Some people think religion is our human response to the
dual reality of being alive and having to die. We are not so much an animal with tools or an animal with advanced
language as we are religious animals. Other people believe that Religion is the state of being grasped by an
ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer
to the question of the meaning of our life.
We light this beacon of hope, sign of our quest for truth, meaning, and community.
In celebration of the life we share together.
Spirit, draw near.
Prayer: ( followed by a moment of silent meditation)
(I offer these thoughts as we begin the 12th year of the reorganized Unitarian Universalists of Puerto Rico, a congregation that has been here in San Juan since the mid 1950's)
Wrestle with the year, do not be angry with it.
Every year is given to us to advance, not only in our physical, but also in our spiritual life.
Each year leads us towards eternity and should ripen us.
Ripening means to experience many things:
Sunshine, rain and storms of life and growing as a spiritual person.
Know and contemplate this.
Step out of the hustle of the world, seek the quiet of the mountain.
Call on all your thoughts, and look back through the year.
Don't forget the right beginning: Gratefulness.
In all difficulties, good things have been passed on to you, where and when you least expected it.
Think carefully back through the year, about what you should be grateful
for. Then such lights will light up along the course of the year
as were not present in your mind.
Gaze inward, as when looking for a long time at the night sky, you will notice stars upon stars, where once you had seen only darkness.
Joys and Concerns:
(We throw a small stone into this bowl filled with water, to symbolize our thoughts, which move in circular rings eternally, like concentric waves.)
We invite you to share your joys and concerns since our last meeting
Story for All Ages:  (the children go to Religious Education at the end of the story and the adults sing "Spirit of Life" )
Many people consider Unitarian Universalism the World's First Open Source Religion. Our spirituality comes from Direct experience with that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.
Our tradition comes from the words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love. This is no single path, no one right way, we find
Wisdom in all the world's religions -Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
Jewish, Christian and Catholic social teaching, with its emphasis on good works, teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Humanist teachings also guide us, they counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature. Here we find meaning and purpose in life.
Readings From the Bowl: Listed below.
Discussion:What Does Religion Mean to Me? (copyright: First Unitarian Church San José)
Do you consider yourself to be a religious person?
How does religion manifest itself in your daily life?
Does religion provide you with answers to any of life's Big Questions? Does it provide any answers to questions and problems that arise in everyday life?
Do you believe, as Rev. Gelbein does, that religion is "the Mother of all Big Questions?" Why or why not? She says "Let's get down to the basics. Religion starts with a question about meaning. What is true? What matters? Why is there something instead of nothing? Who am I? What should I do with my life? Why do I suffer? Why must I die?
Do you make a distinction between religion, spirituality and faith? What do each of these words mean to you? How are they related?
The Rev. Ricky Hoyt said in a sermon, "If Unitarian Universalism is liberal religion then apparently we resemble religion in that we get together in congregations and sing hymns and listen to a sermon and have snacks together afterward. But if religion means doctrines, and God, and scripture, and all those other things that we don't do, or at least that we don't always do. ..So we might be tempted to conclude that liberal religion is only religion in its superficialities, not its substance, but that is a trap we should avoid. In fact, the phrase liberal religion is not meant to separate our kind of thinking as not being religious, but rather to enlarge the concept of religion to include many ways of thinking."
Do you agree with Rev. Hoyt?
Is Unitarian Universalism really a religion? How would you characterize it?
In dealing with beliefs and theology, it's important to note that UUism is a way of being religious rather than a religious doctrine. For us, religion is an ongoing search for meaning, purpose, value and spiritual depth in one's life. We believe that individuals are entitled to make their own search, and that not all persons (not even all UUs) are going to share the same beliefs.
Not only do we have a hopeful and optimistic attitude about life, we believe strongly that humans have great potential to recognize right, correct wrongs, find solutions and make this a better world. Rather than feel bound by human weaknesses and frailties, we emphasize human strengths. We believe people have the strength, power and intelligence to make good things happen. You might call it a "can do" religion.
Ours is a non-creedal, non-doctrinal religion which affirms the individual's freedom of belief. For this reason it is not possible to give a blanket answer to whether or not UUs believe in God, Jesus, the Bible or life after death. Although we do not all believe the same thing about these and other matters, we do believe that each person has the integrity and the ability to come to terms with their religious beliefs in a way that is right for that person.
Readings From the Bowl
There is a part in us that is automatically suspicious of any dogma or ritual that threatens to become more sacred than the truth it seeks to evoke. ... When religion becomes reduced to an outward observation of rules and ceremonies and an intolerance toward the beliefs of others, we are mistaking the oyster for the pearl- Ariana Huffington, The Fourth Instinct
Unitarian Universalism is a religion that believes in you and does not ask you to believe in things you cannot believe in. - The Rev. Tony Johnson
Religion is too big a job for one person. - The Rev. Robert Hardies
Faith is spiritualized imagination. - Henry Ward Beecher
We cannot hand our faith to one another ... Even in the Middle Ages, when faith was theoretically uniform, it was always practically individual.
- John Jay Chapman
Religion ... is a man's total reaction upon life. -William James
Religion ... is the opium of the people. - Karl Marx
Talking about the spiritual life is not the same as living a spiritual life. ... Religion requires both path and practice. Unitarian Universalists are united in quest and in having taken on the burden and responsibility of our own spiritual growth. - The Rev. Patricia Tummino
Man makes holy what he believes, as he makes beautiful what he loves.
Without risk, faith is an impossibility. - Søren Kierkegaard
Religion in its humility restores man to his only dignity, the courage to live by grace. George Santayana
I count religion but a childish toy, and hold that there is no sin but ignorance. - Christopher Marlowe
There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.
- George Bernard Shaw
Religion should offer a compelling vision of a way of life that is worth living - Donner Lohnes
* Closing circle of hands: Theodore Parker
(Holding hands or link arms as you read the closing words together)
Be ours a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere;its temple, all space, its shrine, the good heart; its creed, all truth; its ritual, works of love; its profession of faith, divine living. By our actions and voices may our prayers be sent. Shalom, Salaam, Amen, Blessed Be.
And now we extinguish our chalice but not:
The warmth of community,
The spirit of gratitude,
The fire of commitment and shared compassion of this community.
The light of hope, hope for change that brings new blessings into our lives and the lives of those around us continues to burn brightly, we carry hope in our hearts until we are together again.