Sunday, February 16, 2014

So the UUA has a new logo?

Again?  Yawn.  So what else is new?

Although a few thoughts do occur to me: 

(1) It's only a logo. For letterhead and brochures and such. It doesn't mean anything. 

(2) It's not an object of veneration or worship.

(3) It doesn't say anything specific about us.

(4) Comments 1-3 apply equally to the flaming chalice, by the way. 

(5) Given our preference for novelty over stability, it probably won't last any longer than the previous one anyway. (Which was what? 8 or 9 years?)

(6) So it's just not worth all the energy and drama being devoted to it. 

(7) But if it does gain acceptance, and thus encourage de-emphasis of the similarly banal and meaningless flaming chalice as a symbol of our identity and object of our adoration, that would be a very good thing.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Apologies to recent commenters

I have had problems in the past with spammers, so I am moderating comments on this blog.  Unfortunately, it appears that over the past several months there have been some comments posted to some of my threads that Blogger/Google did not notify me were awaiting moderation.  I just discovered them this morning and allowed them.  I apologize for the delay and any interruption it may have caused in the conversations.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Pascha!

This year, Easter and Passover happen to coincide in the modern Jewish and Western calendars.  They don't always, but it's a helpful reminder of the oft-underemphasized reality that on historical and thematic levels, they always have coincided.  Mrs. Fausto and I were invited to celebrate the Passover seder last Friday with the family of one of our daughter Faustoette's friends.  I was delighted to learn that the friend's aunt, who presided over the seder, was Reb Rachel Barenblat -- better known in the liberal religious blogosphere as The Velveteen Rabbi!

The parallels between Passover and Easter are far deeper than the mere fact that the Last Supper happened to be a seder meal.  They also share a common theme of deliverance and liberation:  deliverance from worldly bondage to the Pharaoh in Egypt, deliverance from spiritual bondage to sin and death at Calvary; liberation first for the nation of Jacob at the Red Sea, liberation next  for all the other nations at the empty tomb.  It is because of the Jewish precedent and the  shared theme of deliverance that the metaphors of Christian liturgy profess "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" and call Jesus the "Lamb of God".  Indeed, in all languages except English and German, the Christian festival of the Resurrection is known by some variant of the Greek word Pascha, which in turn is a translation of the Hebrew Pesach, or Passover.

Rationalist scoffers are fond of pointing out that there is no archeological or historical evidence, much less proof, of a mass exodus of escaped slaves from Egypt, nor of the resuscitation of a putrefying corpse lying in a Gethsemane vault.  From this they go on to argue that Passover and Easter are false myths and their celebration perpetuates dangerously misleading lies. 

However, to look at these celebrations that way ignores the power of sacred myth, which relies on narrative not for its literal factuality (although some myths may also have their foundation in fact), but to illustrate through metaphor conceptual truths that transcend time and place. It's not the case that these ancient legends must be either factually correct or wholly false. Throughout last Friday's seder, Rachel repeatedly drew the figures and tropes of the old Exodus tale forward into the present:  Who is your Pharaoh?  How are you a Pharaoh to others? What chains bind you?  How do you, intentionally or not, forge chains that bind others?  How will you break those chains and wander toward the Promised Land in the coming year, and with whom will you make your journey?  Next year in Jerusalem! -- indeed, but where is your Jerusalem, and who will be there with you?

The same figurative approach is available to those who struggle to make sense of the Resurrection legend.  Taking it too literally can focus too much attention on the person of Jesus himself and the improbability of all the post-mortem miracles -- which is where some Christians do find  their deliverance and the ground of their faith, but where many other seekers find only an insurmountable wall of incredibility -- and not enough on his significance as an archetypal figure representing all humanity, the "second Adam".  To me, it is in Jesus as a metaphorical archetype for each one of us, and not in insistence on the literal truth of his supernatural feats so long ago, that the Resurrection tale has its most vivid power today.

Significantly, the earliest surviving manuscripts of Mark, the earliest Gospel, say nothing of Jesus's miraculous post-mortem appearances.  Instead the Gospel ends abruptly with Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, going to anoint Jesus's body after the Sabbath (there had been no time to do it on Friday afternoon, before the Sabbath began), discovering the empty tomb, and puzzling over what it should mean.  In what text scholars call the "shorter ending of Mark," the final verse tells us only, "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."  It leaves readers, like the women in the story themselves, to draw their own conclusions, to fashion their own meaning from the confounding events.

Today once more many of us will be perplexed by the story of the Passion and the empty tomb, but look again at the images and themes:  a stone blocking a dark exit has been rolled away, and outside the sun is bright!  Despair is fleeting; joy returns!  We are delivered from our captivity -- at least, to the extent that we care to leave it -- and freed to walk out toward our Promised Land!  There will be wilderness before we arrive, but there will be manna too, and we can walk together with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm!  How else can we respond but to shout:  Hallelujah!  Alleluia!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Collection of Geniuses

(A couple of years ago, I posted a few of the parables of Safed the Sage, which was a popular series of columns written by the Rev. William Eleazar Barton about a century ago. For some reason I was thinking about Safed again recently, and so here's another.)

There came to our city a Woman who called often at the house wherein we abide, and she counted herself a friend of Keturah. And I asked of Keturah saying, Is this Susie person married or single?

And Keturah answered, Both.

And I said, It is just about what I should have expected.

And Keturah said, She hath many of the marks of Genius, and she knoweth many persons who are Geniuses. Yea, and she hath invited us to spend an evening with her and meet a Group of her Friends, all of whom are Geniuses in their way.

So we went, I and Keturah, and we spent an evening in the Flat of Susie. And she trotted out her Geniuses.

And there was a Poetess who wrote Vers Libre so wonderful that it could not be told from Prose. And there was a Musician who played his Violin after a new theory which maintained that Music should have neither Melody nor Harmony nor Key nor Time, but reach High Levels of Soul through Free Interpretation. And there was an Author, who had writ a Great Book, so profound that no Publisher could understand it or see the need of publishing it. And there was a woman who had a New Theory of Thought-Transmission, and interpreting Morals in terms of Music, and Music in terms of Color.

And Susie introduced them to us, one by one, and I and Keturah were about the only people there who were not Geniuses. So they began every man and woman of them to tell us their Theories.

And when we came away, we were weary, and we walked not, but ordered a Taxi.

And Keturah said, It was a Great Social Triumph for Susie.

And I answered, Yea.

And Keturah said, And I was Bored.

And I said, So was I, unless there be in the Dictionary some word which meaneth the same and then some.

And I said, Keturah, Thou are no Genius, neither am I. But thou are mighty Good and Wonderous Sensible, and I am a Philosopher, which is, being interpreted, a man with Good Ordinary Common Sense.

And Keturah said, An evening with a Choice Assortment of Geniuses is like unto a Feast in a Pickle Factory.

And I said unto her, God hath need of mighty few Geniuses; and as for a job lot like that we have met, it is of the Lord’s mercies that they are not consumed. Let us be thankful that in this world are so large a number of Commonplace Sensible Folk.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent reflection

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” Luke 2:13-14

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent reflection

“And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow:
Look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing!
O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!”
Edmund H. Sears

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent reflection

“When all the people of the world love,
Then the strong will not overpower the weak.
The many will not oppress the few.
The wealthy will not mock the poor.
The honored will not disdain the humble.
The cunning will not deceive the simple.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Shortest Day

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome, Yule!

--Susan Cooper

Advent reflection

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent reflection

“And I saw the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father.” Black Elk