Monday, November 25, 2013

A Blue Christmas Service


To everything there is a time...
A time to weep and a time to laugh...
God of all the seasons of our lives, we come here to share in this season of sorrow and joy, hope and despair, light and dark, pain and celebration.
Here we lay our sorrow, our struggles, our pain before us.
Here we pray that we will be touched with your healing love.
Here we come to seek for hope, for light, for joy...

Hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel #1 Voices United (Verses 1,4,5,6)



Scripture Isaiah 35:1-10

Scripture Isaiah40:1-11


Hymn Hope is a Star #7 Voices United

We light this candle to remind us that though we are sometimes the people who walk in darkness there is a light that the darkness can not overcome. We light this candle to remind us that while there are times when we are filled with fear for the future the angel still calls out “Fear Not” for there is Good News.
May the light and warmth of this candle be a source of comfort to us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God!

We Light our Own Candles
We live as people of hope. We live as people whose hope lies in the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, will not, and can not overcome it. During these next few minutes, you are invited to come forward an light one or more of the tea lights that are here on the table. These lights may be lights of memory for what was or hope for what will be, or both.

Prayers for the People
Lord's Prayer

Hymn: Silent Night # 67 Voices United

We have lit a candle to mark the closing of another circle, the passing of another year.
We have lit a candle to remind us of the promise of life that continues.
We have lit a candle to remind us of the sharpness, the pain that lies hidden in the beauty of life.
We have lit a candle to remind us of the light that shines in the darkness.
We have lit a candle to remind us that Emmanuel, God-With-Us is born.
We have lit candles to name our own grief, to name our own hopes, to give us light and warmth in a world which sometimes feels cold and dark.
And now we carry the light of these candles in our hearts and souls as we go back into the world.
Indeed we are not alone. God: Parent, Child and Spirit goes with us to light the way and lighten the load.
Thanks be to God. Amen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

For December 1, 2013 -- 1st Sunday of Advent

The cycle of the seasons has come round yet again, a new year is beginning.
We begin the year by preparing for a birth
The circle of love draws us closer and binds us together.
And so we worship together, greeting each other with words of peace...

God, you awaken us to the world that is about to turn,
reminding us that the Christmas child will cause the world to be changed.
You remind us that there is a season and a time for everything,
and calling us to live with the rhythms of the world, to roll with the cycles of life.
You remind us that as the wheel turns there is a time for re-birth, new light, new hope,
hope in the face of despair, light in the face of darkness.
God of Grace, in those times when we resist the turning of the world, the times we try to set our own schedule, the times we give in to despair and darkness.
Open our hearts and souls to Your Grace, calm our nerves, lead us in the paths of wisdom
...time of silent prayer...
God, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the Eternal One, is gracious. God binds us in the unending circle of love. God rolls with us through the cycles and upturns of life.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
Another circle draws to a close – or maybe it is just beginning
a new year begins, a new week begins.
At this time of beginning we go out into the world,
to continue to prepare for the coming Child, to share the hope that the world is about to be changed.
As you go, remember that God: the Eternal One, the Child to be Born, the Spirit that always is will be with you in all the circles and seasons of your life.
Alleluia! Amen.

Monday, November 18, 2013

FOr November 24, 2013 -- Service looking at Priorities, Procrastination, and Self-Care

God of life, we gather here in Jesus' name.
Seeking to be followers of The Way.
God of life, we have gathered together for worship,
we have come to be refreshed, we come because this is part of how we take care of ourselves.
God of life, there are many demands on our time, on our lives.
In this time together remind us how to choose what is most important.
God of life, in this time of worship.
Renew and refresh us, and lead us back out to make good decisions in our daily lives.
We pray as followers of the Risen Christ, who taught us all to pray saying...

Sometimes, God, we get things mixed up.
As we decide what is important, as we decide how to spend our time.
Sometimes, God, we get lost in the busy-ness of the world.
And spend all our time attempting to be “productive”, even when we feel exhausted we aren't sure we can take a break.
Sometimes, God, it is hard to know how to “put first things first”.
Because there are so many voices telling us that their thing is the “first thing”.
God of Grace, in the busy-ness of our lives, in the hustle and bustle of the world,
remind us to take time to rest, remind us to look carefully at our choices, help us to see clearly what the first things are.
...time of silent prayer...
God calls us to love each other as we love ourselves. Which means God calls us to care for each other and to care for ourselves. God helps us to sort out what is important and what can wait. All so that we can flourish and grow.
Thanks be to God! Amen.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

For November 17, 2013--service theme "Does Everything Happen for a Reason?"

Come, now is the time to worship
To every thing there is a season and a time for every matter
A time for prayer, a time for song,
A time to listen and a time to speak.
There is a time for everything,
Now is the time to worship, and so we come together.

God of Love,
in this time of worship open our hearts to Your love, that we may pass it on to those we meet.
God of Light,
in this time of worship open our eyes to see Your light shining in the world, even in the most surprising places.
God of Life,
in this time of worship open our being to embrace and celebrate your gift of life, both when we have cause to praise and when we have cause to lament.
These things we pray as we remember the one who taught about your gifts of light, life, and love, and who taught his friends to pray together saying...

God, when we are honest, there is so much we find hard to understand.
And so we ask WHY
Why does life seem so unfair? Why do terrible things happen?
Is there some grand plan we just can't see?
Or is life just like that?
And is it enough to say “it is a mystery”
God of Grace, God of Love, it is not enough to name it as a mystery.
But it is enough to know that you are with us in the uncertainty.
And so, in our wondering, in our confusion,
remind us that we are not alone, remind us of the promise of transformation, remind us that with You we can find a path through the wilderness of life.
And in the end we affirm that with you things can somehow be made to work for good.
For we are a Resurrection people. Amen.

To everything there is a time...
the time of worship has ended, now is the time for life.
We go out into the world...
to share the hope in a God who can work good in the face of tragedy.
And the one thing for which it is ALWAYS the season..
is to love each other, as we have been loved.
Go out to be people of hope, people of love...
people of God. Amen

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sermon Draft for November 10, 2013

Although since it won't be preached with script in hand it could end up much different. The video clip being used is from an old Seinfeld episode where Frank is explaining why he keeps yelling "Serenity Now"

Key to Serenity

In our life there are moments of great joy and moments of great pain. There are days of wonderful peace and days of painful, paralysing anxiety. And we need all of those things for life to be real. But when the worry, the anxiety, the fretting over things gets in the way how do we find our way to peace and serenity?

Many of us make our best decisions in a place of relative calm and stability. When we are highly anxious (I am not sure we are ever totally without anxiety – or that we should be) we may not be able to think things through thoroughly. So we need some amount of calmness, to be somewhat serene before making major decisions. But how do we get there?

Then there are the health costs and benefits. Our physical, mental, and emotional health suffers when we are always on edge. Maybe we don't sleep as well. Maybe our blood pressure goes up. Maybe our diet plan becomes a literary device. There is a reason that there are so many meditation techniques and CDs out there. Because we live in a culture of high stress and high anxiety and it is literally killing us. So how do we let go of the stress?

There are a number of possibilites. Here is one that some of you may have heard before [show video clip]

Now those of you who watched Seinfeld will likely agree that if anyone needs to learn how to calm himself and find a “quiet place” it would be Frank Costanza. Later in the episode we see Kramer using the words serenity now almost like a mantra in a semi-meditative state. We see George trying it. But as that episode unfolds it shows that the technique doesn't quite work for any of the characters. Indeed one later says “Serenity Now...insanity later”. And yet the theory Frank explains sounds logical. It is the basic idea of making choices, of controlling how we react, of setting up a bio-feedback loop. But it doesn't quite work. So what else is there?

One possibility is the one shared in AA. Acceptance. 12 Step programs have adopted Reinhold Neibuhr's prayer “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” as a key part of their healing process. And there is wisdom in that.

Many of our anxieties are focused on things we don't or can't control. [The counter to that is that sometimes too little of our anxiety is focused on things we can/should control and change but that may be another sermon.] And so learning when it is time to accept things, even if that means watching people make really bad (in our mind) decisions, is part of a path to serenity, to calmness.

WE have just heard part of one person's story about how he discovered the relationship between accepting things for how they are and finding serenity in his life. Here is an excerpt from someone else's story (taken from
For me, serenity began when I learned to distinguish between those things that I could change and those I could not. When I admitted that there were people, places, things, and situations over which I was totally powerless, those things began to lose their power over me. I learned that everyone has the right to make their own mistakes, and learn from them, without my interference, judgement, or assistance!
The key to my serenity is acceptance. But "acceptance" does not mean that I have to like it, condone it, or even ignore it. What it does mean is I am powerless to do anything about it... and I have to accept that fact.
Nor does it mean that I have to accept "unacceptable behavoir." Today I have choices. I no longer have to accept abuse in any form. I can choose to walk away, even if it means stepping out into the unknown. I no longer have to fear "change" or the unknown. I can merely accept it as part of the journey.
I spent years trying to change things in my life over which I was powerless, but did not know it. I threatened, scolded, manipulated, coerced, pleaded, begged, pouted, bribed and generally tried everything I could to make the situation better -- only watch as things always got progressively worse.
I spent so much time trying to change the things I could not change, it never once occurred to me to simply accept them as they were.
Now when things in my life are not going the way I planned them, or downright bad things happen, I can remind myself that whatever is going on is not happening by accident. There's a reason for it and it is not always meant for me to know what that reason is.
That change in attitude has been the key to happiness for me. I know I am not the only who has found that serenity.
Now this is not to say this acceptance is easy. For example, it is SO tempting to just KNOW how our loved ones should act. Last weekend our keynote speaker suggested that we should only be allowed to parent other people's children. It is, after all, so much easier to know how they should do it. I might suggest that the same idea holds true in other parts of our lives. Some of us spend a whole lot of time worrying about “stuff”. Sometimes it is due to wishful thinking, we WISH we could do something. Sometimes it is because we feel that accepting something means we agree with what is happening. But for whatever reason sometimes we just have to “accept the things we cannot change”. There is a measure of serenity when we let go of those anxieties about things we can not change.

But what if we simply can't let go? What if we can't find it within ourselves to accept things? What if they simply are not acceptable?

Let Go and Let God.

Many years ago I was wrestling with my own demons, my own need to sort things out and one of the suggestions I found in a book called “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” (a book I never fully finished but the title was worth it all on its own) was to post helpful sayings in a place where you would see them everyday. One of mine was Let Go and Let God. When we can't control something, when we find that it is out of our hands we need to do that.

In the end God is the true source of our peace, of our serenity (and sometimes of our urge to change things). God is the one who pushes us to change the things we can change. God is the one who moves us to accept, even if only temporarily, the things that we can't change. If we allow it to happen, God gives us the wisdom to know which is which.

The Psalmist writes “Be Still and know that I am God”. There is a great meditative exercise with that verse that helps bring me to a peaceful place [as an aside, this exercise was used as the Call to Worship during the Banff Men's Conference last month]. You find a quiet spot and slowly share the verse with yourself, breaking it down like this:
Be Still and Know that I am God
Be Still and Know That I AM
Be Still and Know
Be Still
Try it some time. Take a pause between each line for a couple of slow deep breaths. It centers you, it calms you, it brings you peace. And it reminds you that the most important thing for any of us is to BE. More important than anything we DO is that we are able to BE who God has formed us to be. And realizing that provides a path to more peace, more serenity, less anxiety.

Writing to the church in Phillipi Paul reminds the people:
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul had reasons to be anxious in his life. After all, he was imprisoned more than once. He would eventually be executed under the reign of Nero. He was preaching a counter-cultural, anti-Imperial message in a world where the Empire tended to strike back at such things. But he knows that he is able to do these thing because he is not alone. He reminds his friends and followers in Phillipi that they need do raise up their worries, their hopes, their lives to the God who is in charge. When they can do that, then the peace of God will walk with and guard them.

The same advice holds for us. When we need peace, when we need to have our anxiety eased, when we need to find a serene oasis in the midst of a anxiety-producing world, we turn to God. God is the one who can helps us find the acceptance our AA stories talk about. God is the one who reminds us that we are not in charge of everything – God is. The true source, the true Key to Serenity is not in chanting or yelling Serenity Now. It is not in trying to make everything “right”. The true Key to Serenity is to turn to God.

It may not happen instantly. It may be a passing thing, a moment of serenity rather than a lifetime. But when we turn to God, when we remember that God is in charge (even if sometimes it seems evident that God is not in control – we will talk about whether God is in control next week), when we allow ourselves to Let Go, to Be Still, then we allow ourselves access to the peace of God that is always available.

The world is great at building anxiety. Our lives sometimes lurch from one thing to another. For the sake of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, we need to find a path to serenity. We need to find the way to open ourselves to the peace of God. May God helps us in our quest for serenity, wisdom, and balance in life.

And now we pray together the words of Reinhold Neibuhr...
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.