The video above includes the full service for today. You can click on the four arrows in the bottom right of the video to make it full screen. Clicking the three lines next to that will pull up the menu.
Special thanks to Elisa and Matthew Leahy for video production.
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained through One License with license A-727859
CMC Worship in Place for June 7
As we forgo Sunday worship gatherings, we are offering a video service each week. The link to the video is sent out on Sunday morning along with prayer requests.
Welcome and Call to Worship | Julie Hart
Peace Candle | Shakita Kabicek
As we worship in place today, we light a Peace Candle in our home, inviting you to light a Peace Candle in your home. The flame joins us in spirit across distance, along with our sister church in Armenia, Colombia.
HWB 46 | I sing the mighty power of God | Katie Graber
Children’s Time | Jen Cartmel and Bill Plessinger
Graduating Seniors Blessing | Mark Rupp
Pastoral Prayer | Mark Rupp
Mission Moment | CCMP | Phil Hart
Scripture | Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 8 | Patti Browning
Sermon | "Let there be..." | Becca Lachman
StJ 24 | Creation is a Song | Doug and Jude Krehbiel
Benediction | Julie Hart
Closing | 8:46 Minutes of Silence
Cookie Sunday via Zoom (link will be sent out on Sunday morning)
“Let there be…”
Greetings, friends and church family, greetings strangers and wanderers. Welcome to this new day together/apart, in community and longing for the communities we know are possible. I’m recording this for you on the 2nd-story deck of my home in Athens, Ohio on my 80th day of sheltering in place.
Layers of this service so far might be making most of us homesick for our annual outdoor service, which usually happens about this time of year, a service where we’ve pondered and celebrated the natural world, and of course the epic potluck that follows. So I’m having a mini out-door service this morning, and I hope some of you get to, as well, even if you’re by an open window, hearing evidence of Creation pressed to your ear like a seashell.
In the verses from Genesis, we encounter that phrase “Let there be light…” And by some miracle, there IS light: just like that, the first day.
As some of you already know, we’ve been adding on to our house for pretty much the last decade, Michael doing much of the design and labor. This in the middle of grad school for both of us, 3 major job changes, illnesses and surgeries, and the list goes on. Our personal Creation Story includes a lot of band aids and failed trips to Lowes, but it’s also held some lovely surprises. As we’ve added windows and doorways, or taken down walls over the years, we’ve experienced light and sound in a new way. Our house is surrounded by a little urban woods, and as the maples and walnuts and sycamores age alongside us, the light patterns also evolve.
When I come back to these verses about what’s called “the great void” churning into more organisms and minerals and colors than we could ever hope to be able to imagine, I sometimes read all those “Let there be’s” as commands, or sometimes as pleas (Can God plea? I think so, I hope so.)
Sometimes “Let there be” seems more like an invitation, the offering of a gift. One British usage of this phrase is to allow or invite someone to live in a space, as in “to let the apartment.” Today, this version resonates with me more than ever. We’re “letting” this part of our neighborhood, our bodies, and the rooms and spaces where we sit now, listening to these words together. As a faith family, we’re letting our church building to Edith and her continued journey towards family. And we’re most definitely “letting” this planet-- Creation is pressed up against our ear with lots and lots to say today… so how many of us are listening?
“And there was evening and there was morning, the 9th day, the 10th day, the 21st.”
“Let there be…” is also an asking, a nudging something to begin… Beginnings are often brimming with possibility. In this season more than ever, I’ve been pondering the possible gifts in endings. Maybe you have, too.
In many cases this spring, night has become the safest time for us to venture out and see things up close, like the iconic local cherry blossoms along the Hocking River, when hardly another soul was around. We could take a walk along the bike path, or cross the campus green under a full moon, and see only a couple of other humans. There are more visible stars with less light pollution. A bobcat has started calling in our woods again.
I used to dread going anywhere at night here, which is usually full of boisterous parties. I often felt unsafe as a woman walking on her own, even just from a car to a building. And I used to dread the full moon because it meant likely fitful nights of sleep… but in our forced re-ordering and slowing of time and deadlines and priorities, I’m shocked that I’m sleeping the best I have in a decade...My body, this Creation, is trying to tell me something.
“And there was evening and there was morning, the 80th day.”
Here in Athens, I’ve been sitting with what it means when something is created for a specific purpose, occupant, or community in mind—but doesn’t reach it’s hoped-for or original potential. You’ve no doubt passed places like playgrounds, concert halls, or movie theaters, vividly emptied of their original purpose, at least for now.
There’s something eerie and jaw-dropping about being in a whole city like this, in my case a university town In the foothills of Appalachia that grows from around 6,000 residents to over 20,000 when the students are here, where magnificent auditoriums, shops, and dorms, and now half of the houses in our neighborhood, sit empty. Their story—and so our story, too-- has been put on hold, waiting for a booming voice to say… “Let there be…” and we’re all holding our breath for the word that comes next.
In poetry, when we praise something for a whole poem, we call it an ode. When we mourn for what might never be or be again, we call that an elegy. My favorite poems, though, are both. So are my favorite Psalms.
Just days before schools and libraries closed, Michael and I were officially licensed as foster-to-adopt parents. To pass our safety audit, among other feats, Michael installed 9 specialty baby gates. (Yes, nine. This is what happens when you live in a house with 4 staircases.) After nearly a decade of disappointments and dead-ends in what we thought was our calling to become parents , completing the long process to foster-to-adopt felt like an ode-elegy story waiting to be spoken aloud, waiting to be written down for good in some final form.
We sighed in relief and new resolve in March, feeling like finally, there was motion and purpose and maybe…and then… things ground to a halt once again.
“Let there be more mystery, more uncertainty, let us long for a God who still has a voice.” This is our current Psalm. Maybe it’s yours too.
Literally every few steps in our house now, we encounter a reminder of what we renovated our lives for, but what hasn’t come to be, at least not yet. Some days, we joke, looking at all these baby gates, that when we can have people over again, we’re only inviting our friend’s growing cacophony of toddlers, or that we’re going to get a whole litter of pups from the local shelter. After almost 8 years, we’re newly grateful for some important things, but definitely changed by grief. In enduring and reckoning, we know we’re far from alone.
Is this how God feels too, when pondering their Creation and their children, considering Creation in their children’s care… and what could be?
“And there was evening and there was morning, the 2,320th day.”
If, as the Psalmist claims, we mortals are made “a little lower than God, crowned with glory and honor,” surely we’re called, in the midst of this longing and mistake-making and story-building, to be creators too. So what will you bring into being today, what will I? Who will we nurture? Who will hear our voices?
I’ll be honest—I don’t believe in a holy Creator who has an intricate plan any more, for beginnings, let alone endings. And yet, on many days I can still believe in a God who stays near us, no matter what. My spirit remains homesick for purpose beyond myself, and for community, justice, and beauty not quite visible, that maybe never will be fully visible in my lifetime. Another way to frame this could be, as author Wes Henderson puts it, “One true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” And as Father Richard Rohr further prods, thinking about this quote, “Under whose shade do you sit beneath today? Whose shade shall you help gift for tomorrow?”
I keeping working and hoping by a strange inner Light, the light Quakers would say is the God in all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not. A new day. A good day. I long to see the God light in myself and in you, and even in those I call my enemies.
The first year in our house, I was home alone when a starling wriggled its way into our chimney and then, somehow, miraculously, into our empty woodstove itself. I was shocked to see this ash-covered creature boldly staring back at me, as if asking, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” It was one of the first sunny days of spring, and I quickly pulled down all the window shades in the downstairs of the house and opened the front door wide so that its light was the only obvious light. I waited like this for about a minute, then gingerly opened the woodstove’s door and stepped aside… the ending of this story, or maybe you could argue, it’s beginning, was that the starling flew straight out that open door and into the nearest tree, then sang its tiny heart out.
-So let there be ashes and confinement…and then, the new morning, again, spread out like a tablecloth.
-Let there be monthly mourning, for all kinds of reasons, and also cycles of resiliency and the inhale of joy.
-Let there be seasons of lacy silence… and also instruments with barefooted dancing.
-Let there be questions that stay questions, and questions that crescendo into clear
-Let there be spring and thunder…and let there be snow days again.
-Let there be jumping spiders and mosquitos and Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks.
-Let there be letters in our mailbox…and let there be emails that never do get read.
-Let there be a generation that says “Enough now,” and a generation who listens, helping to open the new gates wide.
-Let there be a Spirit mindful of us, and let us be mindful of Spirit, even when she visits in unexpected ways.
-Let there be a sun too bright to imagine exactly what voice could bring it forth, and a night sky with the gift of a transient moon.
-Let there be families, made and unmade, chosen and released, made from blood and also made from longing.
-Let there be belonging.
-Let there be a light for us to aim for, to lean into, and to sometimes sing about.
-Let there be…
-Let us be…
-Let, Oh, let, Oh
let us, God.