This week our Mission Committee had an extraordinary meeting. We talked about many different ways in which our world is endangered or suffering right now–climate change and environmental destruction, poverty and economic inequality, racism and especially white supremacy, and the undermining of democracy and rise of authoritarian and totalitarian leaders here and around the world. We talked about the plight of refugees and migrant workers and Native Americans and the suffering of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as about the needs of our own food shelves and Haven and local people who are struggling.
The magnitude of the danger and suffering is extraordinary, but so is the courage and wisdom, the love and faith around our collective table. Anyone who is paying attention who loves the ideal of God’s realm is deeply disturbed by what is happening—fear is completely justifiable—and yet Jesus tells us not to be afraid, and we are determined to keep doing everything we possibly can to resist evil and establish the realm of God’s mercy, justice and peace on earth.
The service this Sunday will be full of readings and music to inspire, strengthen and reassure us in the midst of the inner and outer struggles that confront us. They remind us of past generations that endured their own terrible struggles, and the same faith, hope and higher power of love that got them through will get us through. We are not without tools to match our times—we have new spiritual practices and methods of organizing and working for God’s realm. Nor are we alone. We need to walk together with one another and the Spirit of Christ, immersed in the love and life and light of God, and engage in the struggle with all our skills and gifts.
The Hebrew Psalms reassure us that if we are on the side of love, God will be with us and watch over us and uphold us. (Psalm 34) The writer of Ephesians urges us to be strong in God and in the strength of God’s power so we may withstand evil within and around us and keep standing. (6:10-18a) The Gospel of John shows Jesus telling his followers that by eating his flesh and drinking his blood they will be in him and he will be in them—meaning that we are one with Jesus, we are his body living on earth and he lives within us, his wisdom and power and undying force of life. Many people couldn’t handle that teaching at the time and left him because of it, but a core group stayed, and filled with his Spirit they changed the world forever, and we can do the same.
The choir will sing one of the most popular songs of all time, and it was written for exactly such a moment in history as this to inspire us to rise and act: “We Are the World,” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie. The choir will also sing “Lord, Draw Near” by John Bell, one of the best known contemporary church music creators, and “Lead Me, Lord” by Samuel Wesley, one of the most renowned composers and musicians at the turn of the 18th Century. The congregation will sing three uplifting, traditional hymns, “Lead On Eternal Sovereign,” “Awake My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve,” and “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” Annemieke McLane will play pieces by Rachmaninov and Handel.
If you are not one of the 125 million people who have watched “We Are the World” on YouTube, the recording below is well worth experiencing. Look for Harry Belafonte in the back row—the song would not have been written or recorded without his heroic leadership. Leave yourself a few minutes after you watch it to get up and go do something to help someone in the world.