May 31, 2020
Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster

Prelude— Come Holy Spirit, by Joe Gascho

Welcome— Susan Gascho-Cooke

Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost celebrates the day when the Holy Spirit came, like fire, upon the apostles, and “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2) It is a day for celebrating the movement of the Spirit, and calling ourselves, once again, to be open to Spirit’s work within and among us. While Christmas is the “birthday” of Jesus, Pentecost is considered the “birthday” of the church.

Like all of you who celebrated birthdays, or other major milestones in the last two months, you know how strange it can feel to celebrate something in the midst of pandemic and unrest. And yet those celebrations still mean a lot. They remind us of who we are, that we are loved, and they remind us of better times in the past … and in the future.

So, today we celebrate Pentecost — and if there was ever a time we needed to be reminded of who we are, that we are loved, and that better times will come, this is it. If there was ever a time to look around us and contemplate where the Spirit is at work, and where we might be called to join the Spirit at work in the world, this is it.

Even from our distanced vantage points, in the midst of a pandemic, and in the midst of unrest and protest over long-seeded injustices, we say together: Happy birthday, church! And we gratefully gather together to worship.

Lighting of Peace Lamp — This morning our prayer for peace is an extended time of confession and lamentation. When you get to the Words of Assurance, you are invited to light a candle wherever you are.

Prayers of Confession, Lamentation and Assurance

Confession

We ask God to help heal our land with a moment of mourning and honoring those many who have died, often without their loved ones around them. 

We weep and rejoice for those lives which have been lost. We mourn the loss of so many Americans, many known only to families and friends, coworkers and neighbors. We mourn family members and friends whom we loved; worked and worshiped with; ate, played, and prayed with; important members of our communities, some who were on the front lines of caring for and serving others; and those we passed on the street with a smile and nod. 

By God’s grace, we mourn with families who have not been able to memorialize, mourn, or properly bury their COVID dead.

May our lament also honor hard truths we have learned during this pandemic: Our suffering has been unequal, elders have been vulnerable and alone, black and brown neighbors have borne disproportionately both the brunt of sickness and death and the front lines labor of fighting this disease. Native communities, our land’s original caretakers, have been particularly hard hit — as they have been so many times in the past. Asian Americans have been targeted by hateful words and actions. 

Our prayers for the healing of the nation must acknowledge the brokenness of our democracy and rededicate ourselves to repair the injustices this pandemic has revealed, even as work for the healing of those who are afflicted with the virus.

This momentous and tragic 100,000 marker will not be an empty data point on death’s grim graph; rather we will remember those whom we loved and pray for both healing and hope — for our nation and the world. As a people we have borne this pandemic’s cost in the lives of our loved ones; as a nation we shall honor and mourn them together.                  Adapted from Sojourners

LAMENTATIONS 5 FOR 2020

by Soong-Chan Rah, May 29, 2020

Remember, Lord, what happened to Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd;
          look and see the disgraceful way their bodies were treated.
Our inheritance of the image of God in every human being
          has been co-opted and denied by others.The family of Ahmaud, Breonna, and George Floyd has lost their loved ones,
          widowed mothers once again grieve their dead children.
We must scrap for our basic human rights (even to sit peacefully in our homes);
          our basic needs (even the need to breathe) have a great price.
Corrupt officers pursue us with their knees on our necks;
          we are weary and we find no rest.
We submit to uncaring government officials and to big business to get enough bread.
Our ancestors sinned the great sin of instituting slavery;
          they are no more — but we bear their shame.
The system of slavery and institutionalized racism ruled over us,
          and there is no one to free us from their hands.
We get bread (or jog in our neighborhoods) at the risk of our lives
          because of the guns on the streets.
George Floyd is down on the street, his body crying out for air.
Black women have been violated throughout our nation’s history;
          Breonna Taylor gunned down in her own home.
Noble black men have been hung, lynched, and gunned down.
          elders and spokesmen are shown no respect.
Young men can’t find work because of unjustly applied laws.
        Unjustly incarcerated because of staggering negative expectations.
The elder statesmen and civil rights leaders have been assassinated;
          young people who speak out their protest through music are silenced.
Trust in our ultimate triumph has diminished;
          our triumphant proclamation of victory has turned to a funeral dirge.
Our sense of exceptionalism has been exposed.
          Woe to us, for we have sinned.
Because of this our hearts are faint,
          because of these things our eyes grow dim
For our cities lie desolate with predatory lenders and gentrifiers prowling over them.
You, LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation.
Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us for so long?
Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew as that we may find a new way forward
unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.

Excerpted and reworked (again) from Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times.

Words of Assurance — as we light the Peace Lamp

God was with, is with, will be with all who suffer: grief, loss or injustice. That includes you.

God was with, is with, will be with, all who seek to ease the grief, loss and injustice experienced by others. That includes you.

God was with, is with, will be with, all who work to protest and prevent grief, loss and injustice experienced by others. That includes you.

God does not promise that the work will be easy. Or that we will live to see its fruition. That includes you.

God does promise that we will not suffer alone, or labor alone in this work. That includes you.

Jesus told us where to find him when he was gone: with the hungry, the overlooked, the suffering, those in whose faces the world does not recognize the image of God. That includes you.

Offering— Thank you for your continued support of your congregation. Our budget supports our staff, our building, our outreach commitments and our congregational care. We are grateful that church can be a place to seek and give mutual aid. Thanks so much for being the church, and giving to the work of the church. 

Offering Prayer

Gracious God, on this day of Pentecost, may we dedicate ourselves anew to your service. May we ever praise you with our words and with our actions. May all that we are and all that we do show forth the abiding presence of your spirit in this world that you so love. Amen.

Seasons of the Spirit

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
   and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
   and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
   and signs on the earth below,
     blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood,
     before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Sermon intro Chynaah Maryoung-Cooke

Sermon: Chynaah Maryoung-Cooke

One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.

Jamaica?  Jamaica?  That place where weed is grown and smoked, where the people don long and unkempt hair Jamaica?  Can anything good come from Jamaica other than good weather, sandy beaches, irie music, spicy jerk chicken and Cool Runnings?  I’d like us to explore one Jamaican that comes exactly from this context, but what can we all glean from this fortune telling palm reader, guitarist, child of a white 60 year old father and a black 19 year old mother.  Bullied youth who was called white boy because of his mixed heritage and Tuff Gong because of his ability to fight and survive in Trench town in Kingston Jamaica.  But exactly who was this man of unique substance?

Robert Nesta Marley was a musical genius whose music has touched all cultures the world over even earning high music and humanitarian honors post humously.  I often wonder though amidst many prolific songwriting musicians what was it about this person’s life that made humanity hopeful for a better and united world.  I suspect it was his brand of musical prophesy which foresaw a world where love was the underlined thread where oppression, tumult, all manner of isms, racism, xenophobism, intellectualism, classism etc. could be annihilated a force which was greater and for Bob it was music. 

Growing up in a family that was extremely diverse, with mom being from the south, Louisville Kentucky with Native American, black and Irish ancestry and dad from the Caribbean, Trinidad West Indies, Chinese, Venezuelan and black there was always a fusion of culture and constant negotiating of what custom of culture would prevail at any given time.  Would we eat fried chicken or curried chicken, would we listen to blue grass or calypso?  Eventually family gatherings would just be a melding of all cultures and that would suffice.  It was however my father’s Caribbean roots and music would dominate the house and he would play what he called ‘Ragga’ music which was the earlier term for what we know now as Reggae.  Also for many Caribbean’s who were colonized it was a non-negotiable to practice any other religion than Catholicism and I took to religion and Jesus, understanding what the nuns would refer to as a mystery.  As I sought understanding of my own I read things in the bible that paralleled what I heard being sung by the Jamaican artist Bob and while I was told that his religion was so very different from our own, the words came from the same source.  This was the thing that compelled me to his work, his mission and his message of love, peace and harmony for all of human kind.

In the Journal of Academic Religion, in, “Half the Story has not been told”, Dean MacNeil states, Most Bob Marley enthusiasts know that the King of Roots-Reggae codified his ballads and anthems with political ideas and Judeo-Christian-Rastafarian religious consciousness; these he often clothed in biblical imagery and a grammar of theology to spread his message of resistance to oppression, need for peace, and social–political redemption. What is less well known even among students of Marley and his music is the extent to which the thinking and lyrics of this superstar are informed by his reading of the Bible…..

The Bible is a text that has been scrutinized for its authenticity, its manmade presence, its divine presence, its anecdotal metaphors, its parable narratives, its daily codes of conduct, literal, figurative and all in between.  For all those things and perhaps even others this book and its content is yet a powerful mystery that many great thinkers, philosophers and theologians have pondered to articulate and share as best they can.  Marley was no different.

When I reflect on one of the most valuable themes in the Bible I would say it is love.  In fact in Matthew 22:37 – 40 when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus responded by saying [37] Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. [38] This is the first and great commandment. [39] And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [40] On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I believe that love was also the driving force for Bob’s message and life’s mission.  This love was expressed in several ways:

  1. The love that Marley imbued was first a love of himself and the embracing his otherness, perhaps in a world where the polarization of a colonized reality in Jamaica was alive and palpable yet within the crushing scrutiny of what could have been a debilitating existence became the fuel to ignite a world with unbridled hatred and defensiveness toward sisters and brothers who were of a different hue. 
  2. His love of his deep heritage of Jamaica with its rich African roots in the hills of St. Ann’s,
  3. His love of Holy Scriptures and the deeper meaning of the human condition regarding world events and the spirit that transcends the temporary plight of human logic. 
  4. Bob’s love was strengthened by his ability to be inclusive never negating the totality of others, realizing his purpose was above temporal circumstances. 
  5. His revelation was that of unconditional love.  This is spelled out very implicitly in scriptures in what many Christian’s call the LOVE chapter.

I Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away…..And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
 

  1. Finally Bob made the point that he was not on the white side nor the black side but on the God side and I would like to believe that is the message of not only Bob but even Jesus Christ which came to redeem us from worldly folly.

 
And I believe as the Holy Spirit unifies all cultures, all tongues together.
We see that our life, our breath and our being is interconnected to our brothers and sisters all over the world where water does not separate us, cultures cannot divide us and through love of humanity we can create a musical tapestry that speaks to the larger call of all citizens of this world which I believe we can take from the words of Bob Marley and I quote, “If you’re white and you’re wrong, then you’re wrong; if you’re black and you’re wrong, you’re wrong. People are people. Black, blue, pink, green – God make no rules about color; only society make rules where people suffer, and that why we must have redemption and redemption now.”

“Overcome the devils with a thing called love…
 One love One heart let’s get together and be alright!”

Song  “Don’t Worry” by Bob Marley, performed by Chynaah Maryoung-Cooke

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

God of all,

we come before you with praise and devotion, grateful for the gifts you have poured out upon us!

We give thanks to you for the ways in which you have increased our understanding of one another and of you. Help us to continue in this work of justice and peace, breaking down the barriers that separate us from each other and from you. Help us to strive against racism, classism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia and transphobia. Help us to listen to one another and hear your voice; help us to look at one another and see your image.

God of grace, we give thanks to you for the ongoing presence of your Spirit in our world. For we are still in need of refining, and we are still in need of encouragement. Because sometimes, O God, the love to which you call us sounds absurd – impossible. Do not let us be ashamed for dreaming dreams and seeing visions that sometimes seem ridiculous. Give us courage to keep showing up for the hard, awkward, seemingly impossible, un-ending work of peace and justice, that all barriers may fall and we may indeed be one: one kin-dom, united in you.

All of this we pray in the name of the one who prayed this unity for us: Jesus Christ, our redeemer.

Amen.  

adapted from Seasons of the Spirit

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

Closing Hymn— God Be With You Til We Meet Again, Anika and Landry Krebs

Note from Worship Committee: We plan to end all of our future worship services with this song, until such time as we can ALL gather and sing it together in person. **If your household would like to record yourselves singing this song, or if you’d like to spearhead any other tech-savvy/social-distance-respecting way of recording this song, we’d love to have different versions of this to listen to and sing-along-at-home to in the coming weeks and months.

God be with you till we meet again;
loving counsels guide, uphold you,
may the Shepherd’s care enfold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
unseen wings, protecting, hide you,
daily manna still provide you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
when life’s perils thick confound you,
put unfailing arms around you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
keep love’s banner floating over you,
smite death’s threatening wave before you;
God be with you till we meet again.

Benediction

THIS GRACE THAT SCORCHES US: A Blessing for Pentecost Day

Here’s one thing
you must understand
about this blessing:
it is not
for you alone.

It is stubborn
about this.
Do not even try
to lay hold of it
if you are by yourself,
thinking you can carry it
on your own.

To bear this blessing,
you must first take yourself
to a place where everyone
does not look like you
or think like you,
a place where they do not
believe precisely as you believe,
where their thoughts
and ideas and gestures
are not exact echoes
of your own.

Bring your sorrow.
Bring your grief.
Bring your fear.
Bring your weariness
your pain,
your disgust at how broken
the world is,
how fractured,
how fragmented
by its fighting,
its wars,
its hungers,
its penchant for power,
its ceaseless repetition
of the history it refuses
to rise above.

I will not tell you
this blessing will fix all that.

But in the place
where you have gathered,
wait.
Watch.
Listen.
Lay aside your inability
to be surprised,
your resistance to what you
do not understand.
See then whether this blessing
turns to flame on your tongue,
sets you to speaking
what you cannot fathom

or opens your ear
to a language
beyond your imagining
that comes as a knowing
in your bones,
a clarity
in your heart
that tells you

this is the reason
we were made:
for this ache
that finally opens us,

for this struggle,
this grace
that scorches us
toward one another
and into
the blazing day.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

 


Worship Leader: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Music: Chynaah Maryoung-Cooke, Landry Krebs, Anika Krebs
Sermon: Chynaah Maryoung-Cooke
Children’s Time: Malinda Clatterbuck