Before describing the service: “WARNING: A Congregational Meeting will take place immediately following the worship service on July 24, 2016 to consider the following question posed by the Diaconate: “Shall the Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ, Bradford, Vermont engage in a series of education and discussion sessions about issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of the Bible, the church, our society and our circles of family and friends as the first step in a process that could result in the congregation declaring itself Open and Affirming?”
Jesus says in the lectionary gospel passage this week, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:1-13)
As much as we love to hear that, do we believe it? Do we believe Jesus means us? Do we believe Jesus means everyone when he says everyone? This saying comes in the context of his teaching his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. If we do not know the answers to these big questions, he is saying, ask God in prayer. The 138th Psalm that we will read responsively says, “On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” I hope that we all will open our hearts to be guided and strengthened by God as we address one of today’s most controversial issues in the warned meeting.
We will sing a truly amazing set of hymns: This Is My Father’s World; Jesus, Lover of My Soul; Precious Lord, Take My Hand and Amazing Grace. Our Diverse Traditions Music Team will sing a version of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door that has been slightly revised to reflect the perspective of a dying Dallas Policeman or a young man at the Orlando Pulse or any of us who are heartsick at all the shootings.
Here are YouTube versions of some of the music we will be hearing. The first is a moving version of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door that was adapted to respond to the Dunblane School Massacre, one of the worst mass shootings in the history of the UK. The children’s choir in the background is made up of brothers and sisters of the victims.
The second is Precious Lord, Take My Hand sung by the great Mahalia Jackson. Mahalia Jackson sang just before Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on the Washington Mall, and while he was speaking she called out from behind him, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” which is what made him abandon his text and give one of the greatest speeches of all time. In the movie Selma, King calls Jackson in the middle of the night and asks her to sing Precious Lord over the phone to help him endure an excruciating moment.