Unity is Not Uniformity

River of Grass Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 10 March 2019

“Everyone wishes to have a friend and to be a friend. And everyone wants to be happy. Surely it is intended that we all live together in peace and prosperity, and there is a way through this which can be brought about. Let us then think about some of the things we must do to bring about peace on Earth and goodwill among men.” (Ernest Holmes, The Whole Human Family)

SONG (Bob Sima): If Your Hand Was in Mine, from The Movers The Shakers and The Peacemakers

We are all people of journey. Somehow and somewhere we all started. Somehow and somewhere we dreamed, we leapt, we planned, we committed, we were disappointed, we lied, we lost faith, we hurt, we found our voice again, we triumphed, we gained, we lost, we gave up, we listened, we started over.

My pilgrimage matters. Your pilgrimage matters.

My pilgrimage — as separate and individual and crazy as it may appear to you — is precisely where I find friendship and trust and love with others. Your pilgrimage — as foreign and misguided and unique as it may appear to me — is precisely where you find friendship and trust and love with others.

So when we join hands and recognize each other as simply another pilgrim, another voyager, another sojourner… might we find peace knowing that when we truly get back to the basics and remove all the human labels, we are just all on these fantastical journeys together? Might we find compassion knowing there is another out there who can, at some level, relate to our experience? Might we find prosperity, knowing that we got to today even when we did not want to take a next step? Might we find ourselves being a friend, knowing the best for someone else when they cannot see it for themselves? Might we find a friend, knowing we cannot do this alone?

Back to Ernest Holmes: “It doesn’t matter that we have different opinions, for we are all individuals – and unity does not mean uniformity. But unity does mean that we get along as a human family. The problem begins right at home, in your mind and in mine. Have we kindness for others? Are we flexible enough to know that everyone doesn’t have to think alike to get along? Can we overlook the irritations of life and reach across all difference of opinion to the common ground upon which we all stand and the united purpose toward which we all strive?” (The Whole Human Family)

We cannot apply spiritual principles sitting in our comfy chair, under the soft reading light, paging through a library of inspirational poems and lectures and stories and advice. We must bump into others along our pilgrimage in order to practice spiritual principles. Sometimes our practice game is a home run; sometimes our practice game is a no hitter. But one thing, for certain, is that we are never sitting on the bench. We are always on the field, always “in the field”. Isn’t it much more comforting and supportive and successful when we have our entire team with us in the field? Might that be what the bible refers to as “peace on Earth and goodwill among men”?

Practicing spiritual principles is courageous. We are never assured that smooth and graceful manifestations will follow the application. But as soon as we commit to the practice, our faith increases, our confidence improves, and we create a desire to fully achieve the potential results. So we practice, relentlessly, more and more and more. Until we find ourselves in a network of sojourners who are our guinea pigs… and we are theirs. Then one day… “ah-ha!” We got it!

Through the process we — most likely — removed barriers, rewired beliefs, rewrote our story, remembered our truth, reconnected to the truth about “others”. When Ramana Maharshi was asked, “How are we to treat others?” He simply replied, “There are no others.”

Back to Ernest Holmes: “First of all, we must do away with race prejudice, for there is really only one race – the human race. And while we are all different, we all belong to this one human family. We must learn to respect each other, to know of the needs of the other person and to realize that at the base of every life there is a sincere desire to love and to be loved.” (The Whole Human Family)

SONG (Bob Sima): If You Could See Our Heart, from It’s Time

My pilgrimage matters. Your pilgrimage matters. Our pilgrimage matters. 

When we can speak that final sentence with sincere gratitude and appreciation for the trials and tribulations and growth of ourselves today, knowing that my growth impacts your growth and impacts the collective growth, that is spiritual progress. That brings peace on Earth. 

When we can courageously practice and fine tune our spiritual development, knowing that it may take more than one effort to reach our full potential and that we may fall off the bandwagon a time or two, but that we have a friend who loves us and will be there to help us get back on track, that is spiritual progress. That allows us to love and allows us to be loved.

When we can take the hand of another, knowing that — at the very core — we are sisters and brothers and friends and lovers, that is spiritual progress. That leads to understanding.

When we breathe into our collective heart and patiently wait for a shift of consciousness or for a change to gain momentum as we hold a vision for the majority to stand for unity, knowing that unity is not uniformity, that is spiritual progress.

Our pilgrimage matters. The collective pilgrimage matters.

Back to Ernest Holmes: “There is a lot more good in the world than we realize, and it is this good in each other that we wish to bring out. Sometimes we feel that if we could change the world in a minute, through some miracle of love, all would be well. And this is true. But the world is made up of the people who live in it, and that means you and me. So each will have to begin right where they are. You will have to begin where you are and I will have to begin where I am, right now, today…” (The Whole Human Family)

SONG (Bob Sima): Be The Change, from Thin Little Veil