Leader Letter

Subscribing congregations should share this letter with congregational leaders.  Being oriented to the month’s theme, and equipped to help others in the congregation get aligned with it, builds the whole congregation’s engagement with the theme.  Which, of course, means unity and energy for the community.


Dear Leaders,

In the Jewish Scriptures, we find a disturbing story in Genesis 22. Abraham and Sarah have waited long years for the birth of their son, Isaac. When he's born, they cherish him as the gift that he is. But, later, there comes a time when Abraham understands that it's God's will to take his beloved son Isaac up a mountain, and sacrifice him, in the name of God. Abraham, of course, struggles with this mandate he perceives.  Nonetheless, he obeys. He and Isaac make their way up the mountain. He binds Isaac in ritual fashion, and is preparing to kill him--his own cherished son--when, in the bushes, there appears a ram. And Abraham understands that he's meant to sacrifice the ram instead, and to spare his son, at the very last minute. 

If you are looking for a way to say that traditional religion is archaic and horrific, here's a story to point to. Or at least at first glance. But that's only if you want to read it at surface level, as if it were a story in the newspaper. Looking deeper, we see the story as a complex image, with a question embedded. The question is, "Are we willing to put God before everything? Even those particular things to which we have attached our own hearts, like our children and family?" For non-theist UU's, you could hear the question, "Are you willing to put your principles and your deepest sense of right and wrong before your own particular attachments, even your closest kin?"

Years ago, Ted Kaczynski's brother fingered him as the Unabomber. I remember thinking how challenging a decision that must have been--to know that your beloved brother was hurting people, and that the right thing to do was to sacrifice his freedom for the safety of others. In other moments, the decision is even less clear. It's been said that ethics is always the process of deciding among competing values. So, maybe loyalty and a basic sense of right and wrong are always in tension, to some degree. And, if we are to follow right and wrong, maybe we sacrifice our close bonds with others.  Or, we sacrifice our own comfort, if it's we, ourselves, we're pulling into integrity.

Sacrifice can conjure such gruesome images of ancient cultures and superstition.  But, the truth is, we make sacrifices--wittingly and unwittingly--every day. And more are asked of us. To slow climate change, as a global society, we are asked to make major sacrifices in our lifestyles. For a population accustomed to convenience and easy excess, unpracticed in the habits of sacrifice, this is a fraught moment. Can we sacrifice what is of our particular attachments in the name of what we consider holy and enduring? Time will tell. Meanwhile, this month, I invite you to engage the theme of "sacrifice" in a new, open way, relevant to your own life, and to our planet's survival.



Rev. Jake Morrill
Lead Minister ORUUC
Executive Director UUCF
Launchpad Partner