These sermons began on this blog about a month ago, on Sunday February 26th. But that is not where they began. They began on Facebook last September but were initially short (Facebook status size) and snappy. This had the advantage of quick accessibility to people who happened upon it, but the disadvantage, which increased over time, that it was difficult to really explain anything or to make connections between different thoughts.
Nevertheless many of these engendered wonderful discussions, with many surprising points of view. Still, when I post my sermons and link them from Facebook all of the commentary and discussion has occurred on Facebook.
Here is an archive of all the Facebook sermons. You do not need to be my friend to access the links, but I think you have to have a Facebook account. Do feel free to befriend me on Facebook, with a message mentioning this page so I know you're not entirely random.
Throughout history, "all equal under God" has given solidarity to the oppressed. It is a powerful, liberating phrase, which still today can rub critically and creatively against inequality.
Note that if by 'God' we mean a defined god, an idolatrous god, the 'god' of the Bible or Koran, or the god-man or some other nonsense, then the idea immediately becomes divisive and violent.
On this day, the 11th of September, let us remember the common humanity of all seven billion of us, with our one planet, one sky and one ancestry, equal under one God.
The Hebrews are not the only people to have survived the calamities of history, to have crossed the Red Sea while many others drowned. All on Earth are the seed of survivors of repeated tragedy throughout human and indeed biological existence. We are all, by evidence of our ongoing survival, God's chosen people.
To find identity in one's current *belief* is perilous, as your self is exposed and vulnerable every time your belief is challenged. Better, to take Jesus' advice, to identify ourselves (and others) by our 'fruits'; what we *do*; our impact on the universe.
The messenger is not the message. The pathway is not the pilgrim.
You have heard it hath been said, "Read thy Bible each day." I say unto you that God's Word is so much bigger. Just make it a good book, interesting, broadening and challenging. "All books are God-breathed and are profitable," St Paul advised young Timothy before the 'Bible' tradition had begun. Idolising the Bible as a closed canon was Christianity's single worst wrong turn.
Taking the first stanza of John Lennon's hymn, "Imagine" as our text:
"Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try.
No hell below us,
Above us only sky."
Lennon goes on to challenge us on many levels, about possessions, political borders and religion itself. But he started in the right place for the spiritual children among us. If we don't succeed in Lennon's first imagining, the rest are out of reach.
The baby that has been thrown out with the bathwater of religion is accidentally described in an account of the Wall Street protests:
"... a space made sacred by a community. But like Medieval churches, it is also now the physical center of that community. It has become many things. Public square. Carnival. Place to get news. Daycare center. Health care center. Concert venue."
Do not fear the battle of ideas, feet shod with the gospel of empathy. All ideas can win the day with clever rhetoric, but over many contests worthy ideas dominate, and unworthy ideas are relegated. If we despise the conflict in the name of despising conflict itself, there is never victory for the truth.
Sunday 30th October [Reformation Day is tomorrow]
Tomorrow, we're told, the population of the world will reach seven billion. Population explosions, along with their Malthusian limits, are not uncommon in nature but, uncannily, the universe has provided our species with an inoculation against it continuing. Education - in particular literacy - must be spread to every child, universally. This is the Great Commission of those who would seek God's will on Earth. We know that education turns the demographic curve, and it has endless other benefits to civilisation.
I don't necessarily envision *The Universal Encyclopedia of Practice* to ever be written. It is available in pieces already via Google and Wikipedia. Its main importance is as an *idea*. It is an encyclopedia of all spiritual practice available to the journeying human - prayer, meditation, tantric sex, voodoo, Tai Chi, chanting, fasting, dietary practice, ritual practice and everything else, complete with an essay history and description of each practice and a summary of criticisms, along with clear guidelines to further information.
There are very good reasons to be afraid.
There are also very good reasons to hope.
Which we act upon makes all the difference to our behaviour in the world.
Which we act upon is a free choice.
If all you can see is doom,
Just as suggestion, consider
that really it may be in tune,
and merely eclipsed by the moon.
(Thanks to Pink Floyd for the last bit).
When a handful of people eat and drink together, sing some songs and then engage their minds together about some ideas, there is 'Church'*. This simple, collective practice has been turned to nonsense by deadly dogma and tradition. The *basis* of collective worship is not belief or doctrine, but love.
This practice is the opponent of alienation, and the lack of engaged collective embodiment is the definition of alienation.
* The word is irrelevant. My own preferred term is "The House of Everything", or just "The House of Every".
The Gospel of Empathy is the first universal doctrine. I can not think of any philosophical idea that is more important.
Science and reason provide us with all the theology we need, all the metaphysics if you like, all the cosmology. It even goes a long way to answering the "Who am I?" question. But it still fails, in itself, to give us a reason to be, a reason to shine all the more when things go well, or to keep hoping and trying when things stuff up. It short it leaves us with the question, "What am I doing here?"
If rational people fail to provide broad answers to this question, people will still look elsewhere. To a human psyche, an answer to this question trumps all science and reason, most of the time, and especially when the chips are down.
In recent history God has laid down a new understanding of ourselves in the universe, most notably via the prophet Charles Darwin, a new relationship of empathy with one another, via the prophets of the Enlightenment, and even a new hymnal, via the musical explosion of the 1950s-70s.
Either via reformation or renewal world religion will enter this new age. That much is merely a matter of time. The new institutions of worship of the one God which is Everything, independent from politics or business and founded on reason and education, will not merely be joyful places of worship and helpers of he helpless, but active agents in world civilisation.
With the atheist triumverate of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens the religion of the new age, The House of Every, is born. They would not be impressed, to their credit, but all of them are prophets and saints of the House.
So in memory of a great and courageous public voice, RIP Christopher Hitchens.
Hitchens', *God is not Great* is probably the best of the triumverate. It's a good time to consider giving it a read. The profound and ongoing impact of these books is not on Christianity directly but in breaking the public taboo against non-Christians speaking out about the obviously absurd. Do not underestimate this impact. It is deep and it is historic.
Sunday 25th December (Christmas Sermon)
Regarding this Jesus character, he was a man. A wonderful, insightful man with a profound and critical message, way ahead of its time. The modern church has all but lost the message for the fetishisation of the man. Like many great leaders Jesus went to pains to warn his followers against this. It is simply irrelevant whether or not someone calls him, "Lord, Lord."
In short his insight was that love, empathy and forgiveness can serve us better than moralism and law, without actually abolishing the latter; that the real *intent* of law is better fulfilled by going beyond it in our interactions. The widespread development and practice of the message, at least in the West, had to wait until the Enlightenment to get a bit of a foothold.
Be well in 2012...
Seek the truth,
make some music
and look out for your loved ones,
...for there will be no apocalypse.
God=Everything; Everything=God (Look Mum, no dualism!)
With this equation theology is united with naturalism and science. From this equation (and no other in my view) a rational and defensible theology can be built. Call it the associative law of theology, the first axiom. If there be worship, if there be praise, if there be service, let it be the worship, praise and service of everything and everyone, for anything less is a transient, culturally particular idol.
Breath, music and song.
For better health, longer life, greater energy and the sheer joy of it, sing! Sing in the shower or the car or wherever. Open your lungs up and do it from down deep when you can.
Sing with others and you are engaging in, arguably, the original spiritual practice, universal, accessible, free and powerful.
Singing keeps us in tune. Like eating and breathing it is part of our everyday metabolism.
There are those who teach that there are infinite stakes. For these people our choices in life will lead to infinite reward or infinite punishment. They also teach that this setup motivates people to be good.
Let's be clear about the mathematics here: If the stakes are infinite, anything can be justified. Anything.
Sufficient unto the day is the risk thereof.
Regular, repertory embodiment (coming together in the same place) is a feature of every community in history until quite recently. A community can be said to be *alienated* to the extent that it is no longer embodied.
The terms and even the functions have changed. The Greek word once meaning "assembly of the city" (ekklessia) came to mean 'church', for example.
The 'House of Every' is a vision to, among other things, restore regular assembly to the fabric of modern society, and once again abolish alienation.
The House of Every takes its text from the universal bibliography, its hymnal from the universal musicography and its practice from the universal encyclopedia of practice. Logos ("The Book of Every") must live! It must never ossify, for when it ossifies the community ossifies with it.
On the other hand The House opposes the teaching of superstition and idolatry (along with lies, for that matter). It will be said that this is narrow and restricting, but it is because they are narrowing and restricting that superstitions are opposed.
Superstition and idolatry are great ossifiers, enemies of Logos, and enemies of enlightenment.
Our purpose beyond ourselves is the group and the commons. The highest conceivable purpose is everyone and everything, as one. Every, like the god of the writer of Ecclesiastes, is all but indifferent to our individual activities on Earth. But as an object of search, worship and service Every is humbling, equalising, life-affirming and ultimately as comforting and helpful as any deity on the market.
Every also has this wonderful attribute of empirical existence.
Prayer without illusions is available to all of us. We may exercise the imaginary friend (IF) function in our brains productively or we can let it whither, leaving its use to children and the insane.