August 29, 2021
Sunday Worship, The Gift of Justice
Lighting the Peace Lamp—
Loving God, make us brave and willing to carry a lamp
into the realities of our world.
Even if it means we are changed by what we see.
Even if it means we must help to change what we see.
Loving God, be our light and our strength. Amen.
Welcome—Welcome to Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster! Whether you are joining us over Zoom, or reading through this order of service at some other hour, together we are the gathered church this morning. This morning we continue our theme of “Finding the Sacred this Summer.” And although school has begun for many of the students and teachers and school staff in our congregation, the heat and humidity and thunderstorms remind us that we are indeed, still in summer. And we always welcome the opportunity to seek the sacred with one another, no matter the season. This morning we look at the “Gift of Justice,” and we are delighted to have several guests share with us about work they are doing here in Lancaster to move the needle toward justice. Our own Jeff Hawkes began meeting with John Maina, Nicole Vasquez and Michelle Akritas of the Central Pennsylvania Equity Project and the Lancaster Bail Fund as part of his work with CMCL’s Dismantling Racism Committee, so it is through Jeff that these three amazing Lancastrians are joining us this morning to tell some of their story and work. Welcome, John, Nicole and Michelle!
Call to Worship—
Source of all hope and holiness,
we gather this morning to be church.
Bless those who are absent, but not from our hearts.
Bless those who are distant, but not from your love.
Bless each of us here that we way
choose justice by your Spirit,
draw kindness from the well of your mercy,
and walk humbly in your path, O God. AMEN
Gathering Songs— What is this Place, VT #22, sung by CMCL on January 26, 2020
Children’s Time— Alex Solosko
Offering Prayer—Thank you for your continued support of your congregation. Our budget supports our staff, our building, our congregational care, and our outreach commitments. We are grateful that this community can be a place to seek and give mutual aid and to reach out beyond our community, too. Thanks so much for being the church and giving to the work of the church.God, the words of the prophet Isaiah speak just as strongly today as they did millennia ago… “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” We confess this morning that we have not lived in those ways and we have not supported structures in our world that foster those realities. Show us today what needs to change in our thoughts, our actions, our worldviews so we can be more in line with your kingdom and your desires for this world, that our lives may be our offering. Amen. slightly adapted from A Sacred Summer, FreerangeWorship Offertory— “Act Justly, Walk Humbly”, by Pat Barrett
Scripture— Matthew 25:31-46
Today’s service on “The Gift of Justice” has a lot of scripture sprinkled throughout, referenced in the various songs and prayers. That’s because justice is amajortheme in our sacred text. We believe it is both an attribute of God, and the intended communal state of being that we are called to participate in the creation and maintenance of in this world. To pray that all be on earth as it is in heaven is to pray and work for justice here and now.
The passage in Matthew 25 is a hard one — it incorporates judgmental and apocalyptic energy that many of us avoid, because we’ve seen the consequences of such judgment, within ourselves, and played out in the lives of others. And yet I think there’s significance to the fact that this apocalyptic text makescompassionate action in the face of injusticethe criteria for winning at life rather thanright belief.
After all, the one thing that the sheep and the goats (the “good guys” and “bad guys”) have in common in the story is that neither knew what they were doing when they did it. Neither knew they were making ultimate choices when they chose to or not to actively intervene in the lives of those who were experiencing injustice in the human community they shared with one another.
Choosing justice shouldn’t be about behaving as if there might be a divine Secret Shopper lurking in our human interactions, that we want to get a good review from. The story says that the choice you’ll be presented with is a choice to, or not to, help a neighbor who, for whatever reason, cannot help themselves.
We have Jeff Hawkes, John Maina, Nicole Vasquez and Michelle Akritas, here with us today because, when faced with an injustice being experienced by neighbors in our local community, they didn’t look the other way, or shake their heads in resignation or dismay, but have chosen to try to make things on earth a little bit more like heaven.
In our legal system, before a person is even found innocent or guilty of a crime, whether or not they have wealth significantly determines the impact of the criminal justice system on their life. As it stands now, if you have enough money for a private attorney and bail, you can avoid many of the consequences of being tried for a crime.
If you can’t pay your way through, you aren’t guaranteed a public defender at all points of intersection with the justice system, and if you can’t post bail you’ll spend time in jail as you await trial, whether you’re guilty or not; likely losing your job, possibly losing family relationships, housing and financial security.
It’s a gauntlet the poor are disproportionately set up to fail at. And it’s happening here locally. And these folks are trying to change that. That’s sacred work, and we’re so grateful to hear about it from them today.
Song of Response—If you believe, STS #32, sung by CMCL on November 8, 2015
Announcements—All are encouraged to stay for the congregational meeting immediately following the worship service over Zoom.
Closing Hymn—Let justice flow like streams, STJ #65, sung by CMCL on July 7, 2013
As we go out today, may the words of the prophet Amos encourage us that what God wants to do is to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” You and I are parts of those waters. We can dam them up or we can let them flow. Let’s let them flow. Amen?
from A Sacred Summer, FreerangeWorship
Reflection: Susan Gascho-Cooke, Jeff Hawkes, John Maina and Nicole Vasquez of Central PA Equity Project, Michelle Akritas of Lancaster Bail Fund
Children’s Time: Alex Solosko
Tech host: Adam Kehler
Sound: Daryl Snider