Annemieke is back, the music will be gorgeous, we will sing some favorite hymns, the fall children’s program is starting during worship exploring the basics of prayer and the sermon will address one of the least understood and most important aspects of our spiritual and congregational life and include the wisdom and insights of Wag Dodge, Gandhi, Zen Buddhism, Cynthia Bourgeault, Ken Wilbur, Moses, Paul and Jesus. You can read the details and hear some of the music below.
Covenant is a big word in our religious tradition. It means an agreement that we promise to keep. God makes covenants with people in the Bible stories, and today we make covenants with God and one another. Covenants are sacred and define our lives in essential ways.
Our congregation invested much careful and prayerful thought coming up with the covenant we now have. Its last sentence says, “We covenant with one another to embody the love of Christ, to nurture contemplation and action, and to offer our gifts, talents and energies as we are able.”
The word “contemplation” is at the heart of that sentence, and the heart of everything we promise we will be, and yet we as a congregation and wider church lack a common understanding of what it means. In fact, our older generations grew up mostly unaware that there is a Christian contemplative tradition with practices similar to mindfulness and meditation that dates back to the earliest church. Contemplation’s defining feature is opening to God’s presence and God’s realm as a lived experience here and now. Jesus was clearly a contemplative. He praised it as “the better part” in the story of the sisters Mary and Martha.
Yet Mary and Martha were both needed. Contemplation and action are sisters, too, and are essential to one another. Jesus was every bit as active as he was contemplative–they were united in him, and they need to be in his followers, as well.
The service this Sunday will look at what it means “to nurture contemplation and action.” The children will hear the story of Moses entering God’s presence on Mount Sinai and we will talk about our connection to God in prayer (Exodus 33:13-23). We will hear Paul telling one of his little churches how important its faithfulness was to the whole region and world (I Thessalonians 1:1-8), how being a model of contemplation and action contributes globally even if we are working locally. We will see an example of the creative insights and breakthroughs that can happen when contemplation and action combine as they did when Jesus was asked whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22). We will hear expressions of joy and deep gratitude that come from recognizing God’s presence and realm within and around us (Psalm 96).
We will sing the old favorite hymns, “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord, God Almighty,” and “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind,” as well as a newer hymn, “True Prayer Connects Us to a Living Force” sung to one of the beautiful tunes out of the Pilgrim Hymnal that this congregation had for many years. (You can hear the tune in a YouTube video below.)
The choir will sing “Spirit of the Living God,” “I’ve Got Peace Like a River,” and “My Heart is Ready,” the last two arranged by the Amidons. (Please come sing with the choir–all you need to do is show up Sunday morning at 9:00 AM and open your heart and let it sing!)
Pianist and choir director Annemieke McLane will play three pieces by Robert Schumann and one by Johann Sebastian Bach, a deeply moving worship service in and of itself!
Here are two versions of the less familiar hymn tune we will sing. The first is organ only, the second is the choir of Somerville College, Oxford singing it as an anthem with the Pilgrim Hymnal words, “Turn Back, O Man, Forswear Thy Foolish Ways.”