The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
December 6, 2020
Second Sunday of Advent – B
LIGHTING OF THE ADVENT CANDLES
Week 2: Peace Candle
Reader: The first candle on the Advent wreath was the candle for hope. The second candle reminds us to pray and work for peace. We are also called, through the Holy Spirit, to look for the signs of God’s peace in the world. Peace is not merely the absence of fighting or war. Peace is the restoration of relationships within creation and between peoples and nations to their true order, which bring glory to their Creator.
Light the candles
All: Holy and life-giving God, your Son, our Savior, carries the title “Prince of Peace”. You have called us to imitate Him in thought, word, and deed. Let us seek to be peacemakers in our homes, in the community, and in the world. We thank you, God, for Your peace, which passes all understanding. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
PRELUDE Savior of the Heathen, Come Bach
CALL TO WORSHIP
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
God will make a way through the wilderness.
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed
All people shall see it together.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken;
God is preparing to do a new thing.
Come, let us worship our God, who is coming into our world in a new way. Amen.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
Brothers and sisters in Christ, draw near to God and he will draw near to you; humble yourself before him and he will lift you up. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. The Lord will not despise a broken and contrite heart.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
Almighty God and Father in heaven
who also makes his home with those
of a humble and contrite spirit:
Before you and our Lord Jesus Christ
we confess the sin
of ignoring your presence in the Spirit,
of failing to look for the return of our Savior and Judge.
We also confess our blindness to your coming
in those who are lonely, hungry, cold, poor, and sick.
In your great goodness,
put away our offenses
and cleanse us from our sins,
for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Silence is observed
RESPONSE “Prepare the Way of the Lord”
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15)
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen, amen.
PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
ANTHEM Bethlehem Promise Martin
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Empower us by your Spirit, O God, to hear your Word amid the words that we read and speak this day. Enable us to discern your light and follow the path you set before us. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Mark 1:1-8
1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Over the past several weeks, the Oehler family has been waiting with hopeful expectation…
No not for Thanksgiving…
No, not for the season of Advent…
No, not for a certain college student’s return…
No, we are waiting for the next episode of Disney Plus’ THE MANDALORIAN. A series from George Lucas’ STAR WARS universe. We have become fascinated with this story and specifically the character known as THE CHILD or BABY YODA – and recently named Gro-gu. We wait for Friday evening and then joyfully watch the journey of this tiny green creature. This is not the first-time people like us have waited for STAR WARS stories.
Pastor Brian Cole shares a story from his childhood that begins in a local restaurant: From our booth at the Shoney’s, we had a clear view of the Malco Twin movie house. It was 5 p.m. on a Thursday evening in early June of 1977. At this hour, the parking lot of the Malco Twin was still empty.
The three of us had all ordered Big Boy platters because we always ordered Big Boy platters. My older brothers, Craig and Gary, were just home from college and my parents had made them take me to the movies.
The night before, Craig and Gary had gone to the movies by themselves, without their nine-year-old little brother in tow, in order to see Star Wars. They got there as the movie was about to start, only to discover it was sold out. So, they drove back home across the Arkansas-Missouri line and told us the news. The movie was sold out.
We thought they were kidding. How could it be sold out? How could anything in our part of the world draw that much of a crowd to take up every seat in a movie theatre?
Basketball games didn’t sell out. Church didn’t sell out. People were never turned away at the Fourth of July picnic at the park.
Star Wars, we would soon discover, was different. It had sold out. There was no room for Craig and Gary. They would have to try again on Thursday. And they would have to take me because Mom and Dad said I could go.
My brothers decided to leave nothing to chance and so arrived at the Shoney’s just before 5 p.m. so we could eat dinner and keep an eye out for the first cars to pull into the movie house parking lot. By the time we finished our dinner, it was still over an hour before the movie was to begin. The parking lot was still empty.
We walked over to the outdoor ticket counter and formed the head of the line. Sell-out or not, we would be first. We were ready. We had prepared the way.
This is all very exciting when you are a nine-year-old. This must be what college is like, with early dinners at Shoney’s and blue jean jackets with American flags on one sleeve, standing in line one hour before Star Wars began, looking back across now to the Shoney’s and the cotton field beyond that. This was edgy.
By the time the ticket counter opened, there was indeed a long line behind us. The other movie being shown that night was The Spy Who Loved Me. Five people were in line to see it. Star Wars sold out again that evening.
I have never been so proud of my brothers, Craig and Gary. While Star Wars was unlike anything I had ever seen, it was the story before the story, the stakeout of the Malco Twin parking lot from a northeast Arkansas Shoney’s that I remember most from that evening.
From that time on, Brian Cole said, he has always had a desire to get to places early, often way too early. Star Wars is a rare thing, but it could happen again and we could miss out.
So, He shows up way too early for most things and hides in the car, reading the book he leaves in the car for when he arrives too early for things. He states that he parks at the other end of the street so he doesn’t realize he has arrived two hours early, without a Shoney’s in sight.
This is why Rev. Cole loves Advent and especially this lesson from the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, and I would agree with him. According to the theologian John Shea, this passage involves the good news of Jesus Christ “beginning before it begins.” This is one of those moments when arriving early means getting there on time. Advent is a story about preparing for a story.
John the Baptist gets there early because he has work to do, to prepare the way, for the One whose way would become the Way. This is the time before disciples, before disciples of Jesus or disciples of John, so John strikes out alone, before anyone is expecting a story to start.
We need to remember that John’s father was struck dumb for the whole of his wife’s pregnancy because he was unable to believe that Elizabeth was pregnant with the story before the story -before the story, since they were old. Along with Mary and her quietly pondering heart, the nine-month silencing of John’s father, Zechariah, probably adds significant weight to our belief that Advent is a contemplative, whispering, Quiet Mouse-Still Mouse-kind of liturgical season. If you want to keep Advent, we tend to think it is essential that you keep it down, unplugged and acoustic, holding your breath until the baby has arrived.
But if we believe that is the case, then we need to recall John the Baptist is found all over Advent. And the Baptist is not known for keeping the volume down.
He is a shouter. He is a for-crying-out-loud prophet. He is a make-straight-the-way-what-has-been-crooked preacher. Such gestures are not found among the introverted and the unassuming. Such gestures are found among the agitators and the not ready for prime-time forerunners of the Messiah.
For John the Baptist to be the beginning before the beginning, there is no doubt that something has begun. Advent might be a quiet season, but that is more likely true only if you stand a far distance from John. Otherwise, it is a Pentecost of one, with one man possessing every tongue necessary to let you know what time it is. It is the time to prepare the way of the Lord.
From Isaiah, the writer of Mark’s Gospel recalls that preparing the way calls for making the path straight. Again, that doesn’t sound like quiet work. A prophet out in the wilderness, making a ruckus with cries and path straightening is bound to draw a crowd at some point.
Once a crowd shows up and hears the preacher, crowds both from the countryside and the city, getting themselves baptized by John while telling him their secrets, it would be easy for everyone involved to believe this is the story. This moment out here in the wilderness, with John, this is the fulfillment, the work is done now.
But John chooses to correct that line of thinking. He says to them, “You think this is the end? You think this is the power of God? My brothers and sisters, this is the beginning. This is the beginning of the beginning. I come with water. But one is coming, the one from the true power of God, and he will wash the Spirit over you.” For a moment, the crowd thought they had already seen the whole thing. John let them know they just happened to be early.
That is where we are now. While we wait, we practice the faith, striving to be at peace, with ourselves, each other and God’s creation. The peace we share has been given to us by the One who has reconciled all things.
And we regard the patience of God as salvation, not forgetfulness. For as God waits, we know there is still time, time for everyone, the neighbor, the stranger, the enemy, all welcomed in, to tell them what time it is, to let them know there is still room, in the story before the story.
This is not a story that sells out. This is not a story where God desires anyone to perish. The only thing that will die forever is the Empire. The people, God is waiting for the people. If it takes another day, another thousand years, God can wait. The people are worth it.
This is not a time to whisper. This is a time to shout. If someone asks you what church you attend, tell them you go to that shouting church. Tell them you are a shouting Adventist, in the line of John. The words that are offered here are comforting words, but the words have to be cried out, to be heard over all the crooked paths and the noise of despair.
It is all about to begin now, the story before the story. They need to hear from us, the cries and the calls that Advent has begun and the wilderness is filling up again with the penitent and the baptized and the free. In the wilderness, God’s Spirit has made a city.
Let us pray. Merciful God, you sent your messengers, the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation. Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Commentary provided by John Shea, Brian L. Cole, Courtney V. Buggs, Karoline Lewis, Greg Carey, Scott Hoezee, Karoline Lewis, Lance Pape, Jill Duffield, Sarah A. Johnson, and David Lose.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Apostles’ Creed
I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION
God’s Banquet is coming. The time we await when all will gather from North, East, West and South.
A banquet where the rich and powerful will sit with the weak and poverty-stricken. A table where young and old will learn from each other. A time when all will sit together in peace, “and the wolf will lie down with the lamb”.
Here at this table we get a foretaste of God’s banquet. This is indeed God’s table, not the church’s, and so all who seek to follow The Way are welcome to eat and drink from it.
Come and taste the grace eternal, come and see that God is good.
The Great Thanksgiving
God is with us
We are not alone
Christ is present here
The Spirit moves within us
Let us give thanks to God
In memory and in hope
Blessings be to you, Creator God,
Who in the beginning brought light and life to the world and who continues to bring it love and light everlasting.
Your song of wisdom echoes through the ages, your ancient promise still brings us hope.
Over the ages you have called people to embrace your hope and share your love.
But even when they have closed their ears to the song you did not stop singing.
You sent prophets and messengers to your people, reminding them of the promised time of peace and justice that would surround the world.
They came in the midst of our despair and filled us with hope.
And then you came to a young woman named Mary and laid out the promise in a new way
Promising her a son, who would be called Jesus
Promising her that in her son the world would be changed
And now as we prepare for that child to be born, we echo the ancient cry:
O come, O come Emmanuel
And also we lift our voices in song, singing together the praises of ages (MV #203 tune: Kingsfold)
O holy holy holy God,
O God of time and space.
All earth and sea and sky above
bear witness to your Grace.
Hosanna in the highest heav’n,
creation sings your praise.
And blessed is the One who comes
and bears Your name always
The Story Remembered
Yet even now, as we prepare to celebrate his birth, we remember the life that this baby will live.
We remember how he broke the bonds of human tradition to show all what the Banquet of Hope could be as he ate openly with the despised and the outcast of his world.
And we remember one special meal, foretaste of the banquet that is to come, that he ate with his closest friends.
Gathering them together in an upper room to share the story of liberation, he prepared them for liberation.
And at the end of the meal he took bread, blessed and broke it, then passed it to them saying:
Take and eat. This bread is the body of Life, broken by the world. Eat it in remembrance and in hope.
After that he took the cup, blessed it, and passed it to them saying:
This cup is the sign of the New Covenant. Whenever you drink it remember me, for I shall not eat or drink again until the time of the heavenly banquet.
Remembering the birth of the child in the stable, we remember also his life, his death and his resurrection.
We remember how he poured his love out all he met and look forward to his return and the coming reign of peace, love, and justice.
And in our remembering we sing the mystery of faith (MV #204 tune: Kingsfold)
Sing Christ has died and Christ is risen,
Christ will come again!
Sing Christ has died and Christ is risen,
Christ will come again!
The Spirit Transforms
God, you poured your Spirit on Mary and she sang words of defiance and hope.
Pour out your Spirit upon us gathered here. As we eat and drink may we know your presence.
As we eat and drink may we be opened to the possibilities of your hope and power
And may we be strengthened in our time of waiting for peace and justice so that we will have the courage to make the Christmas promise a reality.
And the people all sang: (MV #205 tune: Kingsfold)
Amen, amen, O Holy One!
Hosanna and amen!
Amen, amen, O Holy One!
Hosanna and amen!
And now, as beloved children of a loving Parent, we pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…
The Pouring and Breaking and Serving
The Bread we break is the Bread of Life
The Cup we Share is the Cup of Promise
These are the gifts of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.
Come and eat, the banquet awaits.
Prayer Following Communion
God of pregnant expectations, God of Christmas promise, God of child-like hope, we have eaten and drunk from your table. May the eating and the drinking fill us with hope in a world of despair. May we be beacons of hope as we wait for the day when the world will be changed. Grant that this taste of your banquet which is to come would give us the hunger for peace and justice in our community and around the world. Amen
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
God has given us resources, talents and life itself. So, let us now respond by offering our gifts, our time, our money and our lives to God as instruments in God’s service.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Praise God, all creatures high and low. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise God, in Jesus fully known: Creator, Word, and Spirit one. Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
O God, we offer our gifts to you that may they be used to further the promise of hope, peace, love and justice in our community and in our world. Empower us, O God, to follow these gifts into our community and world so that they, and we, may become bearers of peace, love and justice on the earth. Amen.
Can you be a voice crying in the wilderness?
Can you proclaim that God is active in the world?
The time is near, of the crowning of the year.
We sing with angels,
setting the roadways and the buildings humming
As people who are being changed,
we go into a world that is being changed.
Ready to share the Good News
that the long-expected Jesus is coming,
that we are being freed from whatever binds us.
Glory be to God!
Who walks with us, sings with us, and struggles with us,
each and every day. Amen