Sunday April 26
Lighting of the Peace Lamp — we invite you to light a candle, wherever you are.
Welcome from Pastor Susan: Welcome to worship at Community Mennonite — the 7th Sunday that we have gathered while scattered during this season of isolation amid pandemic. I want to say a special word of welcome to those who are reading our services and not joining in the Zoom worship service: I hope that the words of the services are nourishing you. I’d love to hear from you about your experience with worship these weeks — if there are ways you could feel more connected, or ways that this virtual worship service could serve you better. Please feel free to call or email me or any of the pastors at CMCL and let us how you’re doing! As a reminder, you can visit the CMCL website on Mondays to listen to recordings of the sermon, if you’d like.
Call to Worship
To this place
This shared space of being almost together
But not quite
Where will feel both the distance and the connection
We invite you to connect in new ways
Recognizing how the Spirit is moving unexpectedly
And Jesus may show up as a stranger
We recognize the sacredness of coming together in this way
And we grieve the loss of sharing physical space
May we have new revelation
In this time of separation
As we find new ways to recognize Jesus
And love our neighbors
by Heather Cotignola-Pickens
Welcoming Hymn: Easter Anthem, William Billings 1786, sung by members of the new Mennonite hymnal committee.
We remember that Easter is a season, not just one Sunday.
Psalms for Spring — This spring we will include two psalms each Sunday: one from scripture, and a contemporary psalm. Today’s contemporary psalm is Mary Oliver’s version of Psalm 145, in honor of Laurie Vogt, who loved Mary Oliver’s poems so much, and who left us too early, one year ago. If you would like to contribute your own psalm this spring, please email Pastor Susan.
I love you, Adonai, for you have heard
my cry for mercy.
You have listened to me;
I will call on you all my days.
The Bands of Death encircled me;
th messengers of Sheol ambushed me,
I was overcome with trouble and sorrow.
Then I called your Name, Adonai–
“Help, Adonai, save me!”
You are gracious, Adonia, and just;
Our God is compassionate.
You protect those without guile;
when I was brought low, you saved me.
Be at rest once again, my soul,
for Our God has been good to you.
You have rescued my soul from Death,
my eyes from Tears,
and my feet from Banishment.
I walk befor eyou, Adonai,
in the land of the living.
I believed even when I said,
“I am completely crushed,”
and in despair said,
“No one can be trusted.”
How can I repay you, Adonai,
for all your goodness to me?
On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate (Psalm 145) by Mary Oliver
Every morning I want to kneel down on the golden
cloth of the sand and say
some kind of musical thanks for
the world that is happening again—another day—
from the shawl of wind coming out of the
west to the firm green
flesh of the melon lately sliced open and
eaten, its chill and ample body
flavored with mercy. I want
to be worthy of—what? Glory? Yes, unimaginable glory.
O Lord of melons, of mercy, though I am
not ready, nor worthy, I am climbing toward you.
Scripture— Luke 24: 13-35
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Offering— Again, no plates to pass this morning! We welcome your continued support of our congregation’s work. And also lift up with gratitude all the ways we are offering our resources to one another and the world at this time. One way that folks are helping one another out is if you have received a stimulus relief check and don’t really need the assistance, use that money to support a household that really needs it at this time, or an organization that is helping out those out of work or in need right now.
Let us hold in gratitude all the acts of gracious giving
we have participated in or witnessed this week.
Let us hold in gratitude all the acts of gracious receiving
we have participated in or witnessed in this week.
Let us continue to be known as Christ’s followers by our love.
Offertory— I Bind My Heart This Tide (Daryl Snider, Nathan Bontrager and Frances Crowhill Miller, Free Range Hymns)
If grief is love without a place to go…
John-Michael and I have been reflecting on this text in Luke about Jesus meeting travelers on the road to Emmaus and both noticing the uncertainty and grief there, and how that can connect to our current time. We each have a brief reflection about these themes that we are grateful to share with all you now.
So, a couple of disciples meeting Jesus on the way to Emmaus, without knowing that it was Jesus. There is so much uncertainty in this passage, Who is Cleopas anyway? And his companion? Where is Emmaus and why are they going there? And then they meet this stranger who is oblivious to everything that has happened and then calls them foolish and proceeds to deliver a lecture about the interpretation of scripture—– I’m not sure if I would be rushing to invite him over.
So, Jesus meets his followers on the road in their grief, in their uncertainty and perhaps adds to their confusion.
I’ve been thinking about Jesus meeting us in our grief and uncertainty during this time and what that could look like—and how am I missing it?
Now, when we are experiencing all kinds of collective grief from so many different types of losses, as well as deep uncertainty. The anticipatory grief of what could be lost or how things may change. The unknown of what next month or next year could look like as we realize things we thought were certain or dependable may not be.
Personally I was surprised at my intense anger at Zoom, for the mental and physical strain and perhaps how it represents the loss of physical connection– even though I also appreciate how it can connect us. I was also shocked by how stressed and overwhelmed I became when John-Michael was sick and tested negative for the flu. A part of me suddenly feared complete isolation at the word “quarantine” and even after he has been better it has taken weeks for me to acknowledge that though social connection has changed, I am still very connected and deeply grateful for that.
I am also aware of so many other losses. The loss of jobs, physical connection, health, loved ones, routines, previous ways of social connection. The deep sorrow of not being able to visit a sick or dying loved one, or the isolation experienced by those who are sick or dying during this time. I think many of us have been struggling with what to do or what we can do, I know I have.
Though the circumstances are different, this deep grief and uncertainty seems to be present with the travelers on the road to Emmaus. They had hoped Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel, but it didn’t seem like that when he died, and who knows right now? And what to even think about the empty tomb?
We feel this deep longing for redemption that feels so uncertain, this longing isn’t new but perhaps it is amplified in our hearts right now. As more of us see how badly our communities need it. Or perhaps how we become disheartened at other’s responses—and blaming them for where they are placing blame.
Yet Jesus did and is redeeming, but his form of redemption was unexpected, much like his presence on the road to Emmaus. And perhaps we are still trying to figure out what this redemption even looks like.
Our grief, our feeling of doubt or uncertainty about redemption and how that is possible, our many losses, even those that are hard to name can leave us feeling overwhelmed and even more isolated than how we are separated through social distancing.
Our grief is our love when don’t know how to love. Like sadness, it tells us what we value, what we hold dear and how for whatever reason it feels out of reach right now.
So what do we do with this grief? With this love that can create an empty space inside when it has no other place to go?
The followers of Jesus on the road continued to reach out through or perhaps with their grief. And through this hospitality, the intimacy of a meal (which perhaps we are all recognizing the preciousness of these days) Jesus revealed himself to them.
We can do likewise. Looking for and creating unexpected redemption. We sit in Jesus’ presence, we work towards the redemption of our neighbors, we join together as a community, we show love to those we don’t understand and reach out with kindness and curiosity (at a safe distance).
And maybe it is in these acts of love, noticing hope, proclaiming the resurrection and that redemption is possible is one way we can meet Jesus now. We can be open to seeing Jesus where we may not think, (maybe I can see how Jesus can work over Zoom?) How we understand just how deeply essential not only our healthcare workers our, but our grocery store workers and delivery truck drivers. That we all need each other and must depend on each other. That we have both a responsibility and an opportunity to care in tangible ways. May Jesus open our eyes in new ways. Whether it is seeing the underlying racist structures of our society that seem even more pronounced as COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people of color– or acknowledging that maybe liberal progressivism doesn’t have all the answers. And we can be open and curious to how Jesus is meeting us, both challenging us, comforting us, and sharing this space and this time with us.
And it is in these uncertain and novel times that we can find love and connection in new and surprising ways. Which seems to me what meeting Jesus looks like.
I was reminded of the Grief Cycle this week, specifically the anger stage. The reminder came in the form of a large group of protestors that gathered outside of the capitol building just a couple of miles away from our house earlier this week. They waved signs such as, “Jesus is my vaccine”, many weren’t wearing masks and they weren’t practicing social distancing, and several felt the need to bring firearms with them. I am by no means condoning the protestors’ actions, quite the contrary, I was enraged at their selfishness for risking their lives and others’ lives to practice their First Amendment Rights. I was aware of the racial makeup of the crowd, which was predominantly, if not almost completely white. Professor and author Ibram Kendi stated the reaction to the protests from law enforcement and the country would be completely different if the group was made up of Black people, which is unfortunately true. Racism continues to rear its sinister head through disproportionate rates of COVID-19 in communities
of color and millions of people of color not having the privilege of working from home and Asian-Americans experiencing an increase in racist attacks fueled by white supremacy. Despite my own anger at the protestors I was reminded by a Facebook friend of mine, who also wasn’t condoning their actions, that millions of people have lost their jobs and are legitimately angry at how this pandemic has disrupted our lives. We are collectively grieving and are struggling with how to express our grief as a state and as a nation.
The Gospel reading for this week finds Jesus’ followers in a state of collective grief as well. Cleopas expresses to the stranger, who unbeknownst to him is Jesus, that they had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel, which I interpret as liberating them from the oppressive Roman government. But instead Jesus’ followers are dismayed by Jesus’ crucifixion and have no idea of what’s to come. They are grieving the loss of the leader they put so much hope in. Jesus’ response to this grief? He has a meal with the strangers he meets on the road. It is in the blessing of the meal that he’s recognized by Cleopas and his unnamed companion. This is one of the distinctive traits of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus breaks barriers by eating with people who are labeled as “sinners” such as tax collectors. It is in the mundane and intimacy of sharing a meal that Christ demonstrates to his followers who is a part of God’s Kindom and how he demonstrates his presence amidst their grief. It is in the mundane tasks of preparing a meal and feeding people that I often feel the closest to my Mom who passed away nearly 10 years ago.
She was an excellent cook and demonstrated her love for friends and strangers alike by preparing them a meal. I continue to process my grief and feel nearest to God at times while sharing a meal. It is during these uncertain times that I’ve been reminded of the importance of the beauty of the everyday and how God shows up in those moments. Processing our collective grief as a country unfortunately can’t include sharing meals together, but I have been inspired from stories I’ve heard of communities rallying around healthcare workers through donating thousands of masks, restaurants that have donated meals, and people my age and younger rediscovering the ability to call friends and family out of the blue which helps us stay connected.
The Luke text reminds us that Jesus is present while we collectively grieve and shows up in unexpected ways. I pray we find comfort in that. Our grief does not however give us permission to neglect Christ’s commandments to love our neighbor as ourselves and to work for justice, which look differently during a pandemic. Loving our neighbors during this time looks like staying home if you’re able to, wearing masks, which protects the vulnerable from getting sick and finding ways to speak out against systemic racism that fuels attacks against people of color and the protests that have taken place recently calling for states to re-open.
Friends, I hope we find comfort in knowing that Jesus dwells with us amidst our grief and that there is beauty in the everyday. Let us continue to find ways to care for each other, to be community and to find healthy ways to express our collective grief.
Hymn of Response: Be Still and Know, by the Fray, sung by Samantha Lioi
Time of Sharing & Prayer— Using the refrain of our sermon-time sharing, we pray God’s peace for one another and for the world this morning:
For each person in our community, in whatever format they’re participating in this service: peace be with you.
For each person in our community whose needs we have named, and for each person whose needs are unknown or unspoken: peace be with you.
For all whose circumstances are fragile right now — mentally, physically, spiritually, or financially: peace be with
For those who feel too alone right now, and those who are finding solitude elusive: peace be with you.
For those whose work puts them at greater exposure to the coronavirus, and those whose work is to care for those with COVID-19: peace be
For those who are grieving this new normal, and for those who are dreaming of the possibilities of new life on this other side of these losses: peace be with you.
For the leaders and decision-makers in our communities, from local to international: peace be with
Help us to be bringers of the peace we pray for.
Announcements— Information on weekly Zoom times with pastors and Pastoral Team will be sent out on Monday.
Closing Hymn— Farewell Blessing (Sopa Sol, Wozo: Songs of Resilience)
Blessing That Does Not End
From the moment
it first laid eyes
this blessing loved you.
from the start.
It cannot explain how.
It just knows
that the first time
it sat down beside you,
it entered into a conversation
that had already been going on
Believe this conversation
has not stopped.
Believe this love
the love that crossed
an impossible distance
to reach you,
to find you,
to take your face
into its hands
and bless you.
does not end—
that the gesture,
Believe this love
that it still
takes your face
into its hands,
that it presses
its forehead to yours
as it speaks to you
in undying words,
that it has never ceased
to gather your heart
into its heart.
Believe this blessing
Believe it goes with you
Believe it knows you
Worship Leader: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Sermon: Heather & John-Michael Cotignola-Pickens
Special Music: Thanks to Daryl Snider for permission to use two of his recordings, and to Samantha Lioi for permission to share her song.
Scripture Reader: t.b.a.