Sunday, 2 March 2014

The good and the not-so-good creation

I’ve always had a great love for the Bible. It was what I was brought up with. It’s still the first book I turn to whenever I’m feeling uneasy or confused.

I was brought up to memorise large chunks of Bible verses, and I’m thankful for that because when I’m faced with moments of challenge, I can usually bring a verse to mind that helps me in my situation.

What I love about the Bible, is that you are often faced with a choice because some of the texts would seem to contradict one another.

When that happens, you can make a choice about which you believe….or you can reject it all….or you can just live with the contradiction.

Now, I was brought up to believe that the Bible contains absolutely no contradictions or errors, yet right at the very start of the Bible we are faced with 2 contradicting stories which I was reminded of this week.

This week, I’ve turned to the Bible a few times….

As you might know, there is building work going on in the Parsonage. Putting new windows into an old building has turned into a bigger job than perhaps first expected.

It means I’m living in a bit a chaotic environment at present:

There’s dust everywhere. Some of the rooms aren’t useable, and of course there are people working in the house each day.

So each day this week I’ve read a few chapters of the Bible just to help settle myself.

On Monday morning I opened my Bible at the beginning. As you probably know, the first book of the Bible is called GENESIS.

Now the Bible starts with the words “In the beginning” – which is what Genesis means…..How did it all come about?

Well the book of Genesis gives 2 very different ideas about how things started:

There’s a creation story in Genesis chapter 1 and a creation story in Genesis chapter 2. And they are both very different.

Genesis chapter 1 speaks of God creating the heavens and earth, and they are declared to be good….. and then humans are created in the Divine image, and they are declared to be good too.

There is no mention of sin or wickedness. Only goodness – which is the reflection of God – and humans reflect perfectly the Divine image.

(Interestingly, in Genesis chapter 1, both humans and animals are designed to be vegetarians. God says ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ .  So in this account of creation, everything lives in harmony – there is no hunting or killing)

And in Genesis chapter 1, men and women are created equal. Totally equal.

This is what it says: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
And God blessed them….”

There are also no limitations placed on human beings in this story either. God basically says “it’s all there for you. It’s all good, You’re blessed…. Now get on with it”

So that’s the first creation story. A wonderful, good creation which reflects the goodness of God, where everything lives in harmony, where men and women are equal, where we start out blessed, and where there are endless possibilities for humans.

(So this week when I’ve been surrounded by chaos and dust, I read that first creation story and kept saying “It’s ok. It’s all good. It’ll all work out in the end…”)

And although Unitarians almost certainly wouldn’t take the creation story literally, our starting point is usually that God is good and that humans are born good.

Which is all very well, but then how do we explain the presence of evil and wickedness?

Why can’t people manage to live in harmony?

Those are the questions which have perplexed people for hundreds of years.

Does strife originate with God and, if it doesn’t, then where does it come from?

Is there an opposite force? Are good and evil continually battling in some great cosmic war?

Well there is the second creation story in the Bible. You can find that in Genesis chapters 2 and 3.

In this story men and women are definitely not equal. Man is the boss, woman is the servant.

And there are limitations placed on what humans can do.

First and foremost they aren’t told to go and adventure; instead they are placed within a garden. There are borders. And there are rules: “you can’t eat that”

Remember in Genesis chapter 1 humans can eat any plant or fruit… but in chapter 2 there is a tree growing which, apparently, gives knowledge of good and evil to anyone who eats of it.

And what happens? A talking serpent comes along and persuades the humans to eat of the fruit of the tree….

And when they do, shame, suffering, famine and pain come into the world.

Humans are separated from God.

Goodness is no longer the only force in the world.

And from there, the Old Testament (which is the first half of the Bible) speaks of continual struggle between humans and God…..
Of humans disobeying, God becoming angry…. Then God and humans form what seems to be an uneasy truce, before something starts the whole thing off again and again.

And this cosmic dance between good and evil continues until, centuries later, Jesus of Nazareth is born.

Jesus grows up and begins his ministry of teaching and healing….

….which creation story did buy into?

Did he buy into the view that humans are wicked and limited…that pain is to be expected…that we can do nothing about sin….?

Or did Jesus tell people “to be perfect as God is perfect”….did he tell people that “the kingdom of God is within them”

Did he tell people to “love each other just as God loves you”?

According to the gospel writers, he brought about healing and wholeness wherever he went and, through his ministry, released people to do amazing things.

It seems to me that Jesus, through his life and teaching, was basically saying:
“we’ve had enough of the second creation story where humans are unequal, cursed, limited and separated from God”….

Instead he seemed to start from the standpoint of the first creation story, where humans are good, life is good; where we reflect the image of God, and where there is harmony.

And I think, to an extent, that is the choice we are faced with every day:
Do we see each other as good…. Do we view life in a positive way…. And do our actions reflect the fact that we are expressions of a God of love?

Do we live thinking that we are miserable sinners with no goodness in us?

I know which one sounds more attractive to me!

I’d much rather be a Genesis chapter 1 human than a Genesis chapter 2 one!
I’d much rather live with the belief that there is no end to human potential, rather than thinking I’m limited in what I can do.

But you might say to me “well that’s all very Ant, but you’re being a bit of an idealist here. The fact is we DO suffer and there IS wickedness in the world, and what do we do about that….?”

And that’s a good question.

What DO we meet evil and suffering with?

St Paul gave us the answer: “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”

There is that old saying isn’t there: two wrongs don’t make a right…

And wouldn’t the world be a better place if we treated one another as if we were all ‘Genesis chapter 1’ type people….as if goodness was the most powerful force of all, as if blessing were to be expected?

I don’t deny that life can be tough, because it can….
But I refuse to believe that evil has the final word.

I’ve shared some of the quotes from Anne Frank’s diary today. All that she went through and yet she was still able to write: “…in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Isn’t that the key? “in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”… the alternative is too sad to contemplate.

And if she can write things like that in her situation where her liberty was gone, her freedom was gone, and where her life was under threat, then we who live with such blessing should surely be able to shout it from the rooftops.

Anne Frank also wrote: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Right now we can improve the world with our prayers, our actions, our attitude…. We can contribute to the goodness of the world.

And when we meet challenges, there is the advice of St Paul “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”

…and Anne Frank gives us some more practical advice: “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy”

What more can I say?

Unitarian theology tells us that God is One and God is Good and God is Love… and that we reflect that Oneness and Goodness.

And as we learn to love each other, and love ourselves and love God, then all the other things begin to fall into place.

Thank God…there’s always a choice. Every situation, there’s a choice how we will react and respond.

Let’s respond as those who affirm Genesis chapter 1:  it’s good, and we reflect that goodness. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Meeting Point

I have been watching the news this last week or two and saw the emotional reunions between families in North and South Korea.

Families are often divided because some members of the family live in North Korea and whereas others live in South Korea.

The problems is that two nations are not on good terms, and travel between the two countries is strictly limited and controlled. There are families who have not seen each other for decades.

In effect, they occupy two different worlds and contact between the two sides is also very limited.

(Of course, something similar happened in Europe when the Berlin wall went up – families on the East and West side were separated)

In Korea, the only realistic hope divided families have in seeing their loved ones again is if they are chosen to take part in one of the reunion programmes which happen every so often.

Numbers are strictly limited, there are people in their 80s and 90s who know that if they aren’t chosen to take part soon then they will probably never see their loved ones again.

This last week one of the reunion programmes took place.

Families from either side are taken to a hotel. They are allowed to take gifts and photographs. They only get to spend about 9 hours with their loved ones, but – for those few hours – they are united. Maybe they can forget for just a short time that they occupy two very different worlds.

Of course, they know that they will all have to go back to their respective lives. It wouldn’t be possible to stay longer. The meeting point doesn’t last forever, but it makes all the difference.

They go back to their respective lives with cherished memories.

I was watching some of the reunions on the television, and I found it really emotional to watch.

There is something so special about people from places, gathering together, feeling united, sharing together.

In a way, that’s what we do here on a Sunday.

We all have different lives. We all have different challenges to face; different circumstances.

We can’t live each other’s lives, even if we wanted to.

But on a Sunday, when we gather for worship, this is the meeting point: different people united as one; brought together in worship, and fellowship, and community.

It’s a sacred gathering, made holy by our participation and our prayers.

And to this gathering we offer our gifts to each other: our willingness to share together in worship, our love, our concern, our laughter, our tears.

And as we meet together – all different people from different places, with different ideas, beliefs and personalities - a miracle takes place: we become aware that we are One Community.

Something unites us; something Divine, holy, making us ONE.

Here is the meeting point, between ourselves and each other, and between the God within me and the God within you….. and all who will worship in the spirit of tolerance and respect are welcome here.

And all are equal here.

In the Jewish tradition, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, on behalf of the people, and approach the Mercy Seat (the place where the presence of God dwelt).

In many Christian Churches, it is the Priest who is the only one who is ordained to celebrate Holy Communion, on behalf of the people, which brings the presence of God among the people in the form of bread and wine.

There are other religious groups that say only men can preach or lead religious rituals.

But Unitarians take a different approach: yes, we train and authorise Ministers to lead our churches and chapels – and it is right that we do so – but we affirm that no person can stand between you and God. Each person finds God in their own way.

We might still make use of some religious rituals and traditions, which help us to focus our attention on the things of the spirit, but none of those things  can bring God any closer than God already is: for God dwells within each of us already.

We don’t come to chapel to find God “out there” somewhere, but to discover that God is already dwelling within us all.

And here in worship we makes space for that…. And not only do we find God within ourselves, but we can see God in each other if we worship as One Community.

It’s in our very name isn’t it: Unitarians. Uni: the Oneness of God, the Oneness of humanity.

Our conviction is that the best hope for the world is for us to recognise that Oneness and to live it.

Of course, humans look different. Some are different colours. Some speak different languages. Different cultures and creeds…. But those are the outside differences. Deep within us, we’re all the same.

And anything that would divide humanity is surely to be rejected. What we need now more than ever is unity.

Unitarian theology asserts that:
For those seeking more spirituality in their lives, the Holy of Holies is accessible to all who would enter.
For those seeking grace and forgiveness, the Mercy Seat is there for all to approach.
For those seeking a closer connection with God, the point of Communion is there for all.
All these things are available to us wherever we are….But here, in chapel, in worship, is the meeting point for us where we can create community together and worship God together.

At this meeting point, differences melt away, if only for an hour.

I started by talking about the Korean reunions. Families have waited for decades hoping that they will be chosen to go to the meeting point. I can only imagine what they go through….

We’re so blessed, because when it comes to our meeting point, this chapel, you don’t have to wait to be chosen - - you don’t have to wait to until you feel good enough or special enough - - - you don’t have to hope that if you do enough good works it will qualify you to be here. No, the meeting point is here for us all…. And it will be here in the future for all who might wish to join us.

Some religious groups believe that God has favourites. Calvinistic theology, for instance, says that God chose some people to be saved and some to be damned.

But in contrast, Unitarian theology says that Divine Love is equal - - and whatever fate awaits one awaits us all: God’s favour is limitless and free.

Why then should we come to worship? If we’re all loved equally whether we come to chapel or not, then why should we come?

Well firstly, to give thanks for such a free and limitless gift. If God’s love is so powerful and amazing that it will even reach those who choose not to worship, then such an amazing gift surely deserves all the gratitude and thanks we can give.

But another reason to be here is to create that Beloved Community: Heaven on earth.

Those Korean people have a limited amount of time together at their meeting point. Even if they wanted to stay, they couldn’t. They have to go back to their every day lives. It’s the same for us. We can’t be here in this chapel all the time. We have lives to live, things to do. 

Jesus of Nazareth understood that he wouldn’t be with his friends and disciples forever. In fact, he told them that he knew he would have to go, but there would be a spirit, a comforter, which would dwell with them, and would dwell with us all.

We find that spirit within us. Yet in worship we can discern that spirit within in each other.

Still, we can’t live each other’s lives. But our meeting together gives us strength for the journey until we meet together again.

Those Koreans might never meet again, whereas we are only ever apart for a matter of days.  We are so blessed and fortunate.

And even when we are apart, we are still united by that same spirit.

I don’t know what you do for religious devotion when you’re not here in this chapel? Every day of my life I say the Lord’s Prayer and I recite the 23rd Psalm.
I say ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’  because I want to play my part in making the Realm of God known here on earth. I say ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’ because I need to find the strength to forgive, in order that I might be forgiven when I do wrong… And when I pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ I’m acknowledging that I have to rely on others for the things I need; I don’t exist in a vacuum.
And then I recite the 23rd Psalm…and I love those words ‘surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’.  Goodness and mercy surrounding me wherever I am, not just when I’m here in chapel. In fact, everywhere I go is holy ground. And the ‘house of the Lord’ is not somewhere far off to be accessed when I die, but right here, right now. We all dwell within it.

Of course, at times like we feel like we’re walking ‘in the valley of the shadow of death’. Problems and challenges come along – but even then I can recognise how blessed I am:

I have friends, loved ones, a place to live, employment – I don’t have a lot to complain about really (though it doesn’t always stop me!)

And chief amongst the blessings in my life, is this meeting point. Sharing in fellowship and worship with others really is the icing on the cake…. And not only could I not imagine my life without it, I really don’t know how I would’ve lived without it.

The point is, the times of personal devotion I spend are enhanced tenfold when I worship in community.  

As I look back at my journey through life so far, I realise that this meeting point, these times of worship, have been salvation to me.

What does salvation mean? Well it can mean ‘saved’. But the word really comes from ‘salus’ meaning health.

Being here makes my spirit health-ful.

For here, together, is a meeting point between heaven and earth and between ourselves and each other.  

Now it won’t feel like heaven here all the time....

There are occasional disagreements – and that’s healthy as long as we get over them with good grace. Part of what we do here is learn how to get along.
So many times I’ve heard it said “well you don’t have to go to church to be religious” – and that’s quite true, you don’t…. but at the same time, why wouldn’t you want to join with like-minded and like-hearted people?

There is something about making the effort to be here that is rewarding.

Why wouldn’t anyone who has a faith want to join in prayer and praise with others?

We’re not built to live solitary lives. We thrive best in community.

And although we here might not all believe exactly the same, we’ve learned the truth that we need not think alike to love alike….. and if we can achieve that Oneness here together, then it gives us hope for the world.

To this meeting point on a Sunday we bring our lives and gifts. We bring all that we have been and hope to be…. We bring our hopes, dreams, and fears.

We strive to make this a safe place where it is OK to be ourselves.

The rule is that we respect each other and remember that what we are doing here is not about any single individual, but about we create together.

And together we offer that gift of Oneness as part of our worship.

As Unitarians believe God is one, so we pray that we will reflect that Oneness here.
As we believe that God is Love, so we pray that we will reflect that Love here.

Our time together here each week is only for a limited time. Sermons don’t last forever (even though they sometimes feel like it!)….

We leave this place strengthened, renewed, and ready to go out and really live our lives.

We leave knowing that we’ve met with God and seen God in each other.

And we leave knowing that in a few days’ time, these doors will be open again and the welcome will just as wide.

You know, it’s not the same if any of us are missing. We all have something to bring.

May we give of our best that this meeting point might be a true place of worship and connection. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Thoughtful gifts

One of the gifts I received at Christmas was a wooden arm chair. I think the correct name for it is a Carvers Chair.
I remember seeing the chair 2 or 3 years ago in the corner of a friend’s cafĂ©. It was in a rather poor state: scratched, with a torn seat cover – but there was something about the chair that ‘spoke to me’ and I asked my friend at the time if it was for sale. The reply was ‘no’, and so I forgot all about it.
Fast forward to Christmas Day 2013, the same friend (who was coming to me for Christmas dinner) arrived with the said chair, only now it had been polished, restored, and a new seat cover attached.
It was such a thoughtful gift….
It has taken up pride of place in the parsonage kitchen (which incidentally is where I sit to write my sermons) and I find it very comfortable to sit on.
The chair, I’m told, is about 100 years old and used to belong to a farmer called Ted.  I don’t know anything about Ted, but I’m delighted to have his chair.
I’m sure that, being 100 years old, the chair could tell a few tales – but so far it has sat quietly in my kitchen.
The friends who gave me the chair grinned as they gave it to me. “It’s not really worth anything” they told me. I disagree. The thoughtfulness of my friends makes that chair worth its weight in gold to me.
I’m reminded of an old poem written by Eliza Cook, which contains the lines:
I LOVE it, I love it ; and who shall dare
To chide me for loving that old Arm-chair ?
I've treasured it long as a sainted prize ;
I've bedewed it with tears, and embalmed it with sighs.
' Tis bound by a thousand bands to my heart ;
Not a tie will break, not a link will start.

I only hope that I can be as thoughtful in my giving to others.
Those lines “' Tis bound by a thousand bands to my heart ; Not a tie will break, not a link will start” also capture the feelings I have for our chapel, and the feelings I know that many others share.
There is something about this chapel – it has been the home for so many prayers and sermons, hymns, music….

It has a feeling about it.

And I suppose that if we are being rational then we know that buildings can’t absorb such things…. But then I don’t think we can totally understand religion by being rational.

Religion is that which touches the heart and spirit in ways that other things cannot….. it takes us to a place that we cannot access any other way:

The place of dreams, inspiration and hope.

And this chapel helps us on our journey…..

Maybe the walls have absorbed something of what has gone on here over the last few hundred years.

Each week I write sermons in the parsonage – the same building where people have written sermons for well over 200 years…..and sometimes I invoke the spirit of my predecessors in the hope of getting a bit of inspiration! (It doesn’t always work!)….. but I never forget to say thank you to God for the work that they did.

If they hadn’t done their job then there wouldn’t be a chapel today for me to lead worship in.

The Bible talks of us being surrounded by a ‘cloud of witnesses’ – those who went before us….. we might not be able to see them or talk to them…. But because of their work and sacrifice, we have our chapel and our faith….

Let us always be grateful…. And let us be determined to live in such a way that, years in the future, our story might inspire those who come after us.

Giving faith a human face

At the beginning of the Service today I read a few Bible verses, and I want to return to those for the Sermon.

I read first from the Book of Proverbs: Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 

I don’t know about you, but loyalty is what I look for in friends. It’s all very well to have friends who can make you laugh, and that you enjoy spending time with, but that doesn’t count for anything if those friends are not there when you really need them.

And I have been so blessed because I’ve got a small number of totally loyal friends; the people who I can be myself with.

When I lived in Manchester and I was student Minister of our church in Chorlton we decided that we would redecorate the entrance hall, and we applied for a grant from a local charity to help pay for materials. We got given the grant because our church was used by a number of local community groups.

But we were given the grant on the understanding that the work would be completed by a certain date.

So we spent the money, bought lots of materials, and new furniture for the entrance hall, and we booked contractors to do the work….

who let us down on a Wednesday just as they were due to start…..

And I was beginning to panic because I knew that on the following Monday we were going to have a visit from the body who had given us the grant, and they were expecting to see the work done.

I knew that they would want to take pictures of the work as well…..and none of it was done.

There was painting to do, gloss work, a bit of plastering, furniture to assemble, and all sorts of things which needed doing….

So I started looking for other contractors, and none of them seemed willing to work over a weekend at such short notice….

It got to Thursday evening and I started making phonecalls to my friends – none of whom ever came to church….

“I need your help” I said.

Friday evening came and I went down to the church hoping that my friends wouldn’t let me down.

And one by one they arrived….

Having been at work all week they came down to the church and started stripping paint, sanding, painting, building furniture, cleaning……

They worked late into Friday night, and returned at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning….. and we worked all weekend and by late Sunday night the work was done.

And the church members – most of whom were too elderly to do any of the heavy work – kept the tea and coffee coming, and made the sandwiches, and did bits of cleaning….and we all worked together.

I still say we made a better job of it than those contractors would’ve done!
My friends didn’t do it for the church – to them the church was just a building…

But they did it for me because they were my loyal friends – and I’ve never forgotten it.

It meant that some of my friends got to meet church members for the first time, and – hopefully – realised that we’re not so different after all.

By being there when the work was being done and keeping the workers fed 
and watered, the members were able to give the church a human face.

Some time later, we had a service of dedication for the new entrance hall, and my friends – who wouldn’t usually come to a church service – were there.  

It all taught me a few lessons which I’ve not forgotten: some lessons about friendship, but it also taught me about what church should be as well:

A church or chapel has to have a human face.

It’s not about the building, but what goes on inside it, and the people who meet within it, and the relationships we have.

It was just as important that the church members were there making the tea as my friends there doing the painting….

We have to give our faith a human face.

Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 

Sometimes that loyalty and faithfulness is shown in the way we look after our building… but far more important is surely the loyalty which gives our chapel a human face such as:

When we share our faith with others, when we help those in need, when we support the progression of our chapel, and commit ourselves to its future.

Loyalty and faithfulness showed with a human face.

I also read to you from the Book of Isaiah:

Thus says the Lord:
   Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
   and my deliverance be revealed. 

Maintain justice and do what is right. It all sounds very nice, but that is not easy.  Some of the issues that Unitarians have been involved in have not made us popular over the years.

First church in England to have women Ministers….

We were one of the first churches ever to consider marrying divorcees…..

One of the first churches to open our professional ministry to lesbian and gay people.

We have been at the forefront at the fight for equality…

Unitarians have been regular faces at protest marches and pride marches.

And now Unitarians are one of the few churches which has been brave 
enough to debate the subject of the Right to Die issue.

Whenever Unitarians gather for a formal dinner, they drink a toast:
“To civil and religious liberty the world over”.

And until the world does enjoy civil and religious liberty the world over, there is still work to do.

Just occasionally, within our movement, someone has said: “we can’t be seen to be involved with that, it’s too controversial”…. But if we won’t, which church will?

Unitarians aren’t always seen as very respectable, but we do give the fight for justice both a religious face and a human face.

It’s an important part of our history, our present, and – I pray – our future.

I also read to you today from the Book of James:            
“Humble yourselves before God, and God will lift you up.”

I think that’s such a true statement: “Humble yourselves before God, and God will lift you up.”

When I think of the things I’ve done in life….
I ended up academically qualified, even though I left school with nothing and was told I was stupid….

People like to hear me play music, even though I’ve never had any lessons….

….and although perhaps I don’t look or sound like folk imagine a Minister to be, I’ve ended up doing what I’m doing.

And also, every time I’ve experienced pain or loss in life, somehow that situation has been turned around so that I can used it help others.

I know it doesn’t make rational sense, but I have that if you open yourself to God you can end up doing amazing things:

Things you never thought you’d be able to do…. Things that people said you couldn’t do….

But it starts with being open to God. “Humble yourself before God and God will lift you up. Try praying “what can I do today to make a difference” and see where it takes you. You might discover gifts and talents you never had that can be used to bless others.

I always have the sense that the work I do doesn’t just depend on my strength.
The Divine lifts me up – I’m sure of it.

And because God has no favourites, we all have access to the same grace.
And when our faith gives us the strength to do something that we never thought we would, then we give our faith a human face… We give GOD a human face when we bless others.

We can share that amazing things are possible, not just for us, but for everyone who will trust in the Source of All Life.

Here, in this chapel, we find hope and healing and inspiration…. And it is something which needs to be shared.

As I continue to tred my path through life, I learn that there is nothing the world can take away which the Divine cannot compensate me for.

I’ve not always found the journey easy, but I’ve known so many blessings along the way that I cannot but rejoice.

And I’ve found when we dedicate ourselves to loyalty, to doing what is right, and to being humble enough to offer all that we are to God, then then the blessing just seem to flow.

I quoted that hymn earlier:

Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
          earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal…..

And we can even give heaven a human face by supporting each other along the way.

The prophet Micah asks whether God wants fancy offerings and concludes ‘no’….

God has told you, O mortal, what is good;
   …what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God? 

It seems to be a blueprint running the Bible, and through the all the sacred scriptures of the different religions:

Do what is right….stand up for the oppressed….treat people well….love God….love your neighbour….love yourself…..and you will be blessed.

We make religion far more complicated than it ever needs to be.

May God gives us strength to follow the path of right….worshipping God together….and creating community along the way….

In the process, may we know that we are so blessed…..and, together, we give our faith a human face. Not always a respectable face, but a human one indeed!