November 21, 2021

Sunday Worship,This I Believe

 Trees and Leaves, Leaves and Trees,photos by Susan Gascho-Cooke   

Prelude—For the Beauty of the Earth, Arrangement by Paul Thompson, Ouachita Hills College

Call to Worship— Compared to many churches, we who worship together at CMCL come from a wider variety of religious traditions. Our “This I believe” statements reflect that. Yet we are part of the church universal, and in many churches this is the “This I believe” statement recited every Sunday.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Gathering Hymn—We Gather Together, HWB #17, The Hymns Ensemble

Children’s Time— Susan Gascho-Cooke

I believe that music makes almost everything better. When I’m nervous and waiting for something, singing a song, or humming a tune, helps the time pass more quickly, and it usually changes my mood from worried and sad to contented. Music also helps me remember things. If I need to memorize something, I’ll have a much easier time remembering it if I make up a song about it. Today I’m going to share a song that someone else wrote to help them remember a Bible verse. It’s called “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and it takes the words from Ecclesiastes 3, and puts them in a song so you can remember them. And the really fun thing is that this song even gets so excited about itself that it adds even more verses than were in the Bible in the first place! I’m going to read you the scripture, and then maybe you’ll notice some verses when you listen to the song that probably weren’t written back when the Bible was written down! Listen close, and enjoy these Bible verses set to music. Turn, Turn, Turn, written by Pete Seeger, made famous by The Byrds, and here performed and adapted by Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

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.

we acknowledge
that the world
and its resources
are not ours but Yours.
We give back to you
in humble thankfulness
what you
have given to us
in your kindness.

OffertoryI Believe, by Mark Miller

This I Believe—Alex Solosko

Believing Beyond Words — Susan Gascho-CookeIn the spirit of this year’s invitation to express “This I Believe” non-verbally, I offer this excerpt from a November 11, 2021 piece inThe Christian Century by Amy Frykholm entitled, “The Five Spiritual Senses.” Although it’s clearly a verbal expression of belief, it’s an exploration of the ways we understand faith and belief through all our senses. This excerpt leaves out a large and interesting exploration of these ideas that was inspired, for the author, by learnings about a 7th century monk, Maximus the Confessor. I commend to you the article in it’s entirety. And now, a 500-600 word excerpt:

My husband and I recently adopted a rescue dog. He had had a rough life by the time he came to live with us. The crowning event was being mauled by another dog in his household. He was rushed to surgery with his jugular vein exposed. When we read the medical report, we could only shake our heads that he had survived at all, that the owner had been able to reach the hospital in time, that the veterinarian had even decided to operate.

When he came to live in our house, we observed how little will he exhibited. He seemed to have no sense of wanting anything. Mostly he tried to stay out of anyone’s sight lines. When he was offered food, he approached it cautiously. He took one step toward it and another step back, as if he were certain he would be punished for his audacity. A few minutes later he would approach his food bowl again, take a piece, and run away with it. He found a hiding place under the dining room table where he stayed for hours at a time.

Gradually, day by day, we built a relationship with him. We fed him at regular times and didn’t interrupt him when he tried to eat. We offered him comfortable places to sleep. We spoke to him gently. We took him on walks. But the main thing was that, as he allowed it, we petted him. And this is how we watched him come back to life. With touch, his will has returned, and with his will has come the capacity to experience delight. In the mornings, our new dog dances and sings. He twirls. When he sees my nephew, to whom he has become attached, he almost does backflips.

The spiritual senses tradition asserts that God is constantly speaking through the tangible, sensible world. We can grow, this tradition says, in our ability to perceive this communication, not unlike a birder grows in her ability to perceive the presence of birds or a chef grows in his ability to perceive flavors.

I don’t know very much about the spiritual senses of dogs or chickadees or other creatures. But as we’ve spent time with him and watched him come to life, I can say for a fact that we’ve used our own vivifying faculty to help him gain what we might even call gifts of the Spirit: peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control. We’ve used the appetitive faculty, his more than ours maybe, to help him learn to be a part of us. We’ve consciously used our wills to heal his will. But the exchange is mutual. We’ve all been learning to use our physical senses to love—to give love, to receive love, to practice love. Love is, after all, a part of human experience that requires a body.

Before this exploration with the spiritual sense tradition, I might have said that the dog’s utter delight at seeing me and knowing that I exist (something he almost seems to discover anew each time I leave and come back) could teach me something about God’s love and delight in my existence. But now I wonder if his delight is God’s delight in me. Through him, God shows this love—exuberant and unconditional and based on my very existence. The little dog allows me to experience this love viscerally. In this case, it’s not a metaphor. It’s a big, wet kiss on the lips.

Visual “This I Believes” —Roger Lentz, Susan Gascho-Cooke, Amanda Stoltzfus, Renee King, Laura Boll, Marian Good, Evvie and Alex Solosko, Deb Cone Halsey

Hymn of Response—We Are Not Alone, By Oasis Chorale

Sharing TimePlease email your prayer requests or reflections this morning to They will be sent out by email by Monday.

As we enter this time of prayer,
we hold before us the joys, the sorrows, the fears, the doubts
     of this congregation,
        both what is shared today, and all that is held unspoken
    we desire that each need be truly met,
       and that we may know the parts we might play.

We hold before us the commitments we have made as a congregation:
    what does it mean to be a welcoming church
        on the Transgender Day of Remembrance?
    what does it mean to be a peace church
        when yet more verdicts exonerate violence and whiteness?
    what does it mean to work for the well-being of all
        in the 20th month of pandemic? 
        and when so many have so little
    what does it mean to care for creation
        as temperatures rise and tempests rage?
    what does it mean to be open to challenging feedback,
        that might be difficult to process, even as we sought it out?

And so we pray:
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.


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


in the belief
that you are known
and loved by God.

Worship Leader: Joseph Gascho
This I Believe: Alex Solosko, Susan Gascho-Cooke, slideshow of CMCLers
Song Leader: Marcy Hostetler
Children’s Time: Susan Gascho-Cooke 
Zoom host: Drew Brubaker