Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….
Psalm 147 Hallelujah!
It’s a good thing to sing praise to our God;
praise is beautiful, praise is fitting.
2-6 God’s the one who rebuilds Jerusalem,
who regathers Israel’s scattered exiles.
He heals the heartbroken
and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does.
God puts the fallen on their feet again
and pushes the wicked into the ditch.
7-11 Sing to God a thanksgiving hymn,
play music on your instruments to God,
Who fills the sky with clouds,
preparing rain for the earth,
Then turning the mountains green with grass,
feeding both cattle and crows.
He’s not impressed with horsepower;
the size of our muscles means little to him.
Those who fear God get God’s attention;
they can depend on his strength.
Powerful God, from the very beginning you blessed creation. You have loved and shielded your people through all joys and trials of life. We come to you this day, rejoicing in the many blessings you have given to us. We open our hearts again to hear your word for us and to gather strength and joy for service in your world. Be with us and bless us again, we pray. AMEN.
let us begin today’s worship
Call to Worship
L: Welcome! Open your hearts to God’s love this day!
P: Praise be to God who has called us here!
L: Let the words wash over you and offer you healing and hope.
P: Praise be to God who continually blesses us!
L: Place your hope and trust in God!
P: With joyful hearts, we come to worship and praise God who continually blesses and provides for us. AMEN.
Opening Hymn: Sing praise to God, Who Has Shaped #22 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWIqYAKSCNU&ab_channel=WestParishChurchAndover
Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
A Preaching Tour in Galilee
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
The word of God for the people of God!
Thanks be to God!
Sermon: say their Names -February is Black history Month
February is Black History Month. Now I confess I feel awkward even speaking about this. Why? Because I am a white middle class cis gendered gay man. If I could I would invite someone else to speak on this but then say I do invite one of my friends of color to preach and teach does that become tokenism?
We are striving to address 0ver 400 years of oppression in this country. I am going to do my best to be present and participate in this process. This is why I am preaching/teaching today about Black history month.
Luckily I do not do this in a vacuum and I can research and quote some of the best leaders in our country. Soo while researching just what I wanted to say today I found this article by dr. Tony Evans.
Dr. Tony Evans is the founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative and author of over 100 books, booklets and Bible studies. The first African American to earn a doctorate of theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, he has been named one of the 12 Most Effective Preachers in the English-Speaking World by Baylor University. Dr. Evans holds the honor of writing and publishing the first full-Bible commentary and study Bible by an African American. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on over 1,400 radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. Dr. Evans’ sermons are also streamed and downloaded over 20,000,000 times annually.
Here is what dr. tony had to say about this…
“Something I sometimes hear from my white brothers and sisters when it gets around to Black History Month each year is, “Tony, tell me again … why we have to have Black History Month? And shouldn’t we have White History Month, too?” That statement is usually followed up by a chuckle in an attempt to take the edge off of what has the potential of turning into an awkward conversation.
But I welcome discussions like these because they provide an opportunity to place a subject front and center that often only lurks in the shadows of Christendom. That may sound like a strong statement—that black/white relations or racial reconciliation across any racial barrier needs to be a “front and center” subject—but I say that in light of the emphasis God Himself places on His body living, acting, moving, communing and serving in oneness and unity in His Word.
What does unity really mean?
God does His best work in the midst of unity. In fact, so essential is the issue of oneness in the church that we are told to be on guard against those who try to destroy it. (Romans 16:17). God has intentionally reconciled racially divided groups into one new man, (Ephesians 2:14-15) uniting them into a new body, (Ephesians 2:16) in order that the church can function as one (Ephesians 2:13). When the church functions as one, we boldly brag on God to a world in desperate need of experiencing Him.
But how do we as a Church function as one? We don’t. He does—both in us and through us.
When we got saved, we were baptized into the body of Christ. No matter what our race, gender, or class is, when each of us came to faith in Jesus, we entered into a new family. We didn’t create God’s family. We became a part of it.
That is so important to realize because far too often we are trying to force unity when authentic unity cannot be mandated or manufactured. Instead, God says we are to “preserve the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3). The Holy Spirit has created our unity. It is our job to preserve it.
The reason why we haven’t solved the racial divide in America after hundreds of years is because people apart from God are trying to invent unity, while people who belong to God are not living out the unity that we already possess (ie. I would more emphasis on the not living out in the unity we already possess) . The result of both of these situations has been, and will continue to be, disastrous for our nation. Let alone disastrous for the witness of Christ to our nation.
So what does this have to do with Black History Month? Everything.
Unity through working together
I read an eye-opening paragraph in a popular book the other day that will help explain my answer. It highlighted the reality that we still don’t get it about race. It said, “I know many of my white friends and colleagues, both past and present, have at times grown irritated by the black community’s incessant blabbering about race and racism and racial reconciliation. They don’t understand what’s left for them to do or say. ‘We have African Americans and other people of color on our staff. We listen to Tony Evans’s broadcast every day. We even send our youth group into the city to do urban ministry. Can we get on with it already? Haven’t we done enough?’”
To be fair, we have come lightyears away from slavery, Jim Crow laws, and other overt displays of racial hatred. But tolerance is still a far cry from reconciliation. The mere fact that we remain relationally separated most of the time, only coming together for an event or cross-cultural seminar, shows how far we need to go. The proof of this is that we do not have a collective restoring effect in our society. We have limited the degree to which God’s presence will flow in us and through us because if what we call unity is not transforming individuals, churches and communities, than it is simply sociology with a little Jesus sprinkled on top.”
Transformation is the key. Transformation is hard, intentional work. Transformation is informed from the outside, but happens on the inside. It doesn’t happen overnight. It isn’t a one and done because transformation is growth. If we are not growing and transforming then we are stagnant, rigid and dying.
I admit I do not have all the answers and that is another reason why I reach out, study, and seek to learn. Now some would say this topic is too political for church. Yet the call of church in times such as these is to be political.
Traci Blackmon in an interview with the world council of churches says: “People of faith must not be silent. Christians have a moral responsibility to speak out and teach people to say no to racism, xenophobia, exclusion and discrimination… while some people believe the church should not get involved in politics, she believes the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem was “both a holy and political act”. The entire Jesus story is “one of human terror and divine mercy”, she said, since God “became human in the form of one who was vulnerable, poor and displaced in order to unveil the injustice of tyrannical power… the church must “recapture its prophetic zeal” and speak out against harmful policies or risk becoming “an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.
Blackmon also denounced the ways in which previous US governments oppressed and enslaved indigenous and immigrant people in past centuries, stressing that the church has been “complicit in the promulgation of religious rhetoric that favours some of God’s creation over others”. Immigration policy in the US, she declared, “is not as much about safety as it is about separatist ideology” and people of faith must not be silent.
Speaking after her powerful presentation to the conference, Blackmon insisted that the churches do have the power to combat racism and xenophobia - if they act in a more united way. The church is where people get their theological grounding, she said, and it is there where they must be taught that “any oppression of people that limits their ability to be all that God designed them to be is wrong.”
None of the isms, are about safety but about separatist ideology! This ideology is what kills. It becomes I am supposed to hate you because you are not like me, I am better than you, I can do what I choose to do to you, because you are less than human.
Now you may think to yourself …I am not like that. You are probably correct. You are not. We are a gentle and loving people who proclaim No matter who you are or where you are in life’s journey you are welcome here. Yet many of us participate in racism unknowingly.
“The term “systemic racism” has become widespread in media discussions to describe how prevalent and deeply embedded anti-Blackness is in America. Understanding cities themselves as systems can help us frame racism as not just a social issue, but one that has become literally built into the fabric of America’s urban areas.
Cities are complex systems made up of social and political, natural and constructed elements, and racism manifests itself spatially across each of these. From economic development to food, health and health care, environment, and policing, all these differ substantially across places within urban areas, and often align closely to neighborhood racial demographics. Spatial data illustrates how cities have become the epicenters of American racial injustice. As data increases our understanding of the depth and extent of racial inequality in cities, we need to also better understand how different elements of our urban systems work together to perpetuate injustices — from laws, policies and regulations to built infrastructure and urban nature. So when we talk about systemic racism in urban areas, we need to not limit ourselves to the social system, but think of the larger system that includes “hard” and “soft” elements that work together to inequitably distribute both risks and opportunities across racial lines.”
School funding and education is just one example. “SCHOOL DISTRICTS WHERE the majority of students enrolled are students of color receive $23 billion less in education funding than predominantly white school districts, despite serving the same number of students – a dramatic discrepancy that underscores the depth of K-12 funding inequities in the U.S…
Today, at least 35 states actively work to redistribute education money to make up for the fact that wealthier school districts generate more local funding than poor school districts. But inequities in funding don't only occur based on poverty. As the EdBuild report reveals, income is often a bad proxy for race. And despite attempts to distribute K-12 funding more equitably based on income, massive funding disparities still exist when examining the racial makeup of the districts receiving it…
When researchers at EdBuild disregarded income levels, they found that districts serving large numbers of students of color receive, on average, 16 percent, or about $2,200, less per student than largely white districts. In 21 states, nonwhite school districts received less funding per pupil than white districts.”
Just by simply trusting our government to fair distribution of funds allocated for education…doesn’t work and, unless we research and then try to do something about it we are unintentionally complacent in systemic racism.
You may not think of this but did you know there are food deserts in america? “A food desert is an area with low-access to healthy and affordable food. About 19 million people in America live in a food desert, and it disproportionately affects Black communities, according to CNBC. Despite nationwide efforts to improve poor food environments, many of the biggest names in America’s grocery industry (CNBC named Kroger and Walmart) continue to avoid these neighborhoods.”
Oh if you do not believe that slavery still exists in the united states I encourage you to look at our justice and penal systems.
• “The prison-industrial complex is a set of interest groups and institutions. Private prisons’ business model is contingent upon incarcerating more and more people.
• Hundreds of corporations benefit from penal labor, including some of our largest major corporations. 7% of state prisoners and 18% of federal prisoners are employed by for-profit companies.
• Wages are equivalent to less than $1 per hour in most penal labor programs with up to 12-hour workdays. The pay scale for federal prisoners is $.12 to $.40 per hour.
• In Texas, inmates are not paid for labor. The Texas penal labor system, managed by Texas Correctional Industries, is valued at $88.9 million in 2014.
• The estimated annual value of prison and jail industrial output is $2 billion.”
Black lives matter. This is an obvious truth in light of God's love for all God's children. But this has not been the experience for many in the U.S. In recent years, young black males were 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white counterparts. Black women in crisis are often met with deadly force. Transgender people of color face greatly elevated negative outcomes in every area of life.
When Black lives are systemically devalued by society, our outrage justifiably insists that attention be focused on Black lives.
When a church claims boldly "Black Lives Matter" at this moment, it chooses to show up intentionally against all given societal values of supremacy and superiority or common-sense complacency. By insisting on the intrinsic worth of all human beings, Jesus models for us how God loves justly, and how his disciples can love publicly in a world of inequality. We live out the love of God justly by publicly saying #BlackLivesMatter
A call to prayer
This is a time of sharing.
A time of lifting, lifting up our hearts
In gratitude and supplication.
What joys do you have to share,
What needs weigh on your heart?
Bring them here in community that we may all lift them up to God.
Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn
Quiet Reflection: God Moves in a Mysterious Way
God moves in a mysterious way great wonders to perform;
God plants great footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines of never failing skill,
she treasures up her vast designs, and works her sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust God’s grace;
Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.
God’s purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
The bud may leave a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan God’s work in vain;
God is the one interpreter, and soon will make it plain. Amen.
Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us
Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom 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 kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Invitation to the Offering
In gratitude for all that God has given us, we receive this morning offering, pledging these gifts and our lives in God’s service. AMEN.
Doxology #778 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hbrJ7F2wKc&ab_channel=DanInglis
Lord, we bring these gifts to you, thankful for all the ways you have healed and enriched our lives. May these gifts be used in service to others in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
Celebration of Holy Communion
(Please if you have not already prepared elements for communion do so. Remember that even an English muffin can become a sacrament, even a cup of water or tea can become a remembrance of God’s redeeming love)
For Holy Communion this morning,
I invite you to lend Christ your table.
We recall that once a long time ago Jesus gathered with his friends in a room. Men, woman, children, free and slave, Jewish, roman, tax collector and priest all gathered as friends to celebrate a feast.
We do not know all the conversations that were shared. We do not know the menu of the day. Yet by faith we proclaim these words.
The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth.
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed
took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said,
“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Sharing of the Elements
Leader: Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.
Unison: We are one in Christ in the bread we share.
Leader: Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.
Unison: We are one in Christ in the cup we share.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace,
rejoicing that, by the very method of our worship,
we have embodied the truth that Christ’s love
is not limited by buildings made with human hands,
nor contained in human ceremonies,
but blows as free as the Spirit in all places.
Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives.
May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love, not only in church sanctuaries, but in your precious world,
and may the drinking of this Cup renew our hope
even in the midst of pandemic.
Wrap your hopeful presence around all
whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing,
and let us become your compassion and safe refuge. Amen
The office is open for regular hours
We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry
I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in
I’m So Glad, jesus Lifted Me #474
Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave our virtual space. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.
We are being sent into a world in need of healing. We have been given all that we need to be God’s messengers of peace. Go now into the world, rejoicing in God’s presence with you. Bring the news of peace and hope to all you meet. AMEN.