Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Be Not Afraid -- Advent Candle Liturgy

THe sung piece while the candles are lit is #90 in More VOices "Don't Be Afraid"

Advent 1 – November 30, 2008 – Be Not Afraid a new world is coming
(one person reading paper, tosses it down in disgust)
Reader 1: What's the matter?
Reader 2: Oh I just find the news so depressing these days. It seems that there is nothing but bad news out there.
Reader 1: I know what you mean. Between mill closings and stock market news and street shootings in Toronto it sounds really bad doesn't it.
Reader 2: You said it. Sometimes I wonder if it is really worth trying to improve things any more.
Reader 1: Oh it is always worth trying to make the world better. And things will get better. I am sure of it.
Reader 2: How can you be so sure?
Reader 1: I guess I just have faith. Remember that the Bible keeps telling us that there is a new time coming, a new world? Well I just believe that is true and that the new world will be better.
Reader 2: You really think so? I am not sure. I wish I could be as sure as you are but I am afraid for us right now.
Reader 1: Don't be afraid. God is with us even when the world seems to be falling apart. And all will be well some day.
Reader 2: I hope so. As we light a candle as a sign for our hope in that new world let's sing the song on our insert “Don't Be Afraid”. In fact, let's sing it twice.
(they light 1 purple candle and then return to their seats while the song is sung)

Advent 2 – December 7, 2008 – Be Not Afraid Prophetic Peace be with you
Reader 1: May the peace of Christ be with you.
Reader 2: And also with you. But what do you mean?
Reader 1: Pardon? I don't know what I mean. I was just following the minister's instructions to pass the peace.
Reader 2: But what does “the peace of Christ” mean?
Reader 1: Well, uh, uh, I guess it means everybody getting along and being nice to each other and...well(trails off) Why are you asking?
Reader 2: Well I was reading about the prophets the other day, and they don't always sound peaceful. Sometimes they sound really angry. Sometimes they talk about people getting punished. John the Baptist talks about axes and fires attacking people...
Reader 1: Really, well is that all?
Reader 2: No, they talk about these things happening to bring peace to the world, to make the world a better place.
Reader 1: Maybe that is what we mean by the peace of Christ. That time after the struggle and change.
Reader 2: Maybe. Anyway, it's time to get on with the rest of the service. What say we light some candles for peace while we sing the song on the insert a couple of times.
(they light 2 purple candles and then sit down while the song is sung)

Advent 3 – December 14, 2008 – Be Not Afraid sing for joy
Reader 1: (sings 1st verse of Joy to the World)
Reader 2: How can you sound so happy?
Reader 1: What do you mean?
Reader 2: Well with everything that is happening around us. With all the bustle of trying to get ready for Christmas. How can you be so happy and relaxed?
Reader 1: It's Christmas! How can anyone be anything but happy? All I need to do is look at the excitement of the kids and the bright lights and listen to the cheery music. Then it is easy to be happy.
Reader 2: But aren't you worried?
Reader 1: Sometimes I am. None of knows for sure what next year will bring.
Reader 2: But you're happy anyway?
Reader 1: Yep. I made a choice to not let the worry take over. God is coming to live among us as a baby. That's more than enough reason to sing!
Reader 2: You made a choice?
Reader 1: That's right. I chose joy and hope over fear and worry. It's Christmas! Don't be afraid, sing instead. In fact let's light candles while we sing the song in the bulletin about not being afraid. We will sing it twice.
(they light 2 purple candles and the pink candle and then sit down while the song is sung)

Advent 4 – December 21, 2008 – Be Not Afraid Justice shall be done
Reader 1: You know, sometimes I think that life really isn't fair.
Reader 2: Why do you say that?
Reader 1: Well the news keeps telling us that the rich get richer while the poor fall farther behind. It sometimes seems that nobody really works for the people who have the least. It just isn't fair.
Reader 2: Well you know, nobody ever promise life should be fair. But you are right. It just doesn't seem right that so many people have so little to live on.
Reader 1: No it doesn't. Where is the justice in all of it? Aren't things like food and shelter basic to life? Why don't we find a way for everyone to get them? When the revolution comes...
Reader 2: (interrupting) Ok ok, down off the soapbox. Take a breath. I agree with you. Well maybe not the revolution part, but I do agree with you. And you know what?
Reader 1: What?
Reader 2: God agrees with you too. God wants us to live in a time of justice when everybody has what they need to live.
Reader 1: Really?
Reader 2: Yep. The Bible talks about it all the time. It is a big part of what people of faith pray and work for. And I really believe it will happen some day.
Reader 1: I hope it happens soon. I am afraid of what might happen if things don't change.
Reader 2: Oh try not to be afraid. Fear gets in the way a lot. While we light candles to remind us of God's light and justice why don't we sing “Don't Be Afraid” which is on the insert in the bulletin. We'll sing it twice.
(they light all 4 of the candles in the wreath and then sit down while the song is sung)

Christmas Eve – December 24, 2008 – Be Not Afraid the Baby means Change
Reader 1: Christmas Eve is here at last. Soon we will hear about angels and shepherds.
Reader 2: And the angels will remind all of us not to be afraid.
Reader 1: The candles on our wreath remind us not to be afraid to. One reminds us to not be afraid of the bad news around us because a better world is coming (lights a purple candle)
Reader 2: And this one reminds us to not be afraid of the tough choices and changes that need to come before we have peace in the world. (lights second purple candle)
Reader 1: This pink candle reminds us that even when the world is going crazy we can choose to be less afraid, we can choose to sing for joy (lights pink candle)
Reader 2: And this last candle reminds us that when we work past the fear we can see God's hope for justice in the world. (lights last purple candle)
Reader 1: Now there is only one candle left. The one in the middle.
Reader 2: That's right. What does it remind us of?
Reader 1: Well Christmas is about a baby right? And a baby means change right? Well some people think that change is very scary.
Reader 2: SO let's light this candle to remind us of the Baby, and of the changes that might happen, and to not be afraid of those changes (lights center candle)


Time to plan for Advent. The theme I am working with this year is Be Not Afraid

Nov 30 -- Be Not Afraid, a new world is coming
  • Isaiah 65:17-23
  • Revelation 21:1-4 (Responsive Reading)
  • Mark 13:24-37
Dec 7 -- Be Not Afraid, Prophetic Peace be with you
  • Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Psalm 72 (VU p.790)
  • Luke 3:7-18
Dec 14 -- Be Not Afraid, sing for joy
  • Pageant Sunday
Dec 21 -- Be Not Afraid Justice shall be done
  • Luke 1:47-55 (VU p.898)
  • Luke 1:68-79 (VU p.900)
  • Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Dec 24 -- Be Not Afraid, the Baby means change
  • Isaiah 9:2-7
  • Luke 1:26-38
  • Luke 2:1-14
Candle liturgy (hopefully) coming soon...

Monday, October 27, 2008

For November 2, 2008 -- Proper 26, 25th After Pentecost

In the midst of the storms of life we hear it.
God calls us to faith.
As the waters rise we hear it again.
God calls us to fellowship.
When the flood threatens to overwhelm us we hear it again.
God calls us to gather in prayer and praise. Let us worship together…

God of floods and droughts, God of abundance and plenty, God of hope and promise, once again we gather for worship. In this time of prayer, and singing, and reflection move among us. Stir in our hearts the courage to move forward when the way is hard. Stir in our souls the ability to trust in your promise. We pray in Jesus’ name as we sing together the words he taught to his friends…

Offering Prayer
Gracious God, we have received so much. Here and now we offer some of what we have to help the world around us wade through the floods that assail us. May the gifts we give be tools that build bridges to new life. Amen.

God, often in life the road seems hopelessly blocked.
the river of hardship floods and we despair of being able to cross.
In those times when we stare at the raging waters and give up, give us courage.
Lead us to take those first steps into the deluge, help us wade into the waters of life.
In those times when no amount of coaxing will let us get our feet wet, when the fear of being washed away overwhelms our will to go forward,
forgive our reluctance, strengthen our courage, we pray.
…time of silent prayer…
No matter what torrents flood our paths God is there. God offers forgiveness and strength as we wade out into the flood.
Thanks be to God. Hallelujah!

The road lies before us; we just need to cross the river.
The river is broad but God will help us to cross.
And on the other side lies our hope and our promise.
When we cross the river we will share the gifts of God: love, life, and laughter with all we meet on the far side.
So go, Wade in the Water, trusting that God our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer wades with you.
Thanks be to the wading God. Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2008

For October 26, 2008 -- Proper 25, 24th After Pentecost

God calls to our hearts,
the source of our feelings, the core of our being.
God calls to our souls,
the home of our spirit, the place where we sense that there is more than we can see.
God calls to our minds,
the place of reason, of intellect, where we think through the challenges of life.
God calls to our strength,
our ability to make things happen, to work and to serve.
God calls to our whole being,
calling us to be people of faith, hope, and love. Let us worship the God who calls us together…

God, you call us to be people of love. You call us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. During this time of worship fill our hearts with Your love. As we sing and pray and listen may we hear You voice reminding us we can and do live out your amazing love in our lives. We pray in the name of the one who came to teach us about the power of love and who taught his friends to pray together saying…

What must we do to live in God’s way?
Love God, love neighbour, love ourselves.
As people of faith we go out to make that love an action, not a feeling.
We go out to bring the love of God to a hurting world.
As you go, know that the threefold God: Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer is with you always.
Thanks be to God! Amen.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope for an Anniversary Service

God of our past, we gather today to give thanks for the past.
We think back to those who first had a vision of a church in this place,
to those who put their names on a loan so it could come to happen,
to those who gave of their labour, their treasure, their time to make it happen.
And as we remember the efforts of the founders and builders we offer words of thanks and praise

God of growth, we remember too those who helped the new church to grow in wisdom and in faith.
And so we think of study group leaders, clergy, choir directors, Sunday School teachers, and many others who provided leadership.
We remember Elders, Stewards, Board and committee members, men and women who stepped forward to provide governance and leadership.
And for all these varied forms of leadership we are grateful.

God of community, we remember events that brought us together;
Ham Suppers, Fall Suppers, Bazaars, BBQs, potlucks, picnics and many more.
And for the gifts of friendship and fellowship we say thanks.
We think also of the many groups that have met in this space:
UCW, Scouts, CGIT, Guides, Mothers-Off-Duty, Hi-C, Mens Breakfast Club.
Groups that provided times of fellowship and times of growth in community.

And in this time of memory we take special note of Camp Freeman.
God of Creation, we give great thanks and praise for many weeks spent on the lakeshore as a community of faith.
For leaders young and old, for campers, for all who worked behind the scenes planning and preparing, for the wonder that is church camping we are wondrously grateful.

God of our present, on this day we remember all that led this congregation to this day.
For 55 years of ministry to and with this community, for 55 years of growing together in love, for all that has made us what we are now, we give you thanks, we give you praise.

*A STATEMENT OF FAITH ABOUT THE CHURCH (insert—taken from A Song of Faith)

God of our present and our future, as we gather here today we look for hope.
The future is uncertain, we wonder what it will bring.
Fill us with a vision for what we could be.
Give us hope for our congregation and our community.
Help us find the choices that lead to life in abundance.

God of hope, in a time of uncertainty we so often fall into fear and worry.
Show us the opportunities in our chaotic world,
remind us to consider seriously where our priorities and loyalties lie,
push us to see how our choices matter, and then fill us with hope in a new heaven and a new earth.
God of our future, may we walk boldly into what may come, as people, not only of faith, but of hope.
May we share your hope and promise with the world in which we live.

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Election Prayer

God of community, you call us to live in peace with each other,
on this eve of an election we hold our brothers and sisters in prayer.
As we head into the voting booth may we all be blessed with wisdom.

Grant us the wisdom to consider carefully the future path of our country,
to choose the party and the candidate who we feel most clearly shares our vision of that future,
and, when the counting is done, to offer support to those who are elected -- even when we don't agree with their positions or their choices.

We pray for those who have let their name stand.
May they be gracious both in victory and in defeat.
May they move past the voting day committed to making this country a better place, a fairer place, a place where more people can live in abundance and justice.

Gracious God, on October 15 may we look back on the results in acceptance,
may we look forward to the future with hope,
may we share the knowledge that Your vision for the world lives not in any political philosophy but in the vision and hearts of the faithful.
Help us to always work towards that day when the words Your kin-dom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven are more than just lines we mumble in prayer.
May they become a reality in the world.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Sermon

Open singing the chorus:
Da-da-yeinu, da-da-yeinu
Da-da-yeinu, Dayeinu dayeinu
Da-da-yeinu, da-da-yeinu
Da-da-yeinu, Dayeinu dayeinu

That is the chorus of a traditional Jewish Passover song. Dayeinu means “it would have been enough”. Each of the 15 verses lists one of the great gifts God gives during the Exodus story and then says “Dayeinu”.

At Thanksgiving it seems a good time to ask what would be enough? What would have us cry out “Dayeinu”? Do we have an awareness of what enough might be anymore? Is that what gets in the way of thankfulness? Partly perhaps. Hold on to that thought. We'll come back to “enough”. But first let's look at thanks giving and what might get in the way.

Last year at this time we were wondering if Fibratech would survive. Last year AFP was still running. This year both are closed. This year the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving have been filled with news stories about financial meltdown and possible, even probable recession. What does it mean to be thankful in such a time as this? What is there to be thankful for?

It has been said that there are only two basic prayers. One is “Help” and the other is “thank you”. And yet it always seems so much easier to remember the first and forget the second. In bad or troubling times it is far easier to wonder what will come next, to wonder if we are going to get out of this mess than to stop and count our blessings But it is only when we count our blessings that we remember to give thanks.

The Scriptures we have just heard speak to the difficulty in saying thanks in the good times. In Luke we hear the story of some lepers who are made clean. To be made clean means to be re-admitted to the community. In their excitement and joy they forget to come back to give thanks – the only one who does is an outsider already, a Samaritan who would be unable to follow the instructions Jesus gives anyway. The story reminds us to pause in the times of unexpected joy to remember our blessings.

Deuteronomy highlights a different, and likely a more common issue. Deuteronomy warns the people “do not forget!”. Amnesia is the great threat. When all the great things of the land have come true there is the temptation to forget that the land is a gift from God. When times are good it is too easy to take the blessings for granted. When times are good it is to easy to believe the age-old myth – so prevalent in North American social thought – of the “self-made person”. Foreseeing that temptation, Moses says to the Israelites “DO NOT FORGET”. Moses warns the people to always remember that God has done all these things for them , to always remember that they did not get where they are by themselves or by their own efforts. It is only when we remember our blessings that we can remember to give thanks.

In a way this brings us back to (and answers) the question of how do we give thanks in a world of chaos. When employment is scarce, when families wonder where the next month's rent will come from, when the news fills us with worry and anxiety about the future, how then can we fill our hearts with thankfulness, with praise, with gratitude? How do we give thanks when we see so many reasons to not give thanks?

How? Well the same wisdom that we find in Luke and in Deuteronomy still holds. We can only give thanks when we take time to remember what we have to give thanks for. In times of uncertainty and chaos we need to intentionally think about what blessings we do have. We need to clearly name our blessings so that we are able to give thanks. And so that brings us back to the question of “what would be enough?”. In this era of crisis, what is it enough for God to have done? What gifts make us sing dayeinu?

1) If our God had merely made us
Formed us, blew life's breath into us
Simply gave us our existence
As Fraulein Maria told the Von Trapp children: “Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start”. Our story starts with creation and so we give thanks to Creator God for life itself. If God had only given us the gift of life and set us free to face whatever life threw at us by ourselves even that clockmaker God would be worthy of our thanks and praise. Even just life itself and nothing else would have been enough.

2) If our God had only fed us
Gave us food and drink to nourish
Fruits of earth for us to cherish
Later today, or perhaps tomorrow, many families will be sitting down at tables full of food. For many people the feast almost seems to be the main purpose for Thanksgiving – well that or the opening of moose season. But when you think about it, when people of faith gather together for a meal how does the meal start? With grace, with a prayer of thanks. Even before we know if the food is good or not we give thanks that there is food. God not only gave us life, God gives us that which we need to sustain life. Thanksgiving is seen as a harvest festival by many to celebrate the miracle of growth but also because we know that even if God had only provided us with food that would have been enough.

3) Or if God had brought us freedom
Freed us from sin and oppression
Merely made us free for service
Freedom. An old Star Trek episode called that a worship word. And indeed the faith story is one of freedom. God frees the people of Israel from slavery, reminding us that God's vision is of a world where none struggle with oppression. God commands that no member of the community is ever to be bound in servitude forever, reminding us of a different economy, one where our value is in our existence not our productivity. God redeems those who are exiles, reminding us that we can always come home again. And God frees us from guilt and shame and sin, reminding us that there is always a new start, a second chance to get it right. Freedom, that indeed would have been enough.

4) If our God gave us companions
Family and friends for comfort
So that we would not be lonely
The three “peoples of the Book” as Muhammed called us (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) share many things. We share a common God. We share a similar morality. We share a community focus. Our faith is not one that can be lived in isolation. Our faith calls us to live in community, caring for and with each other, being cared about by each other. In wedding sermons I often comment on the fact that humanity seems hardwired to seek out companionship and support. And God creates us so that this companionship and support is available. For community, for friends and family, we give thanks. And indeed that would have been enough.

5) Or if God gave us vocations
Tasks to do that give life meaning
Helped us feel that we had purpose
We all need to feel useful. We all need to know that our lives have meaning and purpose. Some of us find that in our career, but not always. But each of us has a vocation (that is with an o, not vacation with an a). There is something, or a set of somethings, each of us can do that make a difference in the world. When we discover what God is calling us to do and find a way to do that then we feel much better. For the knowledge that we have a purpose, for those things that make life meaningful rather than just existing, we give thanks. And most certainly all these things would be enough, dayeinu.

But of course the great cause for Thanksgiving is not that God does all these things. The greatest cause for thanksgiving is that God does them all over and over again and more. On Thanksgiving Day we pause again to think of all the ways that God gives us life in great abundance. God continues to bless us over and over and over. And in response to all these blessings we say thank-you not only once a year but regularly, daily, whenever we are made aware of our blessings. And for each of those blessings we say not only thanks but dayeinu, it would have been enough.

6) But our God provides more blessings
Gives us life in great abundance
And so daily we say thank-you

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Prayers for an Anniversary Service

God who calls us to be the church in this place and time, we come together to celebrate Your presence among us. In this hour, as we sing and pray and listen, may you awaken in us a hope for the future. May our time together remind us why the church is needed in the world. Amen.

Offering Prayer
Gift giving God, for 55 years we have gathered in this place to share what we are and have. Help us continue this sharing of our time, talent, and treasure. May the gifts we give be gifts of Love. May they increase the power of Love in the re-creation of the world. Amen.

We go back out into the world to love and serve the world around us,
just as we have done for 55 years, so we continue to do so.
We go out held in the loving arms of God who Creates, Redeems, Supports, and Sustains us.
We are not alone! Thanks be to God. Amen.

Offering Prayer for Thanksgiving

Offering Prayer
God who has given us so much, here and now we offer our gifts in thanksgiving for what we have been given. May our hearts rejoice in the opportunity to share your gifts with the world. Amen