Friday, April 10, 2009

"Useful Righteousness"

The Opening Service at UUCF Revival dropped me into a Pentecostal style of worship that I had never before experienced. The combined choirs of All Souls Unitarian Church rocked the house with praise choruses accompanied by an electric keyboard and the beat of drums, clapping, swaying, raising hands--all to praise God. Energized, we settled in to hear the sermon of Rev. Gerald Davis, Church of the Restoration-UU. Settled in? Not going to happen when Rev. Davis began preaching.

Revival, he told us, means to get back up, to come back to life, to rise again. When we are revived, we gain renewed life, renewed energy, and renewed focus. That was why we were all in Tulsa that weekend. To REVIVE.

Why? For what purpose?

To take that renewed life, energy, and focus and MOVE out into the world. The Way of Jesus for a Unitarian Universalist is to be useful. Someone in the congregation declared, "Preach it, Brother!" And he did.

Believing is fine, he said. Pulling a friend to church is fine. Stating your beliefs is fine. But if you don't extend yourself into the world, then your belief is lifeless, stagnant. He turned our attention to Isaiah 58:5-15 by calling Rev. Tamara Lebak of All Souls to "Read, Sister!" And she did.

As she read, Rev. Davis expounded. Only when you feed the hungry, love each other, fight for justice, THEN "...your light shall break forth like the dawn (v.8) shall be like a spring of water, whose waters never fail."(v.11). Punctuated with "Amen" and "Yes, Lord!" from the congregation, the words of Isaiah and the enthusiasm of Rev. Davis gave us the message of "Useful Righteousness." Read the Isaiah passage. Powerful stuff.

Just this morning, I was reading a Love Inspired romance by Cheryl Wyatt titled "Ready-Made Family" (April 2009). In the story, a young man named Hutton with Mosaic Down Syndrome watches all day as an older man, a claimed Christian, chastises and insults another because the other man is Asian, different. Days later, the older man relates how Hutton confronted him. "He [Hutton] asked me why I had pictures of Jesus up on my walls when I didn't love like Him...He went on to tell me that he didn't know how I could tell everybody I was a Christian because he looked and looked and looked all day and couldn't see Jesus living anywhere in my heart."

Hutton couldn't see Jesus. "They'll know we are Christians by our love", a well-known hymn states.

Useful Righteousness.

We talked about what our faith looks like earlier this week. Same question, different perspective. How do you intend to practice useful righteousness today so that "...your light shall break forth like the dawn..."?


  1. LAVERN,
    Thanks for the reminder of the opening service. That was moving experience. Most of us in our daily lives come into contact with many people. Most everyone we come into contact with will greatly appreciate our demonstration of respect, kindness, and love. Showing these traits can help relieve whatever suffering another person might be experiencing. For me, practicing the teachings of Jesus involves reminding myself that every interaction with someone is an opportunity to share kindness. Thus, "useful righteousness" is possible each time we interact with another person.
    This is a great blog. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. I agree that useful righteousness begins in our daily interactions with others. Jesus was definitely aware and concerned of the problems of the people within his time and place. However, I also believe the world we live in now is much more global and facing new issues not experienced in Jesus' time. We are connected not only politically but environmentally, scientifically and economically creating a need for a much boarder understanding of how our individual worlds directly effect each others. Therefore, useful righteousness to me, calls for a more global response. As I venture down the road to figure out what living a righteous life means for myself, two biblical verses keep crossing my path. First Mk 10:21-22, when Jesus challenges the rich man to detach from his possessions, his own private world and enter into community with others, placing the needs of the community ahead of his own. Secondly, LK 6:42, that challenges me to clear up my own perceptions of the world before I try "fix" others.
    I have worked to increase my awareness of the problems that face others not only locally but also within our country and globally. I have been awed by how connected we all are. I have discovered ways I can help improve the lives of others simply by changing practices in my live that work to perpetuate these problems that I was previously unaware. Secondly, I have taking ownership of my own faith by challenging myself to look more deeply at my faith and what it means to me to follow Jesus. I am working hard to get to a place where I can work "unconditionally" to imitate Jesus. This premise is very scary for me because that means I need to be willing to be humiliated, rejected and even "fail".
    As I continue to reflect on my own faith one meditation that I have found helpful, allowing me to laugh and cry at myself, fostering a stronger spirituality follows below. I hope others enjoy it.

    I was hungry and you formed a humanities club to discuss my hunger . . . Thank you.
    I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel to pray for my release . . . Nice.
    I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance. . . What good did that do?
    I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health. . . But I needed you.
    I was homeless and you preached to me of the shelter of the love of God. . . I wished you had taken me home.
    I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me. . . Why didn't you stay?
    You seem so holy, so close to God; but I'm still very hungry, lonely, cold, and still in pain. . . Does it matter? . . . . . . Anonymous
    peace, Lynda

  3. Barry, you are quite welcome. Your comment made me think of the scope of "useful righteousness". The small, but significant daily interactions to the admonition to "feed the hungry" which can be global in its extent. I believe that although each of us may serve more effectively in one place in the "scope continuum" than in another, God asks us to stretch ourselves regularly. I hope that I do.

    Thank you for your witness, Lynda, and for that poignant meditation. My Christian Fellowship has read and discussed the Beatitudes several times. I need to share this with them. Perhaps it will push us to be even more "useful" in our "righteousness". Blessings!