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A Life of Awakenings

a sermon given by the Rev. John H. Nichols on Palm Sunday March 29, 2015


I was leading a hike in the Southern range of Vermont’s Green Mountains, and one night we camped at the end of Stratton Pond. I awoke to the hush of a new morning with the glow of early sunlight backlighting Stratton Mountain. Mist was rising off the pond, and the bird songs came across more clearly because of the surrounding quiet. The weariness of the previous day’s hike had fallen away.

Henry Thoreau once spoke about “an infinite expectation of the dawn which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep.” He was talking about the optimism that can survive all our dark nights of the soul and believe that somewhere down the line, no matter what, new light will be breaking into our lives. “An infinite expectation of the dawn that never leaves us.”

The dawn can work wonders on my psyche and perhaps on yours? Have you ever taken a problem home and worried it all night. Somehow the longer you dwell on it the worse it seems. You become irritated, annoyed, angry or fearful until there is nothing left to do but go to sleep. Then the first light of the new day begins to dispel the darkness in more ways than one.
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Talking About God

a sermon preached by the Rev. John H. Nichols on Sunday , March 22, 2015


Several years ago a member of the Newton Unitarian congregation introduced me to a friend saying “We’ve heard the word, “God” out of this fellow more times in one year than perhaps in the entire history of the church.” Mind you I understood that I was being affectionately teased. Still I became curious as to whether what he said might be true. Might I be the only minister of Newton to use the word “God” appreciatively or in prayer in such a long time?

I have known all of their ministers for the past forty years, known them well enough to know something about their religious beliefs. Clyde Dodder and Clarke Wells were both theists. Clyde had been a Christian and Clarke was a Christian. Gerry Krick who they thought was a strong Humanist was actually a theist, strongly influenced by the liberal Christianity of Boston University at the time he attended. So it turns out that their next to last minister, James Ford, is the only Humanist who has served that congregation in forty years, perhaps more. How could I have been the only minister of The Unitarian Society in Newton to use the word “God” more than a few times?
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What are you Talking About

a sermon given by the Rev. Rosemary Lloyd on Sunday, March 15, 2015


Remember, human, you are dust and unto dust you shall return…

Remember, human, you are dust and unto dust you shall return…

Such a cheery message for a gloomy, almost-Spring Sunday….

A preacher with such a topic should probably apologize to all the young parents in the room. To the children and the young at heart. The pregnant and the sick. The broken-hearted and the hopeful.

But I can’t apologize, not really.

I didn’t set up the system. It is the future we were all born into when we were delivered into life.
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How To Be Mature

a sermon given by the Rev. John H. Nichols on Sunday, March 8, 2015

To listen to this sermon please click here.


Most of us grew up expecting that the sheer passage of time would finally land us in the magical world called “Maturity”. It turns out we were wrong. Maturity is not something that time automatically bestows upon us. It is something we may rise to occasionally but then only in our best moments.

More often than not we take three steps forward toward maturity and two steps back. On our worst days it is more like two steps forward and three steps back. Our childhood’s old feelings, reactions and habits pull us back. Our past trips us up. We stumble and fall more often than we care to admit.
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In Our Hands

a sermon given by the Rev. John H. Nichols on Sunday March 1, 2015


Once there was a woman who lived by the banks of a broad river. One day, while she was walking along the riverbank, she heard the cries of an infant coming from the water. She got into a nearby boat and rowed out until she saw a raft floating down the river and holding a baby. The raft was sinking. Fighting a strong current she quickly caught up with it and rescued the baby. She then took it home and cared for its needs.

A few days later, the woman was again standing by the river when she heard the cries of another baby. Carrying the first child with her, she rowed out, and she found yet another child floating down stream on a sinking raft. She pulled that second child in, and she cared for it also. The next day it happened again, and then, it happened again the following week.
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It’s About Love, Damn It!

a sermon preached by the Rev. John H. Nichols on Sunday, February 15, 2015


I had a vision the other day while I was driving to work. An apparition suddenly appeared in the passenger seat next to me. It was a young man immaculately dressed like a salesman. After I regained control of the car, he said, “John, we’re going to make you a deal.” “Well,” I said, “Who are you and where are you from?” The specter replied, “I work for Infernal Enterprises Inc. We specialize in personal transformations.” I said, “What kind of deal?” He said, “John, we like you. We really do. So this is the deal we are going to make. We’re going to take your soul and put it into the body you had when you were twenty-five. Now how’s that sound?”
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Do We Have a Prayer?

a sermon delivered by the Reverend John H. Nichols on Sunday, February 8, 2015

To listen to this sermon please click here.


Once a friend of mine persuaded me to coach a Little League baseball team. The other coaches were very pleased to have a preacher to elevate their image in town, and perhaps they thought I was an easy mark. And I was. When I went to the first coaches meeting while the other men were going eye to eye, nose to nose over the fate of promising eleven-year-old pitchers I said just give me any fifteen kids and we’ll have a good season.

We had a good 50-50 season and at the end they asked me to give the invocation at the annual banquet. Being young and idealistic I wanted to make the point that some of us had allowed the desire to win to get a little out of hand, and so as a part of my invocation I asked God to help us keep the fun of playing the game as our central perspective.
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How Much of You is Real?

a sermon preached by the Reverend John H. Nichols on Sunday, January 25, 2015


I know someone who writes deep, penetrating articles that are published in scientific journals and read only by individuals in the academic stratosphere. But in his free time, he is Casey Jones. He has the world’s longest, largest, most intricate and impressive electric train set. On a rare free evening he will go down to the basement, put on his engineer’s cap and talk loudly to himself for several hours as he routes and reroutes his own miniature model railroad world.

I know someone who is as caring and fair as the day is long. She is much sought after both as a professional and as a friend to immediate disputes, heal wounds, comfort the lost and befriend the lonely. But give her a ticket to Fenway Park and she will exercise her considerable lungpower in providing a running commentary on the wisdom or lack thereof demonstrated by Red Sox players, managers and coaches and on the frailty of the human condition as demonstrated by the umpires. When my friend engages her passion for the Red Sox the furies are unleashed. Caring and sensitive though she may be she regards every Sox game as a contest between the forces of good and the forces of evil.
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Homily on Martin Luther King, Jr.

preached by the Rev John H. Nichols on Sunday, January 18, 2015


The community in which Martin Luther King Jr. grew up was deeply rooted in the stories of the Bible. They did not take these stories literally. They did not love these stories blindly. They were not naïve or foolish nor did they worry over much about whether the Bible was factual. Instead they knew that images from the Biblical stories most closely reflected the stories of their own lives. For King’s people the truth of the Bible was very personal.

All too often, they had lost friends to accidents or illness or violence and so they been to the valley of the shadow of death. They had wandered in the wilderness of an unpromising land. They had traveled the highway from Jerusalem to Jericho, been beaten and victimized by robbers and experienced the kindness of a Good Samaritan – or they hoped for it. They had seen more than their share of people suffering on the cross.
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