Scripture: Living and Active

Scripture: Living and Active
Our most significant scriptures are marked with post it notes.

Continuing the work of Jesus, simply, peacefully, JOYFULLY, together.

We gather for worship at 9:30 am on Sunday.
Children go to Sunday school following their special time in worship, about 10:15 am.
Potluck is the first Sunday of the month.

17975 Centreville-Constantine Road, Constantine, MI 49042

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Drawn into Peace: Worship and Workshop, December 15

 “The more we can make PEACE a personal project
the worldview of PEACE…will be felt in homes,    
in neighborhoods, in cities, in nations, and in our world,”
writes local author and illustrator, Wendy Anderson Halperin.

Wendy Anderson Halperin will lead a workshop called “Sitting in Peace,” at Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite on Sunday, December 15, from 9 am to 5 pm.  Participants will transform chairs and tables they bring into original art: peace chairs and tables, potential holiday gifts.  The day includes worship, fellowship and hands on design and painting.  Children and participants of all ages – parents and grandparents, people of faith, teachers, artists and activists -- will be “drawn into peace” by choosing quotes and images that inspire peacemaking. 

“If we are to teach real peace in this world…we shall have to start with the children.”  Gandhi


Wendy Anderson Halperin, of South Haven, MI, is an acclaimed artist who has earned a reputation for her richly detailed, imaginative and expressive pencil and watercolor painting.  Her most recent picture book, PEACE, is a collection of quotes addressing the eternal question, “How can we bring peace to the world?”  PEACE is packed with quotes from peacemakers around the globe and throughout history.  The “Sitting for Peace” workshop invites children and all participants to choose quotes about peace to inscribe and illustrate as creative reminders of the power of choosing peace in daily life.

Registration is required (at no cost) by email: Receive necessary information in advance to prepare a chair or table for the event.   A free will offering will be taken to support Halperin’s “Sitting for Peace Project.”

Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite is a welcoming, progressive, rural peace church located at 17975 Centreville Constantine Road, Constantine, MI, and affiliated with the Church of the Brethren and Mennonite Church USA.  More information on Facebook and at

Pastor Nina B Lanctot



Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Cider Dog"

"If life hands you apples, and pears, and lots of them -- make cider!"

When bounty, creativity, hard work and imagination -- and faith -- all come together, it is a joy!  Here is the convergence:

A bountiful apple and pear crop! Praise God!
Harvesting those apples and pears!
Making a special blend cider that all your friends will love!
Asking for cider donations for a "special project" -- a dog for Sara.
Sara McDonald's imagination of a service dog to assist her diabetes care.
A local organization that saves dogs from the humane society and trains them as service dogs.

Sara and her husband, Nathan Nichols, found a great organization in South Bend that hope to train their very first diabetic service dog for Sara:

Midwest Assistance Dogs is to help disabled individuals cope with life’s daily challenges through the assistance of a trained canine companion. Our mission includes acquiring, whenever possible, our assistance dog "trainees" from local animal shelters. By using shelter dogs we are able to fulfill our mission while at the same time provide a loving home to an animal that otherwise may have been euthanized.

Jerry Warstler loads the apples and pears to take to Millers' Cider Mill, Middlebury, IN
Apples and pears go in for washing and grinding.

Putting smashed fruit in layers in the press.

Squaring up the press.
Todd Warstler catches cider jugs off the line, lots of them, to load in the truck.

 If you would like to make a donation for CIDER DOG, contact Pastor Nina Lanctot at

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Celebrationg the Harvest Festival of Sukkot

One of the most memorable sermons at Florence Church in the last eight years was performed by Willard Fenton-Miller, without a single word.  With his bare hand and simple hand tools he created to four legged stool from a heavy log of cherry wood, and then used it as a stool of invitation in order to wash Donald Lanctot's feet. 

In our series, Harvest Joy, The Feast of Booths or Sukkot was the perfect occassion for his artistic midrash on the ancient scripture:

Leviticus 23:39-43

Now, the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the festival of the Lord, lasting seven days; a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day. On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a festival to the Lord seven days in the year; you shall keep it in the seventh month as a statute for ever throughout your generations. You shall live in booths for seven days; all that are citizens in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

After building the succah with a little help from friends, Henry Braun and Gary Nichols, Willard went on to reflect on the Hebrew tradition, making tents and forts in the summers of his childhood, the old indigenous way of hunter gatherers living with the land, and the plight of those who live in temporary shelters as the result of having no home.

“The three obligation of Sukkot are to live in a succah, to wave the luvlav in all the directions, and be joyful….I think just making a sukkah, decorating it, sitting in it, and eating some simple food is a good first step toward remembering – remembering what has been the vast legacy of our forgotten existence – our legacy of joy.”

The children shared in watching Willard’s creation and making their own succah’s from popsicle sticks.  Now maybe they have a small part of the ancient memories that also shaped Jesus – before he headed into the wilderness on his own for forty days.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Day of At-One-Ment -- Yom Kippur

Jews celebrated Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, yesterday.  The traditional services included fasting and praying throughout the day, punctuated by the sound of the shofar.  They do the hard work of repentance.

I think if God's intent in commanding a Day of Atonement had been realized, there would be a day where all people around the globe would stop and fast and pray to know how to "make things right" in themselves, their relationships and the world.  God always intends the Good News for God's people to be the Good News of the whole earth.  While it may sound like a day to avoid, the potential for real "turn arounds" is a gift of joy!

For example, this week, of all weeks, we can be mindful of the miracle of turn around.  Syria indeed did a turn around by offering to destroy its weapons of mass destruction with the support of Russia.  And the United States stepped back from the brink of more war and bombing.  And thoughtful and prayerful debate continued about how not to rush into war but rather seek more sustaining solutions to evil and violence.

I have learned a lot this week about repentance from listening to and reading rabbis.  Jews spend a month preparing for Yom Kippur, with intense introspection during the ten days following Rosh Hashana.  A whole workbook can be found at Tikkun magazine, guiding the faithful in repentance or teshuvah, or what  the Twelve Steps might call "a searching and fearless moral inventory."

Michael Sagan-Cohen, Leviathan, 1983
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat on her blog, The Velveteen Rabbi, compares all of us, who face the hard invitation to repent and to be agents of repentance, to Jonah:

WE ARE JONAH by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

In Rabbi Eliezer's vision
Jonah entered the whale's mouth
as we enter a synagogue.
Light streamed in through its eyes.
Jonah approached the *bimah, the whale's head.
Show me wonders, he said, as though
his own life weren't a miracle.

The whale obliged, swimming down
to the foundation stone,
the navel of creation
fixed deep beneath the land.
Tsk tsk, chided the fish:
you're beneath God's temple --
you should pray.

Prayer requires stillness.
Running away had always been
so easy. Sitting silent
in self-judgment -- forget it!
But waves only churn the surface.
In the deep beneath the deep
Jonah was wholly present.

We all flee
from uncomfortable conversations
the drip of a hospital IV
the truths we don't want to own
the work we don't want to do.
Now we're in the belly of the whale,
someplace deep and strange.

God calls us to awareness:
to stand our ground
in the place where we are,
to do the work
which needs doing.
To bring kindness and mercy
to those who are unlike us, [even our enemies.
Are we listening?

 *BIMAH (Heb. בִּימָה; "elevated place"), platform in the synagogue on which stands the desk from which the Torah is read. Occasionally, the rabbi delivers his sermon from the bimah, and on Rosh Ha-Shanah the shofar is blown there.

Today I muse on how the practice of a Day of Atonement shaped Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew.  I am sure he learned the history, studying early texts in the Law on the practice of placing the sins of the community on a scapegoat (Leviticus 16) and later texts in the Prophets calling for a fast toward justice (Micah 6).  The writer of Hebrews (see Hebrews 2-4) suggests that Jesus, in his life, death and resurrection. takes on three roles: the role of the scape goat (carrying the sins of the world), the role of the priest (interceding for those sins and offering mercy), and the role of the prophet, holding out a "better covenant" relationship of at-one-ment (Hebrews 8) through his own law breaking hospitality, healing and hope.

Jesus the great high priest

So it seems that this whole repentance thing should be a mainstay of Christian worship and practice.  But I confess, that the action of confession, as it typically takes place in my own worship experiences, does not hold a candle to my sense of the Jewish practices for the Days of Awe, these days of seeking oneness with God and God's world.

In order to picture what this process is like, the steps of a dance have evolved.  Think!  Ouch!  Turn!  Fix & 'Fess Up.  The dance is based on the meaning of the Hebrew word, teshuvah, typically translated repentance.  Here is how Rabbi Sharon Brous in an interview with Krista Tippett explains it:

It's return. It's literally returning to a right path. And, I mean, the whole Jewish notion of sin is you've just gone astray and you can turn it around. And, you know, the principle, the fundamental principles of teshuvah, of return, is that human beings have free will. We have the capacity to make great mistakes. And we have the capacity to turn it around.

As I tried to practice teshuvah this week, I have pictured myself doing the steps of a new dance. 

#1 THINK!  I can become away. "Hey, I am on the wrong path!"  I suddenly look around, and it is clear that I have arrived at someplace where I don't want to be. 

#2 OUCH!  And looking closer, I see how being on the wrong path has consequences.  To use a very mundane example, if I google all evening then I don't make those phone calls that my little inner voice is inviting me to make. 

#3 TURN!  And here's the Good News!  By the same grace that allows me to see where I am "off" and feel for the others whom I am not loving, I have the grace and willingness to turn around.  Take action.  Need to stop the old (turn off the computer) and

#4 FIX -- begin the new (pick up the phone).

Inertia is a reality for me, however.  The longer the old path has been trod, the longer it seems it takes to turn around.  It took until almost sundown on the Saturday before the Sunday Day of Atonement worship service for me to make those phone calls that had been on my "to do list" for, well, weeks.

But, ah, the relief and satisfaction of those calls! 

#5 'FESS UP  I note how the "confession" in the Jewish process comes last, not first.  All the steps must be taken before true confession is made to God.  Demonstration of the turn around IS the confession of repentance, in life.  Today, lighting a candle in worship was a small sign of a very small repentance. 

The psalmist writes in Psalm 32 (NCV):

Happy is the person
    whose sins are forgiven,
    whose wrongs are pardoned.

Happy is the person
    whom the Lord does not consider guilty
    and in whom there is nothing false.

When I kept things to myself,
    I felt weak deep inside me.
    I moaned all day long...
...Then I confessed my sins to you
    and didn’t hide my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my sins to the Lord,”
    and you forgave my guilt.

The assurance we receive as Christians is that, through Christ, and his amazing grace, forgiving us "for we know not what we do," we are free from the destructive power and habits that forged our wrong path.  We get to practice the new path, and get good at it, one day at a time.  We find joy in doing the right thing and "repairing the world" one small tear at a time.

In this season on our globe of a Great Turning, teshuvah, the dance of repentance, is such a necessary wisdom.  The steps of THINK! OUCH! TURN! FIX! 'FESS UP! are needed graces to see the road we are on -- cultural collapse and climate change -- the consequences of our greed, and the desire to change.

I take assurance from the writer of Hebrews 4:14-16:

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Yes, this is a time of need.  Blessed are you, YHWH our God, Ruler of the Universe...for the Jewish wisdom that has lightened my load this week.

ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם

          Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam