When I think of Unity (the subject of this week’s small group ministry session based on resources from SpiritualityandPractice.com), I think of two spiritual tasks: one is to learn to act from the Unity in our own being, our own nature; the other is to learn to see the essential Unity of all creation. As Parker Palmer puts it, “In a paradox, opposites do not negate each—they cohere in the mysterious unity at the heart of reality.” And it’s this great paradox, “the tension created by the need for togetherness and need for separateness” (to use the language of Bowen Family Systems theory), that I believe drives much of what we do as individuals, as well as the universe itself. Everyone and everything, it seems, is constantly negotiating this paradox. We long for companionship, the company of others, yet we need our solitude, our time alone. Perhaps this is what the original oneness of the Universe felt, too, the desire for another, the other, that set the entire cosmos into motion in “The Great Flaring Forth” formerly know as “The Big Bang.”
We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.
— Thomas Merton in Thomas Merton: Essential Writings edited by Christine Bochen
A Teaching Story from Yeshua of Nazareth: Spiritual Master by Richard W. Chilson.
Richard W. Chilson, an author and Paulist priest, presents a thought-provoking portrait of Yeshua of Nazareth as a spiritual master. Here is a passage about the spiritual practice of unity.
I remember an embarrassing incident that brought to mind that the ‘enemy’ is my brother. I was driving home on the freeway and as I approached my exit a car dawdled in front of me. Too late to pass him; I was stuck following: as usual I was in a hurry. That driver inspired in me a whole slew of invectives. Spewing epithets I pulled up alongside at the stoplight by the exit. I looked over only to discover a dear friend. Instantly the situation changed although I had not done anything public to express my rage, I felt ashamed and guilty. How could I think these things about him? I had seen him as an obstacle, not a brother. It is the same with the other no matter the situation, from the person ahead of us in line, to our age-old enemy. Whoever it is, they have the same concerns, fears, gifts, and shortcomings we all do. Just another human being trying to do their best, a fellow sufferer of life, a brother or sister at heart, at least in the heart of God.
Questions: What blocks or obstacles most often keep you from feeling that you are one with others.
Check-out/Likes and Wishes
Only when we have the courage to cross the road and look in one another’s eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family.
— Henri J. M. Nouwen in Bread for the Journey
To Practice This Thought: The sight of people from different races and countries, on the street or on television, is your cue to practice unity.
For a PDF version of this small group ministry session, click here: Unity.
For more information on small group ministry, visit the UU Small Group Ministry Network.