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The Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring

Sermon Archives

There are transcripts available to read for most sermons. To access the transcript, select the linked sermon title; to listen to a sermon, click on the audio of sermons link near the sermon title.

Click here for access to sermons from other years.


December 7, 2014
A Personal Piece of Peace

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay

We're entering the dark months, the inward and cold months, the months when peace is celebrated in many holidays and nations - hard-won and elusive though it is. It's hard-won and elusive also for our own yearning, insecure, guilty, struggling, aspirational souls. What gives us peace, brings us peace, fosters peace in us, and if and when we find it, can it be shared or do we all have to find our own way?


November 30, 2014
America, Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay

Nowadays we know Thanksgiving as a conflicted holiday, lifting up myth at the expense of history, a time to celebrate family but also a time to remember war, prejudice, colonialism, inhumanity, and the roles they have played in our nation's family. We are ever more aware that we could, and should do, so much better than we do. But there's also still plenty to be grateful for and to celebrate in our flawed, remarkable nation. This service will lift up beauties and gifts we may take for granted or lose sight of - even when they're some of the most precious gifts a nation can offer its people.


November 23, 2014
Gratitude is the Sign of Noble Souls (Aesop)

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

"Thank goodness for you!" she said with an honest smile upon her face. "Without you, my life would surely be less rich." In this time of our thanksgiving, sometimes it's hard to find gratitude. Sometimes, it's hard to find the signs of the noble soul. What is the secret to finding genuineness and gratitude in our lives? Come find out... and bring your riches. You'll find them all in your heart.


November 16, 2014
An Irresistible Sense of Mission

Rev. Kathleen McTigue and Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay

Some of the most powerful movements for social justice have been those inspired and sustained by religious faith and practice. Many of us yearn to bring our own justice commitments into deeper conversation with our spiritual lives, to find that same inspiration and sustenance. How might we learn do this, individually and together -- and what difference can it make? The Rev. Kathleen McTigue is a good friend of Rev. Liz and is the Director of the UU College of Social Justice. Prior to accepting this position in 2012, she served as a parish minister for 25 years, first in North Carolina and then New Haven, CT. She currently resides in Boston, MA.


November 9, 2014
These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay

There's a lot that gets us through challenges in life, that makes good times even better. Some of it we lift up, and celebrate. Some of it we take for granted. Some of it we actually choose not to mention because it's unusual or small or not what people might expect matters to us. But in fact, sometimes it's just those things that mean the most, and that we share, even when we don't know it. Rev. Liz will reveal a few of her favorite things in hopes we might discover some new things we've had in common all along and share the pleasure or strength they give us.


November 2, 2014

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay and Maryland Senator Jamie Raskin

Unitarian Universalists hold up democracy as an actual religious principle: "we affirm and promote... the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregation and in society at large." What does that mean for us at a time when great numbers of citizens don't even vote, and when the meaning of a vote is so challenged by the power of big money and complete dysfunction in our elected government? Senator Jamie Raskin will join us for worship to help explore the role and realities of democracy here and now.


October 26, 2014
A UU Requiem: A Service of Rememberance

Michael Holmes, Music Director

We honor those we have lost from our community, our extended families, our friends, and those on our memorial quilts during the week leading to All Souls Day on November 1. Our choir will be joined this morning by the choir from Cedar Lane UU and a chamber orchestra, all performing the Requiem by UU composer Clif Hardin.


October 19, 2014
Unity or Who Does This?

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay

As we prepare to vote on making a plan to address our needs and hopes for our buildings and grounds, it's a good time to lean into exploring this month's theme of Unity and what it means to make great undertakings together in this culture that so privileges individuality and autonomy. What does it mean to yoke ourselves to others, what does it mean to commit to a community, to depend on it in times of suffering and need, to give to it in times of capacity and celebration? Is it possible to be greater than the sum of our parts, and if so-- and that's a real question-- but if so, how?


October 12, 2014
Blessing of the Animals

Rev. Liz Lerner MacLay and DRE Sarah Gonzalez

Our annual celebration and blessing of the animals whoshare our lives and homes is always full of joy and surprises. Allanimals are absolutely welcome, appropriately crated, leashed orotherwise manageable. Virtual pets (stuffed animals, photos of pets,etc.) are also welcome to receive blessings. An amazing range ofcreatures share this worship every year: hedgehogs, hermit crabs,bearded dragons, and even a horse, along with the more predictablecats and dogs. Come with a blanket if you'd like to sit on the floor withyour pets, and make sure to invite friends, family and neighbors withtheir pets for this favorite multigenerational service which will includewonderful music from our UUCSS choir.


October 5, 2014
Poetry United With Music: Poetry in Performance

Guest preacher Bill Stanley, with musical accompaniment by Phyliss Stanley

While some UUCSS'ers will be at our annual church retreat in the Catoctin Mountains, those at church this morning will enjoy a selection of poems written and delightfully performed by Bill Stanley. Bill's poems contain tiny philosophies, humor, pathos, and a few rhymes for good measure, and as always accompanied with improvisation by Phyllis at the piano.


September 28, 2014
Rosh Hashanah: L'Shanah Tovah (A Good New Year)

Rev. Elizabeth Lerner Maclay

This Sunday falls right after the Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashanah. We'll explore the stories and traditions of this anticipatory holiday, as well as the reckonings and challenges that come with making a fresh start. L'shanah tovah is Hebrew for "A good new year" - and Jewish custom holds that we're not entirely powerless to control our fate - but as always, with power comes responsibility! Feel free to bring a sweet bread or honey and apples to share during coffee hours both traditional foods of Rosh Hashanah that aim to invoke 'a sweet new year.'


September 14, 2014
Infinity Goes Up On Trial

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

The common preoccupation for many of us is the question of getting to heaven. Since the days of John Calvin, we have been worried... reassured by our theology certainly, but worried nevertheless. What if the preoccupation was different? What if, instead of asking "Will I get to heaven?" we asked what will I do once I get there? Come find out!


September 7, 2014
Ingathering Water Communion

Revs. Liz Lerner Maclay and Leon Dunkley, RE Assistant Hannah Dwertman

It's good to be home. Our annual ingathering Sunday and Water Communion is a longtime tradition. We're changing it up a bit this year with a homily from Rev. Liz and an updated water ceremony. Make sure you come ready to share water from somewhere you spent the summer - your backyard spigot, a distant ocean or nearby river - we'll have a place you can sign to tell us where your water came from and we'll share that as part of the ceremony. And we always supply virtual water from our own UUCSS if you forgot to bring yours - please still sign up to tell us what/where it represents. Plus we'll have great music from our band and choir. We're all looking forward to gathering and starting this exciting church year together.


August 31, 2014
Labor Day Service: Assuring a Living Wage for All

Melissa Pinnick, Michael Thompson, Lynette Reese

Representatives from the Service Employees International Union share their experiences as providers of home health care in Washington, DC and discuss the importance of providing a living wage for those who deliver this much needed care.


August 17, 2014
This Is How You Say Goodbye

Victoria Loustalot

Victoria Loustalot will talk about her book, "This is How You Say Goodbye: a Daughter's Memoir." Victoria is an accomplished writer and "This Is How You Say Goodbye" is a "razor-sharp memoir in which a young woman travels to Cambodia, Sweden and France to overcome the legacy of her difficult and charismatic father" who died of HIV AIDS when she was 11 years old.


August 10, 2014
The Long Road of Unitarian Universalism

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

Summer camp was always interesting, especially way back in junior high. Oh, the fun we had!!! The pranks we pulled back then still rank among the funniest things I've ever known... short-sheeting all of the bunk beds in the cabins along the water, hiding the forks and knives just minutes before the spaghetti dinner was served, throwing our senior advisors into the lake at the end of camp. It was so much fun! It was a perverse way of falling in love with life and with each other. The stories about what we did have more than blossomed over time. In fact, our playful exaggerations often get the better of us but still, they deepen the faith that ferries us along. Come learn how time has only beautified who we were back then. Come learn how beautiful we may yet become on the long road of Unitarian Universalism.


August 3, 2014
The Ecology of Integration

Shannon Berry

Guest speaker Shannon Berry discusses the intersection of religion and the environment. Ms. Berry is completing her PhD in theology at The Catholic University of America. Her studies focus on the intersection of religion, art, and science. Her writings on religious studies have appeared in the journal Assembly and in the forthcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Ethics.


July 27, 2014

Daniel Craig

Guest speaker Daniel Craig discusses what it means to be a citizen.


July 20, 2014
Laughing at Ourselves

Inreach Group

Even rational, philosophical, and committed UU's need to laugh. Join the Monday morning Inreach Group for a thought-provoking look at the way we can be both uplifting and uproarious.


July 13, 2014
Sunrise in the Garden-Reflections on Spiritual Practice

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

Just about every morning, when the sun isn't hidden by clouds, ayoung gardener goes out to check on what has grown or blossomedsince the night before. He notices the changes. This is his spiritualpractice. It is what grounds him on a daily basis and prepares him forthe challenges of life. What prepares you for such challenges? Howdo you nurture your own spiritual practices? How does one find one'spractice if it has not already been revealed? Come find out!


July 6, 2014
George Harrison Flies Away

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

It's pretty rough moment when you realize that being in The Beatles is not enough. George Harrison knew that he was going to move on. He was changing and he knew that The Beatles would not be enough for him. Paul knew it too. And John knew. And Ringo knew. The Beatles were arguably the most successful rock band of all time and yet George was unsatisfied."He had it all" as some might say and everything wasn't nearly enough. What in God's name was he searching for? Come find out... and bring a Beatles album.


June 29, 2014
They Serve God Well Who Serve Her Creatures

Maryland Delegates Eric Luedtke and Kathy Afzali

The guest speakers will elaborate on their experiences with service to thecommunity. No politics - we promise! But plenty of reflection on how we arecalled to serve each other and how service changes us. (Note: The title is aquote from 19th century writer and social reformer Caroline Norton).


June 22, 2014
Walk in the Tradition

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

What does it mean to walk in a tradition? When one says that they are part ofa movement, a heritage, a tradition of faith, what does that really mean for ustoday. Vidanta Shiva knows what it means to walk in a tradition. She writes,Good politics has always been about real courage and real fearlessness. TakeGandhi, whose ultimate weapon was fearlessness against one of the worstempires of our time. The very notion of not cooperating with that empire wasbased on fearlessness. When Martin Luther King walked in the Gandhiantradition, he walked in fearlessness. Every leader worth their name promotesfearlessness, promotes the ability to question illegitimate power, challengeinjustice and create real freedom for people.What does fearlessness mean to you? How is it that we will learn to walk inthe tradition?


June 8, 2014
Flower Communion

Sarah Gonzalez, DRE, Revs. Elizabeth Lerner Maclay and Leon Dunkley

Our annual end of the church year celebration of community and diversity.


June 1, 2014
For Such a Time as This

Rev. Elizabeth Lerner Maclay

My friend and colleague Meg Riley once told me "For Such a Time As This" is her go-to sermon title. She can use it anytime, anywhere, and it always applies, no matter what her topic will be.

Indeed, as you may have noticed, it implies a great sense of deliberation without saying anything at all about what the time is, or what the sermon will be about.

This Sunday will be Rev. Liz's last sermon of this church year, we'll have finished our budget drive, it'll be the morning of our annual congregational meeting, and who knows what else will have happened by then. The sermon could be about, well, anything! Indeed it could.


May 18, 2014
Transcendence, Transcendentalism and The Transcendentalists

Rev. Elizabeth Lerner Maclay

Transcendence is about the dissolution of bonds, so that we move out ofourselves, (up) into something larger, maybe into communion, maybewith God. Transcendence is both a philosophical concept and relatedly,but not the same, a religious concept. Transcendence is not the same asprayer, but it's maybe related to prayer. When I studied prayer indivinity school, one of my favorite descriptions of it was: an arrow wesend from ourselves to the divine. Transcendence is more about theexperience of ourselves moving, - rather than sending something, someessence, -ourselves moving in the direction of the holy, into perceptionof or even participation in, the holy. Have you felt that? Have I? If so,what do we do with that experience? And if not, can we?


May 11, 2014
Circle of Life Service

Sarah Gonzalez, DRE; Revs. Elizabeth Lerner Maclay and Leon Dunkley

Join us for this annual multigenerational worship service that celebratescommunity members of all ages. We will explore the meaning of timeand how precious is each moment we share together. We will alsohonor new babies in our community with an Infant DedicationCeremony and our 12th grade youth with our annual BridgingCeremony.


May 4, 2014

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

On September 8th of 1836, the day before Ralph Waldo Emerson published Nature, he met with a group of "like-minded intellectuals." It was the first meeting of the Transcendental Club. It was the first transcendence, so to speak. Frederic Henry Hedge, George Putnam, George Ripley and, much later, Margaret Fuller and others met together and talked deeply of their experiences in life. They wanted to pierce through their frustrations with the outer surfaces of American culture and find the holy in a way that was entirely new. These transcendentalists are our spiritual ancestors. What they dreamed is ours to do. What things must we pierce through today? What did they imagine of the possibilities of their faith in the early 19th century? What must we imagine of the possibilities of our faith in the early 21st century?


April 27, 2014

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

On September 9th of 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson published a book called Nature. This book was incredibly romantic. Of course, it was. How could it have been otherwise? It was romantic because he had us dream. He said, "If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile." Every night and every day, the miracle is all around us. We are so consistently in the company of miracles that they seem quite normal to us. And, in fact, they are quite normal. That's what makes them fascinating. Emerson was on to something. How can we best appreciate the normal things in life? How can we tune our souls so that we don't miss everyday envoys of beauty and light?


April 20, 2014

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay

Our theme this month is Nature - and Easter always seems to echo themessage of the season about death followed with life, and despair with newhope. Life is full of challenges and pain, any of us who has lived longenough knows this. We'll explore the Easter story, our own human nature,and the Nature all around us at this time of year, that help us renew our hopeand will and joy in living.


April 13, 2014
Blessing of the Animals

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay, Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley, and Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Religious Education

Our beloved annual multi-generational celebration of the animals in our livesand in our world, we bless them and honor the many ways they bless us withtheir presence. All pets are welcome, appropriately crated or leashed. If youcan't bring your pet, feel free to bring a photograph or stuffed animal andwe'll bless those as well. And as always, memorial photos of pets that havedied in the past year are welcome, please place them on the pulpit table fordisplay during the service. Bring a blanket if you'd like to sit on the floorwith your pet. Make sure to invite your neighbors and friends, if they'd liketheir pets blessed, all are very welcome at this service of love and gratitude.


April 6, 2014
Yours, Mine, Ours

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay, Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

Our congregation belongs to itself. That's the bedrock foundation of Unitarian Universalist understanding - which congregations are self-determining and self-reliant, and this is how it should be in a free faith searching for truth and meaning. And yet, belonging to itself also means we belong to each other, all of us, with a shared sense of ownership and pride in what we are and what we are becoming. Our worship this Sunday will be an exploration and celebration of what this means for us and to us. Our story, our songs, our time - come be part of this special Sunday together.


March 30, 2014
YRUU Annual Service: The Internet

Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU)

This year, the YRUU moves on from one ofhumanity's earliest inventions, fire, to one of its latest, the internet.We'll discuss pressing issues such as net neutrality and NSA spying,as well as why the internet is so important to us.


March 23, 2014
Healing a Brokenness

Rev. Liz and UU/Muslim Women's Book Group members

For two years now, some women from UUCSS have been meeting everymonth with Muslim and Ahmadiyyan women from the area to read anddiscuss books together. This relationship was a deliberate choice foreveryone, to push against the trends and prejudices that divide and isolateus, that had undermined earlier efforts to build relationship betweencommunities. We spent a year just on preparing to begin. Now that oneevening every month, the relationships and care and joy that have beenfostered there, are precious to us all. Come hear Rev. Liz, Muslim and UUmembers of the book club reflect on their experience of joy in beginning toheal a brokenness.


March 16, 2014
Pain Management

Rev. Liz

Pain Management is an album recently released by southern hip hop artistBubba Sparxxx. It's about the pain he's been through in recent years, theways he's broken and not yet healed, the hope he's carrying along with thepain as he moves through his days. We all know what it's like to movethrough pain like that, having to carry it through our days, struggling withour demons and unsure how to get out to the other side. This morning we'lllook at the ways we try to manage pain, including some of those techniquesthat ultimately only make it worse, how we can carry hope, and try to movecloser to fine.


March 9, 2014
Broken and Free

Rev. Liz

Rumi said "The wound is the place where the Light enters you."Brokenness is our theme for March. This Sunday we'll explore what it is tobe human, what it is to be 'whole', what it is to be 'broken', whether it'spossible to be live without being broken, and what does broken meananyhow? In the New Testament, the same word for broken also meansunbound, released, destroyed, overthrown, ended and freed. A joyful heartis good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones, as it says, believeit or not, in the Bible (Proverbs 17:22). Let's look at what it's like to livebroken and free.


February 23, 2014
John Donne and Love

Revs. Liz and Leon

In a world that generally thinks of clergy as celibate, passionless andboring, hopefully a lot of us know it ain't so! Unitarian Universalismhas long believed that being a spiritual person, even a spiritual leader,doesn't require living in this world apart from the ordinary humanblessings of life and love. But that wisdom didn't start with us - norwith The DaVinci Code! One of the best examples living and lovingwith passion and integrity and spirit is John Donne. Do you know 'no man is an island'? That's him. He offers other deep truths about loveand faith.


February 16, 2014
Serious Love

Rev. Liz, David Buskin and Robin Batteau

Having only imagined this opportunity for many years, Rev. Liz is trulythrilled to be partnering with contemporary folk legends Buskin and Batteauand UUCSS' wonderful choir for services this morning. This Valentine's Dayweekend our worship will look at some of the classic romance stories ofwestern civilization (Helen of Troy, Lancelot and Guinevere) to explore whatthese old legends of infatuation, heartbreak, destiny and coincidence have totell us in the 21st century about love - real, serious love.


February 9, 2014
Joyful, Healthy and Wise

Rev. Leon and Jake Ryder

"On a crisp and clear day," she said, "if I go to the edge of the world, can Ilook out over the horizon? If I stand up on my tippy-toes and keep my backnice and straight, what do you think that I might see. Hers was a youthfulquestion. I was full of joy and possibility. I almost answered her like a forty-eight year old man. Then I realized what she was really asking. She wasasking questions about the limits of her imagination. I almost answered herfrom the limits of my own. Come join Jake Ryder, Rev. Leon and the coremembers of the Lay Ministry Team as we explore the limits of humanpossibility when we are joyful and healthy and wise.


January 26, 2014
So Much is in the Bud

Rev. Liz Lerner-Maclay and Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

This service caps a weekend of UUCSS activities on the calling of Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley to our congregation.

The Start Up is the beginning of a direction in ministry that will flower in unknown ways. No one of us can yet see over the horizon but let's look there. Let's set our sights. There is so very much in bud.


January 19, 2014
MLK Service

UUCSS Diversity Team, Rev. Liz Lerner-Maclay and Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

This special service celebrates the life of Martin Luther King in words and music, and challenges the congregation to engage in a conversation about striving toward his ideals.


January 12, 2014
Walking With a Mason Jar of Fireflies

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

How do you carry on against the odds and against the tide? What do you do when you just can't seem to find the light within?

It's such a bummer to be saddled with the awesome responsibility of joy when so much keeps going wrong. What strength is it that allows us to continue when our fires have all burned out? Come find out... and bring a little kindling.


January 5, 2014
Justice Begins

Rev. Liz Lerner-Maclay

This sermon begins our month focusing on the theme of Justice.

Where does justice begin? In truly seeing another person as a human being-- as human and individual and important as you are yourself.


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