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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.
Outdoor Worship Service September 13th, 2020
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good . . .
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12
Gathering Time Janet Hewes, Musician
Welcome and Announcements & Lighting our Candles Welcome! I am so glad that you chose to worship with us this morning! We worship a God of resurrection and of hope. In this church we seek to follow Jesus by seeing the Divine Spark in all of God’s children, by making mission a habit and by being human together.
*LadyBs – noon on Thursday – bring your own lunch and chair to gather outside under the Oak tree!
Please note – there are no office hours on Tuesday as I will be attending Pastor’s Convocation.
If you have a candle, 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 if you have one 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 Psalm 118
God is our strength and our salvation.
This is the day that our God has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of our God.
This is the day that our God has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Let us give thanks to God, who is good, whose love goes on forever and ever.
This is the day that our God has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Prayer of Invocation
God of outstretched arms, you welcome us to this place.
You invite us to experience forgiveness, community, reconciliation, and an overwhelming sense of the love that you pour out upon all your children.
May we feel that love in this time of worship,
may we share it with one another, and may we leave this place committed
to sharing your love in our world.
We come to this place, O God, at your invitation.
You welcome us all, and challenge us to welcome one another in Christ’s name.
In grateful response to your love and gift of grace, help us to recognize in each person the wonderful greatness that you perceive
and to celebrate each one’s worth for Christ’s sake. Amen.
A Story for Everyone I would like to dedicate this story to Mary Jo . . .
So this happened at Foundry UMC in DC today (written by Diana Butler Bass):
The pastor called the little ones forward for the children’s sermon, about a dozen preschoolers gathered on the chancel steps. The pastor asked, “Where is the candle? Do you see the candle?” The children looked around. One sharp-eyed boy said, “There it is.” And the pastor replied, “Would you get it?” The boy retrieved the candle and handed it to her.
“Where is the white bowl?” she then asked. And the same happened. “Where are the silver and gold beads?” Repeat. “Where is something that reminds you of Christmas?” Again.
Finally she asked, “Where is God?”
The children looked about. Up, down, all around. A few bewildered stares, some shrugged shoulders. Then, a small blonde boy in a plaid shirt, about three years old, said, “I know!” The pastor said, “You do?” The little boy looked excited insisting, “Yes, yes!” Then the pastor said, “Where?” And the little boy replied, “I’ll go get God!”
He jumped up from the chancel stairs and ran down the center aisle. His father, obviously a bit worried about the open doors at the back of the sanctuary, leaped out of his pew to fetch his son.
Before he got very far, however, the little boy had returned. He was holding the hand of a kind-looking woman in her seventies, literally pulling her down the aisle. “Here!” he cried, “Here’s God! She’s here!” The pastor looked puzzled: “Miss Jean?” And the boy pointed, “There she is! God! God!”
She was his Sunday school teacher.
Mary Jo, our children may not drag you forward and call you “God”! But your commitment to the children of this church – and the way that you have continued that commitment through this hard time – is inspirational and sacred. You have worked to keep our children and families connected the church family, and to their faith.
I am so grateful.
Most of you don’t realize that Mary Jo has been zooming regularly with our church children, she has planned simple church lessons and encouraged the children to do some outreach. I just wanted to say that YOU ROCK Mary Jo and I wish that I could give you a great big hug!
Listening for and Responding to the Word
A Scripture Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans 12:9-21
Scripture intro: In this letter to the Romans, near the end of Paul’s ministry, we hear Paul laying out his vision for a Christian Community. Scholar Amy Allen writes: “Although Roman Christians would later face fierce persecution at the hands of the Emperor Nero, Paul’s letter to the Romans was written before this fate. As a result, the evil he is addressing is not of an outside force seeking to defeat the Christians but, rather, of the subtler, though perhaps just as dangerous, pressure of their own neighbors, family, and friends. The suffering that Paul addresses is a suffering caused by the experience of Roman Christians finding themselves on the “outside” of their social circles due to their new religious beliefs that forbid the worship of idols. Family members, co-workers, and neighbors who had not converted to Christianity did not understand and did not approve of the new behaviors of their Christian counterparts who refused to attend public events, many of which were deeply integrated with this sort of idol worship. This experience of their neighbors and families not understanding where Christians are coming from in relation to public discourse and current events seems to be something we have never escaped. While the issue today may not so clearly be idol worship, [Progressive] Christians who seek to follow the commandment to love, for instance, often find themselves on the other side of their families, co-workers, and friends when it comes to current social and political issues.” https://politicaltheology.com/the-politics-of-overcoming-evil-romans-129-21-amy-allen/
In these few short verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans, there are, depending on the English translation one is using, upwards of 30 imperatives in this reading. These exhortations transcend their context and speak to any community patterning its life after that of the crucified and risen Christ. Any one verse of this text is a sermon in itself. The words are a window on what life in Christ looks like in community.
Remember, the earliest Jesus followers did not have written gospels to read, they had the Hebrew Bible – our Old Testament – and they had the stories, told and retold, of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The early Jesus followers also had these letters from Paul given them direction and hope, a foundation and a vision. One is tempted to imagine Paul saying “Don’t try this alone.” His advice is addressed to a group of people, and much of it concerns their shared life. Furthermore, this group of people is gathered and empowered by the Spirit of the one they follow. The Spirit of Christ is to shape the common life of those in the Body of Christ. As God shapes the shared life of our community let us remember that our life together is to be characterized by genuine love.
Listen for the word as inspired by God:
Romans 12:9-21 New Revised Standard Version
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; (or footnote: “give yourselves to humble tasks”) do not claim to be wiser than you are.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Here ends the reading, thanks be to God.
In response to the pandemic, we have been told to do some pretty simple things really – wear a mask, keep a physical distance and wash our hands! Did you know that soap, good old fashioned soap is one of our most effective defenses against invisible pathogens? Just a wee bit of soap can disrupt and kill all manner of pathogens – including Covid 19! (science writer, Ferris Jabr). Soap has been around a long time and it is pretty simple really. In this age of computerization and medicines and complicated surgery and gene therapy, “the most wondrous of wonder drugs turns out to be an ancient ordinary thing.” Rev. Mary Luti writes “The things that protect and heal us are not always new, technologically exotic, costly, or rare. Sometimes what makes us whole are the same old things our grandmothers recommended, the remedies our ancestors believed in, the ancient ordinary things that have helped us for a long, long time.
Like a Bible verse, a slow reciting of the Lord’s own prayer, old hymns you sing by heart.
Like saying grace at meals, and “Now I lay me down to sleep” when sleep is nigh.
Like a forgiving word, a graceful thought, a covered dish set down outside a needy neighbor’s door.
Like patience in hard times and thankfulness at all times.” (Rev. Mary Luti, Stillspeaking Daily Devotional)
Like love as a framework for how we live our lives. . . .
In the letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul is laying down a lot of exhortations, but they all get back to one thing – loving as we have been loved. 9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers . . .
You see, sometimes what makes us whole are the same old things our grandmothers recommended, the remedies our ancestors believed in, the ancient ordinary things that have helped us for a long, long time. Let love be genuine. Let our love be a genuine active love in grateful response to God’s grace in our lives. Rejoice in hope. . . in hope, as we cling to the promises of God.
I don’t know about you, but I am very worried about the next few months. I think that things are going to get even uglier politically – on both the left and the right. I think that some awful things are going to be said and done – on both the left and the right. And I worry that people’s frustration and fear will spill over into even more violence and vitriol – on both the left and the right. And yet we are called to a different standard and frankly that is a bit challenging at times. . . . 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. . . . 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. . . . That means engaging in thoughtful dialog, not name calling. That means asking questions and listening carefully, not derisively dismissing someone who has a different opinion or experience. That means loving each other even when we disagree. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to a community – we are a community and we can’t go it alone in these hard times, we need each other.
Let our love be genuine.
Howard Frank Moser’s book “On Kingdom Mountain” is set in the Northeast Kingdom. As with all of Moser’s books, the story is full of interesting old time Vermont characters. This particular story is set in the 1930s about a very independent woman, Jane Hubbel Kinneson. She lives alone on a wild remote mountain outside of the village, but she is also one who believes in caring for others and is proud of her ancestors involvement in the underground railroad. At the end of the story, Jane has carved her own epithat in stone:
“Jane Hubbell Kinneson
The Duchess of Kingdom Mountain
That which I have learned I leave as my legacy:
Close all gates behind yourself.
Every generation should have its own Bible.
The walls we erect to protect ourselves from early pain often shut us off from later joy.
To immerse oneself in the natural world is to share a universal thread with every living thing.
Always declare yourself to the person you love.
Live each day not as though it is your last, but as though it is the last day of the lives of the people you meet.
All the best stories are about love.” (On Kingdom Mountain by Howard Frank Moser)
Her words are an echo of Paul’s words in Romans. There is wisdom and humility in her words – Live each day not as though it is your last, but as though it is the last day of the lives of the people you meet. All the best stories are about love. And isn’t love ultimately the story of our lives? We grieve — because we love. We fear –because we love. We fight for justice — because we love. We serve — because we love. We love — because God first loved us – each and every one of us. All the best stories are about love. God loves us – in all of our brokenness and anger, in all of our frustration and confusion – God loves us and when we realize the incredible grace of God’s love, well – it becomes a lot easier for our love to be genuine, to hold fast to what is good and to overcome evil with good, with love – to name a few things.
In these challenging times – as we watch horrified while the West burns and the Covid numbers climb – as we hear anger and accusations from those in political power, let us come back to the same old things our grandmothers – and the Apostle Paul – recommended, the remedies our ancestors believed in, the ancient ordinary things that have helped us for a long, long time.
Let us come back to that ancient ordinary thing – LOVE — and it can make us whole again.
In the greatest of hope, thanks be to God. Amen.
The Prayers of the People Sharing our Joys and Concerns
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.
I invite you to make your offering in the plate provided as you leave today. And if you are able, please do keep up on your pledge as the church is counting on you! You can mail your pledge or drop it off during office hours or make an online donation via the church website.
In our giving today, let us give, not out of obligation, but from the heart.
Let our gifts be seeds of the living and enduring word of God, that will sprout in abundance of justice and hope all that is necessary for life, for sisters and brothers here at hand, and around the world.
Let us bless our offerings: Gracious God, you offer us abundant life.
We offer you thanks and praise. You sow in us the gift of giving.
We dedicate these first fruits to you. Your goodness abounds, your provision is sure.
To you we offer these gifts of gratitude; to you we rededicate our loves and lives. Amen.
Benediction written by Rev. Talitha Arnold based on Romans 12
“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