Further on Communion

I included Levertov poem in the UUCF communion (previous post) for a reason: because it speaks to the skeptic in all of us who questions the morality of God who allows the innocent to suffer etc.

I think that this is an important question for many UU's. The poem is about the necessity of confronting the reality of suffering before it can be moved beyond, or redeemed. For over 10 years, I have reading and re-reading this poem because it shows, but does not explain, the redemption of suffering without explaining it.

The reality of the world is that there is much unjust suffering, some at the hands of human beings and some at the hands of fate.

Somehow, that suffering can, in some situations, be redeemed: creating compassion in others, gratitude. Witness the many nurses who deal with death and suffering all the time, but become even more compassionate as a result, and not more callous, which might well be a more probable result. The fact is that some suffering is redeemed -- Mandela comes out of prison not seeking vengeance -- people forgive their parents' shortcomings and even cruelty and are better parents to their children. Why does this happen some of the time and not all of the time? There is no adequate explanation for it, but that is the reality we are dealing with.

The communion story is one that says that God is present in the redemption of suffering.

I don't think (nor do I think I have ever preached) that God is in the suffering.
I don't think (not do I think I have ever preached) that believing that God is present in the redemption of suffering causes more suffering; that would be like thinking that ambulances cause heart attacks and life-threatening accidents.


  1. I wonder if this poem would be more accessible to UUs if you used it as the focus of a sermon, rather than having it almost come out of nowhere as it did in the UUCF service at GA. It's a poem that requires a lot of context, I think, to allow for a deepened, rather than shocked, response.

  2. Parisa9:07 AM

    I think the poem needs an audience that is accustomed to engaging deeply with the question of suffering, which is something Unitarian Universalists on the whole avoid theologically. We prefer to dwell on human possibility, and along with our culture like to assume there is a lot we can control. The lack of certitude and the honest engagement with pain (which, actually is violent -- it violates the calm, the taken-for-granted comforts of life) is a necessary part of encountering deep spiritual seeking. The poem is a great expression of this. Levertov moves into the suffering much like Jesus did, not turning away.

    It takes good leadership to ask that of a congregation, and I'm glad it was asked of the congregation at the UUCF communion.

  3. DiscoverUU5:43 PM

    Dear Minister,
    I would like to invite you to participate in a new not-for-profit UU web site which will be launching in the near future: DiscoverUU.com .
    The best part, you don't have to do anything!

    You can view the page as it finishes construction at the following link with a non-Internet Explorer browser.

    I would like to know, however, if you'd like to update your picture, name, or listed affiliation as a minister. (or be removed from the site completely)

    DiscoverUU.com will be modeled after The Huffington Post , a liberal news blog site with celebrity, journalist, and politician bloggers offering opinions on current events and raising issues of their own.
    DiscoverUU.com will feature UU relevant news items, UU ministers blogging, visitor comments, and feedback. DiscoverUU's goal is to become the central hub for the spiritual side of the current political liberal movement happening online. UU discovery and discussion are a key part of the site in addition to offering a central location for minister sermons, and podcasts to inspire and inform. DiscoverUU will also offer famous UU quotes, facts, and will one day feature books, clothing, etc.

    DiscoverUU seeks to bring the concept of UUism to the internet generation (those in their late 20's and 30's) most of whom have not heard about UU. It is my belief that the millions of visitors that reach the political liberal blogs will discover and self-identify as UU's through advertisements placed on their websites.

    Click here for a sample of such an ad.

    A powerful online UU community can be a major force of healing, discovery, and education for the millions of young Americans who do not feel comfortable associating themselves with those who dominate the face of modern organized religion.

    You don't have to do anything to join the ministers already on board with this project, but don't hesitate to call or email me. I operate on Pacific Standard Time.

    Thanks for doing what you do!

    Aaron Sawyer-Moderator Rev. Robert McDill- Minister
    www.discoveruu.com Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society
    moderator@discoveruu.com rtmcdill@sbcglobal.net


  4. It's been a while since you posted. Are you still out there?


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