Progressive Faith Sermons - Dr. Roger Ray

Time is not a material thing. Our units of time actually measure movement, i.e. if there was no movement the concept of time would be meaningless. Talk about going back in time is not merely science fiction, it is, in fact, more a matter of fantasy, of imagination disengaged from reality. Understanding science is increasingly important but to move forward intellectually we have to accept that simply saying "it pleases me to believe in delusions" is not helpful.

Direct download: 20231231_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:09am EDT

Americans have fewer annual vacation days than any other western government and more than that, we tend to tie retirement and healthcare to our employment. So, out of fear and anxiety, we work more than almost any other nation and yet have millions without healthcare, income, or housing. Our world obviously needs our involvement and action but it also needs for us to step back from the fire and gain perspective, insight, wisdom, and peace. Take a break. Enjoy the holiday. Then come back smarter and stronger to save democracy!

Direct download: 20231217_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

The war in Ukraine shows no signs of coming to an end and now the war in Gaza is escalating to an unthinkable death toll and seems only to get worse daily. What are we to make of these tragic wars that remind us so much of the way that WWII started? And as Americans, since our tax dollars and military hardware are deeply involved in both wars, what are we to say within this democracy that is supposed to care what we think?

Direct download: 20231203_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:30am EDT

The United States has perpetuated compromises in our constitution which were originally written to give slave holding states assurances that the institution of slavery would not be immediately wiped out by larger and more populous industrial states. What gave some citizens a larger voice in managing our government at the end of the 18th century has become a choke collar in the 21stcentury, taking away the voice of the poor, minorities, and immigrant communities who tend to live in major cities in more populated states. It is a bit complicated but it deserves our attention as we prepare for what may be the most important presidential election in our lifetimes.

Direct download: 20231119_Sermonv2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

The familiar image of Lady Justice, blindfolded, holding up balanced scales in one hand and a sword in the other (a little frightening if she can’t see) suggests our desire that we will be a nation of laws and that there is only one standard of justice in the nation. We hope that the rich and the poor, people of all races, nations of origin, and public status will be treated the same in our courts. However, we know that is not how it really works. We have a goal of equal justice in mind but our execution of it seems to come and go in unreliable ways. The way the children of our two most recent presidents are being treated is a case in point.

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Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Most of us have given an uncommon amount of time and energy to the news in the past weeks as Israel mounts a military response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks launched by Hamas. Just as the USA did after 9-11, it is only human to want to strike back against such a horrible act of war with an overpowering military response. But Hamas is like Isis, they are more of an ideology of hate than they are an army or even a political party. Trying to fight an abhorrent idea always ends up killing more innocent people than prophets of terror. However the world moves on past Oct. 7, it must involve both political changes in Israel, and human rights changes in Palestine.

Direct download: 20231022_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Does our support for Ukraine in their defensive war against Russia’s invasion qualify as a “just war?” Thomas Aquinas insisted that for a war to be just it must be conducted by a sovereign government, and the war must be for a just cause, and it must be fought by soldiers who fight to accomplish something that is good. Of course, innocent people die in all wars and no army is comprised of entirely noble soldiers, so war crimes will be committed by all nation’s armies in some instances. When is the cost of supporting Ukraine too much for the stated goals in defeating Russia?

Direct download: 20231001_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

Church attendance, especially among progressives is in decline, and financial support of these struggling congregations is going down even faster. Do we have a way of forming spiritual communities without churches, pastors, and budgets or do we need to redouble our efforts to save the ones we still have?

Direct download: 20230923_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

More than a year away from the next presidential election, it appears that we may have the same candidates that we had in 2020, in spite of multiple criminal charges against Donald Trump that range from insurrection to theft of nuclear secrets and classified documents. Why are his supporters so loyal when he doesn't seem to feel any obligation to be honest with them? Could we be looking at a cult of voters who are willing to undermine democracy and individual freedom to assuage the ego of their "dear leader?"

Direct download: 20230710_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:49pm EDT

Today is my last sermon as co-pastor and so, this week, I’ve been looking back as a way of looking forward, thinking about and learning from the years we’ve spent together. I am grateful for all the ways that our community has helped transform the stories that dominate our society and to turn it around: offering kindness instead of condemnation, and justice instead of a tired resignation to the way things are. Our banners boldly remind us that we will not stand idly by, that we can make a difference, and that our own, very earthly voices can call one another to a more beautiful and just and altogether wonderful way of life. Thank you!

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Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

While shame and humiliation are part of the human experience, we should not promote them or build our communities and movements around them. Instead, let’s focus on becoming places where we learn to care for ourselves and one another, with healing for when we hurt and celebration for when we thrive. Wisdom and compassion as a “way of knowing” will serve us better for creating social norms and communities where we can learn to take care of our personal and collective well-being; where we can be and feel safe; and where we can nourish our creativity and joy.

Direct download: 20230830_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

The suicide of a 40 year old scientist (and athlete and musician) raises two crucial issues with modern day America. 1) While we have possibly the most advanced medical science in the world, our distribution of health care and our priorities in research are based on profit and not health and that is killing us. 2) The government (and the police) insert themselves into an individual's choice to end their own life when they have no prospect of living meaningfully, which forces them to not discuss their decision with family, friends, or professionals. These are problems that we can solve.

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The authors of America's Declaration of Independence acknowledged that people seem to be willing to suffer the abuses of their government until such time that the liberties the government gives to itself become unbearable. With the loss of voter protection, the license given to corporations to make political donations (bribes), taking away affirmative action, women's right to manage their own reproductive lives, and the open threat to the civil rights of gay, lesbian, and trans folks, isn't it time for meaningful and sustained protest to demand reform, especially in our Supreme Court?

Direct download: 20230806_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Anyone actively involved in trying to make the world a better place has felt the pressures to push past our limitations, abandon boundaries, and sacrifice our well-being and aspirations in the name of a cause. While it is true that sometimes we may strategically and intentionally place our needs to the side to deal with a crisis, it is not sustainable or healthy to do so over the long-term – for ourselves or our movements. Jo Musker-Sherwood called this commitment to knowing and honoring our boundaries a “humble return to the natural rhythm of giving and receiving, of action and rest, that we can find healing personally and globally.” That return is an empowering, joyful, and hopeful invitation that I hope to encourage all of us to embrace.

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Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter, and our very cell phones themselves have shortened our attention span to the point that we hard know how to talk to one another anymore and even worse, it seems that we are nearly incapable of listening to someone. We can never understand another person, especially not someone we are inclined to avoid or reject, unless we are willing to actively, patiently, and sincerely listen to them long enough for them to feel heard and for us to understand them, even if we still disagree. As Paul Tillich said, the first obligation of love is to listen.

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Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We often reflect on how economic and social disparities are symptoms of an unhealthy society, associated with environmental degradation, poverty, violence, and oppression. However, we continue to hurtle headlong toward ever-increasing disparities. Examining the rise and role of consumerism can help us understand some of the reasons why this is so, and what we can do to encourage change.

Direct download: 20230716_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Following up on my reflections in June, I share some of the ways that lovingkindness meditation has been helpful in my own life, especially with transforming self-hatred and anger into understanding and kindness. All of us who are committed to continually growing into compassionate, wise people can benefit from having these kinds of skills and resources available to us, our communities, and our movements for justice – increasing our wellbeing now and supporting us when we need them the most.

Direct download: 20230709_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

The most popular forms of philanthropy, in giving sandwiches and sleeping bags to the unhoused or sending goats to poor farmers in Central America are symbolic gestures. Handing out free meals is not a solution to poverty and sending goats to Central America rarely has the intended effect. (The goats I sent to Nicaragua a few years ago ended up eating all of the neighbors’ vegetable gardens and nearly started a village war!) But these gestures can be seen at teaching opportunities that help us to grow the kind of conscience the world needs to find the real solutions that can help to make serious inroads into environmental sanity and economic justice.

Direct download: 20230702_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This part 1 of a two-part series on philanthropy. Today we consider the ways that charitable foundations can be twisted into being tax loopholes for the super-rich while still allowing the wealthy to use 95% of the foundation’s holdings to invest in stocks that profit them personally. Part 2 will be about the benefits of philanthropy which can be huge, but the downside of our tax structure that punishes people for being poor and rewards people for being rich deserves our attention.

Direct download: 20230625_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We get lots of cultural signals that our personal worth goes down with each birthday. Many feel pressured to choose extreme measures to deny the reality of the passing of time, but rather than grieving over what age takes away from us, maybe we can spend some time considering what gifts can come with old age? The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, praised the advantages of getting older, especially in making a hard exit from the ego driven competition of our younger years. We can be liberated in our senior years to enjoy a more whole life that is free of the anxiety we may feel about such things as appearance and focus more on wisdom.

Direct download: 20230618_Sermon.mp3
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Week after week, we turn our attention to injustice, violence, and oppression, so that we can encourage one another to not stand idly by. But as we face all this suffering, there is also that nagging question: How can we humans be so wonderful and horrible at the same time? So generous and compassionate on the one hand and so cruel and violent on the other? By reflecting on our own experiences and listening to the emerging research on violence and empathy, we can make decisions that build resources, cultivate community, and help make wellbeing, in ourselves and in society, available to all.

Direct download: 20230611_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

In May, the Biden Administration announced a new border plan, which turns out to be more of the same, including recycling failed and dangerous policies. Even Federal asylum officers have called the new plan “inconsistent with the asylum law enacted by Congress, the treaties the United States has ratified, and our country’s moral fabric and longstanding tradition of providing safe haven to the persecuted.” We must continue to speak out against continued abuses and injustices against migrants, and to act in ways that embody and insist on the humanity, safety, and wellbeing of all – including and especially vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees.

Direct download: 20230604_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Our deeply divided nation will not become unified by learning to either deny or accept the racism and prejudice that is inherent in American culture. We should be kind and patient but we must not fail to be honest and factual about our history of institutional racism and religious prejudice and to chart a higher path towards unity by dispelling the scourge of our irrational hatreds and fears.

Direct download: 20230528_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Humanity’s collective hubris has led us to the edge of catastrophe, as we have collectively ignored the reality of climate change and wreaked destruction on the environment for decades and centuries. Yet not all is lost. We have the science, data, technology, and practices we need to nourish cultures and communities where this kind of hubris, whether dumping contaminants into groundwater or pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is avoided as much as possible, and recognized, healed, and transformed whenever it does arise. Together, we must take steps to create cultures and systems where this care becomes the norm.

Direct download: 20230521_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

t is Mother's Day but rather than deliver a solipsistic sermon in praise of mothers, I am going to talk about influential female mentors who never gave birth. This is a personal message, naming the wise women who guided me in hope that you will remember the childless mothers in your life.

I can’t copy it all here but I encourage you to look up and read this poem:

An Ode to Childless Mothers by Natasha Sanders

Direct download: 20230514_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

With the release of the final section of the IPCC’s sixth report last month, humans are without excuse. There is no time left to value short-term profits over long term health. It took billions of years for all this earthly beauty to blossom, a vibrant and interconnected web of living and dying. If humanity is to have a future here, it is imperative that we notice, listen, and act – now.

Direct download: 20230507_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Without absolutes, without a God given set of rules in holy writ or a supernatural theistic judge in the clouds, how do we determine right from wrong or even sensibly talk about what it means to be good? Are these arbitrary value judgements in a toothless religious debate? Progressives tend to elevate the value of compassion as a primary spiritual attribute. As you might guess, conservatives and progressives don’t always agree!

Direct download: 20230430_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

In the ancient Persian slave ghetto, Zoroastrian religion evolved an expression of ethics and eternity that influenced what became modern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Their succinct description of how to be a good person was the three fold injunction to think good thought, speak good words, and do good actions. I tell my world religion students that this has hardly been improved upon over the centuries but now, in 2023, I am forced to wonder if many people even have being a “good person” as a goal? Dishonesty, self service, greed, all seem to be assumed to be normal conduct.

Direct download: 20230423_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

This last week, trans folks in Missouri have been living in the thick of the intentional, ongoing attacks against transgender lives. On Thursday, April 13, 2023, Missouri’s Attorney General, Andrew Bailey, issued expanded emergency regulations that effectively restrict and, in many cases, make impossible life-saving, life-giving care that many transgender and gender expansive people depend on. We are supporting each other and doing an amazing job of it. We are not giving up or backing down. But we can use and need all the community support we can get right now. Please do not stand idly.

Direct download: 20230421_Special.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

When we begin to give up the formal, creedal faith of our youth, accepting that no religion is entirely true and no sacred text was actually written by God, many people will abandon the journey of faith entirely. But for those of us who find value in a spiritual life, we are inclined to turn away from the false certainty of formal religion and turn towards the more honest uncertainty of a mystical faith in which we accept the “isness” of God, as Meister Eckhart said, “God is a word unspoken, a thought not thought, a belief unbelieved.” For those of us raised in a formal church, the mental prison of belief is hard to leave behind . . . especially for the clergy!

Direct download: 20230416_Sermon.mp3
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Walter Brueggemann posed the challenge of Easter as deciding to be “a part of the Easter movement of civil disobedience that contradicts the empire,” to “see if life is longer than death.” Each day, we face a litany of suffering born of oppression, mirroring the crucifixion, that we must match with the determination to keep going, mirroring the resurrection. In the face of injustice, we insist on creating just, joyful, equitable communities. At Easter, we repeat these stories in order to remember the choices we make between “empire death and Easter life,” to make our hells into healing, and rise again.

Direct download: 20230409_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

This is Palm Sunday so I am going to take my speaking time this week to demythologize the gospel narrative a bit. Judas was not a historical character. Mark created a literary fiction and named him Judas, which is spelled "Judah" in Greek, and means "Jew." Judas represented the faith community, nation, and family of Jesus. Mark set's the execution in a passion narrative in which Jesus is betrayed by his family, his faith community, his friends, his nation . . . and haven't we all been there? The passion narrative is not a historical piece about what happened way back when but it is an "everyman" story about surviving betrayal

Direct download: 20230402_Sermon.mp3
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Not many of us got to enjoy the luxury of growing up in a "woke" environment. A great deal of growing us has involved overcoming the prejudices and too comfortable peace we had with the status quo. Being progressive often means that we are giving ourselves to give voice to our own stories, detailing how and why we felt compelled to change. We can be grateful for a lot of our family of origin and the religious community in which we grew up, but we are under no obligation to deny or hide the skeletons in the closet.

Direct download: 20230326_Sermon.mp3
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Elsa Tamez wrote that “The situation of oppression and pain tends to make people feel depressed, to dehumanize them, to destroy not only their bodies but also their spirit, to make them see their oppression as normal and natural.” These words will be recognizable to anyone who belongs to a marginalized community. Unmasking the lie that change is not only impossible, it is unnatural, we are called to respond with a praxis grounded in our values. We connect patience with resistance and integrity with solidarity, so that we can more intentionally participate in the personal and collective healing and growing we need.

Direct download: 20230319_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

2023 has been unprecedented in the barrage of attacks on gender and sexuality minorities by both public commentators and lawmakers across the USA. From calls to “eradicate transgenderism” to the continued insistence to “Don’t Say Gay,” we are witnessing a cultural and legislative movement that specifically aims to make it more difficult for LGBTQIA2s+ folks to be safe, access basic care and protective rights, and joyfully live out our beautiful, human lives.

Direct download: 20230312_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am EDT

Time Magazine’s choice of the women of Iran as their heroes of the year for 2022 is a fitting tribute to the courage and sacrifice necessary to incite a serious reformation within Islam. Adherents often say that Islam is a religion of peace and it certain can be that and is that for most Muslims but in nations with conservative Islamic regimes, the truth can be anything but peace. The women of Iran are an inspiration to all of us who hope for liberty and equality.

Direct download: 20230305_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

It has always been true that Covid-19 presented a greater threat to the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions but in this time that so many people insist on calling "post covid" we are still losing 300 people a day to Covid and most of them are over 65, and the majority of them have been vaccinated. Our indifference towards the death of the aged reflects the veneration of youth in our culture and the devaluation of the lives of senior citizens. Being dismissive of the threat Covid represents to the elderly is a mistake we need to consider, especially considering the contributions made to our world by those who are no longer "hot."

Direct download: 20230226_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

For many of us, society is not a safe place to exist, and we lack the supports and resources we need to thrive as human beings. Yet even when we enter into movements and spaces dedicated to working for social justice, activism fatigue and burnout take their toll. Can we practice in such a way that kindness leads to confidence, compassion and wisdom create safety, and a trustworthy community helps us remain open to change?

Direct download: 20230219_Sermon.mp3
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Many societies, including American society, have made mindless consumption a way of life. Not having clear paths for working with suffering in skillful ways, we are encouraged at every turn to merely cope, while our core social issues are often left unhealed and untransformed. Spiritual and reflective practices offer a way for us to cultivate insight, let go of habits that harm, make healthy choices that heal and make us happy, and build cultures and communities where we can continually move from mindless consumption to grateful contentment.

Direct download: 20230212_Sermon.mp3
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The beginning of Black History Month has been already crowded with new entries in our long history of violence and inequality. Yet even while we mourn, honoring the grief and rage of the recent murder of Tyre Nichols, officials in power have been quick to remind everyone that protests must be “peaceful and nonviolent” and that there is a “right way” to protest. However, people’s anger and grief at injustice is not the root problem. What is “out of hand” is a system that depends on police brutality and systemic racism. And the best way to prevent violent protests is to create a just, equitable, compassionate society.

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We spend a lot of time focused on understanding and transforming social norms that bring about injustice, oppression, and violence. But we also know that it is just as important to hold that awareness of our capacity for injustice alongside an awareness of our capacity for cooperative, kind relationships. We use the wisdom of both to learn how to establish wellbeing in ourselves and healthy relationships with others. Reflecting on the Buddha’s teachings on “The Bonds of Fellowship” is one way to remind ourselves how important it is to practice healthy community, and some simple pathways to do so.

Direct download: 20230205_Sermon.mp3
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Last weekend, we carried an awareness of the grieving communities in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California. Then, on Monday, two high school students were shot and killed at a charter school in Des Moines, Iowa in an apparent feud between rival gangs. Three days, three shootings, three settings: community dance center, workplace, and school. As a nation, we hold space, tending these open wounds, these seemingly unending cycles of violence. And we are back to that question: What is it about our society that so effectively waters the seeds of violence in us?

Direct download: 20230129_Sermon.mp3
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Last week, the completely terrifying and avoidable tragedy of Larry Eugene Price’s 2021 death in an Arkansas jail came to light. As shocking as his story is, the painful reality is that we have managed to create a society where these kinds of tragedies happen with horrific regularity. The settings change: prisons, hospitals, schools, workplaces, religious institutions, homes. The relationships between the inequities and oppressive systems shift emphasis: race, gender, class and poverty, disability, age, sexuality, and more. And each person’s story is unique, but these experiences also form a pattern. Understanding those patterns, and transforming them into action, is the continual responsibility for all communities of resistance, so that everyone can have a chance to recover wholeness and health.

Direct download: 20230122_Sermon.mp3
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It’s easy to divide the world up into the foolish and the wise. It’s harder to take the time to really discern how our actions impact one another. We easily forget that our friendships train our minds. Whom we spend time with is also a question of how we spend our time. What activities do we do together? What do we talk about? Where do we go? The people in our lives both reflect and influence what we think is important, how we treat one another, how we understand life and the world, for good or for ill. Being intentional about community helps us create habits the help and heal, instead of harm.

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We continue to face head-on the injustice in the world, because honestly engaging with that suffering is essential to change. But we also understand that this emphasis alone can be disheartening and exhausting. If we are going to have the energy to carry us through, to keep working together to help birth a beautiful, caring, and just world, then we must be equally committed to cultivating our wellbeing in the present moment. During January and February, David will be offering reflections on the Buddha’s “Discourse on Happiness,” with the hope of helping us explore ways we can encourage each other to cultivate happiness and wellbeing right now, even as we continue to engage with and transform the injustice and cruelty of the world.

Direct download: 20230108_Sermon.mp3
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New Year's resolutions can be a very meaningless exercise unless you take seriously the awareness that we really can change ourselves by conscious decision.  This sermon addresses the substantive need to take personal responsibility for the path we are following.

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