Sunday, January 31, 2021

Introducing Voices Together

Prelude — “Here By the Water,” VT #629 written, introduced and performed by Jim Croegart, Contemporary Christian musician for many years associated with Reba Place Church, a Mennonite/Anabaptist congregation and intentional community located in the Chicago suburbs.

Lighting the Peace Lamp — VT #865

We light a light
in the name of the God who creates life,
in the name of the Saviour who loves life,
in the name of the Spirit who is the fire of life.


Good morning and welcome to Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster! To those who hear these words, and those who read them: welcome! We are the church, across time and space. The words and melodies of our worship this morning are all from the new Voices Together hymnals that have been gestating for years, and have finally arrived at Anabaptist congregations all over the world in the last week or two. You will be hearing more about the songs in this morning’s service — each one is introduced either by someone who was a part of writing that hymn, or by one of our CMCL song leaders.

At a time when we are surround by so much loss — the hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans who have succumbed to COVID, the fears we carry about becoming ill or somehow causing someone else to become ill, the loneliness we feel as our ways of being in communion with our communities are constrained, the uncertainty and fear and whiplash of the political realities and financial insecurities … although the makers of this hymnal could never have dreamed of the conditions in which this book would be born, it feels to me that it was indeed made for just such a time as this. I am grateful to settle into the words of others this morning. Grateful for the prayers and songs that I can add my voice to and thus have my heart yearnings also lifted to heaven on their shoulders. We hope that these songs and words speak for your hearts this morning, too.

Much gratitude to Beth Graybill, long-time CMCL song leader and currently Worship Committee chair, for her work in securing our hymnals, and in selecting the hymns for this morning and coordinating much of the service.

Gathering Prayer— VT #855

To worship is to stand in awe under a heaven of stars,
before a flower, a leaf in sunlight, or a grain of sand.
To worship is to be silent, receptive,
before a tree astir with the wind, or the passing shadow of a cloud.

To worship is to work with dedication and with skill;
it is to pause from work and listen to a strain of music.
To worship is to sing with the singing beauty of the earth;
it is to listen through a storm to the still voice within.
Worship is the mystery within us

reaching out to the Mystery beyond.

Gathering Songs—

VT #1, “Summoned by the God Who Made Us,” as performed in the December 13, 2020 Voices Together Dedication Launch. See sheet music here.

VT #129, “Oh Worship Our God,” introduced by Brenda Hostetter Myer
Children’s Time Gathering SongVT #166, “Your Love is Washing Over Me” [and I won’t be frightened anymore]
 Children’s Time Darrell Yoder

Offering —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.

There is no scarcity. There is no shortage.
No lack of love, of compassion, of joy in the world.
There is enough. There is more than enough.
Only fear and greed make us think otherwise.
No one need starve.
There is enough land and enough food.
No one need die of thirst.
There is enough water.
No one need live without mercy.
There is no end to grace.
And we are all instruments of grace.
The more we give it, the more we share it,
the more we use it, the more God makes.

There is no scarcity of love.

VT #1024

Song— Beth Graybill introduces  “Abre mis ojos/Open the Eyes of My Heart”, VT #401 (sheet music below introduction)I am delighted that this service can introduce some songs from the new Voices Together hymnal, and that I can introduce this song. in particular.

First a word about the new hymnal. It includes 849 hymns, two-thirds of which were included in the 1992 blue Hymnal: A Worship Book or the two supplements, Sing the Journey and Sing the Story, that we use at CMCL. (It also brings back a few older hymns like, “How Great Thou Art,” and the gospel hymn that you just heard.)

Five years ago, when the hymnal committee began its work, they could never have predicted that it would launch in the middle of a global pandemic that prevents most of us from singing in person! And it is painful for Mennonites not to be able to sing together, since more than for many denominations, congregational singing is at the heart of our worship life. This is particularly true for CMCL; music performed by our many talented musicians has always been a special hallmark of our services.

The hymnal compilers have said that they hope that singers will be both troubled and comforted by this collection – comforted by familiar hymns and songs that speak to current concerns, and troubled by others that may prick our conscience and push us outside our comfort zones. This collection appropriately includes many more songs from African American church life, as well as more international songs. So I think it’s intentional that they put as the first hymn, which we just sang, “Summoned by the God who made us, rich in our diversity,” and the chorus, “Let us bring the gifts that differ, and in splendid, varied ways; Sing a new church into being, one in faith, and love, and praise.”

I agree with an Anabaptist writer who has argued that it’s important for
Mennonites—particularly those of us who trace our heritage to European
Anabaptists—to confront the exclusive, ethno-centrism that often informs how we value hymn singing, and what styles of music we appreciate. “Will we be able to embrace the new songs and joyful noises of a vibrant church community?” he asks. 1

One way we can do this is to sing in other languages as a reminder of the global church, and the many Anabaptists in the Americas for whom English is not their first language.

The song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” #401, is printed in our hymnal in English, in Spanish (to connect us with our Latinx friends and neighbors), and in French, which incidentally is an official language of 21 countries in Africa.

This recording is sung in Spanish by Rodolfo González, a musician, health care worker, and active member of College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana. I invite you to sing along in Spanish, or you can refer to the sheet music below.
Scripture— Lectionary Psalm 111, The Inclusive Testament

I will thank you, YHWH, with all my heart
     in the meeting of the just and their assembly.
Great are your works,
     to be pondered by all who love them.
Majestic and glorious are your works, 
     and your justice stands firm forever.
You make us remember your wonders—
     you are compassion and love.
You give food to those who revere you,
     keeping your Covenant ever in mind.
You reveal to your people the power of your actions
     by giving them the lands of the nations as their inheritance.
The works of your hands are truth and justice,
     and all your precepts are sure,
standing firm forever and ever,
     and carried out uprightly and faithfully.
You have sent deliverance to your people 
     and established your Covenant forever.
Your Name is holy and awe-inspiring!
Reverence for YHWH is the beginning of wisdom—
     and those who have it prove themselves wise.
Your praise will last forever!

Song— Marty Kelley introduction of  Touch the Earth Lightly, VT #145Affirmation of Faith Prayer— VT #922, from United Church of Canada, 1968, rev. 1980, 1995

We are not alone;
    we live in God’s world.
We believe in God
    who has created and is creating,
    who has come in Jesus,
        the Word made flesh,
        to reconcile and make new,
    who works in us and others
        by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
    to celebrate God’s presence,
    to live with respect in Creation,
    to love and serve others,
    to seek justice and resist evil,
    to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
        our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
    God is with us.
We are not alone.
    Thanks be to God

Sharing Time—  Email your prayer requests or reflections to They will be sent out by email by Monday morning. 

We have so few ways to pray,
     but you have so many ways to answer.
Keep us alert
     to your unpredictable answers,
          to your unexplainable surprises,
and by your grace,
make us one of those surprises,
for the sake of the One
     who taught us the surprises
          of moving mountains,
               healing touches,
                    wondrous stories,
                         great banquets,
                              first suppers,
                                   broken bread,
                                             and resurrections.

adapted from VT#1008, by Ted Loder

Song—Christy Heatwole Kauffman introduces, #299,“God Lights a Lamp”

God Lights a Lamp, VT #299

Closing HymnThe Lord Bless You and Keep You, VT#846/STJ#76,  sung by CMCL on October 16, 2016


Live without fear:
Your Creator has made you holy,
has always protected you,
and loves you as a mother.
Go in peace to follow the good road,
and may God’s blessing
be with you always.

VT #1062

 Worship Coordination for Jan 31 & Feb 7: Susan Gascho-Cooke & Beth Graybill
Worship Leader: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Introduction of new hymns: Beth Graybill, Marty Kelley, Christy Heatwole Kauffman
Tech Host: Karen Davis