Progressive Faith Sermons - Dr. Roger Ray

During the pandemic, we’ve witnessed a mass exodus of people, especially women, from the workforce, returning and staying home as caregivers to the young, the old, the sick, and the disabled. It’s another instance of exposing the USA’s lack of infrastructure and policy to support this most basic of social functions. At the same time, caregiving jobs are often among the most labor-intensive and lowest paid. Time and again, our society has demonstrated how little we value caregiving, a trend rooted in racist, sexist, and ableist norms. With greater awareness of these limitations and their impacts, we can begin to ask: What might a society look like that reorients itself around supporting and valuing the giving and receiving of care?

Direct download: 20220925_Sermon.mp3
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Chapter 16 of the Gospel of Luke contains what has been called one of Jesus’ “strangest parables,” a tale of a rich man with a clever manager, who wiggles his way out of economic and social ruin. Rather than speeding by the economic aspects of this story, we can use it as an opportunity to both better understand how debt and economic justice often go hand in hand (then and now) and better act to create societies where people’s lives are valued for their humanity, and not for their potential to be exploited for profit.

Direct download: 20220918_Sermon.mp3
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On this 21st anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks, we pause to consider the story of one detainee from our prison in Guantanamo Bay, Mansoor Adayfi. He was just a teenager, a Yemeni far from home in the wrong place at the wrong time and was sold by Afghanis to the American soldiers who were looking for al Qaeda terrorists. Mansoor was innocent but he was none-the-less held prisoner and tortured nearly to death for 14 years. He serves as an example of how a fear-based war on terror turned America into terrorists.

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Labor Day is a compromise holiday in America because we didn’t want to honor labor on the first day of May, May Day, as it is observed all over the rest of the world. May Day, some of our early 20th century presidents and capitalists believed, was too closely associated with Communism and Socialism and we never wanted to be a part of that. America wants to honor laborers, they just never really wanted to pay them very much. Somehow, in the richest country in the world, we still can’t figure out how to honor labor by paying workers a living wage and until we can do that, we will continue to stand on the verge of class warfare.

LA Progressive article mentioned at 14:50: https://www.laprogressive.com/ economic-equality/the-economic-policy-façade

Direct download: 20220904_Sermon.mp3
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Black churches have traditionally talked about civil rights and organized voter events like Sunday voting bus trips called "Souls to the Polls." But do predominantly white churches talk about voters' rights? Now that many states are eliminating polling places in minority neighborhoods, ending Sunday early voting, discouraging mail-in voting, and adding onerous ID requirements to vote, shouldn't all churches be concerned about the growing influence of institutional racism? Maybe it is time for us to pause and reconsider what we mean by "salvation" if we are passively watching people having their human rights taken from them?

Direct download: 20220828_Sermon.mp3
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While we have watched news reports about Brittany Griner's trial in Russia with shock and horror, similarly insane court proceedings have taken place in our own country. The Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v Wade came at the same time of another decision that would have commanded public attention if it had not been for the furor over the abortion case. Early in May, in a decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the state of Arizona was given permission to execute Barry Jones, after it had been proven in court that he was innocent of the murder charge for which he has been on death row for 27 years. Thomas wrote that mere innocence is not enough to prevent the state of Arizona from carrying out the death penalty against Jones. We do not have a justice system. We have a legal system and that system sometimes becomes the enemy of justice which is not acceptable when it happens in Russia but it is even more unacceptable in the USA.

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The world is witness that gun violence does not have to be the norm. But until the United States is willing to reckon with the deep structure and enduring legacy of our own gun culture, we will not escape it. Gratefully, for all of us who long for healing, and the peace that comes from belonging to a place without the constant threat of violence and death, we have a way forward.

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In 2013, an Italian programmer named Alberto Brandolini observed that - "The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than is needed to produce it." It became known as Brandolini’s law, although it is an astute observation rather than a scientific conclusion. Unfortunately, we’ve had nearly a decade to observe just how often this is true, with the flowering of conspiracy theories and proliferation of disinformation all around us. Though the situation is daunting, with a better understanding of why humans are so susceptible to conspiracy theories, we can chart a way forward.

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Philosophy and Religion departments in universities, once considered to be the "queen" of a college campus, are now being relegated to subheadings in either History or Anthropology departments, treated more like a scourge than a source of wisdom and guidance. The failings of organized religion cannot be denied but maybe we are being a bit hasty about this transformation. There is, after all, more to life than work and mindless entertainment.

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Many of us like to say that we are “spiritual but not religious,” but what does that mean? As church attendance of all sorts is in steep decline, what exactly are we turning away from and what, if anything at all, are we turning to?

Is there a way to hold onto spirituality and still try to remain in community of some sort?

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All over Europe there are memorial stones set in streets where the victims of the Holocaust once lived. These scattered memorials serve as reminders of the moral failure of the Nazis and their many sympathizers. In the USA, we have been more inclined to memorialize Confederate military leaders than to acknowledge the evils of slavery they sought to protect. The resistance to teaching a factual American history to young students about our nation’s moral failings leaves us vulnerable to making the same mistakes again. In fact, in many ways, we already are.

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We are all connected to one another. We may not insist that our neighbors to the south use child labor to produce our fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores but, if they don’t keep the prices down, we won’t buy them. Our casual daily choices in which we are legally simply exercising our rights, has an impact on others that we often do not see. Still, our choices to do legal things, like buying an assault rifle or a handgun, choosing not to be vaccinated, or not to take public health precautions seriously, is why we have so many gun deaths in America, why we have lost over a million Americans to Covid-19, and why most of the people in rural Central America are still very poor. Hopefully, becoming aware can change our attitudes and eventually, our behaviors, so that the outcomes will eventually change as well.

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Given the decisions handed down by an increasingly out of touch Supreme Court, today's message will be a reading of an article Dr. Ray has written for the July 4th edition of the LA Progressive outlining some of the philosophical challenges surrounding the court's decision to strike down Roe v Wade and the suggestion that they may go even farther in taking constitutional rights away from American citizens.

Direct download: 20220703_Sermon.mp3
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Victor Frankl, reflecting on his own suffering in Auschwitz, said that the extremities of the concentration camp revealed the true selves of his fellow prisoners. Some became saintly in their self sacrifice and acts of compassion, while others became moral monsters, turning on one another in their desperate desire to survive. In our current hard times with the rise of fascism around the world as well as in the United States, many are still simply seeking diversion rather than engagement but it is time for those who have the potential to be saints to rise from their slumbers and to act for the good of refugees from Ukraine, women of child bearing years in the USA, as well as the children in our schools being taught to hide from “active shooters” in their schools.

Direct download: 20220626_Sermon.mp3
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It may be true, as suggested in a recent Atlantic article, that America has been uniquely stupid over the past decade and our gathering cloud of ignorance is largely due to our over exposure to partisan news sources and the scourge of the internet, with its unfiltered social media. How can we, as Soren Kierkegaard suggested 150 years ago, become less concerned with freedom of speech and more concerned with freedom of thought?

Direct download: 20220619_Sermon.mp3
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More than three months into the unconscionable invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the international community is still wringing its hands, asking themselves, “How can we survive without oil and gas from Russia,” while the purchase of Russian oil funds Putin’s terrorist military campaign against the Ukraine, destabilizing the entire world’s markets, and threating several regions of the world with food shortages. Why can’t we stop the Russian armies from this rampage of rape, torture, murder, and destruction of cities? Because we have failed to take seriously the need to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable wind and solar energy sources. We should have done it for environmental reasons years ago but now we are faced with the fact that the market in fossil fuels provides almost all of the funding of terrorism everywhere in the world. We need to stop funding global bad players and, incidentally, save the planet from environmental collapse at the same time!
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Our culture often speaks out of both sides of its mouth, acknowledging in popular proverbs that “nothing is certain but death and taxes,” or, as my homiletics professor often said, “the mortality rate is 100%” while still commonly insisting that we all have a certainty of life after death (either in reward or punishment). Progressives began to be dismissive of the belief in a burning hell but, for the most part, have held onto the security blanket of belief in a wonderful eternal existence after death. The sad fact is that there is no evidence to support this belief and it amounts to a denigration of the value of the only life that we actually know that we have. Perhaps it is time for spiritual communities to accept mortality as a fact and stop trying to push our hopes off into an imaginary future.
Direct download: 20220605_Sermon.mp3
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Why are mass murders so common in the USA and so rare among our global peers? Every other western democracy has managed to regulate guns effectively but the Republican led effort to protect the gun industry from any meaningful regulation has resulted in literally selling the lives of people attending religious services, buying groceries, attending a music festival, or just going to a public school in exchange for political donations. This is evil on a scale that defies any further attempt at diplomatic conversation. Now, it is absolutely necessary to reject the Republican Party as a legitimate American political party. They have sacrificed themselves on the altar of greed for power.

Direct download: 20220529_Sermon.mp3
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The leaked Supreme Court document concerning Roe v Wade has confirmed our worst fears since the appointment of the last three justices to the court, all of whom were chosen specifically for their anti-abortion views. But perhaps this is not the time to begin to rehearse the arguments we have been repeating for the past fifty years. Maybe it is time for us to take action to change the kinds of people we elect and appoint to powerful decision making positions. We cannot continue to lend tacit political support to politicians who have shown us that they do not believe in civil rights or even in democracy.

Direct download: 20220522_Sermon.mp3
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I stumbled upon the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh in 2005, at a time in life when I was struggling to hold together my own social activism and spiritual practices. It is a custom to offer reflections of gratitude for a Buddhist teacher on the 100-day commemoration of their death. May 1 marked this continuation for the Most Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, and this is my belated offering of gratitude.

Direct download: 20220515_Sermon.mp3
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Pt 1: The leaked Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade is not exactly surprising, but it is terrifying news for millions of people. Yet even as we process the shock, we need to reconnect with our commitments to act in ways that bring social and economic justice, including reproductive justice.

Pt 2: Estrangement and isolation are the everyday reality for huge numbers of Americans, weighing us down with both grief and a “sense of incompleteness.” It has also made it challenging to know when and how to trust, and when and how to distrust, in healthy ways. The spectrum of trust is a simple conflict tool that can help us strengthen the positive aspects of our relationships, work on weaknesses and places that need healing, and maintain healthy boundaries.

Direct download: 20220508_Sermon.mp3
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It’s May Day, so let’s look at the present status of labor rights and celebrate working class history, as well as the recent successes of union organizers in unfriendly places! But let’s also do more - we can all contribute to the process of creating and sustaining a movement for true change in the direction of economic and social justice.

Direct download: 20220501_Sermon.mp3
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Islam is the youngest of the major world religions and yet its extremist factions are the most wedded to a violent and oppressive form of a religion that Muhammad would not recognize and which none of us should be willing to tolerate in modern civilization. It is a mistake to associate all of Islam with wars among Muslim factions and international terrorism but the fingerprints of official national policies in the name of Islam cannot be ignored. While all of the major religions of the world are in need of serious reform and a thorough process of demythologizing, Islam is crying out for a new and post theistic way of becoming what most Muslims say that they want, a religion of peace.

Direct download: 20220424_Sermon.mp3
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Beyond the sentimental and supernatural retellings each Easter, the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus continues to resonate with us in very human and hopeful ways. Every year - in the midst of constant wars, intractable conflicts and oppression, and ecological devastation - it invites us to ask: how can we go on? And more especially, how can we go on when the world has found a way to make things that we thought wouldn’t - couldn’t - get any worse, worse? It acknowledges the terror we feel in the wake of violent injustice, and it speaks to us of hope - a hope that comes to us, even in our weariness, and says: “Please don’t give up.”

Direct download: 20220417_Sermon.mp3
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The numbers of people interested in and practicing earth-based spiritualities has soared over the last 30 years. This has been empowering and healing for many, especially for members of oppressed communities. However, it has also brought new challenges, from the rise of pagan White supremacy to the profit-driven trend of “Spirituality for Sale.” We’ll explore these issues, as well as the (re)emergence of “Naturalistic Paganism.”

Direct download: 20220410_Sermon.mp3
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The Christian religion is the largest in the world and has been a part of the global culture for nearly two millennia. During that time, it has been used to justify wars and even genocides. Christian scriptures have been used to promote homophobia, misogyny, racism, and sectarianism. Still, the Christian faith has encouraged generosity, compassion, peace, and reconciliation. As faith in mythological and superstitious religious claims rapidly declines in the modern world, we have an urgent need to extinguish the morally reprehensible and intellectually insulting aspects of Christianity while trying to preserve its helpful moral influence in the world.

Direct download: 20220403_Sermon.mp3
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Rabindranath Tagore once wrote to a friend: “Whatever we understand and enjoy in human products instantly becomes ours, wherever they might have their origin… Let me feel with unalloyed gladness that all the great glories of [humanity] are mine.” This openness is a fitting aspiration for the pluralism that has often characterized Hinduism, the Sanatana Dharma (“eternal law/way”), over its long history. But, like all cultural and religious traditions, Hinduism has also struggled with religious nationalism and violence. Today, that violence again threatens the wellbeing of India and Hindus around the world. So against “all forms of bigotry and oppression,” from caste to Hindu supremacy, many Hindus are organizing to build a society free from hate, and free to feel that unalloyed gladness and peace.

Direct download: 20220327_Sermon.mp3
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Buddhism has been subject to the same limitations as any other cultural or religious system, including fundamentalist violence. However, various Buddhist traditions also contain important insights and practices for “learning and practicing non-attachment to views and being open to others’ experiences and insights in order to benefit from the collective wisdom.” Using the first three of “The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings” from the Plum Village tradition as a reference point and guide, we’ll explore one Buddhist pathway that helps us “transform dogmatism and violence in ourselves and the world.”

Direct download: 20220320_Sermon.mp3
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We too easily think of modern Judaism as being an ancient religion that hails from Abraham and Moses. The truth is that Judaism began as a polytheistic faith rooted in a priestly cult that practiced animal sacrifice. A religion that bears very little resemblance to what we would encounter in any modern synagogue. Religions are always fluid, changing, growing, and, frankly, they are almost always in need of review, evolution, or reform. Judaism is not exception to this rule. Especially as we consider the unique relationship between the Jewish faith and the state of Israel.
Direct download: 20220313_Sermon.mp3
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The world's major religions have roots in antiquity when historical literacy was not highly valued and when it was common to "personify" aspects of nature, turning the world into a place full of gods and spirits. In the 21st century, it is important for us to be able to demythologize all of the world's religions to mine them for moral insights and instruction while leaving behind much of the magical and mythic thinking which has led to so much prejudice and abuse.

Direct download: 20220306_Sermon.mp3
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If we want to understand the world, to be able to read current events with insight, we need to take the time to understand the history. This sounds so obvious, but it is a necessary reminder in a society that has struggled to learn how to remember and tell its history in meaningful, truthful, and transformative ways. No where is this more obvious in the US experience then in the observance of Black History Month. As LaGarrett J. King pointed out, “We can’t get Black history education right because we teach about Black history instead of through Black history.” Let’s remember why this annual focus is still necessary and our responsibility to not just study Black history, but to truly listen and learn, be changed, and change the world.

Direct download: 20220227_Sermon.mp3
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As a pastor, I have worked with veterans who were still struggling with the cost of war decades after they were discharged. As a peace worker in Cambodia, I saw the trauma of war still living in people’s hearts, influencing cultures, and scarring the land itself, decades after the official end of war. The wounds of war are deep and last a long time, unless and until we decide, as a society, to do the work to heal them. In the current situation, we have both the immediate responsibility to help bring about an end of the war in Ukraine as swiftly as possible, and a long-term responsibility to help bring about healing and rebuilding for all who have been impacted. Note: Our regularly scheduled sermon will still be posted 

You can read this reflection online, including links to articles and resources: http://archives.spfccc.org/2022/02/reflections-on-russias-invasion-of.html

You can also read Dr. Ray’s earlier reflections, "Will Arms Sales Set the Stage for Ukraine?", at the LA Progressive: https://www.laprogressive.com/will-arms-sales-set-the-stage-for-ukraine/ 

Direct download: 20220226_Reflection.mp3
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Growing up, the way I learned Jesus’ teaching on loving my enemies was confusing and even harmful. Especially where abuse and oppression were concerned, rolling over and looking the other way could not be options. But I also understood that violence and hatred could not create a just, compassionate community. I felt the trap: fight back violently, and become like those who had harmed me, or do nothing, and allow myself and others to get hurt again and again. Encountering Walter Wink’s reinterpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, I found a way forward that empowered me to stay grounded in goodwill without giving into the demands of oppressors.

Direct download: 20220220_Sermon.mp3
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Most of us have spent our lives in communities that made it more difficult for us to thrive and flourish as human beings. And it is very likely that we have picked up on those very habits, mistreating ourselves, others, and the earth. We add to that the exhaustion that comes from suffering from, resisting, and transforming oppression, and the odds seem to be stacked against us. And yet we still carry inside of us this conviction that it is possible for us to live together in such a way that everyone can flourish, and the aspiration to make it so. When we act on that aspiration, we make space for our own well-being and keep alive the possibility of a compassionate and caring world.

Direct download: 20220213_Sermon.mp3
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As the world waits to see if a ground war is about to start between Russia and Ukraine, it seems good to give some thought to how we got to this deadly threatening point. How has the spread of nuclear weapons and NATO bases in Eastern Europe led to war always being proposed as the solution to the world’s problems. As Sting once sang, “I’ve never seen a military solution.” We have much better options and spiritual communities should never stop pointing towards the pathways to peace.

Direct download: 20220206_Sermon.mp3
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Jung suggests that the dragon, a mythological beast common to virtually all cultures, is unconsciously an archetype that reflects human potential. After all, a dragon is a snake that can fly! Spiritual people need to rise above the situational ethics that ignores moral misconduct in others that allows them to slither more than their soar! Remember, a snake doesn't have to bite you to be a snake.
Direct download: 20220130_Sermon.mp3
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Despite the insistence on being the “land of the free,” the United States is the global leader in both total number of prisoners and per capita rate of imprisonment. The prophetic vision of proclaiming release to captives and letting the oppressed go free is a good opportunity to reflect on the vision and practices of the restorative and transformative justice movements. These approaches invite us to look more intentionally at the world we have, and then ask what kind of world we want to create.
Direct download: 20220123_Sermon.mp3
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The world as we know it has been shaped by an approach to development and success that has fueled terrible inequality, catastrophic climate change, and now, vaccine inequity. Thankfully, other approaches have been offered that help us re-think how we relate to ourselves, each other, and the earth. The development of a patent-free vaccine called Corbevax is one example of how we can reimagine society to prioritize personal and social well-being and realign our policies and institutions to create conditions where our human potential can be fulfilled.

Direct download: 20220115_Sermon.mp3
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Fiction author, Kurt Voneggut, once pointed out the hypocrisy of many loud conservative Christians who demanded that the Ten Commandments be displayed in public buildings and court house lawns without ever asking to have the Beatitudes publicly posted. He was certainly no theologian but he hit on a very good point. Religion that is "useful" in controlling the conduct of civil society is always going to be popular with the "law and order" crowd but the moral teachings of Jesus about love, hope, forgiveness, generosity, and compassion, those tend to make the self-righteous pretty uncomfortable and therefore are largely ignored.

Direct download: 20220109_Sermon.mp3
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Jesus Seminar founding member, Marcus Borg, first described the message of Jesus as being “radical compassion.” Peer and fellow seminar member, Karen Armstrong, took that concept to an interfaith (or no faith) form of spirituality, saying, The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

The opposite of spirituality is not atheism. It is, in our partisan, narcissistic, and cannibalistic capitalist society, more akin to sociopathy. The good news is that we get to choose which path we want to follow.

Direct download: 20220102_Sermon.mp3
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Ten years ago, when I was still blond and clean shaven, I delivered this sermon in our former church building to try to give an honest and academic explanation of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. This year I am speaking out of state so we will re-run this video and I will be back next week to share with you the message I am delivering in South Carolina this weekend. Merry Christmas!

Direct download: 20211226_Sermon.mp3
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In 1971, in the early days of the “War on Drugs,” then President Nixon appointed a commission to study marijuana and to release their results and policy suggestions. More than 80 people worked for most of a year to produce a nearly 4000 page long report and even though Nixon commissioned the study, the results were that pot was no more dangerous than alcohol and they recommended that it be decriminalized and managed in the same way as alcohol in the interests of public health. The report even named the danger of the growing trend of incarceration on marijuana charges which was likely to make keeping people in jail an income stream within the prison industrial system. Obviously, Nixon ignored both the facts and the recommendations of his own commission but, even worse, every president for the past 50 years has done the same while deaths from lethal drugs have increased by more than 500% since the failed “War on Drugs” began, we still waste billions of dollars in police and prison resources devoted to marijuana “crimes.”

Direct download: 20211219_Sermon.mp3
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A familiar image from the Advent season is leveling the mountains so that all "may walk safely." One example of this process in our own times has been the increasing emphasis on healing trauma, especially since marginalized people disproportionately experience trauma. From ACEs to trauma-informed care, to emerging approaches that are healing-centered and asset-informed, we wholeheartedly welcome resources to prevent, heal, and transform trauma. At the same time, we recognize and celebrate that we are more than our trauma. Together, we are leveling mountains and creating communities where thriving can be the norm, rather than the exception.

Direct download: 20211212_Sermon.mp3
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Stephen Colbert observed that, like most of us, not being a lawyer, it is hard to judge whether 17-year-old, Kyle Rittenhouse, broke any laws when he took a semi-automatic rifle to the demonstration in Kenosha and ended up killing two demonstrators. But, if he didn’t, then the laws need to be changed. Years of progressively liberalized laws regarding open-carry and the availability of military styled weapons is a part of the fabric of a society in which a teenager, imagining himself to be a conservative superhero, ends up killing liberal demonstrators and then being found “not guilty” in the justice system. Clearly, he is guilty of a monstrous crime . . . it just wasn’t “illegal,” which means that state legislatures and maybe even all of us, are guilty of these murders. America must come back from the brink of gun insanity.

Direct download: 20211205_Sermon.mp3
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Emiliana Simon-Thomas and Jeremy Adam Smith observed that, “Americans are very grateful and they think gratitude is important—they’re just not very good at expressing it.” In our world of constant and chronic stressors, it takes intentional effort to recognize, appreciate, and savor the good things in our lives. But when we do, we create conditions for our relationships to thrive: savoring positive experiences, expressing thanks, and receiving gratitude from others.

Direct download: 20211128_Sermon.mp3
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As we approach our national observance of Thanksgiving, we are being asked to also give respectful reflection to the Indigenous Nations who were here thousands of years before Europeans sailed across the Atlantic in little wooden ships. Guilt for the centuries of genocide, enslavement, and pathological land theft hardly makes sense in the 21st century. What we need now is understand about how we got here and not some exercise in self-flagellation for the sins of our ancestors (though reparations might make for a good conversation!).

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US borders are almost always in the news, ubiquitous even to the point of invisibility. But the abusive treatment of Haitian refugees last September, from administrative policies to violent border patrolmen on horseback, was a stark reminder of their cruelty. Political borders are real and have real impacts, but they are not objective or neutral. Their history, along with their psychosocial meanings, reflect the inequalities of colonial violence. We need to think deeply about, and act courageously, in favor of honoring our shared humanity and our relationship to the earth.

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While the disappearance of anyone is tragic, the way the media exhaustively covers the disappearance of beautiful, young, white women compared with the silence around the disappearance of tens of thousands of women of color shows more than a media bias, it reveals a self perpetuating racism in the way the public shows more concern about white victims than we do about non-white victims. The real roots of racism hide, not only in our institutions but inside our own brains and that is where we have to go to end the generation after generation education in racism.

Direct download: 20211107_Sermon.mp3
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This pandemic has taken a heavy toll, world wide, in lives, to be sure, but also it has closed businesses, terminated jobs, set millions of students back a year or two years in learning, while it has shifted wealth around the world. As we have focused on lost jobs and shuttered businesses, the world's super rich have managed to used the pandemic panic spending to make themselves much more wealthy, some billionaires have even doubled their enormous wealth in just the past year.

As horrible as the pandemic has been for so many of us, we do find ourselves in the fortunate position of being able to change the world for the better, not simply to return to "normal" which wasn't that great for most people, but to redesign our economy, our healthcare system, our education and penal systems, to be more of what we have dreamed of. A time of great social chaos is also an opportunity for meaningful reform.

Direct download: 20211031_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

This pandemic has taken a heavy toll, world wide, in lives, to be sure, but also it has closed businesses, terminated jobs, set millions of students back a year or two years in learning, while it has shifted wealth around the world. As we have focused on lost jobs and shuttered businesses, the world's super rich have managed to used the pandemic panic spending to make themselves much more wealthy, some billionaires have even doubled their enormous wealth in just the past year.

As horrible as the pandemic has been for so many of us, we do find ourselves in the fortunate position of being able to change the world for the better, not simply to return to "normal" which wasn't that great for most people, but to redesign our economy, our healthcare system, our education and penal systems, to be more of what we have dreamed of. A time of great social chaos is also an opportunity for meaningful reform.

Direct download: 20211024_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

October is Domestic Violence Awareness of Month and, unfortunately, it is as necessary as ever. A look at how domestic violence was normalized and accepted until relatively recently helps us understand the vital importance of transforming attitudes and cultures about gender, violence, and love. Together, we can work together to support lasting and healthy change, until everyone has a home that is safe and full of love.

Please join us at 4 p.m. central every Sunday to discuss that morning's message at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83410382821?pwd=RjA4enlmelkwbm5XQ3J2My9jaE1tZz09

Direct download: 20211017_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

In one of my favorite stories in the gospels, Jesus disappoints a rich man. The encounter invites us to consider the tension between the rich man, who wants to be moral while also hoarding wealth, and Jesus’ insistence that economic justice is a prerequisite to healthy community (the kingdom of God). In the 21st century, we still wrestle with huge and growing economic and social disparities, despite overwhelming evidence that Jesus’ vision of economic justice is actually better for everyone. Changing our relationships to wealth, consumption, possessions, and one another to align with equity and justice are vital spiritual and ethical practices needed to heal ourselves, communities, and the earth.

Direct download: 20211010_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

Ironically, though we have talked a lot about learning to be sensitive to matters of race, gender, sexual identity, and class, somehow, in most of society, "fat-shaming" is still allowed. Those of us who have struggled with weight for all kinds of psychological, physiological, medical, or work reasons know that losing weight and being more healthy is complicated, difficult and sometimes, virtually impossible.

Still, when comedian Bill Maher has insisted over the past year that losing weight, exercising, and eating a more healthy diet is crucial to protecting ourselves from dying with a case of Covid-19, he is not wrong. And if this is true, why are we hearing it repeatedly from a comedian and not from the CDC? Why hasn't Anthony Fauci included it along with wearing a mask, washing our hands, and keeping a safe distance from others? Strangely, we sometimes need a court jester to be the one with the courage to tell us the honest truth.

Direct download: 20211003_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

For most of us, our lives are dominated with messages that reduce our worth to productivity, exhaust us with constant comparisons and competitions, and trap us in a ruthless cycle of praise and blame. This simple chant from the Buddhist tradition - ‘My very life is sustained through the gifts of others’ - invites us to reflect on how we relate to life, one another, and the earth with more gratitude, open-heartedness, and joy.

Direct download: 20210926_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

Whistle blowers are modern prophets. You don’t have to be a minister or a famous politician to do the work of a prophet, you just have to be willing to speak truth to power. Just don’t expect to have a statue raised in your honor. Most whistle blowers are shunned in public in their own time, if they are lucky enough to not be put in prison or murdered. Still, progress is made by being the unreasonable person in the mix who refuses to go along in silence in the face of great injustice.

Direct download: 20210919_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the USA, and the violent response that has shaped so much of the world during the last twenty years. With outrage over the tragedies accompanying the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, we also take time to reflect on the world we have created during two decades of occupation and war. And we remember the words of Daniel Berrigan, who, along with countless others through the centuries, taught us to insist that another way is possible and to do the work to bring it into existence: “One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the U.S. around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better.”

Direct download: 20210912_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

The owners of Purdue Pharma have been released from any liability in the deaths of a half a million people in the opioid crisis because they were willing to give a fraction of their ill-gotten gain to the victims of the opioid crisis that they helped to create. When did you ever hear of a drug dealer getting a suspended sentence for giving a donation to an addiction treatment program? We see billionaires spending the wealth earned by low waged employees for a joy ride in space while the wealth gap in America grows. On this Labor Day weekend we need a wakeup call, a reminder that the disproportionate amount of wealth going to the top of the income ladder is making more and more Americans poor for no good reason and eroding any claim we ever had to being a democracy.

Direct download: 20210905_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

Though most public school history classes are silent about it, there was a serious insurrection attempt made in 1932 to overthrow the administration of Franklin Roosevelt and install a fascist leader who would reverse the New Deal legislation in favor of a wealthy ruling class. Although the coups was stopped, none of the finances and planners of the coups were charged or tried…. familiar names like DuPont, J. P. Morgan, William Randolph Hurst, and the father of George H. W. Bush, Prescott Bush, were among those fans of Hitler and Mussolini who wanted to see Roosevelt removed. Do you hear echoes of today?

Direct download: 20210829_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

The oldest known written story is the Gilgamesh Epic, the four-thousand-year-old tale of an ancient king who becomes obsessed with finding the secret to eternal life. From the dawn of civilization, humans have tried to grapple with the awareness that we are mortal, some turning to entirely unsubstantiated religious promises of life after death but some, like Gilgamesh, discover that eternity is beyond our grasp and that we must finding meaning and purpose in a life that is, by definition, limited and yet has the potential for great joy.

Direct download: 20210822_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

As Dr. Ray turns 65, he and David Ketchum will begin to share the preaching load equally. On this special Sunday, Dr. Ray reflects back on his 43 years in the pulpit (so far) with some important observations on the nature of parish ministry with all of the wonders and horrors that come with trying to break out of merely being a priest and striving to become a prophet, leading the community of faith to speak truth to power.

Direct download: 20210815_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

The history of forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples, such as residential schools, has often been hidden or excused in popular memory. By looking at the historical context that brought about these institutions, we can understand how a cultural shift is needed to move away from the attitudes and ideas that were prominent in the history of colonization and continue to be embedded in our collective consciousness. Especially for White folx, our work of the present moment is to heal and transform our collective consciousness, honoring the great web of life and finding our place within it. And to do that, we must part ways with the sins of superiority, forced assimilation, and greed, learning that our own well-being cannot be separated from the well-being of the diversity of humans and human cultures, or from the earth itself.

Direct download: 20210808_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

The realities of residential schools and the tragedies of forced assimilation have filled the news this summer, to our grief, rage, and shame. So while we welcome Secretary Haaland's investigation into these schools and their impacts on Native children and their families, we also recognize our own work that needs to be done. All of us who are not Indigenous, especially White Christians, need to honor and participate in the process of accountability: to own up to injustice when we are confronted with our own complicity, and to speak out and act to help heal the harm.

Direct download: 20200801_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

While many of us long for greater social equality, moving past the identity politics that emphasizes race, gender, and sexual orientation, often times at the expense of discussing ideas, budgets, policies, and infrastructure development, we cannot pretend that such divisions do not exist or that they do not matter. Perhaps one of the most lethal expressions of white, male, hetero dominance is to claim that it does not exist. So, how do we intelligently move past either being afraid of our differences or feeling compelled to “check all of the boxes” towards a more meaningful and way to create a unified society that cherishes its diversity, while affirming the equal worth of all?

Direct download: 20210725_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

Capitalism is here to stay but that might not be a bad thing if we could put up the kind of guardrails that can harness the greed that drives it in a way that does not allow for the abuses it also engenders. Progressive communities of faith can be a part of the “fifth estate” providing alternatives to corporate media and the propaganda spewed by corporations and the politicians they own.

Direct download: 20210718_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

The way that we have settled into minimum wage laws is not simply an exploitation of the labor of the poor and, in fact, in many ways looks like a reconfiguring of slavery. Slave owners provided housing, food, clothing, and basic care of slaves. Does $7.25 an hour provide even that for minimum wage workers anywhere in America, particularly in LA, NYC or Boston? We are not suffering from a lack of resources in our country but we do have an apparent lack of both imagination and compassion. We can fix this.

Direct download: 20210711_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

For many of us, July 4th is a time to forget about history and indulge in nostalgic and sentimental celebrations of freedom. But the holiday can provide us with more than just an opportunity for barbecue cookouts and firework displays, if we are willing to look beyond the romantic notions of popular nationalism. The recent controversies over the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory invite us to re-examine how we relate to history and how to provide a "true civic education." By doing so, we find that history can become the honest study of human experience, giving us humility in the face of our mistakes (from the most laughable to the most cruel) and hope in the face of our greatest challenges. It is an opportunity to remember that we are making history right now, and we can make a better, freer future not only possible, but something real.

Direct download: 20210704_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

People often have passionate beliefs about things for which they have no evidence or, even worse, they believe in spite of contradictory evidence. In religion, such baseless convictions often masquerade as a virtue but isn’t blind belief just a narcissistic projection of personal preferences? Karen Armstrong, the late Marcus Borg, and Bishop John Shelby Spong have argued that faith has more to do with courage and commitment than it does with belief in a literal set of creedal statements. This sermon takes the position that presenting sacred stories as being literal historical accounts actually robs them of their intended meaning and purpose. A faith community’s sacred stories are the myths they use to bind them to one another and by which they define themselves and their purpose. Perhaps progressives can once again renew their love for their faith community if they cease trying to force themselves to believe in the absurd and the obviously false claims of creedal faith. The major world religions are always the most healthy when they focus on right behaviors rather than right beliefs!

Direct download: 20210627_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

Let’s be honest, most of the truth claims made by traditional forms of almost all religions are not just beyond anyone’s ability to prove, they are, by and large obvious absurd to any critical thinker. It wasn’t just Voltaire and Bertrand Russell who clearly articulated deep skepticism about religion, most of us have in less articulate ways. But the choice is not between either total atheism or assassinating our brains to pretend to believe silly things. There is a way of being intensely spiritual within the mystery and wonder of existence. The way of the mystic promotes love rather than division, and joy rather than fear. We can live beyond the guilt and manipulation of our former religious lives into a much more honest and happy existence.

Overcoming Religious Trauma - Tuesday June 22 at 7:00 PM Central Time

Direct download: 20210620_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

Events of the past few years have brought the issue of race much more clearly into focus, especially for the dominant white culture that has been willing to learn about the ways in which race has affected wealth disparity, policing, the judicial system, the penal system, as well as housing and employment. We recently discovered that most white people had never even heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre until the city was marking the 100th anniversary of this most violent attack on the black population in America’s history. Even still, there are public protests in many states against teaching Critical Race Theory even when what is basically at stake is making our history lesson more factual and less dishonestly “white washing” America’s history of discrimination. How we think shapes our culture and when it comes to race, it is time for us to prophetically embrace truth and reject propaganda.

Direct download: 20210613_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:35pm EDT

In addition to today’s sermon, we will be hosting an online event via Zoom on June 22 discussing “Overcoming Religious Trauma.” Despite our growing understanding of religious and spiritual abuse, many people continue to suffer. And despite the public record of this harm, too many religious individuals and institutions refuse to take these issues seriously. We need to reflect on our own experiences in light of 1) historical and sociological analysis of religious institutions and 2) with our best psychological modalities for addressing religious trauma. By doing so, we can continue to move ourselves and our communities toward relationships that are not built around delusions and threats, but around reason, curiosity, wisdom, compassion, and love.

Direct download: 20210606_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:12pm EDT

This Memorial Day weekend we mark the passing of 600,000 Americans in the Covid-19 pandemic and we are similarly aware of the many ways in which millions of lives have been impacted in lost jobs, damaged health, and in the closure of many vital and familiar businesses and institutions. We also acknowledge that churches, synagogues, and mosques have suffered from the pandemic, many will never re-open for in-person community services. As our Emerging Church, which has been a hybrid of on-line and “seated” congregations for 13 years now becomes an almost exclusively on-line resource, we acknowledge the grief that comes with change but we double down in hope of being a meaningful force for social justice for many years to come.

Direct download: 20210530_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:20pm EDT

Childhood poverty in many American communities now exceeds 50% of school aged children. A part of the proposed stimulus bill addresses this problem in the most direct way possible, offering a monthly stipend paid to parents as well as support in child care and education. If this bill is passed it will be the most transformative correction to poverty since FDR's "New Deal." It may be too much to hope for but if we don't all speak up in support of this, what does that say about how we really value our children?

Direct download: 20210523_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:46pm EDT

The word “socialism” has been, through media and political manipulation, turned into a term that means little more than “pure evil.” That’s just crazy. The belief that economic resources should be owned and controlled by the few rather than the many is contrary to all world religions and fundamentally favors slavery over freedom. Christian Socialism was a very strong movement in the late 19th and early 20th century and was undermined only by associating socialism with fascist dictators. What we really need to do in our sharply partisan country, is to set aside the name calling and talk about the most effective and compassionate way that we can share resources.

Direct download: 20210516_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30pm EDT

We often think of the great moral leaders of history as if they just fell from the sky in our hour of need. The truth is that people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and even Ruby Bridges had courageous mothers who taught them, inspired them, and even held their hand while facing a culture in desperate need of change. It often seems to be "reasonable" to adapt to the status quo but, as George Bernard Shaw pointed out, progress depends on the unreasonable person who demands change.

Direct download: 20210509_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:33pm EDT

One of the lessons we have continually been reminded of throughout the pandemic is how interconnected we are all, whether we like it or not. Similarly, both social and ecological justice issues remind us that our worlds are intimately connected, even if we create artificial boundaries that give the illusion that harmful actions don't have consequences. The last year has been terrifying in so many ways, but we've also witnessed wonderful acts of creativity, compassion, wisdom, and community. We carry both that pain and that joy with us as we take tentative steps toward creating communities of care in a post-pandemic world.

Direct download: 20210502_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:30pm EDT

This live event is taking place on Monday evening, May 10, at 7 p.m. central. It will involve about 30 minutes of conversation between me and Jay Thomlinson (of Best of the Left fame) and then we open the floor for participant conversations with us and with one another. This is a huge experiment for both of us. Please click on this link to register (it is free but signing up with get you reminders and invitations to the event) https://www.airmeet.com/e/e7617ed0-a228-11eb-adb3-57581f4a41d1

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

The death of George Floyd at the hands of the police has finally resulted in a guilty verdict in the murder charges against the responsible officer(s). What have we learned from the highly publicized cases of unarmed black men (and women) being killed by the police in relatively minor cases? Beyond even the call for massive reform in how policing is carried out, this message is concerned with the undeniable fact that it is common for police to try to hide their own crimes under a smokescreen of press releases and media propaganda. While we want to show respect and support for public servants generally, such respect must also be met, especially now, with a willingness to question authority and to challenge the racism and classism that is so deeply embedded in policing.

Direct download: 20210424_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

While many are uncomfortable with calling for defunding the police, there is no way around the need for massive reform of our nation’s police force (and military) to root out the systemic racism that makes encounters between white police and black citizens turn out to be so very tragic, so very often. Clearly, there are too many guns on the street. We are sending heavily armed police out to make mental health calls and way too many traffic stops that are nothing but a pretense for cops to stop drivers whom they have profiled as being suspicious, what many call “driving while black.” Police shoot and kill nearly 1000 people every year while, in the United Kingdom, police shoot and kill between 0 and 6 people per year. Something is dramatically wrong with American policing and we cannot turn a blind eye to it any longer.

Direct download: 20210418_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

As we emerge from our covid isolation into increasing social contact, we realize that during these months of spending too much time on social media and watching conflicting news reports, our stress and anxiety has inevitably damaged some of our relationships. Do we need to be generously forgiving and reconciling, or do we need to evaluate which relationships really are toxic to us and erect boundaries to protect ourselves in a post pandemic world? Or, obviously, some of both?

Direct download: 20210411_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

The list of the suffering in this world could go on indefinitely, and this week has been no exception. From the courtroom where Derek Chauvin is being tried to the growing refugee crisis in Ethiopia, we find ourselves asking: how do we grieve the oppression and violence, while we also celebrate the moments of joy and justice that we encounter along the way, and encourage each other to live like another world is actually possible? On this Easter Sunday, we reflect on how spiritual practice can help us continually find new life as we dismantle supremacy and claim our dignity and joy.

Direct download: 20210404_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

Events of the past week have revealed the weakness of our nation’s lax gun laws, the dangerous escalation of anti-Asian prejudice, the insidious racism behind a wave of new voter suppression laws, and even the unworkable nature of attempts at legislating morality. The good news is that the problems that seem impossible to solve to our elected officials have all been fairly well resolved in most western democracies. What remains for Americans is to wake up to the best practices that were implemented in western Europe a generation ago.
Direct download: 20210327_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

In most western nations, the penal system is designed to reform convicted criminals so that they can return to a productive life in society. In the USA, where we have two million people in prison and nine million on parole, a far greater percentage of our population than any other western democracy, prison terms are more likely to be used for a kind of social revenge than they are for reform. Sex crimes are typically considered to be the most heinous, but in a penal system bent on putting more people in prison for longer sentences, have we lost our way in imprisoning those who have not committed rape, assault, or even sexual harassment but who have viewed illegal pornography in their own homes? A teenager with the impulse control issues that often accompany autism or bi-polar disorders who watches child porn in private may not be "innocent" but is their crime on the scale of murder? If not, then why do we punish them more severely than we do murderers? Have they, somehow, committed the unforgivable sin?

Direct download: 20210321_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

The question that echoes from the primeval pages of Genesis demands a new answer in this era of a global pandemic, "Am I my brother's (sister's) keeper?" We all know that the right answer is "yes" but fear sure can make us a lot more selfish than in our more relaxed moments. Some of us are afraid of either getting or spreading the virus, others are afraid of being manipulated by what they see as public hysteria. On either side of the fence, fear doesn't bring out our best qualities. But, in spite of the way the pandemic has been made into a partisan issue, we have a common though invisible enemy, Covid-19. And in the midst of the pandemic, we have myriad opportunities to find and express our better selves by being mindful of the needs of our sisters and brothers.

Direct download: 20210314_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

When injustice and oppression become normal in a society, it often requires persistent and even outrageous actions to unveil, resist, and ultimately transform it. Like Jesus turning over tables in the temple, we must continually braid our own whip of cords by learning and applying creative tactics that help us both unveil the evil of injustice and live our way into another world.

Direct download: 20210307_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

This year’s conservative Republican gathering, CPAC, included the surprising presence of a golden statue of Donald Trump. It is surprising that the gathering of largely Evangelical Christians did not immediately see the easily drawn analogy to the golden calf idol from Exodus. But, it is a fitting symbol of the idol the former president’s supporters have bowed down to worship: greed, racism, oppression, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and more. The statue represents in a very real way the “id” of our culture but, as an idol, it is slated to be destroyed. The liberation of America from the shadow of our heritage of white supremacy and economic oppression must end.

Direct download: 20210228_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

This talk has been prepared for a group of progressive clergy in the United Kingdom who posed this question: What must be done to rebuild America after Trump. This message proposes 4 key responses: Massive campaign finance reform. A restoration of the FCC's Fairness Doctrine. A renewed commitment to education. An emphasis on vital but achievable goals around which we can unite.

Direct download: 20210221_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

In the novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, two young lovers are thwarted in their desire to be together, only to be given a second chance at love when they are old. Still, though about half of us now live alone, that does not mean that we have to give up on hope that we, even in our later years, might not have, at long last, a real opportunity for a meaningful connection. This sermon speaks to the stresses we are feeling, a year into our pandemic, that might tear at the fabric of existing relationships and dash hopes for single people of ever making a meaningful connection. Regardless of the challenges, as the poet Marty McConnell has written, “You deserve a lover who takes away the lies and brings you hope, coffee, and poetry.”

Direct download: 20210214_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

It's now common for us to hear false accusations that social justice movements are just "ideological poison" and honest treatments of the more difficult aspects of US history are just "toxic propaganda." Activists and historians alike have come under increasing attacks, especially when it comes to racial justice, while so-called "patriotic education" programs have inspired conspiratorial beliefs and Capitol riots. Over the last year, the 1619 Project and the 1776 Commission have become symbols of these two approaches, reminding us that how we remember the past impacts how we deal with the present. And how we deal with the present shapes the possibilities of creating a better, more just, more compassionate, and more livable future.

Direct download: 210207_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

Though Gandhi and MLK are lauded as great social heroes in our day, during their lifetimes they were often put in jail and were regarded as enemies of the state. To be honest about some of the people currently regarded in the USA as being traitors or at least being guilty of espionage, we should wonder if they will one day be regarded as heroic whistleblowers? Already, in Berlin, there are statues erected in honor of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden but here in the United States, Manning has served seven years in prison and the US government is trying to get their hands on Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, both of whom are doing everything they can to avoid extradition from Russia and England. History will be the eventual jury of all three, but it seems that the crimes of the whistleblowers are dwarfed by the government crimes they have revealed. 
Direct download: 20210131_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

The laudable stated goal of the new Biden administration to bring unity to the red and the blue factions of America is obviously necessary, but it is a steep hill to climb. For the most part, the Jan. 6 insurrection was the product of a constant diet of lies and propaganda. Certainly, the first step of reuniting the United States calls for a renewed commitment to the truth, from politicians, in the media, and from the pulpit! Secondly, the huge gulf in how justice is applied to the rich and powerful and how it is applied to the rest of us must be closed. It is not just those who desecrated the Capitol Building who should be arrested and criminally charged, we must treat those who incited the insurrection in the same way. It will be simultaneously internationally embarrassing and a source of reassurance that democracy prevails to see a former president and several members of the Senate and Congress on trial, facing almost certain jail time, but it is necessary.

Direct download: 20210124_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

A Haitian proverb declares, "No one listens to the cry of the poor or the sound of a wooden bell." That seems like a sad resignation to the way that things are but what we realize about Martin Luther King, Jr. is that his peculiar genius was to amplify the voices of the poor, to make the injustice of racism visible, on the evening news, to people who had been covering their ears and looking the other way for a century. Honoring King's memory is more than a mere exercise of reciting history. It really should be finding a way to continue his work in the 21st century. The Voters' Rights Act that King fought to get passed has been gutted. Voter suppression, especially in southern states, is back again. How can we amplify the cry of the poor in our day? (and, seriously, shouldn't our pulpits be on the front line of that project?)

Direct download: 20210117_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

America is horrified and embarrassed but not many of us are shocked. The failed insurrection that took place on Wednesday, January 6th, was planned, orchestrated, inspired, and incited by our president who recently lost re-election and who has been desperate to hold onto power even if he had to destroy democracy to do so. We have witnessed the embodiment of Voltaire’s prophetic declaration that those who can make believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities. Having blown the dog-whistles of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and Islamophobia for five years, the president’s minions desecrated our Capitol building, the seat of Democracy. The next ten days may contain even greater atrocities but with hope and determination, we must resolve to overcome lies with the truth, irrational conspiracies with evidence and critical thinking, and fearmongering with disciplined love and community.

Video mentioned in sermon: Trump family watching crowds/rioters

Direct download: 20210110_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

Changes are coming that give us reason for substantial hope. We will have a change in administrations in early 2021 and an amelioration of the pandemic later in the year followed by a huge economic recovery. But looking past this new year, very soon, electric cars will replace gas burning cars and sustainable energy will end carbon pollution from generating electricity. Artificial Intelligence will not only drive our cars for us, AI will largely build our cars. People will be liberated from mundane repetitive labor but they may also be liberated from an income. The promise of new technologies is huge but the risk of lapsing into a world dominated by the few who are wealthy while most are relegated to a peasant class similar to the Dark Ages is very real. We can use this new technology to design an economy that gives us a kind of heaven on earth, or unrestrained capitalism can consign most of us to a living hell of poverty and want. Now is the time for persons of conscience to become in

Direct download: 20210103_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:50pm EDT

Mary’s song, the Magnificat, has been a favorite text from the Christian tradition for millennia. The exhilaration of hope and the certainty that “the arc of the moral universe” really does “bend toward justice" continue to inspire both faith and activism, especially in the face of all the terrible, and terribly unnecessary, suffering that fills our world. With a long road still ahead of us, it can be hard to keep up with the injustices that fill the news, let alone act on them. Sometimes, the best we can do is keep singing, insisting that justice and mercy have a place. And the more of us who are singing it out, with our words and with our lives, the easier it will be to listen, and change the world.

Direct download: 20201227_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

In her brilliant new book, Caste, Isabel Wilkerson speaks of racism in America as a caste system that is like the studs that form the frame of our house. We rarely see them or think of them, but they are there, holding the whole house up and if termites or mold get to them, the house will collapse. Racism establishes the social order so that even after the end of slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynching, segregated schools, restrictive real estate covenants, discrimination in hiring, and voter suppression kept much of our black population in the ranks of the “untouchables.” Ending racism will take a lot of work with many complicated steps but it must include closing the wealth gap, the employment gap, making education accessible, and dealing with the unequal distribution of healthcare, and correcting the current trends towards minority voter suppression.

Direct download: 20201220_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

I have two points to make today. The first is very practical and the second is deeply philosophical. The first is that by paying attention to science, especially in forest management, we can increase the profitability of our natural resources while sustaining our old growth forests which is good both for people in the construction business as well as for people who breath air. The philosophical point is more complicated but it questions our assumption that a Darwinian competition in nature and economics, which pits individuals and species in a life-or-death competition for resources that allows the victors to survive by killing off rivals, is not only not entirely true but is undermining the survival of both forests and civilizations.

Direct download: 20201213_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

The late Marcus Borg is credited with describing the historical Jesus as being the teacher of radical compassion. In this time when it appears, as Paul Krugman has recently published, our culture of selfishness is killing us, it is vital that we take up that mission of teaching radical compassion. We are all connected and our innate instincts validate our natural desire to care about the welfare of others. We just need to be reminded of the fact that we all really want to be good people.

Direct download: 20201206_SermonV2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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