Last month, we began a three-part series on evil: what it is, how it works, and how to overcome it. Today, we focus on the mechanism of evil. How does evil take over people’s hearts, minds, and lives? What are the ways that evil corrupts our souls and our world, through specific strategies and methods? Evil is constantly at work all around us — and it’s important to understand it, so that we can effectively resist it. In today’s service, we also tell the story of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who boldly resisted evil and saved the lives of thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II.
In today’s sermon we begin a three-part series about evil. Evil is an important topic for any sincere spiritual seeker, or indeed any thoughtful human being to consider. Today we’ll discuss the question of what is evil? — and perhaps more importantly, why it matters that we discuss it. In fact, why is it so important that I’ve decided to do three sermons on evil instead of just one?
Evil is real, and it’s a major aspect of the human condition. It’s popular nowadays, especially among liberal-thinking people in relatively free, stable, and prosperous countries, to discount the power and pervasiveness of evil and the human tendency to fall prey to it. Many optimistic, I would say naïve people believe that evil is merely the absence of good, and that the average person is essentially good and does not naturally feel any evil impulses that exert a powerful pull on the psyche. I profoundly disagree.
Evil is not a popular topic to preach on or discuss. But we live in a world that is full of evil, and the inclination to sin lurks within the hearts of all of us. Throughout history, human beings have struggled to create societies where all people’s rights are respected. Why does evil so often triumph over good, and how can we change that? Today, we begin a three-part series on evil: what it is, how it works, and how to overcome it.
Many of us have heard the famous Shaker song, “Simple Gifts.” It begins,
’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be …
And so on, about the importance and joy of turning away from worldly pride and living the simple life.
In the Gospel, Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” [Luke 12:15]. This was the preface to an extended soliloquy we heard in our Scripture reading today, on the topic of simple living and relinquishing our anxious grasping for more and more stuff [vss. 16-34]. Jesus made it clear that if we wish to live according to his faith, we should live for God and our fellow man, rather than the things of this world.
Many great philosophers and religious teachers throughout history have taught that people should live simply. What does this mean, and why is it so important? In our fast-paced and materialistic modern world, it’s especially easy to get caught up in the desire for worldly things. But Jesus warns of the spiritual danger of accumulating more and more stuff. In today’s service, we explore the theme of the simple life.
Imagine that your faith is so strong that you never have any doubt. You know, with absolute certainty, that your religious beliefs are correct. The possibility that you could be wrong, or that some other religion might be true, never crosses your mind.
That’s some mighty strong faith — isn’t it? Actually, no, that’s not faith at all.
What does it mean to have a mature religious faith? Should we stifle our doubts and close our eyes to other religions and belief systems? Or should we explore with an open mind and be willing to embrace whatever ideas and traditions can best inspire us to live a life of higher meaning and conscience? In today’s service we explore the subject of faith, doubt, and spiritual growth. We also tell the story of Thomas Merton, a 20th century Catholic monk whose faith was deepened by interfaith dialogue and exploration of Eastern religions.
Today is the Fourth of July, the day each year when Americans celebrate the birth of our nation. Nearly 250 years ago on this day, the United States of America declared its independence from the British Empire. Patriotism is a natural human instinct, but how does this relate to religion, one might ask? Why should a church, just because it’s based in the USA, celebrate Independence Day and preach a sermon about national pride?
Although Christianity transcends any nation, any political or geographical grouping of human beings, the United States of America has a rich history of striving to embody the national ideal of God’s chosen people — a holy people, set apart for a special purpose in the world, much like the self-conception of the Biblical Hebrews.