Happy Sunday! (Or Saturday night if you’re quick!)

I want to take a moment to expand on my sermon from today. When you listen to it, I suspect you will hear the wrestling within my soul. I am tired. I am tired of the uncertainty of all of this; I am tired of the inconsistent messaging; I’m tired of the holes in the safety nets for the vulnerable; I’m tired of the polarization of our civil discourse. My message feels like a lament woven into a need to name the Good News. I see the Good News (and I’m about to list many examples of it below) but I also see the ways in which we are called to continue to advocate for all of God’s people. The wrestling you hear is real, and I’m learning to be okay with it. I find relief in the promise that a stronger faith comes from wrestling.

I fear that my words will come off more judgmentally than I wanted them to, especially if you don’t know me well enough to know my open mind and heart. I trust we are all doing the very best we can. I pray for all of you every day as you learn what that looks like for your families, your businesses, your careers, and so on.

I do point a couple of times towards the fact that Covid-19 is disproportionately impacting our poor and black communities. The situation with minority groups was discussed this week by Governor DeWine in our Ohio press briefings, and I find the CDC’s explanation of this situation to be very clear. You can read it here: COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups. As for the impact in poor communities, there are just too many resources to cite.

My sermon also includes a bunch of snapshots of awesome work that is happening here in Lakewood and Cleveland. I am linking those sources here.

  • Three Women in Cleveland who are serving the most vulnerable speaks about Yvonka Hall and her work with Babies and Brunch
  • Building Hope in the City
  • SPACES art gallery
  • Cleveland Chamber Choir, especially this digital collaboration video, Resilience by Abbie Betinis.
  • Youth Opportunities Unlimited. I especially made mention of their online career olympics, and would like to point you even more specifically to these Public Speaking submissions. If you recognize the filming style, it’s because our own Darren Toms filmed them too!
  • I made mention of our educators. I specifically lifted up Evelyn’s third grade teacher Max Plevyak, but also had someone submit positive words about church member and fifth grade teacher Sean McGuan, and I’d also lift up my son’s teachers Mrs. Harkness and Mrs. Cramer.
  • I shared a bit about Erie Design’s high school/middle school graduate sign story, but asked Julie if I could share her whole write-up here. It’s an absolutely beautiful example of the community of Lakewood.
  • I also listed many Food Pantries and drive-by meal options, including Trinity Lutheran Church, our own church, and West Park UCC.

I couldn’t list everything. So here are a few more awesome stories that came in after I finished filming:

  • Homeless Hookup CLE has opened a new resource center with free clothes, shoes, and accessories and beginning to look at open computer and WiFi access.
  • Recovery Resources is doing amazing work to continue providing addiction and recovery support either through Telehealth or following clear social distance recommendations.
  • EDEN (Emerald Development and Economic Network) is working to meet the growing need for affordable housing in Cleveland during this time.
  • Refugee Response has a WHOLE YOUTUBE PAGE of explanations and information about Covid-19. Each video is translated into many different languages to provide information to refugee communities.
  • And here’s a good and gorgeous list of Cleveland businesses responding to needs from thisiscleveland.com
  • Last but not least, the Institute for Family and Community Impact, for whom my husband works, believes that by enhancing relationships for children and families, we build stronger and more resilient communities and futures. They have been stepping up to provide resources for families and community mental health workers during this time.

In closure to sermon reflection, I want to say this: I expect I’ll receive some pushback for this message, so I want to be clear that ***YOU ARE ALLOWED TO DISAGREE WITH ME.*** God blessed me with a calling to preach and interpret the Gospel for a community of faith. The Gospel isn’t always comfortable, and any time I’ve ever tried to sugar coat a hard reality we face, the Spirit has been quite clear that she won’t let me go until I say what I’m feeling called to say. Yet I remain a HUMAN vessel interpreting the Gospel just like you are a human vessel interpreting the Gospel. So together we wrestle with how God is at work in our world. The baseline is Grace. Be well. Stay safe. Love your neighbor.

Here is the worship service…

First, you can find a PDF of the bulletin with a transcript of the sermon here.

Weekly scripture reflections: Breathing in John 17…

I want to commend this resource to you especially because my sermon doesn’t closely engage the text, and this does. It will be a great way to pray and process the week ahead.

Here is the Family Faith Formation Video…

Faith Formation Resources

Finally, don’t forget to join us for camp songs on Facebook Live tomorrow night at 7:00…

You can find the song lyrics here!

Stay well, stay safe, stay connected.
Pastor Joanna

P.S. I’ve enabled comments on this blog post so that people can participate in some conversation if desired, and add additional comments on great work that is happening in Lakewood and Cleveland.

P.P.S. Please consider fulfilling your pledges during this time. Financial gifts are always welcome, and our church feels the call to respond to the needs around us as they arise. Financial stability allows us to do so more effectively. So, let us give generously of our time, talent, treasure to further the work of God in our community.

You can do so in the following ways: 

  • Writing and mailing a check to Lakewood Congregational Church, 1375 W. Clifton Blvd. Lakewood, Ohio 44107
  • Texting STEWARD to 44-321
  • Sending a gift through your bank’s online bill pay 
  • By using the donate button through Paypal for Nonprofits.
  • Call the church office at (216) 221-9555 to discuss other options
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