Sermon 08/11/2019: Gathered Into One

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Sermon is a poem by Leah Wenger inspired by the 2019 MCUSA convention.

Accompanying images are watercolors by Lois Kauffman inspired by the same convention.

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Unity is hard work, we could blame it on god
It takes grace, it is grace
The church is a mess, thanks BE to God

Into a unity with each other, into THE one
All things gathered in Christ's body
God is gathering everything
No thing is left undone

A unity of diversity
I will let you find me
Give you a future with hope
Gather you from the nations
And let you find me

So now let's grasp this news
Unity from division
Jews and non Jews
Natives and immigrants
With nothing to lose
You are now neighbors

A counter cultural punch
Let's walk with this hunch
This peace poem gathers the far and near*

The far was us in Babylon
The near got to stay home
The far are the wandering strangers
We welcome you home
Far and near
Into one

Let's fit ourselves into this peace loving mitten
Walls come crashing down
Stories are rewritten
The fence is torn
Our souls are reborn

This is transformation
The cross once stood for state terrorism
No one had thought let's make it into earrings
Like an electric chair

This is Costly reconciliation
Images of violence
Into new creation
Bringing the strangers home
While home is still in formation

We're at home with distinctions
Defining ourselves
Proclaiming our missions
To differentiate from others
We are ANABAPTIST Christians
We should be careful

The messy womb of a church
Institutionalized Racism, threatening militarism
Increased and industrialized materialism
Hidden and protected sexism
Light isn't reaching the prism
We're concerned about criticism
Add schism to the -isms
The anabaptist disease

Torn by fear of difference
Fear and forbearance
Our world not gathered
But keeping out

How can we aim to gather
When we can't even sustain
Those that remain
Despite the stain of shameful pain
WE remove those that threaten
Our definition of gain
Scatter, not gather
Slaughtered and slain
Our peace, thought to be
But not really engrained
How else could we explain
Turning a blind eye
To those that are detained

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
How can we as a people fear what we don't know
Instead, love all God’s creatures here below
So that God’s love through us bestow

Can it be that easy?
Love your enemy to let yourself fly free?
No, no this can't be
There will always be those with whom we disagree.
Without getting away from them
We’ll never have unity

Even in peace loving churches
We shut out
You make my point

If only they weren't here
Or they turned to think like me
We'd have nothing in this house but
Blessed Unity

Fear and forbearance
Baring the minimum

God as one who wishes to gather
From the edge of the cosmos
Every inch of matter
Unity is not harmony
Not achieved by agreement
The restless reality of God gathering strangers
Is that harmony utilizes dissonance

The church is a mess
Thanks be to God

Be wary of assuming
That everything is good
When we have won the argument
Weather or not we should

Unity is the starting point
Not the end result
Christ is at the center
Institution is not
So what now?
Where do we go from here?

You can't be a Christian by yourself
You must enter into fellowship
Bring the tensions, disagreements, misgivings
Because that's where Christ transforms things

If you aim at humility
You're likely to miss it
But here's Humility in action
Forget about being humble
Then you'll hit it

Enduring with hope
Three strands of twine make an unbroken rope
We need each other
Patience does not come without suffering
We suffer each other
For the sake of His body
Church hurts
Grace each other as God has graced you
With patience

By grace we have been saved
How far does patience stretch
Well how strong is love
Love stretches
Love stretches to the far and the near
Love bends to those who are already here

Does hope ever end?
With the prodigal son can we hope to mend?
And to whom, our love, do we hope to send?

The shamed father of the prodigal son
Never stops Checking the far horizon
Even when patience runs out
When endurance runs too thin
There is a glimmer of hope
That keeps one checking the horizon

We will be ok
This with confidence I can say

Don't ever stop checking the horizon
Celebrate the great spirit moving
The unity of the spirit is bigger wider deeper
Than any of our institutions
Unity of spirit
Is not unity of denomination
It's much deeper than that

God can use our schisms
For God’s greater mission
Unity in Christ is no longer division

Breaks have led to conversation
Our failure at walking together can be
Used For reconciliation
To make us better at walking

Unity is hard
We could blame it on God

But the mess of the church
Provides opportunity
To transform ourselves
Into a spirit of unity
A spirit of grace
A spirit of hope
That never stops checking the horizon
That works to gather the far and the near
That works to bless those who are already here

The spirit runs
So deep

The church is a mess
Thanks be to God

*(eph 2:11-22)


Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

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Community Mennonite Church
70 South High Street Harrisonburg, VA