July 11, 2021

Sunday Worship, The Gift of….


Welcome—Ideally (weather cooperating!) we will be have the opportunity to gather in-person this morning at West Earl Township Community Park. You may be reading these words because:
  • you are traveling
  • you are choosing to join worship remotely to protect your own health or that of a vulnerable loved one
  • you are unable to travel to in-person worship because of distance
  • you are glancing through the order of worship as you sit in your lawn chair at the park this morning, or as you join the service over Zoom
Whatever the reason you are reading these words: welcome!! We hope that you are finding ways to engage with this summer’s worship theme, no matter where Sunday morning finds you. In light of our theme last Sunday (rest!!) we hope that this summer is providing rest and respite for you, wherever you are after a tremendously trying year and a half. This morning, our hymns will reflect all three of the themes we’ve already covered: love, nature, rest. Many thanks to Ron Umble for selecting the morning’s hymns (and hopefully, leading us in singing them together at the park!) We are delighted to take time this morning to acknowledge the children’s blessings that took place this year remotely, and to celebrate communion with one another. 

Prelude—Come We that Love the Lord, VT #31

Lighting the Peace Lamp— 

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

VT #865

Call to Worship—

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 small voice within.
Worship is the mystery within us
reaching out to the Mystery beyond.

VT #855

Gathering Song— For the Beauty of the Earth, VT #120

Children’s Time Gathering Song— Come and See, VT #282, Sung by CMCL on Jan 26, 2020

Children’s Time— Faith Sauder will be reading a story to the children in the outdoor service

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 is 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.

Offering Prayer— 

Creator Spirit,
you clothe the flowers of the field:
enable us to rejoice in all the gifts
with which you fill us,
and may that be enough for us. Amen.

VT #1018

Offering Hymn— Could It Be That God is Singing, VT #42

Children’s Rituals Introduction — Susan Gascho-Cooke

    One of the great joys of congregational life is that we have a chance to participate in blessings. Blessing is a funny word, because while it essentially means the protection and approval of God, it is we who get to speak the words of blessing. In the rituals we celebrate each year for our children and youth, we have the incredible honor of getting to speak the love of God that we know to be true, and that we want each child to come to believe.

    Like so many millennia of humans before us, we mark these blessings with an object to help us remember. For we are forgetful — especially of our blessings.

The objects we give our children and youth are:

  • when babies arrive in a CMCL household, we celebrate by having congregational Parent/Child Blessings 
  • when a CMCL child is in 1st grade, we give them children’s story Bible (Shine On) 
  • when a CMCL child is in 4th grade, we give them a framed print of a watercolor (by Beky Weidner) of the CMCL stained glass window (created by Jess King and Beky Weidner) with the words of the blessing we say when we give cracker to our children & youth each month at communion: “You are known and loved by God”
  • when a CMCL child is in 8th grade, we give them a full version of the Bible, along with scriptures chosen by their families
  • when a CMCL youth is moving on from high school, we give them a hymnal, with words of blessing from pastors and signatures of CMCLers

    This morning we celebrate our 1st, 4th and 8th graders. Some received their blessing and gift from Amanda and I along with their families in the Memorial Garden at church, with our masks on on a Saturday morning this spring. Of course, Amanda and I reminded each child that the two of us were just stand ins for the whole church. So, in a sense, you all were there.

    But it feels like so important and significant to be able to acknowledge these blessings with all of you, for you are their community and congregation. So, this morning we acknowledge the blessings that happened, and also give some gifts and blessings to those who weren’t able to receive them at the time

    We give our 1st and 8th graders Bibles. The Shine On Bible is called a “story Bible,” and it tells many of the Bible’s stories illustrated with faces and artistic styles from all over the world. We believe in engaging our imaginations when we read scripture. People of all ages should probably be reading illustrated story Bibles way more often, too. 

    Shine On has questions after each story, too: We believe in asking questions here. We believe that God can stand up to questions, even hard ones. We believe God wants to know our questions. Again, lessons for CMCLers of all ages.

    And Shine On has many stories of Jesus’ life and all the stories he told and lessons he taught. Jesus’ questions and lessons weren’t just for grown-ups, they were for people of every age. We believe that’s important here, too.

    We give our 8th graders full Bibles. I like to give them highlighters, too, to encourage them, again, to dig in to this book. Anabaptism, the stream of Christianity from which Mennonites derive, is one of the traditions that highly values the communal reading and discernment of scripture. Y’all don’t take everything your pastors say about the Bible and march forward like lemmings to follow it. But there are times in history when people have trusted too much in one person or institution’s interpretations We need to provide check and balance to one another, to stir up new possibilities, challenge old assumptions, remind each other of beloved histories and promises made on our behalf.

    If you are annoyed or embarrassed by how others interpret the Bible, one of the best defenses is to get to know it yourself so that you can enter the conversation in an educated way. We can put these Bibles in the hands of our kids, but it would also behoove us grown-ups to make sure our kids see us grappling with the Bible, and hear us talking about it, too, if we want them to grow up to join in with communal discernment of this text in the next generations.

    We give our 4th Graders a framed reminder of the phrase: You Are Known and Loved By God. (I think Levina is shining down on us, knowing that we’re keeping that tradition alive!) Our fourth graders are just getting ready to embark on tween-hood and teen-hood — and we want you to really take this to heart: not just that you’re loved by God — you are! But that God loves the real you. The you that you’re just getting to know yourself. The you that you’re discovering and growing into.

    Our dearest hope and prayer, as your community, is that you can remember that, because the world can make you feel, sometimes, like the less you’re really known, the more you’ll be loved. But when we say, “You Are Known and Loved By God,” we are saying: you are loved as the person you really are. You’re not loved until God knows who you really are; you’re loved just as you are.

    Again — grown-ups, this is something we need to remember, too: that we are known and loved by God, and that everyone else is, too

    Kids, there may be days that you feel like throwing the Bible down (Moses did that with the 10 Commandments!). But we hope that you also have fun figuring it out for yourself, and joining in with all of us as we figure it out together. There are words in here so sweet and comforting and beautiful that you will want to memorize them, and have them spoken at the most sacred and important moments of your life Some people have even taken their favorite verses, and put them in little boxes and tied those boxes around their foreheads and arms to keep them close, and remember them always. They’re called phylacteries in the Jewish tradition.

    A few years ago, we all joined together as a church, and we read the same Psalm (23) together, EVERY SUNDAY for three or four months, so that we would remember it.

    In communion today, you’ll hear us recite some verses of the Bible that many people have memorized — some people call it “The Lord’s Prayer,” some call it “The Prayer that Jesus Taught.” You can find it in the book of Matthew (ch 6) and in Luke (ch 11)

          Loving God, in whom is heaven
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever, Amen.

So, we celebrate you today, our children and youth. And we speak the blessing of God for you that we believe to be true in our bones. Amen.

Here are a few pictures of blessings this spring: (children pictured clockwise from top left: Priscilla Sauder, Gabriel Sauder, Sam Hoover, Violet Miller, Cora Miller, Isaac Hoover)


Song— Children of the Heavenly Father, VT #517


O God, Ancient of Days,
your love brought galaxies into king,
    summoned water and sky, earth and all creatures,
and made us in your image.
Through the ages you have cared for all you created.
When we wandered, you called us to return to you.
In the fullness of time, you sent us the Messiah, Jesus Christ,
to teach the law of love.
He lived what he taught.
and loved his enemies to the end.
In wonder, we remember the life Jesus lived,
laid down, and took up again for us.
Send your Spirit upon us
so that the bread we break and the cup we share
may be the communion of the body of Christ.
Send your Spirit upon us
so that we can live, conformed to Christ,
who taught us to pray:

Loving God, in whom is heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kin-dom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kin-dom, the power and the glory, forever.

Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed,
took a loaf of bread,
and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said,
“When you share bread together,
remember me.”
Blessed are you, abundant God,
for you made bread to strengthen us;
you gave us this bread as a sign of your body.
Let our sharing be a taste
of the read of heaven that feeds the world. Amen.

Jesus took the cup after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant.
When you drink it together,
remember me.”
Blessed are you, bountiful God,
for you made the suit of the vine to nourish us;
you gave us this cup as a sign of your blood.
Let our sharing be a taste of the wine we shall drink
in your joyful feast. Amen.

VT #941

Song— When we Meet in Sweet Communion

Prayer After Communion— 

Blessed are you, Eternal God
through this holy meal
you have joined us to yourself
and to one another.
Blessed are you, Incarnate God;
you have put your life into our hands;
now we put our lives into yours.
Blessed are you, Breath of God;
as we go forth, set us free
to follow where you lead. Amen.

VT #942

Sharing Time & Prayer—Please email your prayer requests or reflections this morning to susan@communitymennonite.org. They will be sent out by email by Monday morning.

Song—Rain Down, VT #703

Announcements—Those of us who virtually attended MennoCon this week will share during the service about our observations and experiences. Look for an email this week with those reflections written out.

Closing Hymn—Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow, VT #70


Go in love,
For love alone endures.
Go in peace,
for it is the gift of God.
Go in courage,
for we cannot go where God is not.

HWB #764, adapted

Worship Leader: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Song Leader: Ron Umble
Sermon: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Children’s Time: Faith Sauder

Tech host: Karen Davis