May 3, 2020
Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster
A Sunday of Psalms
 

Lighting of the Peace Lamp — we invite you to light a candle, wherever you are.

Welcome
     This is week 8 of worship while scattered … a reality we could hardly have imagined, even 9 weeks ago! And apparently the groundhog saw its shadow this week  or more precisely, our CMCL coronavirus Taskforce along with congregational council has looked at Lancaster’s current rates of infection along with CDC and state guidelines — and so we’ll be staying in for another six weeks at least. So, dear ones, we will continuing worshipping at a distance from one another through June 15. We’ll continue to assess the situation and post updates. Please continue letting us know how you’re doing, and how we can continue to support and connect during these days apart.     
     This morning we also acknowledge and grieve the death of our own Anne Sensenig, last Sunday evening. She was with us on our Sunday morning Zoom service, so her passing was a shock, even as we all knew how fragile her health was, and how uncertain her prognosis. So, this morning’s service will include two song recordings of Anne and Daniel singing with fellow musicians in New Mexico. We are working with Daniel Erdman to plan ways of memorializing Anne and mourning her passing in these days of social distancing. We will let you know as those plans are finalized.  Pastor Susan

Call to Worship

God of the weary, 
God of the burdened:
after six straight weeks, 
it would be stranger
if fatigue didn’t set it,
not only for those
who fight for breath,
or are working countless shifts,
but for all those whose minds
are occupied with stress and worry,
laden with concerns for the future. 
Turn our ear to your invitation 
to come and rest for a while.
Give us again what we struggle to hold:
the strength to let go of control. 
Amen. 

          May 2, 2020, The Corrymeela Community

Gathering Hymn  “Walls” by L@sotr@s and Friend (a New Mexico group Anne Sensenig and Daniel Erdman participated in; both are on this recording)

Children’s Time: Malinda Clatterbuck
Children’s Time Song: “The Story Of My Feelings” by Laurie Berkner 

Offering— Again, no plates to pass this morning! We welcome your continued support of our congregation’s work. And also lift up with gratitude all the ways we are offering our resources to one another and the world at this time. One way that folks are helping one another out is if you have received a stimulus relief check and don’t really need the assistance, use that money to support a household that really needs it at this time, or an organization that is helping out those out of work or in need right now.

Offering Prayer:

When giving is all we have, by Alberto Rios
(shared by Anne Sensenig, on her CaringBridge blog)
 

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

Introduction to Psalms —  Susan
     We are turning to the Psalm tradition for our worship together this spring. You are invited to try writing a psalm of your own this spring, and if you would be willing to share it with the congregation, please email Pastor Susan. The psalms are a unique collection within the Jewish and Christian scriptures. As contemporary writer, Glennon Doyle, shared in a video this week, there are no “good” feelings or “bad” feelings — just “comfortable” feelings and “uncomfortable” feelings. Many of us who grew up in the Mennonite tradition learned to distrust emotions because they were seen as leading to certain outcomes. If people sometimes do violent things in anger, then anger itself must be violent. We now know that anger is vital and healthy — and that the way to resist violence is not to tamp down anger, but to listen to what inner knowledge our anger is trying to reveal to us. 
     The Psalms are a testament, within our scripture, to the importance and validity of emotion and feeling. Some of them are uncomfortable to read. But they are a rich example of trusting our selves, our community, and our God with even our most uncomfortable feelings. Some of the psalms were written while the community was in exile — not able to worship together at home. We on worship committee felt that the Psalms might be a helpful reference for us in this season apart: this season of heightened emotions, and yet for many of us also lack of access to the usual ways we share them or work them out. 

  Psalm of Lament, by Doug Reesor

My soul cries out in deep distress
What are these tragic things I see
Where is your touch, the gentle press
Of warmth that’s there to comfort me
Why show me fear I know too well
And leave me helpless to transcend
The pain the eyes of loved ones tell
The bitter loss of one more friend.

But here I sit in silence still
As wind blows through the budding trees
I hear the sounds of birds and thrill
A life that’s carried in the breeze.
The flowers bloom, the water flows
So when I stop and turn my face
Toward the life that ‘round me grows
I feel again your warm embrace.

Song “I Believe”, by Mark Miller

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. 
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it. 
I believe in God even when God is silent.

Psalm 160 — in Search of Peace and Justice, by Dwight Wilson

We hear Your assignment 
even when we feel like 
lashing out in hatred. 
We are the people 
who are called to love. 
Who among us answers 
is anybody’s choice. 

Love cannot be flavored 
with contempt and remain. 
Love cannot be powered 
with negative actions 
yet foster positive 
change, healing deep divisions. 
Love’s opposite is not 
a righteous anger, 
an emotion required 
when oppression exists. 

Evil doing’s fraternal 
twin is complacency, 
that which contents itself 
with silence and whines 
when the winds of hate 
are tossing lives around 
as though might alone 
justifies viciousness. 

Your voice is a hard line. 
“Stand as though you hear. 
Walk as though you care. 
Run as though you’ll win. 
And in all things recall 
love is the best humans have 
to offer the world.” 

Let this be our song. 
May we dance it with joy. 
May those who are doubting 
our sincerity 
learn we won’t surrender.

Song— “No Sweat” by L@sotr@s and Friend (a New Mexico group Anne Sensenig and Daniel Erdman participated in; both are on this recording)

Reflection“The Trees Will be Comforting,” by Jerry Lee Miller

Song— “Sweet William”, by Innocence Mission

Sharing Time & Prayer If you have a prayer concern, please email it to Pastor Susan this morning, and these concerns will be shared with the congregation by Zoom this morning and by email later today.

excerpt from Psalm 42A Poet’s Bible, by David Rosenberg

It was God.
God was here
all around you

a sudden pool of water
from a desert rock
a fountain from wilderness stone 

life from a heart of stone
and from bitter tears
sweet-spoken land

Song— “Jesus, You Are Here”, by Greg Scheer onelicence.net

Announcements— Look for the Weekly Zoom small group gathering links in the same email with the Invitation to Worship Zoom link.

Closing Song & Benediction“Go, My Children”

Go, my children, with my blessing, never alone
Waking, sleeping, I am with you; you are my own.
In my love’s baptismal river
I have made you mine forever.
Go, my children, with my blessing – you are my own.


Worship Leader:  Susan Gascho-Cooke
Special Music: L@sotr@s and Friends — music chosen by Dean Clemmer

 

Sunday April 26

Lighting of the Peace Lamp — we invite you to light a candle, wherever you are.

Welcome from Pastor Susan: Welcome to worship at Community Mennonite — the 7th Sunday that we have gathered while scattered during this season of isolation amid pandemic. I want to say a special word of welcome to those who are reading our services and not joining in the Zoom worship service: I hope that the words of the services are nourishing you. I’d love to hear from you about your experience with worship these weeks — if there are ways you could feel more connected, or ways that this virtual worship service could serve you better. Please feel free to call or email me or any of the pastors at CMCL and let us how you’re doing! As a reminder, you can visit the CMCL website on Mondays to listen to recordings of the sermon, if you’d like.  

Call to Worship

Welcome
To this place
This shared space of being almost together
But not quite
Where will feel both the distance and the connection
We invite you to connect in new ways
Recognizing how the Spirit is moving unexpectedly
And Jesus may show up as a stranger
We recognize the sacredness of coming together in this way
And we grieve the loss of sharing physical space
May we have new revelation
In this time of separation
As we find new ways to recognize Jesus
And love our neighbors 

by Heather Cotignola-Pickens

Welcoming Hymn: Easter Anthem, William Billings 1786, sung by members of the new Mennonite hymnal committee.
          We remember that Easter is a season, not just one Sunday. 

Psalms for Spring — This spring we will include two psalms each Sunday: one from scripture, and a contemporary psalm. Today’s contemporary psalm is Mary Oliver’s version of Psalm 145, in honor of Laurie Vogt, who loved Mary Oliver’s poems so much, and who left us too early, one year ago. If you would like to contribute your own psalm this spring, please email Pastor Susan.

Psalm 116:1-12
I love you, Adonai, for you have heard
my cry for mercy.
You have listened to me;
I will call on you all my days.
The Bands of Death encircled me;
th messengers of Sheol ambushed me,
I was overcome with trouble and sorrow.
Then I called your Name, Adonai–
“Help, Adonai, save me!”

You are gracious, Adonia, and just;
Our God is compassionate.
You protect those without guile;
when I was brought low, you saved me.
Be at rest once again, my soul,
for Our God has been good to you.
You have rescued my soul from Death,
my eyes from Tears,
and my feet from Banishment.
I walk befor eyou, Adonai,
in the land of the living.
I believed even when I said,
“I am completely crushed,”
and in despair said,
“No one can be trusted.”
How can I repay you, Adonai,
for all your goodness to me?

On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate (Psalm 145) by Mary Oliver

Every morning I want to kneel down on the golden
cloth of the sand and say
some kind of musical thanks for
the world that is happening again—another day—
from the shawl of wind coming out of the
west to the firm green

flesh of the melon lately sliced open and
eaten, its chill and ample body
flavored with mercy.  I want
to be worthy of—what? Glory?  Yes, unimaginable glory.
O Lord of melons, of mercy, though I am
not ready, nor worthy, I am climbing toward you.

Scripture—  Luke 24: 13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Family-friendly song—  “On the Emmaus Road,”  Words and music by Bryan Moyer Suderman. © SmallTall Music. www.smalltallministries.com

Children’s Time: Malinda Clatterbuck

Offering— Again, no plates to pass this morning! We welcome your continued support of our congregation’s work. And also lift up with gratitude all the ways we are offering our resources to one another and the world at this time. One way that folks are helping one another out is if you have received a stimulus relief check and don’t really need the assistance, use that money to support a household that really needs it at this time, or an organization that is helping out those out of work or in need right now.

Let us hold in gratitude all the acts of gracious giving
we have participated in or witnessed this week.
Let us hold in gratitude all the acts of gracious receiving
we have participated in or witnessed in this week.
Let us continue to be known as Christ’s followers by our love.
Amen.

Offertory I Bind My Heart This Tide (Daryl Snider, Nathan Bontrager and Frances Crowhill Miller, Free Range Hymns)

Sermon in Two Reflections, by Heather and John-Michael Cotignola-Pickens

Heather Cotignola-Pickens:

If grief is love without a place to go…

John-Michael and I have been reflecting on this text in Luke about Jesus meeting travelers on the road to Emmaus and both noticing the uncertainty and grief there, and how that can connect to our current time. We each have a brief reflection about these themes that we are grateful to share with all you now.

So, a couple of disciples meeting Jesus on the way to Emmaus, without knowing that it was Jesus. There is so much uncertainty in this passage, Who is Cleopas anyway? And his companion? Where is Emmaus and why are they going there? And then they meet this stranger who is oblivious to everything that has happened and then calls them foolish and proceeds to deliver a lecture about the interpretation of scripture—– I’m not sure if I would be rushing to invite him over.

So, Jesus meets his followers on the road in their grief, in their uncertainty and perhaps adds to their confusion. 

I’ve been thinking about Jesus meeting us in our grief and uncertainty during this time and what that could look like—and how am I missing it?

Now, when we are experiencing all kinds of collective grief from so many different types of losses, as well as deep uncertainty. The anticipatory grief of what could be lost or how things may change. The unknown of what next month or next year could look like as we realize things we thought were certain or dependable may not be.

Personally I was surprised at my intense anger at Zoom, for the mental and physical strain and perhaps how it represents the loss of physical connection– even though I also appreciate how it can connect us. I was also shocked by how stressed and overwhelmed I became when John-Michael was sick and tested negative for the flu. A part of me suddenly feared complete isolation at the word “quarantine” and even after he has been better it has taken weeks for me to acknowledge that though social connection has changed, I am still very connected and deeply grateful for that.

I am also aware of so many other losses. The loss of jobs, physical connection, health, loved ones, routines, previous ways of social connection. The deep sorrow of not being able to visit a sick or dying loved one, or the isolation experienced by those who are sick or dying during this time. I think many of us have been struggling with what to do or what we can do, I know I have.

Though the circumstances are different, this deep grief and uncertainty seems to be present with the travelers on the road to Emmaus. They had hoped Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel, but it didn’t seem like that when he died, and who knows right now? And what to even think about the empty tomb?

We feel this deep longing for redemption that feels so uncertain, this longing isn’t new but perhaps it is amplified in our hearts right now. As more of us see how badly our communities need it. Or perhaps how we become disheartened at other’s responses—and blaming them for where they are placing blame.

Yet Jesus did and is redeeming, but his form of redemption was unexpected, much like his presence on the road to Emmaus. And perhaps we are still trying to figure out what this redemption even looks like.

Our grief, our feeling of doubt or uncertainty about redemption and how that is possible, our many losses, even those that are hard to name can leave us feeling overwhelmed and even more isolated than how we are separated through social distancing.

Our grief is our love when don’t know how to love. Like sadness, it tells us what we value, what we hold dear and how for whatever reason it feels out of reach right now.

So what do we do with this grief? With this love that can create an empty space inside when it has no other place to go?

The followers of Jesus on the road continued to reach out through or perhaps with their grief. And through this hospitality, the intimacy of a meal (which perhaps we are all recognizing the preciousness of these days) Jesus revealed himself to them.

We can do likewise. Looking for and creating unexpected redemption. We sit in Jesus’ presence, we work towards the redemption of our neighbors, we join together as a community, we show love to those we don’t understand and reach out with kindness and curiosity (at a safe distance).

And maybe it is in these acts of love, noticing hope, proclaiming the resurrection and that redemption is possible is one way we can meet Jesus now. We can be open to seeing Jesus where we may not think, (maybe I can see how Jesus can work over Zoom?) How we understand just how deeply essential not only our healthcare workers our, but our grocery store workers and delivery truck drivers. That we all need each other and must depend on each other. That we have both a responsibility and an opportunity to care in tangible ways. May Jesus open our eyes in new ways. Whether it is seeing the underlying racist structures of our society that seem even more pronounced as COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people of color– or acknowledging that maybe liberal progressivism doesn’t have all the answers. And we can be open and curious to how Jesus is meeting us, both challenging us, comforting us, and sharing this space and this time with us.

And it is in these uncertain and novel times that we can find love and connection in new and surprising ways. Which seems to me what meeting Jesus looks like.

 

John-Michael Cotignola-Pickens:

I was reminded of the Grief Cycle this week, specifically the anger stage. The reminder came in the form of a large group of protestors that gathered outside of the capitol building just a couple of miles away from our house earlier this week. They waved signs such as, “Jesus is my vaccine”, many weren’t wearing masks and they weren’t practicing social distancing, and several felt the need to bring firearms with them. I am by no means condoning the protestors’ actions, quite the contrary, I was enraged at their selfishness for risking their lives and others’ lives to practice their First Amendment Rights. I was aware of the racial makeup of the crowd, which was predominantly, if not almost completely white. Professor and author Ibram Kendi stated the reaction to the protests from law enforcement and the country would be completely different if the group was made up of Black people, which is unfortunately true. Racism continues to rear its sinister head through disproportionate rates of COVID-19 in communities

of color and millions of people of color not having the privilege of working from home and Asian-Americans experiencing an increase in racist attacks fueled by white supremacy. Despite my own anger at the protestors I was reminded by a Facebook friend of mine, who also wasn’t condoning their actions, that millions of people have lost their jobs and are legitimately angry at how this pandemic has disrupted our lives. We are collectively grieving and are struggling with how to express our grief as a state and as a nation.

The Gospel reading for this week finds Jesus’ followers in a state of collective grief as well. Cleopas expresses to the stranger, who unbeknownst to him is Jesus, that they had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel, which I interpret as liberating them from the oppressive Roman government. But instead Jesus’ followers are dismayed by Jesus’ crucifixion and have no idea of what’s to come. They are grieving the loss of the leader they put so much hope in. Jesus’ response to this grief? He has a meal with the strangers he meets on the road. It is in the blessing of the meal that he’s recognized by Cleopas and his unnamed companion. This is one of the distinctive traits of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus breaks barriers by eating with people who are labeled as “sinners” such as tax collectors. It is in the mundane and intimacy of sharing a meal that Christ demonstrates to his followers who is a part of God’s Kindom and how he demonstrates his presence amidst their grief. It is in the mundane tasks of preparing a meal and feeding people that I often feel the closest to my Mom who passed away nearly 10 years ago.

She was an excellent cook and demonstrated her love for friends and strangers alike by preparing them a meal. I continue to process my grief and feel nearest to God at times while sharing a meal. It is during these uncertain times that I’ve been reminded of the importance of the beauty of the everyday and how God shows up in those moments. Processing our collective grief as a country unfortunately can’t include sharing meals together, but I have been inspired from stories I’ve heard of communities rallying around healthcare workers through donating thousands of masks, restaurants that have donated meals, and people my age and younger rediscovering the ability to call friends and family out of the blue which helps us stay connected.

The Luke text reminds us that Jesus is present while we collectively grieve and shows up in unexpected ways. I pray we find comfort in that. Our grief does not however give us permission to neglect Christ’s commandments to love our neighbor as ourselves and to work for justice, which look differently during a pandemic. Loving our neighbors during this time looks like staying home if you’re able to, wearing masks, which protects the vulnerable from getting sick and finding ways to speak out against systemic racism that fuels attacks against people of color and the protests that have taken place recently calling for states to re-open. 

Friends, I hope we find comfort in knowing that Jesus dwells with us amidst our grief and that there is beauty in the everyday. Let us continue to find ways to care for each other, to be community and to find healthy ways to express our collective grief.

Hymn of Response: Be Still and Know, by the Fray, sung by Samantha Lioi

Time of Sharing & Prayer Using the refrain of our sermon-time sharing, we pray God’s peace for one another and for the world this morning: 

For each person in our community, in whatever format they’re participating in this service: peace be with you.
For each person in our community whose needs we have named, and for each person whose needs are unknown or unspoken: peace be with you.
For all whose circumstances are fragile right now — mentally, physically, spiritually, or financially: peace be with you.
For those who feel too alone right now, and those who are finding solitude elusive: peace be with you.
For those whose work puts them at greater exposure to the coronavirus, and those whose work is to care for those with COVID-19: peace be with you.
For those who are grieving this new normal, and for those who are dreaming of the possibilities of new life on this other side of these losses: peace be with you.
For the leaders and decision-makers in our communities, from local to international: peace be with you.
Help us to be bringers of the peace we pray for.

Announcements— Information on weekly Zoom times with pastors and Pastoral Team will be sent out on Monday. 

Closing Hymn Farewell Blessing (Sopa Sol, Wozo: Songs of Resilience)

Benediction 

Blessing That Does Not End

From the moment
it first laid eyes
on you,
this blessing loved you.

This blessing
knew you
from the start.

It cannot explain how.

It just knows
that the first time
it sat down beside you,
it entered into a conversation
that had already been going on
forever.

Believe this conversation
has not stopped.

Believe this love
still lives—
the love that crossed
an impossible distance
to reach you,
to find you,
to take your face
into its hands
and bless you.

Believe this
does not end—
that the gesture,
once enacted,
endures.

Believe this love
goes on—
that it still
takes your face
into its hands,
that it presses
its forehead to yours
as it speaks to you
in undying words,
that it has never ceased
to gather your heart
into its heart.

Believe this blessing
abides.
Believe it goes with you
always.
Believe it knows you
still.

—Jan Richardson

 


Worship Leader:  Susan Gascho-Cooke
Sermon: Heather & John-Michael Cotignola-Pickens
Special Music: Thanks to Daryl Snider for permission to use two of his recordings, and to Samantha Lioi for permission to share her song.
Scripture Reader: t.b.a.