The Forty-seventh Day
(Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019)
The Recreation of Faith
“Religion is devotion to what we hold to be supremely worthful not only for ourselves but for all human living. This applies to all genuine religion as we shall understand it. But the superior forms of religion require an elaborate statement with full equalification. Religion, at its highest and best, is the devotion of the total self, through search, service and adoration, to the highest cause of which one is now conscious, providing that cause is deemed worthy of the devotion of all people, and is symbolic of ever higher unexplored values.
“Religion, then, is a process of organizing the self around and toward the highest values, The total self mustbe involved if the highest values are to be promoted and realized. The total self willbe involved spontaneously if the devotees are sincere, for they believe that that to which they devote themselves is truly the most worthful they know. . . .
“In excellent religion, which is always something more than genuine religion, the objective sought and served and adored has not only the kind of value which must be shared to be realized, but a value which the individual reveres because it leads on to, and always opens out into, higher and wider realms of value which are never fully compassed at any one time by the devotee. Hence the highest that can be clearly formulated and comprehended is always a progression. Always this highest reaches on to values that elude the present powers of specific knowledge and appreciation. Hence the way of life that marks excellent religion is the process of progressive integration, involving the total person, and growing toward a Supremely Worthful which exceeds the scope of present comprehension.
“This is the reason why people’s religion is so important to them when it is genuine. It is not that it is so close to them but that it is the center of their lives. It is themselves. It is their total self living a particular way of life. We can no more suddenly ‘lose our religion’ that we can suddenly lose our personality. Both are present growth processes rooted in previous growth processes, and thrusting toward future growth processes. The particular responsiveness or way of life, and the generating and emerging body of concepts which portray what is at the time the most worthful, are not two distinctly different things, but rather two aspects of the religious process. One aspect is always becoming the other.” (Wieman & Wieman)
Growing one’s own religion is a matter of constantly reworking one’s beliefs into a more and more perfectly integrated, living faith, testing out each fragment by one’s own experience, the findings of others and the wisdom of the past. The task is never finished, but that does not matter, for the task of spiritual growth itself becomes the principal source of personal pleasure, social effectiveness, and carries the sense of transforming glory. (Donald Szantho Harrington)
Our God, Yours is the glory, ours is the joy and the labor of realizing it in and around ourselves. Yes, Your glory is always here—potentially—within and among us humans, waiting only our commitment to burst into being. Rouse us to such commitment. Amen.
Press on! press on! ye ones of light,
Untiring in your holy fight,
Still treading each temptation down,
And battling for a brighter crown.
Press on! press on! through toil and woe
Calmly resolved to triumph go,
And make each dark and threatening ill
Yield but a higher glory still.
Press on! press on! still look in faith
To God who vanquished sin and death,
And till you hear the high ‘Well done,’
True to the last, press on! press on!
—William Gaskell (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 315)
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.