Thursday, March 12, 2015

Seekers, Search, Sacred

In 17th century England there existed what was called a "lower-class heretical culture.”  The cornerstones of that culture were anti-clericalism -- not a movement against secretaries but priests --  and a strong emphasis on Biblical study, but specific doctrines that had "an uncanny persistence"; the rejection of Predestination and anti-Trinitarianism. The Seekers, or Legatine-Arians -- I’ll get to the Arians in a second -- as they were sometimes known, were a British Protestant dissenting group that emerged around the 1620s, probably inspired by the preaching of three brothers – Walter, Thomas, and Bartholomew Legate. Seekers considered all organized churches of their day corrupt and preferred to wait for God's revelation. Many of them subsequently joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Arianism is defined as those teachings attributed to Arius, which are in opposition to orthodox teachings on the nature of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. Arianism is the nontrinitarian, heterodoxical teaching, first attributed to Arius (c. AD 250–336), a Christian administrative official in Alexandria, Egypt. The Seekers were not an organized religious group in any way that would be recognized today, not a religious cult or denomination but informal and localized. Membership in a local Seekers assembly did not preclude membership in another sect. Indeed, Seekers shunned creeds and each assembly tended to embrace a broad spectrum of ideas. Their collective witness demanded the church to be an entirely voluntary, non-coercive community able to evangelize in a pluralistic society. That sounds very familiar to us.

I’m sharing this bit of history with you so we can draw a line from early anti-trinitarianism to Unitarianism, to being a seeker. These are our roots. The Seekers were aptly named and so we too are seekers within this faith.  We spend a lot of time explaining what we believe and what we don’t  believe. The encouragement to seek the truth that individually speaks to us is likely how we found Unitarian Universalism.

How do we as seekers search for truth and discover that divine spark that is within each of us?  You see, being a seeker on a search does not only describe our journey of faith. Perhaps more important is our individual journey to the greatness within ourselves. We are granted a glimpse of that destination in these lines from poet Walt Whitman in the poem Leaves of Grass.

Would you sound below the restless ocean of the entire world?
Would you know the dissatisfaction? the urge and spur of every life;
The something never still'd — never entirely gone? the invisible need of every seed?
It is the central urge in every atom....
To return to its divine source and origin, however distant...

As seekers we have all felt that central urge to merge with the highest part of ourselves.  We are called to return to our divine source and origin.

I know what some are thinking right now. Last week we did the hokey pokey and now he just used the words divine and evangelize. If he says God I’m outta here!

When I use the word divine in the context of our journey to the greatness within, I’m not directing us toward a deity.  Rather, I’m directing us to the supremely good that lies within each of us.  Surely, this is palatable for all of us.  It is this search for the supreme good that sparks the search and inspires and encourages the seeker.  The need for whatever it may be that we’re drawn to is the yet-to-be- realized presence within us of that very thing to which we are drawn.

In the Gospel of Thomas -- yes doubting Thomas, surely one of our antecedents -- it is written

the kingdom of Heaven is within you, and whosoever knoweth himself shall find it.

The hidden nature of almost all that we do is the direct, but unseen, effect of this one great unconscious desire to search out what we believe will complete us.  We do experience contentment as seekers, but isn’t it often temporary?

Readster tells us,

Our reward may be a momentary sense of fulfillment that, in most cases, passes from sight as soon as do the temporary conditions that provided it for us.

We then return to our search. The mind that wants to know the truth of something and that’s willing to do the work required of a seeker, will inevitably find that for which it is searching; our highest aspirations are reflections of unrealized possibilities. Within each of us already dwells everything that will ever be known. Some of might need to dig deeper than others but it is there. I understand the idea of everything that is ever to be known dwells within us is a challenging idea or concept, especially for the sturdy Unitarian -- and particularly for seekers. We mustn’t forget or ignore the possibility.

I recently read a blog that listed 101 questions for self- discovery.  Self-discovery being a loaded phrase and because normally I would groan and keep moving, I was surprised when I took the bait and started reading. By question eight I was feeling a very crunchy-granola, tree-hugging, rose-colored-glasses, kumbaya-singing, daisy-wearing feeling. Those are all fine, but my personality detests perkiness, Mary Poppins, and new age balderdash.  I wasn’t able to spiritually or intellectually stomach the other 93. Yet, I remain a seeker.

It may seem a cliché now, but there's a reason mystics live alone, that spiritual people have gone on retreat for centuries. Poet Robert Weston writes about the slow days of summer, when we "might turn to examine our own lives." He calls us "unfinished clay, half-molded, that still waits on us to think what we have been and as we are still yet to become." There's a sense of promise there, an expansiveness in the idea that we may become many things yet. We may shape ourselves, and be shaped, and we may find that the new shape suits us so well that we realize we must have always been that way, in some sense. We have the space to shape ourselves, to examine ourselves, to wonder who we have been and who we might become. To wonder who we are, what we are, that we haven't yet discovered.
If you are here this morning you are a seeker. What are you seeking? What is it you're searching for?  Ask yourself these questions. If you truly accept that you are a seeker then this sermon becomes more than airy fairy good stuff.  It honors and encourages the foundation of your Unitarian Universalist self: to continue the journey, revelation is not sealed, to pay homage to individual freedom of thought and worship, to intellectually, spiritually, and otherwise search for the supremely good in yourself and in others.

Because as pop icon and drag queen RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?  Can I get an amen up in here?” Seriously though, you will call on what we are holding up this morning. You inevitably will. The search of the seeker for the sacred is a hallmark of our faith tradition and can be a wild ride. Seek, search. Let go of the notion that nothing more can be revealed. That is in opposition of our claim to holding the search for truth and meaning sacred.

Spiritual teacher Guy Finley writes:

There is a storehouse of Sanity,
A vault of Love,
A treasure of Kindness,
All bursting at their seams.

Can't you feel the pressure
To just be Light?

Don't the walls of your heart
Ache to break loose and open
The floodgates of Freedom?

You have riches untold,
But have lost the map to the upper regions of yourself
Where you are always overflowing.

So, forget this world with its intermittent streams
Whose waters begin and end.
Search out the Ocean, and stand in Her surge
Until the waves wash away the shores of your soul.

Let's seek, search, and embrace the sacred through revelation.

May it be so.

Seekers, Search, Sacred, a sermon delivered by the Rev.
CJ McGregor at 1stUUPB, March 8, 2015.

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