I was raised as a Unitarian Universalist and by a father who had studied religion for many, many years. He had a B.D. (what would now be an M.Div.) from Lancaster Theological Seminary, and he was raised in the German Reform tradition (now part of the UCC). He thought he might be a minister in that tradition, but his humanistic atheism made him decide otherwise in the end.
He discovered his first UU church in Los Angeles, where I was born. We moved to Pennsylvania and the whole family joined the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, where I attended “Sunday School”.
In addition to the obvious influences (I went to divinity school and got my M.Div., and I am still a UU), there’s a lifelong influence that also came largely from my father. And that is that, like my father, I am very interested in trying to discover as much as possible about the historical Jesus. In fact, I’m probably more interested than he ever was. I am somewhat obsessed with learning as much as I can about the historical Jesus.
And it’s not easy.
As you probably know, Jesus (apparently) never wrote anything. The documents we have about him were written some time (often generations) after his death. And the documents and points of view are contradictory, and they suggest that in some cases details were fabricated to present a particular Christology and theology. It’s very hard to know what to believe.
I’ve read the canonical New Testament, and all the gnostic gospels (I think so, anyway). I’ve read many books that explore the historical Jesus. I’m in the midst of reading all the books on Jewish Christianity that I can; it is possible that these early “Christians” (who were unitarian and thought of Jesus as the Messiah — a human prophet) were the closest to Jesus’s perspective. But really, how can we ever know? The work of the Jesus Seminar is helpful, but it’s still mostly educated guesswork.
And so, my lifetime search for the historical Jesus continues.
In spite of my best intentions, I now find myself doing something I do all too often on a Saturday afternoon: “sermonatin'”.
Everyone procrastinates some, and I’m no exception. But really, I’m not a big procrastinator as a general rule. Still, weeks get busy, and you think that sermon will be finished on Friday. But no. It is not.
Some of my colleagues say that writing sermons on Saturday is quite natural, and that really it’s just as well… because if you wrote it earlier in the week, you’d just keep coming back to it and obsessing and trying to perfect the imperfectable. I’m sure there’s truth in that.
And of course, the focus gets sharper on Saturday as the time grows shorter. I suppose that’s a benefit of sorts.
So here I sit… procrastinating just long enough to write this blog post. Back to it!
Today is my normal “day off”. And so it felt like a good time to set up my new website. The mlarahoke.com domain will point to this site’s homepage from now on. This will be a WordPress site; my old site was hosted at blogger. I will leave the old site up indefinitely. For now, it seems right that the site remains up. However, it’s possible that at some point in the future I might delete that site — who knows? For now, I’m playing it by ear.
This is a time of transition for me. I’m so excited for the possibilities! And yet, change is always bittersweet. Every change — no matter how positive — involves some loss. Right now, I’m trying to remain open to all the feelings that come, remembering the famous word’s of Rumi’s “The Guest House“.
Curious about this site’s title (“Fool of Spirit”)? Yesterday, on Easter, I preached a sermon about Jesus as holy fool. Frankly, it wasn’t my best sermon. (I even misspoke at one point and will have to make my first-ever “audio errata” for the live recording intro. Well, to err is human, I suppose.) In any case, I do like the central notion of the holy fool, which is found in many world religions. I would not elevate myself to holy fool status; however, as my misspeaking can attest, I am sometimes an “ordinary fool”!
I like the idea of being a “fool” in the sense of prioritizing “holy values” over “worldly values”. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he talks about becoming “a fool for Christ’s sake”. (1 Corinthians 4:10) That’s what I want to be: a fool for Jesus… a fool for Guru Nanak and other prophets that I esteem highly. I want to be a fool for the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism! I want to be a fool for justice. I want to be a fool for love, always expanding my circle of compassion. These are my highest aspirations. I want to be a “fool of spirit”.