Sunday Service 6.20.2021

GATHERING MUSIC

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE PRELUDE

Deuteronomy reminds us that the land of Earth has been provided by God to give us what we need to live in peace. 

Deuteronomy 8:6-10

So keep the commandments of Yahweh; walk with reverence in the ways of God, Yahweh.  For Yahweh, your God, is bringing you into a good land — a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and in the hills, a land of wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey, a land where bread will not be scarce and where you will lack for nothing, a land where rocks are iron and copper is dug out of hills.  You will eat and have your fill, and you will praise Yahweh, your God, for the good land given to you. 

PRELUDE

THERE IS A SEASON: A Time for Spiritual Healing

Earthlings

Humanity has an intimate relationship with, well, dirt.  In the opening stories of our sacred texts, we are told of the creation of the ‘earthling’ from the clay of the ground.  Poet James Weldon Johnson [1871-1938] offers this retelling of that story:

Then God walked around,

And God looked around

On all that he had made.

He looked at his sun,

And he looked at his moon,

And he looked at his little stars;

He looked on his world

With all its living things,

And God said: I’m lonely still.

Then God sat down—

On the side of a hill where he could think;

By a deep, wide river he sat down;

With his head in his hands,

God thought and thought,

Till he thought: I’ll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river

God scooped the clay;

And by the bank of the river

He kneeled him down;

And there the great God Almighty

Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,

Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,

Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;

This great God,

Like a mammy bending over her baby,

Kneeled down in the dust

Toiling over a lump of clay

Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,

And man became a living soul.

Amen.      Amen.

[From “The Creation,” in God’s Trombones]

So we are people of the dirt.  We are dependent upon dirt, soil, rock, clay, to root the plants that feed us, shade us, and give us wood for building and tools.

And we are dependent on the billions of miles of mycelium networks in the dirt that communicate messages among root systems to keep plants and trees alive.  We are dependent upon these networks in the soil to break down vegetation to create more soil so that plants can grow to keep us alive.  Did you know, according to scientist Paul Stamets:  “There are more species of fungi, bacteria, and protozoa in a single scoop of soil than there are species of plants and vertebrate animals in all of North America”? [Mycelium Running:  How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, Paul Stamets, p. 1]

While we may be enchanted by our cities and highways and glass clad skyscrapers as signs of progress and success, we are still fundamentally people of the dirt.

Dirt.  Humus.  The root of the word humility which does not mean servility but means having a keen awareness of our abilities and our limits.  Even Sir Winston Churchill, one of the supreme egos of the 20th century, declared:  “We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glow-worm.” 

Poet Wendell Berry celebrates our connection to the Earth.  He writes:

We come from the earth and return to it, and so we live in agriculture as we live in flesh.  While we live our bodies are moving particles of the earth, joined inextricably both to the soil and to the bodies of other living creatures.  [Quoted in Water, Wind, Earth, and Fire:  The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements, Christine Valters Paintner, p. 126] 

We have done much to diminish and deny this connection.  Work that involves the earth, the ground, getting dirty, is seen as servile.  Many have the image that getting dirty is something you pay someone else to do.  Someone of lesser class and status and certainly, means. This system of values undermines our well-being by separating us from our Mother, the Earth, from the source of our lives, and from our own essence.

And this kind of thinking also separates us from our spiritual wholeness and home.  Again from Berry, “We arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.”  [Quoted in The Soul of a Pilgrim:  Eight Practices for the Journey Within, Christine Valters Paintner, p. 126].  Being connected to the dirt fosters our well-being, sense of belonging, and wholeness. 

The ground feeds our bodies and our spirits.  Trees rooted in the soil create sacred spaces, sanctuaries, holy places.  It is the arching of enormous trees that inspired the architecture of the cathedral.  This is specifically referenced in the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Spain.  The architect, Antoni Gaudi, designed pillars to intentionally resemble trees, from which they were originally inspired.  That whole church is a celebration of the holiness of the earth and humanity’s connection to the earth. 

Jesus told stories that involved the earth and its issue:  seeds,  lilies, birds, foxes, sheep, fish, the fig tree, the rocky soil, the fertile soil, the sandy soil, dust, the fields of grain, grape vines, bread, wine, and other references to the earth fill his teachings.  The whole earth speaks of the glory of God, as the Psalmist reminds us.

We are dependent on the earth, on dirt, not only physically but spiritually as well.  In a microscope we see the marvels of amoebas, mycelium, and cell life, and from mountains, we see vistas of the vastness of creation.  We witness the awe of this planet, our home.  And we realize that it is all connected, we are all connected by soil, by dirt, by ground.  Astronauts tell us that from space, you cannot see where one country ends and another begins.  You are struck by the unity of the earth.  One, gorgeous, blue green marble, adorned with the cotton white of clouds. 

It’s interesting that in this time of pandemic, we have been reminded of our oneness on this planet.  What is to keep a virus molecule in one country and out of another country?  This virus is so pervasive, it has been found on Mount Everest, the highest place on earth.  And the Chinese government is creating a barrier on its national border with Nepal so that even there, on the slopes of Everest, the virus does not spread from Nepal into China.  Can the virus see the barrier?  Will it honor the border?  This is one world, and we are all connected to it, all made of its substances, earthlings, as Genesis tells us. 

Savannas, plains, hills, swamps, fields, forests, rocky mountains, deserts, mesas, beaches, woods, creating us, sustaining us, though all we may notice are the concrete and glass and steel and the structures made by human hands and ingenuity.  Yet we are dependent on the very dirt of the earth. 

Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning tells us:

Earth is crammed with Heaven. 

And every bush aflame with God.

But only those who see take off their shoes.

So gathering here in this sanctuary, made of earth, as we are reminded by the beautiful wall of rock, with a vista of the ground and trees, we invite you to take some time to contemplate your connection to the earth, the dirt, the soil, the stuff that grounds us and sustains us.  You may sit in your seat and reflect.  You may get up, walk around.  You may take your shoes off to experience the ground under your feet. 

You are welcome to go outside.  To feel the bark of a tree.  To experience the canopy of the trees above you, a sanctuary, especially pronounced over by the Memorial Garden.

Personal Time of Reflection:  However you would like to do so, you are invited to reflect on your connection, your relationship, with the earth, from which you come and to which you will return.  How do you experience communion, intimacy, with the rocks, dirt, soil, and sand of the earth? 

Music from Hilton

Unison Reading                                                                                     Rumi

Where you put your foot on earth, my life,

Tulips, violets, and jasmine sprout.


If you take some clay and breathe on it,


It becomes a hawk, a dove, a crow!


If you wash your hand in earthen bowls


They become, thanks to your hand, pure gold.

Naming of Fathers

Introduction

We are all here, connected to the earth, because the breath of life has been breathed into the clay and we are lovingly sustained by the land.  As part of that process, there have been those who have nurtured us and cared for us.  Today we remember the fathers and father figures who have accompanied us on this journey and who have helped us to feel grounded

On this Father’s Day, let us lift up the names of men in our own lives who have fathered us and made manifest to us the power of Divine Love.

Naming of Fathers

ALL: May daughters prophesy justice and sons dream peace!

A Building Project

In the gospel of Matthew, we are given this teaching associated with Jesus:

Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the sage who built a house on rock.  When the rainy season set in, the torrents came and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  It didn’t collapse because it had been set solidly on rock.  Anyone who hears my words but does not put them into practice is like the fool who built a house on sandy ground.  The rains fell; the torrents came; the winds blew and lashed against the house.  And it collapsed and was completely ruined.  [Matthew 7:24-27]

A solid house. A weak house.  We know this imagery from the story of the three little pigs and the wolf!

Jesus uses the image to emphasize to his followers that the way he is offering is a way of life.  It is solid.  It is sound.  What does it mean to build your house on the rock?  There are many things that are involved in building your house on the rock.  One thing that contributes to a solid foundation is accepting that we come from the earth and we will return to the earth.  We are mortals.  We are only here on this precious earth for a short time and then we return to the dust:  dust to dust, ashes to ashes.  It’s interesting that this is part of a solid foundation for life, the house built on the rock, includes acceptance of our impermanence.   Part of the solid foundation for abundant joy and wholeness is the acceptance of our mortality and of death.

We see the importance of death in the life of the earth around us.  One example is compost.  Leaves and organic material fall to the earth.  They decompose thanks to mycelium.  And create soil.  Which nurtures the roots and fosters the new growth of other plants and trees creating more leaves.  In agriculture, there is the technique of chop and drop – plants are cut down and chopped up to fertilize and create soil for the other plants to thrive and bear fruit.  We, too, are part of this cycle of earthly life, physically and metaphorically.  We come from the earth and we return to the earth and in the process we foster new life that will continue after us.

I remember when our children were young, they asked me what I wanted to be done with my body when I died.  I told them, I want the ashes to be put in the Memorial Garden at church to help the plants grow. 

Acceptance of our mortality is not morbid or depressing or fatalistic.  It is an affirmation of the great cycle of life that has been designed into Creation.  It is a constant reminder of how sacred every moment of life is.

Mortality makes each and every moment of our lives here on this earth precious, holy.  We are only a speck of dust, here for such a short time, and we are given the awesome gift of experiencing beauty, pleasure, love, anger, pain, sadness, grief, disappointment, all the things that make us human, that make us alive.  It truly is beyond comprehension.  It is mystery.  Why we, here on this bit of rock hurtling through infinite space, have been given this opportunity, this consciousness, this gift of experiencing life in all of its glory, all of its disappointment and sorrow, all of its holy treasures.  Each and every day.  Moment after moment. 

Cynthia Winton-Henry tells us about her friend Peggy who died of liver cancer:

The first time Peggy took an InterPlay class with me she was seven months pregnant with her cherished son, Gene.  Peggy radiated such beauty as she danced with that big belly of boy.  Seven years later, her belly had filled out again, only this time Peggy was pregnant with death.  Her swollen belly created a haunting contrast against her skeletal form, yet Peggy continued to radiate more and more beauty as time passed. 

Then we hear of Peggy’s last dance encounter:

With considerable difficulty, Peggy lowered herself to the floor and curled into a tiny ball, symbolizing the place she had been before her diagnosis of cancer.  Peggy gently released the tight ball of her body and, with miraculous ease, slowly rose to her feet.  Standing tall, her arms and chest opened as she gratefully claimed the expansion of her spirit. 

As several tiny tears flowed down her cheeks, Peggy shared her profound sadness about dying.  Embodied grief.  Embodied love.  Embodied gratitude.  [What the Body Wants, Cynthia Winton-Henry with Phil Porter, pp. 210-211]

To build our house on the rock, to have a solid foundation for our lives on this earth, we need to not only accept but to embrace our mortality.  We need to see it as part of the cycle of life, the flowing of the river of life.  Death makes it possible for new life to emerge and thrive.  And the fragility and brevity of life makes our experience on this earth holy and sacred. 

To build your house on the rock, involves celebrating mortality as part of the great design of the universe.  Yes, we are all going to die.  Look around you.  Everyone you see is going to die.  Everyone you love is going to die.  In these covid months, we have seen staggering images of death.  But now, this moment, we have the privilege, the honor, the gift, of being alive. 

Shelia Collins faced many challenges in her life, not the least of which was the death of her son to AIDS.  She tells us, “When I first learned of Ken’s diagnosis, I was given the advice I would have given one of my clients: ‘Find a way to say yes to what you cannot change.’”  [Winton-Henry, p. 205].  This is building your house on the rock.  A solid foundation.  That will see you through heartbreaking grief and death itself.  Jesus is our companion in finding a way to say yes even to our mortality.

As part of our faith tradition, some people have found the way to say yes to our mortality by envisioning heaven, a life after this one, in the presence of Eternal Love.  That is one way of saying yes and building your house on the rock.  But how ever we choose to think about what happens after this earthly life ends, our faith teaches that each and every moment of this life is precious and holy.  And that the death of the body is part of the natural, sacred cycle of life. 

Personal Time of Reflection:  In these quiet moments, you may consider  How does mortality make life more precious to you?   If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, or very soon, what would you want to do before you die?

Music from Hilton

You are invited to share with someone seated near you, if you wish.  Maybe share something that surprised you from the time of reflection.

Unison Reading                                                                             John Soos

To be of the Earth is to know


the restlessness of being a seed


the darkness of being planted


the struggle toward the light


the pain of growth into the light


the joy of bursting and bearing fruit

the love of being food for someone

the scattering of your seeds


the decay of the seasons


the mystery of death
and the miracle of birth.

Rocks – The Cairn

There are many examples in the Bible where people put up a stone to mark something important, an encounter with God, or some other kind of important event to be remembered.

Here are a few:

Gen. 28:18. Jacob raises a stone beside the Jabbok River where he has encountered God, establishing a shrine to God. 

Gen. 35:14 Jacob makes another stone pillar where he has another encounter with God and calls the place Bethel.  House of God. 

Joshua 24  When the people recommit to God, Joshua puts up a stone as a witness.

1 Sam. 7:12. We are told that when God protects the Israelites from the Philistines, Samuel raises a stone, and names it Ebenezer, saying “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” 

This impulse is seen in other eras and other cultural traditions.  We can think of the standing stones of British Isles and other parts of the world. 

Stones continue to be important markers today.  We put stones as grave markers in cemeteries.  We see piles of stones in remote areas, like Mount Everest, where someone has died.  We see piles of stones in the woods or on trails as a landmark to guide others.  Stones continue to be a way of remembering something important and marking the way for others.  

In Ecclesiastes we are told there is a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together.  [3:5]

For us, this morning, it will be a time to gather stones.  Some of you brought stones or rocks with you.  We also have some here for you.

Our pile of stones will be a way to remember those who have died and to give thanks for the ways they have led us and guided us, giving of themselves in ways that help us to face the future.  It is a way of thanking them for being part of the circle of life. 

There have been many deaths the world over during these covid days.  There have been deaths around police brutality.  We are seeing an increase in mass shootings in our midst.  So much death.  In addition to that,  we have experienced the death of loved ones in our church family and have not been able to have a proper memorial.  We think of Wilbur Reid and Marg Radens and Irma Smith.  Sometimes I find myself waiting for Ann Rogers and Elinor Ross to come back to church.  But they are not coming back to church.  Many of us have had losses in our personal lives, again, perhaps not properly mourned. 

So I invite you to take a stone and hold it.  It is part of the earth, we are part of the earth.  It is a symbol of our essence.  As you hold the rock, consider the people who have died.  They are also part of the earth, in a new way.  As you touch your stone, maybe think of the ways those who have died have touched your life.  As you feel the weight of the stone, think of the weight they have had in your life, their importance, and what they have shared with you that you cherish. 

So take a few moments to hold a rock and remember. 

Music from Hilton

We will make our cairn of gratitude and remembrance.  You are invited to bring your stone forward and place it in the dish next to the altar.  As we do this, one by one, if you would like to, you may mention who you are thinking of as you add your stone to our memorial.  As you place your stone in the dish, you can think of laying down the weight of any guilt that you are carrying associated with those who have died, and you can think about releasing the some of the burden of grief which you may be carrying. 

People bring stones forward.

Litany of Reflection

Let us reflect on the pilgrimage of life; on how we all come from

the earth and all return to its womb.

In death as in life, we are all one family.


Let us acknowledge that we share this experience with all living

creatures through the unity of nature.

In death as in life, we are all one family.


Let us give thanks for the lives of those who have gone before us,

and for all the memories of them that we cherish.

In death as in life, we are all one family.


In the strength of God’s love, let us determine to keep alive in

ourselves those qualities which we admired in those who have

gone before us, for


In death as in life, we are all one family.

CELEBRATION OF HOLY COMMUNION

In the New Testament, we are told that whenever we share in communion, we are to remember Jesus.  Jesus is the vine that links us together, that encourages us to bear fruit, that roots us in the common ground of love.

We are also told that Jesus is the bread of life.  Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh tells us, “A piece of bread contains a cloud.  Without a cloud, the wheat cannot grow.  So when you eat the piece of bread, you eat the cloud, you eat the sunshine, you eat the minerals, time, space, everything.” [Quoted in Praying with Our Hands: 21 Practices of Embodied Prayer from the World’s Spiritual Traditions, Jon M. Sweeney].  It is all in bread.  It is all in Jesus.  It is all in us. 

So in this sacrament of bread and juice, we experience not only our connection to Jesus but to the earth itself, for these are gifts of the earth that nourish body and soul. 

In our tradition, we also celebrate that at this table, we recognize those who have gone before us on this earth, the communion of saints, also gathered at the table, spiritually present. 

So, as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we celebrate our oneness with the earth.  We experience our rootedness in Creation.  We express our connection to the Divine, to Jesus, and to one another. 

Communion Prayer – Silent Prayer – Savior’s Prayer

Blessing the Bread and Cup

Take your communion set, hold it in your hand and cover it with your other hand as a blessing – may this wafer and this juice, gifts of the earth, strengthen our connection to the vine of Christ so that we, too, rooted in the Divine, might bear the fruit of love. 

Take and eat – The bread of life and the cup of blessing. 

MORNING OFFERING

Offertory

CLOSING BLESSING                                                                       Celtic Prayer

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you, who,


herself unmoving, harbors the movements


and facilitates the life of the ten thousand creatures,

while resting contented, stable, tranquil.


Deep peace of the quiet earth to you!

POSTLUDE

Announcements

There is a season The month of June will be devoted to “There Is A Season.” Gatherings each Sunday will provide the opportunity to reflect on this season of transition in the covid pandemic. It will be a time to look back, to notice what we have been going through, and to move forward with intention. Each Sunday will be themed to one of the ancient elements: Air, Fire, Earth, and Water. This Sunday, the theme is Earth.

Next Sunday: The theme is water. Please bring a reusable water bottle if you have one. Also, please bring some water, in the bottle or in another container.

Communion This is a communion Sunday. We are using prepackaged individual communion servings. Please know that everyone is welcome to participate in communion. Young people are invited to participate at the discretion of the adult(s) who have brought them  The Communion offering will be received. This offering is used to help people in the church and the community with basic needs such as rent and utility assistance, bus passes, prescriptions, etc. There has been heavy need for these funds. Please consider how you can help the community through this offering.

Immigration Justice: Action Item The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program provides a path to safety for Afghans who worked with U.S. forces and who, as a result of that affiliation, suffer direct threats to their safety. These visas have been long delayed. As the U.S. anticipates its final withdrawal of our Armed Forces in September, we know that we cannot simply abandon the Afghans who risked their (and their families’) lives to help us and our allies (think of the U.S. evacuation of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War).

Send a message to President Biden today! Urge the administration to provide urgent humanitarian protections, including evacuation for those who have put their lives on the line for our country. Easy, templated, from the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: https://www.votervoice.net/LIRS/campaigns/85410/respond

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