June 20, 2021

Sunday Worship, The Gift of Love


Prelude— Glory, By John Legend & Common

Lighting the Peace Lamp— Good morning. This morning we are celebrating Juneteenth, a day late, and remembering all who have “Fathered” us on this Father’s Day. Juneteenth is a day of celebration for the African American community, one in which they remember when enslaved people in Texas finally found out they were free, which was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. This morning I light the Peace Lamp celebrating their freedom, but also remembering that the struggle for freedom, against white supremacy, racism, and other forms of injustice continues. 

Welcome / Call to Worship— 

As we enter into worship today, we’re going to start in a bit of a different way.  Bring your hands in front of you like this:

(Extend your hands out in front of you spread a few inches apart with your palms up.)

Ok, now in one of your hands, try to imagine all those people that are easy for you to love.  Who are they?  What do they look like?  How are you connected to them?  Reflect on the love that you have for them and how if flows easily between you and them.

Now…in your other hand, try to imagine those people that are more difficult for you to feel that same kind of love.  Maybe they’re the people that you find it is easier to hold judgment towards.  Maybe they are people who have hurt you.  Maybe they are those who see the world very differently from you.

Now take both of your hands and bring them together like you are holding a bowl(cup your hands)and imagine all of those in both of your hands coming together and that both of your hands represent the way that God loves all of humanity and how we are called to love friend, neighbor, and enemy alike.

Remember this as we worship today.

-Sacred Summer Series

Gathering Song— The Love of God, VT #162

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

Children’s Time— Faith Cowell and Kay Reist

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— 

We long for the time
when the meek shall inherit the earth
and all who hunger and thirst after justice
shall be satisfied,
and we believe that, despite the persistence of evil,
now is always the time
when more good can be done
and we can make a difference.
May it be so, through the offering of these gifts
and the offering of our lives. Amen.

-Prayer for Justice and Peace, Iona

Offertory Song—Brothers and Sisters of Mine are the Hungry, HWB #142

Scripture— 

1 John 3:1

John 13:34-35

1 John 3:17-18

Matthew 5:44 

Sermon—  Leslie Homer-Cattell

A Sacred Summer: The Gift of Love

After 15 months of not being able to do so, many of us gathered in person for worship last Sunday. Thank you again to Kelli and John King for welcoming us to your beautiful farm!

Highlights for me included the song that Pastor Susan and Pastor Amanda sang as our prelude, and the songs with motions for CMCLers of all ages. Many commented about the birds singing and swooping through the air – with so many butterflies fluttering in the field! I also really loved the stream where the kids played and had fun going creek stomping!

Mostly, of course, it was gathering together before God in person – as well as on Zoom. Looking around at everyone’s faces, I was filled with gratitude and a sense of wonder.

Along with my joy, I also felt keenly aware that we came together last week carrying significant experiences – life events that happened during this pandemic time. We have some catching up to do!

All we’re carrying
Together last Sunday, we started creating a visual timeline noting some of these life experiences – graduations, retirements, COVID-19 and other health diagnoses, births and deaths of beloved family members and dear friends.

When I think of what we’re collectively bringing, my mind also goes to our other personal and professional experiences over the last 15 months. I think of you teachers who have been navigating pandemic protocols with students, families, and co-workers – you have stories, I’m sure! The 70+ CMCLers who work in health care come to mind as well. Many of you have been providing care to critically ill patients, while others of you are working to keep people well at a time when public health has been politicized as never before.

During this season, we have also been grappling anew with injustice. We read Austin Channing Brown’s book together in order to continue to educate and challenge ourselves to look at our part in systemic racism. Recent violence against people of Asian-American and Pacific Islander descent has also come to our attention, as well as general civil unrest and threats to the basic foundations of our democracy.

“What just happened?” 
We’ve been carrying all this at a time when many of our sources of grounding were curtailed – we couldn’t meet as we usually do to connect and draw strength.  As a group, we’ve experienced a whole range of emotions over these last 15 months – including fear, peace, isolation, connection, disappointment, depression, hope, and despair.

Now it’s the first day of Summer 2021. Many of us feel relieved to be vaccinated and eager to re-engage! For various reasons, some feel uncertain and a bit anxious. Others feel overwhelmed, deeply fatigued, numb, even somewhat paralyzed. As one CMCLer working in health care said when reflecting on the intensity of the last 15 months, “What just happened?”

Perhaps this is why the idea of a holy pause seemed like a welcome and good idea right now. We all need to refuel after this last year. How might we intentionally make space for God this summer? What would happen if we’d take a breath and open our hearts, minds, and spirits to the sacred?

To help us do that, we’ll be reflecting on a gift of God each week using a resource from Godspacelight (https://godspacelight.com/about/) – founded by Christine Sine out of her passion for creative spirituality, gardening, and sustainability.

For Sine, summer is a season that stirs our senses and can draw us closer to God – especially when seen and lived as a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts. In the ordinary stuff of summer, she sees simple joyful spiritual practices that can invite us to relax, slow down, enjoy the beauty of creation, experience awe and wonder, ignite curiosity, and have fun – in short, to enjoy life and enjoy God.

God’s gift of love
This morning, we’re looking at the gift of love – and we have what are very familiar verses to many of us. In fact, these verses are so familiar that their power could easily be lost – the words flowing past our ears.

  • See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.  – 1 John 3:1a
  • [Jesus said,] “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” – John 13:34
  • Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. –  1 John 3:18
  • [Jesus said,] “…I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

These are verses that many of us first learned as children. Hearing them, our first reaction might be: Right. Sure. Nothing new there.

But what if revisiting these familiar verses might be just what we need right now? What if pausing to dwell on them might ground us, and help us to find solid footing in this time of transition to what’s being called a “new normal”?

What might happen if we intentionally choose to open ourselves up this summer to more fully experience and to practice God’s gift of love in and around us? Might love actually make a difference for our own healthy flourishing – as well as in our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and even enemies?

Fred Rogers reflected on the importance of love in the 2018 film Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary about him and his widely-acclaimed children’s program. “Love is at the root of everything – all learning, all relationships,” he said. “Love or the lack of it.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhwktRDG_aQ)

This rings true to me. And it reminds me of God’s ecology of love flowing freely through the four texts this morning:

  • See what love [God] has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.  – 1 John 3:1a
  • “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” – John 13:34
  • Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. –  1 John 3:18
  • “…I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

See what love God has given us…love one another…love in truth and action…love your enemies…see what love God has given us…love one another…

This is the ecology of God’s love. Life-giving water flowing on and on – for our own flourishing and to refresh us to continue to join God’s work of love and justice in the world.

With this in mind, perhaps you’ll decide that your spiritual practices this summer will include splashing, bathing, floating, playing, or paddling. Whatever you choose – whether creek stomping, kayaking, swimming, walking along the ocean’s edge, or soaking in a hot tub like Faith and Kay! – may you be reminded of the life-giving gift of God’s love flowing in and around and through you.

May this love begin to bring healing to your spirit after all you’ve experienced the last 15 months. May it comfort you however you’re feeling right now.

May the gift of God’s love give you peace and joy and strength.

A prayer
Let’s pray:

God,

This summer morning, we pause together before you.

We breathe in the wonder of your love for us.
We are called “children of God”!
As you have loved us, help us to delight in and love one another well.
May we love as you do – in truth and action.
And, as Jesus taught, show us how to love our enemies.

Remind us that your gift of love flows freely;
it is renewing, restoring, transforming –
for us and for the world.

Your love is in us, and around us,
behind, before, on the left and on the right.

You are with us wherever we go.

Thanks be to you, O God.
Amen

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

Where do you sense God moving among us? This is our time to prayerfully respond to the scriptures and the message of the morning as well as bring joys and concerns from our lives and greater world.

The leader will respond after each sharing with “Lord in your mercy,” and invite the congregants to follow with “Hear our prayer.”

Announcements—

Closing Hymn—You’re Not Alone, VT #779

Benediction— In 1 John 3:18, we read…”let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”  May those be our words going forth today.  Let us join together.  

Let us love, not in word or in speech, but in truth and in action.  Amen.

Worship Leader: John-Michael Cotignola-Pickens
Sermon: Leslie Homer-Cattell
Children’s Time:
Faith Cowell and Kay Reist
Tech host: Ken Nissley