Sunday Service 2.21.2021

GATHERING MUSIC       Sancho from Cervantes Portraits                HKJ

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE                        Claire Stiles, liturgist

Unless the widening gap between the rich and poor is arrested, and if possible reversed, the very peace and stability of any society will be seriously jeopardized.

Akin J. Omoyajowo, contemporary Nigerian bishop

PRELUDE                                   De Colores                     Spanish trad.

OPENING PRAYER                                    Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582

MUSIC                             Pues Si Vivmos                              Haugen

SCRIPTURE READINGS 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.  

John 14:1-4 and 1 John 4: 19-21

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.

MYSTIC READING              A Seed of Love                       Teresa of Avila

REFLECTION                     Teresa of Avila                     Rev. Kim P. Wells

What could a Catholic nun from Spain who lived inthe 1500’s possibly have to say to us today? Her times were so different than ours. Her concerns and context so alien from ours today. Surely it was a simpler time without all the complexities and

distractions that we face. Ah, to just have to pray in a convent all day! How hard was that?

Yes, like mystics of every age, Teresa of Avila is known for cultivating the life of prayer. She may be best known for the image of the interior castle or mansion. In her book with that title she begins by telling us, “I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions.” She goes on:

“Let us now imagine that this castle, as I have said, contains many mansions, some above, others below, others at each side; and in the center and midst of them all is the chiefest mansion where the most secret things pass between God and the soul.”

Teresa then outlines 7 rooms that lead to the center, which is flooded with light, and where there is intimate communion with the Divine. It’s a beautiful path of contemplative prayer. But, hey, we have apps for that kind of thing today.

So what is it about Teresa that may speak to us? I find her story compelling and illuminating. She was born in Spain to a comfortable family. It was in the aftermath of the triumph over the Moors. So the Catholic church was clamping down hard on compliance with its authority. The Inquisition was in

full force. The society was very class oriented.

People with money had power and got favored treatment in all settings. In her youth, Teresa herself was popular. She was attractive, lively, winsome, charming. Her family and friends took delight in her. So how does she end up going from being a privileged child to a persecuted nun to the patron saint of Spain, all within in her lifetime?

Well, Teresa’s mother died when she was a teen and that rocked her world. And her family was of Jewish heritage and converted to Catholicism to avoid the

Inquisition. So they were extremely devout. And something significant, a traumatic experience, occurred in her teens and we don’t know the nature of the situation. Teresa became very sick, actually several times in her life, with illness that threatened to kill her and lasted for many months. Somehow, through all of this, Teresa made her own path. A path that I believe still speaks to us today.

For one thing, despite the highly stratified society and the strict hierarchy of the church, Teresa had an egalitarian heart. Even her book Interior Castle, is a way of prayer that is accessible to everyone. You don’t need a special guilt prayer book or a priest or to seclude yourself away from day to day tasks for long periods of time. A luxury many cannot afford. So this is a way of prayer that can be practiced by anyone.

She begins with the assumption that every single person, as a human being created in the image of God, has this precious castle within. She tells us, “Each of us has a soul, but we forget to value it. We don’t remember that we are creatures made in the image of God. We don’t understand the great secrets hidden inside of us.” This is not a special gift only for some. It is not associated with money or success or piety. Everyone has this castle within and everyone has access to this castle through what is referred to as mental prayer. We might say contemplative prayer. In other words, it does not require a certain prayer said by a certain authorized person. It is not mediated by the institutional church. It is a process for uniting with God that is available to literally everyone. She describes it this way: “Mental prayer is, as I see it, simply a friendly intercourse and frequent solitary conversation with Him who, as we know, loves us.” She makes things very accessible to everyone.

Another way we see her egalitarianism is in the way she ran her convents. It was the custom for wealthy women who entered the convent to offer large dowries to the convent. This was a source of revenue for running the convent and supporting the Catholic church. Those who donated more money got better, more spacious quarters, domestic assistance, more perks, so to speak. Teresa did not agree with this. She felt that everyone was equal in the eyes of God so when she couldn’t affect reform in the convent she was in she set about founding a new convent in which everyone had the same accommodations and food and work and seclusion.

No exceptions.

Teresa felt that money and wealth got in the way of people being treated equally as they should be because everyone was equally beloved in the eyes of God. We are still struggling with this today – in society, in the justice system, in schools, in health care, in the church, in basically every sector of our culture. Money talks!

This is something that the church as well as society needs to be keeping in mind today. We have an underclass, an invisible-to-most class of people in this country that are not part of the mainstream. Teresa sought to eliminate those divisions, especially in the church. She comments: “How friendly all men would be one with another, if no regard were paid to honour and money! I believe it would be a remedy for everything.” Amen to that! Teresa sheds the light of the equality for us today. And we need to follow that light.

Teresa also has a word for us about materialism and consumerism. She saw not only how money undermined equality, but she saw how material wealth could become an impediment to intimacy with God. Material concerns, appearances, a sense of self importance, these things got in the way of pursing union with God. And since she grew up with wealth and comfort, she spoke from experience. Later in life when she has come into her own, after her second conversion and her dedication to founding new convents, she comments, :Thank God for the things that I do not own.” She saw the pitfalls and problems associated with wealth and class and how they could distract from wholeheartedly giving your life to the pursuit of Love.

We certainly need to be reminded of this today. Yes, we have the highest standard of material wealth ever known in human history, but what is the state of our connection – to each other, to Divine Love, to Creation, our beloved Mother Earth? All of these relationships are suffering while our material standard of living increases. These two things are not unrelated. We are seeking from material comfort what it cannot provide – love, connection, intimacy, emotional security. And that pursuit of more and better and newer is distracting us from what does satisfy – connection and relationship. And all of this is fueled by capitalism and the lie that we will all benefit materially and that will make our lives better.

Teresa knew better. She tells us: “Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.”

In her convents and monasteries, the monks and nuns had what they needed, and they provided this for themselves and each other. There was no favoritism based on status or wealth. It was a model embodying God’s inestimable love for each and every person. This is a message we need to be reminded of today.

Teresa offers another important insight for us today. She was a big proponent of self-knowledge. In her Interior Castle, she advocates exploring the many rooms and mansions that eventually lead to the Divine center. Countless rooms, really. And Teresa is very much an advocate for exploring them all. She places a high value on exploration, asking questions, getting to know oneself, and Christ and God, intimately. She very much promotes self knowledge, self awareness, and self discovery. For women as well as men. But she cautions: “It is of great importance, when we begin to practice prayer, not to let ourselves be frightened by our own thoughts.” This kind of independent thinking was not encouraged in her time especially for women. But she seems to feel that in getting to know yourself, you are coming to a better understanding of God and God’s grace and generosity and strength in your life. You see better what God is doing for you. And can then have a greater appreciation for God’s love, its breadth and depth. So she believed that self-examination would lead you closer to God. She believed people should explore, examine and investigate their own hearts. Don’t just take the word of an outside authority, a priest. Don’t just adhere to theological dogma presented by the church. Explore and examine for yourself. Know yourself.

This stood her in good stead as she faced the challenges of her time and context. When she lived, the Moors had been driven from Spain and the Catholic church was reasserting its dominance. The Inquisition was in full force. Think McCarthyism or Salem Witch Trials. Teresa’s parents were of Jewish heritage and had converted to Catholicism to avoid the Inquisition. But they were still suspect. So Teresa was watched. And she was investigated. She wrote several books to explain her life and activities and beliefs to the church authorities. They also did not like it that she wanted to found more strict convents. She was challenging social and religious norms. Besides this would cost money, money that would not be going to the current interests of the Catholic church. The church was also suspect of people who had visions or ecstatic spiritual experiences. This kind of manifestation can be a threat to the established power structure. Were these visions from God or the devil? This had to be determined. And Teresa was known for her manifestations because they sometimes occurred in a public setting. She wrote in a letter to her brother:

“You should know that for more than eight days I’ve been in such a state that, if it were to continue, I would not be able to attend to business. Since before I last wrote to you I’ve begun having raptures again, and they’ve been a problem because they’ve happened several times in public, and even during matins. It is no use resisting them, or pretending that nothing is happening. I get so embarrassed that I want to hide, anyplace at all. I pray wholeheartedly to God to stop making this happen to me in public, and you have to pray too, because it’s a real nuisance, and it doesn’t seem to help me at all in prayer. Lately I’ve been seeming almost as if I were drunk.”

Wouldn’t a mystic be grateful for these ecstatic occurrences? Isn’t this the prize of mysticism? Wouldn’t this give a mystic cache? Maybe. But not if it attracts the attention of church authorities who already find you suspicious for a variety of other reasons. So Teresa was not welcoming of her public ecstasies.

But when challenged, Teresa could explain herself, fully and freely, because she knew herself. She had explored her heart and her mind. She knew her loyalties. She knew her devotion to God. And she could speak of these things. She was not hemmed in by the ideas given to her by others, including the church. And because her explanations were so sincere, and honest, and humble, who could argue?

It was all about the love of God and showing that love and living that love. What could church authorities say to a mere woman who declared: “The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and to do that which best stirs you to love.”

This is another aspect of her teaching that speaks to us today. Today everyone is so busy and distracted that they don’t take time to think, to explore, to know themselves. We accept the messages that society sends us about who we are. About what matters. About what is right. And leave it at that. For all of our freedom, we are really caged in our thinking. Teresa advocates thinking for yourself. Knowing yourself. And not just blindly accepting what society or the church is indoctrinating you to think.

Another thing that we see in the life of Teresa is engagement with the world along with devotion to prayer. She did not just stay in her cell all day. She did not remain cloistered in the convents that she founded though she provided that opportunity for others. She follows her own path. She listens and does what she is supposed to do with her life. She finds balance, of a sort. Doing what God wants, entirely, and accepting that even though it kept her very busy!

Teresa was an itinerant traveler in Spain, seeing to her convents and monasteries. There were issues and conflicts and problems that had to be dealt with. It was like running a business with franchises. And on top of that, Teresa had suffered from ill health since she was a young adult. She had bouts of sickness that sometimes lasted years. And there were her books to write. And responding to the Inquisition. And keeping in touch with friends, colleagues and family. So she was very busy. At one point she confronts God about her busy-ness:

“How is it, my God, that you have given me this hectic life and so little time to enjoy your presence. All day, people are waiting to speak to me, and even during meals I have to keep talking to people about their concerns and needs. During sleep itself I am still thinking and dreaming about the problems that wait for me tomorrow. I am doing all this for you, not for myself. My way of life is more tormenting than reward, and I only hope that for you it is a gift of love. I know you are always beside me, yet I become so busy that I forget you and ignore you. If you want me to keep up this pace, please make me think about you and love you, even during the most hectic activity. If you do not want me to be so busy, please release me from it and teach me how others can take over some of my responsibilities.”

Well, it may the 21st century, but certainly many of us can relate to that! And why was she so busy? I would suggest two reasons. First, Teresa herself tells us: “Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love for they enkindle and melt the soul.” She was committed to love. To showing love. To living love. To giving love. And there was much need in the world for love then as there is now.

But I don’t think that is the sole explanation for Teresa’s business. I think it was also her personality. She was well-suited to being engaged in the world. She was personable, charming, a good communicator, and self-effacing. She was very good at seeming cooperative and innocent, as women were acculturated to be then, and maybe now. She won over the church leaders and her detractors. She herself said, “God save us from gloomy saints.” I don’t think Teresa was gloomy! By the time she wrote Interior Castle, near the end of her life, she was known as La Santa of Spain, the saint of Spain, and revered by even the king.

So Teresa loves, she is intimate with God, she serves others, on terms that do not deny her individuality and personhood, but that honor her uniqueness. As she told others: “Trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.” I think it is that trust that led to her remarkable life and that shows us a path for the living of our days.

Really to me it is her life itself as much if not more than her specific teachings on prayer that shines with wisdom for us today. How she manages sickness, piety, conflict with the church, gender bias, relationships, and engagement with the world. She is really a marvel! She surrenders her life to God, not to be made weak but to be made strong. She once said, “You pay God a compliment by asking

great things of Him.” Well, I think Teresa was giving God a lot of compliments!

May the same be said of us! 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.

Sources used for this reflection and service:

Woman Prayers: Prayers by Women from Throughout History and Around the World, Mary Ford- Grabowsky

Teresa of Avila: The Progress of a Soul, Cathleen Medwick

The Harper Collins Book of Prayers: A Treasury of Prayers Through the Ages, compiled by Robert Van de Weyer

Invincible Spirits: A Thousand Years of Women’s Spiritual Writings, complied by Felicity Leng

Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila, translated and edited by E. Allison Peers

Under Her Wings: Spiritual Guidance from Women Saints, Kathy Bence

Enduring Grace: Living Portraits of Seven Women Mystics, Carol Lee Flinders

Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, Mirabai Starr

UNISON READING             A Love Song                          Teresa of Avila

Majestic sovereign, timeless wisdom, Your kindness melts my hard, cold soul. Handsome lover, selfless giver, Your beauty fills my dull, sad eyes.

I am yours, you made me. I am yours, you called me. I am yours, you saved me. I am yours, you loved me. I will never leave your presence.

Give me death, give me life. Give me sickness, give me health. Give me honour, give me shame. Give me weakness, give me strength. I will have whatever you give. Amen.

MUSIC                             Pescado de Hombres                         Gabarain

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                      Follow Me                                           HKJ

        Prayer of Dedication                             Teresa of Avila, adapted

Christ has no body now but ours. No hands, no feet on earth, but ours. Ours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Ours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Ours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.

MUSICAL CALL TO PRAYER       Wendeyaho           Native American/HKJ

COMMUNITY PRAYERS – SAVIOR’S PRAYER

Holy One, our only Home, hallowed be Your name. May your day dawn, your will be done, Here, as in heaven. Feed us today, and forgive us As we forgive each other. Do not forsake us at the test, But deliver us from evil. For the glory, the power, And the mercy are yours, now and forever.  Amen.

*BENEDICTION (unison)                                           Teresa of Avila

Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing dismay you. All things pass God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. Those who have God find they lack nothing. God alone suffices.

*POSTLUDE         Don Quixote from Cervantes Portraits                HKJ

Sunday Service 2.14.21

This post contains the bulletin, music, and sermon from Sunday’s service.

GATHERING MUSIC      Come Down, O Love Divine     Vaughan Williams

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE                   Sherry Santana, liturgist

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us. . . achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address In honor of Lincoln’s Birthday Feb. 12, 1809

PRELUDE                 Where Charity and Love Prevail                    Benoit

CALL TO WORSHIP                                                             

At the center, Love. In the beginning, Love. Throughout Creation, Love. From prophets and preachers, Love. Through Jesus, Love. From the church, Love. In you, in me, Love. In love, God.

SCRIPTURE LESSONS

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.   

John 15:11-13 and Romans 13:8-10

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.

CONTEMPORARY READING                                             Nancy Mairs

Ordinary Time: Cycles in Marriage, Faith, and Renewal

SERMON                                A Trinity                        Rev. Kim P. Wells

So, evidently, we humans have a fetish for things in threes.

There is the rule of three in writing. Three characters or three events make a more
interesting, satisfying story.

There is a rule of three in computer coding. I can’t understand the intricacies, but
if something happens twice, it is ok, but if it happens three times, something needs
to be changed.

There is a rule of three in statistical analysis. There is a rule of three in aviation
used to calculate descent. There is a rule of three in economics. There is a rule of
three in the military – one third of the forces active in the conflict, one third
preparing to enter the conflict, and one third of forces recovering from the conflict.
In art and photography there is a rule of three. A space is divided into a grid of
nine squares. Items of interest in the image are placed along the grid lines or at the
intersection of grid lines. This gives the composition greater tension, energy, and
interest. Russian philosopher George Gurdjeiff proposed a law of three. The
active, passive, and neutral states, all of which are necessary for growth and
change. There is a rule of three in the religion Wicca. Whatever you do returns to
you three fold.

There is a Roman phrase for the obsession with three, as there is for most things,
omne trium perfectum, which means everything that comes in threes is perfect, or
every set of three is complete.

As Christians, we know the importance of threes for we are the religion of the
Trinity, a concept which gradually developed in Christianity and was widely
accepted by the 4th century. Maybe the early church leaders knew the Latin phrase
and wanted to make Christianity complete, or better yet, perfect! Anyway, here we
are with our penchant for threes!

In the scripture we heard from John this morning, well, three things jumped out at
me from these three verses. And we note that it is significant that these verses are
placed among the final teachings of Jesus to his disciples in the gospel of John.
When this gospel was written, around the turn of the first century, everyone knew
what had happened to Jesus. That he was crucified and was conceived of as
resurrected. They knew he was killed by the authorities and died a gruesome,
excruciating, humiliating death. And here, the writer of John tells us that on the
eve of his death, among his extensive teachings, Jesus reminds his closet friends,
of three things, right here together in these three verses.

In the first verse that we heard, we were told of Jesus saying, “I have said these
things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
Joy. The night before he is to be killed, knowing that Judas will betray him, Jesus
speaks of joy. He tells his disciples that the whole reason for it all is joy. He
doesn’t tell them these things to save them from hell. He doesn’t tell them these
things so they will be miserable and burdened with suffering and pain. Jesus tells
his friends that his intent, his goal, is to impart joy, full, complete, and abundant, to
his followers. Joy. Like the story of wedding in Cana when Jesus turned the huge
vessels of water into wine. The best wine. That was Jesus’ first sign in the gospel
of John. A party. So it should be no surprise that Jesus is reminding his disciples,
on what might be a dismal night, it’s about joy. As much as there is. As much as
you can hold. As full as you can imagine. Joy. Following Jesus is about joy.
Christians shouldn’t go around pointing fingers or looking like someone is
pinching them. We are to be joy-filled people.

Joy. That sense of gratitude and awe. That underlying trust that all shall be well.
That creation is wondrous. That life is fundamentally good and to be relished and
treasured. Joy. That assurance that we are who we are, we are doing what we are

here to do, we are living fully and freely with all of our wonder and weakness, our
fortitude and failing. Joy. The delight and amazement at the twists and turns of
life’s path. We are here to experience joy.

Then in the next verse, Jesus tells his friends, “This is my commandment, that you
love one another as I have loved you.” No long list of do’s and don’t’s. No law
code for determining guilt or innocence. One rule. One law. One commandment.
Love. Enemies. Friends. Strangers. Neighbors. Love. And how has Jesus loved
his friends? He has cared for them. Taught them. Had fun with them. Fed them.
Forgiven them. Comforted them. Prayed with them. Argued with them.
Observed religious rites with them. Healed them. Embodied equality and
mutuality with them not patriarchy and hierarchy. Served them. Saved them. With
Jesus love really means sharing the commonwealth of God together. It is
community. It is solidarity.

In this loving, there is joy. Joy is found in the deep connection and compassion
that goes with loving. We feel joy when we are are with those we love. Loving
also unites us in our common humanity and we find joy in that primal bond.
So, in these three consecutive verses from John, we have one verse about joy. And
one verse about love which connects to the verse about joy. Yes, there are joy and
love but there is a third component to the fullness and abundance that Jesus desires
for his followers. Here is the third verse: “No one has greater love than this, to lay
down one’s life for one’s friends.” Sacrifice. Self giving. Yes, Jesus is about to
lay down his life for his friends. But in this teaching, we are reminded that this is
not just a one time gesture. It is a model for all those who will follow Jesus. Jesus’
followers are to be willing to lay down their lives for others. To put the well being
of others, the community, ahead of their own lives. This is not a devaluation of the
self. It is not denigration. It is not debasement. Actually, it is the the honoring of
the self and human life with the highest dignity, value, and worth.

Human life is of such value, it is so sacred and holy, that any sacrifice, even of
one’s own life, is to be offered willingly for the sake of the protection and care and
wellbeing of another human life. So precious is our humanity.

To know great love, and with it great joy, to know the fullness of love and joy, this
third component is necessary. Sacrifice. Self giving. The offering of one’s self to
others. These three things love, joy, and sacrifice together frame the life of
discipleship and we see them together in these three verses, among these last
teachings of Jesus. So we have a holy trinity in these few verses that can serve as
a foundation for living abundantly. We could call it a love triangle. But these three
things, joy, love, and sacrifice go together like the three legs of a stool that hold up
the seat, or the three locks of hair that form a braid. All three are needed, they
function together, they are interdependent. With joy, love and sacrifice are close
by. With love, joy and self giving are woven in. With sacrifice, love and joy are
incorporated. All three, together, supporting and enriching the living of our days.
Recently I read a story in the paper about a couple that fell and love and got
married in spite of the challenges of the pandemic. They planned one wedding
scenario. As it turned out, it was not possible because of covid. They planned a
second scenario. The wildfires got in the way. They finally got married on Jan. 6,
outdoors in Frisco, Colorado, where it was 0 degrees and they had the snowy
Rocky Mountains for a backdrop. Who was at the ceremony? The two women
getting married and their dogs!

We’re told: “So although they’d always wanted to get married next to water, they
settled for ice. There were no guests, just their two miniature Schnauzers shivering
at their feet. The couple [who live in San Antonio, Texas] chose to get married
there partly because the state allows paw prints (as well as handprints of young
children) on marriage licenses. ‘We’ve been fixated on getting married in
Colorado because we love our dogs.’”

The couple have been together for 10 years and have had many ups and downs in
their relationship. They have been thoughtful and honest about discerning the
issues they have faced in trying to get along with each other. In discussing how
they have met those challenges, we are told, “They sought advice from song lyrics
and the Sunday sermons at Oak Hills Church, a nondenominational church in their
neighborhood. ‘What brought us closer together was going to church,’ Ms Bishop said.” [“At Zero Degrees, Joining Two Together as One,” Lois Smith Brady, New
York Times, 1/24/21]

Going to church? That surprised me. Yes, I know that the divorce rate is lower
among people who go to church. [There may be many reasons for that. . .] Yes, I
know the benefits of going to church for strengthening a relationship. Church
helps to make each person a better person, more whole, so that contributes to a
better relationship. But, somehow, it was surprising to read that in the newspaper.
But just think about it. As we have talked about it this morning, this threesome of
joy, love, and sacrifice that Jesus offers his followers, this is a solid foundation not
only for life, but for a long term loving relationship. There will be joy. That fills
and nurtures the soul. There will be love. That sustains and fosters growth
through acceptance and affirmation and honesty. And, there will be sacrifice, self
giving, getting over, working through, adjusting, helping out, supporting. This is
the Christian view of loving relationships that sustain and enrich the living of our
days. So it should not be surprising that people seek insight and healing for their
relationships in church.

Unfortunately, our patriarchal society sends very different messaging about loving
relationships. In social media, pop music, advertising, and celebrity culture, we
see a twisted view of loving relationships. It’s about what I can get, what is in it
for me, how I will benefit, how my needs will be met. There is no holy trinity of
love, joy, and sacrifice in the contemporary idealization of love. We just see an
iteration of the capitalist self serving mentality of competition, acquisition and
conquest.

In the book, Love the Way You Want It, Robert Sternberg, a psychologist and
professor of Human Development at Cornell University, says this: “If I were asked
the single most frequent cause of the destruction of relationships. . . I would say it
is selfishness. We live in an age of narcissism and many people have never learned
or have forgotten how to listen to the needs of others. The truth is, if you want to
make just one change in yourself that will improve your relationship – literally,
overnight – it would be to put your partner’s interest on an equal footing with your
own.” [Quoted in All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks, pp. 162-163]. And, incidentally, Sternberg is also known for the Triachic theory of intelligence, the
Triangular theory of love, and the Three process view. [Wikipedia] Evidently,
Sternberg is captivated by threes, too!

Yes, concern for others. And their needs. In Christianity, we would even go on to
putting the needs of the community, and of others, ahead of the concerns of the
individual. Because when the community is healthy, the people in the community
are more likely to be healthy.

Laying down your life for your friends. For others. It wasn’t just something that
one person, Jesus, was to do one time, as part of God’s grand scheme of salvation.
Jesus is remembered for teaching his beloved friends and followers that this was
their calling, too. To lay down their lives. Because Jesus knew that we can only
experience the fullest joy and the deepest love when we are willing to lay down our
lives for others.

Friends, this Valentine’s Day we are reminded that we are here to love. That is
what we are created for. We are created in the image and likeness of the God of
love. Loving is our job. Our calling. Our life’s work. We are here to know joy
and to take delight in the richness and fullness of the human experience. That is
our birthright. And we are here to serve, to live for others, to give ourselves away
with passionate abandon. These all go together. Love. Joy. Sacrifice. A holy
trinity. Embodied in the life and ministry and teachings of Jesus. Guiding his
followers to abundant life.

And this Feb. 14, for a Valentine’s treat, sacrifice your healthy diet and find joy in
chocolate trinity ice cream. Chocolate three ways: fudge swirl and fudge cups in
chocolate ice cream. You’ll love it!

Amen.

UNISON PRAYER                                                          Frank Topping

Lord, your harvest is the harvest of love; love sown in the hearts of people; love that spreads out like the branches of a great tree covering all who seek its shelter; love that inspires and recreates; love that is planted in the weak and the weary; the sick and the dying. The harvest of your love is the life that reaches through the weeds of sin and death to the sunlight of resurrection. Lord, nurture my days with your love, water my soul with the dew of forgiveness, that the harvest of my life might be your joy.

MUSICAL OFFERING       Wondrous Love                 Sacred Harp/HKJ

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                      Ubi  Caritas                                     HKJ

       Prayer of Dedication                                       Dawna Markova

May we learn to open in love so all the doors and windows of our bodies swing wide on their rusty hinges. May we learn to give ourselves with both hands, to lift each other on our shoulders, to carry one another along. May holiness move in us so we pay attention to its small voice and honor its light in each other. 

MUSICAL CALL TO PRAYER              Have This Love  HKJ

COMMUNITY PRAYERS – SAVIOR’S PRAYER

Holy One, our only Home, hallowed be Your name. May your day dawn, your will be done, Here, as in heaven. Feed us today, and forgive us As we forgive each other. Do not forsake us at the test, But deliver us from evil. For the glory, the power, And the mercy are yours, now and forever.  Amen.

*BENEDICTION                        Andrew Harvey, inspired by Ibn Arabi

Whatever way love’s camel takes May that be my religion, my faith.

*POSTLUDE              Now Praise, My Soul, Our God               Prätorius


ANNOUNCEMENTS

Ash Wednesday Ahead: Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17 this year.  There will be a beautiful fireside service held on the church grounds that evening at 7:00 p.m.  Bring a chair if you can.  Masks will be worn and there will be physical distancing.  It will be a meaningful start to the journey into Lent, the 40 days of preparation for the celebration of Easter.  

Lent Ahead This week, the season of Lent begins.  Like a seed in the ground during the winter months, Lent is a time of preparation for the new life that we celebrate at Easter.  The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts 40 days not including Sundays.  It is traditionally a season of repentance; a time to turn your life back toward God, Spirit, Divine Love, however you envision that.  The Lenten season at LUCC this year will be a time to reflect with women mystics of centuries past and consider the wisdom they offer for our walk of faith today.

Next Sunday:  Worship will be held in the sanctuary with an indoor/outdoor arrangement so that the congregation may sit inside and outside.  Physical distancing and masks will still be required.