Sunday Service 1.24.21

GATHERING MUSIC      

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE               Barbara Donohue, liturgist

For people with darker skins, or of a different religion, or a minority sexual orientation, there is always the threat of violence that is bred by hate.

We must stand up to that and say, “no more!” We Americans must develop better hearts and minds in our common civil life. If not, the axe of hate will be laid to the tree of liberty.

A Meditation on Martin Luther King Day 2020, Old Verger

PRELUDE                          

CALL TO WORSHIP                                from the Iona Community

O God, who called all life into being, The Earth, sea and sky are yours. Your presence is all around us, Every atom is full of your energy. Your Spirit enlivens all who walk the earth, With her we yearn for justice to be done, For creation to be freed from bondage, For the hungry to be fed, For captives to be released, For your realm of peace to come on Earth.

SCRIPTURE LESSON

Let us prepare ourselves for the word of God as it comes to us in the reading of Holy Scripture. Our hearts and minds are open.

Mark 1:14-28

For the word of God in scripture, for the word of God among us, for the word of God within us. Thanks be to God.

SERMON            Transformation or Destruction     Rev. Kim P. Wells

Date: January 24, 2021 Outdoor worship Scripture Lesson:  Mark 1:14-28 Sermon:  Transformation or Destruction Pastor:  Rev. Kim P. Wells                        

This exorcism is Jesus’ first miracle in the gospel of Mark. His first sign or act of power in the gospel. And it’s not some tame healing. He’s not giving people food. It’s not water into wine like in the gospel of John. Mark, the first gospel, the shortest gospel, gets right down to business. Jesus’ first flashy coming out is a confrontation with a manifestation of the power of evil.

Now, today when someone in authority confronts evil, real or perceived, their instructions and training often dictate that they eliminate this evil, often through an act of violence. They gun someone down who is perceived as evil. We see this in the movies over and over and over again. And sadly, in real life, too. This is our culture. This is the water in which we swim. When Dr. Martin Luther King was reflecting on the people who bombed his house, and could have killed his wife and his child, he concluded, “ . . . these men are not bad men. They are misguided . . . they have been taught these things . . . So these men are merely the children of their culture.” [The Radical King: Martin Luther King, Jr., edited and introduced by Cornel West, p. 11] This is the world we are still in. Perceived evil or threat is met with violence.

But this is not the way of Jesus. What does Jesus do when confronted with the presence of evil in an individual? We see it in this story of the exorcism.

He uses the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, of God, of Divine Love, to reclaim the life of this person who is wracked by evil. The evil is exiled from the person. The person is saved. It is an act of redemption and love. The evil is depriving the person of wholeness and healing. It is covering up, masking, the good in the person. It’s tormenting the person. But Jesus disempowers the evil so that the good can come forth. He ends the suffering of the person. What he does is transformative. He eliminates the evil and saves the life of the person. He doesn’t eliminate the life of the person. As we know from the powerful hymn, ‘Amazing Grace,’ with God, the wretch is saved, the lost are found, the blind see. There is redemption and transformation. Jesus wants us to be whole and joyful and to live abundantly. He loves us so much he wants to rescue us from evil and restore us to the image of God within us.

And Jesus doesn’t just talk a good line, he delivers. And the people in the synagogue notice. Jesus has power and authority. And he uses it to drive out what is harmful and what diminishes life. He uses it to save life. Not to take life.

So in our society in recent days and years we have seen many manifestations of the power of evil. And how are these confronted? Are they confronted by the power of love with the confidence that the power of love can drive out the evil? That was the philosophy and strategy of Dr. King. Confront evil with love. That is how to redeem the soul – of a person, of a people, of a nation. To use violence is simply to fight evil with evil. And that cannot produce lasting justice and peace. Only love can do that.

King followed Jesus and counted on the power of love and he invested himself in the power of love to drive out the evils of racism and poverty from our society and the people in it. He did not seek to eliminate the individuals who are racist and invested in the current economic system. He sought to disempower the evil within them and to transform them with love. And we need to keep that in mind today. Now, we need to actively employ that strategy in our personal choices, our relationships and in our civic engagement.

We saw glimmers of this redemption and transformation this week. We saw the evil of climate change denial being cast out as the Keystone Pipeline was stopped, and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was stopped, and the US rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement. We saw the driving out of the evil of American isolationism – remember King’s image, we live in a world house.

The US is back in the World Health Organization. And we saw the driving out of the evil of ethnocentrism and jingoism, every person sacred, created in the image of God, with reforms to the US immigration system and the end of the construction of the wall on the border with Mexico.

These are much needed efforts at driving out the evils of denial, deception, and dehumanization. But Jesus shows us that this is not simply the work of public officials. He shows us that this is our work to do as well in our personal relationships and in our individual lives. We are to help bring forth the love and goodness in those around us by helping them to overcome the life denying forces that have power in their lives. Fear. Greed. Lack of self worth. Cultural messaging. These and many other forces are powerful in quelling love, goodness, and peace.

We are to be people of compassion and healing. People who, like Jesus, match our words and our actions. Giving up on no one. Reaching out in reconciliation and hope.

And as we look at the changes that are needed in our society, it is not only about the power of the gospel to transform the lives of other people, it is also about opening ourselves to being transformed by the power of love. The power of the gospel. Theway of Jesus. Allowing that which is evil within us to be driven out so that we might be transformed.

If Jesus were to come walking by and stand in our midst this morning, what evils might he see? What life sapping, tormenting forces might he be aware of? What would he find possessing us? Yes, right here. Among us. Within us. What would he want to drive out of us so that we might be healed and made whole?

In his commentary on Dr. King, noted scholar Cornel West observes: “. . .Dr. King understood radical love as form of death – a relentless self-examination in which a fearful, hateful, egoistic self dies daily to be reborn into a courageous, loving, and sacrificial self. . . The scandal of the Cross is precisely the unstoppable and unsuffocatable love that keeps moving in a blood-soaked history, even in our catastrophic times.” [The Radical King, p. xvi]

And if Jesus appeared here in our place of worship, in our holy hour of prayer, would we welcome his power and authority to redeem us? Are we open to allowing the racism within us to be neutralized? Allowing the white privilege to be driven out? Allowing the greed in us to be eliminated? Allowing the consumerism and materialism to be expelled? Allowing the violence in us to be driven out?

Allowing our apathy to be evicted? Allowing the fear we foster to be expelled? So that we might be transformed, made new? Or would we cry out, “What do you want from us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” If we want to see the world change, then as Gandhi said it, we must be the change we wish to see. Don’t expect it ‘out there’ unless you are willing to accept it ‘in here.’ (Gesture to the heart).

It’s interesting that after this story about the exorcism, people comment about Jesus’ authority. They see the power. But they are not raving about Jesus. It has brought him notoriety. Not necessarily popularity. That will come. With some of the people. Not all the people. Not the religious leaders who think they already have a monopoly on the power of God. They don’t need Jesus’ help, thank you very much. No evil in them or their system to be driven out.

It’s a gruesome scene, this exorcism. Jesus rebuking: Be silent, and come out of him. The unclean spirit, convulsing the person and crying with a loud voice. It is a struggle. A confrontation. Not at all comfortable for we who are conflict avoiders. We who are peace at any pricers. We who like our religion tame and serene. The elimination of evil, the freeing of life, can be a messy business. There will always be those who are threatened by redemption, by healing, by the power of love, by goodness, because these things cannot be easily manipulated or controlled. But make no mistake. It is clear in this story. Right upfront in the oldest gospel. The gospel is about freedom. Jesus frees people from the power of evil. Gives new life and hope. The gospel frees us from that which binds us, constricts us, limits us, and confines us. The gospel opens the door of the trap, the cage, and says, Come out! Be free. Be whole. Be well. And it is for us then to struggle for the freedom of others. To do the messy work. To use our power. The power of love.

We heard the powerful challenge of the gospel message spoken this week from the voice of Amanda Gorman, poet and prophet. In her poem at the inauguration, she began with this question:

When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

And at the end of her eloquent epic she answers that question:

When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amen.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

UNISON PRAYER                     Bill Wallace, Aotearoa/New Zealand

O God, who comes to us as disturbing comforter, shattering the rigid preconceptions of our minds and hearts, give us the grace to welcome your coming, to trust beyond where we can see, to have hope in the midst of chaos, to learn from our mistakes, to accept your forgiveness and to walk steadfastly in the way of Gospel gladness.

MUSICAL OFFERING           

MISSION STATEMENT The mission of Lakewood United Church of Christ, as part of the Church Universal is to:

  • Celebrate the presence and power of God in our lives & in our world
  • Offer the hospitality and inclusive love of Christ to all people.
  • Work for God’s peace and justice throughout creation.

MORNING OFFERING      

Morning offerings may be brought forward and placed in the plates on the altar.

       Offertory                     

       Prayer of Dedication                             Margot Arthurton

If you can give You can live, And not count Nor mount up Another’s debt – You can forget And let Be . . . For we All must Trust – And to trust Is to give . . . And to give Is to live.

MUSICAL CALL TO PRAYER      

COMMUNITY PRAYERS – SAVIOR’S PRAYER

Eternal Spirit, Earth Maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, Source of all that is and that ever shall be, Father and Mother of all people, Loving God in whom is heaven: The hallowing of your name echo through the universe! The way of your justice be followed by all peoples of the world! Your heavenly will be done by all created beings! Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth! With the bread that we need for today, feed us. In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us. In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us. From trials too great to endure, spare us. From the grip of all that is evil, free us. For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and forever. Amen.

*BENEDICTION

*POSTLUDE                     

Sunday Service 1.17.2021

This post includes the bulletin, the sermon, and the music for the service.

GATHERING MUSIC       Medley: God’s Eye Is on the Sparrow, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, Precious Lord Take My Hand

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

There will be a congregational meeting to take action on the budget on Sunday Jan. 31.  The time is yet to be determined.  The meeting will be held on Zoom. 

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE                         Claire Stiles, liturgist

Non-violence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968

PRELUDE Medley: Roll Jordan Roll, Hold On, Steal Away

OPENING SENTENCES                                 Dr. M. L. King, Jr., adapted

In the final analysis, says the Christian ethic, every person must be respected because God loves them. The worth of an individual does not lie in the measure of their intellect, their racial origin, or their social position. Human worth lies in relatedness to God. An individual has value because they have value to God. Whenever this is recognized, ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’ pass away as determinants in a relationship and ‘son/daughter’ and ‘sister/brother’ are substituted.

SCRIPTURE LESSON

Let us prepare ourselves for the word of God as it comes to us in the reading of Holy Scripture. Our hearts and minds are open.

Amos 5:21-24

For the word of God in scripture, for the word of God among us, for the word of God within us. Thanks be to God.

A Reading of the address ‘The American Dream’ by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Christy Martin

This address by Dr. King was given at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, an historically Black university, on June 6, 1961.  It was selected for this Sunday because of the themes which tie in to the presidential inauguration this week.  Christy read an abridged version.  She shared with the congregation that her grandparents were present when Dr. King gave this commencement address.

Here is a link to Dr. King delivering the original speech:

Sharing From the Congregation

The congregation discussed the questions:  What is your dream for America?  What needs to happen to realize that dream?  What can you do to make that dream a reality?

LITANY OF RE-DEDICATION    

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a strong voice for peace. This is what he said:

“Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.   Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

To this dream, we re-dedicate ourselves.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in the power of love. This is what he said:

“When I speak of love. . . I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. . . We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation.”

To this dream, we re-dedicate ourselves.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream of justice and peace for all people. This is what he said:

“Justice for black people will not flow into society merely from court decisions nor from fountains of political oratory. Nor will a few token changes quell all the tempestuous yearnings of millions of disadvantaged black people. White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society. The comfortable, the entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change in the status quo.”

To this dream, we re-dedicate ourselves.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an advocate for the oppressed. This is what he said:

“We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers and sisters.”

To this dream, we re-dedicate ourselves.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was committed to the full expression of democracy. This is what he said:

“The problem of race and color prejudice remains America’s greatest moral dilemma. When one considers the impact it has upon our nation, internally and externally, its resolution may well determine our destiny. How we deal with this crucial situation will determine our moral health as individuals, our cultural health as a region, our political health as a nation, and our prestige as a leader of the free world. The shape of the world today does not afford us the luxury of an anemic democracy. The price that America must pay for the continued oppression of the Negro is the price of its own destruction. The hour is late; the clock of destiny is ticking out; we must act now before it is too late.

To this dream, we re-dedicate ourselves.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in the moral principle of love. This is what he said:

“To retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the hate in the world. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”

To this dream, we re-dedicate ourselves.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of action. This is what he said:

“We must move past indecision to action. . . If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world.

MUSICAL OFFERING            We Shall Overcome

MISSION STATEMENT

The mission of Lakewood United Church of Christ, as part of the Church Universal is to:

  • Celebrate the presence and power of God in our lives & in our world
  • Offer the hospitality and inclusive love of Christ to all people.
  • Work for God’s peace and justice throughout creation.

MORNING OFFERING      

Morning offerings may be brought forward and placed in the plates on the altar.

Offertory                      Medley: Go Down Moses, There Is a Balm in Gilead, Deep River

 Prayer of Dedication                                    Dorthy Walters

Moment to moment we ask, what is happening? The sound of shattering everywhere, is it the world, fragmenting at last, or our own hearts cracking, the final break-up of ice?

MUSICAL CALL TO PRAYER       There’ll Be Peace in the Valley

COMMUNITY PRAYERS – SAVIOR’S PRAYER

Peshita Syriac-Aramaic translation

O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos, focus your light within us—make it useful. Create your reign of unity now; Your one desire acts with ours, as in all light, so in all forms. Grant what we need each day in bread and insight. Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strand we hold of others’ guilt. Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back. From you is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do, the song that beautifies all; from age to age it renews. Amen.

*BENEDICTION

*POSTLUDE                      Life Every Voice and Sing; Lead Me, Guide me

Corona Sabbath 42

Abhranil Kundu, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These weeks when we cannot gather in person for Sunday worship, Lakewood United Church of Christ is providing brief weekly sabbath programs for you to listen to on your own or with others in your social isolation group.  They will be posted on Friday so that you can schedule your sabbath time to suit your schedule and your spiritual inclinations.  We hope these programs are of spiritual support to you in these difficult times.

The post this week is a follow up to Christmas with inspiration for the New Year.

This post includes a scripture reading, a reflection from Rev. Kim Wells and a music video by Hilton Jones.    We hope this post helps to feed your spirit in these difficult times.

You are invited to find a quiet space, inside or outside.  Light a candle.  Take a look around you.   Breathe.  Life-giving breath.   Be present.  

You may begin with this reading –

  The door to every heart lies within.
 The door to the earth lies within.
 The door to the mystery lies within.
 The door to everywhere lies within.
 For the way of God lies within.

 -- W.L. Wallace, Aotearoa New Zealand 

When you are ready, start the video below.  

(For written text of the above video click HERE.)

As you watch the music video that follows, you are invited to notice the thoughts and feelings that arise for you.  

In closing, you are invited to read this prayer:

 Child of Bethlehem,
 house of bread;
 Man of  Jerusalem -
 city of peace;
 you have loved us
 without limit or condition;
 in our greatness and in our misery,
 in our folly and in our virtue;
 may your heart be within us
 so that we too
 may become bread and peace 
 for one another.

 John Hammond, OSB --

Breathe.  Breathe again.  Be filled.  With expectation.   Extinguish your candle and engage whatever may come with a sense of peace and a desire to serve.


LAKEWOOD UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

The mission of Lakewood United Church of Christ, as part of the Church Universal, is to:

  • Celebrate the presence and power of God in our lives and in our world;
  • Offer the hospitality and inclusive love of Christ to all people;
  • Work for God’s peace and justice throughout creation.

USEFUL LAKEWOOD LINKS DURING THE CORONA CRISIS:


Corona Sabbath 41 THE BIRTH OF JESUS

These weeks when we cannot gather in person for Sunday worship, Lakewood United Church of Christ is providing brief weekly sabbath programs for you to listen to on your own or with others in your social isolation group.  They will be posted on Friday so that you can schedule your sabbath time to suit your schedule and your spiritual inclinations.  We hope these programs are of spiritual support to you in these difficult times.

The post this week is a follow up to Christmas.

This post includes a scripture reading from Sue Sherwood, a reflection from Rev. Kim Wells and a music video by Hilton Jones.    We hope this post helps to feed your spirit in these difficult times.

You are invited to find a quiet space, inside or outside.  Light a candle.  Take a look around you.   Breathe.  Life-giving breath.   Be present. 

You may begin with this reading –

As the sun illumines not only the heaven and the whole world, shining on both land and sea, but also sends rays through windows and small chinks into the furthest recesses of a house, so the Word, poured out everywhere, behold the smallest actions of our life.

-Clement of Alexandria  c.150-215

When you are ready, start the video below. 

(For written text of the above video click HERE.)

As you listen to the music that follows, which is a virtual performance by the Lakewood Choir of the traditional Christmas song, “Lo How a Rose,” you are invited to notice the thoughts and feelings that arise for you. 

In closing, you are invited to read the poem, The Work of Christmas:

 When the song of the angels is stilled,
 when the star in the sky is gone,
 when the kings and princes are home,
 when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
 the work of Christmas begins:
 to find the lost,
 to heal the broken,
 to feed the hungry,
 to release the prisoner,
 to rebuild the nations,
 to bring peace among the people,
 to make music in the heart.

-- Howard Thurman, 1899-1981

Breathe.  Breathe again.  Be filled.  With grace.   Extinguish your candle and engage whatever may come with a sense of peace and a desire to serve.


LAKEWOOD UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

The mission of Lakewood United Church of Christ, as part of the Church Universal, is to:

  • Celebrate the presence and power of God in our lives and in our world;
  • Offer the hospitality and inclusive love of Christ to all people;
  • Work for God’s peace and justice throughout creation.

USEFUL LAKEWOOD LINKS DURING THE CORONA CRISIS:


Corona Sabbath 40 Fourth Sunday of Advent LOVE

These weeks when we cannot gather in person for Sunday worship, Lakewood United Church of Christ is providing brief weekly sabbath programs for you to listen to on your own or with others in your social isolation group.  They will be posted on Friday so that you can schedule your sabbath time to suit your schedule and your spiritual inclinations.  We hope these programs are of spiritual support to you in these difficult times.

The post this week focuses on the theme for the fourth Sunday of Advent – Love. 

This post includes a scripture reading from Jim Andrews, a reflection from Rev. Kim Wells and a music video by Hilton Jones.    We hope this post helps to feed your spirit in these difficult times as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

You are invited to find a quiet space, inside or outside.  Light a candle.  Take a look around you.   Breathe.  Life-giving breath.   Be present. 

You may begin with this reading, Virgin of the Sign:

She looks upon you
 She looks beyond you
 She looks through
        your soul
     and into the 
       Eternity
   behind your soul.
  
 Suddenly she is a Mirror
               of
           Eternity
           Dwelling
               in 
 Your own fragile flesh.
  
--Suzanne Guthrie 

When you are ready, start the video below

(For written text of the above video click HERE.)

As you listen to the music that follows, you are invited to notice the thoughts and feelings that arise for you. 

In closing, you are invited to offer the following closing reading:

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?”

Meister Eckhart, 14th century

Breathe.  Breathe again.  Be filled.  With love.   Extinguish your candle and engage whatever may come with a sense of peace and a desire to serve.


LAKEWOOD UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

The mission of Lakewood United Church of Christ, as part of the Church Universal, is to:

  • Celebrate the presence and power of God in our lives and in our world;
  • Offer the hospitality and inclusive love of Christ to all people;
  • Work for God’s peace and justice throughout creation.

USEFUL LAKEWOOD LINKS DURING THE CORONA CRISIS: