Scripture: Micah 6:8 and Psalm 150
This morning, we begin our stewardship season at Lyndale. Wait, it’s spring. Or at least spring-ish. What’s going on?! Well, this year we have moved our fiscal year to a summer start which means we are getting a bonus spring stewardship season. And in fact, in the years to come, this will be our new normal – recommitting ourselves to the life of this community, this church, in the Easter and Pentecost season. I actually love the symbolism of that. This is the liturgical season during which we become the church again together every year. Stewardship season, the time when we commit our time and resources to the Holy joy of building the realm of God here and now via this community feels like just the right fit. This year our theme is “We Belong Together.” And in fact, our own Rev. Claire has begun a spotify playlist to help us celebrate this theme. You are welcome to add your favorite fitting songs as well.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. When I thought about this theme and this season and this last time that I will be a part of Lyndale’s stewardship journey, I thought of our new member covenant, the words we say to become members and welcome members into this community. We are covenantal and not creedal in the United Church of Christ. That means that when you join Lyndale UCC as a new member, you promise to be in relationship with the language of our community’s covenant, not to “believe” or “confess” it. And THAT means that like any other relationship, you might have a tender, conflicted, or joyful feelings about it at different times. A changing relationship is an alive relationship, a participatory relationship and a faithful one.
Let me read you our New Member covenant to you now:
The Covenant of Lyndale Church
We covenant with one another:
to seek and respond to the Word and hope of the Holy One.
We strive to walk in the way of Jesus Christ,
made known and always being known again to us.
We commit ourselves to attend the regular worship of the church
and the celebration of the sacred supper;
to share prayerfully and actively
in the life and work of the church;
to contribute to its support and mission;
to seek faith-deepening growth through study;
and to seek diligently the spiritual welfare
of the membership and community.
We hold it to be the mission of the Church
to worship and enjoy the Divine,
seek to love one another as God loves us,
participate in Christ’s love in all the world,
and strive for God’s shalom: justice, peace and wholeness.
As did those who came before us,
we depend on the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us as
we work and pray for God’s reign on earth.
Let us, express our welcome and affirm our mutual ministries:
We welcome you with
joy into the life of this community.
We promise you our friendship and our prayers
our faith and our doubts,
our hands and our hopes,
our laughter and our tears,
as we share with you the cost and the joy
of being a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
may we continue to grow together,
rooted and grounded in the love of God.
Our lives as a faith community have changed SO much over these last pandemic years. And yet, and yet… I feel like this covenant still fits us well. It has always had stretch, like a quality pandemic sweatpant. And it is still growing with us
What words resonate with you today? What scare you? What pisses you off? Or makes you feel tender? Or Joyful? What do you have questions about?
One my favorite responses ever to this question came from the one and only Robert Frame, a member for the last 20 years. He said the hardest part of this covenant for him is not actually any of the words. Instead, it is the idea that when he joined, he was promising this commitment not only to the people who were already a part of Lyndale, but to generations of future church members he hadn’t met yet. I had never thought of that. It’s a leap of faith, a leap of relationship, a leap of hope into a future that is always unfolding and never known. And yet, Robert, continued, he has always been grateful for the new people joining and expanding what it means to be a part of this church. Not everyone will be your new soulsister. But everyone will grow what it means to be the Body of Christ here and now in unique, joyful and sometimes challenging ways.
As we move into stewardship season and into this next chapter of pastoral transition, I want to encourage you all to meditate on how you are called to take this leap together. How can you pledge to the present Lyndale the always unfolding Lyndale? How are you called to be in continued relationship – sometimes joyful, sometimes tender, sometimes challenging, always alive relationship with this community? How are you called to be a part of the “we” who belong together to build the realm of God here and now?
Let’s here now from Claire, Paul and Rebecca…
Things that are difficult to do by yourself:
- Play on a see-saw
- Ride a tandem bicycle
- Play catch
- Trim a cat’s claws
- Move a couch
- Get a hug
- Be the church
Being the church takes community. Being the church IS community and belonging and being together. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus preached that “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” That is not to say that being alone precludes us from feeling a sacred presence, but instead Jesus reinforced the importance of belonging together. In the writing, Jesus said this after reminding people that even if you are just one sheep of ninety-nine, he would come and look for you. Because we belong together.
Right after college, I moved to Cleveland, Ohio for six months to complete my required music therapy internship. Although I learned a lot from my mentor there, I felt so alone. I used to go for walks around the neighborhood, get home, and then go for another walk right away because I didn’t know what else to do with myself. That’s when I decided what I needed was a a church. I needed community and a sense of belonging.
I found Plymouth Church of Shaker Heights and then had a place to sing in the choir, ring hand bells, practice yoga, and help wih the youth group. That source of connection was so important as I began to discover what it was to no longer be a college student but a grown up person in the world.
Lyndale is another place that can provide a source of connection. We belong together. In this season of change and not knowing what is next, we need each other more than ever. We have found a way to keep close through our Zoom church experiments. We have gotten through hard things together before and I am certain we will continue to do so.
The first time a person goes sky diving, you do so strapped to an expert. You aren’t shoved out the plane by yourself, by you have someone right with you. As we step out into the unknown, I am so grateful that I get to do so with all of you. Already, the insights and reflections and truth telling of my fellow Lyndalians have been important to this work of transition. The next year will be full of things we haven’t done before or haven’t talked about in a long time. We need your experience and your perspetive in those conversations.
We need you. We need this commitment to community and intention to belonging. May we all feel that sense of interconnectedness, that knowing that we will be found if we get lost, that sacred connection between two or three or more gathered and may Lyndale continue to be a source of joy and hope and reflection for all who enter our Zoom room or come through our doors.
Paul, Vice Moderator:
It has been 30 years since my wife Karen and I became members of Lyndale and that seems like a good time to reflect on why I’m still here and why I continue to support this community.
Thirty years is a long time! Thirty years ago, we didn’t have cell phones! We barely had the internet! Since then, so much has changed. What could possibly endure for 30 years! What could possibly endure for 138 years! What could endure is us, this congregation. The pastors change, people come and go, buildings change, but the congregation endures because it’s bigger than all of us. When I think about what Lyndale means to me I think of three things: gratitude, hope and joy.
I’m grateful to this congregation for being a place where it really means something to be a Christian. Where we really try to put faith into action. Whether that’s action around racism and reparation, or climate justice, or supporting and protecting queer and trans folks or immigrants, that’s what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Non-stop. Especially now as we face rising hate in this country and around the world. And I’m grateful to this congregation for the way we work to take care of each other and support each other. This is a place where I think each of us can truly be who they are and feel safe and accepted. And I’m incredibly grateful for that.
And in a time of growing despair, this is a place where hope lives. Because difficult as the struggles ahead appear, we will struggle together. And that is everything! So many forces in the world act to isolate us from each other, to be alone. And Lyndale reminds me every day that I am not alone and that we work together in love.
And finally, joy. To do all of this together is to experience joy. Even if it is on zoom. For some magical reason at the end of yet another Lyndale meeting, I don’t feel exhaustion, I feel energized. And that is a joyous feeling. For an introvert like me, that is a miracle!
So, give what you can in money, time, or talent to support this amazing community.
Rev. Dr. Rebecca:
When I was about three years old, my parents, my Grammie and I went to one of the amazing parks around Cleveland. As the story has been told to me, I loved it so much that I refused to leave, much to my parent’s consternation. When all else failed, my mom tried a final tactic and said in my hearing, “Come on, Bill, we’re just going to have to leave her.” And then they started to walk away. At this point, I stopped climbing on the nearest tree and started to wail, “you can’t leave me, you’re my famwy.”
I don’t actually remember this incident but every time my mom tells the story, I have a kind of visceral reaction to it. I don’t know if it’s because I am an only child or if it’s something else, but my gut reaction to the story is one of deep aching… of a kind of existential longing for connection and community… an embodied experience of “I am because you are.” And the flip side of that is that: a realization that some necessary, integral, soul-part of me does not exist outside of relationship.
This has been true all of my life and even three-year-old Rebecca had a heart awareness of it. I have been finding a fuller experience and expression of my existence, my humanity, my alive-ness through community ever since then. I am because of my family. I am because of the choirs whose breath mine has intertwined with. I am because of the teams with whom I’ve moved as a collective body—anticipating the next move and passing the ball to the spot I know my teammate will inhabit before she was there. I am because of the movement spaces I’ve lived in, combining hearts and dreams and chants and actions into a collective witness for God’s call to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly.
And I am because I have shared almost twenty years with this beloved, quirky Body of Christ that is Lyndale UCC. Honestly, I am because of Lyndale women’s ensemble and choir: singing Dan and Joyce and Kayla and Elly into eternity. I am because of Green Team and Activistas and Immigrant Welcoming and Racial Justice and Open and Affirming and CSJ: sharing meals and incarnating God’s presence at countless protests and vigils and marches. I am because of Lyndale worship: Advent and Lent, ritual Sunday and lusty, four-part hymn singing and sacred art and preaching and testifying to how our attempts at faithfulness have helped us heal and act prophetically and forgive and love.
I am because each of you and all of us together… are. And I return thanks to God.