitable
Part 5 It is Well with My Soul





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