Sunday, December 27, 2020

A Special First Sunday of Christmas



New Hampshire Conference United Church of Christ
Worship for the First Sunday of Christmas December 27, 2020

Gathering Music – Medley (Instrumental)
Tim Hughes, Executive Director and Tivvi Pare, Assistant Director/Summer Director, Horton Center

Welcome
The Rev. Gordon Rankin, Conference Minister, New Hampshire Conference, UCC

Call to Worship
Cindy Bradley, Administrative Assistant, New Hampshire Conference, UCC

Invocation
Cindy Bradley, Administrative Assistant, New Hampshire Conference, UCC
 
Song – “O Come, All You Faithful” The New Century Hymnal No. 135 (Verses 1, 3, and 4)
Tim Hughes, Executive Director and Tivvi Pare, Assistant Director/Summer Director, Horton Center

Children’s Message
Ann Desrochers, Office Manager & CE Resource Consultant, New Hampshire Conference, UCC

Song – “Go Tell it On the Mountain” The New Century Hymnal No. 154
Horton Center Staff

Scripture – Luke 2: 1-20
Lydia Frasca, Finance Officer, New Hampshire Conference, UCC

Christmas Reflection – “I Was a Boy in Bethlehem”
The Rev. Gordon Rankin, Conference Minister, New Hampshire Conference, UCC

Christmas Prayer
The Rev. Dr. David Felton, Bridge Associate Conference Minister, New Hampshire Conference, UCC

Offering
Helen McGlashan, Search and Call Assistant, New Hampshire Conference, UCC

We ask that you consider accessing our online donation portal to make a contribution to support the mission and ministries of the New Hampshire Conference United Church of Christ. You may also mail your contributions to NHCUCC, 140 Sheep Davis Road, Pembroke, NH 03275.


Song – “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” The New Century Hymnal No. 144
Tim Hughes, Executive Director and Tivvi Pare, Assistant Director/Summer Director, Horton Center

Benediction
The Rev. Gordon Rankin, Conference Minister and The Rev. Dr. David Felton, Bridge Associate Conference Minister, New Hampshire Conference, UCC

Closing Music – “Joy to the World” (Instrumental)
Tim Hughes, Executive Director and Tivvi Pare, Assistant Director/Summer Director, Horton Center


 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve 2020

 Christmas Eve 2020

Video of Service


Based on Ancient Sources, the first service of this kind in modern times was held in Victorian England. Father E.W. Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury and father of E.F. Benson who authored the Lucia novels, began the practice of a Festival Service of Lessons and Carols in preparation for the Christmas Feast, first at Truro Cathedral (1880) and later at Canterbury Cathedral. Popularized by recordings from King’s College, Cambridge, this service has come to be associated with a traditional celebration of Christmas by millions of people throughout the world. Its spirit and content sum up the true spirit of the season, while taking us in heart and mind to the Christmas celebrations of former times


In these days of virtual worship I pray this special service be a blessing to one and all…


Opening Hymn Once in Royal David’s City

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRIZ22dn-XY&ab_channel=THENBA


Beloved in Christ, as we anticipate Christmas and all that means this year, let us prepare ourselves so that we may be shown its true meaning. 


Let us hear, in readings from Holy Scripture, how the prophets of Israel foretold that God would visit and redeem his waiting people. 

Let us rejoice, in our carols and hymns, that the good purpose of God is being mightily fulfilled even in this the most un-usual of Christmas seasons.

Let us celebrate the promise that Jesus will bring all people and all things into the glory of God’s eternal kin-dom. 

But first, let us pray for the needs of his whole world; 

for peace and goodwill over all the earth; 

for the mission of the Church;

the poor and the helpless; 

the hungry and the oppressed; 

the sick and those who mourn; 

the lonely and the unloved; 

the aged and the little children.

Let us also remember all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no one can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom, in Jesus, we for evermore are one. 


These prayers and praises let us humbly offer to God, in the words which Christ himself taught us:

 Our Creator, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kin-dom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our Trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.



Come thou long expected Jesus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkZFhzNbp8k&ab_channel=20schemesmusic


Connie -The First reading ; Genesis 3:1-5


Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.”‘ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures.’


This is the Word of God

Thanks be to God.


Hymn: The Lord at first did Adam make – canto de choirs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7qprs2X6bI&ab_channel=CantoDeoChoirs


Marge -The second reading Genesis 22:15-18


The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”


This is the Word of God

Thanks be to God.



Hymn: Good Christian friends rejoice

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ywiBOrTT2A&ab_channel=JosephStillitano


I saw three ships come sailing in-Bob Bennet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFe03Ck-tkg&ab_channel=CCLI


Marge -The third reading: Isaiah 9:2,6-7


Christ’s birth and kingdom are foretold by Isaiah. 


The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


This is the Word of God

Thanks be to God.


Hymn: I wonder as I wander-First congregational Church Glen Ellyn Il.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QomRD-ROMQ&ab_channel=FirstCongregationalChurchofGlenEllyn%2CIl.


I wonder as I wander out under the sky, 

How Jesus the Savior did come for to die. 

For poor on’ry people like you and like I... 

I wonder as I wander out under the sky. 


When Mary birthed Jesus ‘twas in a cow’s stall, 

With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all. 

But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall, 

And the promise of ages it then did recall. 


If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing, 

A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing, 

Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing, 

He surely could have it, ‘cause he was the King.













Hymn: Unto Us a Boy is Born

 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVkSM8Q5g9I&ab_channel=VariousArtists-Topic


 

ALL: Unto us a boy is born!

King of all creation,

came he to a world forlorn,

the Lord of every nation.


Women: Cradled in a stall was he

with sleepy cows and asses;

but the very beasts could see

that he all folk surpasses.


Men: Herod then with fear was filled;

'A prince', he said, 'in Jewry!'

All the little boys he killed

at Bethl'em in his fury.


Women: Now may Mary's son, who came 

so long ago to love us,

lead us all with hearts aflame

unto the joys above us.


ALL: Omega and Alpha he!

Let the organ thunder,

while we sing our songs with glee

and rend the air asunder


 

Dave-The Fourth Reading: Micah 5:2-4


The prophet Micah foretells the glory of little Bethlehem. 


But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.


This is the Word of God

Thanks be to God.


Hymn: O Little town of Bethlehem

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlTwqhdqUw4&ab_channel=JosephStillitano


Kathleen -The Fifth Reading: Luke 1:26-38


The angel Gabriel salutes the virgin Mary. 


In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. 


This is the Word of God

Thanks be to God.


Hymn; Mary did you Know

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4AGOE4kt-I&ab_channel=UnitedChurchofChristFortLauderdale


Joe-The Sixth Reading: Mathew 1:18-23


Matthew tells of the birth of Jesus. 


Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”


This is the Word of God

Thanks be to God.


Hymn: O Come O Come Emmanuel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taudislczg8&ab_channel=GuilfordChurch


Kathy -Seventh reading: Luke 2:8-16


The shepherds go to the manger. 


In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.


This is the Word of God

Thanks be to God.


Hymn; God rest you Merry Gentlemen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHsCsBsWBt0&ab_channel=ChetValleyChurches


Connie-The Eighth Reading: Mathew 2:1-11


The wise men are led by the star to Jesus. 


In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


This is the Word of God

Thanks be to God.


Hymn: We Three Kings 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx6ixwTX4WQ&ab_channel=AbendmusikatFirstPlymouth


We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star. 


Refrain: O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light. 


Born a King on Bethlehem's plain, gold I bring to crown him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign. Refrain 


Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh; prayer and praising, voices raising, worshiping God on high. Refrain 


Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom; sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone cold tomb. Refrain 


Glorious now behold him arise; King and God and sacrifice; Alleluia, Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies. Refrain.


Dave -The Ninth reading: John 1:1-14


John unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation. 


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.


The Word of God for the people of God

Thanks be to God


I would like to take this moment to mention a special collection that we normally would collect on the Sunday before Christmas but these have not been normal days. 

The Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund is a Special Mission Offering that congregations have been supporting for over 100 years.  The offering is administered through the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance, the charitable arm of the Pension Boards.  Funds provide direct financial support to those who serve the church and are facing financial difficulties.  Active and retired clergy, lay employees, and their surviving spouses may be eligible for the Supplementation of Small Annuities, Supplementation of Health Premiums, Emergency Grants, and/or Christmas “Thank You” Gift Checks. 


-If you would like to help us support this cause please send in or drop at the church with a note specifying the Christmas fund or in the memo line on your checks we appreciate you helping us to support our clergy


At this time I offer all here to lift a prayer  a prayer for Christmas a prayer for well-being and a prayer for yourselves feel free to share your joys and concerns in the comment section


Silent Night performed by The Boston GMC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY_Ooc1t9sU&ab_channel=BGMC1982




sharing of prayers…


A Christmas Prayer – “This Child”


God of Grace and God of Glory, 

Your Word comes to dwell with us full of Grace and Truth, 

Your Son is birthed in our lives as a child who embodies Love. 

We come before you this night in stillness and wonder. 

We kneel at his manger and whisper thanks and praise. 


Your birthing This Child is not the act of a mad and desperate ruler, 

Or the breathtaking discovery of a sage, 

Or the anthem of a musical genius, 

Or the pious offering of a genuine saint. 

Your birthing This Child is Your Power alive in this world of Your Creating. 

Which boggles the mind, 

leads by the Spirit, 

and causes all creatures great and small to pause and pray. 


The birth of This Child transforms all things, 

Breathes Salvation into life And redeems heartless Humanity. 

As if to shame the most powerful human efforts to restrain the poor, 

This Child is placed by You, 

in the center of world history 

And he coos as he cuddles, 

He kicks away hate with tiny toes, 

He reaches for the stars with little fingers 

And he caresses Hope in his newborn hands. 


This Child, born of humans but given by You, O God, 

Is nothing less than Your Mystery at the heart of this world’s redemption. 

All that is past and all that is to come 

is found 

in a feed trough, 

in a barn, 

in a backwater town 

at the heart of Your Love for all creation. 


Because of This Child, 

we join our voices, 

our hearts, 

our hopes, 

our hurts, 

and we come to Bethlehem this night. 

This Child is our Hope, 

our Joy, 

Our Peace, 

Our Love. 


Thank you, Gracious God, for your Son, Our Savior, 

Thank you for This Child. Amen. 


A prayer by the Rev. Dr. Timothy C. Ahrens, Senior Minister, First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio, December 15, 2019 4:00pm, for A Service of Lessons and Carols



Final Hymn Hark the Herald Angels sing New century Hymnal #144…


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6v4L4r7kb8&ab_channel=FirstCongregationalChurchOfLBUCC


Sunday, December 20, 2020

4th Sunday of Advent

Live stream archive here 


Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

 

Opening Reflection: 


Beloved, Holy Lover,

we welcome you to our house,

the sacred space we have built

to gather together as your people.

Here we come to offer you

our thanksgiving and praise

in response to the abundance

of your creation.

Here we come to share with you

our prayers of confession and petition,

for they lie heavy on our hearts.

Even knowing that you are here

and everywhere,

we come longing to hear you say,

“I am with you always.” Amen.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWo3qlqyW1c&ab_channel=AmyGrantVEVO


 

let us begin today’s worship

 

Call to Worship

L: Welcome this day to worship.


P: The light of this season has beckoned us forward.


L: Come and rejoice, for God’s light is coming to us.


P: Praise be to God who pours light into our lives.


L: Open your hearts and spirits and receive the blessings of God.


P: May we always be ready to respond in joyful ways to God’s love. AMEN.



Lighting of the Advent Candle …Love

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K77G2rRA_EM&ab_channel=AsburyMemorialChurchVideos


 It came upon a midnight Clear

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljrf6G1kmto&ab_channel=1finch2finch



It came upon the midnight clear, 

 

That glorious song of old, 

From angels bending near the earth, 

To touch their harps of gold: 

"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, 

From heaven's all-gracious King." 

The world in solemn stillness lay,

To hear the angels sing. 


Still through the cloven skies they come, 

With peaceful wings unfurled, 

And still their heavenly music floats 

O'er all the weary world; 

Above its sad and lowly plains, 

They bend on hovering wing, 

And ever o'er its Babel sounds 

The bless├Ęd angels sing. 


All ye, beneath life's crushing load, 

Whose forms are bending low, 

Who toil along the climbing way 

With painful steps and slow, 

Look now! for glad and golden hours 

come swiftly on the wing. 

O rest beside the weary road, 

And hear the angels sing! 


For lo!, the days are hastening on, 

By prophet bards foretold, 

When with the ever-circling years 

Comes round the age of gold 

When peace shall over all the earth 

Its ancient splendors fling, 

And the whole world give back the song 

Which now the angels sing. 

 


[ Recording available on the disk 'St Peter's Choir Sing a Christmas Carol' (NPL, 2011). 



 

Luke 1:26-38


26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[a] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[b] 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.




The word of God for the people of God!


Thanks be to God!

 

Sermon: A girl named Mary

“To a girl named Mary an angel came.


Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you. This assurance of the present-ness of God sets the tone for the message that is to come. Mary does not know her life is about to be both upended and established forever in the history of humankind. She does not know that her humble beginnings are not indicative of her calling as the mother of the Messiah. She does not know that the favor upon her will not translate to personal gain, or popularity, or privilege. We have the advantage of knowing what is next, but Mary does not know why an angel would disrupt the normal course of her life with the simple words, “Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you.” It is no wonder that she was “perplexed and pondered” (1:29). Mary’s life circumstances would reasonably cause her to question—Am I favored? Is God with me? What will this favor entail?” 


Can you imagine?  Can you even grasp Mary’s experience? I mean first the Angel Gabriel appears to her, and the first thing I wonder is who is this Gabriel?


His name means God is my strength. “In the Hebrew Bible, Gabriel appears to the prophet Daniel to explain his visions (Daniel 8:15–26, 9:21–27). The archangel also appears in the Book of Enoch and other ancient Jewish writings. Alongside archangel Michael, Gabriel is described as the guardian angel of Israel, defending its people against the angels of the other nations…Muslims regard Gabriel (Jibreel) as an archangel sent by God to various prophets including Muhammad, peace be upon him.” 


So Mary must have thought “wow Gabriel  is in my living room!” well actually that is not what she thought the story says she was “Much perplexed and wondered what kind of greeting this was.” Which is one of the things I find most humorous in this reading…not Mary so much as Gabriel’s response to her thoughts. She is perplexed and the Angel says “Be not afraid…” and dives into a lengthy explanation of all that is about to happen.


Mary’s response originally is anything and maybe everything but fear but then the Angels says do not be afraid and I am thinking great now I am afraid…


Dr. James C Howell has a unique perspective on Mary and he wrote most elegantly what I could not so this sermon are truly his words …he says:


“So much about Mary intrigues. I love the sermon that simply looks on Mary with awe. No big takeaways, no moral points, no missional directives — except that in the Annunciation, God asked to take on flesh, to become real in her, which is precisely what God asks of each of us…


If we want to make theological sense of our own birth, if we want to begin to understand God’s intimate connection with us as far back as conception, and then continuing through this moment, we can do no better than to ponder the marvelous, elusive and alluring story of Mary, the mother of our Lord. “Ponder” is just what she, so understandably, did after those mystical and perilous nine months from the first stirrings in her inner being to the arrival of her son, God’s son. As she tried to rest, exhausted and yet jubilant after delivering this most wanted, unexpected and desperately needed child in all of history, “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). 


She “kept.” Luke’s Greek implies “treasuring.” And which “all these things” did Luke have in mind? I suspect that she treasured more than just the shepherd’s crazed report of an angelic choir, or the agony of birth, or the months of uncertainty during her pregnancy, the arduous journey to visit Elizabeth, Joseph’s tender mercy, and even Gabriel’s unasked for visit. Hadn’t she treasured the simplicity of her old life in Nazareth? Was it hard to treasure her interrupted dreams — not to mention what Rowan Williams called “the dangerous difference that God’s Word would make”?


All these things she “pondered” – a word derived from pondus, meaning “weighty.” We ponder what is substantial, maybe a burden; to ponder what is heavy, strength is required. The Greek suggests something even more picturesque behind “pondered”: sumballousa, meaning literally “tossing around together” or “debating.” Have you ever had so much substantive stuff in you at once that it seemed to churn incessantly? and then bat it around with yourself, you almost can’t help opening yourself to God? Richard Rohr sees Mary “in that liminal space between fascination and attraction on the one side, and fear and awe on the other.”


Luke tells us that Mary “pondered” again when twelve year old Jesus got lost (but not really lost) in the temple (Luke 2:51). We can be sure she pondered much as Jesus grew up, left home, gathered a passionate following, and then conflicted with the authorities. We shudder over what she must have pondered on that dark night after his crucifixion. And in the long years to come after his resurrection and ascension: who pondered (and missed) him more than Mary?


Luke’s telling observation of how Mary treasured and pondered all these things invites us to do the same, gifting us with considerable liberty to do so creatively. Mary: what woman’s name has been repeated more times in human history? Who has been the subject of more paintings, statues, jewelry and carvings? How many have fingered rosary beads, mindlessly or in desperation?


Amy Grant intoned her catchy “Breath of Heaven,” getting inside Mary’s mood: “I am frightened by the load I bear… Do you wonder as you watch my face if a wiser one should have had my place” — and then she pleads, “Hold me together… Help me be strong. Help me be. Help me.”


Heaping attention on Mary would make her blush, and she would gently insist that we stop. Martin Luther was right: “Mary does not desire to be an idol; she does nothing, God does all.” Her loveliness, her holiness, and her appeal reside in her unawareness. A simple young woman saying Yes to the life of God already growing in her: without realizing it, she was now the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies, the open space where the infinite, uncontainable God became finite, contained in her womb.


An illiterate reader of the word


So much we’ve spoken of here is the result of imagination, and pondering — so skeptics will argue that we cannot know such things. Here’s what we do know. Mary lived in Nazareth, a small, backwater village of no account, population in the dozens, her family and neighbors eking out a hardscrabble existence. We would say that she married young — but so did most women back then. Even cynics will grant that she had a son, and probably other children, and a husband, Joseph, a carpenter or stone mason.


We yearn to see her face. Much of Christian art depicting her is kitschy. I have always been fond of the serene, lovely paintings of her by Sassoferrato — although her skin is terribly white, while the real Mary would have been, like middle easterners of her race and place, more darkly complected. To visualize the feel of Mary’s face, we might veer toward something like Dorothea Lange’s iconic “Migrant Mother,” her 1936 photograph of a mother exhausted and yet courageous. Herbert O’Driscoll’s wise devotional book about Mary, Portrait of a Woman, features Garibaldi Melchers’ “Woman and Child” on the cover. Her more weathered complexion suggests strength and gentleness, maybe endangered, with a ferocious kind of love, shielding her child from danger.


We are pretty sure Mary was illiterate. Certainly as a poor young woman from the middle of nowhere, she didn’t own a book; her family didn’t have their own Scripture scrolls. But she had seen the scrolls unfurled in the synagogue; she had listened attentively to the regular readings. Like most devout Jews, she had committed the Psalms and much more in the Bible to memory. She was, as her son was, an Israelite, the people of God’s promises. Thomas Torrance put it elegantly: “And then at last in the fullness of time, when God had prepared in the heart and soul of Israel a womb for the birth of Jesus, a cradle for the child of Bethlehem, the savior of the world was born, the very Son of God.”


Through the centuries, artists have tried to figure out how to paint or sculpt that shimmering moment when the angel came to Mary and asked her to let Jesus take on flesh in her. Almost always, as the artists have reckoned it, she is holding an open book: God’s Word, the Bible. The angel didn’t flit into her life in a vacuum. Mary was a student of God’s Word; when asked to become the mother of God, she replied, “Let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).


Martin Luther called the Bible “the swaddling clothes in which Jesus is laid.” To ponder Mary’s pregnancy, we ponder the Scriptures that were very much alive in her mind and heart during those days of anticipation, anxiety, discomfort, probably nausea, something going on inside her she could not entirely fathom — in a unique way, and yet like all mothers in waiting. The Psalms resonated, with their dark cries for help and comfort. I wonder if she was deeply moved to reconsider the story of Hannah, barren and then surprised with a son? Once Samuel, her dream, her loveliest ever gift from God arrived, she didn’t cling to him but gave him back to the Lord, to serve with Eli in the temple at Shiloh. That boy in turn heard a voice in the night, and after some confusion responded, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9). Did that moment shape her reply to Gabriel? “Let it be to me according to your Word.”


Which texts spoke most deeply to her? Did she have favorites? Surely the stories of Hannah’s pregnancy and the stirrings in Rebekah’s womb moved her. The blessing in Numbers 6 (“The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you”) must have resonated encouragingly. When the birth pangs were intense, did her mind drift to Psalm 22 (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”), as her son’s did in his hour of agony? After he was gone, what pulsated in her heart when she heard 1 Corinthians 13 (“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”), which would have been circulated and read where she lived out her years? What if pregnant women, or young mothers read the Scripture during their days of wonder and struggle, picturing Mary pondering the words in her heart?


The echo of her calling


Mary perceived the new life dawning in her belly as a call, as her divinely ordained vocation. Having a child wasn’t her pursuit of fulfillment or security in old age. She was responding to God’s calling. Or we could say the nascent life in her became her calling. How do mothers, when the news sinks in that, Yes, I am pregnant, begin with Mary to discern what God is asking of them, and how the nurturing of the child in the womb, and then after birth, can be the embodiment of a life of service to God, of a determination to follow the one Mary nurtured in her womb?


Tradition suggests that Mary was about to draw water from a well when she was interrupted by the angel. A well in Nazareth supposedly marks the place, housed in a massive basilica that fields more visitors every day than the entire population of the Nazareth Mary knew. There is something mystical about water, our thirst for it, the beauty, the shimmering ripples eliciting a kind of simple awe. Water will matter for her, and for all mothers. They need to stay hydrated. Their fetuses live in a numinous, aquatic realm until the water breaks. And then the bath, a lifetime of drinking, and Baptism, and the delight in rivers, lakes, ocean waves and the gentle rain.


The appearance of the angel must have been terrifying. Gabriel was, in Jewish lore, the mighty warrior among God’s heavenly host. And yet, if God’s plan was to make God’s mind and heart accessible, and for people not to be terrified, perhaps Gabriel toned it down, or came in a more humble guise. Luther suggests that “Gabriel did not resent being used as an errand boy to carry word to a lowly maiden. His glory was laid aside, and he appeared to her simply in the guise of a comely youth.” Even if he showed up in the most inviting form imaginable, Mary still had good cause to shiver. Elie Wiesel was right: “If an angel ever says, ‘Be not afraid,’ you’d better watch out: a big assignment is on the way.”


Whose assignment was ever bigger than Mary’s? And yet, isn’t ours similar? Herbert O’Driscoll captured our inevitable kinship with Mary: “She had felt the divine visitation which in some way comes to us all. What had been asked of her was unique, and yet an echo of it reaches all of us if only we have ears to hear. She had been asked to offer herself to the divine will, to become a servant. She had made her choice, as we all must. Fully and freely she had said Yes. For those who say Yes nothing is ever the same again.” God’s calling is always like hers: God asks to become real in us, to take on flesh in our lives.


In the Bible, those who are called have their reasons not to say Yes. Moses has his speech issues, Jeremiah’s too young, Isaiah is unholy — and now Mary, who knew their stories: she has not been with any man. God always counters, and uses the unusable. We might ask, Why Mary, of all people? We presume she was of immense holiness; Wordsworth called her “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.” She calls to us out of her holiness; Richard Rohr suggests that “somehow she is calling all of us to our absolute best.” She was a virgin. But in those days, as a matter of both holiness and family honor, most newly betrothed women were — hence, not the shock this sadly would be today. Luther pinpoints her humility — a humility that did not even know it was being humble: “She gloried neither in her virginity nor in her humility, but solely in God’s gracious regard… True humility does not know that it is humble.”


Her ordinariness, and in such an ordinary place, makes her the sort of person God would choose for this extraordinary mission. Ultimately, what we realize about Mary is not that she had this or that ability; what she had was simply an availability. “Let it be to me.” As with all of us, God is looking for a readiness, an availability, or what Maggie Ross called “a willingness for whatever.” She heard the angel speak of what was impossible. With considerable courage, naivete, and trust, she went with it, she let it be in her. And I feel sure that over time she came to realize what was dawning in her was not for her or even her people but for the whole world.


People who have gotten born, when they fix their attention on Mary, eventually begin to realize the wisdom of Meister Eckhart, the fourteenth century German mystic: “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time. When the Son of God is begotten in us.”


St. Augustine, overly enraptured by Mary, wrote “In conceiving you were all pure, in giving birth you were without pain.” He should have consulted Monica, his own mother, on this. Rachel Marie Stone fills in the blanks of the biblical story more fittingly: “A girl was in labor with God. She groaned and sweated and arched her back, crying out for her deliverance and finally delivering God, God’s head pressing on her cervix, emerging from her vagina, perhaps tearing her flesh a little; God the Son, her Son, covered in vernix and blood, the infant God’s first breath the close air of crowded quarters… God the Son, her Son, pressed to her bare breast… God the Son, her Son, drank deeply from his mother. Drink, my beloved. This is my body, broken for you.”


I admire an Ethiopian prayer to Mary from the ninth century that doesn’t overstate things at all: “Your hands touched him who is untouchable and the divine fire within him. Your fingers are like the incandescent tongs with which the prophet received the coal of the heavenly offering. You are the basket bearing this burning bread and you are the cup of this wine. O Mary, we earnestly pray to you that, just as water is not divided from wine, so we may not separate ourselves from your son, the lamb of salvation.” 








 

 





A call to prayer

O Lord,

we wait for you to come again into our midst.

Sometimes we wait patiently, sometimes not.

We Know it is a good spiritual practice to always find something for which to be grateful. As we come before God’s altar, where-ever we may be, we bring our whole hearts. We bring our hopes and joys, as well as our prayers, worries, and concerns. We know and lift up that each prayer, worry and concern is just as valid as each praise, joy and blessing.

 And so we pause in service to bring our prayers forward…

 

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

 

 

In the Bleak Midwinter – St pauls UCC bell choir

https://www.facebook.com/saintpaulsselinsgrove/videos/211294563819628


Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

 

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

 

Invitation to the Offering

Remembering the great things God has done for us,

     we are now invited to return these symbols

     of our gratitude to God.

Even when we offer small things,

     when they are given

     with the love of Christ in our hearts,

     God can transform our gifts

     into mighty miracles.

Let us fill the hungry with our gifts.

Let us lift up the lowly with our compassion.

Let us remember a world in need.

With mercy and love,

     let us offer ourselves and our gifts.


Donate Here!

 

Doxology #778 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9My-_5s6bBQ&ab_channel=DanInglis

 


Offering Prayer


Just as our souls magnify the Lord,

     may our offerings glorify God.

Surely, we are blessed.

We rejoice in the mercy that you have shown us

     from generation to generation.

We remember the powerful promise you bring:

     hope to the hopeless and strength to the weak.

With joy, we pray in gratitude and praise. Amen.


 

 

 The office is open for regular hours

We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

 

 

 

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in

 

Hark the Herald Angels Sing (starts at 1:53)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-Bs8phq9MA&ab_channel=StPaul%27sU.C.C.


Closing Prayer

Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.

 

Benediction/Sending Forth

May God strengthen you according to the gospel.

May the proclamation of Jesus Christ

     dwell in your hearts and in your lives

And may the power of the Holy Spirit

     be with you now and forevermore. Amen.


Sunday, December 13, 2020

3rd Sunday of Advent

 Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

 

Opening Reflection: 


God of Mystery,

we want to stay awake

and be ready for your surprises,

but we are tired and overcome

with the un-usual routine.

We want to wait patiently

for the fulfillment of your kin-dom,

but we are frustrated by our need

for immediate gratification.

We want to believe your promises from ancient days,

but we are overwhelmed with postmodern doubts.

Come to us again, O God.

Awaken us with your unexpected grace.

Shock us with your daring mercy.

Lift us up from lethargy

and set our feet on your path once more.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCjeN66loTA&ab_channel=DemossCenterforWorshipinthePerformingArts


 

let us begin today’s worship

 

Call to Worship (John 1, Ps 126)

L: Come! Rejoice in our God.

Let us give thanks, whatever life brings.

ALL: May those who sow in tears

reap with shouts of joy.


L: Let us prepare our hearts and our world

for the Prince of Peace, who is coming.

ALL: May all who weep come home with shouts of joy.


L: Prepare the way of the Lord,

and make straight the path for God’s arrival.

ALL: In prayer, song, and service,

let us prepare for the birth of love.



Lighting of the Advent Candle …Joy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH1787uwnS0&ab_channel=AsburyMemorialChurchVideos


 Awake Awake

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUZDHkxbhBY&ab_channel=AshlandUCC


 

John 1:6-8, John 1:19-28


6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.


19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”[a] 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said,


“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,

‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”


as the prophet Isaiah said.


24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah,[b] nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.


The word of God for the people of God!


Thanks be to God!

 

Sermon:




 

 





A call to prayer

O Lord,

we wait for you to come again into our midst.

Sometimes we wait patiently, sometimes not.

Always we are aware of how much the world needs you.

We pray today for those in our community

who need your healing and comfort.


We pray for persons in leadership across our country,

that together we might make wise decisions.


We pray for brothers and sisters around the world,

whose lives are torn apart by war.


We pray for the saints who have witnessed to your love.


We pray, knowing that you are with us now,

and that you will strengthen us to keep awake,

to keep the faith,

to keep working for the time

when Christ will come again to surprise us anew

with love and justice on earth. Amen.

 

 

 

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

 

 

The Baptist Shouts on Jordan’s Shore – hymn starts at 7:39

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=589792068265292


Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

 

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

 

Invitation to the Offering

Generous God, your love renews us

     and restores our strength.

With gratitude, we offer you a portion

     of what you have given to us.

Donate Here!

 

Doxology #778 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9My-_5s6bBQ&ab_channel=DanInglis

 


Offering Prayer


We dedicate these gifts to you, Generous God,

even as we dedicate our lives to you.

Keep us true to our promise,

that we may witness to you

with all that we are and all that we do. Amen.

 

 

 Streamed service here

 

The office is open for regular hours

We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

 

 

 

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in

 

Come thou Long-Expected Jesus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkZFhzNbp8k&ab_channel=20schemesmusic 


Closing Prayer

Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.

 

Benediction/Sending Forth

God has called and chosen you to be witnesses to Peace, Hope and Joy in God’s world. Go in peace and this same healing, reconciling love and peace will be with you. Go and serve the Lord your God in all that you do. AMEN.


Sunday, December 6, 2020

2nd Sunday of Advent




 Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

 

Opening Reflection: 


There is the voice of one crying in the wilderness……

the voice cries out for peace and justice, for hope and transformation……

that voice reaches to all of us who are comfortable. 

Things will be different. 

The Lord is about to do a new thing. 

This morning those who are drawn to the manger and not the shepherds of old,

 but are children who are abused, hurt, lost, alone – 

children who are cast aside – 

children who are driven into the slavery of poverty and who never hear the word of hope for something better. 

But God is doing something new! 

God is reaching out to those who do not expect it.

 God’s love is touching the hearts of those who are the voiceless – 

yes, there is a voice of one crying in the wilderness and that voice cries: Prepare the way. 

Get ready. 

Something new is happening and you will be included in it! 

Rejoice!



let us begin today’s worship

 

Call to Worship 

L: In the middle of dark times, our Lord cries out:


P: “Comfort, comfort my people!”


L: When it seems as though we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel,


P: Our Lord says to us, “ Be at peace, for your time of difficulty has ended.”


L: Lord, we await the time of comfort and peace!


P: Lord, we are thankful for your compassion and never-failing love for us. AMEN.



Lighting the advent candle


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYs2lgDEEtQ&ab_channel=AsburyMemorialChurchVideos


 


O Come O Come Emmanuel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QvGHZQaGJk&ab_channel=FirstCongregationalChurchofHouston

 

 

Mark 1:1-8

The Proclamation of John the Baptist

1 The beginning of the good news[a] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.[b]

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,[c]

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,[d]

    who will prepare your way;

3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

    make his paths straight,’”

4 John the baptizer appeared[e] in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with[f] water; but he will baptize you with[g] the Holy Spirit.”



The word of God for the people of God!


Thanks be to God!

 

Sermon 


 

 



A call to prayer

This is a time of sharing.

A time of lifting, lifting up our hearts

In gratitude and supplication.

What joys do you have to share,

What blessings?

What needs weigh on your heart?

Bring them here in community that we may all lift them up to God.

 

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

 

 

Quiet Reflection

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUhBrhl73s8&ab_channel=ClaremontUnitedChurchofChrist


Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

 

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

 

Invitation to the Offering

In gratitude for all that God has given us, we receive this morning offering, pledging these gifts and our lives in God’s service. AMEN.


Donate Here!

 

Doxology #778 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9My-_5s6bBQ&ab_channel=DanInglis 


Offering Prayer

 

Lord, we bring these gifts to you, thankful for all the ways you have healed and enriched our lives. May these gifts be used in service to others in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

 

 

 

Celebration of Holy Communion

(Please if you have not already prepared elements for communion do so. Remember that even an English muffin can become a sacrament, even a cup of water or tea can become a remembrance of God’s redeeming love)

Invitation




For Holy Communion this morning,

I invite you to lend Christ your table.


We recall that once a long time ago Jesus gathered with his friends in a room. Men, woman, children, free and slave, Jewish, roman, tax collector and priest all gathered as friends to celebrate a feast.


We do not know all the conversations that were shared. We do not know the menu of the day. Yet by faith we proclaim these words.




The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth.


For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,

that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed

took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,

he broke it and said,

“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,

you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.




Sharing of the Elements



Leader:    Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.

Unison:    We are one in Christ in the bread we share.



Leader:    Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.

Unison:    We are one in Christ in the cup we share.



Prayer of Thanksgiving



Leader:


Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace,

rejoicing that, by the very method of our worship,

we have embodied the truth that Christ’s love

is not limited by buildings made with human hands,

nor contained in human ceremonies,

but blows as free as the Spirit in all places.



Unison: 


Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives.

May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love, not only in church sanctuaries, but in your precious world,

and may the drinking of this Cup renew our hope

even in the midst of pandemic.

Wrap your hopeful presence around all

whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing,

and let us become your compassion and safe refuge. Amen


 The office is open for regular hours

We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

 

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in

 

God be with you till we meet again

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAgnmF8bB6I&ab_channel=ParkHillUCC


Closing Prayer

Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave our virtual space. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.

 

Benediction/Sending Forth

God is bringing light to our darkness. We are called to go into the world, confident in God’s loving presence, to serve others in need. Go, bringing hope and peace to this darkened world. Go in God’s love. AMEN.



Sunday, November 8, 2020

the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

 

Live streamed Service



Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

 

Opening Reflection: 


God of Mystery,

we want to stay awake

and be ready for your surprises,

but we are tired and overcome

with the un-usual routine.


We want to wait patiently

for the fulfillment of your kin-dom,

but we are frustrated by our need

for immediate gratification.


We want to believe your promises from ancient days,

but we are overwhelmed with postmodern doubts.


Come to us again, O God.

Awaken us with your unexpected grace.

Shock us with your daring mercy.

Lift us up from lethargy

and set our feet on your path once more.

 




let us begin today’s worship

 

CALL TO WORSHIP

L: We are pulled in many directions.


P: Many duties and tasks seek to lay claim on our lives.


L: This day, in this place, let service to God be your choice.


P: This day, in this place, we open our hearts and spirits to God.


L: Blessed be the God of creation who has called us here.


P: Praise be to God who sustains and nurtures our lives. AMEN.

 



Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise #1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjSGYtHiADI&ab_channel=EdgewoodUnitedChurch

 

 

Matthew 5:1-12

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids


25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 


The word of God for the people of God!


Thanks be to God!

 

Sermon: Oil for the Journey


In the ancient days of Jerusalem a groom and his bride would go through a ritual cleansing

After the immersion, the couple entered the huppah (marriage canopy)—symbolic of a new household being planned, to establish a binding contract.


Here, the groom would give the bride money or a valuable object such as a ring, and a cup of wine was customarily shared to seal their covenant vows. The wedding basically took place in two acts. This is the Erusin, literally betrothal, ceremony.


In this public ceremony under the huppah, the couple entered into the betrothal period, which typically lasted for about a year.  Although they were considered married, they did not live together or engage in sexual relations.


During this erusin period, the groom was to prepare a place for his bride, while the bride focused on her personal preparations:  wedding garments, lamps, etc.


Although the bride knew to expect her groom after about a year, she did not know the exact day or hour.  He could come earlier.  It was the father of the groom who gave final approval for him to return to collect his bride.


For that reason, the bride kept her oil lamps ready at all times, just in case the groom came in the night, sounding the shofar (ram’s horn) to lead the bridal procession to the home he had prepared for her. 


So we can see the basis for this parable. Mathew is using the Marriage ceremony symbolically to answer the question “tell us, when will these things be, and what is the sign of your return and of the end of age?” (Matt. 24:3)


One interpreter points out that “this is a good story, though the point is not crystal clear. We are presumably meant to laugh, and learn the message, which is probably about being prepared rather than about staying awake; the story perhaps does not take itself all that seriously – there is the unexplained gap between the first announcement of the bride groom’s arrival and his actual appearance; There is an absurb picture of the ‘foolish’ maidens trudging off to the shops, which are presumably closed at the hour of night; and the pragmatic attitude of the sensible virgins (‘why don’t you go shopping’) is not especially attractive” 


And dare I ask where is the bride? These weddings were great cultural affairs “Richard Swanson suggests that this was a good chance for unmarried women and men to connect, for prospective husbands and wives to find each other, so these young women might have been keeping an eye out for their own futures as much as watching for the bride's groom. It's no wonder, then, that; “the young women have a huge interest in being noticed favorably,” he writes. We may be surprised to hear that five of them refused to share what they have, a note that clashes with the rest of Jesus' teachings about generosity. Perhaps, Swanson continues; "This competition may help explain the odd actions of the young women." 


One essential theme in this Parable is a matter of timing.  The early followers of Christ were anticipating the return of Christ as any day now at any moment.  By the time Mathew is writing the return of Christ as Immediate is becoming …well, rather doubtful for some.  Some may even be growing lax in their practice.  The tale here is more or less to remind us we do not know the hour or the time.  The problem for the maidens is not that they fell asleep but that some were prepared and others were not.  Even though they had plenty of time to prepare.


I was reading where spencer Kimball the 12th president of the LDS church had an interesting perspective on the maidens being told go buy their own oil. He says “This was not selfishness or unkindness. The kind of oil that is needed to illuminate the way and light up the darkness is not shareable. How can one share obedience to the principle of tithing; a mind at peace from righteous living; an accumulation of knowledge? How can one share faith or testimony? How can one share attitudes or chastity...? Each must obtain that kind of oil for himself .... In the parable, oil can be purchased at the market. In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living." 


All in all this is not an easy parable to read or comprehend “If the disciples were looking for reassurance, the words of Jesus must have given them a lot to think about. After speaking at length about the end of the world in the previous chapter, Jesus begins to tell his followers several parables, … right before this week's passage, Jesus has spoken about a master's unexpected return that catches his unfaithful servant off guard, one who thinks he has plenty of time to misbehave, to beat his fellow servants and to eat, drink, and (presumably) be merry. Today's parable about ten bridesmaids follows the harsh warning about the fate of that unfaithful, unprepared and surprised servant.” 


The story, after all, isn't about generosity or sharing, but about being prepared.  This is about navigating the real world, be prepared for here and now and yet knowing that what can go wrong will go wrong thus the bride groom is delayed. In the same way I do not believe any one of us expects Jesus to return tomorrow however we know it is possible that Jesus could return this very second and we work at keeping our hearts and minds with Christ and living out the Gospel the best we can…we are in it for the long haul and need to be prepared to leave now.


 “Five of the young women had sense enough, then, as Thomas Long puts it, not to be ‘ready for the groom but...for the groom's delay.’ If the bridesmaids, both the foolish ones and the wise (or prudent) ones, represent the church today, how ready are we followers of Jesus for his return? What does ready, or having ‘enough oil,’ look like almost two thousand years after Jesus died and rose again, promising to return one day, but not saying when? ‘The wise ones in the church...hold on to the faith deep into the night,’ Long writes, and ‘even though they see no bridegroom coming, still hope and serve and pray and wait for the promised victory of God.’” 


“Jesus' story ends with the foolish young women being locked out of the party. His words sound familiar to readers of Matthew's Gospel, because we remember another harsh warning from Jesus, as he finished the beautiful Sermon on the Mount, about people who sound religious but haven't lived out their faith, who haven't done the will of God. When those people cry "Lord, Lord," Jesus says that he'll claim he never knew them (Matthew 7:23).” 


Those words are hard to hear.  We do not like to believe that anyone would be locked out of heaven.  I proclaim a loving and forgiving God.  I believe in a God whose forgiveness goes beyond even what the most gracious human is capable of. So I suspect we might be getting more Mathew than Jesus at this point.  We recently spoke of how Jesus in Mathews gospel was often chiding the religious leaders of the day for their behavior and bravado. I have no reason not to believe that some of this harsh-ness that is being expressed again may be some of Mathews disdain for those who would assume they need to do nothing more than what they have done to get into heaven.


One commentator asks; “What do we need to do?

Today's text, about oil and bridesmaids and wedding parties, is a bit more of a challenge, but we remember that these early Christians in Matthew's community, a generation or so after Jesus had ascended to heaven, were still scanning the skies, setting their sights and their hopes on his quick return. We suspect that the first generation may have believed that Jesus would return in their own lifetime, but by the time Matthew wrote his Gospel, there had already been a delay. And perhaps that delay prompted some questioning and some falling away. Matthew's account, including these difficult parables, certainly addresses that falling away.


Today, we are nearly two thousand years of delay later, and our questions may be just as pressing: What are we to do? What does ‘ready’ look like for people of faith? When will things change? What is God going to do about the mess that we're in? When will our enemies get what they deserve? (We just can't help ourselves any more than they could, long ago.) We even have to wonder, unlike any generation before us, if we ourselves will bring an end to the earth, or at least to life upon it.” 


So this reading leaves us with some questions.  Why does Mathew have Jesus speaking so abruptly and how are we being called to live into this reality? How do we live as a people of faith knowing we are to expect Jesus at any moment and yet also live into this daily life not knowing if or when Christ may return? How are we to live faithfully in anticipation of his return but also prepared for the Continued delay? “Fred Craddock describes two types of parables, ‘those that offer a surprise of grace at the end...and those that follow the direct course from cause to effect as surely as the harvest comes from what is sown. There are no gifts and parties.’ Craddock notes that we need both kinds of parable, and the ‘justice and grace’ they convey.”


“We often need to hear about grace, but we also need to hear regularly about justice. While Craddock writes of cause and effect, Arland J. Hultgren describes it as "both threat and promise, law and gospel." One of my favorite phrases, heard years ago, is the image of "trouble and beauty." Matthew's Gospel has plenty of both, from the graceful lilies of the field to these unprepared bridesmaids, hearing the terrible words, "I do not know you" (25:12).”


As we wait then, for the return of Jesus and the fulfillment of all things, how are we to live in the meantime? Like the five "wise" or prudent bridesmaids, how can we be prepared? It may be true of every age there are those who are always anticipating the end of times.  We have the bad theology of the left behind series.  There are those who believe we need to get into Jerusalem and rebuild the temple as if this would force God’s hand and bring about the end of times.  There are those who believe we can rape and pillage the earth abusing her resources as we a see fit for the end of days is now. So being good stewards doesn’t matter.


Some people are so busy with their end of times novels, or seeking out each and every sign that points to the end of all creation that they miss what God is doing in our midst, here, now, today!  They miss the chances God gives us to care for each other, to grow in God’s love and be a true supportive and loving place.  God calls us to work to change this world to work at the injustices in the world and introduce the loving compassion that Jesus teaches us.


It really seems as if some are just living for the drama and the fear of the end of times as opposed walking the path that Christ calls us to.  There is nothing in any text that says be fearful, hunker down, and make yourself ready for the end of times ignoring all the work that needs to be done.


“However much we may be anxious about a dramatic end time, our faith reminds us of how often the Bible says "Do not fear," and then challenges us to work here, on earth, for the bright day of God's reign in its fullness, which is glimpsed in every act, every moment of compassion, sharing, and justice. Even as we trust that we will be with God one day, in glory, we taste the sweet goodness of generosity and love right here, right now, through ministries of sharing the abundance with which we are blessed.”


We are ready to live in Love, we are called so seek justice and to do it joyfully.  I mean just look at this community in which we live.  I love our food pantry and the needs it fulfills. We are blessed and share in the ministry of the kidz cupboard.  We still get donations for The Good shepherd UCC and the ministries they are providing at the border. Our community partners with the red cross to accept much needed donations of blood in this time of pandemic.  We are resilient and amazing people!


Remaining faithful in the face of disaster or tragedy may be hard.  We will hear cries of just wishing Christ would return now to make all things right again. But we are called through todays gospel story to remain vigilant and that means we are called to live out the life Jesus has called us to live every day and every minute. “Jesus told us how to live according to the values and vision of the Reign of God, and loving God and our neighbor expresses the heart of his message.” 


“Loving God will inevitably lead us to worship God rather than idolize the false gods of modern culture (like materialism and nationalism …to name only two). Loving our neighbor will lead us to greater compassion and a firm commitment to justice, to making this a different and better world for all of God's children. This kind of living isn't sitting around and waiting; it's active and fully engaged in the present moment, as we trust in a future that is in God's hands, even if the timing of that future is unknown to us.


Arland J. Hultgren suggests that keeping faith "includes care of the earth and making peace for the sake of future generations. It is necessary to plan for the long haul, remain faithful, be wise, and stay strong." We note the difference, of course, between "making peace" and simply avoiding conflict.


M. Eugene Boring says that such faithfulness makes it possible to "lie down to sleep in this confidence, rather than being kept awake by panicky last-minute anxiety." But it also requires endurance: "Being a peacemaker for a day is not as demanding as being a peacemaker year after year when the hostility breaks out again and again, and the bridegroom is delayed."


No wonder we're tempted to yearn for a sudden intervention where God takes care of everything.


However much we may fear a dramatic end, Hultgren reminds us that our faith sees "the end" not as the end, but as "the doorway to the new--the new age, the new creation." We can trust, as Paul says in  1 Thessalonians, that "we will be with the Lord forever" (4:17b). This, for us and for all creation, is "finally good news." Indeed!” 


So in the meantime we keep studying God’s word and listening for it anew today.  We keep seeking out ways to serve each other and the community around us. We seek to continue the work we are called to do as Christians every day, ever vigilant and always ready! Amen.



 

 

A call to prayer

O Lord,

we wait for you to come again into our midst.

Sometimes we wait patiently, sometimes not.

Always we are aware of how much the world needs you.

We pray today for those in our community

who need your healing and comfort.


We pray for persons in leadership across our country,

that together we might make wise decisions.


We pray for brothers and sisters around the world,

whose lives are torn apart by war.


We pray for the saints who have witnessed to your love.


We pray, knowing that you are with us now,

and that you will strengthen us to keep awake,

to keep the faith,

to keep working for the time

when Christ will come again to surprise us anew

with love and justice on earth. Amen.

 

 

 

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

 

 

Anthem  Ubi Caritas From Edgewood UCC 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57Ze5heKmAw&ab_channel=EdgewoodUnitedChurch


Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

 

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

 

Invitation to the Offering


We need oil for our lamps, food for our tables, and love for our lives. Let us share the bounty we have received, that no one may be left out alone in the dark.


Donate Here!

 

Doxology #778 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hbrJ7F2wKc&ab_channel=DanInglis

 


Offering Prayer


We dedicate these gifts to you, Generous God,

even as we dedicate our lives to you.

Keep us true to our promise,

that we may witness to you

with all that we are and all that we do. Amen.

 

 

 

 

The office is open for regular hours

We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

 

 

 

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in

 

#473 blessed assurance

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3TGrRKf4H8&ab_channel=First-PlymouthC        hurchLincolnNebraska-Videos

 


 

 

Closing Prayer

Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.

 

Benediction/Sending Forth

God has called and chosen you to be witnesses to hope and peace in God’s world. Go in peace and this same healing, reconciling love and peace will be with you. Go and serve the Lord your God in all that you do. AMEN.




Sunday, November 1, 2020

All Saints day 2020 CCLI 1909678

Live Service Video


 Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

 

Opening Reflection: 


Blessed are you, God of our salvation.

As we turn to you in prayer,

     be with us and reveal to us your ways

From your self-revelation in Jesus

     teach us how to live in ways that honor you:

          by humbling ourselves;

          by being content with what we have

               rather than striving for more;

          by caring, and cooperating,

               rather than competing in unhealthy ways.

Teach us, giver of all goodness,

     to be strong in your strength

          for the sake of the gospel.

Help us honor your prodigal grace,

     by living as doers of peace

          in this world you love. Amen.

 




let us begin today’s worship

 

CALL TO WORSHIP

L: As we gather, we remember that we are not alone!


P: We gather with the saints,

who live in the presence of God,

singing praises to the God of our salvation.


L: From every nation, race, clan and culture,

God’s people gather to worship

the One-Who-Is-Without-Peer!


P: To God and to the Lamb, all honor, glory,

wisdom, thanksgiving, strength and power.


L: Blessed be God, now and forever! Amen!


P: Amen!

 


For All the Saints #299 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4NrzJUhtlQ&ab_channel=EdgewoodUnitedChurch

 

 

Matthew 5:1-12

The Beatitudes

5 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.



The word of God for the people of God!


Thanks be to God!

 

Sermon Today we Lift up death: 


Today we celebrate dia de los muertos – the day of the dead which coincides with all saints day and all souls day. 


These Holidays have their origins as far back as ancient Egypt where they believed the spirits of the dead returned each fall to visit the living and they welcomed these spirits with lights and food. These traditions spread to Rome and eventually found their way into Christianity. 


The Official day of the dead, officially named All Souls Day in the Catholic Church, is celebrated on November 2, the day after All Saints Day. Although, not recognizable as such in its current hyper commercial incarnation, Halloween – a time of visitation by the dead -- is part of this tradition. 


Of course at the center of this tradition lies the dark and gloomy figure of death. Why should we invite this fearful figure into our midst, which we would rather not get to know? Why make Death more distinct and palpable? The poet Rainer Maria Rilke described the task of the poet this way: “to confirm confidence toward death out of the deepest delights and glories of life; to make death, who never was a stranger, more distinct and palpable again as the silent knowing participant in everything alive.”  This is an invitation to befriend death to become familiar with the transition from this world to the next which is part of life and not to be feared. 


In not so distance a time we lived with our elderly and our infirmed. They were in our homes and it was the younger people’s responsibility to care and look after their elders and or infirmed. When one passed the family was all around the person, offering prayers and mourning. The woman would then gather wash and dress the body for viewing. People from the community, friends, and loved ones would come to the home to pay their respects to the dead and the living. They would bring food to be shared and often drink as well. They would reminisce about the person’s life and have a good time all the while the body was in the living room. 


Death was a common and expected experience. 


Nowadays death is often removed from us. It occurs in hospitals and or nursing homes. Yet when given the choice most people state they would like to die at home with loved ones around. We, as a society, have made death something to fear, to only whisper about. We often find ourselves at a loss of words. Many of us do not even like to walk into hospitals, nursing homes, and especially not mortuaries. Why is that?  Well, they remind us, not of those we lost, but of our own mortality. Yet it is a fact of life and it is a part of life. It is the ultimate goal of life.


I had a professor who would say “I hate to tell you this but it is not a matter of if you die but when.” You know for some young people that is a hard thing to hear. When someone is in their mid-twenties they are still of the mind set we are going to live forever.


 Well guess what . . . you are. 

Just not the way you think you will. 


The Day of the Dead is a creative response to one of the most important questions in human life: what does my death mean? This is a question born of fear -- our fear of the ultimate unknown. What brings this fear, of course, is our experience of the deaths of those who populate our lives. 


Each of us wants to know, not only what one’s own death means, but also what meaning to make of the deaths of those others. We ask these questions from many different vantage points in relation to death – young or old, healthy or sick, working with death in our jobs or rarely seeing it, but no matter. Questions about death are something we all have in common. 


The theologian, James Carse, tells the story of one family’s answer to these questions. He met them at a lakeside vacation retreat. They said they were attending a group meeting with a channeler of communications with the dead – that they did this regularly to be connected to a family member who had died, and who had been the central figure in the life of the family. 


They spoke of the missing member in the present tense, as if he might show up at the lake later in the afternoon to take a dip with them. Carse happened to ask them how long they had been doing the channeling with the one who died. Twenty-nine years, came the calm answer. He was stunned by this distance, but for this family, their missing relative was as present to them as Carse’s nine-year-old child was to him --. He described the family this way: 


“These were people who had sought to have death taken away – and death was taken away. Death was now but one event in an unbroken cycle of events, and therefore no longer death. Death no more ended anything in their lives than a leap from the diving board ended the swimmers’ play. Life and death had merged into a timeless whole that nothing could disturb. I could not help feeling that when they got what they asked for, it was not death that ended; it was their lives that had ended. I could not know them where they lived. I could only look on with an indulgent smile. I sat next to them that afternoon – but twenty-nine years away.” 


 This family that Carse describes had not mourned. Had experienced no loss, no separation, no sadness. They were stuck, Stuck in the death of a family member for 29 years, never moving on, never letting go, never healing. 


There is a process that one must move through in order to remain healthy and sane. Dr. Kubler-Ross was the first to put the stages of grief into a context. Now these stages here as described are for one who has received a diagnosis but they translate to all grief they just manifest a little differently.


The progression of grief is:

 1. Denial – "I feel fine."; "This can't be happening, not to me." Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of positions and individuals that will be left behind after death. 

2. Anger – "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; "Who is to blame?" Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Any individual that symbolizes life or energy is subject to projected resentment and jealousy. 

3. Bargaining – "Just let me live to see my children graduate."; "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if..." The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time..." 

4. Depression – "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die... What's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?" During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect oneself from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed. 

5. Acceptance – "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it." In this last stage, the individual begins to come to terms with his mortality or that of his loved one. One moves back and forth jumping through these stages at various times it is not a simple progression but a process never the less.  


It is interesting to note that toward the end of her own life Dr. Ross stated there should be another stage. Frustration when one is ready to go but remains living. 


These stages of grief apply to any and all kinds of loss whether it be for the family home due to a catastrophe, loss of a pet or the ending of a friendship. We move through these stages in one way or another for they are all a form of death. 


Let’s go back to the question: To ask what our death means is to ask what it would be like to live life as if there were always an ultimate deadline on the horizon – because in fact there is. We should treat time as precious and the perishable commodity this means being alive should be treated as something of great value. 


Our experience of mortality thus focuses our attention on the question of the value of our lives. We want to know, do our lives make a difference? Do they matter? What we long to know is not whether they matter just for the fleeting few moments – historically speaking – that we are onstage. 


But rather, do they matter in a way that is lasting. This is a question not only about what is valuable, but more importantly, about how our lives become valuable. If having a life that matters means having a life that is valuable, where do we get the value? Certainly part of the answer is that we create it from within ourselves. Yet the greatest value came more than 2000 years ago. 


There is a song that is a favorite of mine it tells the story of as a child one enjoyed imaginary friends and walking and playing with them but as the man got older he had lost his way. The song of “Christopher Robin” by Kenny logins, in which the lyrics say help me if you can I need to get back to the house at pooh corner by 1. But I've wandered much further today than I should and I can't seem to find my way back to the Woods.”  


I like this song for it reminds us that we must have that child-like wonder. The child like wonder to hear the words of today’s Gospel. When Christ tells us we are blessed when we;

are poor in spirit, that is when the  kin-dom of heaven is ours.

We are blessed when we mourn, because we are comforted.

When we are meek, we inherit the earth.

When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we are filled.

When we are merciful, we receive mercy.

When we act pure in heart, we see God.

When we work to be peacemakers, that is when we are called children of God.

are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, then ours is the kingdom of heaven.


Today we celebrate the communion. Christ stated I live because of the creator so whoever eats this bread will live because of me. That is the Value of our lives. So valuable that Christ allows us to participate in life through him and the creator with the spirit. Christ is our way back to the woods. We have to shed all disbelief and often, what we do believe in order to get back to the message of Christ’s salvation through the table and through our lives. 


It is Jesus’ assurance that there is new life, a new covenant to be given by him through his resurrection. It is through Jesus’ resurrection this promise is fulfilled! This covenant so strongly made in the love and the life that he poured out that it snapped time. Hear me, Time itself was changed. .the laws of physics broken for each time . . . wherever, whenever we enact this simple meal of bread and fruit of the vine, we are there. We are there and Christ is here renewing that covenant. We have to put away our adult hood; we have to put away our skepticism we have to get back that childhood awe and amazement and take on a simple belief. 


Jesus loved us so much that he made a promise in a small upper room. He willingly handed himself over to the roman guards and allowed himself to suffer and die only to rise again on the third day. They say the earth shook, the curtain in the temple rent, the light was so bright that when the stone was rolled away the guards fled in fear. Time snapped and the promise made at a simple meal 3 nights before, became alive and transcendent in the resurrection!


 It carries on constantly day in and day out around the world; the love that was promised is promised again manifested and made real. It is the value of our lives and our transition. For through the Bread of life, through Jesus the Christ, one day we will transition from this life of faith into a life of knowing. Do not doubt it. It is really a simple thing to believe. In Mathew 18:3 it says we must become childlike. That simple faith, that simple way of believing, must become true in us again. 


Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, yes even Winnie the Pooh; we rationalize and outgrow these tales. But I tell you the tale of the last supper, the redemption of the cross, and the resurrection we cannot afford to outgrow. We need to believe in a love so great that it can fill us, sustain us, and carry us through any adversity, any disappointment, and even the heart ache of loss of loved ones. 


Today day we celebrate all saints day, the day of the dead, all souls day. We honor those who have honored us with their lives. By living with Christ, we are called to live life to the fullest for when we transition from this life to the next, we will be prepared to know love and live in the fullest of the covenant of the bread of life that is Jesus the Christ. 


Listen to this poem and pray it with me; 


I will not die an unlived life. 

I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.

 I choose to inhabit my days, 

to allow my living to open me, 

to make me less afraid,

 more accessible, 

to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, 

a torch, a promise. 

I choose to risk my significance;

to live so that which came to me as seed 

goes to the next as blossom 

and that which came to me as blossom 

goes on as fruit. 


Let this poem be a candle that your soul holds out to you, requesting that you find a way to remember what it is to live a life with passion, on purpose. There is only enough light to take the journey step by step, but that is all any of us really needs.  


When you have the courage to shape your life from the essence of who you are, and who God is in you, through you, you ignite, becoming truly alive, alive in the Love and Life of Christ. I pray these words today find their way to your heart and comfort your soul, amen.


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i Mood, John. Rilke on Death and Other Odditites. Xlibris, 2007. 

Pg. 42


ii http://www.wuu.org/sermons/ser102906pmoore.pdf


iii Kübler-Ross, E. (2002). On death and dying ; Questions and answers on death and dying ; On life after death. New York, NY: Quality Paperback Book Club.


iv House at Pooh Corner [Recorded by 1014204750 780250769 K. Loggins & 1014204751 780250769 J. Messina]. (1971). On Sittin In [Vinyl recording]. Columbia studios: Jim Messina. (1971 April)


v https://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=552


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A call to prayer

This is a time of sharing.

A time of lifting, lifting up our hearts

In gratitude and supplication.

What joys do you have to share,

What blessings?

What needs weigh on your heart?

Bring them here in community that we may all lift them up to God.

 

 

 

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

 

 

HYMN #11 Bring many Names 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj7Ms2Z35Tc&ab_channel=StephenO%27Bent


Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

 

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

 

Invitation to the Offering

God is with us each day offering so many blessings. Now let us offer bring  gifts in an attitude of praise and thanksgiving. May our gifts and the lives that they represent serve the mission of our church today in the spirit of those we call saints who have gathered in faith before us. AMEN.


Donate Here!

 

Doxology #778 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9My-_5s6bBQ&ab_channel=DanInglis

 


Offering Prayer

 

Holy God, thank you for the great cloud of witnesses

     that surrounds us as we worship.

Their diversity reminds us of your infinite grace

     to all your creatures.

Thank you for the vision of a world at peace:

     paradise restored, where no one hungers,

          no one thirsts, and no one is wanting.

You guide us to the source of living water

     and invite us to drink deeply of your love.

Your magnificent generosity

     evokes our deepest thanks.

And so receive these offerings,

     that we may join that great cloud of witnesses

          as we share our gifts with others. Amen.

 

 

 

Celebration of Holy Communion

(Please if you have not already prepared elements for communion do so. Remember that even an English muffin can become a sacrament, even a cup of water or tea can become a remembrance of God’s redeeming love)

Invitation




For Holy Communion this morning,

I invite you to lend Christ your table.


We recall that once a long time ago Jesus gathered with his friends in a room. Men, woman, children, free and slave, Jewish, roman, tax collector and priest all gathered as friends to celebrate a feast.


We do not know all the conversations that were shared. We do not know the menu of the day. Yet by faith we proclaim these words.




The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth.


For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,

that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed

took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,

he broke it and said,

“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,

you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.




Sharing of the Elements



Leader:    Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.

Unison:    We are one in Christ in the bread we share.



Leader:    Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.

Unison:    We are one in Christ in the cup we share.



Prayer of Thanksgiving



Leader:


Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace,

rejoicing that, by the very method of our worship,

we have embodied the truth that Christ’s love

is not limited by buildings made with human hands,

nor contained in human ceremonies,

but blows as free as the Spirit in all places.



Unison: 


Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives.

May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love, not only in church sanctuaries, but in your precious world,

and may the drinking of this Cup renew our hope

even in the midst of pandemic.

Wrap your hopeful presence around all

whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing,

and let us become your compassion and safe refuge. Amen


 

The office is open for regular hours

We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

 

 

 

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in

 

#43 Love Divine All love excelling (time stamp 12:36)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fx_L3oRiTc&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=PeaceUCC

 


 

 

Closing Prayer

Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.

 

Benediction/Sending Forth

May the Spirit of God, who is above all and in all and through all,

fill you with the knowledge of God’s presence in Earth

and the pulsing of Christ within you.

Go in peace! 

Serving Christ and loving all creatures!

. AMEN.