Thursday, January 22, 2015

For February 1, 2015 -- Don't Worry, Be Like the Flowers of the Field and the Birds of the Air

CALL TO WORSHIP
In a world which presents us with so many worries,
we need to be reminded to trust, to relax, to not worry so much.
As we gather we bring our worries, our anxieties, our fears.
May we set them aside for a time while we celebrate the presence of the One who helps us to relax.
As our time of worship begins, let us greet our family of faith with words and signs of God's peace...

OPENING PRAYER
God of life, we come to this place with many things on our mind,
concern about parents and children, anxiety about the economy, worry about our own health.
And yet through the voices of many you tell us:
Don't Worry, Be Happy.
In this time of worship,
remind us to let go of our anxiety, help us to re-focus our energy on our most valuable treasures.
And then when we have been fed and refreshed,
Lead us out to live lives a little bit more worry-free.
We pray in Jesus' name,
Amen.

PRAYER FOR AND ASSURANCE OF GRACE
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
God, the worries of life are so numerous.
Ain't got no place to lay your head...Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Sometimes we find it hard to let go, to open ourselves to trust.
And yet you continue to sing to us:
... when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don't worry, be happy don't worry, be happy now.
God of grace, God who calls us to be like the flowers of the field and the birds of the air,
help us to trust, help us to let go, help us to relax.
So that we can all sing together:
Ooh oo-ooh oo-ooh
Don't worry, be happy
I'm not worried, I'm happy
Amen.

COMMISSIONING:
We have gathered, we have eaten, we have listened.
Now we head back out into the mission field, the world outside the church doors.
As we go, may we carry the peace that passes understanding, the Peace of Christ, with us.
To share with all we meet, to shape the way we live our lives.
And as we go, may we be secure in the trust that God
Parent, Child and Spirit, Love Incarnate in the world
Goes with us wherever we go.
Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2015

For January 25, 2015 -- BLessings and Woes

CALL TO WORSHIP
Children of God! Gather together to worship!
We come to share the life of faith with friends new and old.
Children of God! Open your hearts and souls and minds and ears!
We open our very beings to let God speak and move in our midst.
Children of God! Your brothers and sisters in faith are all around you. Let us greet them with words and signs of God's peace...

PRAYER FOR AND ASSURANCE OF GRACE
Blessed are those who...
God of life, we give thanks that we have been blessed in so many ways.
But woe to those who...
God of life, we wonder if we are the hungry or the filled, the winners or the losers in the game of life.
Blessings and curses, praises and woes, all seem so intermingled.
God of life, help us to sort them out, help us to seek the path of blessing.
As we walk the road that leads to the Kingdom,
may we be open to the upturning of the world, ready to challenge the injustices we see, willing to risk the changes that Kingdom living brings.
And may we be graceful and grace-filled as it happens.
God of grace, God of blessings, God of the Kingdom, we pray and wait in hope. Amen.

COMMISSIONING:
Children of God! Our time of worship draws to a close.
And we prepare to return to the mission field, the world where we live and work and serve.
Children of God! As those who have been blessed,
we go out to share our blessings with others.
Children of God! In a world where there are winners and losers,
we go to share God's word of hope and promise for the Kingdom of Justice and peace.
Children of God! Go with God: Parent, Child and Spirit; One in Three.
We go secure in the knowledge that God is with us every step of the way. Amen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

For January 18, 2015 -- The Temptation of Jesus.

CALL TO WORSHIP
As the week begins anew we come together for worship.
Gathering with friends new and old to explore where God is in our world.
Here in this place we open ourselves to look beyond our understandings
Here we come to be challenged to live as residents of the Kingdom of God
We open our worship together by exchanging words and signs of God's piece with our brothers and sisters in faith.

OPENING PRAYER
God of light, of love, of life,
we open our hearts, our ears, our minds, our souls to your presence.
In this time of singing, of praying, of listening,
challenge us about the ways we face temptation, awaken in us a vision of who you would have us be.
God of transformation, as we hear your call to a new life,
give us the courage to embrace transformation as we follow a new path.
We pray in the name of Jesus, our rock and redeemer, our teacher and guide, who taught his followers to pray saying...



Monday, December 22, 2014

A Christmas Prayer for 2014


God of Hope,
where despair rages, where things seem lost, you make us a promise.
When we are tempted to give up, when we decide the world is falling apart, you hold up a vision of what could be.
Into the world as it is, with all the drama and the hurt and the pain, you insert a bit of hope,
you show us a glimpse of the Kingdom of God,
you remind us that things are not always going to be as bad as they seem.
This Christmas season, re-make us into people of hope, make us those who have hope for a better world even against all the evidence.
Help us carry hope for the present and the future into a world where despair and resignation seem to be winning. And so we remember those places in our lives and around the world where hope is most needed
...time of silence...

God of Peace,
we live in a world where peace is so seldom a reality.
Our news sources share stories of bombs around the world, of people shot by those called to serve and protect, of people shooting those called to serve and protect, of militants killing all who get in their way, of schoolgirls kidnapped and presumed to be sold off in marriage against their will.
Where does peace fit in?
Tonight we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, tonight we hear again the angel song “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all of goodwill”.
As we celebrate, may we be so filled with Christ's Peace that we carry it with us wherever we go, bringing peace in our own way to the world that we touch.
And so we pray that Peace would be more than just a word, we pray for those places where it's reality is most urgently needed
...time of silence...

God of Joy,
in churches and houses and village squares around the globe tonight the sounds of joy ring out.
And also in churches and houses and village squares around the globe tonight there are those whose hearts are heavy or whose life is a struggle that leaves little room for joy.
Tonight as we sing the carols and hear the old story, we hold in our hearts those who are lonely this night, and those who have an empty space at the table, and those who lie in hospital beds or sit beside those beds, and those who struggle to find basics like food and shelter.
Sometimes life is not what we want it to be.
On this night, on every night, we pray with and for all those who struggle
may they know that they are not alone, may they hear the word of promise and joy and love
...time of silence...

God of Love,
love, they say, is what makes the world go round
love is the power that makes life possible.
In love you continue to break into our lives, to break into our world.
You remind us that we are loved, you call us to be people who love others.
This Christmas season, and throughout the year that is to come, fill our hearts to overflowing with love.
And may we, having experienced Your boundless, unlimited, passionate love, pass it on to all we meet.
May love become the watchword and guidepost of our lives and the lives of all Your children.
And in this season of love, we pause to remember all our loved ones
...time of silence...

God of Light,
in the beginning there was darkness. And you called forth the light.
Throughout recorded time there has been darkness, and you called out the light.
In our world today there is darkness, help us to find the light.
The Christmas story reminds us of your love and care for your created, how you will never abandon us to the dark.
In the face of the darkness help us choose to be people of the light.
As we stand in the glow of starlight and angel song and a babe with his mother may we always remember that though the light shines in the darkness the darkness has not, will not, and can not over come it.
For the shadowed places of the world that that cry for light we pray
...time of silence...

God of Birth,
tonight we gather to celebrate a birth that happened long ago,
the birth of a child laid in a manger because there was no place for his family in the inn.
But tonight we also celebrate births that happen everyday:
we sing praises for hope born anew in the midst of despair,
we watch as peace is born in the middle of violence and struggle and disparity,
we listen as joy is born afresh in the broken-hearted,
we are overcome with emotion as love is born time and time again, overcoming fear and distrust and hatred,
we stand in the glow as tiny sparks give birth to a light that warms and illuminates the wonders of life.
For all the births we celebrate this night we offer prayers of thanksgiving and praise
...time of silence...
Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

He Said, She Said

A 2-voice Sermon for December 21, 2014 – Advent 4

I was excited. And a little nervous. But I was going to be married. And that is a big deal for any one. And then the world changed. And I mean changed.
There I was, minding my own business, tending to my daily chores, when suddenly there was this ...being... standing in front of me. I mean it obviously wasn't a human. But it spoke. It told me I was favoured, that God was with me. I have to admit that I was less than coherent as I replied. I mean I had no idea what was going on and it is pretty terrifying to have a being (maybe an angel???) appear and start talking to you – no matter how friendly it sounds or how nice the words.
I guess the angel, at least I am sure now it was an angel, could tell I was afraid. Because the next thing it said was “Don't be Afraid”. So I started to breathe a little bit easier. After all, who doesn't like to be told that they are in God's good books? But the angel didn't stop there. It went on to say I was going to have a baby. I think I fainted for a moment...

I had waited a long time. I wanted to be sure I could support a family before getting married. And then I was ready. So I spoke to Mary's father and we made the arrangement. Everything was going smoothly, or at least as smoothly as thing go under Roman oppression, and then...well something happened...I still don't know how best to talk about it...

After I woke up again I asked the angel to say that again. “You are going to have a baby” it said and then went on about who this baby would be. I am not sure I fully understood it all. I was still trying to work out the first part of the news.
Finally I worked up the nerve to speak. I pointed out that this couldn't possibly be right. I wasn't married yet. It was too soon for me to be pregnant. There must be some sort of mistake. I thought maybe the angel would realize this and go away. But nope. Instead it gave me a story about how God's Spirit would come upon me and then I would be pregnant with God's child. Then it repeated something about the Son –I was going to have a Son– being an heir to the throne of David.
I was still a little doubtful, so then the angel told me that my cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant, and we had all assumed she would NEVER have a baby. The next thing I knew I was agreeing and the angel left. It was only then that I began to REALLY worry. How would I tell my parents? How would we tell Joseph? What would happen to me? I knew what could happen to girls who got pregnant too soon...

So here I am, working away on my projects, and preparing for our marriage, when Mary's father appears at my door. He had a strange look on his face. He said he had something to tell me. But then he couldn't say anything, he just stood there looking, well, ashamed is the best way I could describe it. And Mary came in. She didn't say anything at first, just looked at me. Then, in a voice so quiet I could hardly hear her, she told me she was going to have a baby. Then she just stood there, waiting...
I didn't know what to say. What could I say? I mean really what were my options?
After a long moment of silence I found my voice. I couldn't respond right then, but I knew I needed to respond soon. I asked if I could have a week to think about it. Mary's father agreed and they left.
Now what was I going to do? I knew my rights under the Law. I knew what the village people would say behind my back. Mind you they would say those things no matter what I did.
Everything I had ever learned told me that the right thing to do was to call the marriage off. But could I do that to Mary?
Now I had seven days to make up my mind...

I was so scared. Joseph looked so hurt, so confused, so angry. I don't know what I expected. I just know I was afraid of what he would say. Would he yell? Would he cry? Would he take me to the center of town and publicly shame me? Would he have me stoned?
But he didn't do any of those things. He just stood there, staring at me, then looking at the floor. He asked for 2 days to decide what he would do and we left. And now I wait.
There are days when I wonder why I agreed to this madness. Why didn't I just say thanks but no thanks when the angel came. But then again did I really have a choice? And I was so certain it was the right thing to do. I could just feel that this was what God wanted for me. But if Joseph doesn't feel that too? Then what? I mean I still am sure this is meant to be. I just know that I can't raise a child, even if it is God's child, by myself. How long can a week feel like?

So by the end of the 6th day I had finally made up my mind. I did not want to hurt Mary. I had become quite fond of her after all. But everything I had ever been taught told me that I couldn't take Mary as my wife. Despite what she said, it was obvious that she had been with some other man. I mean she was pregnant! And there is really only one way for that to happen. Right? Even if it wasn't her fault, even if she had no choice I just couldn't marry her. Could I?
But really I didn't want to hurt her or cause her shame. So I decided that I would be as subtle as possible. I wouldn't denounce her in public. I wouldn't haul her out to the center of town for judgement. I would just quietly go to her father and call the wedding off. No harm done. Having made my decision I was finally able to sleep.
And what a sleep that was....
I guess it was a dream. Or at least it must have been a dream. And yet it felt very , REAL, more real than a dream usually does. In it I was visited by... someone... maybe an angel, a messenger from God. Can that be possible? Me? Getting a message from God? Apparently so.
Anyway the angel told me that Mary had been right. She was carrying God's child. And it was alright for me to marry her. There would be no shame, no dishonour in doing that. This was the child we had been waiting for for so long. This was the one who had been promised, the one people would call Emmanuel, God-with-Us, the one who would save us.
When I woke up I lay there for a long time, trying to understand. Then it all sank in. I WOULD marry Mary. We WOULD have a son. And God is at work in all of this. It all seems so odd. But now it is time. The week is over...

Here he comes. It has been such a long week. What will he say? What will he do?
Hello Joseph.

Hello Mary. I have made my decision.

You have? And that is...

We will be married. I understand now. God sent me a message. I understand all of it. Well maybe not all of it, but enough. I believe you.

O Joseph I am so happy. God promised that things would work out. God said this was the plan. Right now I need to go visit my cousin Elizabeth. But then I will come back and we will be married. And we will have a SON.

Yes Mary, and when he is born we will name him...

(Together) Jesus.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Opening Prayer for January 4

God of light, in this season of Light,
we gather together to celebrate the birth of the Light of the World.
God of light, we are drawn to your Light,
and yet wherever there is light there is shadow.
God of the nations, God of residents and aliens and refuges,
in this time of worship remind us that sometimes our stories are far more complicated than we remember.
And as we live in the complications,
allow us to see how you are present, both in the times of glory, and in the times of terror, when the outcome is in doubt.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the child just born, forced to flee to a strange land, who will one day teach his friends to pray saying...

Monday, December 8, 2014

Opening Prayer for Christmas Eve

In the beginning God said “let there be light”
God, we give thanks for light
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
God, we who have had times of darkness come in search of the light.
In the beginning was the Word...and in the Word was life and light for all people.
God, we are drawn to the light of life.
And though the light shines in the darkness,
the darkness cannot overcome it.
God of star light and angel song.
As we sing and listen and watch this night, may the Light that shines from the manger fill our hearts.
And when we leave this worship space,
may that light shine through us at Christmas and all year round. Amen.