Bulletin 5/29/2022

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE                           Sherry Santana, liturgist

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

 Arundhati Roy, writer and activist, b. 1959

PRELUDE                In Dream from “Lord of the Rings”          Shore & Walsh

*OPENING READING                                                                 Dawna Markova, b. 1942

I will not die an unlived life,
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise. . .

*HYMN                                  God’s Eye Is on the Sparrow                           475

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.

Acts 16:16-40

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.

*HYMN                                                  In All Our Living                   499

SERMON                                             Let Freedom Ring                          Rev. Kim P. Wells

RESPONSIVE READING                                                Rev. Allan Boesak, b. 1945

The God of the Bible is the God of liberation
rather than oppression;
a God of justice
rather than injustice;
a God of freedom and humanity
rather than enslavement and subservience;
a God of love, righteousness and community
rather than hatred, self-interest and exploitation.

MUSIC                                O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines [ Jerusalem]             Parry

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. You are invited to write your prayer requests on the sheets provided in the bulletin and bring them forward and place them in the basket on the altar. If you would like assistance, please turn to someone seated near you.

Offertory                            Nimrod from “Enigma Variations”                         Elgar

*Time of Dedication                              Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. Amen.

*PREPARATION FOR PRAYER                                  Over My Head                                   514

MORNING 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.

*HYMN                    We are Often Tossed and Driven        444

 *BENEDICTION                    

*SUNG RESPONSE (please form a circle)

Weave, weave, weave us together;
Weave us together in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together,
Weave us together, together in love.         

*POSTLUDE                          Let There Be Peace on Earth                  Jackson Miller

For the safety and comfort of all, please wear a mask. Thank you!

Circle of Concern: Joyce Lee, Christopher and Dana, Ann Quinn who is under Hospice Care, William Owen-Cowan, Jen Degroot, Carolyn Moore, Maggie Brizendine, Janet Hall, Yoko Nogami walking the Appalachian Trail, All those suffering from COVID-19 and all healthcare workers, Schools: Students, families, teachers, and staff.

Announcements

Facebook Live The 10:30 a.m. service is being streamed on Facebook Live.

Water Petitions Petitions are available to sign to get the Right to Clean and Healthy Waters on the ballot as a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution. Please put petitions in the envelope on the bulletin board.  

New Time for Weekly Labyrinth Walk For June and July, the weekly guided labyrinth walk will be on Fridays at 9:00 a.m. instead of Wednesdays. All are welcome!

Sunflowers If you would like to bring sunflowers for the altar, please inform Rev. Wells or the Church Office.

Special Offering If you would like to make a gift to the special offering to fund the purchase of anti racism books for children and youth for the South Branch Library please indicate ‘books’ or use one of the envelopes provided.

New Member to be Received On Pentecost, June 4, new members will be received into the Lakewood Church family.  If you are interested in joining the church, please speak with Rev. Wells.

LUCC Creation Justice Property Cleanup On Saturday, June 25 from 9:00 – 11:00am join us for a few hours to “declutter” and cleanup our beautiful Lakewood United Church of Christ grounds and to commune with nature and your fellow church members and friends! Wear work clothes, gloves, and a hat and apply sunscreen!  Fluids and snacks will be provided to sustain us!

Lakewood United Church of Christ 2601 54th Ave. S. St. Petersburg, FL 33712
727-867-7961 lakewooducc@gmail.com Lakewooducc.org
On land originally inhabited by the Tocabaga

                    

Weekly Update 5/27

Weekly Update: If you are involved with an activity or event that you would like to share with the LUCC family, please send the information to the Church Office by Wednesday.  Please provide the information in paragraph form with pertinent details and links.   THANK YOU!

This Sunday the story of a jail break in Acts helps us think about gun violence in America.  Take a look at Acts 16:16-40.  This is Memorial Day Sunday.  Do you hear freedom ringing?

Last Sunday a special offering was received for the anti-racism book project.  So far, an additional $375 has been given.  Additional gifts are welcome.  Please use the envelopes marked ‘Books’ or note ‘books’ on a check. 

Childcare is provided at all Sunday services.

If you would like to provide sunflowers for Sunday worship, please contact the Church Office. 727-867-7961 or lakewooducc@gmail.com

The service will be streamed live on Facebook and then posted on the church’s YouTube channel. 

Masks are required at in-person worship. 

PLEASE NOTE: Given the warming temperatures, the windows and doors of the sanctuary will be closed and the air conditioning will be on. Masks are still mandatory and there will be singing.

If you do not feel comfortable in those circumstances, please join in worship on Facebook live. There are instructions below.


Next Sunday is Pentecost

This is the celebration of the Holy Spirit being given to the community of believers.  It’s the Sunday to wear RED!


New Members to be Received

On Pentecost, June 4, new members will be received into the Lakewood Church family.  If you are interested in joining the church, please speak with Rev. Wells.


LUCC Creation Justice Property Cleanup

On Saturday, June 25 from 9:00 – 11:00am join us for a few hours to “declutter” and cleanup our beautiful Lakewood United Church of Christ grounds and to commune with nature and your fellow church members and friends!

Wear work clothes, gloves, and a hat and apply sunscreen!  Fluids and snacks will be provided to sustain us!

So hoping you can gather with us to enjoy our lovely church property and each other!


LUCC Creation Justice 2021 Annual Review and update to May 2022

A Creation Justice Church in the Environmental Ministries Program of the United Church of Christ as of February 12, 2019, LUCC has pledged to review our progress annually.  Due to the unprecedented cancellation of many LUCC church programs and initiatives due to Covid-19 restrictions, 2021 was a year of limited Creation Justice activities and engagement at our church.  However, some progress on previous initiatives and an ongoing effort to keep our Creation Justice commitment alive were made. Please use the following link to view the whole report: https://lakewooducc.org/2022/05/26/lucc-creation-justice-2021-annual-review/


Guided Labyrinth Walks Time Change

For June and July, the weekly guided labyrinth walk will be on Fridays at 9:00 a.m. instead of Wednesdays. All are welcome!

Also, the readings and prayers used on Wednesdays at the guided walk are put in the mailbox by the labyrinth each week for use during the week.

The labyrinth is on the church grounds near the southwest corner of the church property. It is available for use at all times.


UCC Southern Regional Women’s Retreat

The United Church of Christ is sponsoring a retreat for women from the conferences of the Southern Region.  Florida is the host conference and the retreat will be held at Camp Weed and Cerveny Conference Center in Live Oak, FL.  The theme is God of Mystery – Spirit of Hope.  Dyanne Edds of LUCC is on the planning committee.  And the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, a former LUCC member, is the keynote speaker.  The retreat is Oct. 14-16, 2022.  For more information, speak to Dyanne.


Amendment Protecting the Right to Clean and Healthy Waters

There is an initiative to have an amendment on the Florida ballot which would protect the right to safe water in Florida.  It is called “The Right to Clean and Healthy Waters.”  For this initiative to appear on the ballot, petitions are needed.  There are copies at the church.  You may sign the petition and leave it at church to be sent in.  Better yet, sign it, leave it, and take a stack with you.  Get others to sign.  Then bring them back to church to be sent in.   For the full text of the proposed amendment, see https://initiativepetitions.elections.myflorida.com/InitiativeForms/Fulltext/Fulltext_2202_EN.pdf. As a Creation Justice church, LUCC is committed to advocacy for the environment.  


Sabbatical Speakers

Rev. Kim Wells and spouse, Jeff, will be gone for several months this year walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  This is an opportunity for much needed renewal and reflection.  While Kim is away, the advisors would like to have people from the congregation speak in worship each week.  As the Wells’ journey through Spain, this is an opportunity for people in the congregation to share a portion of their faith journey.  Those who may be interested in sharing in this way are asked to speak with Kim.  There will be training offered to help in preparation for those who are willing to speak.   Please give serious consideration to sharing with your church family in this way.


To all the members of LUCC  from Operation Attack

We send a most sincere thank you both from the volunteers at Operation Attack, but also the many needy people who will benefit from the books, clothes, and food you kindly donated.

Please know how much we all appreciate your donations.

Thank you again for thinking of Operation Attack.


LUCC Constitution and Bylaws

There is a task force working on a revision of the church’s bylaws.  There are a variety of changes that need to be made to reflect current realities in the church and to lean into a strong future. There will be wider conversation and experimentation as part of the process.  Many thanks to Patti Cooksey and Sally Purvis for working on this.  


How to Help Ukraine

The local Ukrainian Catholic Church is sponsoring humanitarian aid.  There are more details at their website: https://www.epiphanyukrch.com

The national United Church of Christ is also offering ways to support the Ukrainian people.  Here’s a link:  https://p2a.co/nGEvYVL?inf_contact_key=ad8269e3f149ec1ef1efd03de1e233aacc0558ed5d4c28cbfab114022b1ec50d


Toiletries for Celebrate Outreach

Celebrate Outreach is a local ministry with people who are living without shelter in St. Petersburg.  An average of 135 people are served each week.   LUCC was asked to collect toiletries to be distributed to the community at the meals that are provided on Saturday and Sundays each week.  This collection will be ongoing in addition to the food being collected for Operation Attack.  All are invited to donate the following items:

Celebration Outreach has an ongoing need for men’s and women’s underwear. 
Men sizes 30, 32,34 
Women’s sizes 5,6, 7,8. 
Also in high demand are socks of all kinds /sizes for both men & women. 
Other needed items are Deodorant & disposable razors. 

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, disposable razors, bar soap, wash cloths, deodorant, feminine hygiene items, travel size creams, shampoo, body wash, individual packets of Kleenex, hand wipes, toilet tissue, and paper towels are always needed as well.

Many thanks to Janet Blair and Jim Andrews for taking the donations to Celebrate Outreach.  


Inkjet Recycling

The church is continuing to collect used inkjet cartridges.  They are sent to a recycler and the church receives payment for the cartridges provided.  So, don’t throw out your cartridges.  Bring them to church.  Not only do they get recycled but they provide income for the ministry of the church.


Operation Attack Update

OA needs donations of cereal/oatmeal, mac and cheese, pasta sauce, peanut butter, canned meat, fruit, soup, and vegetables. Donations may be placed on the shelf in the hallway at church.


Being Covid Safe and In-Person Worship

Please stay home if you are not feeling well.

Please wear a mask while in the church building.  While most people have been vaccinated, this helps visitors to feel safe.  

Additional masks will be available at church to use as needed.

Two hand sanitizing stations are available for use by worshippers.

There is well-ventilated, physically distanced indoor seating in the sanctuary.

Please know that your safety is of primary consideration! 

Safe childcare is provided.


Sundays

Look for the bulletin posted on the church website on Friday: https://lakewooducc.org/category/bulletins/

Watch the service on Facebook Live Sundays at 10:30. https://www.facebook.com/LakewoodUCC

Or on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/LakewoodUCC/videos

Instructions for how to access Facebook Live: For additional assistance, please contact the church office.

Here are some instructions to watch our Sunday services live through Facebook:

Use the following link to visit our homepage: https://www.facebook.com/LakewoodUCC/

On Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. please use the link above to visit our homepage. There, after using the link, you will see a section labeled “Happening Now”. This is our Livestream of the Sunday Service.

To watch the live stream, locate and click the “watch video” button in the lower right corner of the screen.

If the link above is not working, there is also a link to our Facebook page on our website. Please try that link located on the Home page of our website.


USEFUL LAKEWOOD LINKS:

For the above church website links, please note the “Older Posts” button near the bottom of each page.

You can stream Hilton’s music and videos for free at hiltonkeanjones.com/look-listen/ as well as purchase his CDs and digital albums there.


May Birthdays: Mark Gibson 5/2, Nina Moore 5/2, Angela Wells-Bean 5/7, Emily Gibson 5/8, Julian Michael Ricciardi 5/9, Colleen Coughenour 5/11, Jen DeGroot 5/12, Christy Martin 5/15, Bill Parsons 5/16, Deanna Moore 5/19, Danielle Hintz 5/25  Someone missing? Contact the church office with birthday information.


Circle of Concern: 

Joyce Lee

Christopher and Dana

William Owen-Cowan

Jen Degroot

Carolyn Moore

Ann Quinn is now under Hospice care

Maggie Brizendine

Janet Hall

Yoko Nogami walking the Appalachian Trail

All those suffering from COVID-19 and all healthcare workers

Schools: Students, families, teachers, and staff


Recent Posts:


On land originally inhabited by the Tocabaga

LUCC Creation Justice 2021 Annual Review

2021 Annual Review and update to May 2022

A Creation Justice Church in the Environmental Ministries Program of the United Church of Christ as of February 12, 2019, LUCC has pledged to review our progress annually.  Due to the unprecedented cancellation of many LUCC church programs and initiatives due to Covid-19 restrictions, 2021 was a year of limited Creation Justice activities and engagement at our church.  However, some progress on previous initiatives and an ongoing effort to keep our Creation Justice commitment alive were made.


2021 Initiatives as stated in January 2021 Report

Status – Completed, Cancelled, In Process, or On Hold

  • Activate EV charging station and advertise location for community use – COMPLETED
  • Complete solar panel estimate process – choose installer and continue research for funding – ON HOLD
  • Represent LUCC Creation Justice work at local events – EarthFest St. Pete, April 4, 2020 at Williams Park, etc. – CANCELLED
  • Review Permaculture Design when available and make decisions about grounds – IN PROCESS – REWILDING OF 54TH AVE. GROUNDS BEING CONSIDERED – REDESIGN OF LAWN AROUND CROSS ALSO BEING CONSIDERED
  • Adult Day Care – Green practices agreement – VERBAL AGREEMENT BUT STILL IN PROCESS
  • Extend Green Practices agreement to other renters – IN PROCESS
  • Continue to expand LED lighting in church – IN PROCESS

In addition, the Creation Justice Task Force sponsored some of the following activities in 2021 and into spring 2022:

  • Support of the Rights of Nature Resolution submitted to the 33rd UCC General Synod and passed in July 2021. Included in this resolution is the following call to individual UCC churches nationwide to take action to support this new resolution:

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Thirty-Third General Synod of the United Church of Christ calls on individual churches to respond to the Rights of Nature by taking the following actions:
• Participate in the Season of Creation for September Sundays. Include Creation care during each liturgical season (Earth-Seders, Tenebrae, Easter sunrise service outdoors, and Earth Day. Preach every six weeks often on Earth Justice. Celebrate outdoors or bring the outdoors into the church.
• Ritualize environmental grief: Bio-Diversity Day (May 22), Remembrance for Lost Species (November 22). Start environmental grief support groups.
• Foster love of God’s creation, organize walks in botanical gardens and wilderness, plant trees, take nature hikes, and attend UCC summer camps.
• Study and implement Kairos Document, Call to Action, a 10- year Mobilization Plan on Climate Change and Inequality.
• Become a Creation Justice Church and Green Hub of God’s green grace,  https://www.ucc.org/how_it_works_becoming_a_creation_justice_church
• Subscribe to the UCC Environmental Justice newsletters and environmental newsletters; share webinars, and read and study on creation care and climate change. These are spiritual practices to equip us for creation care.
• Work for the Green New Deal (the transition to renewable energies) Advocate for the Rights of Nature and take part in climate strikes and non-violent protests.
• Organize locally, partner and build local community networks with conservationist and environmental groups. Many folks in these organization have had spiritual experiences within nature, recognize and find common ground to restore damaged environments.
• Be creative and imaginative in our defense of the Rights of Nature

  • Earth Day Campfire Celebration on April 30, 2021 – Restore earth campfire with writing of love letters to Mother Earth
  • Consultation with gutter installation and drainage experts to address flooding of facilities in heavy rains – OVERWATERING OF LAWN AND DEBRIS IN DRAINAGE DITCHES WERE ADDRESSED.  SANDBAGS MADE AVAILABLE FOR STORM SITUATIONS.
  • Cathedral on Fire and climate change book discussion on line – three sessions in October 2021
  • Committee participation by Claire Stiles on UCC rewriting of How to Become a Creation Justice Church criteria and steps.  Led by Brooke Berndt online over a number of months.  https://www.ucc.org/what-we-do/justice-local-church-ministries/justice/faithful-action-ministries/environmental-justice/creation_justice_churches/
  • Ongoing Committee participation by Kim Wells and Claire Stiles on the FL UCC Creation Justice Task Force with Panel discussion and supporting other churches in their efforts to become a Creation Justice Church. Spring 2022
  • Earth Day LUCC property cleanup on April 23, 2022 with small group raking the Labyrinth, collecting branches and debris for a brush pile, and picking up litter on our property.

Summary

Our Creation Justice Covenant is only as valuable as the real effort we all put towards sustaining the health and well-being of our natural environment and Mother Earth. We need all of us together, as a congregation and as individuals, to address the issues of climate change; plastic and other toxic substances pollution; clean water, land, and air; solid and other waste disposal; and species extinction through advocacy, action, and speaking out against injustices and suffering of the disenfranchised and most vulnerable neighborhoods and communities who bear the brunt of pollution and climate related disasters.

If we have the will and commitment to do so, LUCC can make a difference in the sustainability of our ecosystem now and for future generations.  As this year of 2022 progresses, may we all make a renewed effort to be part of the solution and to support the call to individual UCC churches nationwide to take action for the Rights of Nature Resolution of our national UCC church. 

Sermon 5/22/2022

Date: May 22, 2022
Scripture Lesson: Psalm 23
Sermon: The Lord Is My __
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

It’s been a rough week or so. There was the tragic shooting targeting Black people in Buffalo. And the shooting in a Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in California. In the US, we have surpassed one million covid deaths. And there is the continuing war in Ukraine.

And those are just a few of the latest horrors that are assaulting us. When I saw the flags at half mast last weekend, I didn’t even know why. It was the covid deaths. It could have been one of many things. It’s a rough time! And today we turn to beautiful Psalm 23 often recited at memorial services but really a psalm about how to live – how to live given the threats and perils and stresses that life inevitably and inexorably holds. Implied in the image of the shepherd is the idea that there are sheep needing a shepherd.

Most of us are not from an agricultural background. What do we know of sheep? Apparently, they are affectionate, docile, and defenseless. And they need care and supervision. Kind of like small children. Sheep were an integral part of life for the people of the Bible. There are over 500 references to sheep and shepherds in scripture. Sheep were part of sustaining a livelihood. They provided food, milk, wool, and skins. They were a measure of wealth. And a medium of exchange. And they were part of the cultic system of sacrifice. Sheep were integral to life. So those hearing of sheep and shepherds in the holy writings of the Bible were very familiar with what these images conveyed.

So, with our time and culture gap, let’s explore this image and see what it might mean for us. The psalmist, given the reality of the threats that life presents – death, enemies, evil, lack of food and drink – chooses “The Lord is my shepherd” as an image of being provided for, protected, guided, sheltered, and cared for. So, if you were wanting to express that kind of sentiment today, what might you say? What word would you use? The Lord is my _. There ’s a blue scrap of paper in your bulletin. Give it some thought, then write something down. I’ll collect the papers and we’ll read them.

These are the responses from the congregation:
Life guide, father, inspiration, protector, kindly neighbor, enlightener, caretaker, guardian, friend group, candle, mother hen, mother lion, beloved friend, guide, rock, strength, floor, refuge, teacher, ever present reminder, my comfort and stillness, umbrella in a rainstorm, shelter in a hurricane of life. The Lord is my soundtrack of life, bringing joy, rhythm, love, light, unity, energy, understanding and peace. Connection, strength and comfort, guiding presence, refuge, healer, inspiration, joy of light – loving – kindness.

These are wonderful expressions of guidance, care, and provision.

Because we are so removed from the imagery associated with a shepherd in Biblical times, we don’t see straight away that the word shepherd in Hebrew connoted the image of a king, a monarch, a ruler, a sovereign. There was royal authority implied. The rod and staff were not only for guiding the sheep but were also meant to imply the staff, the scepter of royal authority. So this shepherd image was much more than an idyllic agrarian reference. It had strong political overtones.

Now, we Americans are not ones to immediately resonate to monarchical imagery. We’re the ones who rebelled against the king and established a governmental system that intentionally did not have a king and did not concentrate power in one person, or office, or even branch of government. That’s why we have three branches – the executive, the legislative, and the judicial – supposedly with checks and balances. We don’t like the idea of one leader with complete authority, power, and control no matter how benevolent or enlightened they may be. And as we look at history, it seems like the leaders that have had complete power and control over their people have often abused that authority for personal gain in ways that do not protect and provide for the people. In a situation where power is concentrated in the hands of a human, what we often see is that power abused at the expense of the people, not for their welfare.

So, this idea of a shepherd as a political, royal figure, to whom complete loyalty is given, this rubs against our American grain. The statement, “The Lord is my shepherd,” is a pledge of loyalty, of fealty, of devotion. It is a commitment. A choice. A vow. A bond binding one to this shepherd. This ruler. This sovereign. Placing complete trust in God. Alone. No other. Period. That implied message is well beyond the agrarian connotations of the shepherd image that we may see. Yet that deeper message would have been immediately recognized by the original hearers of the psalm and those who came after for centuries.

The Lord is my shepherd. This is a vow made by someone who will have no other loyalties or competing claims for allegiance save God alone. There will be no rivalry or conflict. It is a statement affirming devotion to God alone. With no competition from an economic system. A political party. Liberal or conservative values. Allegiance to social systems that perpetuate racism or sexism or capitalism or patriarchy. To say, “The Lord is my shepherd” is to express loyalty, allegiance, and trust in God and God alone. As God is portrayed by the psalmist. It is to be freed from all other attachments and competing claims. It is to be answerable to and to serve God and God alone.

To go back to sheep, if they have more than one shepherd and one tells them to do this and the other tells them to do that, how do they decide? No. “The Lord is my shepherd” eliminates all of that. There is but one authority and allegiance. No division or digression or competition. The “Lord is my shepherd.” I will follow the way of Divine Love.

And when that loyalty is established, that commitment made, to the exclusion of all other potentially ultimate allegiances, how do things unfold? What is that like? To commit exclusively to the reality of God?

Well, as the first verse of the psalm tells us, “I shall not want.” That means we will not be in need. Spiritually or physically. We are led to green pastures, beside still waters, our souls are restored, there is food and drink. Later we are told a table is laid out before us and there is oil. I shall not want. We are provided for – body and soul.

I shall not want. I shall lack nothing. I will only want what I need. This assurance of provision is in direct conflict with the consumer society around us that is dependent on making us feel that we continually need something that we do not have. Our society is based on greed not need. When we live in the reality of God, we disentangle ourselves from all of that. We refocus our desires on what we need and on the needs of others, not on endless perceived, contrived wants. And then we can see the incredible generosity of God and the abundance of the world around us. To choose the reality of God is to choose to live in abundance not want. It is to have no other desires that fall outside the generosity of God. To trust that. I shall not want.

To name God as shepherd, as primary authority and to hold allegiance to Divine Love alone is to live not only without want but also without fear. Yes, there are perils and threats to our safety and well being. There are enemies. There is evil. There is the valley of the shadow of death. Oh yes! But God is with us, God is within us, and we do not need to live in fear. The love of God is our protection and comfort in whatever circumstances we are faced with. Love powers transformation.

There are those who think that churches should be protected with guns and armed security guards in light of recent incidents. I try to appreciate the fear and the threat that leads to such a conclusion, but that is in direct conflict with the way of the shepherd, the God of Love, as well as the embodiment of that love in Jesus. How is shooting your enemies loving them? Only love has the power to transform a situation. Violence just perpetuates division and hatred. It does not heal it.

Here we remember the powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was personally, directly threatened by violence and eventually assassinated:

“Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. . . violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

King also reminds us, “. . . the nonviolent resister does not seek to humiliate or defeat the opponent but to win his friendship and understanding. . . . The end of violence or the aftermath of violence is bitterness. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the beloved community.” We can hear the echoes of the twenty-third psalm: “You set a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

In the recent shooting at the Taiwanese Church in California, apparently the parishioners subdued the gunman, disarmed him, held him down by the neck, and tied him up with an extension cord until the police arrived. Apparently the only words he uttered during the entire horrific encounter were said while they were awaiting police. In an interview, the former pastor of the church, Rev. Billy Chang, tells us, “I knew he was Chinese when he said, ‘I can’t breathe’ in Chinese, probably because someone was holding his neck, and then they loosened up a bit so the gunman could breathe.” [https://www.voanews.com/a/interview-pastor-billy-chang-describes-california-church-shooting/6582258.html ] The church people had disabled the threat, but even though he had killed a doctor in their midst and shot 5 other people, they did not seek to kill him. They sought to stop him from harming others, but they did not seek his death. They were Christian. They were following the shepherd, the one who leads in love.

Those words, ‘I can’t breathe’ bring to mind another incident that ended in a very different way. The people at the Taiwanese church were following the shepherd.

We also want to notice that to choose to have God as our shepherd means that we are part of a flock. We are part of a group, a family, a community. Life in God is communal; it is not rugged individualism. It is not DIY. It is living in God’s house together, devoted to God, and serving God’s family, one another. The intention is that the provision of God comes to us through one another and in this way of relating we find our highest good.

Several years ago I had the delight of going to a dog herding exhibition in the hills of Wisconsin. The whole day was spent watching the dogs herd the sheep. It was amazing. In one display, the dog drove the sheep down a hill as a group. The sheep all had ribbons around the neck – some red, some blue. The dog sorted the sheep into two separate groups, the ones wearing red and the ones wearing blue. Then the dog got the red ones into a pen and shut the gate. And then the dog got the ones with blue ribbons into another pen and shut the gate. Was the dog amazing? Of course! But there was also the cooperation of the sheep. The twenty-third psalm reminds us that we are part of a flock, a community, a group. Meant to live together. It is not an individualistic, solitary image, but one of communal life that includes even enemies.

Now it can look daunting to choose this path even though it promises so much providence and protection and comfort. And all the original hearers had was the psalm and the Hebrew scriptures. But we also have the witness of Jesus to reinforce the beauty of life in God. In the New Testament, we are told of Jesus the Good Shepherd. He embodies the care and comfort and providence of Divine Love. He lives out the promises of God in this psalm for us to see and experience. Still waters. There is the story of the stilling of the storm. Green grass. There is the story of the feeding of the multitudes. And hosting the Last Supper. Who taught that his burden is light? Who charged his followers to love their enemies, neighbors, themselves, and one another? Jesus’ ministry is a testimony to the truth of the psalm. It is a witness to the wonders of life in God. It is an assurance that trust in Divine Love is not misplaced. We have Jesus showing us the alternative life waiting for us in the reality of God.

I read this week about a pastor who was speculating about having to teach an impromptu church school lesson. What story would she choose? What would she share with the children? She knew exactly what she would pick. The story of the lost sheep. The shepherd who leaves the flock to search for one sheep that is lost. The shepherd who is so concerned about the well being of each and every sheep. The shepherd who forgets none of the sheep and leaves none alone in danger. The shepherd who searches out the one separated, lost, in peril. This pastor wanted the children to know they were loved by that kind of a God.

The last line of the psalm is usually read as, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” Well, that word, ‘follow’, is actually a word that means pursue. So the original meaning was that goodness and mercy do not follow us, but pursue us, all the days of our lives. It is an image of the shepherd coming after us, seeking us out, to bless us with goodness and mercy,

Isn’t goodness and mercy what we need in these difficult days? And a table set in the presence of our enemies? God is the good shepherd. Made known to us in Jesus. It is our job to be part of the flock placing our ultimate trust not in money, not in a political ideology, not in nationalism, but solely in the shepherd. 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.

Bulletin 5/22/2022

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE                         Christy Martin, liturgist

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And, if you cannot help them, at least don’t hurt them.

 Dalai Lama, b. 1935, Buddhist

PRELUDE                       Sheep May Safely Graze                                        J.S. Bach

*OPENING READING                                                                      Leslie Brandt, adapted

God is our constant companion.
There is no need that God cannot fulfill.
Whether our course points
to the mountaintops of glorious ecstasy
or to the valleys of human suffering,
God is by our side,
Ever present,
Never letting us go.

*HYMN                            Great Is Your Faithfulness                                         423

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.

Psalm 23                                                   page 633-634

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                                  The Lord Is My _________                    Rev. Kim P. Wells

RESPONSIVE READING — The 23rd Psalm         

Bobby McFerrin, b. 1950 
Dedicated to my Mother

The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all I need,
She makes me lie down in green meadows,
Beside the still waters, She will lead.

She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs,
She leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.
Even though I walk, through a dark and dreary land,
There is nothing that can shake me,
She has said she won’t forsake me,
I’m in her hand.

She sets a table before me, in the presence of my foes,
She anoints my head with oil,
And my cup overflows.

Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me,
All the days of my life,
And I will live in her house,
forever, forever and ever.

Glory be to our Mother, and Daughter
And to the Holy of Holies,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be
World, without end. Amen.

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 and SPECIAL OFFERING FOR BOOKS
Morning offerings may be brought forward and placed in the plates on the altar. You are invited to write your prayer requests on the sheets provided in the bulletin and bring them forward and place them in the basket on the altar. If you would like assistance, please turn to someone seated near you.

Offertory                                         He Shall Feed His Flock                                   Handel

*Time of Dedication                                                Nan C. Merrill, 1931-2010, adapted

O my Beloved, You are my shepherd,
You lead me in the path of goodness
to follow Love’s way.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of all my fears;
you bless me and my cup overflows.
I shall dwell in the heart of the Beloved forever. Amen.

*PREPARATION FOR PRAYER           My Shepherd Is the Living God                       247

MORNING PRAYERS- SAVIOR’S PRAYER

Fathering and Mothering God, lover of us all, most holy one.
Help us to respond to you
To create what you want for us here on earth.
Give us today enough for our needs.
Forgive our weak and deliberate offenses,
Just as we must forgive others when they hurt us.
Help us to resist evil and to do what is good.
For we are yours, endowed with your power to make the world whole. Amen.

*HYMN                              God Is My Shepherd                                                   479

 * BENEDICTION                                                             Jim Cotter, 1942-2014

Dwell in me that I may dwell in you.

*SUNG RESPONSE (please form a circle)

Weave, weave, weave us together;
Weave us together in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together,
Weave us together, together in love.         

*POSTLUDE                                              All We Like Sheep                                      Handel

For the safety and comfort of all, please wear a mask. Thank you!

Circle of Concern: Joyce Lee, Christopher and Dana, Ann Quinn who is under Hospice Care, William Owen-Cowan, Jen Degroot, Carolyn Moore, Maggie Brizendine, Janet Hall, Yoko Nogami walking the Appalachian Trail, All those suffering from COVID-19 and all healthcare workers, Schools: Students, families, teachers, and staff.

Announcements

Facebook Live The 10:30 a.m. service is being streamed on Facebook Live.

See Weekly Update at the church website for information about: a Sierra Club program about how to talk about climate change, Sabbatical plans for Rev. Wells.

Water Petitions Petitions are available to sign to get the Right to Clean and Healthy Waters on the ballot as a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution. You are welcome to get others to fill out these petitions and then bring them back to church to be sent in. Please put petitions in the envelope on the bulletin board.  

New Time for Weekly Labyrinth Walk For June and July, the weekly guided labyrinth walk will be on Fridays instead of Wednesdays. All are welcome!

Sunflowers If you would like to bring sunflowers for the altar, please inform Rev. Wells or the Church Office.

Special Offering TODAY This morning there will be a special offering for funds to be used to purchase anti racism books for children and youth for the South Branch Library. This is an extension of the project purchasing books for Maximo and Fairmount Park Elementary Schools. The cost of purchasing a set of books for the library is $1,000.

Lakewood United Church of Christ 2601 54th Ave. S. St. Petersburg, FL 33712
727-867-7961 lakewooducc@gmail.com Lakewooducc.org
On land originally inhabited by the Tocabaga