Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Thinking Towards Sunday; January 28, 2018

Scripture for this Sunday: Mark 1:21-28

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

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Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Mark 1:14-20; 21 January 2018

Scripture for this Sunday is: Mark 1:14-20

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

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As a young man, Albert Einstein was exposed to the new, chic style of painting – Impressionism. In visual arts, Impressionism was the punk-rock equivalent of the day. After staring at paintings that represented light with dabs of paint for a few years, he came up with the theory that light is not only a wave, but also a particle, and developed the now famous formula that most of us do not really understand: E = mc2.

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I am convinced that without exposure to impressionism, Albert Einstein and other theoretical physicists would not have been able to come up with that theory.

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Sometimes we forget that being a follower of Jesus means that there are others around us that point us towards God. Just like the Impressionists influenced Einstein’s understanding of the nature of light, the “others” around us remind each of us of who we are and what we are called to be, and help us to understand the nature of God. When we see God in others, it helps us to appreciate and celebrate the presence of God in us. When we see God in others, it helps us to see how far we have traveled on our life’s journey and to discern what God is leading us towards. When we see others walking next to us, it helps us to remember that God is our Emmanuel, God with us, God who walks with us, and that we are not alone.

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Last week we heard an account from the Gospel of John, of Jesus calling his first disciples. Today we heard another account of Jesus calling his first disciples, this one from the Gospel of Mark.

Both accounts are somewhat different. But there are also similarities. In both accounts, Jesus did not call his disciples to express individualism; Jesus did not ask his Disciples to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. We do not hear Him saying, “You will figure it out. You will grow into the job.”

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Instead Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” The way I understand it, Jesus was saying, “Follow me, and I will teach you how to make more followers.”

That is important. Being a follower of Jesus implies a certain level of empathy and compassion. Being a follower of Jesus implies a certain level of understanding and responsiveness. Being a follower of Jesus implies a certain level of kindness and consideration. “Fishing for people” takes lots of patience and lots of listening.

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Empathy, compassion, patience, the ability to listen and understand, responsiveness, kindness and consideration are NOT inexhaustible resources. It is very easy to run out of these resources; we have all been there. When we are down in the valley, when we have no empathy, no compassion, no understanding, no responsiveness, no kindness and no consideration left to give, we need time and energy to renew and to regenerate. We can only do it with help from others.

For that reason, Jesus called his disciples together, not separately. Andrew and Simon were called together. James and John were called together. Discipleship is not autonomous. When one is down, the others can help to carry the load. When Jesus said, “I will teach you to fish for people,” it also came with “without burning yourselves out, so that the work does not stop.”

The truth is that we cannot do discipleship on our own. We need each other. We cannot learn about God, or continue to mature spiritually and emotionally, on our own. We need each other.

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We see this in the epistle to Philippians chapter 2, where Paul writes:

NIV Philippians 2: 2… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…

12 … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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God created us to work towards common goals. I think of it as “flying in formation.” Canadian Geese travel great distances. A group of flying geese is called a skein, and a group of geese that is not in flight is called a gaggle. There are reports of skeins flying over 3,000 miles. The reason skeins can travel this far is because they fly in a distinct V‑shaped pattern, and because they build themselves into an egalitarian society. They do not constantly fight among themselves as to “who is the greatest”; when the leader is tired, another peer takes the lead.

Discipleship, “fishing for people” is like flying in formation. We need peers and colleagues. We need friends and neighbors. We need community and camaraderie. We need others to take risks, knowing that we will take the next ones, and vice versa.

Thinking Towards Sunday; January 21, 2018

Scripture for this Sunday is: Mark 1:14-20

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; John 1:35-51

Scriptures for this Sunday: John 1:35-51

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

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Occasionally I hear someone say that if they saw Jesus, or had a chance to hear Jesus call them personally like the people of Galilee did, they would become the most unwavering followers that there ever were. I mostly hear it from churched people, but from my experience I know that it is not how it works. In Jesus’ time, the people in synagogues, as well as priests and scribes – the people like us – largely rejected Jesus. His own synagogue wanted to throw him off a cliff after they heard him preach and liked his sermon (Luke 4:22, 29). It was the people on the periphery, those who considered themselves sinners and were not committed church goers, that were transformed the most by the message and presence of Jesus. So, what does it mean to be called by God?

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I have struggled with that question ever since the first time I felt the strange sensation of being called to ministry in November 1997. I think that the meaning of God’s call on our lives changes as we progress and mature in our faith and on our lives’ journeys. It is not unlike our maturation journeys.

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In his letter to Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me(1 Corinthians 13:9-11).

“Art is a lie that tells us something about the truth” (Pablo Picasso). Recently, my wife and I were binging on The Crown from Netflix. The first two seasons of the series give us a great example of what it means to be called to something and to accept this call.

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Young Queen Elizabeth is shown to constantly struggle with what it means to be the Queen. While there is a lot of pomp and circumstance in her life, she must also think about being a role model, about setting the tone for the government, and about representing something bigger than herself. That “something bigger than herself” consists of two parts.

  • Something tangible – her Country, and the people who live there.

  • Something intangible – the Crown.

The “what” of being the Queen does not change: she is the Monarch who represents England and she is a role model, challenging her subjects to dream and to bring her country into the future.

The “how” of being the Queen changes by the minute. We see her struggle to find ways to interact with Winston Churchill and other Prime Ministers, with President and Jackie Kennedy, with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (the premier of Ghana), and with Rev. Billie Graham, just to name a few.

In the first two seasons, we see young Queen Elizabeth stepping out and meeting people from all walks of life, meeting them where they are and trying to find common ideas and ideals that would propel the country forward. We watch her mature and grow into being the Queen; it becomes part of her identity.

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Today’s sermon is not about royalty. This sermon is about the nature of being called by God. The literary character of Queen Elizabeth from The Crown on NETFLIX© is an illustration of that process.

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The “what” of being a Follower of Jesus does not change; “Go forth and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world.” This Great Commission does not change.

The “how” of being a Follower of Jesus changes constantly with the times. {Illustration}

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All of us are called to something. While ordained ministry may be more involved than non-ordained ministry, being called to either consists of two parts:

  • Something tangible – the process of becoming the best version of yourself, the process of continual personal improvement.

  • Something intangible – pointing others to Jesus with every shred of your soul; being a representative of Jesus in this world; allowing God to use who and what we are whether we like it or not.

Today’s Gospel reading is about us – you and I – pointing others towards Jesus. Let me say it differently: Jesus’ finding disciples and followers starts with us.

Today’s reading does not start with Jesus saying, “Follow me.” It starts with John the Baptist seeing Jesus and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). Andrew heard John the Baptist, and went to get his brother Peter (John 1:42) before following Jesus. Phillip who knew both Andrew and Peter, went to get Nathanael (John 1:45).

Today we heard about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. After experiencing Jesus, Andrew called Peter, and Phillip called Nathanael. Today I want to ask you, how many people have you invited to follow Jesus? Last week, who did you tell about what Jesus means to you and what God has done in your life? The Great Commission is, “Go forth and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world…”

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It is truly simple to be a disciple. Discipleship is simple, but it is not easy. That is why Jesus himself established the Sacrament of the Holy Communion to nourish our souls along the way.

{Transition to the Celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

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Thinking Towards Sunday; January 14, 2018

Scriptures for this Sunday: John 1:43-51

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; New Year’s Eve; 12/31/2017

 Slide2

Today is December 31st; New Year’s Eve. Today is a day when we reflect on everything that happened in 2017 and celebrate the start of 2018.

Traditionally it is a time to make new promises and set new goals. A time to look ahead and think about what we can do to change things for the better. A time to look back and acknowledge that mistakes have been made, and what we can do to make amends. A time to start new and renew old friendships. A time to ask for forgiveness. It is a joyous time because it feels like we are given a clean page in a notebook that we will fill with our notes and memories throughout the coming year.

Earlier I said that it is a time to make promises and set new goals. Anyone who was not born yesterday knows that some of these promises will be broken, some others will be kept.

I want to make it clear that I do not believe even for a second that any of us make promises that we know ahead of time will be broken. Unfortunately circumstances change, or what we promised becomes irrelevant, or more urgent or more important tasks claim precedence. It is fair to say, however, that all of us do everything in our power to carry our lives forward, to move toward accomplishing our goals. All of us strive to live the “abundant lives” that God envisions for us.

Slide3

While I do not compare the importance of the calendar date of “January 1st” with the First Advent of Jesus 2000 years ago (his birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection), the incarnation of Jesus (the time that God spent among us) also ushered in a new period in the history of humanity.

Slide4

On this eve of 2018, I hope that all of us make a commitment to a New Year that carries Christmas forward, that aligns us with what God is doing in the world. “…  if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Slide5

With the birth of Jesus, God gave humanity a new start, a clean notebook in which to take notes. “… do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Slide6

Throughout the history of the Church, that notebook has wonderful notes that showcase our accomplishments, and unfortunately some notes that are less than complimentary. To give an example, throughout its history the Church helped to advance arts and sciences, and at the same time was instrumental in advancing faith-wars. 

Slide7

Life is messy. That is why we sometimes feel that we just want to leave our past behind and start fresh.

{Illustration}

Slide8

I wish I could stand before you today and say that it is that easy. Moving halfway across the world will not wipe away our memories and experiences. If we build a new building today, we will find that tomorrow it will become outdated. The point I am trying to make is that the promise of every “new year,” the promise of every new period in our lives, is built on our past accomplishments, mistakes and achievements.

Slide9

Jesus himself taught, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). God takes our past experiences, redeems them on the Cross, and builds on them to offer new possibilities on the journey of our lives.

As our worship comes to a close today, let us remember that God makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). God helps us to keep the hope alive in our hearts (Psalm 71:14) and cause our souls and spirits to be born again (John 3:16) every day.

God comes to us disguised as life (Fr. Richard Rohr). God brings to us the newness of life today, in this world of ours. The boundary between the old and new year, the man-made distinction, is a perfect time to reflect on the presence of God in our lives and the newness and potential of life that comes with God.

 

Something to think about…

… there is a time for everything under heaven.

When we’re thirteen and getting ready to graduate from eighth grade, the world is our oyster, but when we get to our mid-forties, like me, and we’ve cracked a few of those oysters looking for the pearl of great price only to find a mouthful of gritty sand, we get jaded and cold and cynical.

But a new beginning is waiting right around the corner. Life is change. It’s never too late to learn something new, to go on a date, to start a new job, to embrace the hope of life anew.

God sent His only Son to be our Savior that we might have life, and have it to the full. Now.

Today . . . God doesn’t want us just to suffer in this life, so that we can get some delayed payment plan in heaven. God wants us to know the newness of life today, in this world of ours.

~~ Fr. Mike Boutin (http://www.patheos.com/resources/additional-resources/2010/06/new-beginnings-weekly-reflection#4Z5DEZWGXF2K2Idt.99)

Thinking Towards Sunday; New Year’s Eve 2018

Scripture for this Sunday: Isaiah 40:28-31

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

Approximate Notes for the Christmas Eve Message; Christmas Eve 2017

This Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Advent and it is also the Christmas Eve.

< < < 4th Sunday of Advent >>>

Scriptures for 11 am worship service are Luke 1:26-56

You can read these Scriptures here {NIV and ESV}

< < < Christmas Eve > > >

Scripture for Christmas Eve service at 7 pm will be Isaiah 9:2-6 and Luke 2:1-20

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

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I am stunned by the simplicity and elegance of the story of the birth of Jesus. A couple of weeks ago, on December 3, 2017, we talked about the socio-political environment in Judea into which Jesus was born. {Here is the link to that sermon: Click Me to go to Pastor Asher’s Blog}

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We saw that Jesus was born into a world torn by ideological bickering and civil wars. Judea was divided into warring factions; everyone had an opinion about everything and nobody cared to take the time to understand what others thought or wanted to say.

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Some Judeans were hoping for a military resolution: they hoped for a leader – a general – who would lead them to victory and independence.

Some others were hoping for a political resolution: they hoped for a philosopher – a wise man – who would help the warring factions find common ground.

Others wanted a priest who would inspire respect for the Temple.

Others wanted a Rabbi who would give them a blueprint for how to navigate their lives.

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Because everyone was so self-absorbed with their own agendas (Luke 22:24), the birth of Jesus was largely unnoticed. But if we listen to the story of Jesus’ birth, if we listen to the story of Christmas, it is easy to see how this story offered something for each of the different factions to relate to.

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Those who wanted a general, a military leader that would lead them to victory and political independence, heard the story of a baby that was born under incredible circumstances. There were Angels foretelling his birth and interacting with Zechariah, Mary and Joseph. This child had to seek safety in Egypt before returning to his own people and inspiring their hearts with hope. And when they heard that story, they could not help but draw parallels with their favorite military leader: young Moses who led the Hebrews out of Egypt.

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Those who were hoping for a philosopher, a wise man who would find a political resolution to all their woes, heard about the Magi, the wise men who saw the light of a star no bigger than a pinhole, and were able to discern from what they saw that something wonderful was happening in Judea.

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Those who wanted a priest that would inspire respect for the Temple, heard that the Wise men came and as a sign of respect brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

{Also: significance and symbolism of gold, frankincense and myrrh as presented to the Messiah}

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Those who wanted a Rabbi that would give them a blueprint for how to navigate their lives heard a story of lowly shepherds who were practically given turn-by-turn instructions taking them straight to the manger.

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The story of the birth of our Savior had something for everyone because he came for everyone. Jesus was born among us, to be one of us, to touch our hearts and souls, to make God personal and to inspire us to be better men and women no matter our station or political beliefs.

The good news is that Christmas is a story about fallible humans who, having been touched by God, sought to spend the rest of their lives striving to live up to God’s revealing presence.

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My hope is that this Christmas we all become the characters in this story: whether we are unkempt and tired like the shepherds, privileged like the magi or Temple priests, anxious political leaders or harried parents. God has a dream for all of us. We all have the chance to hear the message, and to be transformed through experiencing God in our own hearts.

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Approximate Notes for the Message for the 4th Sunday of Advent; Luke 1:26-56

This Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Advent and it is also the Christmas Eve.

< < < 4th Sunday of Advent >>>

Scriptures for 11 am worship service are Luke 1:26-56

You can read these Scriptures here {NIV and ESV}

< < < Christmas Eve > > >

Scripture for Christmas Eve service at 7 pm will be Isaiah 9:2-6 and Luke 2:1-20

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

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We don’t spend much time talking about the Holy Mother. I think that we talk about Mary on the fourth Sunday of Advent, and then she gets an honorable mention here and there (i.e. the miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).)

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The nativity story begins with a visit by Angel Gabriel to a young woman, on the verge of marriage. We are not told that she is sinless or overly pious. She was a child of a mortal father and mother who shared in the challenges and ambiguities of human life, and faced their own mortality just like everyone else. As a matter of fact, they are so insignificant that we know nothing about them. Lots of ink and emotional energy was spent on doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Virgin Birth, and today I am not here to argue against or for those. But I also realize that a sinless and immaculate Mary does not provide either inspiration nor a role model for a wretch like me or for the rest of humankind. She was human. She was called by God to be the mother of God’s Messiah, but at the same time she is also “every woman” or “every person” who lived, who lives and will live on the face of the Earth. All of us are called by God, all of us live in challenging times, every one of us is a catalyst of the continual process of creation that God orchestrated from the beginning of time, and all of us are called to be God’s hands and feet as we serve God by serving the world in which we live.

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The Gospel account is clear that Mary was perplexed by Gabriel’s visit. “How can this be?” she asked when she learned of what God called her to do. All of us have said the same thing at one time or another when we were challenged to step out from our comfort zone. Am I the only one to doubt or even argue with God when called to do something that I do not particularly look forward to or feel capable of doing?

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Mary’s uniqueness is not her perfection; her uniqueness lies in her willingness to say “yes” to the humanly impossible task. She aligns her life, her actions, and her will with God’s will. Her whole life demonstrated that everything is possible when we are with God, what we see or understand as impossible may be part of God’s plan taking root. For all we know, there could have been other young women who said “no” before God came to Mary, but we do know that Mary said “yes.”

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The life of Mary is a challenge to all of us to consider where and how God is working through us. God is still active in our world and in our lives; God still calls us to be God’s agents, hands and feet in God’s Creation. God comes to us countless times each day, challenging us to be the best version of ourselves, to respond to challenges of life with creativity, patience and love, to imagine alternative possibilities for our lives, inviting us to seek peace, hospitality, and justice, and seeing the face of Christ in all.

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The life of Mary reminds us that although salvation is always personal, it is never individual. The call of Mary reminds us that when we explore God’s vision for us, the resulting actions benefit the whole universe. Because all of us are joined in the intricate body of Christ, all of our destinies are interwoven together. When Mary said “yes” to her call, her reply started a chain of events that transformed all life on earth – past, present and future.

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In preparation for Christmas, it is easy to neglect the voice of God amid all the busyness of shopping and partying. “While we are still sinners” (the Liturgy of the Holy Communion) God is challenging and inspiring us, God is seeking to impart something new in our lives; God is always challenging us to look beyond ourselves and to embrace the Holy around us.

When we do that we discover that we are part of something bigger than us; we are a part of a work in progress known as God’s revelation.

Ordinary people (like you and I) can do extraordinary things when we open ourselves to God’s presence in our lives, and say “yes” to God’s vision for us. Mary discovered a new life that she could not even imagine, and because of this her life touched all of our lives.

Are you saying “YES” to God’s calling for you, or are you hemming and hawing trying to find reasons to avoid God’s vision? Tomorrow is Christmas, all of us have our hands full with the festivities and obligations of the season. I want to challenge you to take time during this season to pause and listen for God’s messengers bringing God’s call to you. You will discover a world of wonders in which God whispers to each of us, inviting us to be catalyst of God’s creative birthing and rebirthing of our world.

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Thinking Towards Sunday; Sunday, December 24, 2017

This Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Advent and it is also the Christmas Eve.

< < < 4th Sunday of Advent >>>

Scriptures for 11 am worship service are Luke 1:26-56

You can read these Scriptures here {NIV and ESV}

< < < Christmas Eve > > >

Scripture for Christmas Eve service at 7 pm will be Isaiah 9:2-6 and Luke 2:1-20

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

Caroling Is Cancelled due to snow — 12/15/2017

Today is Friday, December 15, 2017 and I am sending this e-mail at approx. 3:45 pm

The Christmas caroling party planned for tonight has been cancelled due to the snow.  Roads are getting slick and we don’t want to take unnecessary chances.

We have rescheduled this event for next Friday, December 22 and hope that you can join us then.

Thinking Towards Sunday; 3rd Sunday of Advent

This Sunday our Choir will present a Cantata.

We hope to see many guests and visitors at church.

After the Cantata, there will be a lunch served in the downstairs fellowship hall.

Cantata

  • A Word from our Choir Director

  • Voice 1: (*) Isaiah 7:13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

  • Voice 2: (*) Isaiah 11: 1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— 3and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

  • Hymn – Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”

  • Voice 2: (*) Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

  • Voice 1: (*) Luke 2: 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

  • HymnIt Came Upon a Midnight Clear”

  • Voice 1: When Mary learned that she is to give birth to the Messiah, her response was powerful and humble in its simplicity:

  • Voice 2: (*) My soul glorifies the Lord” she said, 
    “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
    From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    49 for the Mighty One
    has done great things for me —
    holy is his name.
    50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
    51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those
    who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
    52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
    53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
    54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
    55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
    (Luke 1:46-55)

  • Song of Mary and Joseph – Duet

  • Voice 1: Worship starts in a heart that has experienced the saving grace and presence of God. Worship is our heartfelt response to the Love of God who emptied Himself of Divine Glory and became a human so that he could take upon Himself the sins of the world.

  • Hymn – O Come, All Ye Faithful

  • Voice 1: (*) Luke 2: 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

  • Voice 2: (*) Luke 2: 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
    14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those
    on whom his favor rests.”
    15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,
    the shepherds said to one another,
    “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
    which the Lord has told us about.”

  • Hymn – “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

  • Voice 1: Something happens when we are in the presence of the Holy. We may not be aware of that presence at the time, we may not know what is happening at the time, and all of sudden we realize that we have reached a new understanding, or we see something from a different perspective and we grew as a result. We are not the same that we were just one day ago, because of that experience we are different. Instead of a storm we see an opportunity, instead of desperation we feel hope and instead of incapacity and inability we feel empowered, and our spirits are renewed.

  • Voice 2: Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:27) to come to the Temple Courts and there he was blessed by holding a baby, and as he held that baby he realized that he was looking into the eyes of God. Can you imagine how it felt to look into the eyes of God?
    Prophetess Anna was a penniless widow; she lived in the Temple Courts begging strangers for charity… She saw lots of babies, and many parents would toss her a penny or two as a way to share their own joy and hopes for new additions to their family… Prophetess Anna sensed the Holy in the baby that Mary and Joseph brought into the Temple according to the custom of the day. She too was blessed by seeing the Glory of God as she held that baby to her chest.

  • Voice 1: The presence of the Holy is all around us. Our impact on the world that we live in depends on how we experience and react to that presence in our lives, and how we allow that presence to renew and refresh our spirits.

  • Choir Anthem – “When I Kneel at the Manger Tonight”

  • Voice 1: In Psalm 46:10 (*) we hear, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” There is an obvious irony in any attempt to talk about silence.  It’s like trying to describe the indescribable or to illustrate the invisible.  The task itself is inherently impossible.  Silence can only speak for itself: not through words, but through experience. 
    Voice 2: Countless generations of Christians struggled with stillness and silence. Stillness and silence calls us to listen. We listen for the words of love and compassion, for the healing presence of God in our lives. In the silence of our hearts, there are words that God addresses to each of us. In that silence, God makes known His infinite love for us, His passionate desire to lead us from brokenness to wholeness and from death to eternal life.

  • Voice 1 and 2 in unison: (*) “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1)

  • Hymn  – “Silent Night”

  • Choir Anthem – Sweet Jesus in the Manger”

  • Choir Anthem – “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice,  Rejoice Believers”

  • An Afterword from our Choir Director


PARTING WORDS AND BENEDICTION

Approximate Notes of Sunday’s Message; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; 2nd Sunday of Advent

Scripture for this week 2 Peter 3:8-15a

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

“I know he came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man who one day died for you and me
My sins would drive the nails in him
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath he drew was Hallelujah”

 

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It is the Advent Season; Christmas is just around the corner and we want to think about baby Jesus, cute reindeer with jingly bells, singing angels, and shepherds rejoicing in the fields.

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Today’s Scripture does not seem to tell any of that. Today’s lectionary reading says things like, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”

Pretty drastic. How could it be that Jesus’ second coming is compared to the coming of a common thief?

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Last week we saw that Jesus was born into a world torn by ideological bickering and civil wars. Judea was divided into warring factions; everyone had an opinion about everything and nobody cared to take the time to understand what others thought or wanted to say.

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Some Judeans were hoping for a military resolution: they hoped for a leader – a general – who would lead them to victory and independence.

Some others were hoping for a political resolution: they hoped for a philosopher – a wise man – who would help the warring factions find common ground.

Others wanted a priest who would inspire respect for the Temple.

Others wanted a Rabbi who would give them a blueprint for how to navigate their lives.

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Because everyone was so self-absorbed with their own agendas, the birth of Jesus was largely unnoticed. In today’s Scripture reading we heard that “the day of the Lord” – the Second Coming – “will come like a thief.” Any thief hopes to come and leave your house unnoticed. The man who wrote today’s Scripture makes a point that Jesus came and left largely unnoticed because the world that he was born into was too busy bickering. In the Gospel of John Chapter 1 verse 11 we read, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

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Those who do not learn from history will repeat its mistakes.

All of us are busy getting ready for Christmas — shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, writing cards and invitations. There’s a lot of pressure this time of the year for things to be {“} “perfect”; we search for the perfect gift, we make sure that the house is ready for visitors, we fuss, we hustle and bustle to make sure that elusive “perfection” is captured, stabilized and anchored in the spot where we want it to be.

That pressure of perfection is exhausting. With all that busyness it is too easy to lose sight of the real reason for our activity: “the Word made flesh coming to dwell among us” (John 1:1-5).

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The hustle and bustle of preparation around us can extinguish the light of God within us.

This year I want to challenge all of us (myself included) to trade the hustle and bustle, trumped-up habits, personal traditions and expectations of ourselves and others for a little more peace in your heart and in your home. Let the recognition that God came to be among us fill every nook and cranny of our souls. May the Light of God that John talked about shine all around you this Christmas season. With all the busyness, let us not forget to prepare a peaceful place in our hearts where Jesus is welcome to come and to dwell.

In our shopping and baking, let us remember that not everyone has the resources to shop and bake and decorate their home. What needs to change in our society so that more families can make ends meet, and what can we do as a church to facilitate that societal change?

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Today’s opening song asserts that Jesus’ whole life was Halleluiah! What is your “Halleluiah?”

May you be the personification of the mind and the Spirit of Christ (Phil 2:5).

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Thinking Towards Sunday; December 10, 2017, 2 Sunday of Advent

Scripture for this week 2 Peter 3:8-15a

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

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