2014-10-23 Service

23 10 2014

First Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Second Life (FUUCSL)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

6:30PM SL Time (Pacific Standard Time)

Leading the service: Peter Newtone

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** Beginning music 1.8: “Adiemus” **

Welcome to the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Second Life (FUUCSL). An Order Of Service is available by saying “OOS” in local chat. Please turn on your music controls, as I will be playing some music during this service.

For new visitors, a special welcome. If you are not familiar with Unitarian Universalism (UU), a single meeting is not enough to experience the diversity of ideas and styles of interaction offered here in SL or in RL, so please come again.

You might also wish to look at www.uua.org. or consider joining the group Unitarian Universalists of SL to receive regular announcements. You can also check out the Web site www.fuucsl.org.

** Announcements **

We are always looking for people to get more involved. If you would like to try your hand at leading a service, please contact a member of the Leadership Group, whose names are available in the notecard dispenser in the welcome area.

Please join us after the service for coffee and conversation – a venerable UU tradition!

Are there any other announcements?

** Opening Words **

The fourth UU principle – a free and responsible search for truth and meaning – is also an essential principle of the Bahá’í Faith. Many UUs and Bahá’ís say that this was the principle that attracted them most.

This was certainly my case, having been born and partially raised in a Brüderhof community, where the search for truth was closely controlled, books heavily censored, and stimulating conversations were few and short, for fear of “intellectualizing” one’s faith.

When I was 13, my Bahá’í aunt explained that the search for truth was our right and responsibility, that there was no Bahá’í clergy or priesthood, and that nobody could interpret the Bahá’í Teachings authoritatively for others. I knew right away that I wanted to find out more.

Several UU talks have deepened my understanding of this principle, especially “A Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning” by Reverend Hilary Landau Krivchenia (http://www.ccuu.org/sermons/Sermon%202012-03-18%20Free%20and%20Responsible%20Search.pdf).

Tonight I will be inviting you to explore some Bahá’í contributions to this principle, penned by Bahá’u’lláh during His 40 years of exile and prison, and spoken by His son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (circa 1912), sometimes to UU congregations.

** Lighting the Chalice (Music 2.10: “Come, Come Whoever You Are” **

We gather this hour as people of faith | With joys and sorrows, gifts and needs.

We light this beacon of hope, | Sign of our quest | For truth and meaning, | In celebration of the life we share together (Christine Robinson)

** Musical Interlude (Music 3.1: “Come into this Place 2”) **

Come into this place of peace | And let its silence heal your spirit;

Come into this place of memory | And let its history warm our soul;

Come into this place of prophecy and power | And let its vision change your heart. (William F. Schulz)

** Joys and Concerns (Music: “All Things Must Pass”) **

Now let us prepare our hearts to receive the joys and concerns, hopes and sorrows, fears and dreams of one another.

If there is something that has recently happened to you, happy or sad, and you would like to share it with us, now is the time.

We invite you to share your joys and concerns in chat, when you are ready.

** Prayer for joys and concerns **

Spirit of life and spirit of grace, | Rest with us this day, in this place.

We lift up every joy, every gladness, | We hold up every hurt, every sadness

Spoken in this good company | As well as every secret feeling

Held quiet in the hollows of our hearts. (Tess Baumberger)

** Offering **

A freewill offering is a sacrament of a free Church. This fellowship is supported by the voluntary generosity of all who join with us.

There is an offering plate in the pool in front of us. Please be generous in support of this UU fellowship.

** Musical Interlude 2.2: Baba Yetu **

** BAHÁ’Í CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE FOURTH UU PRINCIPLE **

  1. Free Search is God-Given

A just God who created us with mind and reason would not then forbid us to use them. The key is to use all of our innate capabilities in a way that is not hurtful but helpful to both ourselves and others. And guidance in this path can come from both science and religion.

Baha’u’llah makes it a religious duty that is “incumbent upon all” to seek knowledge with our “own eyes and not through the eyes of others.”[2] This echoes Isaiah’s warning, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”[3] It reflects Jesus’ counsel to those who, “though seeing, do not see; though hearing, do not hear or understand” to “see with their own eyes, hear with their own ears, and understand with their own hearts”[4] and to “know the truth, for the truth will set you free.”[5]

It also coincides with Muhammad’s advice to seek knowledge even as far as China,[6] to investigate the claims even of a bad person, lest ye harm others through ignorance;[7] and that on the Final Day, God will not accept our saying, “Verily we found that our forefathers of that persuasion, so we followed in their footsteps.”[8] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “No man should follow blindly his ancestors and forefathers. Nay, each must see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears and investigate independently in order that he may find the truth. Following the religion of our forefathers and ancestors is blind imitation. We should investigate reality.”[9]

  1. Blind Imitation is Divisive

The antithesis of a free and responsible search for truth is blind imitation, superstition, dogma, and prejudice. One of the main causes of conflict today is that many uncritically follow various traditions, trends, and opinions, becoming attached to them and intolerant of others who do not share them.

Abdu’l-Bahá says we must forsake adherence to mere hereditary forms:

As the nations of the world are following imitations in lieu of truth, and as imitations are many and various, differences of belief have been productive of strife and warfare. So long as these imitations remain, the oneness of the world of humanity is impossible… Therefore, we must investigate reality so that by its light the clouds and darkness may be dispelled.”[10]

He adds, “The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one.”[11] Let’s see how that is possible.

  1. Free Search for Truth Promotes Unity

Many religions, political movements and even companies discourage free thought out of a misguided fear that diversity will lead to division, and that unity requires uniformity. The Bahá’í approach is the exact opposite: fostering the synergies that can only be built upon unity IN diversity by sincerely searching for truth, sharing our findings humbly with each other, and not imposing them as the only or even the best way to see things.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “Being one, truth cannot be divided, and the differences that appear to exist among the many nations only result from their attachment to prejudice. If only men would search out truth, they would find themselves united.”[12] Unfortunately, many take the easy route: “…the people are too easily led by tradition. It is because of this that they are often antagonistic to each other, and dispute with one another.”[13] Therefore, each one “must cut himself free from all prejudice and from the result of his own imagination, so that he may be able to search for truth unhindered.”[14]

  1. One Light in Many Lamps

True search means recognizing that the light of truth can be found in many different sources. For example, the Bahá’í teachings emphasize the value of both science and religion in our search for truth. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:

Science must be accepted. No one truth can contradict another truth. Light is good in whatsoever lamp it is burning! A rose is beautiful in whatsoever garden it may bloom! A star has the same radiance if it shines from the East or from the West. Be free from prejudice, so will you love the Sun of Truth from whatsoever point in the horizon it may arise!… This is what is meant by the ‘Search after Truth’.”[15]

According to Bahá’í belief, truth can be found or “read” in two different but complementary “books”: the book of creation and the ‘written book’. The book of creation is “the outspread roll of existence,” while the written book consists of the Holy Books revealed to the Prophets of God.”[16] Our understanding of both books is always limited, so it needs to grow through a free, responsible search for truth.

The “written book” of divine revelation is adapted to the needs and capacities of each age, but it gradually becomes altered and distorted through both translation and interpretation. Therefore, it needs to be renewed in each age with a new Holy Book revealed by a Krishna, a Moses, a Zoroaster, a Buddha, a Jesus, a Muhammad, a Bahá’u’lláh, or countless others lost to history:

Baha’u’llah continually urges man to free himself from the superstitions and traditions of the past and become an investigator of reality, for it will then be seen that God has revealed his light many times in order to illumine mankind in the path of evolution, in various countries and through many different prophets, masters and sages.”[17]

We might compare this process of “Progressive Revelation” to the paradigm shifts in scientific progress. Each Holy Book introduces a new religious paradigm to be explored and more fully understood and applied, just as quantum physics built upon, clarified and superseded the Newtonian paradigm. And just as we do not judge the worth of science by its earlier paradigms, neither would it be valid to judge the value of the universal phenomenon of revealed religion as antiquated or inapplicable to the needs of the time on the basis of a limited or incorrect understanding of millenary Holy Books.

  1. Qualities and Attitudes of the True Seeker

What inner virtues and approaches are needed in our search? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says,

“…it is imperative that we should renounce our own particular prejudices and superstitions if we earnestly desire to seek the truth. Unless we make a distinction in our minds between dogma, superstition and prejudice on the one hand, and truth on the other, we cannot succeed. When we are in earnest in our search for anything we look for it everywhere…

It means, also, that we must be willing to clear away all that we have previously learned, all that would clog our steps on the way to truth; we must not shrink if necessary from beginning our education all over again. We must not allow our love for any one religion or any one personality to so blind our eyes that we become fettered by superstition.

When we are freed from all these bonds, seeking with liberated minds, then shall we be able to arrive at our goal.”[18]

In this vein, the first of Bahá’u’lláh’s “Seven Valleys” is the Valley Search:

“The steed of this Valley is patience; without patience the wayfarer on this journey will reach nowhere and attain no goal. Nor should he ever be downhearted…Nor shall the seeker reach his goal unless he sacrifice all things. That is, whatever he hath seen, and heard, and understood, all must he set at naught… Labor is needed… ardor is needed…”[19]

I would like to end this post with a beautiful piece by Bahá’u’lláh, often referred to as the “Tablet of the True Seeker,” in which He expounds on these qualities:

When a true seeker determineth to take the step of search… he must, before all else, cleanse his heart… from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge… that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth…

That seeker must, at all times… detach himself from the world of dust…. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain-glory, must cling to patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk…

He should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire. He should treasure the companionship of them that have renounced the world… He should not… allow the censure of the people to turn him away from the Truth…

When the detached wayfarer and sincere seeker hath fulfilled these essential conditions, then and only then can he be called a true seeker.”[20]

References:

  1. http://www.ccuu.org/sermons/Sermon%202012-03-18%20Free%20and%20Responsible%20Search.pdf

  2. Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words

  3. Bible, Isaiah 6:9

  4. Bible, Matthew 13:13

  5. Bible, John 8:32

  6. Islamic Hadith Hasan Mashhûr.

  7. Qur’an, Hujurat 49:6.

  8. Qur’an, Zukhruf 43:21

  9. Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 24

  10. Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 180

  11. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 136

  12. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 129

  13. Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 27

  14. Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 128

  15. Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 137

  16. Abdu’l-Bahá, in B. Nakhjavání, Response, p. 13

  17. Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 8

  18. Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 137

  19. Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 6

  20. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 265-270

** Discussion (Music 1.7: “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive”) **

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this talk in local chat or, if you prefer, in voice.

** Extinguishing the Flame (Music 2:4 “Blue Boat Home” **

We extinguish this flame but not the light of truth, the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again. (Elizabeth Selle Jones)

** Coffee Hour (Music 1.6: “What’s So Funny”) **

 


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