Sunday Sermon, April 24, 2016

Prepared and Presented by: Pete Toot

We Light the Community Candles saying:

  1. We light the first candle to honor the good and truth to be found in all spiritual traditions.
  2. We light the second candle to honor the earth and all of life as the creation of the Divine—the one Lord and God of us all.
  3. We light the third candle to honor and support the variety of individual paths which, together, make our one spiritual community.
  4. We light the fourth candle to honor and provide an open and safe place for all who seek greater understanding and a life of deepening spirituality.

A prayer:

O Lord, rattle the door latch of our slumbering hearts. Awaken us as you breathe warmth into the earth. Sit with us while today, and open us to your invitation. Help us be with you, here in your house, here in your creation.

The Lord’s Prayer

Today’s Readings and Reflections:

READING 1. WHY THIS TOPIC ON THIS DAY?

The celebration of Passover began Friday night at sundown. We join with our Jewish brethren, if not in their traditions, in their valuing of freedom.

(From the introduction to the American Jewish Committee’s

Community Intergroup Seder Haggadah – April 19, 2016)

“We have gathered here today to celebrate our Festival of Freedom, …. Today Passover is as significant as it has ever been. It is significant not only for us, but for the entire world. Slavery in open or veiled form still embraces vast sections of humanity. We dedicate this Passover, our festival of hope and courage, to the world which is slowly, painfully, emerging to a new and beautiful freedom. May it never be destroyed.”

Discussion points:

  • What event does the Passover commemorate?
  • Why is called “Passover”?
  • Who was enslaved by whom?
  • Passover speaks of slavery in this world; what does it say, if anything, about freedom to choose good or evil?

READING 2. WHAT WOULD JESUS SAY?

(From a 2008 sermon, Northway Church)

Jesus had told His disciples “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” and we are relatively certain Jesus celebrated every Passover of His life on earth. We can also be reasonably certain that Jesus felt tradition was important enough that He went to Jerusalem for each of these Passovers. Jesus was a Rabbi, not a guru. Jesus had His Bar mitzvah.

Jesus went to the Temple to pray, and to teach. He had problems with some of the Jewish leadership, but Jesus loved, chose to preach to, and drew His disciples from Jewish audiences. Jesus chose Passover to establish His New Covenant. At one point during dinner, Jesus spoke His Last Will and Testament, then requested the disciples, and through them, all of us, to do “this” in remembrance. Early Christians guided by those who lived with Jesus felt that “this” was the Seder meal. The very first services included Agape, a fellowship meal that the Christian Churches were known for, during which Eucharist was celebrated. About 300 A.D Agape and Eucharist were separated and almost another 300 years later the Agape was banned. The Church of the dark ages, where hatred of Jews was almost a sacred obligation, decided that “this” meant the bread and wine  alone.

Discussion points:

  • Why did Christians hate the Jews in the dark ages?
  • What does the split of Agape and Eucharist mean today?
  • Do Christians celebrate freedom by taking Communion?

READING 3. WHAT DOES FREEDOM MEAN?

(Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech – Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union: Jan. 6, 1941)

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want—which, translated  into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.”

Discussion points:

  • How do these 4 freedoms relate to enslavement?
  • What freedoms are missing from this list?
  • When does freedom to practice one’s religion impose a curtailment of some else’s freedom?
  • What is root cause of conflicting freedoms?
  • Some cultures allow fewer freedoms than Americans have; should these cultures be forced to be like ours?

READINGS 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8

IS FREEDOM THE SAME AS FREE WILL?

(A selection of quotes)

4. “Catholic theology believes that God gave man free will, and you can’t give somebody free will and then send in a play from the sidelines.” – Roger Ebert

  • Can God make the rules and then break them?
  • Does free will disallow God interacting with people?

5. “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.”

  • What’s the difference between determinism and luck?
  • Does God “roll the dice”?

6. “Free will has carried many a soul to hell, but never a soul to heaven.” – Charles Spurgeon

7. “Free will is an illusion. People always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.” – Scott Adams

  • Quotes 6 & 7… Are they in agreement or contradictory
  • Do they mean the same thing by “free will”?

8. “Man can do as he wills, but not will what he wills.”

  • What is Schopenhauer saying about the will?
  • Einstein agreed with Schopenhauer; would Swedenborg?

– Jawaharlal Nehru

– Arthur Schopenhauer

READING 9. WHAT DOES SWEDENBORG TEACH?

(New Jerusalem and Heavenly Doctrine n. 142)

142. Doing evil by free choice looks like freedom, but it is slavery, because that freedom comes of self-love and love of the world…. Such freedom is after death actually turned into slavery, for a person who indulged in such freedom then becomes in hell a lowly slave. But doing good by free choice is real freedom, because it comes of love to the Lord and love towards the neighbor…. This freedom also lasts after death, and then becomes true  freedom; for a person who enjoys such freedom becomes in heaven as it were a son of the house. This the Lord teaches in these words:

“Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. A slave does not remain in the house for ever; the son remains for ever. If the son makes you free, you will be truly free.” – John 8:34-36.

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