Garden Thursday : Thy Will Be Done

GethsemaneDuring the Sermon on the Mount, while expounding on anger, adultery, oaths, and retaliation, Jesus repeatedly emphasized the importance of motivation over action. It is not the act of adultery that makes us adulterers, but entertaining the desire. It is not the voicing of our hatred that is the sin, but the hatred itself.

The moral character behind our decisions, that inner seed of the actions which are regulated by Law, was at the core of Jesus’ teachings.

For this reason, Reform Unitarianism honors Garden Thursday — the day on which Jesus accepted the necessity of the painful events to follow — as the highest of Holy Days.

It is at Gethsemane that the teachings of Jesus and the story of Jesus come together.  During the Prayer in the Garden, by praying “Thy will be done” in the face of imminent suffering, Jesus made the commitment of moral character he had preached about in the Sermon on the Mount.

It was this decision in the Garden of Gethsemane that signifies the taking of the fruit of the Tree of Life, countering and remedying the imbalance created by the taking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.  As that Knowledge brought responsibility to the first Adam, requiring punitive Law to regulate human actions, the moral teaching of the “Second Adam” (as Jesus has been called) transcends and fulfills the Law with the virtue of character.

Law, married to Wisdom, becomes whole. The Lion lies down with the Lamb.  Knowledge and Life together bring us back into Paradise.

The arrest of Jesus, his trial, and the crucifixion that followed were, like the material events consequent of any decision, secondary to the spiritual and moral event that took place inside the soul of Jesus when he said to God: “Nevertheless, Thy will be done.”

This fulfillment of Christ’s own teachings was the true pinnacle of his ministry.


[A version of this homily has been published on earlier Garden Thursdays]

[The stained glass above is at First Reformed United Church of Christ of Burlingon, North Carolina.]


A Day of Faith and Confidence

faithToday is Loyal Thursday, the 4th Thursday after Easter and the Ultimate Thursday of the 12 Days of Trust, the second dozenal of the Ascension Season.

The 12 Days of Trust are a celebration of the clear-minded virtue of Faith (πίστις in Greek, fidelis in Latin), and Loyal Thursday is a day to feast in fidelity to the things we know to be true. Faith is the virtue of steadfast thinking, the antidote of confusion, and with Hope a vital half of the highest Christian virtue of Love.


Reform Unitarian Symbols – The Chalice

During this Lenten season leading up to Garden Thursday, let’s discuss one of our key symbols in Unitarian Reform: the chalice.

Now, the flaming chalice is known as a symbolism of post-Christian “Unitarianism” (absent the Unitarian meaning) with origins in the oil-burning lamps in Greek and Roman ritual.

For AUR, however, the chalice is the Cup of Gethsemane: the image Jesus used to symbolize the suffering of material existence, the worst of which he was about to suffer himself.

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Liturgical Calendar Graphic Added

A new graphic depicting the American Unitarian Reform liturgical calendar has been added to AUR’s LC page.  The chart shows the 10-Day Gap, and the rough dates for the Four Great Thursdays: Harvest (or Thanksgiving) Thursday, Garden (or Gethsemane) Thursday, Ascension Thursday, and Declaration Thursday.

Please note, of course, that the seasons from Carnival through Pentecost can vary broadly from year to year.

A rough depiction of the liturgical calender; note that many seasons move from year to year.


Joyful Thursday

hopeToday, the second Thursday after Easter, is the beginning of the 12 Days of Blessings, which is the first of the three dozenals of the Ascension Season.

The 12 Days of Blessings are a celebration of the open-minded virtue of Hope (ἐλπίς in Greek), and Joyful Thursday is a day to feast in optimistic happiness. Hope is the virtue of open-minding thinking, the antidote of despair, and with Faith a vital half of the highest Christian virtue of Love.


Thursday Observance

AUR views itself as a particularly American and Unitarian Christian expression of the universal search for Truth. Just as the earliest Christian communities struggled with the question of Saturday or Sunday worship (the outcome of which is disputed even today by Seventh Day Adventists) and Muslims took Friday as their Day of Gathering, the Reform sought a weekday that honors the particulars of its idiom. Continue reading