The First Day
(Wednesday, March 6, 2019)
A Way of Growing
“The two great basic concepts dominating religion are devotion and supreme value.Religion, . . . is devotion through adoration to service, to that which is supremely worthful. It is a way of growing . . . . Religion develops in the child (or adult) as all else develops, though processes of growth. It can be facilitated or retarded, normalized or perverted, by the conditions under which growth takes place, but the process of growth itself is one with life . . .
“Life is sensitivity and responsiveness to the materials, orders and forces which sustain and prod it, and which give it meaning. . . . Growth is the increase in the complexity and organization of sensitivity and responsiveness to such materials, orders and forces as foster and promote life and give it value. . . . Sensitivity and responsiveness are the media through which all growth takes place. They provide the only avenue by which the outer life of nature and society can enter the inner life of the individual, living organism. . . .
“What we may call conscience does not appear until values begin to function as habits and ideals in the child. It takes much training to help the child develop the ideals and value-habits with their corollary standards of good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, true and false. When once established, these function as conscience.” (Wieman & Wieman)
Religion is a way of growing. Growth is the increase in the complexity and organization of sensitivity and responsiveness to such forces as foster life and give it value. Sensitivity and responsiveness provide the avenue by which the outer life of nature and society can enter the inner life of the individual. Conscience appears when values begin to function as habits and ideals.
We begin, then, by consciously cultivating a spirit of devotion, an ever increasing sensitivity and responsiveness to the universal forces which surround us and operate within us, in order that we may accommodate our lives to their requirements. A feeling for these requirements becomes our conscience.
There is no escape from religion. All human beings are inevitably religious. Their religion is what they are living. The only question is whether it is thoughtful or inane, deep or superficial, good or evil. (Donald Szantho Harrington)
God, open us wide in awareness of the creative urgency which You have set within us. Help us to understand that only when we stop growing in harmony with Your Larger Life do we begin to die. Open us to what this implies in all our relations with living beings near and far. Let that new awareness change our lives. Amen.
Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve,
And press with vigor on!
A heav’nly race demands thy seal,
And an immortal crown.
A cloud of witnesses around
Hold thee in full survey:
Forget the steps already trod,
And onward urge thy way.
‘Tis God’s all-animating voice
That calls thee from on hiugh;
‘Tis God’s own hean presents the prize
To thine aspiring eye.
—Philip Doddridge (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 298)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 223)
Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980.