Quote for our Post-truth Times

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The further  a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.

George Orwell.

The God of the Gaps

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Sermon delivered to Spirit of Life Unitarian Fellowship on Sunday 18 March 2018 by the Rev Geoffrey Usher.

At the meeting of the London Group of the Society on 15 September 1994, the speaker was the Rev Dr David Wilkinson, a Methodist minister and Chaplain to Liverpool University. Rev Dr Wilkinson held a PhD in astro-physics, and was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1993 his book was published: God, the Big Bang and Stephen Hawkins. The title of his talk to the Alister Hardy Society was “Spirituality and Modern Cosmology”.
He began by emphasising that he had come prepared to learn, since no-one knows all the answers to cosmic questions. Important, that:- no-one knows all the answers to cosmic questions.
However, he said, modern cosmology – the study of the world around us – modern cosmology had forced many people to consider religious questions in relation to science itself. They had been forced to consider those religious questions, even if they had no particular religious axe to grind, no particular dogma to defend.It seemed that, the more we discover, the more religious questions we face – particularly questions about the emergence of spirituality in modern cosmologies.

The full sermon on the influence of modern cosmology on the concept of God can be read here.

Idealism in a Crazy World – The case of Cervantes’ The Adventures of Don Quixote

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by Dr Max Lawson

The Adventures of Don Quixote was written in two parts: the first part published in December 1604 or January 1605 and the second part was not published till 1615 – not long before Cervantes’ death.
Not only is The Adventures of Don Quixote considered the first novel but is often considered the greatest comic novel. At the simple plot level it is a series of adventures and episodes involving the delusions of the madman Don Quixote and his so-called squire “The rustic” Sancho Panza. The second part of the
novel is more serious with Don Quixote becoming more lucid and Sancho Panza becoming as mad as his master.
Don Quixote became mad by reading himself into insanity immersing himself in his veritable library of books about chivalry and knight errantry. Part of the ironic drollery of the novel is that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are “absurdly unsuited for their roles(1) – in fact in the romances, books on chivalry, knights-errants were always rich young men of high birth and their squires of similar  background were serving their apprenticeship before coming knights-errant themselves.  Unlike the models in the romances, Don Quixote, with his broken down Rosinale, his horse, and his patch-work thread-bare armour and
the pot-bellied Sancho Panza riding on his ass are parodies of the chivalric tradition. The fun of the novel is all, the absurd situations the decrepit pair get into – the famous, indeed archtypal episode being that of tilting at windmills, thinking them enemies.

Dr Lawson discusses the relevance of this story to the modern world. The complete talk can be found here.

Good News in the Present Tense

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by the Rev Geoffrey Usher.

I feel a bit uncomfortable when people who have  been Christians for years insist on telling their
conversion experiences. It’s not the stories that make me uncomfortable, but the thought that they
ought to have something much more recent to communicate about their Christian life. A poet
commented:
Your holy hearsay is not evidence:
Give me the good news in the present tense.
The living truth is what I long to see. I cannot lean upon what used to be.
Show me how
The Christ you talk about Is living now.

Click here to read the full address.

Paper Bags and Calabashes

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An address given by Reverend Geoffrey Usher to the Spirit of Life Unitarian Fellowship.

Do you have a cardboard box of “good stuff”? Do you have a box which is what you’ll grab to take with you if your house ever catches on fire? Do you have a worn paper bag of bits and pieces – “love in a paper sack”?
Think back over the years. Are you aware of any sins of omission – of failures to seize opportunities which you might now be ready to grasp – failures to see what was really there – what was really being offered to you in the equivalent of Robert Fulghum’s daughter’s tattered lunchbag?
Are you aware – or prepared to admit – that you may have rejected, through sheer insensitivity, goodness only knows how many tentative offerings of open-hearted trust?

Click here to read the full address.

 

Reflection – April 15, 2018

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by the Rev. Daniel Jantos, given at the Spirit of Life Fellowship, Kirrabilli.

Some of us may identify philosophically, politically, spiritually as progressives but generally, in Australia or the United States, we know that there is a line, of sorts, to our left that one crosses with caution. The clearest way to cross that line is to start talking about Karl Marx and Marxism …..or to throw around the words colonialist and imperialist. We may be progressive but many are wary of that leftist Marxist fringe whom we suspect are mostly idealogues gone too far – university students or academics who don’t really know enough about the practical world.
Well today I would like to bring up some Marxist critique and some colonialist conspiracies as a part of a reflection. This in connection to a term that has captured my imagination over the past few weeks and I hope might be of interest to you also. It is a term from the writer Peter Hershcock. It is the term “the colonization of consciousness.” I am using it this morning as a way to reflect on just how much information technology has invaded our lives and is plundering our attention. To use a Marxist phrase: it has made a commodity of our attention.

The full address can be found here.

Life and Laughter Invite Us To Be Startled By Easter

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“The universes underpins and permits life,
of which we are a local manifestation”
(Paul R. Fleischman)

‘A pinch and a punch for the first of the month’.
‘Rabbits. Rabbits. Rabbits’.
Or if you are Irish: ‘White Rabbits’.

Today is a ‘first of the month’ day.
It is 1st April—April Fool’s Day—sometimes called All Fool’s Day.
One of the most light-hearted days of the year.

The rest of this Rev. Rex Hunt address can be read here.

Looking at Life

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Address by Rev. Geoff Usher :

I suspect that most people pause now and then to look at l i f e . And I suspect that
at least some people think that, on the whole, l i f e is pretty grim.

To continue reading click here.

Celebrating Earth and Wonder in Early Spring

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A talk given by the Rev. Rex Hunt on the 17th of September, 2017.

 

In 2005 when I was on a Study Tour in England I was fortunate enough to have a side-visit to ‘Down House’, the country home of naturalist Charles Darwin and his family. Few properties can claim to have been as central to the life  and work of its owner as this house.
I remember very well standing in his old studyand being engulfed by its history and its significance. For it was in that house and in that room that Darwin wrote  his most famous book, On the Origin of Species…, published in November 1859.A book which stands as a wellspring for what we now call ‘evolutionary biology’.
In the last paragraph of the book, Darwin wrote: “It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.” (Darwin 2008:362)
Interesting indeed… For the debate it ignited not only led to the denial of the creation stories of the western religious tradition, it gave us the beginnings of an immensely richer, longer, more complex ‘story’,  rooted not in “the history of a single tribe or a particular people”,  but one “rooted in the sum of our knowledge of the universe itself”.
A scientific ‘doctrine of incarnation’ as one person has described it, which suggests “that the universe itself is continually incarnating itself in microbes and maples, in humming birds and human beings, constantly inviting us to tease out the revelation contained in stars and atoms and every living thing.”  (Bumbaugh 2003)
Yes, a ‘religious’ story…   that invites us to awe and wonder;       that demands a vocabulary of reverence.

The complete talk can be found here.

The Perfume of the Trampled Flower

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A sermon by the Rev. Geoff Usher given on the 20th August, 2017.

A puzzle. Within congregations that are supposed to be loving, caring, mutually supportive communities of like-minded people – especially in our liberal, tolerant Unitarian tradition – why is it that so often people remain unforgiving about some long past event, or remain unforgiving of the way that other members of the congregation reacted to that event?
Why is it that the health of the whole congregation – the health and well-being of the whole church community – can become lost in petty arguing, lost in what seems to be a stubborn unwillingness to mend the rips in the fabric of community?

The whole talk can found here.

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