Sunday, March 26, 2017

"It's Hard To Explain..."

Today's sermon at GRU was on "process theology". I'd never heard the term before. The philosophy presents a conception of God that is radically different from those most people have.

That's another thing I love about this place: different perspectives every week, with emphasis as needed on respecting differing belief systems and the unifying traits they share.

Today, though, was challenging.

Every week they do a 'story for all ages'. The story this time was called "Wabi-sabi", and it was, well, beautifully simple. A cat named Wabi-sabi questions what her name means. Another cat tells her it means 'beautiful'; a dog snarls at her that he can't possibly explain the meaning to someone so simple. "Am I beautiful or am I simple?" she wonders, and learns those two things can be, and should be, celebrated as one and the same. Throughout the story we hear the phrase 'it's hard to explain'. And it is...if you're wedded to the idea that beauty is in the destination, not the journey.

This resonated strongly with me, because finding perfection in imperfection and cherishing the journey... both are things I strive to do each and every day. Musically, what came to mind (and what has stayed in my head since) was this excerpt from an iconic piece of American classical music: 'Simple Gifts'.

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free 
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, 
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight. 
When true simplicity is gained, 
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed, 
To turn, turn will be our delight, 
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right."

It should be noted that 'come 'round right' means to come back where you began. That might sound wrong--who wants to be back where they started? But if you do so armed with new understandings, how is that not progress?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be." --Douglas Adams

That's an epitaph. I have made of it a mantra: it's something I repeat to myself whenever I feel out of place, a reminding that right here, right now, is where I am and where I belong.

The children's story about beautiful simplicity, about perfection in imperfection, was a well-chosen introduction to the idea of process theology. And here is where I must stress that this was NOT presented as Truth with a capital T: they don't do that there. This was food for thought, to make of what we would.

WHAT IF God was NOT all-powerful?
WHAT IF God was NOT all-knowing?
WHAT IF God was NOT a Being at all, but a Process?
WHAT IF we, all of us, were a part of that Process?

and finally

WHAT IF that Process could be called by another name...Love?

(full disclosure: not all of this came directly out of the sermon today. Some of it comes from here)...and oh, how it makes me wish *I* could have presented this material. Because this doesn't just speak to me, this IS me.

"to become...the next grandest version of the greatest vision ever you had about Who You Are" -- Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God

The idea here that God is Love. Love is a process. Properly applied, it grows, it expands (don't worry, I'm not going there, not today); it calls to each of us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be in the present moment. We become co-creators with God, in reforming the universe with our every choice. (Quantum mechanics is frolicking in this playground...)

You can take Process Theology as a starting point and apply any number of lenses to it. The site I linked views it through a Christian lens--and yes, that can be done, despite the seemingly unChristian starting point. The idea of 'process' is very important to Buddhist thought. It's also quite amenable to atheism: this is not your typical theistic construction of God. It makes no moral judgments on your actions; it simply evolves, and you with it. We all evolve, you know. Some of us more slowly than others, but we all evolve. Because the journey is an evolution, the evolution is a process, the process is Love, and Love is God.

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