In the 2 ½ years we’ve used worship themes, I’ve never sidestepped a topic as much as I have this month. Perhaps you have an easier time with it, but I have found it somewhat difficult to think and talk about redemption.
Even sports writers have done a better job, using the NCAA tournament to reflect on the redemption of teams who played poorly for most of the year (only to see it turn around now) as well as individuals with off-the-court troubles. They even pointed out that for seniors, the redemption they seek is gone because there’s no chance for a comeback.
But how do we find redemption?
For many of us, this is a topic to avoid at all costs. It’s powerful, but that power comes from vulnerability and the risk of getting hurt as we seek to make amends for the times we’ve done wrong. Because redemption requires us to let down our guard, it’s often easier to ignore our own culpability even as we demand that people who harm us seek their own redemption.
There are many who easily talk about redemption in their lives – particularly people who are religious or spiritual. For some, the story of Jesus is all about redemption, particularly his dying to cover the costs of the sins each person commits. To be fair, it’s also critical that each individual admit their wrongdoings and seek to live a better life.
Many Hindus or Buddhists also see the necessity for redemption, seeking to take responsibility for their lives and actions and living the “right” life. Once they accomplish this, they are freed from the cycle of rebirth. This understanding of redemption relies not on a savior, but on us.
As Unitarian Universalists, most of us also shy away from seeing the need for someone else to redeem us. Our Unitarian forbearers proclaimed that a good character was necessary. This could be taught by looking at models of wise, virtuous people; but, we have to be held accountable for our own lives. Universalists saw atonement in the love of God – something that would be applied to everyone (universally), regardless of whether they deserved it or not.
Some of us were members of other faith traditions before becoming Unitarian Universalists and are “allergic” to some of the concepts and words that have been used in those communities. We rarely speak of “salvation” or “sin”, hoping instead to speak of our lives in more positive terms. But truthfully, just as the earth needs different seasons, we must reflect on the negative and the positive.
What does redemption look like to you? When we’ve made mistakes, we’re taught to say I’m sorry – but we also know that truly repairing a relationship often takes more than words.
Once we move past Easter, we’ll be running full force to summer. This period of the year calls on us to slowly prepare, to reflect on the winters of our lives and start to plant the seeds that we hope to grow.
May I find redemption when I need it.
May you find redemption when you need it.
May we find redemption when we need it.