Friday, April 13, 2018

Sermon: Rav, Shmuel and Martin Luther King

delivered at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lawrence on April 8, 2018 
Today I want to talk about two events that took place last week. The first is Passover and the 2nd was the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. King. Hopefully at the end I'll be able to bring the two pieces together.
So Passover is the commemoration of the exodus from Egypt, the end of slavery and the beginning of freedom. I say the beginning of freedom because although in one very important way the Israelites are freed – they are no longer in servitude – in another way they are just getting started.
The haggadah – the ritual guide to the seder service – talks about a conversation between two rabbis, Shmuel and Rav. They're study buddies, and in the rabbinic tradition argumentation is an important means of getting at spiritual truth. So the question is, is slavery in the Exodus story a physical thing or a spiritual thing? Are we talking about actual, physical slavery – working without recompense – or are we talking about spiritual slavery, which Rav says is idol worship that our ancestors did before they came to the realization of the one God. And of course the answer is, both.

Sermon: Civility is Not Enough

delivered at Shawnee Mission UU on Feb. 18, 2018 and at First Congregational in Manhattan on March 18, 2018 
I see political activity as part and parcel of my spiritual practice, and I also have a tendency to self-righteousness.
But with those caveats - I have an aversion to the word “civility.” This idea has been around a while. It was a big part of the appeal of Barack Obama during his first run in 2008. “We don't have red states and or blue states, we have the United States,” he famously said.
I see it around quite a bit. It's based on the idea that America is super-partisanized, that we all live in our little self-thinking bubbles, and that we tend not to have friends across the partisan line. The answer to this, so the thinking goes, is civility. It usually means, trying to understand the other person's perspective, to treat their beliefs with respect. Sometimes it means, recognizing what we have in common as people underneath, or perhaps above, our political differences.