Sunday Service 6.13.2021

GATHERING MUSIC

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE

O Lord, take our ears and hear through them,

take our hands and use them,

take our lips and speak through them,

take our eyes and smile through them,

take our hearts and minds and wills,

and use them as lamps of love,

by which your light may shine in all

the darkness of this suffering world.

Modern Prayer, anonymous

PRELUDE                                

There Is A Season: A Time for Spiritual Healing

Many Effects of Fire

Fire.  Heat.  Energy.  Combustion.  It is all around us.  It is within us. 

Fire is at the heart of our planet and our solar system and the universe.  Fire has the power to heat, to ignite, to destroy, to refine, to cause regeneration, to cook, to purify, to transform.  It has the power to bring people together.  It has the power to sustain and protect.  It has the power to harm and to kill. 

We see fire naturally occurring in the sun, stars, and raging wild fires. 

We see humanly created fire in fireworks, sparklers, and candles.   We see it in campfires that gather people together to share stories that shape our reality.  We see it in bursting bombs and tumbling buildings.  We see fire stoking the engines of industry.  We see it in electricity which can provide light as well as spark fire.

There are many instances in scripture where we see the power of fire.  In Genesis we see the fire of the sun divided into the light of the day and the darkness of night.  We know the story of the burning bush and Moses and we’ll talk more about that a little later.  There is the pillar of fire that leads the Hebrews through the wilderness at night as they flee from slavery in Egypt.  There is the star that guides the wise ones to Jesus, the light of the world, who tells his followers that they are the light of the world with a light that is not to be put under a bushel basket.  There is the fire of Pentecost igniting the disciples to form the church.  And there is the fire of the book of Revelation leading to the emergence of a new world.  And there are other images of fire in our scriptures that remind us of the power and presence of the Divine. 

The image of fire, of light, conjures illumination, literal and figurative.  It suggests elucidation.  God’s word, a lamp to our feet, a light to our path. (Psalms)

Fire is powerful.  And its power is made manifest in many ways. 

This time of covid has been like a time of testing by fire.  We have been destroyed, renewed, and transformed.  We have seen new realities and new truths in this pandemic time.  We have seen destruction and refining and purifying.  We have been brought together around the hearth of Facebook Live and Zoom. 

We have experienced many changes during this time – in our schedules, sleep patterns, activities, habits, dress.  In how we live with our pets, what we eat, and how we shop.  We have experienced heartache, grief, loss of relationships, dreams, loved ones, jobs, and income.  And this has changed us.

When we think of the power of fire to destroy, to renew, and to transform, we see that we have experienced those kinds of changes in significant ways during covid. 

Personal Time of Reflection – Covid has had many effects.  It has been a season of transformation.  What changes have you noticed – in yourself, in the world around you, in the community, in relationships, etc.  We all know things are different now.  But how are they different?  You are welcome to make a list of these changes.  There are pads and pens for your use. 

Music from Hilton

Sharing in Small Groups

Tending the Fire

The June 2 issue of Christian Century has a collection of short narratives called Spark.  I want to share one of the stories with you.  It was written by Ingrid Rasmussen from Minneapolis:

The night after George Floyd was murdered by police, I got a call that the medic site serving demonstrators near the Third Precinct in Minneapolis needed to find a new home because of encroaching fires. The caller asked if the church I serve as pastor, located in the heart of growing unrest, would open its doors and tend to the wounded.

It was a big ask. Our building had been completely closed for two months because of the pandemic. But faithfulness and love require different things from us in different moments, and that night we needed to say yes. Because some congregants were already protesting in the area, we went from doors locked tight to doors propped wide open in about 20 minutes.

A few days later, a man approached me carrying a lantern. He introduced himself as Brian Dragonfly from MIGIZI, a Native youth empowerment organization located across the alley from the church. MIGIZI’s building survived the first night of unrest in the neighborhood, but the next night a fire spread from a neighboring structure. The building and most of its contents were destroyed.


When Dragonfly arrived to assess the situation, the building was still burning. “I decided to capture the fire,” he told me, holding up his lantern. Would Holy Trinity Lutheran Church tend the fire for MIGIZI until they could rebuild? He thought that the flame might bring some comfort to his community in the weeks and years ahead.

In our sanctuary, he set the lantern on the altar. I ran to find a candle. We shared the fire and along with it the trauma of the preceding days, the conviction that not all that was destroyed was to be mourned, and the hope that the ashy moment in our neighborhood’s life would be an opportunity for new life.

Later, I decided to bring the flame home for the night—I was more than a little fire-conscious in those days. I drove the candle home in my car’s cup holder. When I made it to my home with the flame still flickering, I wept. Even shattered dreams need tending.

Ingrid C. A. Rasmussen

Minneapolis, MN

Tending the flame.  During this covid time, we, too, have had to protect and tend the flame – of our lives and our spirits, our hopes and our dreams. 

In this time of stress and danger and threat, we have had to keep alive our humanity, our creativity, our divinity.  And we have had to help to tend the flame of others around us who have been dimming. 

So how have we fed our spirits?  How have we kept our flames burning, our coals warm?  What star has led and guided us through this time?  What spiritual practices, readings, habits, prayers, resources, relationships have been life giving?  How have we kept the flame of our spirit alit during this time?   What has led and guided us through this wilderness of covid? 

In this time of personal reflection, you may give some thought to how you have kept the light alive during these days of covid.  How have you nourished your spirit and maybe been a light for others?

Music from Hilton

Sharing in Small Groups

What is emerging for you as we emerge?

We know fire is needed to foster life.  Naturally occurring fires and controlled burns are needed in nature to spark new growth and to feed the soil with ash and debris from vegetation.  There are pine cones that need fire to release the seeds they contain to seed new trees.  So new life can come from fire.  Fire is needed for new life to emerge. 

So in thinking about this covid time, a time of trial by fire, we think about how new life will emerge.  What will come forth?  What is being brought to life?  What conditions are emerging that will enable something new to come forth? 

In the book of Exodus, Moses has escaped from Egypt to save his life after killing an Egyptian overseer.  He is busy living the pastoral life as a shepherd in the hinterland far from the centers of power.  He has gone on the down low.  And one day as the sheep are grazing, he sees a bush.  Let’s listen to that story:

Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian.  Leading the flock deep into the wilderness, Moses came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

The messenger of Yahweh appeared to Moses in a blazing fire from the midst of a thornbush.  Moses saw — ‘The bush is ablaze with fire, and yet it is isn’t consumed!’  Moses said, “Let me go over and look at this remarkable sight — and see why the bush doesn’t burn up!’

When Yahweh saw Moses coming to look more closely, God called out to him from the midst of the bush:  ‘Moses!  Moses!’

Moses answered, ‘I am here.’

God said, “Come no closer!  Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground! 

‘I am the God of your ancestors,’ the voice continued, ‘the God of Sarah and Abraham, the God of Rebecca and Isaac, the God of Leah and Rachel and Jacob!’

Moses hid his face, afraid to look at the Holy One. 

Then Yahweh said, ‘I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt;  I have heard their cries under those who oppress them; I have felt their sufferings.  Now I have come down to rescue them from the hand of Egypt, out of their place of suffering, and bring them to a place that is wide and fertile, a land flowing with milk and honey — the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  The cry of the children of Israel has reached me, and I have watched how the Egyptians are oppressing them.  Now, go!  I will send you to Pharaoh, to bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’

[Exodus 3:1-10]

The plight of the Hebrews lit a fire in God and God enlisted Moses to respond.  So, we can think about this time of covid, and all that we have been through in the past year, as individuals, communities, and as a society, and think of the needs that have come to light.  What has gotten your attention?  What desires, callings, or needs have arisen for you?  What has troubled you?   What sacred passion has been ignited in you during this time?   What fire is God kindling in you to bring you to life, to bring life to the world? 

Before we take some time to think about this, I want to mention something.  Sometimes we may feel that it’s all that we can do to keep ourselves going.  We don’t feel we have the capacity to do anything more.  Moses could have ignored that bush.  But there is a cost when we ignore the fire, when we don’t pay attention to the passion that burns in us.  We may experience frustration, addiction, conflict, depression, apathy, despair.  There is a peril to missing your calling, to not helping, to ignoring how you are needed in the world.  There is a cost to you and to others. 

So we are going to spend a few quiet moments thinking about what has been ignited in us during this covid time.  What has lit our passion?  How are we being drawn by the fire? What desires, what callings, needs have arisen for us?  What are we needed to be doing? 

Music from Hilton

Unison Reading

Strengthen my tongue that it may

Convey even one single spark of all

Your glory to future generations.

Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321

The Matches

The bush is there, awaiting our notice, bringing God’s dreams to light.

Now it is time for the matches.

For what we are going to do, you need 90 matches.  You also need three rubber bands. 

Please get out your matches, and make 3 bundles.  One with 21 matches.  One with 19 matches.  And one with 50 matches. 

Here’s the story with the matches.  Spiritual guide and therapist, Gunilla Norris has created a practice involving matches to help with staying focussed while engaging in a process of spiritual transformation.  [See Matches:  Bringing Heart and Will into Alignment 90 Days of Practice, Gunilla Norris]

This practice involves allowing a spiritual intention to surface.  And noticing it.  Identifying it.  And fanning that flame. 

The intention.  This is not a self help goal per se.  Like, I am going to put the top on the toothpaste tube every day and train myself to always do that.  Those kinds of goals are important but this process is not designed for that.  This is about something that has been sparked in us, something that is emerging or awakening in us, and that is transforming us into more loving, fully alive people. 

After the stress of the pandemic, and all that we have been through, this match ritual is an opportunity to pay attention and see what is coming out of that experience that we want to bring forward.  Maybe you have been struck by something in these days and months of covid and it is an ember seeking to become a flame.  This match ritual is about fostering that inner intention.

Here’s the process.  Once we have identified an intention, we speak intention and light our match, once a day for 90 days.  This daily practice is an outward ritual signifying an inner intention.  It is symbolic.  While 3 weeks, 21 days, can lead to a new habit, 90 days can lead to transformation. 

The match helps to remind us of our fire within, a divine fire, seeking to be made manifest in us.  A flame captures our attention.  When we light the match each day and it burns down, we have to stop, pay attention, focus, to be safe with the fire.  This gives us time to remember our intention and keep it in focus.

Then after the 21 match bundle, there is the 19 match bundle, to make 40.  A sacred number in the Bible.  The days of rain in the story of Noah before a new world emerged.  The years the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness before beginning their new life as a settled community of justice and peace.  There is the story of Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness, a time of preparation for his ministry.  So, first the 21 matches, for 3 weeks, getting into the habit of lighting the match, and then the  19 matches to make the sacred 40.  Then 50 matches, a time of solidifying the intention and taking us into the period of transformation.  The whole thing is a slow process requiring patience and acceptance.  A time of emergence.  Some people say after the 90 matches they make more bundles and keep going. 

Here are some more details about the match process.  Norris recommends saving the burnt match stubs in the box to help remind you of your faithfulness and how far you have come.  She also suggests decorating the box, maybe inside and out, with images or drawings or cut out pictures from magazines.  This will help to reinforce your intention.

Also, if your box has a cardboard strip inside, you can write a scripture verse or a word or a quote on that to help fan the spark of your intention.  And along the way, you may find that you want to put something in the box.

It helps if you light the match at the same time each day.  And say your intention as you light your match.   And if you miss a day, then you are to begin again with match number one.  It’s not about failing.  It’s about being honest and truthful.  And learning from your experience.  And being true to consistency.  That helps to foster integrity.  So, it’s important to be constant.  Ninety days in a row. 

You may feel reservations or doubts along the way.  That’s ok.  If you feel resistance, examine it.  Listen to that resistance.  Maybe it’s a sign that you are going deeper and that something is changing.  If you have doubts and feel the process is silly, accept that.  And keep lighting your matches.  Continue.  Let go of the outcome.  If it feels rote, well, then pay attention to that.  Are you resistant in some way, putting up an obstacle?  All of these experiences can offer opportunities for deeper awareness.  They can shed light.

So, now we’ll take some time for reflection on the intention, on what passion is enflamed in you, on what kind of transformation your spirit is seeking, what is your deep desire, how is God calling you?   

If after the time of reflection, nothing has surfaced for you, you haven’t caught sight of a fire, a passion has not been ignited within, not to worry.  Norris says to light your match each day, pursue the outward practice and something will come.  Be patient.  A spark will appear. 

Time for personal reflection.

Music from Hilton

Pairing Up

Those who would like to are invited to pair up with someone.  Share your intention with the other person.  If you are willing, consider following up with that person in the days and weeks to come.  Help to fan one another’s flame along the way.  Offer support and encouragement.  Maybe share what you see happening in each other.  Share what you are experiencing.  Having a partner is a way to keep the flame burning and see what it is showing you. 

So if you would like to, spend some time in pairs and share your intention and discuss being continuing companions on this journey.

Dedicating Our Match Boxes

You are invited to hold your box in one hand.  Place your other and over the box in blessing.  If you are in pairs, hold your box, and let the other person put their hand over your box, and vice versa. 

Let us pray:

We dedicate these matches as a symbol of our desire to be transformed by the flame of divinity, burning and glowing in us, shining the light of love in the world.  Through this process may our passions be rekindled, may our deep desires meet the needs of the world, may our fire nurture new life, growth and transformation for the good of the world.  May these boxes remind us to come out of the boxes we make for ourselves so that we can see the full light of life and love in all of its raging splendor.  Amen. 

Morning Offering

Music from Hilton

Morning Prayers — Savior’s Prayer

Closing Blessing

         Have everyone light a match not from a bundle. 

         Then say,
         Go, set the world on fire.

         St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556

Postlude

Sunday Service 6.6.2021

GATHERING MUSIC

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE  

We are told in the gospel of John of an encounter between Jesus and the disciples after the crucifixion:

“In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities.

“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Having said this, the savior showed them the marks of the crucifixion.

“The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus, who said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As Abba God sent me, so I am sending you.’

“After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” [John 20:19-22]

On this first day of the week, wherever we are on our journey, may we be open to Divine peace which is as close to us as our next breath.

PRELUDE                                

THERE IS A SEASON: A Time for Spiritual Healing

Breath and Connection

The Bible, our sacred text, begins with stories of Creation. In the first story, we are told of the wind brooding over the face of the waters. That word for wind also means spirit. So our story begins with spirit, air, wind churning the deeps and drawing forth the Earth as we know it with its countless life forms. A perfect storm!

In the second creation story, we hear of the formation of an earthling created from the clay of the ground. Then Yahweh “blew into its nostrils the breath of life. And the earth creature became a living being.” [Genesis 2:7]

So our story begins with air, spirit, the life force, animating the world and our species. And as humanity has developed and put the brain we have been given to work, we have learned that what we breathe is air, rich in the element oxygen. Oxygen is provided for us by the trees and plants of our environment. We have learned that we breathe out carbon dioxide, which is needed by trees and plants. So we are in a mutually dependent relationship with the natural world around us. And the oxygen atoms that form the air we breathe are the same atoms that were in the air breathed by Jesus, and the wooly mammoth, and the stegosaurus, and the all the breathing animals that have ever lived. We are all breathing the same air.

Air is our lifeline and it connects us to each other, to the Earth, to the past, to the Divine. Air is an invisible often unnoticed bond that is holding life on this planet together.

Air, wind, breath, soul, spirit, respiration, inspiration, all connected and connecting the Divine, Creation, and all life forms to one another. Seventh century monk, St. Maximus the Confessor, tells us, “God is breath.”

So, in these quiet moments, breathe, breathe deeply, pay

attention to your breathing, and feel your connection to all of life,

to yourself, and to the Divine, in this present moment.

Music from Hilton

Unison Reading

The image of air and breath is important in all religions. Incense, prayer flags, and other rituals convey this. We’ll join together in affirming this connection by reading the words of the Zuni chant together:

Beseeching the breath of the divine one,

The life-giving breath,

The breath of old age,

The breath of waters,

The breath of seeds,

The breath of riches,

The breath of fecundity,

The breath of power,

The breath of good fortune,

Asking for divine breath,

And into my warm body drawing that breath,

I add to your breath

That happily you may always live.

Connection during Covid

Divine breath, my breath, your breath, connected, commingled.

As we’ve noticed, we are connected by air. We all breathe the same air. We all need air. Air, spirit, sustains life. Air also carries sound waves which are necessary for communication through speech and language. Air makes it possible for us to talk and hear. Oral communication is dependent upon air.

And during the covid pandemic we have been reminded of the importance of connection, communication, and contact. Being together. Touch. Speech. We have seen how necessary connection is to us physically, relationally, spiritually, and emotionally. We have learned to appreciate our connections in new ways.

As humans, the world over, we have experienced separation and isolation. We’ve all dealt with restricted contacts and activities. We were all on lock down, on shelter in place. The world over.

We have all dealt with masks, separating us, restricting the visual cues of facial expressions, making it harder to understand each other when speaking,

We have learned that communicating and connecting is so important to us that we have mastered once foreign technological tools like Zoom and Facebook Live and Facetime to see and hear each other. To connect. To work. To love. To feel alive.

And we have realized how important face-to-face, interpersonal, physical contact is to us. For our well-being. Our wholeness. Our joy. We have been through these things together as a human race.

And this extends beyond our connection with other people to our connection with the natural world around us. We’ve noticed that when people were sheltering in place and driving was diminished, the air was cleaner, purer, more breathable. Remember those pictures of cities like Los Angles without all the pollution from the cars?

Remember how with our cars parked, with our movement restricted, the movement of animals and birds increased? The sound of birds chirping was raucous.

The pandemic helped us to see how we are one functioning whole on the earth, all connected. We saw the interplay between humanity and nature in new ways.

This pandemic time has given us an opportunity to examine the importance of connections – our connections to family, nature, work, community, technology, friends, the wider world, ourselves, the church, our spiritual practices, our beliefs, our species. In the face of an immediate global threat, we have had to examine everything. Even down to noticing the air around us which we are usually oblivious to.

So, in the quiet moments that follow, you are invited to reflect on how you have experienced connections in new ways during the pandemic. What connections have you become aware of? What connections did you miss? How do you feel connected in new ways? Think about this theme of connections related to the pandemic.

After the quiet reflection, you will be invited to move into small groups and share some of your thoughts in the group, if you would like to. If you prefer not to share in a group, that is fine, too. We have pads and pens if you would like to make some notes.

So take a few minutes to reflect on the theme of connection in this time of covid.

Music from Hilton

Sharing in small groups

Fear and Covid

We have considered how air keeps us alive and keeps us connected. It is our lifeline, which may be one of the reasons that this pandemic has us so undone. It is air borne. You get it from virus droplets in the air. The same air that keeps us alive can kill us. It has become deadly. And covid is a respiratory illness, it effects the lungs, which process the air that keeps us alive.

The world has one big air system that keeps us alive, and as we now know, can kill us. This has made the pandemic extremely disconcerting, unnerving, jarring, and disturbing. With other diseases, you can avoid behaviors that transmit the disease. How can you avoid breathing? Covid is a radical attack to our lifeline.

And in the midst of it, we heard the voice of George Floyd, begging, “I can’t breathe.” And everything got more harrowing and more disconcerting. Another system set up to protect and to serve, also deadly.

And there was the presidential election, another system gone awry.

At one point I went to the dentist for a cleaning. All the proper precautions were taken. The dentist noted that he thought I had been clenching my teeth in my sleep. It’s something people do when they are under stress. I told him, “If you aren’t clenching your teeth now, you should be.” It has been a difficult time. A time of being continually buffeted as this covid crisis has unfolded.

People have died. Alone. Relationships have ended. Jobs have disappeared. Schools have been closed. Dreams have evaporated. It has not been easy. It has been scary to have the world as we knew it disappear right before our eyes. Whatever security we thought we had, blown away.

So the air that we breathe, that keeps us alive, became an accessory to death. No wonder we are afraid. And it is a reminder of the many fears that we have been facing.

We want you to take some time to think about the fears that have been real for you during this time related or unrelated to the pandemic. How have you felt afraid?

You’re invited to make a list of your fears. There are pads and pens. Following a time of reflection, those who would like to may share in small groups.

Music from Hilton

Sharing in small groups

Consider your list of fears. What on that list surprises you? Perhaps share that in the small group.

Feathers and Blessings

You were invited to bring a feather to church this morning. And to bring more than one to share. So, you may get out your feather and share with others if you have extras.

If you don’t have one, it’s ok. It’s a symbolic reminder. Maybe you will find one on the way home from church.

We have been talking about air. Well, how do birds stay in the air? How do they soar? How do they stay aloft, seemingly floating on, well, nothing? They are perfectly designed for flight. With their hollow bones and feathers providing just enough wind resistance to sail aloft. Some birds fly for endless hours migrating around the globe borne by those precious feathers pushing against the air. Some birds soar on air currents endlessly, effortlessly, thanks to those feathers.

Feathers remind us of the power of the air, the wind. We don’t actually see the air, but we know it is there by its effects – enabling birds to fly. Or spinning pinwheels or wind mills. Waving prayer flags. Tinkling wind chimes. Making tree limbs dance in the breeze.

Ah, the wind. Invisible yet powerful. Like the spirit. Perhaps subtle. Perhaps conspicuous, like the sound of the wind in the Pentecost story. But there. And having an impact.

The feather is a reminder of the presence of air. Air that enables the birds to fly. Air that sustains our lives. And it reminds us of the spirit of God, of the presence of Divinity, uplifting, cleansing, refreshing, renewing, empowering, like the wind. In ways we may not even notice.

So the feather is an invitation to notice. The presence of air. The connectedness of all of creation, and our dependence on nature. It is also an invitation to notice the many blessings of our days. Moments of uplift. Perhaps much needed. Maybe from an unexpected source. Or a blessing of inspiration. From a conversation or a book or a song or a walk outside. Maybe the feather is a reminder of the blessing of a memory. Something from long ago that still has the power to move you in some way. The feather is an invitation to pay attention to those feelings, experiences, encounters, that bless, uplift, that are life-giving. Maybe they mostly go unnoticed, like air. But the feather is an invitation to notice. To connect with the blessings.

The feather is also an invitation to notice how you uplift others, perhaps with some small action or word, slight as the touch of a feather, yet bringing needed relief, hope, comfort, or inspiration of some kind. And as with the touch of a feather, the air, this may go unnoticed, you may never know that you have had an effect. And yet a life may be changed.

They say the movement of a butterfly wing has the power to change the world. Think of the power that we have. We are changing the world. But how? Are we changing it in the ways we want to be changing it?

So, we invite you to contemplate your feather if you have one, or think about the image of the feather, draw one if you like on your pad. And reflect on those blessings, received and given, that have been uplifting in some way during this covid time.

How you have been touched by blessing in this time? How has that helped you to stay aloft?

Music from Hilton

You are invited to keep your feather where you can see it daily. It can be a reminder of how we are touched by blessings each and every day. And how we can be touched by the blessings that we share.

Unison Reading

God has given to the earth the breath, which feeds it. It is God’s breath that gives life to all things. And if God were to withhold that breath, everything would be annihilated. God’s breath vibrates in you, in your voice. It is the breath of God that you breathe – and you are unaware of it.

Theophilus of Antioch

MORNING OFFERING

CLOSING PRAYERS, SAVIOR’S PRAYER and BREATH MEDITATION

In closing, we will make our breath our prayer – so that, like the writer of Thessalonians, we might “pray without ceasing.” [I Thessalonians 5:17]

Take a deep breath. And another.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Feel your lungs expand. Creating more room for your heart to be

filled with love.

Breathe deeply, allowing the oxygen in the air to relax your

nervous system. No clenching. Release those fears.

Breathe deeply increasing your capacity for compassion for

yourself, others, and the world.

Breathe deeply so that you may be more alert and aware. There

are blessings in every one of our days.

Breathe deeply allowing the Divine to animate your wearied,

withered spirit.

Breathe deeply. And be connected to the Oneness of reality.

Breathe in God. Breathe out love.

Breathe in God. Breathe out peace.

Breathe in God. Breathe out compassion.

Breathe. Amen.

Sunday Service 5.30.2021

GATHERING MUSIC

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE                         Claire Stiles, liturgist

         Earth is but one country and all people its citizens.

Baha’u’llah 1817-1892, Founder of the Baha’i Faith

PRELUDE                                 Imagine                                 Lennon

CALL TO WORSHIP                                                        Anonymous    

Listen

To the fragile feelings, not to the clashing fury

Listen

To the quiet sounds, not to the loud clamour

Listen

To the steady heartbeat, not to the noisy confusion

Listen

To the hidden voices, not to the obvious chatter

Listen

To the deep harmonies, not to the surface discord.

MUSICAL REFLECTION            Peace in the Valley                Dorsey

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.

Isaiah 6:1-8 and Psalm 29

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.

POEM                                       Plenty                      Gunilla Norris

SERMON                               The Peace Force                Rev. Kim P. Wells

Over 10 years ago, we went on a trip to Scotland. While we were in Edinburgh, we visited St. Giles Cathedral and were taken on a tour by a volunteer who was a member of the church. She wore what I would describe as a black choir robe and was very professional. There were several guides from the church doing the same thing; taking visitors on tours of the church and telling them about the building, the furnishings, and the history of the church. It was very interesting and illuminating.

As we proceeded on this tour, we were shown many stained glass windows. This one in honor of the winning of this battle in this war. This one in honor of the winning of that battle in that war. This one in honor of this person who led this battle in this war. Etc. A lot of what we were shown related to different battles and wars. We listened politely. Then out of the blue our guide commented, “Evidently, we Scots love war.” It seems that she suddenly noticed that there was a lot of revering of war-related activity in the cathedral, and she spontaneously drew this conclusion. “We Scots love war.” Well, that was revealing. And honest. And self-aware. You couldn’t really feel critical when she had been so disarmingly direct. About her own people.

I was surprised at my reaction to this experience. Instead of being shocking or horrified or condemnatory, I found myself feeling admiration at the honesty of the comment. Not in 10 million years could I imagine an American giving a tour of an historic edifice and commenting, “Evidently, we Americans love war.”

Now, if we were to do an analysis of government spending, of allocation of resources, of public messaging about the military, an impartial observer could probably draw the conclusion that we do love war. But I can’t imagine that being actually said, outloud, and to guests, foreigners, upon whom you would be trying to make a good impression. Frankly, the honesty of the woman in St. Giles was refreshing. And it made me love the Scots more, even if they do love war. At least they know it and admit it and aren’t lying about it or covering it up.

When something is admitted, openly, honestly, then you can work with it. There can be authentic dialogue. There can be mutual sharing and understanding. There can be progress. There can be change. There can be movement toward peace. This is the case in interpersonal relationships and in international relationships. Whatever the circumstances, setting, or parties involved, the movement toward peace involves telling the truth.

Which is why we are having such trouble moving closer to peace in our country internally. There are a lot of people who don’t want to hear the truth. Who don’t believe the truth. Who won’t tell the truth. And without a deeper level of honesty and acceptance of facts, it is hard to move toward greater peace.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband, Jeff, was helping our 25 year old son, Malcolm, do his taxes. It was during the increased hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. As the taxes were being prepared, we, the parents mentioned that we were glad to pay our taxes. They helped fund schools and libraries and roads and things that are important to our life together in this country. Malcolm commented, “It’s ok that you think that, but I know that my tax money is going to be used to kill Palestinian children.” Well, who is right? Who is telling the truth? There is a lot of truth to be told. And we need to learn to listen to each other’s truth. From there, we can move toward peace. Without truth, without respect for truth, for facts, for experience, we cannot move toward peace, as individuals, communities, or societies. The pursuit of peace requires truth-telling.

This morning we listened to the story of the call of the prophet Isaiah. And in that story, we see a scene of dramatic truth-telling. There, at the altar, in the presence of the heavenly beings and the hem of the robe of the Divine, in the swirl of smoke and the sound of ethereal chanting, Isaiah is laid bare. Simply struck down in awe. And what does he say: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

There it is. The honesty. The truth. The unobstructed, undiluted, unattractive, undesirable truth. I am a person of lies and I live among a people of lies. In the presence of the divine, the truth is exposed. Laid bare. You can’t help but hear the echo in James Baldwin who said that America is founded on a Big Lie. We are a people of unclean lips.

But that exposure, that truth-telling, that confession in Isaiah is not only an ending; it is a beginning. In the story from Isaiah, the seraph takes a coal from the altar and touches Isaiah’s lips. He is made clean. His sin and guilt are gone. He is released from bondage to the lie. He no longer has to hide or pretend. He is now free to speak the truth. He can now be used by the Divine to redeem his people. To tell the truth. To bring them back from the lie of self- serving greed and treachery to the truth of justice- based community. After telling the truth, Isaiah is filled with power to speak God’s word and pursue the long arduous path to peace for his people and those around them. Telling the truth unleashed the power for the prophet to be a peacemaker.

We are using a lot of force and power to keep lies in place in our society. To perpetuate lies. To maintain the facade of a false reality. It takes a lot of work to do this.

So, since it takes so much effort to perpetuate the lies, why do we bother? Why do humans continue to pursue what they portray as safety and security through violence and armed force? Well, for one thing, and it is a big thing, in today’s world, war is big business. Armaments and the military are a huge industry. Many people are getting very rich from war, preparation for war, readiness for war, and the implementation of war and violence. Gun manufacturers are making money hand over fist as guns proliferate in the United States,. And there are all kinds of off shoot industries that make, well, a killing: security services and devices, security technology, equipment, fencing, wall building, protective gear, and on, and on, and on. ‘Not peace’ is very lucrative for some. And they donate heavily to political campaigns making ‘not peace’ lucrative for politicians, too. If there was no financial gain to be had from war, violence, and gun culture, guess what? They wouldn’t be as pervasive in our society. As German socialist August Bebel observed in 1870, “In time of war, the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers.” This hasn’t changed. So greed is a factor in the culture of violence.

And all that leaders need to do to get people on board is to foment fear and sow division and polarization. So, yes, our society has been intentionally manipulated into a war culture. Over decades. After Vietnam, our country could have said no. Not again. But we did not. And here we are. Not only in armed conflict with other countries and peoples, not only paying for others to be engaged in armed conflict, but we also have a domestic culture of terrorism and armed violence. When random people are killed at work, it’s a war zone. When students are killed at school, it’s a war zone. When customers are killed at the store, it’s a war zone. When people are killed at a restaurant or a bar, it’s a war zone. And there’s more fear. And there’s more polarization. And there’s more money to be made. Gun sales are up, guys, including among first time gun buyers.

We maintain a culture of violence because of the apparent benefits, like greed, and guns, and heroism, and the illusion of power. And perhaps the short term gain of an objective.

So what can be done to break this cycle? Well, we see a path forward in the call story from Isaiah. It is the truth telling that unleashes the power that leads to peace. And we all know that there is much truth yet to be told in our midst. Thankfully, we are starting to have some of those conversations. Like about Confederate monuments, and buildings named for slave owners. We are starting to tell the truth about generational wealth. And white male privilege. And antisemitism, which is very different from supporting human rights for Palestinians. And the covid pandemic has exposed a lot of truth about healthcare, and workers, and the power of government, and rural communities left behind, and moms doing more work than dads when everyone is working from home. And the more that comes out, the more power that is unleashed. And the harder it becomes to maintain the lies. And eventually the lies will fall and the truth will stand. Eventually.

Truth telling is very powerful. Listening, understanding, letting yourself be transformed, having the patience to give others the space to change. It is a complex, challenging, intricate business that is very powerful. And it leads to peace.

You see, people think peace is weak. That it is insipid. Sentimental. Like a Kincaid painting. Oh no. Peace is a force. It is strong. It takes courage and creativity and vulnerability.

Mister Rogers captured the power of peace when he said, “It’s very dramatic when two people come together to work something out. It’s easy to take a gun and annihilate your opposition, but what is really exciting to me is to see people with differing views come together and finally respect each other.”

The pursuit of peace is a powerful witness and it takes courage.

I love the psalm that was read today because it is filled with images of power, of Divine power. The voice of God has the power to snap the cedars, thunder over the raging seas, strike with bolts of lightening, cause oaks to whirl, strip the forest bare, shake the wilderness. Oh my! Such images of power and strength simply from the voice of God! And then there is that last line of the psalm: “Give strength to your people, Yahweh! Bless your people with peace!”

Peace. The psalm hardly sounds peaceful, but it reminds us it requires strength to attain pace. And one way that power is unleashed is through the voice, through truth telling.

I want to close with another story from Scotland. On our trip, we visited one of the most prominent museums in Glasgow. And there, on the first floor, by a main door, was an extensive exhibit about violence against women. Past and present. Complete with torture devices in the glass cases along with pictures, drawings, descriptions and statistics.

There is something about the truth telling in Scotland that I find inspiring and hopeful. I feel like if we were to do more truth telling here, it would open the lock, unleash the power of peace that is needed to eradicate the pandemic of violence that has infected our life together.

This is Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day. A day to remember. All those who have died in war. A time to bring to mind the toll that war and violence have taken in our country, in the world, and in our lives. Remember. Then tell the truth. And let it sink in. So that we can move toward creating a culture of honesty about our past and our present that will unleash the power of peace. Amen.

UNISON READING                                      Written by a 7th grade class

Palms Junior High School, West Los Angeles

We, children of the world, declare peace on the future.

We want a planet free of war and weapons.

We want an end to disease, death, and destruction.

Hatred and anger make no sense to us.

We want them done away with.

Our earth gives food enough for all – we will share it.

Our skies give us rainbows everywhere – we will safeguard them.

Our waters give us life eternal – we will keep them clean.

We want to laugh together, play together, work together,

learn from each other, explore and improve life for everyone.

We are for peace now and forever for all.

Grownups of the world, join us,

grab hold of our smile and imagine:

Together Peace is possible.

MUSICAL INTERLUDE     Down by the Riverside       African-American Spiritual

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        Nimrod from “Enigma Variations”           Elgar

Prayer of Dedication                           Based on Pablo Casals

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” Like Jesus, may we be a people whose love for one another, for our enemies, and for the very earth itself has no limits, borders, or boundaries. Then we shall know peace. Amen.        

PREPARATION FOR PRAYER             

                         O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines [Jerusalem]         Parry

COMMUNITY PRAYERS- SAVIOR’S PRAYER

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.

Peshita Syriac-Aramaic translation

*BENEDICTION                                         Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as

those who love war. Amen.

*POSTLUDE               Let There Be Peace on Earth        Jackson-Miller

Sunday Service 5.23.2021

GATHERING MUSIC

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE Barbara Donohue, liturgist
O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others
Open my ears that I may hear their cries;
Open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of
the strong,
Nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
And use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
That I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for
thee.

Alan Paton, South Africa, United Methodist Hymnal #456

PRELUDE Promenade Mussorgsky

CALL TO WORSHIP
Come like fire and kindle love in our hearts
Come like wind and breathe life into our frames
Come like water and flow through our souls
Come like the earth: sustain and nourish our being.
MUSICAL REFLECTION Come, O Spirit, with Your Sound

Union Harmony , 1836

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 2: 1-21
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.

SERMON Pentecost: A Superspreader Event Rev. Kim P. Wells

Who knew about a superspreader event until the covid pandemic? But now we know. We know of those events where that covert, unseen, unsmelled, undetected covid virus snuck in, through respiratory passages, and infected one person after another. And this happened repeatedly at church events like choir practice. Most of a church choir struck down. An elderly member of the choir dying. And at large, mega church services, with hundreds of people worshiping, singing, praying, and spreading the virus. It happened at weddings and funerals.

People came together for spiritual nourishment and instead found themselves not healed or cured but infected.

And then there were other superspreader events, like press conferences, and political rallies, and sports events.

This little virus, now we know, airborne, unseen, extremely powerful, attacking life after life after life. Filling hospitals and clinics. Devastating families and nations. Creating vast political, economic, and social disruption. Spreading. Multiplying. Virtually ubiquitous.

In its own way, Pentecost is a kind of superspreader event. Something unseen emerges and erupts to great consequence. But the outcome is to the good. It is healing and hopeful.

The story starts in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. The followers of Jesus have been told to go to Jerusalem and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. So, there they are, a small group, hidden away upstairs, on lock down, waiting. Afraid. Feeling endangered by the same forces that killed Jesus.

Now it is 50 days after Passover, after the crucifixion. Fifty days that must have seemed like
eternity for the small, scared band of hicks waiting in the big city. Would the Holy Spirit ever come? The time has arrived for the Festival of Pentecost, a Jewish harvest festival 50 days after Passover, celebrating the first harvest of the season. Jews from around the world came to this celebration of abundance and thanksgiving. But the Jesus followers are still sheltering in place. Still afraid of the threat outside.

And then we have this wonderful story of how they suddenly heard a sound like the rush of a mighty wind. We know that sound, we Floridians, familiar as we are with hurricanes. And then they see something that looks like a tongue of fire on the head of each person. No one was left out. And we are told that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. Finally, the day they had been waiting for!

In the multicultural crowd, everyone hears in their own language from what one commentator describes as these “unlearned Galilean laborers mistaken for colorful inebriates. . .” [Benjamin J. Dueholm, The Christian Century, 5.5.21, p. 21]

Here are these followers of Jesus, the crucified, who were scared and sheltering in place in an upstairs room, now out on the streets speaking forthrightly in many languages, making a scene, making what John Lewis would call, ‘good trouble.’ Empowered by the Spirit, they come out of hiding preaching a message of reconciliation and forgiveness and hope
to a crowd that surely included people who only weeks before had been among those shouting, ‘Crucify!’ Here are Jesus’ beloved friends declaring a message of love, compassion, and understanding. We don’t hold this against you. We offer you God’s eternal love, mercy, and grace.

These disciples who had been scared and embittered and angry because their leader was killed could have come out swinging. Hostile. Accusatory. Vindictive. But these followers of Jesus are transformed. And as it turns out this Spirit-filled group isn’t just laughed off as a crazy spectacle. At the end of the day, the story tells us, over 3,000 people have been baptized. It has been a superspreader event of love, good will, acceptance, new life, hope,
transformation, and reconciliation.

And the superspreading did not stop there. It spread from that ragtag band in a backwater rural colony from country to country and people to people resulting in Christianity becoming largest religion in the world. We are here today because of those superspreaders who came before us.

Pentecost, with the flames and wind, reminds us that we, too, have been gifted with the Holy Spirit. It’s not a matter of choice. It’s not something earned or deserved. It’s simply something that’s given. In the Acts story, the wind and the flames touch everyone. There is no singling out. And it is not something that can be controlled. The message is clear: The Holy Spirit is at work in us. It is empowering us to be witnesses to the Divine Love that we see in Jesus. And this witness is desperately needed today. We are needed to be superspreaders of love, of goodness, and of justice. Our world needs this kind of impact and energy from a positive source.

Now in the Pentecost story, the pouring out of the Spirit indicated the coming of the last days with better days ahead. As superpreaders, we are needed to herald the last days of racism, of an extractive economy, of addiction to fossil fuels. We are needed to declare the last days of legally sanctioned obscene greed. We are needed to proclaim the last days of the death penalty, and threats to Jews and apartheid for Palestinians. We are needed to announce the last days of sexism, white privilege, industrial pollution, homophobia, and compulsive consumerism.

The world is desperate to hear this message. We are needed to be superspreaders of universal love, the sacredness of all life, and reverence for the natural world that will hail a new tomorrow.

The world is aching for this message. To hear this declaration. To be transformed by hope in a different kind of future for the planet.

Last week I participated in a secular webinar about claiming your power and removing the obstacles that block you from exercising your full power to love and to make a difference in the world. It was interesting to see how many people are searching for this kind of direction. And to hear their stories. What I found interesting is that they seem to have no idea that the church exists as a community of spiritual support and formation and discernment to help tune the ear to the call of Divine Love and how you can be a superspreader of Good News for all of creation. There was no mention of religion or church in this presentation even though the leader calls his home base a ‘temple.’ It was very interesting. I felt like here are these hungry people. And we in the church have food. And they don’t know that it is here for them. There’s a big disconnect. And last week, Claire Stiles and I met with a Florida friendly landscape designer about the church grounds. She told us that she is in a Facebook group of young parents in St. Pete and at least once a week someone asks if anyone can recommend a church to go to where their kids will get the basic values of love, peace, sharing, helping others, etc. without all the ‘garbage’ like hell and condemnation of gay people and creationism. Claire and I raised our hands. We know a church like that. Then the landscaper asked, “Are you willing to have new people come to your church?”

The point is, people are actually looking for this. Looking for what we have to offer in the church. Looking for the message of hope and transformation and reconciliation that has been entrusted to us.

We are needed to be superspreaders. Outloud like the disciples in the Pentecost story. Or covertly like that nasty little virus. But we are needed to spread the message of universal love and grace. We are needed to display reckless abandon in our witness to Jesus who never condemned homosexuality or weighed in on abortion, but did command love of enemy and an end to violence.

We are needed to speak out. Infected by Divine Love, we are needed to spread it! Offering words of hope, love, connection, and reconciliation – superspreading in all of our different forums like Twitter, Facebook, What’sApp, Instagram, Facetime, Zoom. Speaking out in person, on the phone, with a megaphone, through a mask, in an email, on paper. We have all of these different modalities to use to declare the powerful message of love which can create a new future for us and for those who will come after us.

And we can start right now. I’m going to ask you to do something that we don’t usually do in church. I’m going to ask you to get your phone out if you have one with you. Yes, your phone. And I want you to send a message of hope, love, encouragement, or comfort. You can make a Facebook post or send a Tweet. You can think of someone you know who is having a rough time and send a personal message. But right here, right now, we can be superspreaders.

Sharing love and compassion and hope. . . Would anyone like to share the message that they sent? Several people responded.

Friends, this is not the time to be timid or shy. It is a time for boldness. Courage. Speaking out. Lifting up. Challenging. Inviting. Affirming. There is a world hungry, aching, desperate for this Good News. Looking for a way forward; an on-ramp to community and connection to one another and to the natural world.

The flames of the wildfires will rage again in a few months. The winds of the storms and hurricanesahead will howl calling to us to step up. Have an impact. Act boldly.

Here in this sacred sanctuary this morning, we hear the whispers of the wind, we see the flickering of the flames, the red of the Holy Spirit captures our attention, and we know that grace, mercy, and justice are our lifeline. Love is our protection. So let us be superspreaders of the Good News of the gospel of Divine Love.

Amen.

UNISON READING Jan Berry, adapted
Infectious Spirit of God,
bursting with brightness of flame
into the coldness of our lives
to warm us with a passion for justice and beauty
we praise you.

Infectious Spirit of God,
sweeping us out of the dusty corners of our apathy
to breathe vitality into our struggles for change,
we praise you.

Infectious Spirit of God,
speaking words that leap over barriers of mistrust
to convey messages of truth and new understanding,
we praise you.

Infectious Spirit of God,
flame
wind
speech,
burn, breathe, speak in us;
fill your world with justice and with joy.

MUSICAL INTERLUDE Fire of Justice, Fire of Love HKJ

Lakewood UCC Choir Virtual Performance

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 Renew Your Church White
Prayer of Dedication Jean Vanier
How can we live and love as Jesus did, except through the
mysterious gift and power which he gives through his Spirit,
so that we become his face, his hands, his heart and body?

PREPARATION FOR PRAYER Nocturne #21 In C Minor (posthumous)

Chopin

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 After a prayer of St. John of Damascus
To we who are but black cold charcoal
grant, O Lord,
that by the fire of Pentecost,
We may be set ablaze.

*POSTLUDE Jig Fugue Buxtehude

Sunday Service 5.9.2021

GATHERING MUSIC

WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE                 Earl Waters, liturgist

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Mother’s Day Proclamation of Julia Ward Howe, 1870

PRELUDE                  Träumerei                   Schumann

CALL TO WORSHIP                                             

The Spirit brooded over the waters,

And land emerged.

Lush with plant life.

Flush with animals.

A sacred garden.

The birthing of our world. Home.

MUSICAL REFLECTION           Salve Regina               HKJ

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.

Luke 1:46-55, 2:1-20

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                 Mother Mary            Rev. Kim P. Wells

Mary did you know? This question is posed in a well-known Christmas song. I think our Lakewood choir has sung the anthem. ‘Mary did you know.’

As a Christmas piece, the anthem imagines Mary pondering her new born child. Did she know he would walk on water? Did she know he would give a blind man sight? Did she know he would calm the storm? Did she know he would be the head of all creation and rule the nations? Did she know? As she pondered the birth of her child, did she know?

I imagine that Mary did a lot of pondering in her life as every mother does. Pondering how to raise a happy and healthy child. How to shepherd the child along through life’s challenges. How to encourage the child to use their gifts. How to inculcate positive values and morals in the child. How to raise a child with an inclination to serve and do good for others.

How to help a child find meaning in relationships and treat others with respect and dignity. How to instill a sense of compassion and empathy in a child. How to encourage spiritual sensibilities in a child. Like every mother we can imagine Mary pondering all of these things and more as she raised Jesus.

And clearly, we conclude that Mary was a good mother; that she raised Jesus right. After all, she raised someone good, giving, compassionate, concerned about others, devout, respectful of all people and all life. While there is no specific metric to use, surely we think of Mary as a good mother. In some traditions she is revered as the model for all mothers. The best mother.

But when I think of the Christmas song, “Mary, did you know,” I feel there is a glaring omission. There is no mention of Jesus’ death. How about a verse, Mary did you know – that your son would be convicted of a capital crime? Mary, did you know that your son would be tortured and hung on a cross to die? Mary, did you know that your beautiful wonderful, precious child would meet a humiliating end as a criminal? Oh, Mary. Did you know?

Of course, Mary did not know. And she certainly had much more to ponder after Jesus’ death.

So when we think of the death of Jesus, do we associate his ignominious end with Mary and her mothering? Was it her fault because she didn’t bring him up right? Did she go back to work when he was too young? Did she remarry and he never adjusted to the new husband? Did she move when he was a teen ager and he never adjusted to his new home and school? All the crazy things we think about today to account for young lives gone awry. If Mary had been a better mother, could Jesus have avoided that awful end? No, of course not. We don’t blame Mary.

The crucifixion of Jesus was not Mary’s doing. It was the result of cruel, self interested forces in the society in which they lived. It was social forces, institutional concerns, protecting of power from perceived threat; it was these things that contributed to the killing of Jesus. Mary was a good mother but she could not protect her child from the social forces around him. She had no influence, as a woman, and a poor woman at that, over the societal dynamics that led to the death of her beloved child.

And here, we can relate. Today is Mother’s Day, and we will give flowers and candy to mom and maybe take her out for brunch. We will thank mom for all she has done. And we should.

But despite the efforts each and every day of the millions upon millions of wonderful mothers in the world today, kids are still at risk. Kids will still be killed in random shootings. Kids will still die from gang violence. They will still be lost to the drug culture around us. In 2001 we were told to be worried about the threat from brown men from across the ocean. In 2021, we know the threat is more likely to come from white men across town – who will kill our children at work, at the store, or at school. No matter how good a mother is, if her child is a person of color they are still at risk from police. No matter what a mother does, her kids are still dying from air pollution and water pollution right here in these United States not just in those remote primitive countries abroad. Kids here are still getting sick because of lead in the paint. Kids are dying right here because of lack of access to healthcare related to money, scheduling, and location issues. Kids are dying in the foster care system which is supposed to protect them. Kids are suffering from hunger and malnutrition because mom can’t get a job with a living wage because someone wants to be a billionaire. Kids are suffering bullying and harassment on social media. What can a mom do in the face of all of these dangers and threats?

Give mom the flowers and the candy and the new necklace. She is doing a great job. But still her kids are not thriving, they are at risk, they are scared, they are under threat. And just like Mary could not prevent Jesus’ crucifixion, mothers today cannot control or prevent the harm that is being done to their children each and every day.

The forces of society undermine the health of children and prevent children from flourishing. They contribute to the deaths of children and youth. While mothers are doing all that they can to raise healthy children, they are being undermined by the societal forces around them.

There was only so much that Mary could do raising Jesus and she did it. Like so many mothers today, she could not protect her child from the social forces that led to his death.

But in the Magnificat, we are shown Mary’s lifeline. She believed in a God committed to the transformation of the society that killed her son. She celebrated a God who lifted up the lowly; who supported the inversion of current power dynamics and economic arrangements. She glorified a God bent on a hunger-free society. She praised a God who was busy turning the tables on systems and institutions that killed innocent, beloved children.

Mary did you know? Mary knew. She knew what she was up against as a mother though she could not have known the specific outcome. She knew the threats and the dangers of the society around her. And she praised a God who was committed to transforming those conditions. May we also worship and glorify that God on this Mother’s Day and every day. Amen.

NAMING OF MOTHERS

One: On this Mother’s Day, let us lift up the names of women in our own lives who have mothered us and made manifest to us the power of Divine Love.

Naming of Mothers

ALL: May daughters prophesy justice and sons dream peace!

MUSICAL INTERLUDE        Jasmine                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             Solfeggietto            C.P.E. Bach

 Prayer of Dedication  

This Mother’s Day may we commit ourselves to birthing a

world supportive of all mothers, children, and all life

forms; one holy, glorious, flourishing reality. Amen.

PREPARATION FOR PRAYER    Pescador De Hombres      Gabaráin

COMMUNITY PRAYERS- SAVIOR’S PRAYER

Our Mother,

who is in heaven and within us,

we call upon your names.

Your wisdom come.

Your will be done,

in all the spaces in which you dwell.

Give us each day sustenance and perseverance.

Remind us of our limits as

we give grace to the limits  of others.

Separate us from the temptation of empire,

and deliver us into community.

For you are the dwelling place within us,

the empowerment around us,

and the celebration among us, now and forever. Amen.

Rev. Yolanda Norton Womanist Lord’s Prayer used at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco at the “Beyonce Mass

*BENEDICTION                                                  

*POSTLUDE               Toccata                   Walond