WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS
LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE
Eternal wellspring of peace —
May we be drenched with the longing for peace
that we may give ourselves over to peace
until the earth overflows with peace
as living waters overflow the seas.
Marcia Falk, contemporary Jewish scholar
THERE IS A SEASON: A Time for Spiritual Healing
Water of Life
Before there was land, there was water, Genesis tells us. Water covered the planet. Now water covers 70% of the planet. And it is the lifeline of Earth as we know it. Water comprises at least 60% of our bodies or up to 85%. It is the lifeline of our bodies. Water is life, as we were reminded by the native peoples protesting the Standing Rock pipeline.
Water sustains the life of the land as well as plants, animals and all other life forms, including humans. But for humans, water is also necessary for social life, economic life, and civilization. Main settlements, which emerged into towns and cities and now urban metropolises, are mostly near water because water is necessary for power, for commerce, for manufacturing, for transportation, for recreation, and to enliven and soothe the spirit.
Water births not only land, not only civilization, but it nurtures us in the womb until we are born to a life still dependent on water only in different ways.
It is no wonder that water is incorporated into the rituals and practices of most religions and cultures. From the water of cleansing included in the weekly shabbat of Jews, to the ritual washing practiced by Muslims, to the the bathing in the sacred Ganges practiced by Hindus, to the waters of baptism sacramental in Christianity, water is important to all religions and cultures because it is necessary for sustaining human life.
We need water to live. As a planet. As a species. As individual people here in this holy space together this day.
So some of you may have brought some water this morning. If it in a water bottle, take a sip. Remind yourself of your need for water, physically, socially and spiritually. Then we are asking that you bring your water forward and pour it into the fountain on the altar as a sign of our mutual dependence upon water, something we share with each other, with the whole human family, and with the web of life. So, please come forward and add your water to the fountain.
If you did not bring any water but would like to participate, there is a pitcher with water on the altar, you may come and pour some water from the pitcher into the fountain.
Music from Hilton
Unison Reading Clement of Alexandria, c.150-215
O God, you are the unsearchable abyss of peace,
the ineffable sea of love,
and the fountain of blessings.
Water us with plentiful streams
from the riches of your grace;
and from the most sweet springs of your kindness,
make us children of quietness and heirs of peace.
Water is Powerful
Thanks to advanced technology that provides us with visual images, we are now eyewitnesses to the power of water – when a tsunami hits, as flood waters rise, as a fire hose sprays, as a hurricane hits. Water assaults with superhuman power. Cars and structures tumble like toys.
We see the power of water to carve the land and the landscape. Even to whittle away rock. We know the power of water to reshape the coastline through tides and surges and storms. What might take humans years of dredging, Mother Nature can do with one serious storm. Water has power.
Water has the power to dramatically reconfigure landscapes through erosion, flooding, the slow migration of a river bed, the eons of wearing down rock. It may be fast and furious, it may be slow and steady, but water powerfully alters the terrain.
We also see the power of water in dams and hydro electric installations. We see the power of water in waterfalls, like the iconic Niagara falls.
Water has immense power. Physically. And culturally. Every culture and tradition has stories of water. And, the central water story of our religious tradition is The Flood. Capital T. Capital F. We tell children about the animals all being saved on the ark. But it is a story of human selfishness and abuse that so angers God, the God that lovingly created the precious little earthlings, that God decides to wipe out the whole enterprise and start all over – this time with Noah and his family. And with a promise never to perpetrate such destruction again. Evidently, it was just too painful to God to go through it again. So God publicly self restrains and seals with deal with the rainbow. The story shows the destructive power of water.
And we see the significance of the image of water in the rivers that flow from Eden, nourishing the whole earth.
There is the River of blood that intimidates Pharaoh eventually leading to the freeing of the Hebrew slaves.
There is the parting of the waters of the Red Sea as the Hebrews escape from slavery. And then the water drowns the Egyptians following the Hebrews. Very powerful!
In mythology, there is the imagery of the River Styx that divides the every day world from the under world.
And the River Rubicon with its symbolic meaning to the Romans. Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his troops kicking off a civil war that led to the Roman empire. Now the image of the Rubicon is a crossing point from which there is no return. Interestingly, at a church I was part of in my youth, the men’s group was called “Rubicon” for this river!
So, rivers and water have symbolic meanings for us, about crossing over and boundaries.
Water also has powerful associations with healing. There is the story of Naaman being healed of leprosy by bathing in the Jordan River 7 times. [2 Kings 5:10-14] There is the man healed in the churning waters of the Pool of Siloam in the gospels. [John 5:1- 18]
Other countries, religions, and cultures also associate water with healing. There are sacred baths all over the world ascribed with healing properties. There are the mineral baths and hot springs providing healing relief. We think of Franklin Roosevelt going to Warm Springs, GA as just one example of the the age old healing properties to water.
Water also has the power of protection. An ocean to protect from an enemy. A moat to protect from an onslaught. A river preventing an attack. In our scriptures, there is a story of water protecting the baby Moses in a basket and carrying him to a princess who will raise the child who will become a liberator of his people from slavery. Water also has the power to protect.
And water, fresh drinking water is necessary to sustain life. Not only is water life giving, it is needed for life to continue. There is the story of the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness, and they have no water. They beg Moses not to kill them in the dry desert. Moses pleads with God and is told, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” EX. 17:1-7
Water is very powerful and that power is associated with God, with the Divine. So in the stories where Jesus calms the storm and stills the seas and walks on the water, these stories convey that Jesus is tapped into the Divine, and is a channel for Divine power over water. Jesus is aligned with the power of the Divine that created and controls the water. His power is exhibited as control over water to show that he is of God. So he is very powerful!
Again and again in the Bible, God’s power is seen through water used to effect transformation. God’s power over water testifies to God’s intentions and abilities.
God turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water. . .
The tremendous power of God is imaged through water, water offered to bring forth life and fertility and fecundity. This is the power that Divine Love is seeking to unleash in the world. Upon us. So that we might thrive and grow.
This is captured in a beautiful poem by Thomas John Carlisle:
is a day
when all flesh
in all places
of the Spirit.
This power, entering us, washing over us, infusing us, empowering us. That is God’s goal.
We’ve seen images of the beautiful grasses and seaweeds that grow on the bottom of the ocean. Whether in Jacques Cousteau or Finding Nemo, we have seen the beautiful fields of vegetation swaying in the ocean current. They are firmly rooted and yet they move and swirl with the oscillations of the water.
As a sign of our desire to be open to those torrents, freshets, cataracts, floods, deluges and inundations of the spirit that Carlisle talks about, I thought those who would like to could stand, raise your arms, and maybe sway and twist and turn gently, imagining the power of the water moving you, showing your openness to the power of Divine Love to move and sustain you.
Hilton plays the Blue Danube Waltz
Water takes many forms
Water takes many forms. It can be a solid, a liquid or a gas. It can be ice, it can flow, it can be steam. An iceberg is water. The ocean is water. Rain falling from the sky is water. The vapor rising from a volcano is water. A tear is water. Snow fall is water. There are so many forms for water.
And water is present in many ways. Our local Gulf of Mexico, part of the ocean. Rivers. Lakes. Geysers. Puddles. Springs. Wells. Streams. Ponds. Brooks. Waterfalls. Everglades. In a glass with ice. From the tap at the sink. The shower. The bath. The hose. From a squirt gun. There are so many ways that we experience water.
And it is often moving. Changing shape. Changing form. Tides. Currents. Eddys. Waves. Placid. Mirror-like. Churning. Turbulent. Boiling. Simmering.
Water is very, well, fluid. Moving. Changing. Appearing in different forms. All around us. Within us. Creating life. Sustaining life. Making change. Causing transformation.
I think this malleability; changeability of water, the way water presents itself in so many different ways is a wonderful way of imaging God in our lives. God’s grace and love. Coming to us in countless forms and shapes and from many sources. Coming to us in myriad ways. Getting in any way it can. Looking for openings, openness. Wherever they can be found. To enter us, our lives, to sustain our spirits, and soothe our souls. To protect. To energize. To transform. Wear down when needed. Reconfigure. Nourish. Refresh. Heal. There are so many ways that the Spirit is seeking to nurture our lives and foster our highest good.
We don’t have to force ourselves into a shape that fits the mold. We aren’t limited to one modality or one style of engaging with Divine Love. Like water, there are countless ways to experience and encounter the love and grace that we need to flourish.
And as we encounter the Divine, the Holy One, however we may conceive of God, we know that like the water reshaping the rock, that presence, that power will transform and reshape us – into an ever greater embodiment of love. We will be changed by the presence of the power of Divine Love in our lives. And something new will emerge from within us. That was there all along. Waiting to be born, to grow, and to thrive. Love.
We know how the water of a river or stream smooth’s and sculpts the rocks in its flow. So, we invite you to take a few minutes to envision your life as a river with some rocks in it. What are those things in your life that you think need transformation and change? Where are the hard edges that need to be worn down? What needs to be re-sculpted so that it no longer causes pain or hurt in your life? What obstacles are in the way of your well being that need to be moved to the side by the river’s current. If you would like to, you can use pen and paper and draw a simple river, and then add the rocks and name them. The things that you feel need to be transformed by the power of love and grace so that you can live and flow with greater joy.
You can draw a river and stones. Or if you don’t want to draw you can make a list. Or you can simply reflect. However you would like to do this – but think of those areas in your life where change is needed. Where love and grace are needed to smooth things our, ease your passage through your days, increase your flow of love and joy.
After a time of reflection, you will have the opportunity to talk with someone else about your thoughts if you would like to.
So, take some time to consider the changes you feel are needed for you to thrive and flourish.
Music from Hilton
Unison Reading Peter Mayer
God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go.
Water is Refreshing
There is nothing like a cold glass of ice water on a boiling hot day especially when you have been working outside, or on a bike ride.
We are constantly being reminded of the importance of hydration for staying health.
There is nothing like a shower, the fresh, flowing water, when you are hot and sweaty or dirty from having fun outside.
We went to Kenya back in 1995. We had just been there a day or two and we went on some excursion to visit a small town, probably, with Jeff’s sister who was there as an epidemiologist for USAID. We got home at the end of the day and it was bath time. Well, for some reason, I was the one to take the first bath. After a long, hot day, I was ready. I ran the clear, warm water and got in. Scrubbed up. And then I noticed that the water, was, well, opaque. I couldn’t see my legs under the water. The water was the color of the ground. Evidently, I was much dirtier than I thought. I have never seen bath water that dirty. And oh how good it felt to get clean.
Water is refreshing. We go swimming to cool off, to enjoy a hot day, to splash and play.
In the Bible, water is used as a way of speaking about the refreshing, renewing presence of God in our lives and in our world. We hear of the power of Divine Love to refresh us and renew us. Especially when we need it most, when we are at our lowest, when we are struggling, and just hanging on. The prophet Isaiah reminds a people in peril:
When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them,
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
The watering of God brings brings the desert back to life, it makes the desert bloom, and so it renews the spirits of we frail humans especially when we are withering.
Again and again, there are promises in the Bible of God’s care and nurture. God seeking to uphold us. From the Garden of Eden providing all that is needed to the River of Life flowing through the city of God in Revelation lined with trees giving fruit throughout the year, Divine Love is seeking to sustain us and to give us flourishing life. God is seeking to refresh and renew us.
We have stickers available for you to put on your water bottle that have the verse from Isaiah, ‘You shall be like a watered garden.’ Then every time you take a drink, you can remind yourself of how Love is seeking refresh and renew you so that you flourish! [Pass out stickers.]
These covid times have been a struggle. It has been a time of thirst – especially for social contact and interaction. There has been hunger. Literal hunger as food pantries have been slammed with need. We have been depleted and withered. And we have been reminded of the restrictions, limitations, and deprivations that many live with year in and year out, not just during a pandemic. Yet through all the challenges, difficulties, and losses that we have faced, the renewing power of the Spirit has been seeking to refresh us. After a storm, the air seems alive, charged, new fresh, moist. The spirit is seeking to renew us in these days coming out of our storm.
Jesus was described as living water. He offered himself to the Samaritan woman at the well as living water. He directed his followers to give a cup of cold water in his name. He washed the feet of his disciples. Divine Love is seeking to flow in us, to refresh us, to be alive and active in us. We see this in many of the teachings of Jesus and of the Bible.
We are told in the Psalms:
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
Sometimes, I think that we do not recognize our need. We don’t see how parched we are. We don’t pay attention to how we are hungry and thirsty, maybe for meaning, for connection, maybe to make a difference, maybe for relationships, maybe for a different kind of society. And the flowing, renewing stream of Love is right beside us, but we don’t notice, we don’t stop, dip our feet in, take a cool drink, immerse ourselves!
And then there are the times that we are so overwhelmed with our need, perhaps our eyes so filled with tears, that we don’t see the stream right next to us. But the stream is there. God’s love seeking to renew and refresh.
We listen to a poem by Denise Levertov:
Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen
the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too
before your eyes
found footholds and climbed
to drink the cool water.
The woman of that place, shading her eyes,
frowned as she watched — but not because
she grudged the water,
only because she was waiting
to see we drank our fill and were
Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
That fountain is there among its scalloped
green and gray stones,
it is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,
up and out through the rock.
We are a people of water. Our planet is bathed in water, water that connects lands and peoples and life forms. We are born of water. We need water to live. Water is a spiritual symbol of our dependence on God, Divine Love, the Spirit, to sustain us. Our baptism marks our way on the path of following Jesus, a path of living water, sustaining us and offering the refreshing love of God to the world.
As a sign of our renewal, our connection to God through baptism, our reliance on the refreshing power of the Spirit, we will engage in an ancient ritual for the renewal of baptism. The custom is to take an evergreen branch, symbolizing eternal life, and the never ending love of God, and to use it to sprinkle water on the congregation, a reminder of baptism which unites us to God and one another, and refreshes us through the Spirit.
First we bless the water with words based on promises from the prophet Isaiah:
God will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Music from Hilton while the congregation is spritzed.
Unison Reading Christine Valters Paintner
Blessings of water be upon me.
May I be carried by the flow of the great river of life.
May I discover a hidden spring within, gushing forth,
May I be carried to the shores of the sacred and renewed.
MORNING PRAYERS – SAVIOR’S PRAYER
CLOSING BLESSING Celtic Prayer
Deep peace of the running wave to you, of water flowing,
rising and falling,
sometimes advancing, sometimes receding. . .
May the stream of your life flow unimpeded!
Deep peace of the running wave to you!
Anti Racism Demonstration Schedule Change The demonstrations will resume in September. Gratitude is express to those who have been part of this meaningful ministry. It provides a needed uplifting message to the community.
New Members In these challenging times, being part of a church community is more grounding and supportive than ever! The LUCC congregation is so grateful for all of the ways that spiritual support has been offered this past year and beyond. The church would like to officially welcome as members those who are finding a spiritual ‘home’ at LUCC. For those who are interested in considering church membership, there is an orientation session about the mission, identity, history and theology of the church. Please be in contact with Rev. Wells if you would like to consider joining the church. The orientation and the Sunday for joining will then be determined accordingly.
Rev. Wells Away Kim will be away Monday June 28-Saturday July 3 taking care of her grandchildren. If pastoral care is needed, please contact Patti Cooksey at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 727-798-9321
Be Part of Reducing AIDS There is an increase in HIV/AIDS infections in our area. As a way of responding, Suncoast Hospice has given the church a large supply of condoms to be distributed. They will be placed in the bathrooms at the church. They will also be available in the sanctuary. The church advisors are encouraging the congregation to take some condoms and put them in public bathrooms and workplace bathrooms where they may get picked up by the appropriate population.
Meals on Wheels now has a distribution center at Lakewood United Church as part of the Neighborly senior center. They need volunteers to help deliver meals to shut-in seniors in our area. Sometimes, the only person a client sees all day is a MoW volunteer. They are following COVID-safe practices (mask wearing, social distancing, dropping off food rather than entering the home). Volunteers pick up the meals at 10:30 and drive to clients in the area, and return the empty bags to LUCC when they’re done, usually within an hour. Please consider doing this; it takes just an hour once a week to make someone happy. Please contact Angela, the MoW coordinator at 727-612-1791 and she will tell you how to get trained. Or go to https://neighborly.org/volunteer-opportunities/ to find out more.