Can You be Anyone You Want?

Sermon by Erik Walker Wikstrom, delivered by Chris van Mierlo, 6/2/2019

We’ve been saying the same words of welcome to and with one another for several years now. “Whoever you are, Whomever you love, however you express your identity … you have a place here. We all have a place here. We all are welcome here.”

Our welcoming words express the sentiment that so many of us believe is the beating heart of the Unitarian Universalist faith – ours is a tradition in which everybody, anybody, is welcome. All are welcome here.

But is that true? Is everybody welcome here?

…click here to read the rest of the sermon.

Remembering the Ladies: Honoring UU Women

Sermon by Lynn Murphy, 5/5/2019

On March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams, her husband, urging him not to forget about the women when writing about independence from Great Britain. She wrote: “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation”.

…click here to read the rest of the sermon.

How Shall We be Healed?

Sermon by Wayne B. Arnason, delivered by Dave Van Mierlo, 4/7/2019

The gospels are full of stories about Jesus healing. The healing stories represent some of the most moving images in Scripture. They are the most important miracle stories that were used to convince the world that Jesus was the Son of God during the first five centuries of the Common Era. They are the stories that the Unitarians of the 19th century disputed as being any legitimate proof of Jesus' authority. They are stories that have been an inspiration for generations of Christian healers.

It is no wonder that 21st century Unitarian Universalists have had a lot of trouble with healing in a religious context. What we usually dismiss as "faith healing" is contrary to almost everything that we usually place a lot of stock in: science, reason and self-reliance. Most of us are people willing to put ourselves in the hands of doctors and pharmacists when we are ill. Most of us have mostly good experience with the medical model of healing. We take whatever pills we are told to take and we see the doctor in the morning. Most of the time we feel better. Or we accept the surgery, and we see a whole lot of doctors for many mornings. Most of the time, we feel better.

…click here to read the rest of the sermon.

Killing with Kindness: The Case for Compassion

Sermon by Chris Van Mierlo, 3/24/2019

See how efficient it still is,

how it keeps itself in shape –

our century’s hatred.

How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.

How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

It’s not like other feelings.

At once both older and younger.

It gives birth itself to the reasons

that give it life.

When it sleeps, it’s never eternal rest.

And sleeplessness won’t sap its strength, it feeds it.

…click here to read the rest of the sermon.

I See You

Sermon by George Grimm-Howell, 3/17/2019

Good morning. I see you. This morning we are exploring what it means to truly see and to be seen. It starts with simple observational skills. We can easily go through life on autopilot, not paying attention to details—not really seeing everything that’s there. So let’s explore our theme of first...closing our eyes.

Close your eyes and, without peeking, answer these questions in your mind. Don’t peek now… Let’s start with something fairly easy:

How many banners are hanging in the sanctuary? What are all the items on the chalice table?

Think back a few moments ago to when we greeted each other: Name one thing you observed about the first person you greeted. open your eyes to see how you did.

Think about the things you may have failed to notice, despite coming here for many months.

Now imagine what it’s like to be a person who doesn’t get noticed.

…click here to read the rest of the sermon.

Fragile Slivers in Sunlight

Sermon by Andy Grizzle, 3/10/2019

You’ve seen me up here before. You’ve may have gathered that I like my oxford cloth, single-button barrel cuff shirts. You’ve seen my conservative haircut and glasses.

You’ve seen the balding back half of my scalp, which I’m not going to bother showing you again, and the wrinkles around my eyes.

You can put together an estimation of me from this, sort of an average Andy—a starting point for who you think I am. You create an idea of me with what you see.

…click here to read the rest of the sermon.

Deserving Gifts

Delivered by Sharon Swanson, 12/16/2018. Sermon by Reverend Sara Ascher.

The title of today’s sermon is What Did I Do to Deserve This? So let’s just start by saying that this month is a particularly prescient time for me. During this month, my son, Alex, was born and during this month he also died. So, on the event of his birth, I ask What Did I Do to Deserve this precious gift of life? And on his death—What Did I Do to Deserve this loss? And such is the balance of “Deserving”. So with that said, I’m now going to transform into the Reverend Sara Ascher and deliver her sermon. I will be speaking in first person, so please make no mistake that I am indeed not a UU minister. Here we go!

“You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why…he’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice…he knows if you been bad or good..” Well, you know the rest. If only I had really listened, if only I had known; the song is true. Santa does know who’s naughty or nice, bad or good.

…click here to read the rest of the sermon.

Humility in a time of Consumerism

Sermon by Rev. Dr. Claudia Hall, 12/9/2018.

There are various feelings about the word humble. For many centuries it was forced on women as a way to deny them their voice, their rights, or even basic necessities. Humility was a weapon used to crush the spirits of women and others and keep them under the thumb of the ruling elite.

Humility is a virtue in much of religious thought, but it often seems as though the richer, more powerful, and more elaborately titled the preacher the more they like to point out how other people should be humble.

…click here to read the entire sermon.

Reflections from Berlin

Sermon by Rev. Dr. Claudia Hall, 9/23/2018.

I just spent the last two weeks in Germany, Berlin to be exact. What started as a random vacation has turned into a reflection on the many difficulties we face when trying to move forward from a difficult past.

I do not know every person’s story here, but even if you are one of the lucky folks who don’t have scars and baggage from rough things in your history, you know people who do, I am sure.

The past is not something we can ever escape fully, and denying it only gives it power over us. Yet the other extreme, remembering it always, keeps us trapped in the past and unable to live in the moment.

…click here to read the entire sermon.

Freedom From, Freedom To: Freedom with Responsibility

Delivered by Chris Van Mierlo, 5/13/2018. Sermon by Victoria Weinstein, parish minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn, Massachusetts

I would venture to say that freedom is the most cherished religious value for Unitarian Universalists. We cannot abide the suffocation we feel in our souls when someone else dictates to us how to believe, what to think about the important questions, or even where to look to find the answers.

What interests me, though, is how UUs sometimes mistake freedom of religion for freedom from religion. They come in the door all sweaty and frantic, having fled an oppressive religious past and they collapse into our pews and say “Phew, that’s over. I reject this and this and this and that and that other thing, and the whole scene I just came from. It all makes my skin crawl and thank Buddha or Krishna I’m here with the Unitarians where I don’t have to believe anything!” here to read the entire sermon.

Choosing My Religion

Mark Fish, 5/6/2018

A few years ago, I was traveling by myself from St Louis to Denver to meet up with some friends to go to a Beer Tasting Festival. On the plane, I had the window seat and right next to me sat a beautiful woman with tattoos, piercings, dreadlocks and wearing colorful eclectic gypsy-ish attire. As you can imagine, she had quite a presence. Of course, knowing me, I had to get to know her. It turns out that she and her husband (sitting a row behind us) were also going to the beer tasting festival and we immediately became friends and she and I launched into a deep conversation. Most of you who know me aren’t surprised by that in the least. Somehow we got to talking about religion and I asked who she believed in and who she prayed to. And she replied: Jesus, Aslan and Gandalf. Well, at first I chuckled at that answer. But then I thought about it and realized it was just as valid a response as any other mainstream religion answer. So we spent the rest of the flight talking about religious influences and role models and spirituality. She chose to pray to people who resonated with her –who she thought were good teachers –who inspired her. Does it matter that two of them are fictional and all of them are characters in best-selling books? She had made up her own unique religion. And I could understand that. Before I joined this church, before I realized that I could find a spiritual community in a wonderful place like this, I considered creating my own religion just for myself to fit my belief system. here to read the entire sermon.

Miracles: A Conversation

Rabbi Morgan Forrest, 4/29/2018

What Do Team Sports Have to Do with Reducing Evil in the World?

Shari Forrest, 3/25/2018

We just looked at a couple of optical illusions. In both pictures, there were a lot of different things to see. Not everyone saw the same thing at first. When you looked closer or from farther away, you saw something different.

From Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem, we looked at several items from different points of view. Are the bird who eats the mayfly or the snake who eats the frog evil? Or are they just hungry? Maybe they are Hangry!

Just like with the images we looked at, if you squint just a bit, you may be able to see that the arms merchant who sells deadly weapons is trying to feed his family. here to read the entire sermon.

Looking at Evil Through Many Angles

Rev. Dr. Claudia Hall, 3/18/2018

I want to begin by saying that this topic, known as Theodicy in theological lingo, is something that UUs are often reluctant to address, so I applaud you all for tackling it head on. Evil, and its close relative, Sin, are words that we use to describe an active breaking of the assumed covenantal relationships between people, the divine, and even the planet itself. Good is the fulfillment of those relationships, which are presumed to be of the highest benefit for all.

That’s a really over-simplified view, but I wanted to start there, so we can all have an understanding that what is good and what is evil are both human constructs, describing human relationships. Today I am going to try and break down the ideas of good and evil, and walk us through the underlying assumptions that these concepts entail. here to read the entire sermon.

Building Our Earthly Ark

Delivered by Sharon Swanson, 2/18/2018. Sermon by Ana Levy-Lyons, Senior Minister at First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, New York

Those of you who went to a Sunday school or Hebrew school when you were kids may have happy images in your head of Noah and the Ark—smiling giraffes and cows and lions going two by two up the ramp into the big boat, Noah and his family waving like they’re going on a cruise, and, of course, the end of the story when the flood subsides and you have that post-rain, wet-sidewalk smell, and everything is all sparkly, clean, and new with a beautiful rainbow in the sky. This is how it almost always looks in the kids’ picture books.

But the reality of how it’s described in the text, and the reality of today’s modern day floods, is not quite so happy. As we’ve recently seen in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, India and so many other places around the world, we are getting storms and floods today that are increasingly biblical in their proportions, and nobody is smiling and waving—unless it’s for help. here to read the entire sermon.

Getting Beyond Resistance

Shari Forrest, 1/21/2018

I’m happy to deliver today’s Faith Rocket sermon, by Rev. Emily Wright-Magoon, Unitarian Universalist Church of Midland, TX. I have added a few bits and pieces myself to make this sermon tailored for our experience.

Here’s my challenge for this sermon--a sermon that doesn’t just give you one more thing for your “to do” lists. Instead, find a way to bring you “Good News.” It’s a phrase with a Christian tradition, and a phrase I think all UUs can translate and embrace in some way.

Especially given the topic of my sermon today: “Getting Beyond Resistance” – I really don’t want to give anyone who is already worn out by the work of justice just one ... more ... thing ... to do. So here goes, let’s see how I do… bringing Good News. … here to read the entire sermon.

Water Communion Homily

Andy Grizzle, 9/10/2017

Thinking Things

By Alison Reiheld

The story by Terry Bisson presents an interesting kind of question: what kinds of things are capable of thinking? Do we know them by their works, or what they are made of?  We humans are indeed thinking things.  Indeed, our thoughts about our thinking can be used as a fundamental proof of our own existence.

As Rene Descartes famously said in his Meditations, “I think, therefore I am.”  He said this in the context of examining what we can really know. Suppose, Descartes said, that an evil demon—or, in our modern age, a computer simulation—has manufactured for me illusory sensations.  I then could not trust my sense data about the external world.  I cannot at any point be precisely certain these sensory impressions of the world are true in any sense.  Even if I am not being manipulated, I still cannot be sure how true they are for I can perceive only part of the picture both because I am an individual and because my senses do not perceive all that exists. There are colors I will never see, degrees of translucency I will never perceive, smells I can never detect.  Well, Descartes, said, what then can I know?  Is there anything? We can at least know that if we are deceived, there is something to be deceived. If we are only partial knowers, there is a knower.  If I am thinking, there is a thinker, and I am that thinker. here to read the entire sermon.


For the Beauty of the Earth

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

This is the day the earth has given us. Let us rejoice in its beauty.

Carl Sagan says we are made of star stuff, but Marge Piercy reminds us that we are all of this humble earth, that we are all connected to it as much as every tree or blade of grass.

Mass, like energy, can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only be transformed. The atoms of the earth that make up the rich soil that grow our food were once part of other kinds of life – of plants, of animals. here to read the entire sermon.


Leaving Egypt: Envisioning a New Future

By Rev. Morgan Forrest

Good morning! It is spring, and we are only a few days away from what most of you know as Passover. In Hebrew, we use the word Pesach. We also refer to this festival by several other names, such as Chag ha’Aviv, which means Festival of Spring. And there is Chag ha’Matzot, which means festival of Matzahs, and if any of you have ever eaten the cardboard we call matzah, I don’t know why anyone would call it a festival! Some people call it The Feast Without Yeast. But perhaps the least often heard, yet most meaningful term we use for this time is, Z'man Cheiruteinu, which means, the time of our freedom. here to read the entire sermon.


(Un)Holy Mischief

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

Laughter is the best medicine. We’ve all heard it, and to some extent, it is easy to believe at face value. Certainly there are scientific studies done by serious people in lab coats and clutching clipboards, resulting in dull, dry reports that use words like ‘qualitative’ and ‘within vectors of tolerance.” Or some such. There’s nothing like science to take the fun right out of fun.

But laughter is the thing we need when times get tough. Not to dismiss or diminish whatever kind of pain we’re in, but to ease the stress, to let off steam like a pressure valve on one of those old terrifying pressure cooker things. here to read the entire sermon.


The Power of Nope: A View of Religion and Science

By Steve Harvey

Good morning. Our story today begins with a group of kids around a campfire. It’s a true story. I was around 11 or 12 years old, and the other
kids were about the same age as me. It was a Boy Scout camp. All of us were from the same small town, and we all knew each other from
school. Most of us even lived in the same neighborhood and played tackle football together in the big open field – which was on the other
side of the dirt road that ran in front of my house. That night at the campout we were standing there, trying to warm up by the
fire. Occasionally the wind would change direction, and we’d all kinda shift around to the other side to try to get away from hot smoke blasting into our faces. here to read the entire sermon.


Losing King Again: The Whitewashing of his Legacy

By Lauren Lyerla

How does one introduce Dr. King as a subject? Our schools start teaching kids as young as preschool about him, so pretty much everyone knows who he is. But on the other hand, what most of us learn about him is pretty limited, not all that much more than was included in the book Kevin read to us this morning: "A man named Martin Luther King Jr. taught us unyielding compassion. He gave us a dream that all races and creeds would walk hand in hand. He marched and he prayed and, one at a time, opened hearts and saw the birth of his dream in us."

And so it is with losing Dr. King. Most of us know that he was assassinated in the prime of his life. He was only 39 years old when he died on April 4, 1968, in Memphis. James Earl Ray spent the rest of his life in prison for taking Dr. King from us. here to read the entire sermon.


Still, She Persisted

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Still, she persisted.”

Let it be noted that today I quoted United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a sermon.

People who are socialized as female in our culture recognized easily what happened this week when senators from one party voted to silence a senator from the other party. This was about more than stopping uncomfortable words from being spoken into the congressional record: this was about exerting power, flexing muscle, sending a message that uppity behavior would not be tolerated, particularly by women members of the body.

After Warren was formally censured and barred from speaking again, no fewer than four of her male colleagues read the same letter from Coretta Scott King into the record. None of them were opposed, silenced or harassed in any way. here to read the entire sermon.


The Tension Between Reason and Wonder

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

All around us, we are surrounded by wonder, if we only choose to see it. The cold this week has created intricate patterns of frost on windows and metal railings, and the lingering, bent remains of last summer’s tomato plants that never got pulled at the end of the season.

And yet, wonder can have a darker side. Rarely are things as idyllic as we’d like to imagine them to be.

Thunderstorms that light up the night sky can also blow down trees and damage homes. Frost that etches delicate lace on windows and spiderwebs can kill delicate plants and freeze pipes.

Fields of flowers carry pollen and bugs and all manner of things to irritate humans – things that make us sneeze or itch or break out in a rash. here to read the entire sermon.