Salvation: the practice of healing

Theme for January

Each month, our church gathers around a monthly theme and practice to guide our congregational life: worship, small groups, religious education, justice, and classes. Use these readings for reflection around the dinner table, in your own prayer practice, alone or with others.

Download 2017-1-salvation-the-practice-of-healing Packet


  • What has saved, or is saving, your life?
  • What people or practices have brought wholeness or a sense of healing to your mind, body, or soul?
  • Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. – Henri Nouwen


Salvation, from its root words meaning wholeness, and healing, and well-being, like a salve for a wound, is much less about a personal guarantee for a life hereafter, and much more about a sense of wholeness, connection, liberation – personal and communal – for our life here, now.

In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.
-Marianne Williamson

The moment you realize your bones are made from the same dust as the planets, your lungs breathing the air of migrating butterflies, and your blood is pumping because of the love and care of thousands, is when you realize you’re not as broken or alone as you think you are.  You are full of the world.

Salvation is about liberation, reconnection, seeing anew, acceptance, and the satisfaction of our deepest yearnings. Christianity at its best — like all of the enduring religions of the world at their best — is a path of transformation.
-Marcus BorgWe are not saints, we are not heroes. Our lives are lived in the quiet corners of the ordinary. We build tiny hearth fires, sometimes barely strong enough to give off warmth. But to the person lost in the darkness, our tiny flame may be the road to safety, the path to salvation.
-Kent Nerburn

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.



They are bringing the piano up the hill.
From the wreck of the father’s death
the piano rising.

They are bringing the piano up the hill.
In the wood the deer go down on their knees,
the kings, the queens.

They bring the piano into the house.
They keyboard is a beach where my father and I
play together again,
one hand running after the other, inseparable.

They bring the piano into the house.
Now turn,  you autumn constellations, shine,
and you kings and queens of the wood
rise up, be restored.

The piano is in the house.
From the house, two-fingered, thin, beginning,
my own music rising.

The piano is in the house.
-Michael Dennis Browne

A Singing Voice

Once, camping on a high bluff
Above the Fox River, when
I was about fourteen years
Old, on a full moonlit night
Crowded with whippoorwills and
Frogs, I lay awake long past
Midnight watching the moon move
Through the half drowned stars. Suddenly
I heard, far away on the warm
Air a high clear soprano,
Purer than the purest boy’s
Voice, singing, “Tuck me to sleep
In my old ‘Tucky home.”
She was in an open car
Speeding along the winding
Dipping highway beneath me.
A few seconds later
An old touring car full of
Boys and girls rushed by under
Me, the soprano rising
Full and clear and now close by
I could hear the others singing
Softly behind her voice. Then
Rising and falling with the
Twisting road the song closed, soft
In the night. Over thirty
Years have gone by but I have
Never forgotten. Again
And again, driving on a
Lonely moonlit road, or waking
In a warm murmurous night,
I hear that voice singing that
Common song like an
Angelic memory.
-Kenneth Rexroth


I once saw this most Unitarian Universalist of bumper stickers: “God bless everyone—no exceptions.” It is UU because one of our tenants is universal salvation, the idea that all will be saved, no matter what. Universal salvation did not originate with Universalists, however. It goes back, at least to the third century in the works of Origen, a scholar in the early church, who held that not a single rational being will be lost to the darkness of ignorance and sin. There is evidence that it goes back even further than that.

In some traditions, they speak about salvation as though it were something bestowed upon us – that it can be given and revoked – something specific and limited. In others, salvation, once found, can never be lost. We find another question to unpack: is salvation something that is outside us, something worn—like a shirt—that we can put on and take off? Or is salvation more like something we find within ourselves, something that once found can never be lost, or if lost, needs to be rediscovered within? Salvation is remarkably personal; it is not something that can be shared, lent, or transferred in any way.

Salvation has a deep and rich etymology; one of the earliest roots is the Sanskrit word “sarva” meaning “entire” or “whole”. ”Sar” became “sal” and in Latin the word took on two different meanings: “salvus”, meaning safe and “salus” meaning health. “Salvus” obviously became “salvation”, whereas “salus” became “salute” (as in “I salute you” or wish you good health), “salutary” and “salubrious,” promoting health. That “salvation” and “health” are cousins should come as no surprise, given that salvation is the practice of healing., and healing is the act of making something whole.


Human ignorance is seen in the low ideas attached to the word “salvation.” People think that salvation is something which another may achieve for them. The word Hell, which all persons acquainted with Jewish geography know to be a metaphor…this word has done unspeakable injury. It has possessed the diseased human imagination with thoughts of torture, and turned their thoughts to Jesus as someone outside them who will deliver them. But the salvation which humanity needs is not from outside things, but is from the evil within the mind, which hardens itself against love, which makes gain its god, which shuts itself up in a dungeon of self-interest, which consents to be a slave, and which allows itself to be formed by custom, opinion and changing events. To save, in the highest sense of that word, is to heal the diseased mind, and restore it to freedom of thought, conscience and love.
-William Ellery Channing


We humans tend to ‘love’ all kinds of things other than our fellow beings. We love our new cars, our technological gizmos, our favorite foods. Many of us also love peace, social justice, earth care, and other worthy causes. What we may not realize is that in all our pursuits of people, things, and causes, what we are really longing for is the ultimate satisfaction of being in a loving relationship with the Divine Source of Love. ‘There is a disease in my breast that no doctor can cure,’ said the early Sufi saint Rabia; only union with the Divine Friend could cure her malady. All our longings for emotional and material satisfaction are really a deeper yearning for Absolute Mystery, veiled and obscure. ‘Friend!’ cried out the sixteenth-century sage Kabir, ‘Ask yourself, who is it we spend our entire lives loving?’

Excerpt from Finding Peace through Spiritual Practice by Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Iman Jamal Rahman