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Saturday Sermon: Awaken love, virtue in your being

By By Philip Douglas
May 18, 2012 at 12:18 a.m.

Philip Douglas

The next time you are in the grocery store, take a look at the produce section and just notice how pretty it all looks. I especially like the red peppers. It seems to me that every different color is saying something different to us.

Last Tuesday at our Financial Peace University class, Dave Ramsey talked about how advertisers use colors to attract our attention. So, I wrote a poem about how colors talk. (This may be the only poetry ever inspired by Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University). I titled this poem "Colors Talk."

Red shouts, "Notice me!"

and orange retorts, "I'm just as good as red, but subtler."

Yellow squeals, "Let's dance!"

while blue murmurs, "Come and sit down right beside me."

Purple proclaims, "Be amazed!"

but pink whispers, "I've got something here just for you."

And green, green says, "I will always be here for you.

Always, always, always."

The nature photographer Louie Schwartzberg said that after shooting flowers and their pollinators for more than 35 years, he has come to the conclusion that "beauty and seduction are nature's tools for survival. Because we will protect what we fall in love with."

Plants and animals evolved together, so that now there are some animals that pollinate only certain very specific kinds of flowers. The pollinators and the flowers evolved together, so that they fit together in the environment perfectly. It is as if the plants and animals have been in a conversation for millions of years. Isn't that amazing?

In the 19th century, there was a popular idea that human beings had lived in a perfect time and place and had fallen out of it, fallen out with each other and their home and the creator of the universe. That idea still has a lot of currency.

And if you look at the world that way, then the problem facing human beings is how to fix our very nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists rejected that idea. They observed that human nature has an ability to rise up, to move to a higher, more virtuous state. They attributed this ability to something they called a moral sense.

And for them and for us, the problem of humanity is not to fix our nature, but rather to awaken that moral sense in ourselves and in our world. Emerson wrote, "When it breaks through our intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through our will, it is virtue; when it flows through our affections, it is love."

Just as beauty knows us, so also kindness knows us. Fairness knows us; justice knows us; compassion, mercy and forgiveness all know us. Fun and joy especially know us.

It is the mission of the church to awaken in each one of us that moral sense that Emerson talked about, that font of genius, virtue and love. It's as natural to each of us as our response to the beauty of a flower.

Amen.

Philip Douglas is the pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Corpus Christi.

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