May 17, 2020: In recognition of Ramadan, the holy period of ritual fasting for Muslims between April 23 and May 23, we will clarify the essence of Islam, dispel damning myths, and explore the mystical core of this often misunderstood religion. The service includes poetic interludes by beloved Sufi poets, Rumi and Hafiz, whose words remain wise, ageless, and healing resources for this manic, modern, and currently besieged world.

“The Rumi Prescription and the Sacred Heart of Islam”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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May 10, 2020: We have been conditioned, dare I say, brainwashed, to appreciate and cultivate only the well-bred members of the botanical family — the fine roses, the graceful lilies, the amusing black-eyed Susans, the elegant peonies. Weeds such as the kudzu, the clover, the ubiquitous dandelion…well, as Hugh Johnson sneers in his book, The Principles of Gardening, they are “plants in the wrong place.”  In a homily for Flower Communion Sunday, we’ll consider the metaphor here for our spiritual lives. Are weeds the sages in our lives (pun intended), these stubborn, sturdy flowers with the wisdom to survive (especially now)?  How might we accept (and even be grateful for!) the quirky beauty of the scraggly work-a-day weeds which dot our personal landscapes and seem indestructible at times?

“Stubborn Flowers with the Wisdom to Survive”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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May 3, 2020: Whether it’s for a paycheck, to pursue a passion, or to fulfill one’s highest purpose, work consumes enormous swathes of our time, energy, and focus. It can make us feel alive, put food in our bellies, and it can wear us down to a nub. In this May Day sermon honoring our labors, from gritty, sweat-inducing toil to white-collared high-tech, we’ll explore the question: “Why Do We Work?,” especially in a societal context that applauds us for skipping out on hundreds of thousands of paid vacation days per year. How has our perception of work been altered and impacted by the coronavirus lockdown and loss of employment or workplace interaction? Come and ask yourself: “Why (and How) Do I (or Did I) Work?”

“Truly, Madly, Deeply: Why Do We Work?

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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April 26, 2020: All across the planet, human beings are experiencing what some have called “The Great Pause.” As we shelter indoors, we read reports that skies are clear in Los Angeles, fish are visible in the canals of Venice, and wildlife are roaming freely in high-traffic National Parks (and in urban areas, too!). Even so, the climate crisis across the globe is not “healed” and the need for environmental stewardship remains as crucial as ever. In this service to celebrate Earth Day, we’ll explore how we can resist a return to “the ways things were” and build on the unexpected silver lining we’re witnessing now.

“We Are The Blue Boat Home”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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April 19, 2020: In her wry memoir, Jana Reiss shares  a year-long quest to become more saintly by tackling 12 spiritual practices, including fasting, centering prayer, Sabbath-keeping,  gratitude, and generosity. Though she begins with the question, “How hard could this be?” Reiss finds to her growing humiliation that she is “flunking sainthood.” In this sermon exploring the myth of enlightenment and the rigors of real spiritual growth, we’ll examine how we might quest for, and even be satisfied with a bumpy process-oriented path. Do you believe you need to “improve” yourself or be “productive” during this quarantine time? “Rock this pandemic?”  Toss your halo, keep your wings, and come discover the  benefits  of  “failing better.”

“Flunking Sainthood”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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April 12, 2020: Blind faith? Leap of faith? Free faith? How does the word, “faith” strike you? For some, it is a poke in the eye, an uncomfortable vestige of a rigid religious past. For others, it remains a positive, re-imagined resource for moving through the joys and sorrows of life. What does it mean to be “faithful?” — not to everything or to what we are told to be faithful to; but rather, “faithful to a few things” that truly matter to us. We are a creedless religion, but there are still things we would “give our hearts to” (the true meaning of the word “credo”). Is “faith” a word you might reclaim on your own pilgrim path? On Easter Sunday, we will explore this fertile terrain together.

“Faithful Over A Few Things”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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April 5, 2020: It’s been famously said that “All who wander are not lost.” On this morning, as Palm Sunday and Passover converge, we meet at the crossroads to explore how the wanderings of Jesus and Moses reflect our essential human journey from the source of who we are and back again. In what ways can our wanderings feel like a walk in a labyrinth rather than a frustrating journey through a maze? How might we retain the wellspring of our identities when we are in the wilderness, awaiting manna or gazing down from mountaintops? And how does this relate to our current “social distancing” limitations on “wandering” in the world?

“All Roads Lead to Where We Stand”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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March 29, 2020: What does it mean to “belong” to a tribe, a community, a family, a congregation? One of the most rewarding aspects of belonging is the sense of having found a home and in turn, of being found, supported, and accepted as we are. In this sermon, we’ll explore the illusion of “utopia” and the  various ways we become visible and known to one another when we allow ourselves to be found, even during this time of being “together-apart.” Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker, preaching,  with music from Gabe Hernandez and Rebecca Prizznick.

“You Will Be Found: The Need to Belong and the Power of Tribes”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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March 22, 2020: Do things really happen “for a reason?” In a message, tailor-made in the wake of the fabled Ides of March and a global pandemic, we’ll explore the challenge of living deliberately in an often-random world. When our lives tilt in directions we had not expected and fault lines open under our feet, how might we strive to loosen our grip on the “shoulds” and embrace the “real” with as much humor, courage, and grace as we can muster? Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker, preaching,  with music from Gabe Hernandez and Rebecca Prizznick.

“Waiting For The Ice Cream Truck – On Living Deliberately in a Random World”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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March 8, 2020: Is it any wonder that the word “Evangelism,” which means literally “preaching of the gospel,” has an uncomfortable ring to many religious liberals? For many reasons, some valid and some stereotypical, we tend to associate evangelism with religious bullying and intolerance, with corruption and hucksterism, with rigid creeds and finger-pointing. In some cases, this is accurate. Yet, at its best, evangelism is about proclaiming “good news,” sharing a vision, helping others to heal and grow, and giving public voice to a dream. And in this very best sense, we, too can become evangelists under a billowing, open-air, distinctly liberal UU tent. Come join the revival!

“Evangelism in a Liberal Key”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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March 1, 2020: In this sermon to kick off a “20/20 Visions” Stewardship campaign, we’ll explore one of the strangest passages in Hebrew Scripture. The prophet Ezekiel comes upon a valley of dry bones and Yahweh (God) asks him a profound question: “Can these bones live?” The story is full of metaphors for us to ponder as we explore the lifeblood, the sinew, muscle and breath that animates our congregation. How might we answer our callings and arise from whatever “dry valleys” we encounter as good stewards of a “living church?”

“Living Churches”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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February 16, 2020: How are we made whole? The “1/2” in this sermon stands as a symbol of our incomplete natures, and the need for our human bodies to be made whole in relation to something beyond the physical. This may be something deep and meaningful, or something rational or something mystical involving a ritual or practice. This morning, on the edge of the contemplative period of Lent, we’ll explore and take inspiration from the five objects (stones, incense, drums, religious symbols, and bread) that have helped pilgrims and seekers find their “other ½” for millennia. Drumming will punctuate the service.

“The Path #3: Walking the Path, Ritual and “The Half That Makes Us Whole”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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February 9, 2020:  In the early 1980s, psychologist John Welwood coined the term “spiritual bypassing” to refer to the use of practices and beliefs to avoid confronting uncomfortable feelings, unresolved wounds, and fundamental emotional and psychological needs. In the years that have followed, many well-meaning seekers have fallen under the thrall of bogus “gurus” who have reinforced these ideas and have supported the “bypassing” of the challenging experiences that venerable Zen masters have stressed that we humans need most to develop wisdom and self awareness. We’ll explore how we might keep to an authentic path in this sermon with Zen tales interspersed throughout.

“The Path #2: Keeping to the Path, or How to Steer Clear of Spiritual Bypassing-A Sermon with Zen Tales”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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February 2, 2020: In a world overrun with words, thoughts, noise and conflict, how might we clear a  path to a more heart-centered life? The poet Rilke advises us: “The work of the eyes is done. Now go and do heart-work.” We’ll explore new paradigms for setting deeply-felt intentions towards “heartfulness.” The service includes a guided meditation for opening the heart chakra and meditative song from The Flagstaff Threshold Choir.

“The Path #1: Clearing a Path to Heartfulness”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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January 19, 2020: Years ago, at an anti-war protest rally, educator/activist Howard Zinn was arrested and charged with “failure to quit.” He wore that charge like a badge of honor and remarked in the book he wrote of the same name that “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.” This morning, in the spirit of Zinn and Martin Luther King, we will explore these questions in the current societal context: “How do we act, how will we act, even if we are weary and fearful, as we enter this crucial election cycle? How can we “UU the Vote” locally and nationally, by activating for progressive candidates who reflect our values?”

“Failure to Quit: Rallying Our Consciences”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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January 5, 2020: Letterboxing is a quirky hobby combining orienteering, puzzle solving, journaling, and treasure hunting, dating back to the 1850’s in Dartmoor, England. As we begin 2020 with our well-intentioned resolutions in tow, we’ll explore Letterboxing as a spiritual metaphor for getting lost (in healthy ways) — stepping off the well-worn paths of getting from here to there in our lives, and getting “found” in unpredictable territory. For those feeling lost in a murky moor, this sermon will offer some compass points for blazing new, intentional trails into the clearing.

“Letterboxing: Getting Lost and Found in the New Year”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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December 15, 2019: In the advent of Christmas, we might grapple with whether we’re entitled to celebrate, admire, and even love the babe in the manger if we’ve chosen along the way to pour off the filmy bathwater of Christian doctrine in which that babe has soaked for two millennia. This morning we ask: Should we, and how can we, claim or reclaim the human Jesus on our own terms as Unitarian Universalists?

“The Baby With The Bathwater: Celebrating the Humanitarian Jesus”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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December 08, 2019: Like many other holiday classics, there aren’t a lot of female standouts in the Hanukkah story. As far as we know, there were no Lady Maccabee warriors (although, they could have been in disguise). Nevertheless, as they descended from the hills to wage battle and reclaim the Temple, the guys at the center of the Hanukkah saga were surrounded by the divine feminine in Judaism known as “Shekhinah.” This morning, we’ll meet a number of the feisty female role models in Judaism (some of whom are affectionately known as “the bad girls of the Bible”). We’ll also explore the naturalistic and mystical origins of Shekhinah, and how it/she can inspire and support us spiritually, regardless of gender or religion

“All Around us is Shekhinah”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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November 24, 2019: Have you ever noticed how often criticism or judgment gets in the way of our gratitude? In this sermon in anticipation of Thanksgiving, we’ll explore how we might soften the critical impulse and free ourselves from the tyranny of judgement and the suffering it creates. We’ll ask: As we go through our daily rounds, how can we increase opportunities to “praise it” rather than raze it? How could this expand our capacity for joy and deeper connections?

“Praise It!”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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November 03, 2019: When asked what he thought the afterlife would be like, the sage of Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau answered, “I’m taking it one world at a time.” As we explore how we relate to our inevitable finitude, we’ll consider how we might live deliberately in a somewhat random world without over-attachment to the past or a sense of anxiety or over-expectation about the future. Isn’t living deliberately in the one tangible world we have challenging enough for us humans?.

“Taking it One World at A Time”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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October 20, 2019: Jazz is a different drummer’s kind of music and Unitarian Universalism is a different drummer’s kind of religion. In fact, the parallels between the two are quite remarkable. Both have evolved from more strident and orthodox forms, and both have been shaped by numerous sources. More than anything, though, Jazz and UUism are each deeply personal, in that they ask the participant to seek and create with both freedom and integrity within a fixed but flexible framework. This morning, we’ll explore how UUism is a “jazz religion,” with special music and readings that syncopate with the theme.

“Unitarian Universalism as Jazz: Freedom within Form”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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October 13, 2019: In his masterwork, Walden, Henry David Thoreau explained that he “went to the woods to live deliberately.” In this sermon to mark Indigenous People’s Day, we’ll explore what it might mean to live in a deliberate and conscious relationship with the sacred natural world. How do we and can we help Nature thrive and protect it through our activism and through our stewardship, as we walk in step with the heartbeat of trees?

“The Heartbeat of Trees”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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October 6, 2019: Whether we enjoy it or not, we learn valuable spiritual lessons from the difficult people in our lives – those whom we know and love, those we work with, attend church with, and those whom we encounter more randomly. This morning, we will explore the inherent presence of the “prickly” in our midst, how to discern whether we are, in fact, the “difficult” one for others, and how release, self regulation, and healthy congregational boundaries can be transformative for individuals and the communities they inhabit.

“Thank You for Being Such a Pain: Spiritual Lessons We Learn from Difficult People”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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September 29, 2019: The Days of Awe between the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer us all (Jewish or not) a yearly opportunity to reflect, consider our righteousness and our missteps, seek and offer forgiveness, and venture forth again in a positive, healing direction. Metaphorically, these days could be seen as a semi-colon; the juncture where one could choose to end a sentence, but decides instead to continue the story because there is more to say. We’ll explore, from a spiritual perspective, the ways in which a semi-colon is not a full stop, but rather a moment to pause, reckon, and reinvest in relationships, integrity, goodness, community, and life itself.

“A Semi-Colon is No Place to Stay”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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September 22, 2019: Intimacy should really be called into-me-see. It is something that we all want but it is difficult to hold in our hearts. Intimacy requires trust, tolerance, and relationship skills. We will explore intimacy as individuals, as couples, and as a congregation. We are an intimate congregation.

“Into-me-see”

Andy Hogg, Worship Associate

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September 15, 2019: You’ve seen them everywhere – at peace rallies and Pride marches, on the Arizona border and at the Mall of America, in our pulpit and on members of the choir, on our children and our elders, at General Assembly – those vivid gold T-shirt radiating the phrase: “Standing on the Side of Love” (SOTSOL) or more recently, “Side With Love.” How do we interpret this call to “side with love?” And what might it mean to be one of the “love people” in your personal and communal life, in your relationships and in your activism, especially beyond your comfort zones?

“Here Come the Love People”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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September 08, 2019: In the words of a colleague, “Autumn people slow down, enjoy a certain pace.” Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? Most of us run around being bouncy Spring people year-round and 24/7, not looking very closely at much except our watches and our smartphones. Can you “remember the kind of September that’s slow and oh-so-mellow,” and if so, would you (could you) follow? Do you value rest? As we settle into Fall as a congregation, we’ll explore ways we might join the ranks of Autumn people in a sped-up, over-stuffed world.

“Autumn People”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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August 25, 2019:  Some pundits quip that UUs either address their prayers “to whom it may concern,” or pray at most to one carefully curated God whom we consider on-call. I believe these self-effacing jokes and overly harsh critiques sell us UUs far short of who we are (historically and currently) and what we yearn for in our spiritual lives. This morning, we will explore the practice of “prayer” and how engaging in some form of this practice (whether it be spoken, silent meditation, Kirtan chanting, forest bathing, or sung Taize) requires us (like everything else about being a UU) to define our terms and explore the personal truth and meaning we might derive from it. Does prayer improve our health, as some researchers argue? How might “prayer” support us individually and communally? Come answer a hearty “Amen” to the possibilities.

“The Voice of Deep Down Things: Considering ‘Prayer'”

Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker

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August 11, 2019:  In the age of Facebook, Twitter, tribal politics, and gated communities, what does it mean these days to be neighborly and connected? What inspiring examples have popped up recently to remind us that we are all interconnected whether we realize it or not? Are we actively grateful for the connections we currently have? As she settles into our neighborhood, Rev. Robin will explore how we might grow in neighborliness, reach beyond our comfort zones to create community in a society where more and more folks are “home alone.”

“Like Pearls on a Silken Cord”

Rev Robin Landerman Zucker

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August 4, 2019:  It is widely assumed that more education is part of the solution to the environmental crisis. But what if the “solution” is part of the problem? The modern university is a complex institution, and parts of it, tiny parts of it, are committed to addressing the great existential problem known as the environmental crisis. Unfortunately, most of the university is pulling in the opposite direction. The world is being destroyed by highly educated people.

“Higher Education and the Environmental Crisis” by Marcus Ford

Mark James, Worship Associate

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July 28, 2019: Nancy Paxton – How do you respond when someone betrays your trust? What are some positive ways to respond? Join us for a look back at “The Anatomy of Trust” workshops we held at Beacon last year and an update, including ideas from Brene Brown’s recent writing on vulnerability, courage, and freedom in our public and spiritual lives.

“Trust, Vulnerability, and Freedom”

Nancy Paxton, Worship Associate

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July 21, 2019 In a world of cycle and seasons that bring inevitable changes, we will explore how we respond to these new beginnings and new challenges.

“Planting Gardens and New Beginnings”

Rebecca Riggs, Guest Speaker

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July 14, 2019: Unitarian-Universalists welcome all people interested in the search for truth. Join us for an exploration of religion and spirituality from one atheist’s point of view.

“The Spirituality of Being an Atheist”

Tom Begush, Guest Speaker

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June 30, 2019: What is Interspirituality? How does it connect to Mysticism and what meaning do they bring to our UU understanding of religion and the world, and more specifically to our “ordinary” individual lives? So many questions! Some possible answers and a lot to think about as we live our lives day to day.

“Interspirituality, Mysticism, and Everyday Life”

Char Tarashanti, Worship Associate

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June 2, 2019: A service on poems about goodbyes. May is often full of goodbyes: to friends, to teachers; to home; to lovers who left you, to lovers you left; to fathers or mothers, uncles or aunts, whose time has come; to places you’ve loved; to dreams you have given up; to ideas about yourself that have held you back. May is also the month we say goodbye to Rev. Kevin Lawson; we hope this service will give you a chance to reflect and say goodbye.

Poetry Service

Nancy Paxton and Jack Doggett, Worship Associates

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