Prelude - “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” - Sarah Park
We are a community seeking to have open minds, open hearts, and open arms, building community in a fragmented world. Welcome to the Mantua Center Christian Church!
MCCC Veteran Recognition - Smile Team
Opening Scripture - I Corinthians 12:12-18
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose
*Response - Weave
Weave, weave, weave us together, Weave us together, in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together, weave us together, together in love.
*Call to Worship - Liz Meeker
ONE: We have come to worship God, the living God,
ALL: Who calls prophets and teachers to bear witness.
ONE: We have come to praise God, the almighty God,
ALL: Who answers the forces of hatred and hurt with the power of grace.
ONE: We have come to worship God, all-gracious God,
ALL: Who chooses even you and me, to receive and work together to carry the Word of life and hope. All glory to God!
*Opening Hymn - Womb of Life, and Source of Being #14, v. 1 & 4
1. Womb of life, and source of being, home of ev'ry restless heart,
in your arms the worlds awakened; you have loves us from the start.
We, your children, gather 'round you, at the table you prepare.
Sharing stories tears and laughter, we are nurtured by your care.
4. Mother, Brother, holy Partner; Father, Spirit, Only Son:
we would praise your name forever, one-in-three, and three-in-one.
We would share your life, your passion, share your word of world made new,
ever singing, ever praising, one with all, and one with you.
Invitation to Generosity
Invitation - Liz Meeker
Music: “All to Jesus I Surrender” [by W. S. Weeden]
The Doxology #46
Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise God, all creatures here below;
praise God above, ye heavenly host: Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Offering Prayer - Liz Meeker
Children’s Moment - Rev. Chad Delaney
Pastoral Prayer - Rev. Chad Delaney
God, On this day we are once again mindful of the blessings of this community here and your Holy Spirit which binds us together. As we come together, help us to find healing, comfort, and joy on this day being with one another and with you. On this day may the meditations of our hearts, the songs on our lips, the prayers we pray, and the listening of our ears, be consecrated to give you glory.
Lord on this day we come to you with thanks mindful of all those in our lives that give so much. On this weekend we are mindful of our nation’s veterans. Who struggled and placed themselves in harms way for the sake of others. We remember those those who have served in times of war and peace. For those who are serving and those who have served. May we care for all them, their families, their wounds of body and spirit and may we honor their service by working toward peace.
In this time of Stewardship, Lord, in measuring what matters to us we are thankful for all those who give generously for the good of others. We are thankful for elders, deacons, ministry team leaders in our church who offer so freely of their time, talent, and treasure of all they serve. May you bless our partners in ministry: our sister churches, our Region, our General Church. For the Week of Compassion and Global Ministries. For our partners in every corner of the earth. For those who serve in orphanages, shelters, food cupboards, and all the many ways they offer their hands for the good of others. Help each of us to hear more clearly your call on our lives, to understand ways as individuals and as a church that we too can serve you in the Name of Jesus Christ.
Today we lift our veterans, our sick and in need. Make us ever mindful of the poor and vulnerable in our midst and in the world. Open our hearts and spirits wider and farther. Help us Lord to reach out in love to the tired, the hungry, the downtrodden. Help us to love our neighbors, make us more like Jesus.
Hear the names of those in need aloud and in silence...
Meditation - MaryEllen Hamlin
Communion Hymn - Bread of the World #387, v.1
1 Bread of the world in mercy broken, wine of the soul in mercy shed,
by whom the words of life were spoken, and in whose death our sins are dead:
Prayer & Lord’s Prayer - MaryEllen Hamlin
Words of Institution - Rev. Chad Delaney
Music: “More Love to Thee, O Christ” [by W. H. Doane]
Scripture - Judges 4:1-9
The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. 2So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. 3Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years. 4 At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. 5She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgement. 6She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. 7I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.” ’ 8Barak said to her, ‘If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.’ 9And she said, ‘I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.’
Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh.
Sermon - "If You Go with Me" - Rev. Chad Delaney
In 2013 the now classic Disney movie Frozen came out. When it came out I was skeptical. By that point I was kind of a scrooge when it came to the Disney movies. The music is great, but the storyline is tired. Good Guy. Bad guy. Damsel in distress. Knight in shining armor. It's been done to death.
But we went. Mesmerized by the haunting opening scene, humored by Olaf’s “In Summer” song, and taken away by Elsa’s…“Let it Go.”
But then…when the end of the movie was coming, the main characters Elsa and Anna were in great distress and one of the main characters Kristoff was coming to the rescue! Here comes the macho fight scene with noble steeds and fists of fury. My eyes were already rolling. But….While Kristoff rode back…the plot thickened. Olaf was saving a freezing Anna. Elsa broke out of captivity herself. And then…to my surprise, all these events led to the climax of the movie, where instead of a fight…it was Anna who stepped in the gap to save her sister. Olaf’s sacrificial heroics led to Anna’s, which would later lead to Elsa’s, etc. It wasn’t the typical way these usually go and it offered a different message.
Our passage today in Judges is in the midst of a series of stories of predictability. After Israel escaped from Egypt to the Promised Land we would have expected they would have remembered their captivity and God’s saving acts and stayed on their best behavior…but instead they wandered into sin and idolatry. A pattern then emerges in the storytelling. If you read the passages in Judges 3 you will see these patterns. “The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” So what was the solution? God raises up a deliverer to rescue them. First it was Othniel. He leads them in victory over their enemies and restores order. The same thing then happens with Ehud and Shamgar. Good Guy, Bad Guy. God calls on a hero. Hero wins. All’s good.
And then comes the story of Deborah. It begins the same way with “again, the Israelites were doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord” and God calling--this time--Deborah to lead them. Deborah was both a prophetess and judge who shared God’s word with the people. She led with wisdom and strength and the people would come to her for guidance. Given the pattern…she would be the hero in the story? But then she calls upon Barak to lead the army against the Lord’s enemies and despite their being the underdog, Barak knows he will have strength of Deborah goes beside him. He says, “ ‘If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.’ So they take the army down to meet General Sisera in battle.
Today we didn’t read the second half of Judges 4 but this is what happens. Deborah and Barak succeed, scattering their enemies. Yet Sisera somehow escapes. He escapes into an ally's camp--Heber the Kenite--and hopes to find a place to be safe and recuperate. So he’s wandering through camp and a new character emerges--Jael (Heber the Kenite’s wife)--who feigns kindness and hospitality to Sisera. You’d think this would be a great thing for Sisera, but while in her tent, Jael kills Sisera giving the Israelites victory. Not the typical way these stories usually go.
What is hard about this story--of course--is the brutality and violence--difficult to read. This was written about the world in which the people lived in then..but it's still hard.
So…Putting aside that piece of it…One question we might ask when reading the Bible is “For what reason did the story-tellers preserve this story in the tradition? What was important about it?”
We see from the beginning that this story broke the mold about what many listeners and readers might have expected. One way is the leadership and power of women in the story. In 2022 in the United States of America only 30% of the House of Representatives are women. And that’s in 2022 in supposedly one of the most advanced, modern countries in the world. Imagine what it was like thousands of years ago when Deborah was leading. She was likely a rare one and was powerful and important in the history of God’s people. Her story needs to be heard.
And what is unique about her is that it appears, unlike her predecessors that she didn’t need the glory all for herself. She saw that it was more than one person needed. Indeed, in this story there is a cascade of events with multiple people and one of them quite unexpected in Jael to get them to the finish line. There is not ONE hero but multiple heroes in making it all happen. Prof. Dennis Olson says, “Human culture often worships singular human heroes. Judges 4 offers another way — interdependence and shared responsibility in reaching a common goal.”
Family of God, as God’s people we must resist this urge to hero-ize. When we hero-ize we can forget that God works in and through all people. When we forget this we can stagnate. We can wait for others to act instead of springing to action ourselves. We can forget that we are all interconnected and all can play a part in building a better household, school, workplace, church, and society.
Last week, we were blessed by the RE-Centering Event. There are so many wonderful ideas springing to life. It was a reminder that we are the Body of Christ. “12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.” And each one of us plays a part. Re-presenting Christ in the world in what we say and do. We are the hands and feet.
May we remember that it is together we can see our priorities and goals as a congregation come to fruition. There is not one hero among us, but an interdependent collective to accomplish what we set out to do…what God has called us to do together. What dream or action step has God placed on your heart? Is there someone you could see working together with? Is there a small group ready to take on a new challenge to make a difference? In what way is the Holy Spirit moving us to come together to change God’s world?
As Barak said to Deborah… “If you will go with me, I will go, too;” May it be so.
*Closing Hymn - “Ours the Journey” #458, v. 1-4
1. In the midst of new dimensions, in the face of changing ways,
who will lead the pilgrim peoples wandering their sep’rate ways?
REFRAIN: God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,
we your people, ours the journey now and evermore.
2. Through the flood of starving peoples, warring factions and despair,
who will lift the olive branches? Who will light the flame of care? Refrain
3. Though we reach the highest heavens, holding worlds at your command,
we are yet a desert people searching for the promised land. Refrain
4. Should the threats of dire predictions cause us to withdraw in pain,
may your blazing phoenix spirit resurrect the church again. Refrain
Benediction - Rev. Chad Delaney
So then may we LIVE the Gospel through our thoughts, words, and actions as a community, as the Body of Christ. May we bring light to places of shadow with peace, generosity, and love. And may the peace of God and the grace of Jesus Christ be with us now and always. Amen.
Postlude - “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” [by W. B. Bradbury] - Sarah Park