The video above includes the full service, except for the time for sharing. For sermon video only: https://vimeo.com/512227518
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained through One License with license A-727859
Order of Worship | Repent. Repair. | Lent 1
We acknowledge we are gathering on land where Miami, Osage, Shawnee, and other Indigenous peoples have lived and labored, fought, and loved. We continue to work and pray for justice and conciliation.
Call to Worship
VT 564 | What Wondrous Love Is This | Paul Knapke, vocals
Reparations: An ongoing conversation
Offering/Dedication Prayer https://www.columbusmennonite.org/donateget-involved/donate
VT 696 | My God, My God | Paul Knapke, vocals and beatbox
Scripture | Gen. 9:8-17
Words of Repair (Congregation)
Scripture | Mark 1:9-15
Sermon | Water and Wilderness Sermon manuscript below
VT 442 | From the Waters I Will Rise | Paul Knapke, vocals; JoAnn Knapke, piano
Mission Moment | Church Plant
Extinguishing the Peace Candle
Christian Education | 11:00 am
Thanks to everyone who helped lead today’s service
Sermon: Joel Miller
Worship Leader: Robin Walton
Music and photos choices: Paul Knapke
Children’s Time: Elisa Leahy
Reparations Reflection: Adam Glass
Mission Moment: Carolyn May, Joel Call
Peace Candle: Debra and Galen Martin
Scripture Reading: Judy Hartzler
Zoom Host: Brent Miller
Water and wilderness
In the year 1767 Melchior and Margaret Blankenberg, went to say goodbye to their friends, another young couple living in Rotterdam, Holland. The friends were setting sail for America and Melchior and Margaret received permission to board the ship. While on board, they learned the ship wasn’t leaving until the following day, so they stayed overnight. When they woke up the next morning, they were already out to sea. Melchior and Margaret would never see Holland again. When their ship Minerva arrived in Philadelphia, they were sold into indentured servitude to pay for their fare. After five years they paid their debt and settled in Mifflin County in Central Pennsylvania where they raised six children. Somewhere in the mix they shortened their family name from Blankenberg to Plank.
Back in Europe, in the early 1800s, a community of Mennonites living in the Jura Mountains of western Switzerland was struggling. They’d been forced into the area years before by policies that barred them from owning land. As Anabaptists, they were also subject to fines for not swearing loyalty oaths. Their marriages and children were regularly considered illegitimate since they hadn’t been consecrated or baptized by a Reformed minister. They were pushed to poorer and poorer rented land that couldn’t sustain them as their families grew. A series of harsh winters and crop failures led to outright famine. In 1831, Johanes and Maria Lehman emigrated with their young family to the United States, landing in Wayne County, northeast Ohio, where others from their home community had already settled. They joined them in purchasing land, clearing trees from the wilderness in order to farm, and making a life for themselves.
These two stories are part of my family lineage. Melchior and Margaret Plank are my 6x great grandparents through my mother’s mother. John and Maria Lehman are my great, great, great grandparents through my mother’s father.
I love these stories and the sense of heritage they give. And how crazy is it that if Melchior and Margaret had decided to head home instead of spend the night on the ship, or maybe just woken up a little sooner, things would have turned out…different.
As I’ve become more aware of how race has functioned in this country, these stories have taken on more layers of meaning. Being transported to these shores in a ship against one’s own will, never to see one’s homeland again, had a very different next chapter for ancestors of African Americans. The ability of my European American ancestors to be debt free in five years, able to move about freely and purchase land and build wealth, rippled through generations of Planks all the way to me and our girls.
And the wilderness of northeast Ohio wasn’t exactly a wilderness. It was land formerly managed by Lenape Indians, already refugees from their ancestral home further east, pushed further west through war and bogus treaties. The Lehmans likely had little idea that when they boarded their ship they were not only sailing away from the trials of being a persecuted and impoverished religious minority, but sailing toward a land eager for them to replace its previous inhabitants. They were sailing toward Whiteness.
Aside from people, these stories feature water and wilderness.
Each of us who are not Native American have a water story about how we got to this side of the world. Lots of water stories, actually. The water served as the in-between space we had to pass through between the old world and the new. What we were before suddenly overshadowed by what we were about to become. The immigrants’ ship, the middle passage, the more recent plane ride over the vast ocean; the journey through water transforming us from one thing into something else.
After the water comes the wilderness. Some kind of new and unknown land to test our survival. A plot to purchase. A place to labor for those who purchased you. A memory of a place you once called home, now a trail of tearsaway.
Water and wilderness.
And this is where the season of Lent always begins – with water and wilderness - the waters of the Jordan River where Jesus is baptized. The Judean wilderness where he goes directly after.
This year’s gospel readings come from Mark and in Mark’s gospel it is even more evident that these stories of water and wilderness are origin stories for the life and ministry of Jesus. Without the Christmas birth stories of Matthew and Luke, without the cosmic scale introduction of John, Mark’s gospel introduces us to Jesus as one who passes through water, one who inhabits wilderness.
Mark 1:9-11: 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[a] with you I am well pleased.”
This is the first mention of Jesus in Mark. We know from other gospels he was birthed into this world through Mary. Here, he is birthed through baptism.
Water is part of many origin stories, including the widely told Native American creation story of sky woman descending onto the waters out of which rose turtle island, our home continent. Including those waters at the beginning of the book of Genesis. “In the beginning when Elohim created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from Elohim swept across the face of the waters.” When this creation needs a fresh start, it’s the waters of the flood that make this possible.
Our initial entry into this world comes through the blood and waters of childbirth. The time and circumstances of this birth are not something of our choosing – at least I can’t remember choosing. If I did, it was a pretty sweet choice. As we mature we are confronted with the question of intentionality – about how we choose to relate to these waters that not only birth us, but sustain us.
As the early Anabaptists taught so passionately, baptism is an act of choice. Baptism addresses the matter of intentionality. About the kind of life we choose to live, about the kind of origin story we choose to claim.
Jesus’ baptism serves as a template for our own. It involves real water. Real, wet, cool, flowing water. Sky, feeding lake, feeding river, feeding ground, feeding plant and animal, feeding sky. Water. With John’s guidance, Jesus goes under the water, and when he emerges, the heavens open up, like a new creation scene, earth and heaven meeting. And like the Genesis creation stories, it is language and naming that brings forth a becoming. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Each of us has a name that was given to us at birth. Mine connects me to that Lehman side of the family, my great grandpa Joel Lehman. At baptism, we are invited to hear and accept the name that marks us even deeper. The name given us by the Creator. “You are my child. The Beloved.”
This is your heritage. This is your origin story. It’s not that baptism makes it true. Baptism is a public way of claiming what has been true all along. Living into that baptismal identity is the task for the rest of our lives.
Water, and wilderness.
Mark 1:11-13: “And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”
After water comes wilderness. After empowerment, comes the temptations and the trials about how one will use that power. How one will relate with the inner power one holds and the power given by whatever circumstances of history one has been born into. This is the necessity of the wilderness experience.
It’s been said many times that it took one day to get the Israelites out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to get the Egypt out of the Israelites. In other words, in Egypt the Israelites were given a particular model of power. White privilege was formerly known as Egyptian privilege. A model of security and control at the expense of others. It took 40 years in the wilderness to learn a new kind of power to create a new kind of community.
This is the wilderness journey Jesus does on a compressed timeline, 40 days rather than 40 years. Mark doesn’t give us the same blow by blow details of Jesus in his encounter with the devil, which we could rename the spirit of domination and control. But Mark does let us know that in order for the waters to be properly understood, in order for the new name to be properly lived, one must undergo a re-education in the wilderness.
Lent is the church’s way of re-creating that 40 day wilderness experience each year. It is an invitation to name the power we hold, to recognize the temptations to misuse that power, and to re-orient our story in a way such that this power is exercised for good rather than ill. For healing rather than harm. Our particular theme this year is Repent. Repair. Turning away from powers misuse, and turning toward an exercise of power as repair.
You pass through the baptismal water and what you thought you were before is now less important. What you are becoming, still a mystery. You pass through the wilderness, and face the demons that have always haunted the human race and tempted us away from our most creative, most generous selves.
We are all these things, all these stories. Claiming the gospel versions of water and wilderness can have a profound impact on how we relate with the water and wilderness stories of our biological or adopted heritage. We claim our ancestors with gratitude for making us who we are. And we can claim our spiritual heritage for moving us toward who we have not yet become. We are a people of repentance. And because of this, we can become a people of repair.
May the Creative Spirit who hovered over the waters of creation, who called Jesus beloved and led him into the wilderness, also watch over our Lenten journey.