OPENING PRAYER Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine master, grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned and
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
CALL TO WORSHIP Micah, chapter 6
And with what shall we come before God, and bow down to the lord; for the lord has shown us what is good and what does the Lord require of us? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Prepare our hearts, o God, to accept your word. Silence in us any voice but your own, that, hearing, we may also obey your will. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
READING OF SCRIPTURE – Psalm 133
SERMON This is Our Song
In 1975, E L Doctorow wrote ragtime, a novel based on history, centered around many prominent figures of the early 1900’s and the themes, of racism, the gilded age and immigration. One of the early stories in the book tells the tale of eccentric millionaire Harry K Thaw, who is married to model and
actress, Evelyn Nesbit. Thaw is extremely jealous of a perceived affair between Evelyn and famed architect, Stanford White. So, one night at a grand party in the rooftop restaurant of Madison Square Garden, Thaw confronts White and kills him in front of a stunned crowd of patrons. Reporters
immediately label it the crime of the century; to which the author reminds us that let us not forget the century was only 6 years old.
We do tend to exaggerate at times, don’t we? We love our hyperbole; the overstatement or exaggeration of something to gain affect. That is the best cup of coffee I have ever had! These raw oysters are so great I could eat a million of them. And then there is the proverbial, that’s the best thing since sliced bread.
Really, sliced bread was unveiled July 6, 1928 and it really is wonderful, but you would think there could be a couple of other things on that list – computers, toasters, the safety razor, vacuum cleaners, tv, microwaves, chocolate chips – not to mention such trivial items as pacemakers, antibiotics and the polio vaccine; and that is only scratching the surface.
This need to always be the best or the greatest seems to permeate our culture and we always want to name things, label them, put our mark on them. Things like generations: baby boomers, millennials, the lost generation, now that is one to lay claim to; and then there is the greatest generation – people born 1900-1920 who lived through the great depression and fought in World War II. Did you know that this generation was never called that until reporter Tom Brokaw wrote a book in 1998, called the Greatest Generation. Who gets to name these? Is there a contest every 20 years to name the next generation? There is no doubt there was incredible resolve and character in that generation, but to be called the greatest because a book is written, I think we need to ponder things a little more; and you know one of the most outstanding features of that generation might be that they didn’t consider
themselves as such; they faced the hardships of life with strength and courage and faith.
Who knows, maybe the generation born 1995 -2015 will be a great generation as we look back. They certainly have had and will have a lot of serious issues to deal with, and they have already stepped up school shootings, equal rights, a global pandemic. My moneys on the families from Sandy Hook, the fresh faces in business and politics, the students from Parkland High School — they all inspire and energize me. Why? It might be because they don’t care so much about being great, they truly care about being good, and that is a significant legacy to leave.
If asked what is the difference between great and good; most would say that great is qualitatively better than good, but is it? Let’s for a moment think of it this way; great is a quality appraising of someone or something to a very high and almost created level of measurement of worth. It is, almost by
On the other hand, good, is a quality of character that is humbler and resembles a trait and a lifestyle more in line with what Christ calls us to be.
We don’t find many scriptures or prayers asking us to be great. Jesus is called the good shepherd. Jesus tells those who follow, “Well done, my good and faithful servants.” Even in our funeral services, in the prayer of thanksgiving we find these words. “Especially we thank you for your faithful servant,
whose baptism is now complete in death. We praise you for the gift of their life and for all in them that was good, and kind and faithful.”
Goodness, is indeed a fine lasting tribute.
Look again at today’s scripture.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity. It is like precious oil poured on the head funning down on the beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mt Zion. For there the Lord bestows His blessing even life forevermore.
It is a short but wonderful psalm about the joy of harmonious relationships and we would note today that the male reference is in historical context. For this is about all human relationships, and that unity is pleasant and very precious. It is a psalm, indeed a song that speaks of unity. Like God’s love falling down upon us all, as individuals and as a church.
Now we know that at times there can be division and disagreement even in church families, and when that occurs our song is really off key and anyone hearing us will turn away and never hear the real message we should be singing about. Unity is important because it makes the church a positive
example in the world and draws others to us, to hear the song of Christ’s love. It helps us cooperate as a body of believers, as God meant us to, helping to create a world where God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And it renews and revitalizes all our ministries, because there are no distractions or
disagreements to sap our energy and strength.
God isn’t asking us to be great, but asking us to be good, and kind and faithful.
So why do we have such a preoccupation and obsession with greatness and not goodness? Why the need to be number one on all the lists and goals we provide to measure worthiness; ignoring the list given to us by our Lord? For we know that greatness will not solve strife, but goodness can. Greatness will not ease racial, religious, or ethnic tensions – but goodness can. Greatness will not lead us down the right path -but goodness can. And how often have we recited, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
Let’s go to another testimony of sorts on this debate, and a reflection on the power of goodness as a lasting legacy.
The late Fred Rogers, was inducted into the television hall of fame in 1999. This is part of his acceptance speech. “How do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own – by treating our neighbor at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything that we produce. Who in your life has been such a servant to you? Who has helped you love the good that grows within you?” And now, I will ask of you what Mr. Rogers asked of that audience —- let’s just take 10 seconds to think of some of those people who have loved us and wanted what was best for us in life. (pause for 10 seconds)
No matter where they are, either here, or in heaven, imagine how pleased those people must be to know that you thought of them right now.
Greatness and goodness, there is a much bigger difference than we tend to think of.
Let’s throw this one in, have you ever heard of the Bible referred to as the great book? Probably not, but the good book, yes indeed.
In so many aspects of our life, we seem not satisfied with goodness. Even in reference to our nation, we constantly hear, we are the greatest nation in the world. Not much humility there. We say it so much it seems like we are trying to convince ourselves. The sad thing is we don’t have to. Our founders
didn’t think of it at such, they often referred to America as a noble experiment, which I think gives us solid ground upon which to build upon and after all isn’t that really our goal?
Are bombastic sound bites, nationalistic chants and an overwhelming desire to be heard to make sure our viewpoint is the loudest really the voice we want to hear? Or can we move away from division, in quiet humility, taking time to listen to others, and eventually joining hands and voice together in a
much more harmonious chorus.
How good and pleasant it is when people live together in unity. This is our psalm for today, this is our song for all our tomorrows.
One of the most stirring tunes in our hymnal is Finlandia, by Sibelius, best known in Be Still My Soul and This is My Song. Finlandia was a patriotic offering for the people of Finland, striving for independence, but the lyrics we have today for This is My Song were written by Lloyd Stone, an American public-school teacher who lived in Hawaii, and authored children’s books. He wrote the first two stanzas for its inclusion in the collection, Sing a Tune. During the brief time of peace between two World Wars, it was a song of hope for all nations and balances the poets love for his own country with the love that others feel for their nations.
Now enter Methodist theologian Georgia Harkness, who added a third stanza around 1938. Harkness, one of the first women ordained in the Methodist church added that final stanza as a prayer to the Lord of all the earths kingdoms, thus transforming a hymn of peace with vague religious overtones into a prayer for peace that comes from the author of peace, Jesus Christ. Thus, completing a work, with the unity of three talents from different walks of life
How good and pleasant is the unity of God’s love. This is his word, and may this be our song.
ANTHEM This is My Song Wendy Hill
BENEDICTION AND SENDING
May the peace of god be in your heart,
The grace of God be in your words,
The love of God be in your hands
The joy of God be in your soul
And in the song that your life sings
GO IN PEACE TO LOVE AND SERVE THE LORD