by Rick Diamond

This past Sunday we braided/wove/twisted/tied ribbons together. In large groups. In rows, sort of. It was chaotic, and beautiful, and funny, and lovely. It was an exercise in being in community together.

Parts of it were exasperating. Who's going to decide what ribbons go in what order? How will we weave them together (some of the lines were twenty feet long)? Do we need to put knots along the way? Do we tie them together at the start of the ribbons and then braid them from the end, or twist them, or what? What order should we stand in? Does anybody know how to actually braid?

And then we tied the ribbons to the tree in the middle of the room. And it is ... of course ... beautiful.

This is how God intends for people to live, in what Jesus called "The Kingdom of Heaven." Not Heaven that we go to after we die - but the way life is when God is in charge, at the center. Or, at least, God is invited in to be an active participant. Yeah, there'll be crazy things that happen. Yeah, there'll be disagreements. People will miscommunicate. But the Ephesians passage that we read said that we're to grow up. Stop being like children, pushed around by whatever whim or idea comes pushing through. Be solid. Let God be at work in you, individually and as a community.

It's not easy, being together. Unless we want to be surface-deep. If what brings people together is that they all look the same, or believe the same things, or live in the same zip code, or vote the same, then that will be the extent of what we share. But if we're diverse and still we love each other and that love radiates out into the world? If we believe different things or think differently or have different personalities and quirks and ribbon-braiding methods, and we honor and serve together because God is present in us - that is true community.

It's harder work, but it's Real. Redemptive. Saving. Safe.

Listen to the Service

Today's Program

Gathering Our Spirit to God's Spirit

The tall glass cylinder, now painted with words and symbols and with “roots” painted on the floor around it, is still in the center of the room and filled with branches extending out the top; branches are also hanging from the ceiling around the room. Additional limbs have been added to the existing ones giving us more space for hanging pipe cleaner things. We’ll wrap ribbon around the trunk at the end of the service this week.

  • “Across the Universe” by Fiona Apple plays
  • A Journeyer steps up to light the lamp and another rings the bell 
  • David (E) and Leslie (L) make announcements   

Worshiping with Our Children

  • A Journeyer leads our children in talking about how there are many benefits to being a part of a family, or team, or a club. Along with the things we receive, we also have a responsibility as part of those groups to help make it a safe and welcome place for others. We learn to give as well as to receive. 

From Our Spirit to God's Spirit

  • David welcomes, has us breathe, explains the series
  • A Journeyer comes to the microphone to read Reading 1  

Reader 1:

In traditional Judaism, tikkun olam is often used to explain the importance of social justice. According to Orthodox Jews, the more mitzvot, or good deeds, are performed, the closer the world comes to perfection. A rabbi once quoted the traditional Jewish prayer known as the Aleinu likening tikkun olam to a partnership with God, a partnership in which the world is repaired. 

One popular school of Jewish thought has also been used to explain the role of prayer and ritual action in tikkun olam. According to this vision of the world, God contracted part of God's self into vessels of light to create the world. These vessels shattered and their shards became sparks of light trapped within the material of creation. Prayer, especially contemplation of various aspects of the divinity, releases these sparks and allows them to reunite with God's essence.  

  • Renee and/or Dave lead the community in singing
  • Two more Journeyers come to the microphone for Readings 2 and 3 

Reader 2:  Genesis 18:1-8 (The Message)

GOD appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them. 

He said, "Master, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. I'll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I'll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path." They said, "Certainly. Go ahead." 

Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, "Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread." Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate. 

Reader 3:  Ephesians 4:14-16 (The New Living Translation)

…then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

  • Another Journeyer leads the community in a guided meditative prayer 
  • David explains the Stuffbrary, has the ushers pass out Stuffbrary cards to all those who want them and leads an offertory prayer

Giving -- To Help God Do God's Work in This World   

  • Renee and/or Dave play instrumentally as the ushers pass the offering baskets and return them to the foot of the cross

Telling The Story and Our Story 

  • A Journeyer reads Reading 4

Reading 4:  Luke 10:38-42 (New Living Translation)

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” 

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” 

  • Rick talks
  • Rick guides the community through the ribbon braiding activity
  • Ecclesiastes 4:12 (New Living Translation) is on the screen during the ribbon braiding exercise…

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

  • As the braids are wrapped around the glass tree, Stephanie leads the community in a shared rhythm activity 

Go Out to Serve with Mercy and Grace 

God spoke to Abram, and Abram was listening. He heard God tell him to pack up his family, dwellings, possessions and livestock and begin a journey that would start by leaving behind his lifelong home, many of his extended family, his business, and his country. God did not provide a trip itinerary, a GPS signal or a Google map. He simply said, “You go. I’ll let you know when you get to the right spot. And remember, the journey is as important as the destination. My part of the bargain is this: your faithfulness will manifest itself in the formation of a powerful community of people who both bless the world and will be blessed.” So Abram started packing…

  • David dismisses
  • “Across the Universe” plays again as folks depart