An Eclectic Approach to Scripture

Given the Unitarian Universalist commitment to “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning” we have a suitably broad sense of what constitutes “scripture”.  In fact, you probably won’t hear the word itself too often, except in generic terms that include such texts as the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching and the Analects of Confucius.  We are open to finding truth and meaning, after all, not just in the scriptures of the world’s religious traditions, but also in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and the poems of Mary Oliver, in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Jorge Luis Borges’ short fiction.  A Unitarian Universalist library, for that matter, is as likely to include Starhawk as Meister Eckhart, The Humanist Manifesto as The Feminist Ethic of Risk.  The word “eclectic” would be an understatement!

This diversity of wisdom and inspiration, of course, is reflected in the sermons you’ll hear on Sunday mornings in Unitarian Universalist congregations.  Freedom of the pulpit is one of our basic values, allowing — indeed, encouraging — preaching that expresses personal and religious views and commitments without fear or favor.  That freedom extends, of course, to the choice of topic and readings, message and music, all of which are intended to work together to produce a Sunday service that is relevant, informative and uplifting.  But given such a wealth of possibilities, where does the preacher start in selecting each sermon’s topic?

Traditions that draw upon a single source of scripture often follow a “lectionary” or similar multi-year schedule of readings; sermons or homilies are then based on those readings, allowing the tradition’s stories to be told and retold and reinforcing the sense of community through shared identity.  For similar purposes, Unitarian Universalist congregations are increasingly turning to monthly themes to guide the planning and writing of sermons.  There is no specific list of readings through which to work — after all, how many years would be enough to get through everything at the UUA Bookstore, let alone the world’s literature? — but three or four services on a related topic allow us to engage in that free and responsible search for truth and meaning with a month-long conversation about some aspect of what it means to be human in a religious community.

Such monthly themes are often connected in an arc that takes some particular theological path during each church year.  As we travel together the paths of our lives, such themes can help us to co-create a dynamic community that celebrates life and searches for truths, drawing upon every text, poem and song that offers us meaning and insight.

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3 Comments »

  1. […] so we needed to figure out, first of all, what our scripture was.  I came to the conclusion that scripture is some text — poetry or prose, written or oral — that speaks to our own truths in pro…  Scripture is like a mirror, in that we see the sacred in it only to the extent that the sacred is […]

  2. […] amongst Unitarian Universalists in particular.  In our openness to the sacred in all its forms, we may consider any book to be holy, if holiness can be found amongst its words.  If it spins a gripping tale at the same time that it […]

  3. […] Universalism has neither a holy book nor a great leader, though.  Rather, every book can be holy, if holiness can be found amongst its words.  And every person can be someone who inspires, supports, guides, comforts and counsels others, […]

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