Progressive Faith Sermons - Dr. Roger Ray (general)

Economists are predicting that one in six restaurants will be permanently closed as a result of the pandemic. Sadly, when progressive congregations emerge from our current sabbatical or at least our retreat to online only services, the casualty rate may be much higher than what has hit the restaurant business. Still, the progressive church was already changing, and this nightmare virus may have simply accelerated our transformation. When our congregations attempt to again open their doors to seated church services, what will those services look like? Will there be choirs? Congregational singing? Passing the Peace? Communion? This is a sad time but it may also be an opportunity for thoughtful and meaningful change so that when we do return to church, the church we return to will be much more meaningful than the one we put into mothballs.

Direct download: 20201129_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:04am EST

How did wearing a mask to avoid spreading the Covid virus become a politically partisan issue? It has become apparent that one of the most difficult tasks ahead of the USA is learning again how to disagree without dividing the nation. For many of us, this isn't about politics, it is about ethics and being honest about both economics and science. It is hard to bridge the gap to those who seemed to have denied reality but the stakes are too high not to try to hold out an olive branch and try to reconcile our deeply divided nation.

Direct download: 20201122_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EST

At the end of World War I, there was a hope that this had been the “war to end all wars.” Armistice Day was established to celebrate the agreements that they hoped would lead to an eternity of peace on the planet earth. It was only 30 years before the world was plunged into another global conflict that claimed even more lives. As horrific as wars are, there is a tendency to glorify wars and those who survived fighting in them, so that Armistice Day became Veterans Day so that rather than honoring world peace, we were back to, ipso facto, honoring the hellscape of war. Veterans for Peace are asking us to take the focus off of them and to put it back where it belongs, on a deep and passionate commitment to peace. We can honor the courage and sacrifice of soldiers while demanding, in the 21st century, that there be no more wars.

Direct download: 20201114_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:43am EST

Despite Tuesday’s election results, Donald Trump received widespread support across the USA, signaling a tolerance for, and, in many cases, a celebration of, Trump’s performative fascism and a growing normalization of White nationalism. Understanding that the popularity of Trump is a symptom of these deeper problems in our society, we realize that we still have vital work to do to close up the vulnerabilities that make fascism possible. Now is not only a moment to celebrate, but a moment to rededicate ourselves to creating a future where kindness and compassion, justice and wisdom, are not only possible, but real.

Direct download: 20201108_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EST

President Kennedy’s speech he was set to deliver on the very day when he was tragically assassinated included this plea to the nation, “let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake.” Every presidential election is important, but it is not an exaggeration to say that both global and domestic issues are at stake this week in unprecedented ways. No matter who wins the election, a huge portion of the country will be deeply disappointed, and it is not unrealistic to fear more than vitriolic language as there are those who literally want to start a civil war. So let’s strive to be the good people who will go high when others go low so that we can shepherd our nation through the coming tumult towards a better 2021.

Direct download: 20201101_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EST

The directors of the FBI and DHS have warned Congress that white supremacist, anarchist, and other armed militias pose a significant threat to American security. Our nation, unlike our peers in western democracies, has been held hostage to the gun industry which appears to be motivated by profits to the exclusion of concern about human life. It is up to us to reverse that priority and stem the accelerating rate of gun deaths in America.

Direct download: 20201025_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EST

Power begets power and institutions that are rife with power will increasingly resist change, reform, or moral responsibility. An excellent example of this is the perception that protesting police killings and violence as being inherently “anti-police” just as protesting the Catholic Church’s history of hiding pedophilia as well as the rape and forced abortions common among nuns in their relationships with priests is decried as being “anti-Catholic.” Can we imagine legitimate policing without shooting unarmed black men? Can we imagine a Catholic Church which teaches compassion and care for the poor without rape, forced abortions, or pedophilia? If we are not allowed to even discuss such reforms then, clearly, both the church and the police have become too powerful.

Direct download: 20201018_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:10am EST

We're not dead yet, but we need your help. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to sell our church building, but we are still online and plan to return to an in-person presence once it is safe to do so. Making that happen requires your help. Please consider donating by visiting http://spfccc.org or mailing a check to:

Community Christian Church
PO Box 10062
Springfield, MO 65808

Direct download: 20201018_PledgeSpot.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:06pm EST

A civilization’s shared myths account for why things are the way they are. They can bolster loyalty to a religion or a nation, and they can excuse class and race privilege. Ancient Hebrew scriptures claim that God gave them a land where other nations were already living just as America’s “manifest destiny” excused genocide and pathological land theft. But myth’s don’t have to be toxic, in fact, they could be quite useful in uniting a people around a common goal of actually becoming a great nation that, for example, eradicates poverty and racism, ends militarism and environmental exploitation. We need to be able to purge the myths that support religious or racial superiority and replace them with a vision of compassion and peace.

Direct download: 20201011_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:16am EST

Faith is typically based on “belief” and science is based on objective research and analysis. In this address, written for the Malvern (United Kingdom) Science and Faith conference, Dr. Ray discusses the concept of “evidence based faith,” attempting to rank our beliefs based on Bayes’ Theorem of probability analysis. This invites communities of faith to put the majority of their energy into what they can know (indeed, what they can hardly avoid knowing from the news!) rather than stressing the unknowable truth claims of traditional religion. We have no real evidence of heaven and hell but we have lots of evidence of racism, poverty, violence, and illness.

Direct download: 20201004_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:34am EST

The late Congressman John Lewis wrote what could be his own eulogy in the essay he wrote to be published posthumously in the New York Times. He called on “ordinary people” to be willing to get into “good trouble.” Of course, the sins of racism, oppression, and enslavement were not creations of black culture. These were white inventions and as such, we must acknowledge that the end of racism in America demands that white people choose to stop being racists. Visionaries like Lewis, King, Parks, Malcolm X, and many more gave voice to the vision of a post racist America but bringing that reality to life calls for ordinary people to, in extraordinary ways, rise above their racism to be more intentionally anti-racist and inclusive people.

Direct download: 20200927_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:44am EST

Politics and profit have tremendous influence over which foods we eat, especially the poor because almost all government agricultural subsidies go to beef, dairy, and grain production and less than 1% supports growing green vegetables and fruits. The biblical narrative about the birthday party given for Herod concludes with the head of John the Baptist being brought out on a platter as if his very life was the main course at the feast of the wealthy and powerful. Our out of control capitalist and subsidy driven food supply is causing diabetes and heart disease among the poor who are trapped into eating the most lethal food imaginable. The good news is that in a democracy we can change this. People over profits!

Direct download: 20200919_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:37am EST

While protests verge on becoming riots in our city streets in response to multiple murders of unarmed black men at the hands of our cities' police, we must focus on how to pull racism out of our culture by the roots. Many of us find the common placement of Confederate monuments and the names of leading Confederates and KKK members on universities and public structures to be a part of making racism appear to be a normal part of our culture. While it is far from being the only answer, surely cleaning up the common vision of this tribute to our slave owning (and raping) racist past is a part of the answer.

Direct download: 20200913_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:58am EST

Labor Day is an American substitute for the International Workers Day, celebrated on May 1. Americans of the early 20th century associated organize labor with communism and sought to suppress union organizing while applauding the contributions of laborers to our country. Of course, what labor really deserves is a living wage, safe working conditions, health care, retirement, vacations and a shorter work week, along with well-deserved praise. A Universal Basic Income is a step in the direction of a more just nation and a fairer economy.

Direct download: 20200906_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:58am EST

Fear provokes prejudice and makes people willing to sacrifice their rights in favor of an authoritarian government that promises protection from the “others.” But shouldn’t faith offer some cure for fear? Can’t we see other races and nationalities as sisters and brothers rather than a threat? We are on the verge of an election and, hopefully, substantive social progress.

Direct download: 20200830_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:55am EST

170 Danish scholars from 5 universities came together to consider how the world needs to change post covid-19. They make five crucial suggestions: 1) Move away from ‘development’ focused on aggregate GDP growth. 2) Develop an economic framework focused on redistribution. 3) Develop a form of agriculture that is regenerative. 4) Reduce consumption and travel. And finally, 5) debt cancellation. This sermon acknowledges the seriousness of the current pandemic but also seeks to honestly articulate how messed up the world was before covid-19 to imagine a better world when the pandemic is over.

Direct download: 20200823_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:34am EST

Self-care has become a buzz phrase in recent years, and we’re (necessarily) hearing about it even more during this pandemic. In a healthy, functioning society, self and community care is integrated into its habits, relationships, organizations, and culture. Special actions would not be required except in times like these, and preparations to meet such a crisis would have been carefully made. Although we have known for some time that this is not the case in the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed just how unprepared we were. Moreover, it has reminded us in very public and painful ways that unhealthy, unsustainable, and unjust work and life conditions serve to perpetuate oppressive systems and cultures. It leaves those most impacted with the least access to time, resources, safety, and energy to devote to personal and social healing, as well as movement building. We must insist that all people, especially essential workers and vulnerable populations, have access to the care they need.

Direct download: 200816_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:09am EST

Anthropologist, Margaret Mead, said that the first sign of human civilization was the discovery of a 15,000 year old skeleton of a man who had a broken femur. She speculated that such an injury could only mean that others had cared for this man for several weeks while the broken bone mended, something that was not seen among our ancestors prior to that time. The issue is, however, that we have to make similar decisions every day to keep human evolution from slipping backwards. Especially, in the midst of this pandemic, we have to make choices to be more “human” as we care for those who are physically at risk, those who are unemployed, impoverished, and without either shelter or access to healthcare. Evolution didn’t happen once thousands of years ago, it is something that must be renewed daily or we are in danger of slipping back into more primitive if not reptilian ways of thinking.

Direct download: 20200809_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:06pm EST

We really are not in the same boat but we surely are in the same storm. The pandemic is very inconvenient for the people who get to keep their jobs, income, health insurance, and home. But those who are now unemployed, uninsured, evicted or facing foreclosure are in another kind of boat and it is in danger of sinking. Refusing to wear a mask, resisting “stay home” orders or social distancing rules, and certainly, refusing to get the vaccine when it is available is a luxury of the secure that the poor can not afford for us to choose. Basic human compassion demands that we set politics and personal preference aside and all work together to reach the goal of “herd immunity” so that going to work or visiting neighbors is not a life threatening proposition.

Direct download: 20200802_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:26am EST

Opioid overdoses increased by 18% in March, 29% in April, and 42% in May making addiction and overdose deaths a silent pandemic within the viral pandemic. To respond to this crisis, today’s message is a panel presentation from our pastor, a physician who is an addiction specialist, and a psychologist who specializes in suicide prevention and addiction. Even if you are not personally in danger of drug or alcohol abuse, you can be assured that someone you know well is and this information may be very helpful to you as you reach out to those who are in danger.

Direct download: 20200726_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:33am EST

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: 20200719_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EST

The anti-mask vs pro-mask divide in this stage of the global pandemic becomes an interesting litmus test for either an empathetic world view or a kind of apologetic for being something of a sociopath. Given the irresponsible leadership of Trump in America, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Boris Johnson in the UK, we can see how many people are willing to follow the lead of a public figure who denies science, evidence, and expert medical advice with horrifying consequences. To many of us, this indifference towards public health looks evil but we may actually be seeing a kind of emotional exhaustion that becomes defiantly self-serving. A spiritual world view asks us to change our behaviors, even when we don’t feel like we have anything left to give emotionally, to stretch ourselves to simply take on the habit of caring, even when we cannot feel it, until, miraculously, we can feel the desire to be empathic again.

Direct download: 20200712_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:34am EST

Far too often, patriotism is expressed as enthusiasm for wars as if the battlefield was the only way to become a hero or to find virtue when, in almost every case, the opposite is true. As Jimmy Carter recently observed, no nation on earth has ever been as engaged in warfare as the USA and it has cost us the ability to protect our environment, build sustainable energy infrastructure, to feed, educated, house, and provide healthcare for our people. America’s greatness is yet to be realized, but it is within our grasp.

Direct download: 20200705_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:29am EST

Our wisdom lesson offers us a view of the how things could be, through illustrations and words. It’s the kind of world that everyone could enjoy living in, because it would be organized around compassion, equality, and justice. But that world has mainly lived in human imagination, though not because it is impossible. Instead, we have inherited a set of obstacles to achieving well-being for all. A case in point is the mobilization of the powers that be to defend the power and wealth they have accumulated – even in the midst of a global pandemic and in the face of an uprising against police brutality and White supremacy. While much of public discourse continues to fixate on the fear and fascination of “looting” by protesters, the real thievery of runaway capitalism continues and even increases. Until Black lives are more valuable than White profit, the world we’ve imagined will stay in our dreams.

Direct download: 20200628_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:31am EST

Covid-19 will also have a casualty count among congregations. Which churches will survive into the 21st century and, frankly, which ones really shouldn’t? If loneliness is the number one form of suffering in the western world, surely the connections made in a faith community should be a major solution to that isolation. But, perhaps more importantly, the churches that will survive the virus and the ongoing church exodus will be congregations that are morally relevant on a global scale as we address the social justice issues that exist in the real world (demanding that we stop obsessing about superstitious beliefs in invisible beings and places).

Direct download: 20200621_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:07pm EST

While we are currently focused on racism as it appears to us in policing and in the pandemic, we know that the roots of racism are centuries old and expressed in every dimension of our culture. Today we are especially focusing on race and healthcare outcomes. We welcome sociology professor, Kyler Sherman-Wilkins to our pulpit to speak to this specific area of his academic expertise.

Direct download: 20200614_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:46pm EST

Many progressive people, maybe even especially progressive clergy, are often so afraid of criticism that they keep their most passionate beliefs to themselves. This is especially true for those of us who live in deeply conservative areas dominated by traditional forms of religion. However, since most of us did not have the luxury of being born into progressive families, we had to think, study, and painfully grow out of our comfortable prejudices into a new place of open minded and liberal views. Don’t we then owe it to others to have the courage to speak up? This is especially true in this moment as demonstrations continue across the globe as we seek to bring an end to police brutality and murder of minorities and to seek greater justice generally for people of color. Now is a time for a prophetic community of faith to make its voice heard.

Direct download: 20200607_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:30am EST

“I can’t breathe.” Eric Garner’s last words were echoed this week by George Floyd as his life slipped away. The challenge for us is not to become inured by repetition. This time there was an arrest but immediately the coroner started the cover up saying that Floyd just happened to die from other causes while Derek Chauvin was kneeling on his neck. Will he be found “not guilty?” If not, will he be pardoned by Trump? Will he find his way onto another police force and kill again? This often-repeated scenario must be stopped. Here we plea for two things: Immediate reforms to policing, the judicial and the penal systems AND longer term work in bringing racism to an end in America, a long overdue educational process that starts in the nursery and continues in lifelong learning and self-correction.

Direct download: 20200531_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:42pm EST

Every lie incurs a debt to the truth that must eventually be paid. This was initially said of Russian lies about the Chernobyl disaster but it certain applies to lies told about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the cover up in Catholic and Protestant churches about pedophilia, Boeing’s cover up of the failures of the 737 Max. We will see how many people die in direct response to Florida’s governor trying to manipulate the numbers of Covid-19 infections in that state. A quick comparison to the honest treatment of the pandemic in South Korea to how it has been handled in the USA leaves us to wonder if the price incurred by our President’s denial and lies has been more than 90,000 deaths.

Direct download: 20200524_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:20pm EST

Logic and faith should be partners! A healthy spirituality does not deny reality but rather interrogates and interprets reality. We are not seeking to escape this world to be transported into an imaginary “other” world but rather to logically, ethically, lovingly transform the only world we know into a better, more compassionate world. For faith communities to be relevant in the emerging world, we must embrace an evidence based approach to our spirituality that is defined by critical thinking and a fearlessly prophetic scrutiny of our own beliefs.

Direct download: 20200517_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:25am EST

We are taking a wide angle view of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, from being relegated to carrying water and fire wood in the third world where female genital mutilation and sex trafficking are still common to the USA where, sadly sex trafficking is also common, but there is also religious oppression, a glass ceiling, and a sorely lacking representation in the houses of government. It's like Mother's Day on steroids…. join us!

Direct download: 20200510_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:45am EST

May 1 is the international workers’ holiday but this year, in light of the pandemic, more consideration needs to be given to the very nature of the economy beyond the traditional rivalry between owners and laborers. As the income gap has grown and the more complex issue of the ownership of capital has pushed assets into the hands of fewer and fewer people, it is time reconsider our assumptions about ownership and distribution of wealth. As President Trump and many states’ governors are pushing (largely minority) workers to go back to work in unsafe conditions for less than a living wage in the midst of a pandemic, is the word “revolution” too strong to use or is it not quite enough?

Direct download: 20200503_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:23am EST

Prejudice is its own logic, or, at least, it is impervious to logic, evidence, or critical thinking. This week we'll consider the irrational beliefs behind many of our prejudices. We look at the early American assumption that Native Americans, Africans, and Asians were somehow less than human and then we pay special attention to the case of the British mathematician, Alan Turing, who was of unique importance to both winning World War II by breaking the German Enigma code, and later laying the groundwork for the invention of the computer. In just a few years after the war, Turing was put on trial for being gay and chose suicide over the chemical castration imposed on him. Considering our history of prejudice shines a particular light on the current violence against the trans community.

Direct download: 20200426_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:26am EST

"On Reparations" presented by Dr. Kyler Sherman-Wilkins, Missouri State University professor of Sociology

The subject of paying the descendants of African slaves some form of reparations is complicated but just because it is complicated does not mean that it should not be done. Imagine starting to play Monopoly with 10 players but one player starts with 90% of the property and the bank. Liberated slaves were promised "40 acres and a mule" to give them a more fair start in life but with the assassination of Lincoln, that plan was never carried out. How can we meaningfully address the injustice of centuries of forced, uncompensated labor and the centralization of capital in the hands of the few? We have to be honest about the history of American wealth and seriously drill down on solutions which will inevitably be controversial but must, none-the-less, be carefully thought out and implemented.

Direct download: 20200419_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:28am EST

The pandemic is almost all that is mentioned in the news and it certainly occupies much of our emotional and mental energy. Sadly, however, the Covid-19 virus might not be the most dangerous thing going on in the world right now. The Trump administration had rolled back more than a 100 Environmental Protection Agency regulations before the coronavirus elbowed its way into our awareness but since journalists are paying attention to nothing else, the Trump administration is crucifying the EPA in what CBS news has called "an open license to pollute." The virus will eventually recede, even though it may take a year to 18 months, but the earth . . . the earth is forever!

Direct download: 20200412_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:23am EST

As we try to learn the skills of staying home, maintaining distance, and the disciplines that prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, that means that some of us are very isolated, living alone with almost no face to face contact with anyone. Others are quarantining with a significant other, or with children. There is a lot of stress in both contexts, stresses from anxiety, depression, or domestic conflict, all of which can lead to substance abuse. Dr. Roger Ray and Dr. Paul Thomlinson met two decades ago working on an addiction research project and have often shared a lectern to speak about the most recent research and the insights they have gained from both personal and professional experience with drug and alcohol use and abuse. This talk on addiction is directed to our unique situation as we are all trying to survive both the coronavirus and the quarantine it demands of us.

Direct download: 20200405_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:45am EST

The world as we have known it no longer exists. This pandemic will end, realistically, however, the virus will remain and will be held at bay, largely by a vaccine that will have to be repeated as the virus evolves every year. Still, when it is safe to go back to church and to restaurants, movies and music venues, not all of them will have survived. And as governments around the world try to navigate the complexities of having shut an economy down and then trying to start it up again, we will have to make serious decisions about universal healthcare, and possibly even a universal basic income. As Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has observed, the virus did not so much create new problems as it poured gasoline on existing problems with health care, the income gap, foreign policy, prison policies, and the environment. We have the opportunity to forge a better world after Covid-19 than we had in the first weeks of 2020.

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Two mass shooting events took place on Saturday morning, August 3, in Texas, and that night in Dayton, Ohio. In both incidents, the shooter was stopped, the first in 6 minutes, the second in less than a minute. Still, in both cases people were killed and many more wounded because of the insanely powerful, military style weapons available for purchase all over America. This cannot go on.

Direct download: 20190804_MassShooting.mp3
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My newest book is a collection of the meditations (post-theistic "prayers") written originally for use in our Gathering services at the Emerging Church. We now how to share these liturgical resources with progressive churches everywhere.

Direct download: 20190621_Offertory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:34pm EST

The shocking North Carolina rally in which Trump led the crowds in a chant of "Send her back" was a bridge too far. This is no longer merely conservative blowing of dog whistles and being a bully to draw support from racists. This is the all too familiar laying of ground for fascism and none of us should allow this kind of thinking to become normative in America.

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This podcast is produced in a small independent congregation in Springfield, Missouri. The church is small and not close to being self supporting. This progressive material is made available to the world only through the donations of listeners and, frankly, we went totally broke in the middle of June and would have been in real trouble had we not received major support from a few special friends. We absolutely must grow our donor base or these videos and podcasts are threatened with extinction!!! Help!!!

You can donate through PayPal by clicking on the donate button at www.spfccc.org or by sending a check to
Community Christian Church
4806 E. Farm Road 136
Springfield, MO 65809

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Direct download: PODCAST_-_FULL.mp3
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Direct download: 20190414_Sermon.mp3
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Direct download: Augustine_Scripture_and_Science.mp3
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I will be speaking in South Carolina the first two weeks of April and in Exeter England on June 9. Please join me at the listed locations if possible. As always, we encourage our listeners to also become supporters to help us to keep these progressive messages on line. You can donate by clicking on the donate button at www.spfccc.org or by mailing a donation to The Emerging Church, 4806 FR 136, Springfield, MO 65809.

Direct download: 20190310_PledgeSpot.mp3
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Direct download: 20190310_Sermon.mp3
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Direct download: Jesus_-_Teacher_of_Radical_Compassion_-_Podcast.mp3
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Direct download: 20190217_Sermon.mp3
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Direct download: 20190210_Sermon.mp3
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