Last month, in a sermon exploring process theology, I learned a lot about how many ways people relate to what theologian Paul Tillich called the Ground of Being (a.k.a. the big “G”). Never had a sermon I’d preached agitated so much energy—some positive and enthusiastic, some questioning and curious, some a little upset. None of these were wrong reactions. Some told me it was the first time they’d considered what a postmodern idea of God might be—a finite Motive Power of Love that is limited by the bounds of time, space, even physics. Others said they were intrigued by the ideas within process theology and wanted to know more. Others said it was the most disturbing sermon they’d ever heard preached in a Unitarian Universalist church, because they’d never heard a sermon about God before within these walls. I was thrilled by all these comments, for you all shared your thoughts with kindness and a spirit of wanting to reconcile what you heard with your own experience. That’s one reason I have office hours—for you to come by and talk about what’s going on in your spiritual lives, even—especially—when the message of the week has agitated you to some epiphany or conviction about what you believe. Come by, sit, and tell me what you believe.
I’m not sure everyone heard what I said at the beginning of the sermon, and what I said is relevant to moving forward. First, I said that the primary gospel of that morning was the Gospel of Your Experience, which for us is primary in the search for Truth. That means that no matter what I say, on any given Sunday, if what I say does not resonate with your experience—you are required to do one of two things: reject it or be curious about it. As a free thinker you cannot in good conscience accept something that does not resonate with experience and life. Second, I said that I wasn’t telling you what God is. How could I know what the word, God, designates? God, in linguistic terms, is a symbol or signifier. But for what? A being? A paradox? A process? A set of mathematical constants and laws? Humanity’s been working on solving this question for more than 5,000 years. I said that I was sharing with you an idea about God that fascinates me, that has inspired my curiosity. Process theology informs my free search for truth and meaning, and I’m so excited about the ideas that I want to share them with you.
On any given Sunday this is what I am doing: Not telling you what Truth is, but lifting up the clues and sign posts that I have found for Truth along a spiritual path that is mine. Our is a unique form of religious thought that allows for this kind of back and forth between minister and congregation. My call is not to tell you the truth, but to encourage you to find it yourself. This is different than asking you to make up a truth. I do believe Truth is out there to be discovered—but each of us has to find it, and the language to express it, on our own.