Prelude - “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!” [by J. B. Dykes] - 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!
Opening Scripture - Psalm 65:5-8 Roger Cram
5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
6 By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
7 You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
8 Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
*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 - Katie Baird
ONE: Come and worship, all you who love and serve the Lord—
ALL: outsiders and insiders,
ONE: old-timers and new-comers,
ALL: the young, old and the in-between.
ONE: Come as you are, for this is God’s house—
ALL: a house of prayer for all people, and God welcomes each one who comes.
*Opening Hymn - All Things Bright & Beautiful #61, v.1 & 3
All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful:
in love God made them all.
1 Each little flower that opens,
each little bird that sings,
God made their glowing colors,
and made their tiny wings. [Refrain]
3 The cold wind in the winter,
the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden,
God made them every one. [Refrain]
Invitation to Generosity
Invitation - Katie Baird
Music: “Great is Thy Faithfulness” [by W. M. Runyan ]
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 - Katie Baird
Children’s Moment - Roger Cram
What is beautiful? What does it mean if something is beautiful? Can you tell me?
Is this flower beautiful? Why? What makes it beautiful? ….
Can you name things in your life that are beautiful? ….
Are the stars beautiful? Are sunsets beautiful? Are rainbows beautiful?
Are baby kitties beautiful? Are grandparents beautiful? Are mommies and daddies and sisters and brothers beautiful?
Everything that we mentioned as beautiful is something that we see.
Can you think of something that is beautiful that we don’t see, that we feel?
Is happiness beautiful?
Is laughter beautiful?
Is forgiveness beautiful?
Is love beautiful?
So you see, feelings can be beautiful too. Take these flowers to help remember beautiful things.
Pastoral Prayer - Roger Cram
I have read this pastoral prayer to you before, but because it fits this month's theme of inner beauty, I beg your indulgence if I read it again.
Devine Lord, you perform your miracles through your people; therefore, we need to understand - we are your people. You have responded to the misery in the world by creating us. We are humbled and privileged to be your servants, and we thank you for the honor to serve mankind, through you, as disciples of your love.
As we go into the world to offer your love to others, we become your miracle of protection for the vulnerable. As we devote our capacity to comfort and nourish, we serve as your miracle of survival for those at risk. As we share our ability to educate, we become your miracle of knowledge for the disadvantaged. And as we speak for those unable to speak for themselves, we are your miracle of hope for the powerless.
You have already endowed us with the strength, wisdom, and courage to perform your miracles and have provided us with multitudes of opportunities to serve others. Therefore, our prayers are not for us, but for the vulnerable to endure until we reach them. Fill their hearts with hope, knowing we are on our way.
Keep us mindful that ordinary people like us, can accomplish extraordinary things through your guidance. We are blessed to be your servants and privileged to represent your love for mankind as we courageously embrace each day as disciples of your love.
Meditation - Brian Hurd
Communion Hymn - My Faith Looks Up to Thee #576, v.1-2
1 My faith looks up to thee,
thou Lamb of Calvary,
Now hear me while I pray;
take all my guilt away;
oh, let me from this day
be wholly thine.
2 May thy rich grace impart
strength to my fainting heart,
my zeal inspire;
as thou hast died for me,
oh, may my love to thee
pure, warm, and changeless be,
a living fire.
Prayer & Lord’s Prayer - Brian Hurd
Words of Institution - Roger Cram
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Music: “I Hear Thy Welcome Voice” [By L. Hartsough]
Scripture - 1 Peter 3:3-4
3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
Sermon -The Beauty of Our Congregation - Roger Cram
The theme for this month is beauty. Such a wonderful theme, for we find God’s beauty everywhere. There are many types of beauty, and we could spend a lifetime discussing and admiring them. Beauty is not only a visual experience, but an emotional experience as well. It can be felt as well as seen.
SLIDE ONE (Man and baby)
The beauty of birth is heartfelt by us all. Our children, that God created within us, could not be more beautiful and the feeling of love could not be richer.
SLIDE TWO (baby monkey)
Birth is everywhere for us to wonder at its beauty.
SLIDE THREE (baby duck)
For us to cherish how fragile it is.
SLIDE FOUR (baby and mother bear)
The beauty of motherly love can be felt by us all. We view it in wonderment.
SLIDE FIVE (baby deer being rescued)
The beauty of rescue, of caring, of sacrificing for the love of others.
SLIDE SIX (Pacific Ocean Sunset)
The beauty of sunsets being a majestic end to a beautiful day
SLIDE SEVEN (reflective sunset)
The beauty of reflection doubles the majesty and feeling.
SLIDE EIGHT (sun rise)
The beauty of sunrise welcoming us to the new day.
SLIDE NINE (Hummingbird)
The beauty of speed, the things that happen so fast we cannot perceive their beauty
SLIDE TEN (sparrow flying)
SLIDE ELEVEN (Swans)
The beauty of nature loving itself, releshing in its own magnificence
SLIDE TWELVE (cream into coffee)
We cannot see the simple beauty of putting cream into our coffee, it happens too fast for our eyes
SLIDE THIRTEEN (snowflake)
We cannot see the beautiful intricacies of snowflakes, for their beauty is too tiny
SLIDE FOURTEEN (Luna moth)
We can see the beauty of nature’s many families
SLIDE FIFTEEN (Rainbow)
We can see the beauty of nature’s power and majesty
SLIDE SIXTEEN (Child praying)
We can see the beauty of prayer, and the image a child has of God.
SLIDE SEVENTEEN (heroes of peace)
And we can see and feel the beauty of those who have sacrificed their lives for the welfare of others.
SLIDE EIGHTEEN (MCCC)
But my subject today is none of those wonderful examples of beauty. The subject of my talk is a very special beauty, that up until a year ago I was not aware existed. My subject of beauty to day is you, this congregation, the special people that make this church a home.
Now I know the first thing you are going to say. That you are just average people trying to get through and enjoy life. All special people think they are only average and normal.
I searched for a church of love and peace for over sixty years. I found none. I wanted to listen to sermons of love, not hellfire and brimstone. I wanted to be around forgiveness, not the gnashing of teeth and an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth.
I wanted to worship unconditionally, allowing all people to be present as Jesus taught us, not a church where you had to be a member in order to be allowed to take Communion or had to be baptized in a certain way in order to speak at a service.
The first day I entered this church I was welcomed. Not with that manufactured grin of forced greeting to newcomers so often practiced by other churches, but with a warm smile of sincerity and a twinkle of true welcome in the greeter’s eye.
How did you special people do that? It was wonderful.
Your voice tone of welcome was sincere and enriched with caring, not the routine welcome as if being read from a 3 by 5 card. How did you do that?
I was invited to after church talks, not as if more people were urgently needed to justify the number of attendees in the group, but as if I were the only person to show up, the gathering would not be canceled but continue with the warmth and loving togetherness of hundreds gathered to pray. How did you do that?
In the first part of the service, the mundane and routine ritual of saying hello to your neighbor took place as it does in most churches. But wait, I was turning and saying hello to total strangers, yet they warmly held my hands in theirs, smiling, getting out of their seats to greet me, acting as if I was a long lost friend returning home after many years. How do you people do that?
Then they sang a song about weaving us together into a family of love. And they do this every Sunday. Wow! I am loving this! But beware Roger, could this be real or is it a trick?
I continued coming to this church knowing that such special people had to eventually reveal themselves, to come forth with their real human façade. But you didn’t.
Covid 19 started, but instead of closing down the church you wonderful people held services outside, you held services broadcast on YouTube, you offered attendance online byh Zoom and in the lower level sanctuary, even by the window! Who are these extraordinary people?
Now we have a choir of only eight people who sound as if they were twenty strong singing from the halls of heaven. How do they do that?
After church there are three discussion groups where our leaders have spent many volunteer hours preparing a talk as we discuss the sermon and share hundreds of ideas expressing love and togetherness. They don’t get paid, they donate this simply out of love for us. Where did you find such people?
Loaves-and-fishes free dinners every Thursday, collection of food for the poor through 4C’s, school lunches for kids, Habitat for Humanity trips building houses for the homeless, hand-made prayer shawls blessed by the congregation to shroud our personal prayer experience, Christmas tree gifts tags for kids over the holidays, hand-made wooden crosses free for the asking - how wonderful can a church family be?
I thank you for welcoming me in such a special way. Where else but here could I be warmly enveloped into such a loving family. In some churches I would not be allowed to take communion; in this church I can give Communion as I just did. Where else could I give a talk from the pulpit?
I have always gone to church as more of a duty. I frequently skipped many Sundays. I always wanted to leave a church service feeling refreshed and optimistic, but I never did. I don’t know why I kept attending church after church as if I was driven to find something that I didn’t know existed. Some phenomenon or force kept driving me forward.
I now eagerly look forward to church. I awaken on Sunday morning with the same excitement and anticipation as a ten-year-old boy on Christmas morning. Why? Because I get to spend time with you - a special time of sharing unconditional acceptance and warmth, without judgment, without assumptions, just the joy of being together.
So, my purpose of speaking today is to celebrate beauty, the beauty of this church, the beauty in the hearts and souls of its people, and the beauty of the spirit of love among this entire congregation.
I know you each think you are an average individual. You are not.
I understand that you each feel you are only doing what is expected of you. You are doing much more.
You all know how special this church is, and you should all know it is because of you. I offer you this day a reminder of yourself and the wonderful part you play in this house. I am honored to be the one to do so. I sincerely thank you all for you.
*Closing Hymn - Open My Eyes,That I May See #586, 1-3
1 Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!
2 Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wavenotes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!
3 Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!
Benediction - Roger Cram
Dear Lord, as this inspiring and loving congregation leaves here today, let them know the wonderful results of their love, for the seeds they have planted in other’s hearts often grow without their knowledge. Make them aware, just every now and then, of the goodness and love that flourishes in others because they are here. We know the true giving of your love does not seek any recognition or reward, but just occasionally, make them aware of what their goddess brings to others.
Postlude - “Take the Name of Jesus With You” [by W. H. Doane] - Sarah Park