HORNELL ALFRED UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST SOCIETY (HAUUS)
HAUUS meets at 10:30, at 198 Main Street in Hornell NY. All are welcome. For more information call (607)698-4508 or (607)382-6348 or visit our blog at HAUUS.org.
May 8 – Sally Hopkins will share her thoughts in a review of the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Scientists know her as HeLa, a poor, black tobacco farmer whose cells became one of the most important tools in medicine.
May 22 – Classless America? Do we believe in a society without limits- no classes??!!!! George Smith will lead us in this discussion.
June 12- We Are Born with 324 Diseases – Mercy in the Context of Christian Love. Tony Lipnicki from Andover will present this program. Information regarding this program is attached and hard copies will be available at our May 8 meeting.
June 26 – Our UU Flower Communion will be at the home of Sharon Saker and George Smith. Please bring flowers to share with others. Sharon will facilitate a discussion on our senses both mundane and subtle and their relationship with our flowers. You can bring a readings, poem or picture related to the topic to read to the group. 10205 State Rt. 53 – Prattsburgh NY. Call 607-382-6348 or 585-478-4090 if you need directions.
News and Notes
Our summer picnic this year will be on Sunday July 31st at the home of Penny Whitford in Canisteo at 2:00PM. Please bring a dish to pass and your own table service.
Please remember to bring canned and non-perishable food items to HAUUS for donation to various food pantries in the area.
Visit our blog at HAUUS.org
HAUUS does not meet in July and August other than our picnic. Our Ingathering will be on September 11, 2016
“The Earth Laughs in Flowers.” …… Ralph Waldo Emerson ….
We Are Born with 324 Diseases – Mercy in the Context of Christian Love – by Anthony Lipnicki
Summary – Christianity teaches that God enters into our most common experiences, even into our experiences of human suffering and cruelty. However, there is a prospect through the solidarity and unconditional love from others to redeem ourselves. Human cruelty is not transformed through more cruelty, or denial of the existence of sin, but through compassion and the love of those who suffer. Buddhists say we are born with 324 diseases and to apply compassion in the world. Christians are taught the works of mercy to help alleviate suffering in the world. This talk will address what the works of mercy are and how they can be used to deal with the difficult issues of pain and suffering in the environment of the world we live in today.
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For a perspective on mercy which includes the virtue of love, I would like to read to you this morning a poem by English mystic George Herbert titled Easter. While I read it think about what kind of love Herbert is experiencing and how is he responding to the love he feels deep in his heart . (Herbert was an Anglican priest who lived in the early 1600’s).
Rise heart; my Lord is risen.
Sing his praise without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise with him may rise; That, as his death calcined thee to dust, His life may make thee gold, and much more: Just. Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part with all thy art.The cross that taught all wood to resound his name who bore the same?His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key is best to celebrate this most high day. Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song pleasant and long:Or since all music is but three parts vied, and multiplied; O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part, and make up our defects with his sweet art.
I believe Herbert was struggling as he experienced a deep, rich inner love which moved him to internalize the virtue of mercy. He refers to how the cross is teaching him to understand the meaning of this struggle. He mentions the outcome of this inner struggle as justice as he responds to his heart’s yearning, and in his pursuit of this mystery he sees mercy as the means to purify and transform his being into a risen soul with all his blemishes (defects), worked out for service to others.
At the time of Jesus the cross was not that unique. It was the cruelest form of capital punishment invented by man, and was used with regularity against enemies of the state to publicly humiliate those who would dare to challenge the civil authorities. We can easily say that thousands of people were crucified as punishment for sedition in the ancient world. The reason I bring this up is the suffering of Jesus was not unique. He joined the ranks of many people who were executed by the state. Until outlawed by Constantine the cross was not even used in a Christian context. Early Christians used symbols like loaves and fish to identify their community.
Christianity teaches that God enters into our most common experiences, the experiences of human suffering and cruelty, and in the face of the worst that humanity can do, there is a prospect for solidarity and unconditional love with those others who suffer. There is a prospect for compassion and mercy in the most unexpected ways, through vulnerability and brokenness. For me as a Catholic it is important to remember that the way for me to respond to cruelty, disease and suffering is through mercy. Jesus the ultimate human teaches me about how to be merciful so that I can in some small way change the course of history and in doing so change myself .
To face the powers of domination and greed I must somehow find the courage to show others how to love through mercy, even to the point of death. Death in this way can transform a whole community of people who can now find new courage in how they face evil through the power and vulnerability of love. Human cruelty is not transformed through more cruelty or denial, but through compassion and solidarity with those who suffer. Look at the Solidarity Movement in Poland. Today we have lost much of this rich spiritual paradox.
To illustrate my point I would like to tell a story about Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Lutheran priest living in Bethlehem. Several years ago there was a 24-hour curfew imposed on the people in Bethlehem. There was a time when no one was allowed to leave his or her home. Children could neither go to school nor workers allowed to go to work. People could not even go shopping, except for few supervised hours a week. Imagine entire families, millions of people sitting at home, doing nothing.
Reheb developed the idea of using the cultural community center in a unique way. He challenged some of the artists living in the community to use all their creativity and all their imagination, to overcome the depression and imprisonment everyone experienced in the community by sponsoring an ‘art competition’ which was announced on the local radio and TV stations on the topic ‘Christ in the Palestinian Context’. Sixteen artists submitted their paintings and 60% of all submissions were by Muslim artists, an amazing fact because though over half of those who attended the community center’s programs were Muslims, the Muslim artists dared to paint a biblical figure: something forbidden in Islamic theology and spirituality.
All but one Muslim artist submitted a painting of the crucified Christ. In the teaching of Islam, Christ was not crucified. For Christ to be crucified means really nothing else in Islam than for God to be on the losing end, and that is impossible in Islam. God can never be a loser for it is believed by Muslims that he is greater than all things. The Muslims believe the message of the cross is nothing but foolishness.
But why then did these Muslim artists paint and take the risk of betraying their own religion in a public gallery? Was it a response to cruelty and injustice they had felt in the depths of their heart? In this bitter and challenging exercise of loss and betrayal they found strength, comfort and power. The thought of the crucified Christ captured them because they sensed God was with them even in the worst of places and experiences of life! It gave them the courage to endure and fight back in a new way. God was now seen as a comfort. He somehow was with the lonely, the dying, the poor and destitute.
Buddhists say we are born with 324 diseases. We do not ask to be born into the world. We do not ask for our ailments, many of which are inherited. We suffer and we get old and we die. These are the certainties of existence. But we do need to live in the world. We do need to live with others in hope and with dignity as we try to serve each other with compassion and love.
At this time I would like to share with you some ideas about how the concepts of mercy can be internalized for use to us as we face the problems we see in our community. I will end with a few questions for us to query and discuss among ourselves.
In the Gospel of Matthew 25: 34 – 40, six specific Corporal Works of Mercy are enumerated for the salvation of the saved, and the omission as the reason for damnation.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are found in various places in the Scriptures. Fraternal correction is in Matthew 18: 15; forgiveness of injuries is in Matthew 6:14.
The Works of Mercy demand a good measure of tact and prudence; for example, some kind of tough love is required for the discharge of the oftentimes difficult task of correction.
THE CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY
To feed the hungry;
to give drink to the thirsty;
to clothe the naked;
to shelter the homeless;
to visit the sick;
to visit the imprisoned,
to bury the dead.
THE SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY
To instruct the ignorant;
to counsel the doubtful;
to admonish sinners;
to bear wrongs patiently;
to forgive offences willingly;
to comfort the afflicted;
to pray for the living and the dead.
FOR DISCUSSION –
- In the Corporal Works of Mercy (above) which one do you find yourself most attracted to? And which one would be most challenging?
- In the Spiritual Works of Mercy (above) which one resonates in your heart? And which one would call for the greatest strength and conviction?
- In your own life, have you been a recipient of a ‘Work of Mercy?’ Your reaction?