Monday, January 18, 2021

For January 24, 2021 -- 3rd Sunday After Epiphany

OPENING PRAYER (followed by the singing of Sidney Carter's Lord of the Dance)
God, you invite us to join in the dance.
Joining with fellow dancers all over the globe, kicking up our heels as you call out the moves.
You pick the tune, you hum the first few bars,
and we jump up from what we are doing, unable to keep still.
In this time of worship, re-invite us to join in the dance, to sign up for a new adventure.
Give us the vision that leads us to leave our nets by the water
give us the hope to sing a new song, or an old song with a new twist,
give us the energy to dance and prance even when the road seems long and hard.

We join with fellow Christians around the globe in the dance that unites us as we say together the prayer that unites us...
LORD’S PRAYER

COMMISSIONING:
The leader of the dance meets us where we live and work,
and calls us to leave behind what we know to try something new.
Will we have the courage to jump up and join in the adventure that awaits us?
We will dance where ever we may be,
we will go and fish with Christ,
we will join in the worldwide ministry of living, giving, and loving.
And our lives will never be the same again.

As we go out to join in the dance, to follow the adventurous path;
we do so trusting that God: who chooses the tune;
who calls out the moves;
who is made known as Parent, Child and Holy Spirit;
is with us along the way.
Amen.

Friday, January 8, 2021

For January 10, 2021 -- 2nd After Epiphany, Year B

 CALL TO WORSHIP
Maybe the voice came like a whisper in the night,
filling your dreams with hope and meaning.
Maybe it came in in the early dawn,
waking you from sleep, preparing you for the day.
Maybe it came in the middle of the day,
pushing you onward, energizing your work for love.
Whenever you hear it, God’s voice whispers to us, calling us to worship, calling us to serve.
Let us worship together...

PRAYER FOR AND ASSURANCE OF GRACE
God you whisper into our ears, calling us by name.
Like Samuel we do not immediately know who is there.
You whisper again, and again, and again,
waiting until we recognize what is happening and open our hearts to listen.
You challenge us with hard words to hear, hard truths to share.
So sometimes we choose to put it off for another day, pretending we did not hear you calling in the night.
But still you call, still you urge us back to the road of wisdom, you do no give up.
For the times we have rolled over and gone back to sleep,
for the times we have closed our ears and our hearts to your truth,
for the times we have chosen to keep silent when you call us to speak,
forgive and strengthen us we pray.

...time of silent prayer...
The God who calls us by name, who challenges us to live and serve, who moves us to share God’s truth, does so in love always. Where we miss the mark we are forgiven and called again to complete the task.
Call us again God. We will listen and we will answer. Amen.

COMMISSIONING:
Stop! Listen! Do you hear it?
Like the whisper of the wind, like the roaring of the storm.
God is calling us onward and outward.

As our worship concludes our service continues, as we share God’s truth and God’s love,
may we know that the God who calls us by name is with us always.
Thanks be to God! Amen

Monday, December 28, 2020

Christmas Eve Dialogue 2020

 (This is an adaptation from one first written in 2009 [and also on this blog] to acknowledge the realities of Christmas in the midst of COVID-19)

P= Preacher struggling to prepare for Christmas Eve Service
G= God

P: [singing We Need a Little Christmas] AUGH! Select All and DELETE! This just isn't working! This has got to be wrong. God! You there God! What am I supposed to say this year?!?!
G: You called?
P: You're darn right I called! You really expect me to talk about tidings of great joy this year?
G: Of course. It's Christmas, you do remember that the Christmas story is about good news and hope and all those things right?

P: Yes yes I know all that. It's just that it doesn't seem to fit this year. I mean Celebrate? Good Times? You have to be joking! Haven't you been watching the news these last few months?????
G: So times are tough. That doesn't change the story.
P: Times are tough?? That is an understatement. We are in the middle of a global pandemic that has killed thousands. Because of that we can’t gather together with friends and family to share our tidings of comfort and joy. Christmas services are only being held online. People are lonely and isolated...
G: Yes and?
P: You want more? How about earlier this year when the bottom fell out of oil prices? Or the shutdowns to fight COVID that left people underemployed and businesses struggling? Then there are the persistent issues like Climate Change, and racism, and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, and so many more. These are NOT good times. Not even close!
G: SO? Where does it say that Christmas is about Good Times?
P: Pardon???
G: Where does it say that Christmas is about Good Times?
P: Well.. I guess it doesn't.
G: Of course it doesn't. Christmas is about all times. Christmas comes when things are going really well and when it is all falling apart. Christmas is about hope and promise and joy. When do you need those more than right now?
P: Well yeah but...
G: But nothing. What happens at Christmas? What do you talk about?
P: Well there is the story of course. You remember, the baby in a manger...
G: You mean the baby born to peasants who had nothing, not even a place to stay, whose lives were simple to the point of basic. Go on.
P: And there are the angels appearing to the shepherds...
G: Messengers from me to folk who were among the lowest of the low in their place and time. Messengers bringing good news to people who had nothing. Messengers telling them that I am active in the world. Messengers bringing good news of great joy for all people to a world where so many were struggling just to get by. Go on.
P: Well I guess that is about it. But the story is so old. Everybody knows it. What do I tell people that is new?
G: New is over-rated. I mean new is good sometimes, lots of times. But sometimes new and innovative gets in the way. Think about that story again. Yes it is a pretty simple scene but you must see that there is good news for the world today in that story.
P: Well maybe. But it seems odd to talk about joy and celebration these days. What is there to celebrate? It feels like our celebrations have been stolen from us this year.
G: Lots. Even when life is going badly there are small things to celebrate once in a while. And remember, celebrations don’t have to be fancy and noisy. They can be pretty simple and quiet too. Christmas isn’t about noisy and fancy. Christmas is about remembering that I am breaking into the world, that I am sharing this life you live. Is that worth a celebration?
P: But joy? So many people are unhappy and anxious and lonely and scared. What about joy?
G: Hey! Joy isn't about happiness! Christmas Joy has nothing to do with how much you laughed yesterday!
P: It doesn't?
G: NO! Christmas Joy is about recognizing that something special is happening. Christmas Joy is the rush you feel when you remember that you are not alone. Christmas Joy is in the promise that I am active in the world. It isn't about happiness, it goes much deeper. It's about faith and hope. Joy to the World! Listen to the angel song again. And think about that story. Who is in it? What happens to them? I just told you what was important about it.
P: The story? I told you we all know the story. A baby in a manger, angels and shepherds.[pause] oh, you mean that stuff about the couple who had nothing and messengers to the lowest of the low...
G: Now you're getting it. Do you maybe see what needs to be said this year?
P: Sort of. But...

G: I told you, no buts. That song you were just singing. Did you pay attention to the part where it says For I've grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older,
P: Yeah, that was the part I really found meaningful this year.
G: well the important part is right after that. Think about what it says: I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder, need a little Christmas now. For we need a little music, need a little laughter, need a little singing, ringing through the rafter, and we need a little snappy "Happy ever after," need a little Christmas now.
P: Hey yeah. That matches what we need to hear right now! We need a little Christmas Joy and hope and promise. We need to remember that the angels are still singing to us about tidings of great joy for all people. We need to join in the song about peace on earth, goodwill to all.
G: And the fact that these aren't good times?
P: That's why we need to hear it! Just like the story is full of people who live hard lives being reminded that You are with them, we need to be reminded that we are not alone. Even with everything that seems to be going wrong around the world we can tell the story again and remember that You continue to break into the world today.
G: Now you've got it! That is what Christmas is all about! I really don't care whether anyone believes that Luke got the story right. Arguing about what really happened when Jesus was born isn't what Christmas is all about. Christmas is all about the present and the future, not the past. Christmas is all about people being able to recognizing that I am active in the world around them. Christmas is a promise that things can get better.
P: Thanks for that! If there was ever a time when we need a little Christmas this is one of them. Joy to the World! God is here, we are not alone. Let's all celebrate! Come ON!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Christmas Prayer (2020)

 NOTE: Every Sunday this Advent season a piece of poetry has been worked into the sermon. This prayer uses bits from each of those poems.


God of Christmas,
we open our hearts and our lives to you.

Peace upon earth is the prayer we offer
Peace was the promise when Jesus was born
Peace to all [kin], Peace once again
To this war-weary, war-worried world this morn.

(from Peace on Earth by Miriam Therese Winter, Medical Mission Sisters ©1971)
God of peace, at Christmas you open a window on the possibility of peace.
You reach into our troubled hearts and troubled world,
and tell us that peace is possible.
Spread, we pray, your arms across the globe this holy night.
Where hearts are troubled, bring them comfort.
Where relationships are strained, bring open ears and hearts.
Where conflict reigns, bring a pause in the violence.
God of Peace, we pray for peace tonight.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth [God] sleep

The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to
[all]."

(from Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ©1863)
God of hope, with the birth of the Christ-child hope is born on earth.
Throughout this past year hope has sometimes seemed far away.
Social distancing and daily case counts and lockdowns
have sometimes made us wonder where we are headed.
On this Christmas night, remind us,
open our eyes and ears and hearts to angels proclaiming
Good news
which shall be for all people, the Saviour is born.
God of Hope, reawaken hope in our hearts tonight.

Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas, now

(from Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Hugh Martin ©1943)
God of Joy, joy which somehow seems distant this year,
muddling through, making it up as we go along has been a big part of 2020.
This has not been the year we would have asked for,
this has not been the Christmas season we asked for.
God who brings tidings of great joy, on this night of nights,
reach into
the souls of those who can not find joy,
touch the broken hearts of those who mourn, who are anxious, who are ill,
appear in our pain and anxiety and bring us comfort.

G
od of Joy, joy which comes from the promise of your presence,

help us share tidings of comfort and joy tonight.

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

(from
Love Came Down at Christmas by Christina Rossetti ©1885)

God of Love, in the Christmas manger we see love smiling up at us.

As we sing the old songs and share the old stories,

we hear you inviting us into the great love story of the ages.

In this world of relationships, remind us how to live lovingly with each other.

God who loves the world so deeply

help us love each other as we have been loved.

In this world of fear and anger and ill-will,

spread love far and wide, touching and changing the hearts of your children.

God of love, love lying in a manger, love announced by a star and angels,

fill our hearts with love this night.

God of Christmas,
we open our hearts and our lives to you.
Fill the world with peace and hope and joy and love tonight.
In this year which has been so very different than others,
w
e look forward to the future and wonder what it will bring.
Open our eyes to see the promise of a baby in a manger,
open our hearts to be changed by his presence.
Amen.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Candle Lighting for Christmas Eve 2020

 

THE ANIMAL CANDLE

1: The first thing we will add to our creche scene are the animals: sheep, an ox, a donkey
2: This might seem odd because the Christmas story never actually mentions animals but if there was a manger we feel there must have been animals.
1: The animals remind us of some thing else. They remind us that Christmas is Good News for the whole earth,
2: Long before Jesus was born Isaiah shared God’s promise of a peaceful kingdom, a place where all animals and all people would live safely together.

1: At Christmas time we remember that promise. We hope following Jesus will make it come true.
2: So we light our first candle, the candle for the animals and the promise of peace.

(Candle is lit)

THE PARENTS CANDLE

1: If you have a baby, you must have some parents. So the next thing we will add to our creche scene are Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ parents.
2: IT must have been a little scary for them, having a baby and not sure what would happen next.
1: Jesus came as a surprise to Mary and to Joseph. Not every set of parents has an angel explain why they are having a baby right now.
2: But I bet they had hopes for what would happen next. I think most parents have hopes for what their baby will do.
1: And Mary and Joseph knew Jesus was a special baby. That could have made them very hopeful
2:So we light our second candle, the candle for the parents and the hope they had,
(Candle is lit)

THE ANGEL CANDLE

1: Time for another figure to join our creche scene. This time we add the angel hovering over top of the stable. It is hard to imagine Christmas without angels.
2: Already we have heard about two angel visits. One in Joseph’s dream and this time when Mary is told that she is having a baby.
1: There is another angel visit to come, another message from God to build the story about Jesus being born.
2: All these messages. God must really want people to know about Jesus. God must love people a lot to make sure they know that Jesus is coming.
1: That is what the story tells us. God loves the world so much that Jesus comes to help us learn how to love each other as much as God loves us
2: SO we light our candle for the angel, who brings us Good News about God’s love.
(Candle is lit)

THE SHEPHERD CANDLE

1: Here they come, running in from the fields, the shepherds. They are excited to join our creche scene.
2: This is the big part of the story. Apart from Mary and Joseph, the shepherds were the first people to know that Jesus was born.
1: The story tells us how excited they were. Imagine what it would have been like to be there.
2: I bet they were talking REALLY fast as they told Mary and Joseph what the angel had told them.
1:And I think they were really loud as they went around telling everybody else about baby Jesus. They must have sounded so happy.
2: So we light our candle for the shepherds, and we think about the joy they mus have felt on that special night.
(Candle is lit)

THE CHRIST CANDLE

1: Our creche is almost finished. Only one character to add. But this is the most important character. Jesus, the baby in the manger.
Without Jesus there would be no Christmas. His birth is the reason for the season. Jesus comes into our lives, into our world bringing peace and hope and joy and love. John calls Jesus the light that shines in the shadows and the shadows can never out it out. Even this year, when Christmas is so different because of the changes Covid has made in our lives, the light shines and can not be overcome.
We light our last candle, the candle for the Baby Jesus, the light of the world.
(Candle is lit)

Thursday, December 3, 2020

PRAYER FOR AND ASSURANCE OF GRACE for December 13, 2020 -- Advent 3B


God of Advent, through the Apostle Paul you encourage us to “Rejoice always”!
Sometimes Joy is easy. Sometimes Joy is hard.
God of Advent, through the Apostle Paul you ask us to “pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances”
Honestly, sometimes we forget to live prayerful lives.
Equally honestly, there are lots of times when thankful is the last thing we are feeling.
God of Advent, through the Apostle Paul you exhort us not to quench the Spirit.
We don’t do it on purpose. But when joy is hard, when thankfulness is scarce, when we are not grounded in you, spirits get quenched.
God of Grace, as we wait and prepare for the baby who will change the world,
open our hearts and minds and eyes to find the causes of joy right in front of us. Hear our laments for the things that steal joy from our lives. Accept our pledge to be more prayerful, more joy seeking, more thankful in the days to come, accept our words or repentance for those times we quench the spirit.
...time of silent prayer...
God has given us a promise of Good News of great Joy that shall be for all people. In that Good News is the promise of Grace. When we leave the path of wisdom we are invited, drawn, urged back. We are forgiven so that we can continue to seek hope, peace, joy and love.
Glory to God in the Highest! Alleluia! Amen.

Monday, November 30, 2020

PRAYER FOR AND ASSURANCE OF GRACE for December 6, 2020 -- Advent 2B

God of the Jubilee year, God who renews the earth, pour your Spirit upon us we pray.
Open our hearts and lives so we too would bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners; and comfort all who mourn
God who meets us as we wander in the wilderness, show us the highway that we should follow.
Clear away the obstacles we have laid in our way. Lower the hills we use to block other people’s paths. Speak to our pain and struggle. Touch our hearts in this hour.
Hear again the words of God: Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for God has clothed me with the garments of salvation, God has covered me with the robe of righteousness.
We are forgiven and loved. God has laid out a highway in the desert to lead us to the Reign of Peace and Justice.
Thanks be to God! Amen