Friday, May 1, 2009

"God Is So Much Better..."

Tulsa, OK. Revival. Saturday morning. Keynote Worship.

The sanctuary of All Soul's Unitarian Church on S. Peoria reflects a measure of God's diversity--colors, ages, genders--and pulses with more of that joyful noise God so loves. The service is emotional because it presents two extraordinary stories, one of the expanse of God's love, another of the merging of two churches.

Bishop Carlton Pearson's sermon does not begin with God, but with the Devil. In Bishop Pearson's upbringing, the Devil was invoked even more often than God because the Devil is as powerful as God, just as present and is always waiting...waiting...waiting to spring and drag you to Hell. Demons do the Devil's bidding and can possess you, turn you to evil, lead you to Hell if you do not remain ever-vigilant. Bishop Pearson remembers people living in fear of God's reprisal: simply leaving us to the Devil's horrors. He remembers his family grieving after the death of a loved one because they knew that their mother or aunt or grandfather was now tortured in hellfire for eternity. Bishop Pearson used to drive past All Souls Church and pray for the poor fools because they refused to live in fear, refused to believe in the specter of the Devil, refused to believe in Hell, refused to exclude people from God's family. In other words, the members of All Souls were damned.

In his sermon, Bishop Pearson does not relate the details of his enlightenment, his conversion experience. He has done that elsewhere. He shares what he learned. God revealed to him, chided him, that we humans (creative interpretors that we are) have mostly gotten it wrong. There is no need for humans to convert every person on earth in order to save them. God already did that. In spades. For all humankind. Remember? Jesus? Cross? What part of all do you not understand? Humor, irony, pathos, joy, and solid intellectual integrity with Biblical references to back up every statement. That is what Bishop Pearson shares in his sermon. And reminds us how SMALL our conceptions of God are. How often we try to "box" God into the confines of our own understanding, our own needs, our own fears. "God is so much better than you can conceive!" rings from the pulpit. Thank God! Alleluia! Amen.

Bishop Pearson lays out his thoughts, study and conclusions in his 2006 book, "The Gospel of Inclusion." I've added it to the LTS Bookstore. The story of this man's embracing of Universalism, his expulsion from his Evangelical church, and his search for a new truth is truly inspiring. But it is not the end of the story. For as he preached this new truth and faced expulsion from his church, a group of his former congregation decided to join him in leaving. There begins the Tale of Two Churches. I'll write about that next week.

Until then, take a look at your own beliefs about God's willingness and ability to save. What does salvation mean to you? Can you accept that Hitler went to Heaven? He does in the Universalism perspective. How does the concept of Hell play for you? Do you "box" God in?


  1. Hi and thanks again. Just wanted to let you and all know especially that they can now order Revival DVDs from the UUCF. We have DVDs of the opening worship service, and of Bishop Pearson's Keynote Worship Service. You know how great they both were. Each DVD can be purchased for $15 a piece, shipping included, or people can order both for a set for just $25, or they can order multiple sets for $20 a set. They can get more information and order by sending to We will be adding soon the ability to order these through the UUCF Bookstore on the site, so they might check there too. thanks again, blessings, Ron

  2. Thanks for the reminder of the DVDs, Ron. I'll post a reminder later this week. Both services were awesome experiences.