This past Sunday I offered a line in my sermon that has hit home with some of you. I said, “Courage is our heaven and fear is our hell. Fear is the real Satan among us. It robs us of reason and strength and keeps us from knowing one another.”
What did I mean by courage as our heaven? If heaven is the place of life and joy, then living courageously will help us live the life that best aligns with what matters most to us. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is our resolve to do the right thing over fear. For instance, when we are talking to someone who we suspect we disagree with fundamentally, the more courageous thing to do is not to retreat into your opposition but to ask, “Tell me more.” The more you can hear, the more you are likely to find a common humanity.
And what did I mean by fear as our hell? I mean that whenever we are fearful we are more prone to anger and retreat. Fear can keep us within our own echo chambers, only reinforcing what we think we know. With fear as our companion, our values become defenses instead of invitations.
I admit that fear and courage are not polar opposites, and there is a great deal of room for nuance here. I only suggest this as a typology — a means by which we gauge how we are living our lives with integrity and hope.
In any case, the best way to keep us in UU heaven is to engage with one another. Not just with “like-minded” people, but with those who differ in minds and hearts as well. I leave you with the opening lines from William Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence:”
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage
A Dove house filld with Doves and Pigeons
Shudders Hell thr’ all its regions
Your always, Rev. John