To all those who receive the blog, it will be in recess until the end of January. Many blessings upon you all at this time
Call to Worship - (Joanne Carlson Brown, Abingdon 2016)
A challenge and a reflection all rolled into one. Anyone who looks, can see the terrible state of the world and how that affects the people in it, especially those with the least resources. But, if we look more closely, we can see "God alive and active in the world."
Join with those who are following God's holy way. We give thanks for God's encouraging presence.
"Prepare the way of the Lord. "We hear the words and remember that by the side of the river, John the Baptist pointed the people towards Jesus with words of power and assurance...We believe in the Holy Spirit, who breathes warmth into our cold places, who touches with living fire the sad parts of our life and who remembers with grief, all the hurts we cannot name.”
Hymn TIS 156: “Morning has broken” Just as it did on that first morning, lifting our hearts and inspiring us to new possibilities. Thanks be to God.
Opening Prayer (paraphrase)
God of transformation and love, we come to this time of worship yearning for a vision and the promise of a better world. Open us to your dream. Strengthen us by what we see in the actions of our sisters and brothers. Inspire us with a vision of walking your Holy Way. May we sing with Mary, witness with Jesus, and make your dream a reality. Amen.
A Prayer of Confession (paraphrase)
God of the Holy Way, we see the world as it is, and despair of doing anything about it.
There will always be wars. There will always be injustice. There will always be pain and suffering. Yes, Jesus worked miracles, but that was him, and that was then.
Where is the hope now? Help us catch your vision, your dream for the world.
Take from us our weak resignation. Help us realize that with you all things are possible, and that with you guiding our way, not even fools, like us, can go astray. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
God says to those who are fearful of heart: Be strong, do not fear! God is with us no matter what. The time is coming when all will know joy and gladness, when sorrow and sighing will flee away. Thanks be to God!
Peace be within you! And also with you!
Dreaming God, you have set before us a vision of what can and should be for your world and for your people. Use these gifts of money and resources to bring your vision to reality. We offer ourselves and our work, as embodiments of the promise, the vision and the pledge to bring your beloved community, here and now. Amen.
Hymn TIS 188: “Where wide sky rolls down and touches red sand” A declaration of the vision of God as he declares himself in creation. Brilliant!
Isaiah 35:1-10 An account of all creation breaking out in all God's glory. When I read any passage like this one, I think of the possibilities for people like us.
James 5:7-10 If we think about it, it is a bit odd being impatient with God. He really does know what he is doing.
Matthew 11:2-11 Was Jesus the One? Look at what's happening! And then Jesus tells them how John, as great as he is, is only part of the picture.
For the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Preaching of the Word
John (our John, not the one in the reading) told of a time when he was "wowed" by all the wonders of an agricultural show. Jesus asked the crowds what they were expecting when they went out to hear John the Baptist.
John said that he had a suspicion the people that day were just as taken aback by what they saw along the Jordan River as he was when arriving at those large A&P Shows. He was expecting to see a show that would take an afternoon to survey; he found a mammoth maze of exhibits. The people that day went out to the river probably expecting to see a madman putting on a religious show. They got a man announcing the advent of God’s Messiah.
"Are we, the church, speaking truth to the powers that exist in our day and time, or do we fear ridicule and chastisement of those who pay the bills? Do we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to injustice so that we won’t upset the people who are the power brokers in our congregations?" John was in prison because he was incapable of seeing evil without rebuking it. "Our shock is to motivate us to speak truth to injustice just as John, Jesus, and his would-be disciples did in their own day." For that we have to be disciples, nothing less.
Hymn TIS 161: “Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord” That takes courage. Courage to tell the world just how great God is.
The coming of our God is at hand. Come, Jesus, come and save us. We pray for the world, for all places of conflict and strife. When you come, the broken, bleeding lands are healed, places of death blossom with new life. Come, Jesus, come and save us. John continued to pray for the victims of this broken world, asking God to come among us. Then we joined in the Lord's Prayer.
Hymn TIS 687: “God gives us a future” In the service to this point we have been given a mighty challenge. Here is more of the same but with encouragement to send us along. Do we dare?
Benediction.The Holy Way of God lies before us— a way even fools cannot stray from. Let us walk God’s Way, with the strength and the promise of God in our hearts, with the song of Mary in our souls, and with the example of Jesus to guide our steps. Amen.
Hymn TIS 780: May light come into your eyes