Welcome to worship with First Congregational in downtown Asheville! When we say welcome, we mean it–no matter who you are or what you’ve done, no matter how faithful (or unfaithful) you feel today, no matter who you love–you are welcome here.
A couple of weeks ago–when Allen and I were in Georgia for his dad’s memorial service–I tuned in to the livestream. It was a terrific experience! Mandy Kjellstrom also tuned in. We chatted. I guess it was kind of like passing notes in church.
One HUGE positive experience was having people wave at us. And so, sanctuary worshipers, I invite you to turn around, look at the camera, and welcome our online worshipers. (Waving)
Wherever we are, by whatever means we worship, we are welcomed to this space. Let’s give ourselves a chance to fully arrive to this moment. We’ll do that by breathing in God’s love…breathing out God’s love…we breathe in…we breathe out…
*Call to Worship
When Jeremiah was called, he said,
“Please, God. No!”
When Jonah was called to preach in Ninevah,
He took a boat in the opposite direction.
(We know how that turned out.)
When Isaiah was called, at first he demurred. Then at last he said,
“Here I am! Send me!”
When we are called, what will we do? Will we resist? Will we head in the opposite
direction? Or will we open our hearts and minds and say, “Here we are! Send us!”?
When we are called, what will we do?
*Opening Hymn The Summons KELVINGROVE
(Stanzas 1-4…The Faith We Sing, #2130)
John L. Bell & Graham Maule
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Children’s Time (Chuck and Kim and Andrew) – Wonder Pets Theme
Will you come and follow me, if I but call your name… What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s not just a question for us as individuals. A lot of times, we’re called to work with other people. That’s what’s happened for Chuck and Andrew adn me–we have been called to work together here at First Congregational.
Anthem Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
When We Were Called… Rev. Dr. Kimberleigh Buchanan
I preached my first sermons with my flute. Because my Southern Baptist community had set ideas about gender and pastoring, they couldn’t imagine God calling a 17 year old young woman to ministry…and because my community couldn’t imagine it for me, I couldn’t imagine it for myself.
But interpreting texts was something I felt compelled to do…and so, I created hymn medleys. If people reflected on the texts of the hymns as I played, they would experience a sermon. Like a Christmas medley called “Incarnation” that began with “I Wonder as I Wander, ran through a couple of Christmas carols, then ended with “The Old Rugged Cross.” That one was a call to remember the whole of Jesus’ life during the season of Advent and Christmas.
After teaching elementary school music for a couple of years, I went to seminary–to become a children’s minister, because that’s all I’d ever seen women do in churches professionally. Finally, through conversations with two professors who WERE able to imagine God calling me to pastoral ministry, I was able to name this “nudge” I’d felt all my life as a call to pastoral ministry.
About that time, fundamentalists took over the seminary. They were furious about women in ministry. By the time I left seminary, I heard every day, “Women can’t preach. Women can’t pastor.” Advised against seeking a pastoral call, I went to Emory to work on a PhD.
It was on a walk around campus one day, that my call to pastoral ministry solidified. I was still trying to work through the trauma of the fundamentalist take-over of my seminary. I had seen the ugly underside of the church. As I walked, I wondered: What if I just walked away from the church, from Christianity, all together? Plenty of people had done that and were very happy. Maybe that’s the direction I should head, too.
My path that day took me beneath the chapel. When I got to the underbelly of the chapel, I stopped and couldn’t move. I stood there for a bit, deciding. Stay with the faith, or leave it?
That’s when Jesus came to mind. I thought of all the things he’d tried to teach that his followers just didn’t get. Then I wondered: What if we did get what Jesus was trying to teach us and live it out? Or maybe we didn’t even have get it. Maybe if we just tried to get it?
In that moment, I decided that if one community in the world–just one–tried to follow Jesus–only tried–the world would be transformed. That’s when I knew, I am called to lead a community that with every resource it has, with every fiber of its being, with as much authenticity as it can muster, tries to follow Jesus. And how grateful I am to have been trying to follow Jesus with you all these last few years.
Music for Reflection (Wayne)
Gospel Lesson MARK 13:1-8
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
Reflection When Stones Cry Out Kim and Chuck
Kim: When I hear this text, I think of my two trips to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The Western Wall is what’s left of the foundation of the Temple Jesus and his disciples were walking by when he said the stones of that temple would be lying one on top of the other on the ground. When you approach the Wall and see how it goes up and up and up…It’s hard to imagine the building that would have sat on top of that foundation. It, too, must have been HUGE… it also had been there for hundreds of years. No wonder the disciples were puzzled–and perhaps troubled–by what Jesus was saying. It’s true that just 35 years later, the Temple WOULD be destroyed, but is that what Jesus was talking about? What do you think, Chuck?
Chuck: Talk about how Jesus came to WAKE US UP! Nothing is permanent.
Kim and Chuck: What does this story mean for us at FCUCC? To what are we as a community of Jesus’ followers being called?
Poem The Point of Pointing Kim Buchanan
(Note: I’m not quite sure how this will fit yet, but it feels REALLY important. I’ll keep thinking.)
Shortly after I arrived in February 2018, we begana badly-needed pointing project. For those who aren’t familiar with it, here’s what pointing is. In stone structures like ours, with time, the mortar between the stones wears away. Often, water seeps in between the stones. That happened here. When I arrived, the wall in the balcony was black and moldy in many places.
The wise decision was made to re-point the stone. That means, we hired a company to come in and put more mortar between the stones. We hired another company to reinforce these beautiful stained glass windows. Then we hired another company to re-paint the sanctuary–thanks be to God!
As we contemplate Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel lesson and at the same time, think about all the things we have done to keep the stones of our temple together…it makes you wonder. Have we missed Jesus’ point? Like the disciples of long ago, are we clinging to the past, to the way things have been done for decades? Or is it time for us to wake up to the new thing God is doing in our midst?
Don’t be scared. I’m not suggesting that the stones of our beautiful sanctuary should be lying on the ground. AT ALL!
I do wonder, though, how these stones–which we have tended with great care–How might these stones cry out to our Asheville community, spreading the good news that God’s love is for everyone, that God calls us to transform unjust systems, that God hopes for the wholeness of every person? How might we through the stones of our temple declare God’s love in downtown Asheville?
I share with you now a poem I wrote in 2019: “The Point of Pointing.”
When I arrived
the stones were loose,
held in place—
only by habit and hope.
Wind and weather,
water and weariness
had worn away
connections between them.
New storms surged unchecked
through ghosts of mortar past.
Habit and hope
hold things together—
for a season—
the reality of rock must be faced
the gravity of gravity must be acknowledged
the point of pointing must be made—
What held us together before
no longer suffices.
I worry less.
As we sate the space between us
with substance that will hold,
As we seal new ties that bind us
with a strong, protective coat,
As we paint and spruce and plaster—
outer beauty birthed within,
Resurrection now feels certain—
We are rising once again!
May it be so. May it be so.
In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.
Song Here I Am
Prayers of the People
God, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
It is a tradition at the Western Wall to slip written prayers into the gaps between the stones of the old Temple’s foundation. I’ve slipped a prayer or two of my own into those cracks.
Today, we’re going to use post-its. The invitation is to write your prayer of hope for our church on the post-it, bring it forward to the Western Wall replica–painted by our featured artist for November, Jenny Pickens–and attach your prayer to it. I plan to share those prayers with your in in next week’s worship service, so keep that in mind. Write only prayers you don’t mind being broadcast to the universe. 🙂
As you come, we do ask that you maintain social distancing.
And now, let us pray. (People will come forward to bring their prayers.)
God of the Gospel, God of love, we offer our prayers for our First Congregational community today. Please, hear these prayers. And help us to work with you to enact them. Give us wisdom, courage, and strength as we help these stones to cry out your love here in downtown Asheville. GM/HP
Prayer of Jesus
We join our hearts and voices together as we pray the prayer Jesus taught:
Heavenly Father, heavenly Mother, Holy and blessed is your true name. We pray for your reign of peace to come, We pray that your good will be done, Let heaven and earth become one. Give us this day the bread we need, Give it to those who have none. Let forgiveness flow like a river between us, From each one to each one. Lead us to holy innocence Beyond the evil of our days — Come swiftly Mother, Father, come. For yours is the power and the glory and the mercy: Forever your name is All in One. Parker J. Palmer
Invitation to Offering
Does anyone know what tomorrow is? Okay. It’s offering time, we’re thinking about all that we give to the church in time, talent, and tithe… Tomorrow is the deadline for our pledge commitments for 2022! Now… That doesn’t mean we won’t welcome pledges submitted after tomorrow. It does mean, though, that we will create our budget for next year based on the figures we will have received by tomorrow. As of now, about half of what is needed to sustain our current ministries has been pledged. Terrific! We offer profound thanks for the commitments that have been made. If you’d still like to make your commitment, you can find a pledge card on our website.
It is amazing to see what pooling our resources can do. This space–our temple–is sturdy, sound, and beautiful because we have offered our gifts together to tend to it. What new things might our pooling of resources accomplish for helping these carefully-tended stones shout out God’s love to downtown Asheville?
As an act of worship, as an act of love, we all are invited to give as we are able.
Offering Hymn We Give You But Your Own
Prayer of Dedication
Closing Song Hallelujah, Brother! Rick Powell
Hallelujah La-la-la-la-la-la, Amen.
I tell you why I’m so happy, brother,
I tell ya why I can sing brother,
Met a man and he freed me, brother and-a
He gave me everything.
Hallelujah, hallelu… Chorus
Do you wanta be happy, sister,
Do you wanta be free, sister
Turn it over to Jesus, sister
He’s the reason to sing
Hallelujah, hallelu… Chorus
I know. That song doesn’t have anything to do with today’s theme of the stones crying out. But what might happen if we took the joy we just experienced with us out into the world? It’s a silly song, a happy song. We offered it today, in part, because I messed it up a couple of weeks ago. We did it in bigger part, though, because Chuck and I wanted you all to share in our joy.
As we leave this place, as we pass through and look at the stones of our temple here at First Congregational, how might we help these stones cry out God’s love to downtown Asheville? What new thing might God be wanting to do through us? Let us with fervent prayer and discernment think on these things. Go in peace. Amen.