Sermon: What is the meaning of life?


"What Is the Meaning of Life?” I have a friend who says, “The meaning of life is to live it.” Could it be that simple? The topic, the meaning of life, is a huge one. So, I started with what any modern person would do...I googled it. Unfortunately that only led to some, albeit interesting, jokes.

At a certain point in our maturation, we ask the Big questions—who am I, how do I know, who or what is in charge, what is my purpose in life, and what does my death mean? In 1997 I had the opportunity to attend the Russell Lockwood Leadership School, a strenuous, transforming week of training through the Mountain Desert District of the Unitarian Universalist Association. During the week we looked at a variety of topics, from church history, structure, working with boards, facilitating a worship service, exploring our own beliefs and looking at greater theological theories.

We were requested to write a statement of faith. My very elemental one was, “An ultimate being created an ordered world in which I believe that all humans encompass good. An appreciation of life is attained through self-fulfillment. As all things cycle, my life will be extinguished as if it were a candle being snuffed out (pretty dramatic!). I only hope that my spirit will live on in the memories of my immediate family and friends. (The End).

One of the internet jokes was a drawing of Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin (the boy) asks Hobbes (the cat), “If we’re just going to die, what’s the point of living? That led me to re-phrase the question to “How do we find meaning? and “How am I made whole?”

I have not re-written my statement of faith, but I would tell you that it has matured a bit since 1997. As a Unitarian Universalist, I affirm the guiding principle of a free and responsible search for truth and meaning and to be open to the great mysteries that life offers. Those mysteries may speak to us through our own intuition and experiences, but also through meaningful work/volunteerism, family, friends, pets, and connection to the Earth. We need quiet time for self-reflection and exploration — meditation, reading, study, and inspiring sermons (ha!).

As a faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism makes sacred the right and responsibility to engage in this free and responsible quest as an act of religious devotion. Institutionally, we have left open the questions of what truth and meaning are, acknowledging that mindful people will, in every age, discover new insights. We are a Living Tradition.

Mary Oliver asks “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” What gives meaning to your life?

Jan Oen is a Lay Leader with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Alamosa.

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