Well, I took two weeks off and when I came back, I preached for 20 minutes. It’s one of the longest sermons I’ve ever preached and it’s… well… basically three sermons. So…sorrynotsorry.
Worship Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEZfjt42tGk
Family Faith Formation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1L9YmepWrg
Reflections Piece: https://lcc-church.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/LCC_Undivided-heart_21-June-2020.pdf
I’d like to add, regarding the Reflections pieces that Karen Wagner puts together, how important it is that we are looking at these pieces together as a church. They are providing some really important insights and opportunities for reflection that will help us to move forward together on our faith journeys. There is really no better time than now for many of us to reflect on our faith and grow our spiritual connections. I know many of you are bombarded with information every day, but trust me when I say that these pieces will add energy to your day.
Just a few notes from your pastor…
Preaching the Gospel is a challenging calling right now. I have always been taught that preaching is about “Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” On one hand, I want to offer words of comfort. I think every person I know is physically and emotionally exhausted. We’re walking a hard journey today. So I want to preach a comforting sermon– “it is well with my soul.”; “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.” On the other hand, I think of Galatians 6:9, which says, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” That message from Paul to the Galatians reminds me that we cannot get tired of bending the arc towards justice.
So I don’t know if today’s sermon(s) will comfort you or afflict you, but I hope it will feel true to the Gospel. And if you want something to comfort you, I recommend this song by Carrie Newcomer (You Can Do This Hard Thing) or… well… any song by Carrie Newcomer.
And this song by Joy Ike, “Walk.”
(After posting those I want to say sometimes I get emotional thinking about how much talent is in our world. God is so good).
Regarding Reopening for worship: I get a lot of questions about this. We are beginning to imagine what regathering might look like, and I am beginning to meet with people outside one-on-one. Our Advisory Team will have an update about small groups soon. But, I have to tell you, I am astounded by the number of reports I see in the news of outbreaks that begin in churches. If you google “coronavirus outbreak church” you will find an article about just about every state and many countries. Churches are among the highest risk encounters. So we have to be very intentional and very prudent, and that’s why I believe it will be a while. One example to share is that everything I’ve seen/heard says, NO FANS on in the sanctuary. You’ve been in that sanctuary in the summer, right?
One of my dear friends who I first met as a pastor in Wisconsin is now the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, and has been on the forefront of Coronavirus response for churches. Rev. Kerri Parker wrote this moving testimony earlier this week:
I spent a good part of my afternoon following up on a phone call about a church-based COVID cluster in Wisconsin. (Let the reader understand: even more phone calls, emails, and texts).
A significant number of people associated with this church have been sickened. The name and location and denomination don’t matter. Please don’t spend your time researching; it’s not the point of this message. The reality is: it could have been your church. I pray that it will not be.
Friends, shall I say it again? God can be worshipped without putting lives at risk.
PLEASE do not rush to gather in person in our church buildings.
This is not politics. This is not repression of your rights. This is a disease process that does not care about political or religious affiliation, pride, independence, financial concern, faithfulness or any other measure you care to apply here.
The conditions of viral spread do not yet merit gathering large groups. Small groups that gather would require major precautions to mitigate risk. I say this after countless hours of consulting with public health professionals whose PRIMARY CONCERN is keeping you and your community safe and healthy.
Friends, is it worth it to gather if one of these precious people in our beloved communities is lost because we insisted on a certain form of being together, in a certain place, on our preferred timeline? Is it holy, just, righteous, worthy of the kindom of God?
We cannot rush through wilderness.
We cannot rush through a time of exile.
Try as we might, we cannot hasten the fulfillment of the promised day. Watch for what is provided today. Seek the welfare of the community, today. Watch what God is doing with us here and now. God is shaping us. If you rush, you will miss it.
Dear Church, dear people, we want and need you healthy on the other side of this. There is no doubt that God has dreams for you. Take good care. Make sound choices. You are loved, more than you dare imagine.https://www.facebook.com/pastorkerri/posts/10222761212400472
So, in my sermon I say that every time we talk about when we will reopen, we have to also talk about how we will address racial injustice. Because Amos 5:23-24 says God doesn’t want us to worship if we’re not going to let justice run down like a mighty stream. I took some time in my blog post to talk about reopening, so I want to let you know what we’re doing about anti-racism. We are doing some work with Greater Cleveland Congregations and also having some conversations we’re having with the Lakewood School District. Let us know if you want to know more!
I am also wondering about hosting a one-time Zoom event to walk us through this idea of Mapping our Roles in a Social Change Ecosystem. Roles include: Weavers, Experimenters, Frontline Responders, Visionaries, Builders, Caregivers, Disruptors, Healers, Storytellers, and Guides. We all play a different role. I think I am a weaver and a visionary, most of all. Take a look at the link and see if you can identify yourself, and let me know if you’d be interested in having a larger church/group conversation on Zoom about this.
So honored to be your pastor, Lakewood Congregational Church. Can’t wait to be together again when the time is right.
P.S. My two weeks off was wonderful. Thanks for allowing it. Thanks to everyone who stepped in to make it possible.
A couple more resources: Link to last week’s Lee Road Baptist Church service which we “attended.”
Link to my sermon from last year on “Reject Racism.”