Incarnation is especially significant for Christians at this time of year, because Jesus’ birth is seen as God becoming human. But, as suggested in its definition, and as is evident in the internet resources found later in this packet, ‘incarnation’ is an important concept in many religions and cultures. Myths abound about gods taking human form and then playing out some important drama here on earth. Hindus greet one another by saying “Namaste”, which translated means, “The divinity in me bows to the divinity in you.” In Kabbalism, a story tells of a cosmic accident in which the vessels that held God’s light were shattered, and all of those divine chards and sparks were scattered upon the world. For Jews, our work (tikkun olam) is to collect those divine sparks and use them to repair the world.
In my personal story, I was caught in the crosshairs of two messages…first that my body is the temple of God, and second, that the body is part and parcel of a sinful world. The upshot is that I have a pretty complicated (not positive) relationship with my body. And so for me, just the idea that there exists a divine spark inside of me, if even just a broken piece of light, opens a window. It gifts me with the possibility of knowing my own wholeness, or inner light, or intrinsic goodness.
And when I let myself see the faintest glimmer of a divine spark inside, I begin to see that this is not just possibility, but reality. And it’s not a just a spark that comes from somewhere else, but rather, is something that is embedded in my very being. There is no separation; each of us is both body and spirit, divine and human, broken and whole.
In the story of this faith, while early Christians debated and then decided that Jesus was God, Unitarians came to affirm “the spiritual leadership of Jesus” while refuting that he was actually part of a trinity. Later, the Transcendentalists helped us to recognize that we each contain the divine within us. And today, our first principle affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
What if our principles claimed ‘the inherent divinity and dignity of each person?’ This is not to suggest that we are perfect, but rather that we are each part of a spirit-infused Universe. For when we can recognize this, boundaries dissolve… between the individual and the community, between the animate and inanimate, between present and future, between worthless and sacred. All that is, including you and me, is precious and holy.
You, each and every one, are a beautiful incarnation! With gratitude for your spirit,
~ Rev. Julie
In late October, I traveled to California for a meeting. As we broke through the clouds on descent into San Diego, majestic, chiseled foothills…resplendent even in their dry season brown tones…came into view. And then came the ocean…expansive, blue, cool, rippled with white caps as far as the eye could see. From high above, I couldn’t help but admire our planet’s abundance.
As we descended further, individual estates carved into the mountainsides became apparent…each featuring circle drives and swimming pools. I sighed. The beauty of the coastline was spoiled for me by this appearance of opulence, an indication of how humans have taken advantage of nature’s abundance. But then, who was I to judge…sitting on a jet plane, heading to what could be seen as a decadent location for a committee meeting?
Abundance is a complicated thing. I can easily appreciate an abundance of beauty, an abundance of friends, an abundance of compassion and goodwill. It is more difficult to appreciate an abundance of acquired goods or accumulated wealth, especially when it is extreme or comes at the expense of others. Is abundance a good thing or a bad thing?
I’m sure you’re aware of current messaging about attracting abundance. It tells us that if we align ourselves correctly with good thoughts or with God or with the universe’s plan, then abundance will flow to us. If we pray enough, or are good enough, or do it all just right, then all good things will come our way. We will be blessed.
But are we not already blessed? Blessed with life, blessed with breath, blessed with each new day? What is it that continually goads us to believe that we need more than this?
This month we will be exploring the many tensions held within the notion of abundance. Is abundance a quantity or an attitude? Is it found within or without? Is there a competition? What responsibility do we have to sustain the earth’s abundance? Is it okay to enjoy abundance? Who deserves to experience abundance; is it something we must earn? What is the cost of abundance?
Maybe you can find some answers in this quote from John O’Donohue: “When you begin to open up to the abundance around you, you start to realize that you are not the helpless owner of a deadened life but rather a temporary guest gifted with blessings and possibilities you could neither invent or earn.”
I do know this. Life and love are abundance blessings, available freely to us all.
With gratitude for all of these blessings,
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