Sunday Sermon – Our First Principle, The Inherent Worth and Dignity – September 25, 2016

9/25/16 Sermon

Our First Principle,

The Inherent Worth and Dignity

Rev. Paul D. Daniel, Minister


Our seven principle are like the Legos my kids and grandchildren


play with to build rockets, robots and race cars and tall buildings.


Through trial and error,


they learned that these objects needed a firm foundation and


concentrated intent if they were not to fail and fall apart.


That is what our seven principles are;

the Legos, the DNA, the building blocks


upon which modern Unitarian Universalism is built.


Our first principle reads,


“We Affirm and Promote the Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person” the topic of today’s sermon, and


the beginning of a series on what Unitarian Universalists believe.


These values are fundamental if we hope to build a moral, ethical community.


The genius of Unitarian Universalism is that we have the freedom to decide for ourselves


how we understand and strive to live these values,


which are readily adaptable to the realities of our times?


We have learned to welcome a


diversity of theologies, nuances and perspectives as gifts


each of us bring to fulfill our promise and principles.


We are committed as members to honor and respect each other’s worth and dignity


regardless of our sexual orientation, political persuasion, race or theology,


regardless of the limits of our ability to do or understand.


We have affirmed as a community to


strive to live out of these principles in all our human interactions.  


Our First principle centers on what it means to be human

in Thoreau words, “One world at a time”.


To have dignity and worth, the human family must have access to

justice, in Charlotte, Tulsa and across this land. We demand:


equality of opportunity,


adequate housing,


medical care,




freedom of thought and religion.


Respect for each other must be an act of conscious will,


 and go beyond mere words into daily deeds.  


Our UU history and efforts in this direction are what makes our faith great.


It is in the doing and practice that puts flesh on the bones of our religion.


Our religion first arose out of the


religious turmoil of the renaissance and reformation;


a time when people began to reject the authority of others as secondary to one own understanding and experience.


While our seven principles are of a more modern time, they are the natural outcome of our history.


Our yearning


for freedom of expression,


respect and acceptance of religious pluralism


moved early Unitarian to flee to America for the right to be different yet reverent.


While our faith arises out of the Judeo-Christian heritage,


Unitarian Universalism broke new ground by placing the primacy of


conscience and the search for truth based on personal experience


over both authority and a literal interpretation of scriptures.


Rev. Marilyn Sewell reminds us,


we “believe that all people have spiritual needs,


and we invite whoever would come asking only that people give the same respect and tolerance too other that they would want for themselves”.


Unitarian Universalism is still a work in progress.


There are times when we are still


intolerant of each other’s differences, limits and right to respectful interaction.


I encourage each of us to search our own heart to test whether that is true.


This struggle to live our values with integrity is not easy but a is part of our ongoing religious quest and challenge.


With that understanding we strive to


offer a radical hospitality to those whose life choices and perspectives differ from our own.


Our acceptance of diversity is what makes us strong and somewhat


unique s a faith and obligates us by belief to respect the worth and dignity of all.  


The primacy of love and acceptance


provides the theological underpinning for our faith and this principle.


Norbert Capek, the Unitarian Czech minister and martyr to Nazi medical experiments said,


“Let us renew our resolution sincerely to be real brother and sisters


regardless of any kind of bar which estranges….


In this holy resolution may we be


strengthened, knowing that we are God’s family;


that one spirit, the spirit of love, unites us” ….


His legacy of abiding love for all people and his believe that


we must learn to love each other the way God loved us still endures.


Today, his courage challenges us to respect each other when we hold different views.


The example he set reminds us to forswear


 gossip, rumor spreading, or triangulating; for they violate our first principle.


We are each called by Capek to do a moral self-inventory and decide if we are living up to his sacrifice and our proud history as UUs.


As Marilyn Sewell writes, that on the other hand of our [radical hospitality]


“allows for a foolish tolerance of individual behavior that should not be


accepted because it is destructive of the larger community.


Some churches allow unhealthy individuals to


exert extraordinary influence in the life of the church body because


members want to always appear “open”, “accepting” and loving”.


This tolerance of harmful behavior is not consistent with all our principles


for it is in violation of the law of love and healthy respect for the larger community.


Our church sits on private property,


yet anyone who comes and acts in way that harm others,


have in my opinion, lost the privilege of fellowship with us”.


Sewell concludes that, yes “these people have worth and dignity but


it does not follow that we should tolerate their or any one’s harmful behavior”.


As with any guiding principle there


are both contradictions and people who abuse our values and generous welcoming spirit.


For example, we believe in a women’s right to choose but


if every life has worth and dignity how can we support abortion?


A contradiction. If we believe in the worth and dignity of every individual


how can we not respect a woman’s right to make decisions for her own body?


or how can we support the death penalty which many Americans do? (contradiction, upon contradiction).


If we believe in the worth and dignity of all


how can we reject Islam or immigrant?


Life is full of contradictions that us

seven principles help us to navigate to an ethical place.


These are some of the moral dilemmas of our age and faith that


make us human and a work in progress.


Here our individual conscience is called into play.



We are forced to deal with issues of moral relevance.



We are called on to be Solomon.


Each of us are called to make the goal of fairness and justice


part of our spiritual lives and searching.


We are called to go deep within when


dealing with such issues or we risk


just being shallow thinkers about the application of justice and


about life and death, itself.


As someone once said, “We think because we said it, we done it”.


Not hardly.


That’s why it is a challenge to be a Unitarian Universalist.


We believe in deeds not creeds.


We are called to action that will not wait for tomorrow.


Tomorrow hundreds more in Aleppo, indeed all of Syria and Iraq will be dead.


Sometimes, without intention or thought,


the fears in the world prevents us

finding the love, we need to show one another. 


When our actions are counter to our stated principles


our faith becomes empty, our words meaningless.


If that were to happen, we all will suffer and the world will mourn.


Yes, we are imperfect in the application of all our principles.


Yet, I have hope for better days, for our hearts are in the right and holy place.


We long to do the right thing,


to bring justice where there is none;


to feed the hungry,


to bring hope to those who despair,


to remember to respect the dignity of the other


even as we exercise our right to disagree and


strongly but respectfully share our opinion.


Conversation and dialogue instead of conflict is our goal


never devaluing another person’s humanity. 


It is in all of us to be in “right relations” but


we have to be mindful and listen to the siren song of our principles. 


In faith, we forgive and are forgiven for our missteps. 


We are all flawed, imperfect and when we fall short of our values,


we begin again with love.


Love and respect redeems us.


We can change our world tomorrow, starting with today.


We can rededicate ourselves to this high and lofty purpose by


Respecting the worth and dignity of all UUFP member, and all of humanity.


May it be so!

This entry was posted in Sermons. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply