2019 SERMON ARCHIVES

What holds us together? Not a creed but a covenant to affirm and promote 7 Principles…or what we are called to be.

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic-the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence when we think we’re alone.” Charles de Lint

Optimist, Pessimist or Realist - which describes you best?

by Pat Lindgren, Board President | July 14, 2019

Is the glass half full? Is the glass half empty? Is the glass too big for its contents?

Humility and Love: The Powerful Lessons from Harm Reduction and Needle Exchanges

by Rev. Emrys Staton | July 7 2019

Hospice Chaplain, Emrys Staton, will explore a UU view of a growing movement among drug users and those who aim to help harm reduction. By defying the prevailing wisdom about addiction, harm reduction advocates are tapping into the core of our common humanity to try and heal our deepest wounds. 

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Transcending Life’s Vicissitudes: Lessons From A Teacher, A Tailor, and Hemingway

by Rev. Dr. Melaie Cloonan-Schulte | June 30, 2019

This sermon is about using the pain in life to make us “softer” rather than “harder” and how this increase in empathy and flexibility is a form of strength. Data from literature, medicine, and real-life experiences are used to explore how this works.

Three movie characters rise above, change shape/function, and move forward. What do they tell us about Transcendence, Transformation, and Transition?

In looking at the story of Jeanne Manford, who was called by love to support her gay son, we see clearly the power of one and the building of a community, even in times incredibly hostile to LGBTQ people.

Our faith community is made up of the people who share their spiritual journey with us. Our members, visitors, and friends define who we are as a church. This sermon will reflect the voices of the congregation through feedback offered via a survey conducted in April 2019.

Theology in a pluralistic world.

 

 

 

 

A sense of oneself is, we are told, essential to our healthy development as an individual. But I think that is not the end of our journey, only its beginning. Because I also sense a lure toward a mystery beyond the boundary between what is only me and what is everything.

 

 

 

 

I don’t have that many earth-shattering insights; not like some great scientists, artists and spiritual leaders seem to. But every once in a while, I have the feeling of what transcends my everyday existence. I think that might be enough.

 

 

 

 

There is no question that there is satisfaction in finding answers. But an even more enduring satisfaction may come with living in and appreciating an ongoing mystery we cannot solve. Knowing, it turns out, is not what I want most. What I want most is the experience of awe.

 

 

 

 

A look at the role of controversies in Unitarian Universalism; how they push, inspire, challenge and define our religious identity.

 

 

 

 

The question of salvation is almost always considered from the standpoint of whether an individual will be saved. But in a deeply intertwined world, during Passover, on Easter, and on the eve of Earth Day, I want to know what will save all of us together.

 

 

 

 

Recently, I gave another talk about our faith to non-Unitarian Universalists. After I told them that some of us are humanists and agnostic about many theological issues, including the possibility of an afterlife, someone asked me directly, “So what does salvation mean for Unitarian Universalists”?

 

 

 

 

No one gets saved as someone else; not even a better version of themselves, although we can all strive for improvement. No, if we are to be saved, it must be as our whole, fragile, broken selves, but with hope for healing.

 

 

 

 

Life – The Grand Improvisation Part II

by Juliet Gustavson, Guest Speaker | March 31, 2019

How can we loosen up, think on our feet, and take on everything life has to offer with skill, chutzpah and a sense of humor? We look at more improv wisdom.

 

 

 

 

Every religion and most cultural norms I’m aware of adjure us to tell the truth.  And yet people consistently lie.  If there are times when honesty is not the right ethical choice because another virtue is more important, how do our spiritual values help us make that decision?

 

 

 

 

Wear green this Sunday in honor of St. Patrick, St. Bridget and the gifts of the Irish.  In these days of spiritual fragmentations and ennui, the Celtic saints have much truth to teach us: the Earth is sacred and all things are connected.

 

 

 

 

There may be some practical, objective truths that apply to all of us.  But there are definitely personal truths, things we know about our individual selves because of our experiences, desires, and perspectives.  I think our spiritual task is to make room for our own and others’ personal truths in our shared lives.

 

 

 

 

The idea of truth is under attack and has been for some time. I believe that as religious people, as Unitarian Universalists, we have a moral duty to stand up for and protect truth – not the truth, but the idea of truth, the goal of truth, the belief that there is such a thing that everyone can agree on.

 

 

 

 

“Let’s face it: Life is something we all make up as we go along. No matter how carefully we formulate a “script”, it is bound to change when we interact with people with scripts of their own.” Patricia Ryan Madson – Improv Wisdom.

 

 

 

 

Letting go of what we care about, surrendering to someone or something is difficult in many cases. I don’t believe we can let go or surrender without trust in something larger than ourselves; which is what makes developing our ability to trust a spiritual practice.

 

 

 

 

Surrender seems directly opposed to control. And we value control so much that it is not surprising that “surrender” holds such negative connotations. Maybe what we surrender from is only the illusion of our control, and what we surrender to is reality

 

 

 

 

There are all kinds of things to let go of. But how can we tell what is worth keeping and what is not? Before I let go, I would like to know that there is something more important to be gained than what letting go will cost.

 

 

 

 

I know someone whose entire spirituality consisted of believing in angels. She perceived them everywhere, believed in them passionately, credited them for every good thing that came into her life. And in approaching her life that way, she became an angel of grace for others.

 

 

 

 

Mary Oliver said “You have to be in the world to understand what the spiritual is about, and you have to be spiritual in order to truly be able to accept what the world is about”. We will unpack some ways her words speak to our congregation.

 

 

 

 

One of the phrases I remember from childhood is “There, but for the grace of God go I”. As a child, I heard that as an expression of compassion for someone less fortunate, as well as humble relief that the speaker had been spared the hardship. But there is another aspect to grace – gratitude for something that might never have been.

 

 

 

 

Luck seems easier to define than grace. Is there a meaningful difference between those two ideas? I think the answer may depend on whether we view what happens to us through a spiritual lens.

 

 

 

 

2018 SERMON ARCHIVES

Albert Einstein said of intuition, “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it Intuition or what you will, the solution comes to you, and you don’t know how or why.” We just need to listen and then make the leap real.

 

 

 

 

I look at the various winter religious holidays; Hanukkah for Jews; Christmas for Christians; Winter Solstice for pagans; Kwanzaa for African-Americans. Each one reflects the history and culture of a particular group. But what I long for is a message of peace that all people can hear.

 

 

 

 

Hanukkah marks the culmination of a miraculous military victory, and so it may seem an odd introduction to our theme this month of peace. But Hanukkah also commemorates a seemingly much smaller miracle of one day’s worth of lamp oil lasting for eight days. Maybe in that smaller miracle lies a spiritual victory for peace.

 

 

 

 

In October, ghosts lurk and scare. In December, the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future warn those devoid of holiday cheer. In November, Thanksgiving offers a bridge from fear to accepting gifts. On this Sunday, we will explore our own ghosts and what they mean for our spiritual community.

 

 

 

 

I think all of us have cause for concern about the state of our nation and our world. But gratitude for what has been and for what remains can rouse us to act, to preserve, to restore, and to participate fully in the divine, ongoing process of creation. So concern is not all there is. There is hope, too

 

 

 

 

Doree Conner was a very social person who loved getting to know new members and writing their biography for our newsletter. She also worked with our church administrator coordinating office volunteers. Our church was very dear to Doree. She made it her home and then made it a home for us and others. We will very much miss our friend Doree’s cheerful presence among us.

 

 

 

 

Human life is a vessel. It will be filled with many experiences and emotions. When gratitude is experienced and felt, it not only fills us up, it overflows into how we engage with others and the remainder of our lives.

 

 

 

 

“The truth is this: If there is no justice, there will be no peace…If we cannot bring justice into the small circle of our own individual lives, we cannot hope to bring justice to the world.” How might we build relationships that bring justice to our localities and our state?

 

 

 

 

What do we really know?  And how does that information form us, shape our lives?  I have long believed that traditional religions do not adequately answer the deep, spiritual questions.  It is time for a new approach.

 

 

 

 

As individuals, it is the experiences, the process of life that forms us.  The sobering, perhaps terrifying truth is that we become someone with every moment, every event, every choice.  And within that truth also lies our hope.

 

 

 

 

Creation stories do their best to tell us how the wide universe and humanity came to be. But science and all our other activities are still forming humanity in our continuing evolution. Collectively, are human beings a blight or a blessing?

 

 

 

 

In his poem, the late Leonard Cohen, balladeer and musical philosopher, sang “Ring the bell that still can ring. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Let’s contemplate how the prayers of gratitude and forgiveness might be a vocation that allows the light to get in to “the darkness of our world.”

 

 

 

 

What did Jesus spend most of his time doing? What was the Buddha’s occupation? How did Socrates earn a living in later life, or Lao Tzu? True vocation may not fit a job description or garner a paycheck, but maybe that’s because vocation, in one sense, is the same for all of us – to find our own way to improve the world.

 

 

 

 

If you are reading this, it is at least somewhat likely that you have a basic belief system that aligns with UUism, but attendance…that is a whole different question. Why do some people choose to attend a religious service and others don’t? We gather together…but why? Listen to this sermon as we explore the value of attendance?

 

 

 

 

Vocation is anything that takes up a significant quantity of time, but a vocation is a calling for which one has a feeling of deep affinity, attraction, and/or talent. As Parker Palmer reminds us, our vocation is not something we come to by an act of will. It comes to us when we accept the gift of our true self. And that is a religious quest.

 

 

 

 

Both before and after what we may consider our working lives, vocation, our “calling”, is present. Vocation has a spiritual dimension that occupations may lack. On this Sunday before Labor Day, I want us to pay attention to the balance vocation can bring to whatever we do, at whatever stage of life we’re in.

 

 

 

 

The Golden Rule in Major Religions

by Dr. Bonnie Saunders, Guest Speaker | August 26, 2018

Usually when we think of the Golden Rule, we think of Judaism and Christianity, but it goes way beyond that. This sermon will explain the main ideas of ten major world religions and their versions of the Golden Rule.

 

 

 

 

I Don't Know

by Pat Lindgren, President, Board of Trustees | August 19, 2018

It is amazing the number and variety of things that I don’t know.

 

 

 

 

We left the month of May in gladness; we had a balanced budget at last, and there is a positive feeling among us, but we face a very sick world and a nation that is seriously divided. Where do we go from here?

 

 

 

 

Loving oneself and others takes on a myriad of forms and implications. In a spiritual community, how are we called to love one another?

 

 

 

 

A story from the “eco-confessional”.

 

 

 

 

Before we can bring change to the world to make it more just, loving, and beautiful, we need to be able to envision that new world. That vision lies within, and is limited only by our imagination.

 

 

 

 

The World is Not as Bad Off as You Think.

by Pat Lindgren, President, Board of Trustees | July 15, 2018

Let’s look at the world with “Factfulness” instead of opinion.

 

 

 

 

Despite all our beautiful differences, we share a common beginning; we are all born. As we move through this life, some of us give birth to children. All of us give birth to ideas and dreams. We will explore what we give birth to in our shared spiritual community and what this means for our individual journeys.

 

 

 

 

Looking at the universe around us and inside us for wisdom and inspiration.

 

 

 

 

UU General Assembly at Kansas City, MO 2018

 

 

 

 

Big Daddy from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is not my favorite character; however, Tennessee Williams wrote some powerful words for a flawed father to offer his struggling son.

 

 

 

 

We live in a world graced by beauty and marred by violence.  As a spiritual community, how do we reconcile the violence and the beauty that persist and what are we called to do?

 

 

 

 

Unitarian Universalists don’t universally agree or disagree on the existence of an afterlife. Each day, moments take us further on our path. Each day, we build a bridge to somewhere. Where are we going and how do these moments contribute?

 

 

 

 

It is a challenge to create community anywhere, especially a beloved community.  But making real our Sixth UU Principle, “world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all”, may be both humanity’s most difficult task and our most important calling.

 

 

 

 

Why do we need community?  What does it take to make communities work?  Who will teach us these things and where can we learn them?  On this Teacher Appreciation Sunday, we will consider not only our own beloved learning community at UUCS, but the promise and possibilities of public schools as places where community is built and taught.

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day was first observed in the churches of Philadelphia, PA, on May 10th, 1908, in response to a suggestion made by a Miss Anna Jarvis of that city.  In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson following a resolution by the Congress of the U. S. issued a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May to be Mother’s Day. I am not the first to point out that there is a degree of hype and hypocrisy surrounding our observance of Mother’s Day. There is, still, some ambivalence in the culture regarding the role of women and mothers. Perhaps you have noticed?

 

 

 

 

Deep within us is the need to belong to something larger than ourselves.  But in our time, it is difficult to find any community, much less the beloved one the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke so passionately about.  Today we will try to find a path to both.

 

 

 

 

Sing, talk, laugh out loud, and maybe shed a tear or two as we make this trip together with Patricia Balfour and Rev. Julian Rush.

 

 

 

 

On this Earth Day, we will consider how humanity has transformed the Earth during our brief history on the planet.  Some are looking for a new Earth-like planet to colonize.  But maybe we ought to ask ourselves first to transform the Earth again by reversing our destructive habits.

 

 

 

 

One word has the power to transform a life. As children,  we incessantly ask why as we explore the world around us.  As adults,  we ask why as we try to reconcile the world around us with the world inside us. Unitarian Universalism embraces the why and our pursuit to answer our own why.

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There are too many people who tell other people how to live their “one wild and precious life,” to quote poet Mary Oliver.  Today, celebrating Phoenix Pride, we will look at personal transformation from the perspective of our LGBTQ friends and how they offer the rest of us our own life-changing possibilities.

 

 

Having an attitude of scarcity, a feeling that there will never be enough, confines us to death’s tomb. But an attitude of abundance lets life burst open. This Easter, we will celebrate transformations that offer themselves to us continuously, both personally and as a church.

 

 

A Jewish sage once said, “Keep two truths in separate pockets always, and take them out as needed: In the first, ‘For my sake the world was created;’ and in the second, ‘I am but dust and ashes.’”  This Sunday, we will delve into this paradox to see how we might use it to guide the rest of our lives

 

 

Humility seems to be a demoted virtue in our culture at best.  But what’s so great about humility, exactly?  In the struggle between feeling that we should cultivate the virtue and questioning its utility, we might find something we want to hold onto.

 

 

I Corinthians 13:4 states that love is patient and kind; however, Congressman John Lewis believes patience is a “dirty and nasty word”. I believe there is no longer any time for a gradual movement towards freedom and equality. Our patience has run out. We cannot stop, and we will not.

 

 

In 1984, singer Tina Turner released her most successful single, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”  I think we might ask that question about religion.  Through the ages, traditional religion lost its way, lost me, and millions like me.  Maybe the way back to religious life is to put love at its center, beyond belief.

 

 

My own life has been transformed by love, so I believe in the power of love.  But I also know that I have sometimes viewed love in an overly sentimental way.  On this Sunday before Valentine’s Day, we will look at love’s power beyond misty notions and once-a-year gifts.

 

 

For something that plays such a central role in human experience and thought, I think secular society is often unclear about what love is, confusing it with other emotions or behaviors that masquerade as love.  As religious people, it falls to us to know the love humanity needs at the most fundamental level and then to infuse the world with it.

 

 

With our tendency to group people by shared characteristics, it is not hard to identify distinct groups of people who are treated unjustly.  How can those who are given justice understand what it is like for those who are denied justice?  Are we getting closer to our principle of justice for all?

 

 

Musical sermon offering as a plea for all of us to seek ways to convince our country to set free all of our marginalized people.

 

 

There are various ways to think about justice, but I keep coming back to the idea that all forms of justice make ethical demands the privileged probably will not like.  How we respond to those demands determines whether we can honestly think of ourselves as just persons or a just society.

 

 

2017 SERMON ARCHIVES

 How we UU’s define and practice these three qualities.

 

 

All of us can become discouraged. But I believe we need to practice hope as a spiritual discipline. It is entrusted to us to keep hope alive, for ourselves and our world.

 

 

What do we hope for?  If we are to be the spiritual force in the world we want to be, I think we have to be careful to hope only for good things all of us can share in common.

 

 

We all have a myriad of tables at different points in our lives; the holiday table, the kitchen table, the head table. Who do we invite to our table? Who is not invited? How we answer these questions determines the company we keep, as well as how we live out our faith.

 

 

What does it mean to have faith in God, in the worth of life and our own efforts, in oneself, in others, in goodness?  I suspect it cannot be about outcomes.

 

 

If I had to choose one unusual feature that distinguishes Unitarian Universalism, it would be that our faith does not claim to be the only path to truth or meaning.  While that makes us only one faith among others, it gives us the freedom to embrace other religions, to be wrong and to evolve.

 

 

For most of my life, I thought of faith as equivalent to belief, but I have a different understanding of faith now. Now I think that faith is more verb than noun, more a way of life than content, more something about which to be “half-sure and wholehearted” than to be certain.

 

 

The history of anti-immigration laws in the United States.

 

I am convinced that there is a common good to us and that there are common goods for us. Today we will consider why hospitality is both and how we might become hosts offering both home and hope.

 

As Unitarian Universalists we love to recall our leadership in reaching moral victories such as abolition, women’s suffrage, equal marriage. However since the election, policy changes affecting race relations, climate change, income inequality, immigration, and more assault us continually. How can we sustain ourselves as we resist divisiveness and hate? How can we stay resilient?

 

Sometimes it is easier to feel hospitable to strangers than to those we know but don’t like. What do we do about people we disagree with on fundamental issues? Do we truly want to invite them in for reasons other than to convince them we are right?

 

Hospitality was an ancient virtue, a common good that arose out of a common need, especially in harsh environments. It recognized a relationship between the need of someone, often a stranger, and someone else who could meet the strangers need. We will look at what the ancient virtue still has to teach us.

Not Woody Guthrie’s hard times, but our hard times. What does our faith call from us? What does our faith offer us?

We are trying something new this year – an annual theme as well as monthly themes. Our theme for this church year is “Re-imagining the Common Good”. This Sunday, we will re-image the beauty of justice that we can all see and share.

What does theology mean to you?  Where do you find beauty?  If we understand theology to mean working toward the highest and best, or the divine, I think beauty becomes an important part of theology.

If there is a code for how best to experience the universe, I think it might be beauty.  What I need most are ways to “crack” the code.

Women have opposed war for thousands of years – from the Sumerians 6,000 years ago through the Greeks 2500 years ago to women in the modern nuclear age. This sermon features antiwar quotations from women throughout the ages.

The true nautical tale of how a life-long UU had his young faith tested three times in three days more than half a century ago.

Amy St. Peter asks “does luck exist?” If so, how is it related to fate and free will?

Chairman of the Board, Pat Lindgren, shares insights from UUA General Assembly.

As children, we rebel against bedtimes. As adults, we seldom get enough rest. Our culture perpetually pushes us to do more in less time. How can rest help us grow spiritually?

Limits are everywhere. Our abilities are limited, as are our understandings and even our lives. I find that accepting limits is one of the great challenges of living. But if we can manage that, I believe our spirits will be rewarded.

There is an obvious reason that Christmas and Easter are the two major celebrations of the year for Christians. They focus, respectively, on the story of Jesus’ birth to life and his rebirth to eternal life, two powerful consolations. For all of us, what do the Christian holy days tell us about the human condition?

I have been in the habit of considering desolation and consolation to be opposite feelings and states of being; that one excludes the other. That has led me to believe that desolation should be eliminated as completely as possible and that the purpose of consolation is to do that. But that may devalue both poles of the human experience.