2019 SERMON ARCHIVES
If dreams are too small, obstacles can seem too big. To keep moving forward, maybe we should increase the size of our vision to give it fantastic proportion in order to shrink the relative size of what stands in our way.
Practicing Freedom Together
Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, Boston-based organizer, UU minister and former Sr. Strategist for Side With Love encourages us to ground ourselves in community care and fortify for the road ahead in working for collective liberation.
Some Good in the World
The truth about democracy is that it is always messy, frequently frustrating, and dependably depressing. But it is also true that it is an inspiring ideal that calls for the best in our individual selves and all of us together. That’s something worth fighting for.
For All the People
Speaking in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared in his Gettysburg Address that “government of the people, by the people, for the people. shall not perish from the earth.” Maybe Lincoln did not think it necessary to include the word “all” in his resounding epistrophe. But it makes a profound difference whether all people are included in our ideal of democracy.
Why Democracy Matters
Why should we, Unitarian Universalists, concern ourselves with democracy in a Sunday morning worship service? Because we know about commitment to an ideal, and because in doing our part to save democracy, we might just save our spiritual selves.
As Unitarian Universalists we draw on many faith traditions, and we try to honor various truths handed down to us over the ages. Today we will focus on the Jewish tradition of “sukkoth”…a time to contemplate the fragile nature of our living.
Restoring Covenant After Promises are Broken
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Until recently, this seemed to me like a good, black-letter rule. But I have begun to believe that a new understanding of covenant may call for us to see sacred promises, even broken ones, differently.
The Promise of Power and the Power of Promise
In our efforts to impose order on a chaotic world, a legalistic approach treats others’ promises as rules we can use to achieve power over others and protect ourselves. But a covenantal approach finds the real power of our promises to each other not in the rules they establish, but in relationship.
The Purpose of Promises
What are we trying to do when we make and rely on promises? And what promises are we willing to make? A covenant is a solemn or sacred promise. Discovering the purpose behind different kinds of promises tells us much about what we hope to do in church.
My Favorite Transcendentalist
A compilation of wisdom words from Rev. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a major player in our UU heritage.
African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote 1850 1920
As a historian, I have given sermons on white women who were ardent suffragists. I have recently learned about black women who were instrumental in helping all women get the vote. This sermon will deal with several of these interesting women and what they did for the cause of women’s suffrage.
The great mystery. Love is an essence that defies analysis as does life itself…it is that which IS and cannot be explained”. Ernest Holmes
During tumultuous times and blurred lines, how do we define courage? How do we inspire courage in others and cultivate it within ourselves? We will delve into the catalysts for courage and the demands the spiritual places upon us to be courageous.
Called to Believe or To Be
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?
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
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.
Transcending Life’s Vicissitudes: Lessons From A Teacher, A Tailor, and Hemingway
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.
Dumbo, Bumblebee, and George Bailey
Three movie characters rise above, change shape/function, and move forward. What do they tell us about Transcendence, Transformation, and Transition?
The Power of One and the Necessity of Community
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 Church in Our Words
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
Theology in a pluralistic world.
Transcending Ego to Live in Mystery
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.
Touching the Transcendent
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.
The Controversial Controversy
A look at the role of controversies in Unitarian Universalism; how they push, inspire, challenge and define our religious identity.
Getting Saved Together
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.
Salvation in this Lifetime
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”?
Salvation as Integration
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
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.
Is Honesty a Relative Virtue?
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.
Truth, Perspective, and (Mis)understanding
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.
Life-The Grand Improvisation Part I
“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.
Trust and Letting Go
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
The Art of Letting Go
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.
Angels of Grace
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.
Feeling Hungry, Feeding our Souls
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.
But for Grace
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, Grace and Spiritual Sight
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
Do You Hear What I Hear?
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.
With Justice and Peace for All
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: A Victory for Peace
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.
Gratitude in Bleak Times
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's Memorial Service
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.
A Filling Up and a Flowing Over
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.
Relationship...Making It Real
“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.
Becoming Someone Every Day
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?
Gratitude and Forgiveness: A Vocation for the Aging
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.”
True Vocation: Improving the 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.
We Gather Together…Why?
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 as True Self
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.
Vocation as Balance
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
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
It is amazing the number and variety of things that I don’t know.
We're Off to See the Wizard - revised
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?
Lost and Found in the Desert
A story from the “eco-confessional”.
Can You Imagine?
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.
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.
Streaming General Assembly
UU General Assembly at Kansas City, MO 2018
Big Daddy Sound Bites
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.
Our Shared Humanity
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?
Bridge to Somewhere
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.
Teaching and Learning Community
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.
"A Transformational Journey"
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.
"A New Earth"
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.
"The Power of Why"
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.
"A Journey Toward Wholeness"
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.
"Oh, the 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 Paradoxical Humility"
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
"To Walk Humbly"
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.
"Is Love Always Patient? Times Up"
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.
"Love Beyond Belief"
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.
"The Power of Love"
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.
"What Love Is ...and Is Not"
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.
"Giving Life the Shape of Jusice"
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?
"Set Our People Free"
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.
“The Implications of Justice.”
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
Faith, Hope and Charity, UU Style
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.
Hoping for Good
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.
A Place at the Table
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.
A Faith-full Life
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.
One Faith Among Others
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.
Faith as a Verb
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
The history of anti-immigration laws in the United States.
Home, Hosts and Hope
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?
Welcoming Those We Don't Like
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 to the Stranger
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?
The Beauty of Justice
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.
A Theology of Beauty
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.
The Knack of Seeing Beauty
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's Voices on War and Peace
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.
Hearing the Voice of God
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.
As Luck Would Have It
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.
Resting or Restless?
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.
Lost and Found
Hope to do Something
Looking on the Bright Side of Life
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?
The Whole Life Special Please…and Hold the Pain
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.
A Gay Boys Quest for Convivialo
Becoming the Balance
Something to Hang on to
Balance in a Binary World
R E S P E C T find out what it means to me
Still Marching for Respect
The Courage to Choose Unconditional Happiness
The Religion of Antiques Roadshow
The Courage To Choose
The Courage To Be
Unitarian Universalist Church of Surprise
A Progressive, Inclusive Faith Community