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Sermons

Each month we explore a theme, and illuminate it through the lens of wisdom.  For the 2017-2018 year, our themes are:

 

September: Welcome                    February: Perseverance

 

October: Courage                            March: Balance

 

November: Abundance                   April: Emergence

 

December: Hope                            May: Creativity

 

January: Intention                         June: Blessing

 

July-August: Topics Vary

   

 


 

 

A selection from recent sermons at Channing Memorial are shown below.   To listen to sermons by Interim Minister Reverend Robert Renjilian and our Worship Associates, beginning in September 2016, please click on each link below to listen to the entire sermon.   There are in addition several text excerpts from March-September 2016 from our Worship Associates and from retired Reverend Susan Lamar.

 

 

Room for More Welcome - Sunday, September 17 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon - September 17

 

Waters Placid and Powerful - Sunday, September 10 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon - September 10

 

Father's Day - Sunday, June 18 (sermon not available) -  "A Good Man" , an animated short film. Even when the father does not support the children, a good man can step up to reunite the children in love.  This fits Father’s Day, and Pride Month.

 

A Good Man - June 18

 

Introduction to Flower Ceremony - Sunday, June 11 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Flower Ceremony - June 11

 

Delight in Things - Sunday, May 28 @Worship Associate David Fu

 

Recorded Sermon - May 28

 

White Supremacy Teach-in - Sunday, May 21 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon - May 21

 

Mother's Day-Embodying our Values - Sunday, May 14 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon - May 14

 

Introduction to Quaker Worship - Sunday, May 7 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon - May 7

 

Transformation of Civilization - Sunday, April 30 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon - April 30

 

Theme and Variations - Sunday, April 23 @Worship Associate David Fu

 

Recorded Sermon - April 23

  

 Wonder of Transformation  - Sunday, April 2 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

  

Recorded Sermon - April 2

 

Too Much Risk - Sunday, March 26 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

Recorded Sermon - March 26

 

Pushing the Edge - Sunday, March 19 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

 Recorded Sermon - March 19

 

A Worthwhile Risk - Sunday, March 12 @David Fu (Worship Associate)

 

 Recorded Sermon - March 12

 

Launching into Risk - Sunday, March 5 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

Recorded Sermon-March 5

 

Held By a Mission - Sunday, Feb. 26 @Rev. David Pyle

 

 Recorded Sermon - Feb. 26

 

Identity - Sunday, Feb. 19 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

 Recorded Sermon - Feb. 19

 

Protect Your Identity - Sunday, Feb. 12 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon - Feb. 12

 

 A Want Ad for Prophets - Sunday, Jan. 29 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

 Recorded Sermon- Jan. 29

 

A People of Prophecy - Sunday, Jan. 8 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon - Jan. 8

 

New Year's Burning - Sunday, Jan. 1 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon - Jan. 1

 

Holiday Reflections on Presence - Sunday, Dec. 18 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon Dec. 18

 

You Must be Present to Win - Sunday, Dec. 11 ©Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded Sermon Dec. 11

 

Presence - Sunday, December 4  © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded sermon Dec. 4

 

Bread Service - Sunday, November 20  © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded sermon Nov. 20

 

Stories within the Story - Sunday, November 13  © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded sermon Nov. 13

 

Stories as Sacred as Prayers - Sunday, November 6  © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded sermon Nov. 6

 

A Community of Healing - Sunday, October 30, 2016 © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 

Recorded sermon Oct.  30

 

Loss and Healing - Sunday, October 16, 2016 © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 Recorded sermon Oct. 16

 

Jewish Holy Days - Sunday, October 9, 2016 © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 Recorded sermon Oct. 9

 

Healing - Sunday, October 2, 2016 © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 Recorded sermon Oct. 2

 

A People of Covenant - Sunday, September 25, 2016 © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 Recorded sermon Sept. 25

 

Covenant - Sunday, September 18, 2016 © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

 Recorded sermon Sept. 18

 

Water Communion - Sunday, September 11, 2016 © Rev. Robert F. Renjilian

Recorded sermon Sept. 11

 

 

Taking off the Mask:  What it’s like to be Pagan at Channing - August 28 by Deanna Grabelle

 

Channing has from day one felt warm, welcoming, and accepting of me as a whole person.  I have never felt that I needed to wear my “mask” at Channing.  I have had members of Channing ask me insightfully challenging questions that get my wheels turning when it comes to how I see things and what my beliefs are in certain situations relating to the topics discussed in general conversation and during the sermons. 

 

It has been amazingly comfortable for me here. I cannot say that about any other church I have been to in the 16 years I have been Pagan.

 

Igniting compassion into action - July 31 by Jodi Davidson 

 

When I began thinking about social action and what it means for Channing, true to form as a Unitarian Universalist, I had more questions than answers.

  • How can we make the world a better place?
  • How can we be a part of the greater good?
  • What are random acts of kindness as compared to intentional acts of kindness?
  • What can I do?  What can we do?
  • What does it mean to say there is power in numbers?
  • Is it quality over quantity that is most important?
  • With so much going on, how can I possibly take on another thing?
  • If not you then who?  If not now then when? 

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
said UU Minister, Edward Everett Hale

 

Is God Just a Word? - July 24, 2016 by David Fu

 

And I often mention that even though I enjoy using and find great meaning within the "language of God" and the Bible, I don't consider myself a believer in the traditional sense. Indeed, if you were to ask me "Do you believe in God?", I would likely stammer uncomfortably and then mutter some vague and incomprehensible hedge. I suppose that in this way, I'm no different than any other non-atheist, non-pagan, agnostic, scripture-loving Unitarian Universalist.  And I suppose it's no wonder that I feel so "spiritually at home" here at Channing.

 

 Passing the Torch -  June 26, 2016  by Pam El-Dinary (President of the Congregation)

 

Departure

And now the time has come for another leadership transition. Just as there was spiritual discernment in choosing a second term, so there has been spiritual discernment in choosing to end my tenure -- again giving thoughtful consideration to what is best for me AND what is best for the church. Even when a journey seems good at the time, traveling the same path for too long, it's easy to get stuck in a rut.

 

Sweet Sorrow

When I wrote my final President's column for the June newsletter, I reflected on Shakespeare's contemplation that "parting is such sweet sorrow." I wrote about the sorrow I've been feeling in Reverend Susan's retirement, Jillian's resignation (effective at the end of the summer) from the Music Director position to pursue her career goals, and, yes, even some sorrow in the end of my presidency.


It felt so strange to write that last newsletter column, and it was important for me to acknowledge it as such. Much as a new parent marks the joyful milestones of first smiles, first words, and first steps, I've found it spiritually important to mark the sorrowful milestones of "lasts" in this time heavy with transition--Susan's last sermon, Jillian's last choir rehearsal, my last board meeting.


Yet, even amidst the sorrow, there is Sweetness. I admit that there is some relief in taking a rest after 4 years as president. And yet, the spiritual gifts of lay leadership go with me in all of my future endeavors. Patience, Perseverance, Forgiveness, Acceptance, Surrender, Courage, Humility ... for these, I am forever grateful. There is also sweetness in the opportunity for church life to continue to evolve under new leadership.

 

What's Next?
Still, you haven't seen the last of me. In passing the torch, I'm not running the other way. I will still be around, running alongside you, participating in church life as a "wise elder"--(well, at least as someone who's been around the block at Channing). And I've even got a couple of new church jobs up my sleeve! Although this is my grand finalé as President, you can look for me in other leading and supporting roles, coming soon!


On that note, I'll close my reflections with one final cliché, I mean, metaphor! The truly immortal words of Frosty the Snowman: ♬ "Now I wave goodbye, saying don't you cry, I'll be back again someday!" Yes, I'll be back again--melted down, re-crystallized and in a new form ready for action, as we continue to fulfill our mission to Invite, Connect, Ignite!

 

 

The Transformational Power of Ritual (Through the Lens of Improvisational Comedy)  -  June 19, 2016

by April Foiles

 

May we hold definitions of our selves and others more loosely. May we fully engage in helpful rituals, trying on new ways of being; acting “as if” that irritating habit our family member has isn’t irritating.  Acting “as if” that tailgater on the highway is rushing to the hospital to see their loved one.

 

May we way say YES, by paying attention to the words and movements of those around us, especially our loved ones. May we say YES with equanimity noticing and accepting what is, and, if we can, thanking what each day offers us as if it’s a gift and if that’s not possible on a given day, accepting what is as material with which to create.

 

May we offer our AND boldly- offering our word in our shared story -knowing the story won’t turn out like we imagined. Boldly giving our gift –however plain it is, however foolish we may feel. Daring to co-create with others anyway. Daring to co-create with life.

 

A Devout UU?         April 10, 2016
   

 . . . Devotion is something much more, much deeper, much richer even than the emotion-centered words. Devotion – the noun – and devout, the adjective, are getting at something quite different from either intellect or emotion. They are getting at our engagement with something much deeper and far beyond. Spiritually, and ideally, I would add, what you are devoted to, what you are devout about, is the well from which you draw the living water of your life. That water is the values which you drink every day, maybe every minute of every day, in order to live meaningfully.

 

            Those values demand an intention – an intention to live by them – and they call for love – a turning toward those values, unceasingly. Intention plus love equal devotion.

 

            This kind of spiritual devotion is not about a person, or a scripture, or a single doctrine. It is about a way of life. A way of living. A way of being.

 

            Notice, that both the Buddha and Jesus (in the brief readings this morning) were talking about this kind of devotion. It is not about me, personally, said the Buddha to the monk Vikkali. It is about the dhamma, the teaching, and how you follow that teaching in your life. That is what you should be devoted to. Not me.

 

Jesus said the same thing. Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. It’s not about me, personally! It’s about what I teach and do and the way I live. That is what you should be devoted to, not me. In fact, if you carry it forward, you can do even greater things than I have done. And, I would add, if you do it together, imagine what you could do!

 

Live an other-focused life, they both say. It is not only about you. It is about ensuring a just and peaceful world, which can only come about through the behavior, the right actions, of every individual in that world. Do what I have been doing, say the prophets and sages. Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. That is devotion.

 

 

An Easter Reflection – the Butterfly Emerges         March 27, 2016

 

When the chrysalis opens, the lowly worm has transformed.

It takes as long as it takes to become something new, free, beautiful.

The shadow joins the eternal light of the sun; the fragrance of a lily long gone remains to purify and refresh our hearts and our beings.

When our hearts open, love flows forth. Love has wings!

We don’t know what that will look like, do we?

Often our lives feel like a slow, hungry caterpillar, and we chomp and chomp toward some end we cannot see.

Sometimes we feel trapped, captive, in our own little lives, in our own tombs, our own little chrysalises, hearts burning, and we await a word of hope.

Those around us may seem to have better lives than ours.

Sometimes our worlds seem dingy and plain; we forget to look up, and see the one spot of beauty that might invite us out into a fresh, new way of being.

There is always possibility. There is always the possibility of wings! There is always the possibility that you – yes, you! --  can open and express yourself into the most beautiful being.

 

 To Forgive Divine      March 13, 2016

 

. . . [The] desire for vengeance is real. You really cannot, I believe, understand forgiveness without also understanding the desire to give back worse than what someone did to you. The completely natural, appropriate, anger, rage, and the need to feel a desire to do harm to get back at those who do you harm. It’s genetic, I think. How else would our ancestors have been the ones to survive, if they had not won in the battles, taking revenge on those trying to steal their land and their food and their mates. Those feelings are built in to our animal natures. We likely will never do away with them. They are real and they have served us well.

            AND they have served us poorly. They have caused immense suffering as the cycle of violence has continued through families, and neighbors, and nations. Animal natures are not the only natures that humans have. We also have spiritual natures, divine natures, that strive for the good and the just. Those two natures, human and divine, have to come together in our real, actual lives. Our animal natures that desire revenge and our spiritual natures that strive for the good somehow have to reconcile. . .

What keeps those [powerful, vengeful] emotions from encroaching into behavior, into actions? Ethics. Morality. And it is historically the role of religion to do two things: First, to provide a safe container for the expression of these powerful, profound emotions(raging at God to do our enemy in); and it is the role of religion to hold us back ethically from acting out of vengeance. Religion, when it is done right, is the link between legitimate fantasy and legitimate action. And what sits precisely on that link? Justice. “Justice is vengeance that has learned its manners” says one theologian.

 

For Love and Money  -  March 6, 2016

 

 . . . Here is another way to think about it. Rather than thinking of money as an idol, imagine thinking of it as an icon. A religious icon. Like the icons we see on our computer screens, religious icons point to something beyond themselves. You have to click on them to activate their meaning.

 

A religious icon is a picture that represents something else, usually a spiritual value. In religious traditions that revere icons, it is not the icon itself that is worshiped, but the particular attributes of the saint represented by that icon. In Russian Orthodox tradition, for example, an image of a saint is not what is being worshiped, nor is the saint him or herself. What is really happening when you pray with an icon is you are praying through that icon to the moral or ethical value for which it stands. And you are connecting that prayer, that deep thinking and reflection, to that value as it plays out in your life. So, for example, an icon of a saint known for his courage would be a window into the pray-er’s feelings of helplessness and need for courage; an icon of a saint known for kindness would open a window into the pray-er’s reflections on and need to receive or give more kindness. An icon of a saint known for honesty would open a window into the pray-er’s need to learn to trust. And so on.

 

So what about money as an icon? Money as an icon, as a symbol, is a window into your value system, a window into that which is of ultimate concern to you, a window into what you find important and life-sustaining in your values for yourself, for your neighbors, for your community, for your world.

 

And . . . as the community that opens space for those reflections and conversations and, ultimately, your way of life as a spiritual, ethical, and loving being in a temporal world, it is your church that walks along with you, prays along with you, reflects along with you to open those windows and doors to the soul-work, the spiritual work of developing and acting on your most ultimate values. It is the church that walks along with you to engage the soul-work, the spiritual work of identifying and cherishing the treasures of your heart. That is what it means to love God and neighbor. 

 

If love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, Love of God and love of neighbor is the root of all kinds of good.