Sermon Sparks

Against a dim sky, a hand holds a lit sparkler

The following sermons were delivered to Unitarian Universalist congregations, and are described in the submitters' own words:

  • The Small and the Big T: Is there such a thing as truth anymore in this "post-truth" world? Submitted by Rev. Gretchen Haley
  • In Memory: Why do we memorialize? What purpose does it serve to have grand monuments, cemeteries, ceremonies? And what happens when memorials aren't built? What is this compulsion we have to mark moments of sorrow and loss? Submitted by Rev. Kimberley Debus
  • What We Call God, or Don't: Some say they believe in "God," some say they experience God. Some don't use the word God at all. How do we name our experiences and understanding of ultimacy, and how does language get in the way, or help connect us in these experiences? Submitted by Rev. Gretchen Haley
  • Standing on our Heads: We all know the big questions: Why are we here, does God exist, who listens when we pray, are there still miracles, etc. What happens when we ask the questions differen tly? Do we find different answers? Do we get to the questions beneath the questions? Do we get a new view on life? Submitted by Submitted by Rev. Kimberley Debus
  • Being Religious Liberals in Times Like These: We've been here before! The repressive days of the early 1950s were also the start of our most recent growth spurt as a movement. We learned then that more than any specific actions, we needed to offer: Safety, Welcome, Openness, and Focus. Submitted by Rev. Randy Becker
  • Every Tool, a Weapon: On the destructive and also healing power of words, exploring the origins and uses of the concept of "political correctness." Submitted by Rev. Gretchen Haley
  • There's a Void in My Heart: What are we to do when we're not satisfied with our lives as they are? Despite the courageous work we do in the quiet and the grand moments of our lives, many of us long for more. Let us consider restlessness, intention, and fulfilling our calls. Submitted by Jennifer Thomas
  • Chasing Transformation: Often it seems like we are ever chasing various transformations: changes in our personal lives, changes in our congregations, and changes in our society and our world. What's useful to chase after, and what might not be worth it? And what do we need to be chasing? Submitted by Rev. Michelle Collins
  • Two Truths and a Lie: One of the most difficult concepts to grasp is that two different truths can exist at once. What do we do when our own truth comes into conflict with someone else’s lived experience? How do we negotiate the concept of truth without making one person right and one person wrong? Submitted by Kate Wilkinson
  • When God Has a Body: The Christian tradition proclaims that God was made manifest in the human existence of one person, Jesus. What does it mean to imagine God as having a human body? How does it shape our understanding of holiness, goodness, and right? Submitted by Rev. Gretchen Haley
  • The Beauty of Longevity: When we make a commitment to our faith that is not tentative, that is not presumed with "I'm out of here if and when...," something changes not only in our congregations but also in us. Submitted by Rev. Randy Becker
  • Making Space for Grace: To paraphrase Augustine, "God keeps trying to give good things to you, but your hands are too full to receive it." This service explored the question of how to make space for the transforming power of courageous love that is always available, if only we invite it in. Submitted by Rev. Gretchen Haley
  • Grace for a Change: Almost any topic that we care about becomes a minefield as soon as opposing sides are noted. This sermon explored "brave space," and how even difficult topics can sometimes become opportunities for collaboration and companionship. Submitted by Rev. Linda Hart
  • Comfort in the Darkness: From where does our comfort come in times of great sorrow? Who bears us through our grief? What sustains us when we feel lost, alone, afraid? This sermon explored the boundless love that holds us in our despair and brings us hope. Submitted by Jennifer Thomas
  • Shifting the Narrative: It's easy for us to get stuck in one way to tell the stories of us, one narrative arc that describes an event, a group, a congregation. What happens when we tell the story in new ways? How do we see ourselves when we tell different stories about ourselves? Submitted by Rev. Kimberley Debus
  • Believers Are Not Whiners: When we truly have faith, not in a specific outcome but in our capacity to address the challenges and also the blessings of life, we don't whine about what is not - we celebrate what is and could be. Submitted by Rev. Randy Becker
  • Thus Do We Covenant: What do we mean by "covenant" in modern Unitarian Universalism? How do we understand covenant in everyday life, and in relationship to current events? Where has covenant been broken (perhaps between police or politicians and citizens, between religious leaders and the laity, between family members, etc.) and how can we hold ourselves accountable to come back to the table to seek restorative justice, forgiveness, and renewal? Submitted by Rev. Kimberley Debus
  • They Surely Are Scoundrels: We are not perfect, nor do we strive to be. Yet we often hold up our Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist forebears as being pretty perfect. What about our scoundrels? Thinking about people like John C. Calhoun and PT Barnum, but also complex figures like Margaret Sanger and Forrest Church leads us to see the complexities of our own stories. Submitted by Rev. Kimberley Debus
  • Embracing Failure: Let's face it; being wrong or failing at something are usually no fun at all. In fact, most folks try to avoid these as much as possible. What are some ways that we can practice failure and risk in our lives, and what good will this do for us? Submitted by Rev. Michelle Collins
  • Words that Sting, Actions that Heal: With the help of a PowerPoint with pictures of people holding signs of the microaggressions they experience (available from Jo upon request), this sermon examines the concept of microaggressions, and how understanding both intent and impact operate in our relationships with others. Submitted by Rev. Jennifer "Jo" VonRue
  • Why Emerson Was Right, and I Was Wrong: When we focus on Emerson's static essays rather than his constantly evolving self, we diminish his life's main message: when we stop exploring we also stop growing. Submitted by Rev. Randy Becker
  • Roots Hold Us Close: In our treasured hymn, Spirit of Life, we sing "roots hold me close." This sermon explored what our roots do for us. In one sense, our roots tie us to the past and our heritage. In another they secure and sustain us as we weather the passing of days and years. Submitted by Rev. Michelle Collins
  • Keep Reaching Together: A Sermon for Our Democracies: Benjamin Mathes, a blogger for Urban Confessional (a free listening project) wrote about his experience at a Free Listening Table at one of our two major political party conventions: a young woman blurted out, I don’t usually do this but I think x is wrong. Mathes didn’t agree with her about x. But it was his intention, his role, to simply offer free listening. (You can insert for X—something that you think is right…) He asked: "Will you tell me your story? I’d love to know how you came to this point of view.” What emerged was a sermon proposing that perhaps this simple response could transform the way we move together into the future as a nation, as a world community, as friends and family members? Submitted by Rev. Joanne Giannino


  • Living with Radical Uncertainty: The stories and images of Easter hold some deeply human truths about the world and our lives. We live every day with uncertainty, and Easter hints at how we continue on. Submitted by Rev. Linda Hart
  • What Are You Looking For?:
    • First spark: Reading by Rev. Daniel Budd called We Don't Know What Happened with the original beginning: “We received an invitation from our neighborhood newspaper to place an ad for Easter. Someone suggested to me that, should we advertise, it should say something like, “Join us. We’re not sure what happened.” I was tempted.”
    • Second spark: my own story: "The very first time I stepped across the threshold of a Unitarian Universalist church was on an Easter Sunday. I don’t know what I was looking for that day—but something was edging me toward, I don’t know, something different in my life, something was missing…”
    The sermon concludes with something about what I had found and eventually realized I had been looking for: "People who admit that when we tell any of the old stories that “we’re not sure what happened” but that there are some things we know for sure—mostly about being a community that hopes together—and builds together, what Dr. King called the beloved community. Something like the kind of community that gathered after the death of Jesus—sometimes scared and disillusioned—but mostly joyful and wonder filled—and who eventually found that they together could envision and create the kind of community that their teacher taught them about: a community that lives and breathes and gives meaning and hope to many.” And then asks, "what did you hope to find here this Easter morning? Submitted by Rev. Joanne Giannino