In the Company of Strangers

“In my view, the mission of the church is not to enlarge membership, not to bring outsiders to accept its terms, but simply to love the world in every possible way—to love the world as God did and does.
The body of Christ is a network of organic connections between people,  connections  which make one’s joy another’s joy, one’s suffering another’s suffering. In this sense,  everyone, Christian or otherwise, is included in the body of Christ—included not within an organizational framework or theological point of view, but included within a community of compassion. I do not believe the church enters into the public realm to aggrandize itself, but to glorify God; and God is glorified as we manifest the unity in which we were created without dishonoring the diversity we have become. If we are able to love the world,  that will be the best demonstration of the truth which the church has been given.”

“If the church is to serve as a school of the Spirit, and as a bridge between the private and the public realms, it must find ways of extending hospitality to the stranger. I do not mean coffee hours designed to recruit new members to the church, for these are aimed at making the stranger “one of us.” The essence of hospitality—and of the public life—is that we let our differences, our mutual strangeness, be as they are, while still acknowledging the unity which lies beneath them.”


Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009

Isaiah 40:21-31

This poetic admonition was written to the Jews in Exile in Babylon .  We talked about what it meant to “wait on (or upon) the Lord”.   DC spoke about the ancient concept that gods inhabit certain geographical spaces and that, being in Exile, the Jews needed to be reminded that their God was with them even in Exile.  Like Jonah, they couldn’t escape him if they wanted.

Waiting implied patience and time spent giving attention to God.  The poem contrasts the vastness and order of the heavens and the “grasshopper” mortality of man.   Isaiah has God scold those in exile who feel abandoned.

AD added tha the promise to renew the strength of those who wait upon the Lord speaks to us to wait upon, or serve,  God by waiting, being patient, letting the Holy  be in our lives on God’s terms and time table.

Corinthians 9:16-23

We asked ourselves “What is it about our experience with Jesus that like Paul,  we simply must share with others.”   PC  recalled Paul’s circumstances, preaching to Jesus followers in small groups, Jews in synagogues, people in homes and in a wide spread territory and that his letters were written not to explain Jesus comprehensively but to answer certain questions and deal with a variety of events.   DC  remarked how “Being all things to all people” now has a negative connotation, as if there were no substance to an argument if it can be altered by circumstance.  But Paul’s message was a deep enough constant that telling it in different ways was not a weakness.  PG  referred to the commentary that suggested that we were called to “walk beside” people in faith rather than try to tell them answers.  Perhaps just being in the spiritual company of others communicates what is Holy.

Mark 1:29-39

AD referred to a commentary she’d read that suggested that Peter’s mother in law may not have been “serving” a meal after her healing, but serving Jesus as an emissary.   If she had been sick, she would have been “unclean”, said another commentary.  That Jesus and the others kept her company exemplifies how they set aside the letter of the law for higher purposes of the law.  PC remarked about healing being the driving out of “unclean spirits” and what that might mean in contemporary times.  We wondered why Jesus chose to stop healing to go pray and then to move on to preach to new neighborhoods when there was healing left.  Perhaps, we concluded, his message of God’s proximity and accessibility, was more important to him than the individuals who benefited from his message.  We also remarked that even the most perfect and holy of human beings needs to pray, to renew his spirit and his direction with Holy guidance. SC tied it all together with the Isaiah passage: “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

February 8, 2009 Order of Worship

Chilmark Community Church

February 8, 2009

Prelude: Invention #8 J.S.Bach

Gathering and Announcements

Call to worship: Isaiah 40:21-31

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me,or who is my equal: says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,and speak, O Israel,”My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God? Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

*Hymn: 139 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty


Presider: Let us confess our sin and faithlessness to God and to each other:

All: God, our creator and redeemer,
you never grow weary or faint
but we have doubted your will or ability to care for us.
We have said, “My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
We have let anxiety to consume us
and we have let fear paralyze love for the poor and lonely.
Forgive us for holding to our doubt.
Free us to walk in faith
and the strength of your mercy, Amen

(silent reflection)

Presider to the people:
Hear the good news:
“Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”

Through God’s love, you are forgiven.

Proclamation and PraisePsalm: 147:1-11;20c

New Testament: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Mark 1:29-39

Response to the Word:

May our words and thoughts and reflections be acceptable, O Lord. AMEN

(background of passages and open discussion.)

*Hymn: 265 O Christ, the Healer

Concerns and Prayers

pastoral prayer; We ask that your healing love come into our world which is in great need. We pray that it reach the victims of storms and wars, and the victims of loneliness or pain. We pray that your love touch people in all corners of the earth, people whose names we do not know, but whose lives are precious to you.We pray for our parents, children, spouses and friends. Fill them with your love. Silent prayer

Lord’s Prayer


*Hymn 94

Prayer of Dedication: Holy One, whose heart abounds with gifts, receive this offering as a sign of our intention to live surrounded by your mercy, inspired by your Spirit, open to the joy of your presence, hospitable to one another, and generous toward your world. AMEN

*Hymn: 670 Go Forth in Peace

Benediction: 1 Thessalonians 5:14-23

Encourage the faint hearted; help the weak; be patient with all; seek to do good; rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances;” and so may God keep us till we meet again. AMEN

Postlude: Andante by Maurice Greene

Next Week’s Scripture

2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ; Mark 1:40-45

Organist: Carol Loud

Lay Leader: Ann Deitrich


Arlene Bodge Feb 1

Arlene spoke without notes, so this is a report of some of her remarks by a witness.  She preached from Mark1:21-28 about Jesus’ teaching with authority, a new kind of teaching. 

She gave examples of people with authority and emphasized that they had experienced what they taught.  She told two stories to illustrate her remarks.  The first involved a teacher who was approached by a distraught mother who wanted the teacher to lecture her son about his bad eating habits, especially his sugar intake.  The teacher met her on three occasions and told her to return in a week.  Finally he spoke to the boy and the mother, frustrated and angry, asked him what had taken him so long.  He replied that it had taken him three weeks to give up sugar.

The next story involved two rebellious boys who thought their teacher was a know it all and wanted to stump her.  One caught a small bird and held it cupped between his hands.  He and his buddy planned to ask the teacher if the bird they held was dead or alive.  If she said DEAD they would release the bird to fly away.  If she said ALIVE, they would crush it and produce a dead bird.  They brought the test to the teacher and asked her to guess.  She looked into the boys’ eyes for a long time and answered:’The fate of the bird is in your hands.    The congregation was encouraged to nourish the BIRD  in our hands and to step out in authority from our experience of God’s presence and promises in our lives.

January 25

This week was open discussion again.(next week will have an actual sermon).
We had more to say about Jonah than about Corinthians and Mark..It is an appealing story, a parable, as PC pointed out, that resonates with a sea-going community. She pointed out that there are two lessons from this parable: that you can’t hide from God or ignore God’s message to you and that you can’t control God; God will forgive whomever God chooses.

PG referred to a commentary that excused Jonah’s reluctance somewhat, considering that Nineveh was the capital of Assyria who had been a brutal, occupying force for over one hundred years. It was like asking one of us to go to the camp of Bin Laden.

DC spoke about Jonah’s attempt to flee from God and that God is with you, you can’t escape God. He drew the parallel between Jonah’s dismay at the forgiveness of Nineveh and the anger of the good brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He also reminded us of the opening of Moby Dick and the sermon there.

As for Mark1:14-20, PG spoke of the calling of the fishermen as being a calling from one life to another. This often implies “repentance” for later followers. One commentator defined repentance as ” aligning one’s values and way of life with God’s ways”. Sin has sometimes been defined as “separation from God”. In Hebrew one translation is ” missing the mark” as in archery. The conclusion was that we should be turning to a life whose moments are informed by an awareness of God’s presence and direction.

AD referred to the book SAY TO THIS MOUNTAIN: MARK’S STORY OF DISCIPLESHIP. The calling from the men at their nets and families exemplified the tension between the Temple and the Wilderness, the center and the margins, the power structure and the outsiders.

Sunday, January 18

OK, we didn’t have a sermon, but this will be the place to post sermons when we do have them, as we will on Feb. 1.

We had g00d scripture discussion.  Here are a few of the points made:

1 Sam 3:1-10

P. told about the place of the boy in the temple.  Referred to commentary that pointed out that the voice of God calls us where we are.  Some times we are enlightened  to act within our regular jobs.  If we are testing whether the idea we have is God’s voice or not, we can test it against scripture, tradition, reason and experience as Wesley taught.

PC said that listening to each other was another way to discern God’s “voice”, especially in church matters.

MH agreed and amplified.

AD mentioned the value of setting aside time to be open to spiritual promptings..just quiet time or reading time.


DC gave background about the author of John’s Greek language and audience.  He referred to the beginning of the chapter where “In the Beginning was the Word”.  He identified the Word as the idea of a thing, the Platonic idea as being similar to the perfect creation of the Hebrew God. Jesus was the Word made flesh in John and John took pains to emphasize his perfection with stories of miracles etc.  In this reading some clairvoyance is suggested, though it might have been intuition on Jesus’ part.  Jesus told his followers “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” .

P. read a little of a commentary that described how a rabbi called followers and what it meant to follow .” To be invited to become a disciple was to be invited to become like the rabbi by observing and practicing everything the rabbi did, and in so doing, to multiply the rabbi’s life with God and others through your own.”  Telling Nathanial and others that they would have visions similar to Jacob’s ladder, reminded P. of Jesus’ words to the Woman at the Well.  Jesus knew about her without having made her aquaintance before and then promised her water that would quench her thirst for ever. Jesus seemed to be saying that if you try to be close to God as he teaches, you will have glimpses of the Holy.

MH related these ideas to becoming a new church.