3/5/17 Sermon Fourth Principle Finding Meaning and Truth
Rev. Paul D. Daniel, Minister
We all travel different paths to find personal truth and meaning.
Perhaps like many of you I had to leave my faith of origin to
find what resonated and made rational sense to me.
Judaism and the Old Testament stopped speaking to me at an early age soon after my Bar Mitzvah yet,
I still have great love for the Jewish people and our history.
Perhaps, once a Jew always a Jew,
once a Catholic always a Catholic.
You get the idea.
I suspect we all still carry some
of the roots and trappings of the faith in which we were raised.
It feels embedded in our genes.
The final straw that turned me away from Judaism was the
violence of a vengeful God in the Hebrew bible appalling.
Why would a loving God
destroy all of humanity in a flood or enslave his/her chosen people?
Why would the Christian God allow
Jesus to be tortured and crucified to prove his love and devotion?
How can a Christian rationalize the crusades and the inquisition? Inhuman treatment in God’s name has no place in any religion.
We all need to believe in something more humane,
more Unitarian Universalist as it turned out for most of us here today.
We UUs covenant to live by a set of values
developed through a process of personal and collective discernment, moral reasoning and rationality, not blind faith.
We UUs need a faith that is open to both science and myth and
places right human relations with each other and the holy as the highest good.
Faith doesn’t need obedience, but rather moral and ethical precepts and love eternal without dogma or creeds.
We live the questions of our life and learn to accept that life has no easy answers.
That is our way.
This search for meaning and connection is universal.
It calls UUs to use heart and intellect to find
values and principles by which to live,
raise a family,
interact with the world and
ultimately find comfort at the end of our days.
For many of us this experiential search is fundamental to our existence,
our sense of well-being and spiritual contentment.
We like that our faith is built on freedom,
but it is not the freedom to believe whatever we want.
We know by experience that with freedom comes
responsibility embedded within
“a free and responsible search for truth and meaning”.
Unitarian Universalism encourages
us all to follow
our own unique spiritual path to create our own belief systems,
with a belief in God or not.
Whatever the nature of our journey we travel together in spirit.
Walt Whitman said it this way,
“We will go where winds blow,
waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.
Forward after the great companions!
And to belong to them!
They too are on the road! …
To see nothing anywhere but
what you may reach it and pass it.
To look up or down no road but
It stretches and waits for you—
To know the universe itself as a road—
As many roads—
As roads for traveling souls.
That curiosity, is what beckons many of us, that
non-judgment openness to change and growth that
can come with fresh ideas and new connections.
As fellow spiritual explorers, we have a responsibility to each other, to honor our differences,
to reserve judgment on what we don’t understand,
to be open to a wide range of beliefs.
We are here to find our own
sacred truth that gives meaning to our lives.
Without that faithfulness to our own agency and our fellow travelers
our search can become self-serving, narcissistic, even destructive.
We are all, less we forget, part of
the interdependent web of existence.
As part of that connected whole
we must consider how our lives intersect with others and how we
are called to work for their integrity, safety and security as well as our own.
Paige Getty writes,
“too often we abandon this responsibility in our insistence on
maintaining our so-called freedom.
Remarkably, somehow, we seem to have convinced ourselves that
freedom implies an affirmation of rampant individualism—
justifiable and legitimate,
regardless of our actions or their consequences.
We UU secular, atheists, agnostics and humanists can,
like many fundamentalists,
deepen the schisms that creates
an “us” and “them”,
the religious right from left,
liberal from conservative,
rather than acknowledge that
another’s faith, though very
different still has worth and validity.
While tolerance of religious diversity is embedded in our faith
we sometimes fail to grant legitimacy to
certain political, religious or social perspectives that vary from our own.
Acceptance of one another can be challenging at times but
we must overcome our own prejudice and resistance to diversity if
we are to breathe life into our faith.
It is a stony road we trod when
we set out to live with commitment and certainty
about our own closely held truth.
It also takes an open mind and a
loving heart to change our cherished beliefs when confronted with new insights, experiences and information.
If we are to honor a
free and responsible search for truth and meaning,
we are called to be intentional about our daily living including our spiritual search.
We must be candid about
what we do and say and
take responsibility for the
consequences of our
actions that can also affect others.
We must live our truth with integrity
and in the words of Francis of Assisi.
“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
In a similar manner, the great UU William Ellery Channing
admonished us to “live holy lives, rather than being skilled disputants”.
I rather think that the holy
eludes many of us in favor of
a good argument,
but life and faith are more than being right and winning.
It needs to be about doing
right by one another.
Living in harmony,
even when we disagree.
That ultimately, is far more satisfying and comforting than being disagreeable.
Sharing our spiritual truth can yield its own rewards.
We might ask ourselves when we face our own death
which of our personal truths
will sustain us and have meaning enough to make death bearable?
That is what the fourth principle is all about,
to illuminate great truths,
define the human condition and
provide new insight to shape the world into
the heaven we seek in the here and now.
Our unique journey happens side by side with
other seekers after spiritual truth.
Our responsibility to ourselves is
to bring reasoning to the search,
to accept alternative wisdom
that makes sense, but to not
rely on our own perspective alone, before we come
to a conclusion.
We must be willing to open
ourselves to the unexpected that some might call mystery.
Our common humanity, our common experience of loss and death, birth and hope
brings us together in this search.
Our free church calls us to think, reason
and reflect on all that we encounter in life.
The meaning we attribute to our experiences shapes
our mind and spirit and calls us to act in the world.
Beyond freedom, we are
challenged to seek authentic truth responsibly,
that balances freedom and responsibility
grounds our search for truth and meaning.
We must each intellectually question in what we put our faith.
Onward, ever onward fellow seekers and supplicants Whitman might say.
The challenge is great for the road leads through the
unknown mystery that some call God and others love. The rewards of that journey can be life transforming.
May it be so!