First Congregational Church of Hartland, United Church of Christ
An Open and Affirming Congregation in Hartland, Vermont
Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
Welcome! We are glad that you chose to worship with us today.
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost July 12th, 2020
Welcome and Announcements
Thank you for joining us, we serve a God of resurrection and we claim that promise of resurrection even now, especially now.
I have a few announcements.
From Jan Hewes: LBS/LadyBs meets this Thurs., July 16 at 1:00 in the shade of the trees outside church. Please wear your mask, bring your own lawnchair and own snack.
Today is a communion Sunday – please gather some bread and juice for your communion and remember that really, anything will do – you don’t need a freshly baked loaf of bread! Jesus used what was available, so can you a cracker, a rice cake, bread and some juice or wine if you prefer!
We are collecting for Back to School (for HES and for local children in the foster care system) – new used Back Packs and school supplies – you can donate by dropping off at the church during outside office hours on Tues mornings (9:00-11:00) or Wed evenings (6:00 – 8:00) or by leaving at the church side door or by contacting Ginny White.
Gathering Music “Morning Has Broken” played and sung by Cal Hale
Lighting our Candles
Let us light our candles together to remind ourselves that there is light in the darkness and that we can share that light with one another in our own times of darkness and we can share that light of love with the world. Please light your candles as we enter into our time of worship. Let us pray: We come to this place to be fed by God’s word, to be nurtured by God’s grace, and to be strengthened by the power of God’s Spirit. Speak to us in this time of Worship, O God, that we might recognize the abundance of your goodness, and find in your presence things that sustain us. Amen.
Call to Worship
Listen, give thanks, and live, for God is among us.
In Jesus Christ, God knows and receives us as we are.
Give thanks, for in Christ we are a new people.
Sing praise, for we come to worship God!
Prayer of Confession & Assurance of Pardon
God of the universe, we confess that we often turn away from the new life you give.
Forgive us when we allow our hurts and wounds to dampen the joy we might express and the hope by which we might live.
Loosen the fear that constricts our hearts so that we might welcome
your glorious presence into every aspect of our lives.
– silence –
Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ we pray. Amen.
Beloved friends, God’s love is lavish.
God’s forgiveness is unending.
Receive God’s love; receive God’s forgiveness.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
A Hymn “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygkkX9FxHg0
Listening for and Responding to the Word
A Scripture Reading from the Book of Revelations 21:1-6 NRSV
I am not generally drawn to the book of Revelations. It is a tough read and pretty confusing and hard to understand. It is apocalyptic and visionary and the images are unsettling. However, when Sherrie and I talked about the work of Restorative Justice, the words that rang in my head were “making all things new” and ‘a new heaven and a new earth’. Thus, our Scripture reading today comes from the book of Revelations. This is a text of powerful promises. The vision of a “new Jerusalem” exists throughout scripture. It is the vision of an ideal city – the fulfillment of human dreams for community and security. And it is a recognition that cities built by human hands fall far short of the ideal vision. This revelation is also an encounter with God – the beginning and the end. It is a vision and a dream, a hope and a promise of redemption for all things made new.
Listen for the word as inspired by God: 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Here ends the reading Thanks Be to God.
A Reflection from Sherrie Greeley
I recently joined the Board of Community Outreach, attended 1 meeting, and made a meteoric rise to center stage addressing the congregation. Let that be a warning to you. My story starts with Lucia recommending a book to me, Tatoos on the Heart, by Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles who works with gang members getting out of prison. He is founder and director of Homeboys Industries, a gang intervention and rehabilitation program. The program offers a variety of free programs such as tatoo removal, legal services, and mental health counseling. The program has created social enterprises and businesses that help former gang members and inmates acquire job skills and seek employment. Homeboys Industries is a vital support system for those reentering society with hope of a new and better life.
I read this book, and the sequel, Barking to the Choir at a time when I was leaving my volunteer position with the adaptive ski program at Mt Sunapee, wondering what my next volunteer opportunity might be. No sooner had I finished reading the books, when I saw a listing in the Valley News volunteer opportunities section for the Hartford Community Restorative Justice Center. I have been volunteering there for a year and a half. The center offers 2 opportunities for volunteering; CoSA (Circle of Support and Accountability) and Restorative Justice Panels. I have been involved in both and both provide opportunities for those who have offended or committed crimes to meet with community members and justice center personnel to promote healing and reintegration into the community.
I’d like to tell you about one such experience. A client came in for her restorative justice panel one day with a large plastic container of iced coffee. I commented on her large coffee and she responded with enthusiasm that it was her birthday and because of this she was able to get a free coffee at Dunkin Donuts. When we finished our meeting, I packed up a baggie of homemade chocolate chip cookies someone had brought in to give her and she headed off with her coffee, cookies, and a big smile on her face. This is a homeless woman who just turned 42, living in a car with her abusive boyfriend, delighted that she had received a free coffee and cookies on her birthday. Her version of a happy birthday.
When Lucia asked at our Community Outreach meeting if there were any new ideas for projects that the committee could do, I suggested that perhaps there was something we could do to help folks coming to the justice center who are trying to get back on their feet and headed in a positive direction. I am proposing a backpack project that would help support people who are coming out of prison and are reintegrating into the community. These folks come out of prison with the clothes on their backs. A backpack which includes toiletries and/or other small objects would go a long way to helping these folks get back on their feet. Many of the people coming back to the community do not have transportation, so a backpack is a high priority item as they often walk to and from wherever they need to go. I am hoping the Outreach Committee and the Congregation will support this project.
A Reflection “All Things New” Rev. Lucia Anne Jackson
Eugene Boring in his Interpretation Commentary on Revelation, writes simply: “God does not make “all new things,” but “all things new.”” (21:5) (p. 220) Do you hear the difference? (REPEAT) Is there any greater promise? It is after all, the promise that we hear in resurrection, this making all things new. Restorative Justice is the work of redemption, of making all things new. We don’t get a “do over” in life. Or in bumper sticker theology, “This isn’t a dress rehearsal”. With God’s help, we each have the opportunity to make all things new – to re-fashion our lives and our choices, to do the hard work of restoration and reconciliation, forgiveness and healing, repentance and justice.
Rev. Janet Hunt has a lovely commentary blog entitled – “Dancing with the Word”. Isnt that a lovely way to describe bible study? On this Revelations text, she writes:
“Indeed, God does not simply replace all that has been broken, defiled, betrayed, polluted, adulterated, or even in our understanding or experience, destroyed. Rather, somehow God gathers it all up and makes the old new again. God redeems what we thought was beyond the human capacity for hope. Again and again. And again. And from what I have seen and heard and known, although the promises held in today’s words are future oriented, we get a sense of their wonder even now.” http://dancingwiththeword.com/all-things-new/
Such is the hope for each everyone of us. In our times of brokenness and vulnerability, that God will work in our lives, as we realize how utterly dependent we are on God’s grace and love and forgiveness. As Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber writes: “God keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions.
And God keeps loving us back to life . . . over and over.”
I am slowly realizing that life isn’t “getting back to normal”, that we are at a time of refashioning our lives and our world. We have an opportunity to envision a new earth, indeed, we are called to do so. What is broken and needs healing? Who needs restoration? How will we live sustainably on this earth? What is the work of justice? Have we finally realized that we can not buy our happiness? That our consuming culture is not fulfilling?
Perhaps you think that this making all things new is unrealistic or too aspirational. But God works redemption in lives all around us every single day. And it is hard work.
Every time an addict turns their life over to their High Power and is able to stay clean another day, another hour, they are experiencing all things made new.
Every time an alcoholic recognizes the strength of their Higher Power and is able to stay sober another day, another hour, they are experiencing all things made new.
Every time someone experiences forgiveness – whether being forgiven or doing the forgiving – there is release and reconciliation – the making of all things new.
Every time someone who has been isolated or marginalized is offered a fresh start there is an opportunity for restoration – the making of all things new.
Making all things new is hard work. And it is sacred work. And it is our work.
In the Greatest of Hope, thanks be to God. Amen.
Special Music “Amazing Grace” played and sung by Cal Hale
The Prayers of the People
Sharing our Joys and Concerns (please share via the “Chat” Feature on Zoom)
Pastoral Prayer & The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom and power and glory forever and ever Amen.
A Celebration of Communion Communion Service Prayers written by Rev. Maren Tirabassi
A Hymn “As We Gather At Your Table” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpr_WtYAJVs
Invitation We remember that Jesus said
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Come to a table not defined by wood or stone
but by what rests upon it — which is the “me” of Christ.
Come unto me because any burden is heavy to the one who is under it.
Come unto me with the burden of a crowded life or a lonely one.
Come unto me, with a child’s burden of frustration or hunger, of abuse or embarrassment.
Come unto me with a burden of grief — for the death of a beloved person or a companion animal, for an ability you have no longer, or a relationship needing reconciliation.
Come unto me with the burden of a disappointment, even one
that doesn’t seem significant enough, or a fear deeper than words.
Come unto the “me” of Christ with any burden — for here is rest for the weary,
lightening of suffering, gentleness, and guidelines for becoming gentle.
Here is a yoke of responsibility that can be lifted because of a small piece of bread
and a sip of the cup of hope.
Prayer of Consecration
Jesus noticed that often people ignore both the celebration of those who are dancing with joy, and the sorrow of those who are weeping in pain or loss when those feelings are not their own. We come to this table rejoicing with those who laugh and sharing the tears of the grieving.
We are God’s children in wonder and loss, dispersed and gathered at the same time.
In your many kitchens, and living rooms, rest your hands lightly upon these elements
which we set aside today to be a sacrament.
We ask God’s blessing on them and on us and on all those who are in our prayers this morning.
God of the open hand and the gentle yoke, we await your gift and your service.
Send your Spirit of life and love, of power and blessing upon your children in every “house of worship,” so that this Bread may be broken and
gathered in love and this Cup poured out to give hope to all.
Risen Christ, live in us, that we may live in you.
Breathe in us, that we may breathe in you. Amen.
Words of Remembering
We remember the Creator blessed all creatures and all human beings
with plants of the ground and fruit of the trees.
We remember that Rebekah’s hospitality was proven
because she remembered to give water not just to people but to camels,
and that her compassion shone when she gave more than was asked or expected.
Communion is always more than expected, so we remember
leftover baskets of bread and fish, so many parables everyone finds a heart-touching story,
an invitation to children, tax collectors, and even thieves,
hand-washed feet rather than a DIY basin, a holy pentecost translation-app,
never the insistence we use special words.
We remember the Passover in Jerusalem when Jesus expanded the menu to include himself,
a half-Communion at Emmaus of Bread broken, so we still seek the Cup in the world,
a miracle breakfast on the beach with fish that could feed a village,
and tables in houses that became church when unconditional love was on the table.
Remembering is good but not enough. Communion is most Holy not in the past,
but today and tomorrow. Jesus said, “Do this now. Don’t talk. Eat and Drink.
Be blessed. Go forth.”
Sharing of the Elements
Let us at many tables receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.
We come unto Christ in the Bread we share.
Let us in many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.
We come unto Christ in the Cup we share.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
In thanksgiving for this meal of grace and in the holy dispersion of virtual worship,
we claim the risen Christ’s love and gentle yoke are found in all houses of worship.
Let us pray …
O Holy One, we have come unto you with our weariness
and we have let go of all in our lives that is heavy.
We thank you for the rest and strength of this communion so now we can lift up all that is light and gentle, humble and easy,
and learn from you how to change the world. Amen
Benediction written by Rev. Talitha Arnold, based on Romans
“Go out into the world in peace. Have courage. Welcome the stranger.
Hold onto what is good. Return no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted. Support the weak.
Help the suffering. Honor all persons. Honor all creation. Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. And may the love of God, the Light of Christ, and the power and communion of that Spirit be with us all. Go in peace. Amen.”
Music for Going Forth
Thank you to Cal Hale for sharing his gift of music today and
Thank you to Sherrie Greeley for sharing her reflection today!
Pastor: The Rev. Lucia Anne Jackson Telephone: 802-436-2224 (church)
Church Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HartlandCongregationalChurch
Organist: Virginia Dow Director of Christian Education: MaryJo Ramsey
Choir Director: Rebecca Wood Church Members: Ministers to the World