Home Worship Service October 25

Union Church
Biddeford Pool
…a place of peace and Presence by the sea
Union Church Home Service, October 25, 2020
Our Dwelling Place
October 25, 2020


Focus: “‘Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view,’ Emerson says, and suddenly that elite mystical practice seems clearer than ever before, and possible to each of us.” Mary Oliver


Opening Meditation: Whenever God shines a Light, Van Morrison https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuzVwiL1i5M
(See Lyrics below)

Opening Music: Be Thou My Vision ( Ancient Irish Hymn Trans. Mary Byrne/Elanor Hull) -Michelle Currie

Call To Worship:
L: Even when it seems we have suffered for a long time;
P: God breaks through in mercy and love for us.
L: Things may not be easy but we can count on God to be with us.
P: God walks the pathways of both light and darkness with us.
L: God, come quickly into our lives. Erase our fears and doubts.
P: God, come quickly into our hearts and teach us to truly be your people. Amen.

Opening Prayer:
Jesus, you taught us to remember that the first commandment is to love God with all that we are, our hearts, souls, minds and spirits. The second is equal to this in that this love is to be extended to our neighbors. We are to love as we wish to be loved. Help us to internalize these commandments so that when we encounter times of difficulty, we are again reminded of your everlasting love for us. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Scripture: Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18, Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17, John 15: 4-5, 7, 9, 10-12

Sermon: Learning To Live in God   – Rev. Paula Norbert

Music: Seasons of Love (Jonathan Larson)   -Michelle Currie

Musical call to Prayer: (two times) Hush now in quiet peace, be still your mind at ease. The Spirit brings release, so wait upon the Lord.

Prayers of the People:

Closing Music: We Are Called (David Haas)   -Michelle Currie

God’s love strengthens us for the work of peace, of justice and of love. We have received forgiveness and been showered with God’s gracious love. Go in peace, bringing hope to this hurting and angry world. Amen.

Postlude: Go In Peace

Whenever God Shines His Light, Van Morrison
Whenever God shines his light on me
Opens up my eyes so I can see
When I look up in the darkest night
And I know everything’s going to be alright
In deep confusion, in great despair
When I reach out for him he is there
When I am lonely as I can be
And I know that God shines his light on me
Reach out for him (reach out for him), he’ll be there (he’ll be there)
With him your troubles (with him your troubles) you can share (you can share)
If you live (if you live), the life you love (the life you love)
You get the blessing (yeah) from above (from above)
Heals the sick and he heals the lame
Says you can do it too in Jesus’ name
He’ll lift you up and turn you around
And put your feet back (feet back) on higher ground
Reach out for him (reach out for him), he’ll be there (he’ll be there)
With him your troubles (with him your troubles) you can share (you can share)
Oh, you can use his higher power
Every day (every day) and any hour (any hour)
Heals the sick and heals the lame
And he says you can heal them too in Jesus’ name
He lifts you up and turns you around
Puts your feet back (puts your feet back, puts your feet back) on higher ground
When he shines his light
Whenever God shines his light
On you
On you
He is the way
He is the truth
He is the light,
Put your feet back, put your feet back, higher ground, put your feet back

(Also recommended, When Will I Ever Learn To Live in God by Van Morrison)

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Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
90:3 You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.
90:5 You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning;
90:6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
90:13 Turn, O LORD! How long? Have compassion on your servants!
90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
90:15 Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.
90:16 Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands — O prosper the work of our hands!

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
19:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
19:2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
19:15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.
19:16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
19:17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

John 15: 4-5, 7, 9, 10-12
4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
9 As my Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

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Sermon – October 25, 2020

When Will We Learn to Live in God?

Rev. Paula Norbert

In our reading from Psalm 90 today, the Psalmist says, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” In the book of Leviticus from the Hebrew Scriptures, we are reminded of the teachings that Moses shared with that early community of believers, instructing them about how God wanted them to live with respect for their neighbors, treating them with justice, not speaking ill of them or profiting from their exploitation or carrying hate in their hearts toward them. I was struck by how important these words are even today. Again and again, people have been reminded about what it takes to live within a community that believes in God and respects one another. In John’s Gospel, we hear the metaphor of the Vine and the Branches which Jesus shared to speak to his followers about the importance of living in God and being aware that God lives within us. In our own lives and in such times as these, we may question what difference it makes to endeavor to live in God. Let us pray, O Holy One of beauty and solace, guide us this day as we listen to your words and dream of a world where your commandments are respected, where neighbors may love one another, and all may live in peace. Inspire us to be mindful of how you live in us and how we live in You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

To live in God, I believe, is to discover how we can make a difference in our fragile world. It is to follow the path of countless people who are doing their part to live righteous lives. Years ago when I lived in Boston, I heard of a family in our working class neighborhood and the husband, a Boston firefighter, was sick with cancer and the family was really struggling financially. People began to stop by in the night and put envelopes of cash through the mail slot in their front door. Others dropped off food or offered to drop the children at after school activities. From their own modest means, so many did their part to love their neighbor. This is what it means to live in God.

Recently, there was a great story of a family who is working until late at night to build simple desks for children who are studying remotely. These desks are being donating to shelters and to families who do not have the means to purchase a desk for their kids as a place where they can learn effectively. This is what it means to live in God.

There was a story of two six year-old boys in London who set up a lemonade stand in their neighborhood to benefit the children in Yemen. They called it Lemonade for Yemenaid. The country of Yemen has been devastated by the ravages of a civil war since 2014 and was characterized by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The boys are six and are attempting to provide some kind of support to the people there. They already know what it means to live in God.

In a favorite song of mine by Van Morrison that was released in 1989, he ponders this question, “When will I ever learn to live in God?” In our Gospel, we are presented with the image of Jesus as the vine and his followers as the branches. He offers an image of the community which is interdependent, deeply connected to one another to thrive; it’s an image of mutuality and indwelling. The idea of abiding or living in such a connected way speaks of the constancy of God’s presence in our lives and the commitment we are invited to live out in our love for one another. We might think of a grape vine in which the branches are closely intermingled with one another, winding and weaving around one another in a manner that they cannot be easily pulled apart. It suggests an image of interrelatedness and is also a wonderful metaphor for the mixture of emotions that weave their way through the fabric of our lives.

Our lives are indeed like that. Even now when we cannot see one another or dear friends and neighbors, our lives are still blended together with the lives of people whose names we know and with those who live in places far, far away from our lives here.

In Van Morrison’s song, he sings about standing on a beach at sunset or on a hillside in quiet and realizing that everything is made in God. He sings, “down through the centuries of great writings and paintings, everything was in God, seen through architecture of great cathedrals down through the history of time.” It is both in his common everyday experiences and in his appreciation of the great works of literature and art that he finds God. Yet he keeps asking himself, “When will I ever learn to live in God?” It seems that he is trying to move from an intellectual appreciation that God is indeed the creator of this amazing life to a place of faith where he can live in such a way that it reflects that belief.

The scriptures tell us a great deal about how to live in God and remind us over and over that the Holy One is present in our lives and throughout our lives. Our challenge is to figure out a way to respond to such a relationship with God and with one another. We have to do it in our own way.

The gifted Celtic writer, John O’Donohue, spoke about the importance of imagination and learning in his own search for spiritual wisdom in the book Anam Cara. You may know that O’Donohue was a poet, scholar and priest, who had studied the philosophy of Hegel. In the book, he writes, “The light of modern consciousness is not gentle or reverent; it lacks graciousness in the presence of mystery; it wants to unriddle and control the unknown. Modern consciousness is similar to the harsh and brilliant white light of a hospital operating theatre. This neon light is too direct and clear to befriend the shadowed world of the soul. ” Celtic mysticism, recognises that we should let the soul find us. Christ is the secret anam chara of every individual, O’Donohue says. Each person has a unique destiny “to express the special gift you bring to the world. Sometimes this gift may involve suffering and pain that can neither be accounted for nor explained . . . It is in the depths of your life that you will discover the invisible necessity which brought you here. When you begin to decipher this, your gift and giftedness come alive. Your heart quickens and the urgency of living rekindles your creativity.”

Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz, once wrote that suffering can be creative. Meister Eckhart said there is nothing in the world that resembles God so much as silence. O’Donohue believed that silence is one of the great victims of modern culture. People are suffering from stress because they allow so little time for silence. Silence and solitude are essential for spiritual development. Solitude, not to be confused with loneliness, is one of the most precious things in the human spirit. “When you acknowledge the integrity of your solitude, and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder,” he wrote.

Sometimes fear can limit our capacity to be open to the transcendent in our lives. We are remined that the words “do not be afraid”, occur 366 times in the Bible. O’Donohue says,”There is a welcome for you at the heart of your solitude. When you realise this, most of the fear that governs your life falls away. The moment your fear transfigures, you come into rhythm with your own self. Real soul presence has humour and irony and no obsessive self-seriousness. To learn to love your adversaries is to earn a freedom that is beyond resentment and threat.” It is startling how desperately we hold on to what makes us miserable, he observed. “When you begin to let go, it is amazing how enriched your life becomes.”

The poet Rilke said that difficulty can be one of the greatest friends of the soul and the philosopher Pascal believed that many of our major problems derive from our inability to sit still in a room. John O’Donohue believed that eternal life means “a life where all that we seek, goodness, unity, beauty, truth and love, are no longer distant from us but are now completely present with us.” This is what it means to live in God, to know God is living within us.

We know that our spiritual journeys unfold throughout our lives and that the questions, the intentionality, the commitment we bring to seeking and loving and learning and understanding our great interconnectedness to our neighbors and all of life, all of this reveals what it ultimately means to live in God. We have to do it in our own way…

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