July 25, 2021

Sunday Worship, The Gift of Play

Prelude—Brethren, We Have Met To Worship, VT #25, played by Joe Gascho, slideshow of CMCL worship gatherings

Welcome—This summer, we have been following the Gift of a Sacred Summer series. So far, we have considered the gifts of nature, love, rest and gratitude. Today, we will consider the gift of play. 

The Greek Philosopher Plato said:

Some people play seriously – like the Olympians in Tokyo right now or professional musicians. Others play less seriously, and most likely with less talent but hopefully, ALL play joyfully in a way that is pleasing to God!! As we move through this service, let’s reflect on how WE play.
Lighting the Peace Lamp— Plato also said. “The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” As I light the peace lamp today, I wonder how much easier it would be for our world to live in peace if we all lived by this philosophy.

Call to Worship—As we pray, think back to a time in your childhood. You might still be in that time of life or it might be a few years ago. But think back to a time when you just felt free to run around outside without a care in the world. You shouted and yelled and laughed and danced and played and were silly and didn’t care what others thought. You simply were in that moment. How did it feel then? How does it feel now? Let that spirit be in you this morning as we gather together. May you feel free to offer everything of yourself in this moment right now. Amen.

Play, A Sacred Summer

Gathering Song— Can’t Stop the Feeling, Justin Timberlake

Play Reflection #1Faith Cowell

For those of you who do not know me, I am a recently retired physical education teacher — I was actually paid to play!! One of the things that I noticed over my 34 year long career in play, was my students’ increased difficulty to play spontaneously. Everything needed to be organized for them – which was helpful from an organizational perspective, but sad from a playful perspective. I believe the reasons for this are many – one of the biggest, being fear to let children “go out and play” on their own without direct supervision. This, unfortunately, is for good reason in today’s world. 

I am sure that I’m not the only adult here who can remember leaving the house to go play on a summer morning with a call from my mom to be back in time for dinner [and by that I mean supper, for you traditional Lancaster countians] — those days seem to be gone.

I hold to Plato’s philosophy that “Life must be lived as play.” I tried to incorporate that in my teaching by striving to make a classroom “full value commitment” with my students. I adapted this from Project Adventure, an organization specializing in adventure education.

My classes would discuss the tenets of this commitment and make a verbal commitment to do their best to follow it. It went like this:

  • Play Hard— always try your best, no matter what your abilities
  • Play Safe— never do anything that might hurt you or others, physically or emotionally
  • Play Fair—play by “the rules” and following the intent of the activity (even if you could find a loophole that may help you win)
  • Teamwork— work with and include EVERYBODY on your team to reach a common goal, especially if someone was struggling with a task
  • Be Here—physically, mentally and emotionally – so that you are entirely engaged in playing

I believe that if someone follows these tenets of play in whatever they do – be it at work, at home, at church or while playing – they will be successful and have fun, and they will be ‘living a life as play’ as Plato suggested.

While my play at school was largely physical and organized in nature, there are so many forms of play; playing music, playing with art, playing with toys, playing with pets and playing all kinds of games – board games, video games, yard games just to name a few. Today, we will hear a number of CMCLers reflect on how they play.Children’s Time—Deborah Hall

Play Reflection #2— Marichelle Roque LutzI wasn’t there when my playful God was doling out a love and a gift for sports. God’s
consolation prize for me was a passion for words. “Thou wilt agonize solvingNew York Times crossword puzzles. Thou wilt also waste time and money playing Scrabble unto the end of thy days.” And lo, it has come to pass.

I first played Scrabble at age 15: That was the year the game was introduced abroad and my best friend received a Scrabble set for Christmas. First, we played with the aid of a dictionary and no time limit. And then we set a one-minute time limit per turn and threw away the dictionary. But it was always just a game, just for fun.

I was 70 when I discovered playing Scrabble could be so much more fun when taken seriously. A friend introduced me to a game site called Pogo, where one could play real people and chat with them. Many of these opponents cheated and were sore losers who called me names, “cheating c—” was one of the worst.

But there were decent players. One of them invited me to join a Scrabble club in York, which was affiliated with NASPA, the North American Scrabble Players Association. The York players were deadly serious about the game. They played according to official NASPA rules, i.e., one-on-one without any dictionaries and with a time limit of 25 minutes per player or 50 minutes per game. They advised me to memorize all the two- and three-letter words in the official Scrabble players dictionary and read books about strategy.

It didn’t take long before I joined two York players in a one-day NASPA tournament in Philadelphia. I remember my heart racing as I played in the lowest division, people with ratings below 1000. That was 10 years ago. I’ve played in 59 tournaments, including five national tourneys averaging 400 players from the U.S., Canada and the world. I’ve shared hotel rooms with strangers who became my friends. I’ve learned to be a good loser – no excuses — as well as a good winner – no boasting.

NASPA tourneys were canceled due to Covid. The next national tourney, a six-day, 32-game affair, will be held in Baltimore in July 2022. Of course, I will be there. Unto the end of my days, didn’t God say?

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.

Offering Hymn—Ghanaian postal workers canceling stamps and whistling to the tune to HWB #585, In Your SicknessIn your sickness, your suff’rings, your trials, and pains, God is with you all the time.
Persecution, temptation and loneliness, God is with you all the time.
God is there with you, God is there with you, God is with you all the time.Play Reflection #3— Jerry Lee MillerMy 2 ½ yr old grandson, Franklin, throws one fist in the air and shouts “I’m the Statue of Liberty”! This gesture comes totally out of the blue and I can’t quite understand his pronunciation. Big sister Josie translates for me. Then she corrects her brother: “No! I’m the Statue of Liberty!” as she threw a fist into the air.

I sense a sibling skirmish about to erupt.
A grandfatherly pattern interrupt is called for. So, I throw my fist into the air and proclaim “I’m the Statue of Play Dough!” They both laugh so I go for a follow up: “I’m the Statue of Peanut Butter!” and “I’m the Statue of Dinosaurs!”

Soon they are adding their own statues. Trucks! Cheese Sticks! Scooby-Doo! Mommy! Daddy!
And how could we leave out “The Statue of Pizza!”?

You can join the Statue of Liberty game you know. Think of a fun statue….the 1 st thing that comes to your mind is best. Got it? On the count of 3 throw one fist in the air and make your statue declaration. Ready?
One, two, three! “I’m the Statue of…..!”

Did anyone say “Bubbles”?

There are variations of this game. When I was in seminary many years ago, I worked at a nursery school a couple of mornings per week. When we had our outside time, the kids wanted me to push them on the swings. One 4 year old boy requested that I do an Underdog. Underdog is a way to push the swing and the child up higher and higher as you move forward until you can walk under the swing as you let go. I knew that was a fun experience for the child and I also knew it was not permitted.
But I didn’t want to disappoint. So I said “I don’t do Underdog. I do Hot Dog!”

That captured his curiosity. “What’s Hot Dog?” he asked.

I didn’t know exactly since I had just made this up. But I had to do something. So I pulled the swing back and pushed forward shouting “Hot Dog!” He laughed and said “Do it again!” After 3 or 4 times of Hot Dog I changed the word to Hamburger. Then I went through all the foods I could think of.
“Hot Dog” became a staple activity the rest of the time I worked at the school.

Many of you know that I love to write songs. But though I had the ability all through my life it wasn’t until I was in my 50s that I took myself seriously on this matter. From time to time over the years I spontaneously sang out a line. There was no forethought. It just sort of erupted.
Then I would say to myself “I like that! But it’s not a real song. I just made it up.”
Finally, after decades, it dawned on me that a major part of composing a song is to make it up.
At first nothing exists and then you make something up; A word or a line or a few notes.

Something comes out of nothing when you make something up. For me approaching it playfully makes it easier….and more fun.

I don’t know if God was being playful when God said: “Let there be light.” I do know Genesis says ‘God saw that it was good.”
If it was me I might have playfully said ‘Let there be a Statue of Bubbles’ and then, with my eyes of imagination, I just might see that it is good. Very good!Play Reflection #4—Adam Miller reflects on play and board games

Scripture— Zechariah 8:4-8Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the Lord of hosts? Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.Play Reflection #5— Mike Kuhns on playing role play games (will share live on Zoom)

Song —Jubilate Deo omnis terra, HWB #103, played playfully by Joe Gascho, slideshow of CMCLers at play

Play Reflection #6—Conversation between Pastor Susan Gascho-Cooke and her brother, Joe Gascho (live on Sunday morning Zoom). Joe plays music professionally, and as Susan’s older brother, he was her first and primary playmate for the first two decades of her life. Play continues to be foundational to Joe’s life philosophy and lifestyle.

Then and now, with a nephew included 🙂

Song—Over My Head, VT #594 performed by Joe Gascho and John Powell

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

Bubble Prayer—Over My Head, VT #594, with video of CMCLers and bubblesLoving God, see our prayers rising, fragile and luminous, to the heavens … to You. Amen.Announcements— 


God of freedom, you not only want to bring literal freedom to peoples in this world but also a different sense of freedom. A freedom to be fully who you created us to be. God, we know that there is much that holds us back. We are held back by childhood messages, we are held back by wounds and trauma, we are held back by what society tells us is proper and appropriate, we are held back by not wanting to be embarrassed, we are held back from the fullness of life. Lord, stir in us a spirit today to give ourselves to you with everything that is in us and in every way that we can. And as we do, may you break down those things that might keep us from playing.  Amen.

—Play, A Sacred Summer

Plato also proposes that “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” I propose that we use play to learn more about each other here in our church community – go forth and PLAY!!

PostludeMy Oh My, written by The Punch Brothers, arranged and performedby TheApartment Sessions.The Apartment Sessions are professional musicians who gathered in one Brooklyn apartment (pre-COVID) to play arrangements of their favorite songs, using every instrument imaginable, and they just play for fun. I love watching and hearing these musicians at play with one another. I hope you find it as infectiously joyful as I do.Susan Gascho-Cooke

Rise up, blinking in the sun
Wrapped in invisible wire
Something beautiful’s gonna come

Out from underneath our thumbs
So let freedom vibrate, not ring
‘Cause we can’t listen to everyone
Wanna hear ourselves sing

My oh my, what a wonderful day
We’re having, we’re having
Why, oh why, are we looking for a way
Outside it, outside it

I see the green grass below
I feel the warmth of the spring
Is it beautiful (maybe not, maybe not)
But maybe so
But if it keeps us singing

My oh my, what a wonderful day
We’re having, we’re having
Why, oh why, are we looking for a way
Outside it, outside it

How long, oh Lord, can you keep the whole world
Spinning under our thumbs?

Worship Leader: Faith Cowell
Sermon: Mike Kuhns, Marichelle Lutz, Adam Miller, Jerry Lee Miller, Susan Gascho-Cooke and Joe Gascho
Children’s Time: Deborah Hall
Tech host: Karen Davis