November 14, 2021

Sunday Worship, This I Believe

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Scanned leaf design by Abby Foster

Prelude—In the Sweet By and By, by Jerry Douglas from Lookout For Hope

Lighting Peace Lamp— 

Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’
(
John 8:12)
May the Light of Christ, the Light of Love.
guide us and warm us this hour and in every hour we are given.

Welcome — This Sunday and next Sunday we continue our annual tradition of giving several Sundays in November to the theme of “This I Believe.” It’s a chance to share deeply with one another about things that are important to us. Some statements are very general, an overview of a system of belief. Some are very specific deep-dives into issues or ideas that deeply motivate us. This morning we are honored to hear from Joseph Gascho, Susan King and Elizabeth Nissley.

Opening Prayer—VT #863

Source of all hope and holiness,
     we gather today to be church.
Bless those who are absent,
     but not from our hearts.
Bless those who are distant,
     but not from our love.
Bless each of us here,
     that we may choose justice by your Spirit,
     draw kindness from the well of your mercy,
     and walk humbly in your path, O God.

Gathering Song—I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous, VT #590

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.

God, all things of love and justice, life and peace come from you.
May our giving be our response of thanks.

OffertoryHymn—There are Many Gifts, VT #374

This I Believe—As I noted in several emails this week, I was struck by how quickly and enthusiastically CMCLers response to my request for pies last Sunday. When I put out invitations for folks to share things in writing, such as This I Believe statements, there’s not nearly the stampede to participate. There’s a stampede to hear from others, but not to share our own. And I wondered, this year especially, if many of us are leaning more heavily than ever, on non-verbal ways of expressing belief. Showing up with a pie, and eating it around a table with one another in this church family, speaks volume about our beliefs and yearnings. So, I’m inviting folks to share photos or videos, if you’d like, for next week’s This I Believe Sunday, to have a montage of visuals expressing our beliefs. This will be in addition to the written statements that several CMCLers have already volunteered to share. I the spirit of that invitation, Joseph Gascho will share the first This I Believe for this Sunday:

Joseph Gascho —I believe in the power of images

Susan King —  I believe all things work together for good
(To see the images referred to to in the text below, see Susan’s video.)
As a child growing up in Indiana, I was a part of Bible Memory Camp at Camp Amigo near Sturgis, MI. In order to attend, each child had to memorize 300 Bible verses. It was the highlight of my summer starting in 5th grade.

It was in this context that I memorized Romans 8:28… And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I loved that verse as a child, it was a wonderful thing to stand on.  I have a God who is good, who, no matter what, can make bad things turn into good.  I liked that kind of God.  It made me feel safe.

I still believe this, but my childhood beliefs have taken on more understanding.  Like many of us, I’ve been through broken relationships, single parenting, exhaustion, trauma, financial instability, health issues, unexpected deaths, and now….global warming, pandemic and political chaos.

It’s bewildering and overwhelming to name all those things and still believe that “all things work together for good…”. In order for me to do that, I’ve had to sit with my humanity… I’ve had to cry out, lament, get angry, raise my fist, question, demand…all the things that one does while experiencing suffering.

Life happens in life while walking on this earth.  There are no fairy tale endings.  I’ve had to let go of seeing results, of expecting things to make sense. 

Goodness is not an end product of God at work, but part of the process of living.  Goodness, God, Holiness, Beauty are all terms that I find interchangeable as I try to understand the mysterious ways of God.

I once again turn to nature to understand these mysteries. The following pictures show a type of beauty and goodness.  First, here are several photos taken In Mt Rainier National Park several years ago.  

This shows the beauty and complexity of old growth trees growing, living, thriving through one life cycle after another.

Here is a tree I happened upon this past summer.  The city tree is like many here in Lancaster City, where a lone tree shades the street, the roots stubbornly growing in confined spaces, deformed, breaking sidewalks… revealing it’s own severe beauty.  

The trees teach me about my own life.  I’ve had moments of feeling like I’m in a rain forest, but to be honest, it feels like my life has been spent more in harsh places, confined spaces compelling me to stubbornly, tenaciously grow, daring me to lift and break sidewalks to survive. Like most of us, I”m unaware of the beauty being etched in my life.

Here are several pictures sent to me by family this week in Indiana.  Typical pictures of autumn beauty.   But, these are disturbing picture to me as well.  It use to be that I would see this in late September, but now it’s early November due to global warming that is rocking our planet.  But God is at work, as we seek to minimize our global footprint, and reckon with our gluttonous and abusive ways of living. 

These Indiana pictures symbolize how I can stand in the belief that “all things work together for good”.   It means holding beauty and pain in one breath…holding in tension the belief that God is at work while I seek out how to be a part of this God-process of goodness, beauty and even holiness.

For all things work together for good…

Elizabeth NissleyI believe mercy and truth have met together
I believe, along with the psalmist in Psalm 85:10, that “Mercy and truth have met together. . .” And so, I come to you with these words of truth along with a heart of mercy/grace – words and thoughts related to who we are as a people, a community on matters of race, equity, and the need for change.

Monday evening, November 8, CMCL’s Dismantling Racism Committee heard an initial report from Drew Hart and Heather Cotignola-Pickens on the survey that 129 CMCL’ers completed this past June. In addition to the summaries, they also offered some recommendations for this congregation. (You will be hearing more on this soon!)

I was deeply disappointed that only 18 % of us at CMCL saw racism and white privilege as a systemic problem, beyond the personal and individual concerns that we know and experience on the impact of racism. I was encouraged by the spiritual and practical recommendations that were made. However, I saw the challenge to acknowledge our colonization perspectives and the call for transformation, as processes that are TOO SLOW! Considering what appears to be a limited life span for me, I feel the need for CONVERSION OR REVOLUTION, for no longer defending who we are or how we behave but for CHANGE NOW!

I am impatient. This impatience grows out of my cancers diagnosis BUT it also grows out of 78 years of life experiences, including living for 9 years in Africa, and nurturing and walking with two of my children and three of my grandchildren who are loved ones of color. Just last week, I discovered in our son’s baby book a poem that I wrote in 1975 (45 years ago!) I had submitted this to the editor of the Eastern Mennonite Board’s Missionary Messenger for possible publication, but she thought it was too radical. I share it here with you today:

     White and Black
Written by Elizabeth Nissley in 1975. Thoughts of a beautiful snowy
day while meditating on Isaiah 1:18 and while loving 2 adopted black
children.

[“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins
are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are
red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”]

     White Snow
Gentle snow covering the earth with its blanket,
Is it pure, clean, good?

Gentle snow bringing with it dust, smog, chemicals.
Are they not there but hidden?

     White Skin
Pale skin covering people who have not chosen it.
Are they made intelligent, righteous, trustworthy?

Pale skin hiding under its surface hate, fear, distrust,
Are they not there but destroying?

     Black Skin
Dark skin covering people who have not chosen it.
Are they made conniving, poor, dumb?

Dark skin holding within its Spirit love, intelligence, goodness.
Are they not there but overlooked?

Does black mean grey and evil? And does white mean pure
and sinless?

GOD FORGIVE US ALL

If I am impatient, I cannot imagine the impatience of generations of the black community who have waited too long for us white people to figure it out!

Let’s stop “circling the wagons” and let’s get moving, changing our thinking, our budgets, our actions, our lives to become those who are willing to stand strong and courageously against systemic (and individual racism) for the well being of our sisters and brothers and for the well being of all of us.

May God grant us courage, mercy, and truth!!

This I believe.

Hymn of Response —Beyond a Dying Sun, VT #416

This We Believe CMCL Vision Prayer

Through your grace, O God, form us into a community
called to follow Jesus,
known and loved by you,
nourished throughout our lives by worship,
relationships and the biblical story,
open to new voices and new dreams,
committed to one another
in times of celebration and difficulty,
responsive to human need
with justice and compassion.
May your Spirit 
draw us together into your new creation.

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

Listening God,
you hear our prayers before we speak
yet welcome our praying;
therefore we come with confidence
to lay our requests before you.

You have heard the prayers of your people, O God.
We rest in the comfort of your care,
as we pray in Jesus’ name.
Amen.                                                              (excerpt of VT #996)

Announcements—

Closing Hymn—If you believe and I believe, STJ #32, sung by CMCL on 11/8/2015

Benediction— 

In the face of all our realities:
we are the people who heal each other,
who grow strong together,
who name the truth,
who know what it means to live in community,
moving towards a common dream
for a new heaven and a new earth
in the power of the love of God, 
the company of Jesus Christ, 
and the leading of the Holy Spirit.     StS 
#200

Go in peace!


Worship Leader: Susan Gascho-Cooke
This I Believe: Joseph Gascho, Susan King and Elizabeth Nissley
Song Leader: Marty Kelley
Children’s Time: Darrell Yoder
Zoom host: Karen Davis