Worship on the Lord’s Day
First Sunday in Advent 03 December 2023 10:00 am
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev. Brad Childs
Music Director: Binu Kapadia Vocalist: Lynn Vaughan
Elder: Jane de Caen
We gather to worship God
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship
Call to Worship
Voice 1: The prophets call and the psalmist sings to announce that hope comes from God.
Voice 2: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.” (Isaiah 64)
“We shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27)
Voice 1: The world cries for justice and transformation. Advent summons us to watch, to wait and to hope. In the destruction of the current order is the promise of a new order beyond our imagination. Signs of hope are all around us if we have the patience to wait and to see them.
Voice 2: Holy are you, Source of all new life among us.
All: Jesus Christ comes as the hope of the world.
Voice 2: We join with all creation and lift our hearts in joyful praise.
All: We light this candle to bear witness to hope.
Lighting the candle of Hope
Opening praise: Hope is a star (119:vs 1)
Prayers of approach and confession
You made the heavens and the earth.
You set the planets in their courses, lit the sun with fire, caused the stars to shine and the world to turn.
Life springs up wherever your breath moves.
In Jesus Christ, you brought hope into a world full of fear and despair.
You sent your Spirit to enliven our hope and guide us on the way.
Now we wait in anxious times for the world to be made new.
Move in us and in all your creation to bring forth new life, while we wait with hope in your grace and goodness.
We confess that waiting is difficult when the world around us is on edge.
We are impatient with each other, waiting for someone to make a difference.
We are impatient with you, O God, waiting for a sign that things will improve.
Forgive us, O God.
Turn our hearts to you again and again, and show us how to act in hope for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Response: I waited, I waited on you, Lord
Assurance of God’s grace
Hear the Good News! There is nothing we have done, nothing we will ever do, that can separate us from the love of God made known in Jesus Christ. Take hope in this love, and live as forgiven and forgiving people.
We listen for the voice of God
Song: All earth is waiting (109)
Scripture (NRSV): I Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37; and Romans 8:18-25
Response: My Lord, he’s a comin’ soon
A prominent speaker in the United Kingdom tells this story that carries us back to his boyhood. When he was six years old, his mother explained that if he ever needed help, he should dial “0” for the operator and ask for Information. One day, when the boy’s mother was away, his pet canary, which always sang for him seemed to be sick and unable to sing. He remembered what his mother had told him, dialed “0” for Operator and asked for Information just as he was told. Then he explained that his canary was ill. The operator, who just happened to know a lot about canaries, gave him some constructive advice and it was not long before the canary was happy and up singing again.
Thereafter, because of the success he had, the first time he called the boy began to believe, in his young impressionable mind, that the Operator was there to help him with all his life’s problems. And so, every time the boy was alone and needed help, he would dial for Operator. Since he lived in a very small town, it was the same operator who answered each time.
Sadly, one day the boys canary died, and the boy called the operator, who had become his closet friend, and asked if there was anything he could do to bring the canary back to life again. The kind woman simply comforted him and told the boy, “Remember this, no matter what becomes of life, there are other worlds in which to sing.”
I think Paul says essentially the same thing.
As the story goes, an older man goes to his doctor and says, “I don’t think my wife’s hearing is as good as it used to be. What should I do?”
The doctor replies, “Try this test to find out for sure. When your wife is in the kitchen doing dishes, stand 15 feet behind her and ask her a question. If she doesn’t respond keep moving closer, asking the question until she hears you. Then come back and see me with the results.”
So, the man goes home and sees his wife preparing dinner. He stands 15 feet behind her and says, “What’s for dinner, honey?” No response. He moves to 10 feet behind her and asks again “What’s for dinner, honey?” No response. Five feet… Not a sound.
Finally, he stands directly behind her and asks, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” And at that the man’s wife dropped her ladle. “For the fourth time Carl, I SAID CHICKEN!”
Like Carl and his hearing loss, we all face struggles in this life. Sometimes it’s something we can solve with a hearing aid. Sometimes it’s not.
Woody Allen once said, “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.”
In a way, it’s the catch-22 of life. It’s beautiful and it’s glorious. But it’s also hard. As writer, Chuck Palahniuk writes, “On a long enough timeline everyone’s survival rate drops to zero.”
Facts are facts… Suffering is universal. It’s one of the many things that every human being on earth has in common.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church suffering persecution in Rome, he was not oblivious to the reality of hardships himself. When we talk about Paul sometimes, we forget that he was a real man. He’s even found in Jewish writings in the first century because he was a student of a very influential Rabbi (named Gamaliel). And like everyone Paul had struggles. In fact, he bragged about it saying in 2 Corinthians saying, “I must be out of my mind for saying so”. Later he wrote to a group of people that bragged to him about how blessed they were saying, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked (2 Cor. 11). And he has more. But I think you get the point.
He suffered quite a lot.
In preparation for flogging, the person’s two hands were bound, one on either side, to a pillar, and his clothing was torn to expose the chest and back. The lashes were administered with a strap consisting of three long leather hide thongs. Twenty-six blows were given to the back and thirteen blows to the chest (This according to the Hebrew writing m. Makkot 3:10-14). This was done for the most severe of non-capital crimes 39 times – because 40 was considered a death penalty. But truth be told, people died all the time from 39 just the same (though that person doing the whipping was technically supposed to get in trouble for that). When Paul writes that he was beaten with rods he talks about the Roman punishment of using Birchwood staff to break bones and permanently cripple the criminal. At a time when infections couldn’t be fought off, people often died from this too.
In Acts, Luke also tells us that Paul and Silas were both stripped and beaten.
In Lystra during his first visit, a mob of people followed him from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium and started a riot because he suggested that God had blessed people from every part of the world. They stirred up the crowd and eventually stoned Paul, drug him into the desert and left him for the animals to eat (Acts 14:8-20).
Yeah… he got better. But no doubt Paul understood what it was to suffer.
The thing is he didn’t let that become the thing that ruled his mind. He wrote, “18 I consider that our present sufferings are not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
In Why We Can’t Wait, Martin Luther King Jr. put it this way, “Quietly endure, silently suffer and patiently wait.” It may not always feel like it… but there is a glory to come. If only more people lived that out today!
Paul continues saying, “22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved.”
Ruby and Arnold had adopted a baby boy after five years of trying unsuccessfully to conceive. To their surprise, and before the adoption had been finalized, Ruby discovered that she was finally pregnant. Ruby and Arnold decided to go ahead with the adoption anyway and she had a boy of her own only months after receiving their child from the adoption agency.
One day when her boys were both 8 years old a childhood friend came by to visit Ruby and her family. The friend hadn’t seen Ruby in years, but she understood Ruby had adopted one child. Sitting on a bench outside the old farmhouse the friend asked, “Which child is yours Ruby?” Taken aback a bit by the question, “Both of them” Ruby answered. “Oh, I’m sorry that must have sounded incredibly rude” said the friend with great apologies. “I didn’t mean it that way of course, what poor choice of words; forgive me.” “What I meant was, they both look very similar – which one was adopted?” “You know” said Ruby… “I’ve forgotten”. (From 750 Illustrations pg13)
Paul says, “you have received a spirit of adoption and are called children of God.”
And Paul’s understanding of adoption is different from ours. When we speak about adoption today, we are talking about taking a child that is not our own flesh and blood, and legally making them our own. And that happened in Paul’s day but that’s not what he means here.
Understand that the Romans and the Greeks had a ceremony called adoption or “the placing of the son” where a boy was declared a legal heir to an inheritance, called a man and given a toga as a sign of status. But the child was generally the father’s own flesh and blood being “adopted.”
I think Paul is making a very interesting point that is unfortunately lost in English translations. That being: In the Kingdom of God, there are no orphans; there are no stepchildren. God adopts his children… but we were really His to begin with anyway.
That’s why Paul also writes, “And if we are his children, then we are also his heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.
See, it’s not that people become Christians and all a sudden the world is made from ice cream and lollipops. Suffering is universal. But Paul writes to remind us that ultimately, we are under God’s care because we are His children.
The great Albert Einstein was on a train leaving Princeton Junction in New Jersey, heading north. When the conductor came to his seat, Einstein was unable to find his ticket. He searched through all his pockets and looked in his briefcase, becoming extremely disturbed. The conductor tried to comfort him, saying, “Dr. Einstein, don’t worry about the ticket. I know who you are, and you don’t have to present your ticket to me. I trust that you purchased a ticket.”
About twenty minutes later, the conductor came down the aisle of the train once again and saw Einstein, still searching wildly for the misplaced ticket. The conductor again said to him, “Dr. Einstein, please don’t worry about the ticket. I know who you are!”
Einstein stood and said in a gruff voice, “Young man, I know who I am, but I am trying to find my ticket because I want to know where I am going!”
Ever found yourself staring into the refrigerator trying to remember what you needed just two seconds earlier. Have you ever found yourself wondering if you are going up the stairs or coming back down? Get outside to the car and think “Where was going again?”
Not to put too fine a point on it but, Paul’s answer is “Heaven”.
Now it’s important to note that Paul is not all about the “sweet by and by” he very much had a theology of the here and now. But he also recognized that sometimes suffering goes unchecked on this side of life. The harsh reality is that for some people there just seems to be no justice.
And in the end no matter how well you are, what you’ve accomplished or who you have become, suffering will get you in the end.
Years later, after the boy now a young man, returned from his university studies, he remembered the kindly operator and decided to call her again. A woman answered and he explained who he was and gave his name and told the new operator how helpful her predecessor had been whenever he had needed help. He told her how she had become his friend and about how he’d missed their little chats.
The woman on the other end of the phone, said “I was told by Mrs. Jones about you”. “Mrs. Jones… the boy knew her. She was the sweat older lady with the garden down the street. That was the operator”. The new operator continued, “Yes, Mrs. Jones – She was the operation here for 56 years. And she told me that someday you might call again – perhaps even with a problem to help solve. She told me about you when she was very sick, and she knew she wouldn’t be long for this life. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Mrs. Jones passed away about three months ago. But she told me that if you ever called again, I should tell you something. I’ve been wondering what it means for a long time. “What did she tell you to say,” said the boy. At that there was a pause and then the voice on the other end of the phone said, “She told me to remind you that: There are other worlds in which to sing” (Stories to feed the Soul 125).
I don’t know what you are going through, what your kids, your families, your parents, neighbors, grandkids, friends, coworkers are going through. I don’t know what illness or hardships you sit with today. But I do know that everyone suffers. And I know that sometimes, drugs take kids’ lives, family break up, people get abused, suffering happens, people starve, homeless freeze, little boys get shot mistakenly for playing with toy guns, not everyone recovers from cancer, and there is not always justice this side of life.
And while I wouldn’t want you to focus too much on a world beyond this one and I do to remind you that we are a people of hope. And even if things go horribly array… There are still other worlds in which to sing. Amen.
Song: Here comes Heaven
We respond to serve God: Our time of giving
Reflection on giving: The first Sunday in Advent celebrates God’s gift of hope. It is not easy to be hopeful in stressful times. But God’s steadfast presence gives us the courage to hope. So we offer whatever we have to share, knowing our gifts can spread hope in the world God loves by touching lives in Jesus’ name.
Prayer of Dedication
God of hope, we offer you our gifts, knowing you can do with them more than we can ask or imagine. Bless what we offer as tangible signs of your love at work in a world on edge, and as symbols of the hope we share in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Friend. Amen.
Response: Praise God from whom all blessings flow (830)
Prayers of hope
Father God by whose hands the universe was created,
Through whose wisdom all mysteries are revealed
And by whose love Jesus Christ our Savior was sent into this our world.
We who claim fellowship with that same Jesus, ask that you hear our prayers and move our hearts to respond in whatever way your purpose is fulfilled, and your name glorified.
We pray for your world-wide Church, that its message of hope and salvation through Christ is proclaimed with boldness and clarity, with sincere faith and without malice or prejudice.
We pray for the church’s influence on the legal and civil life of our country; that its influence for the good of all citizens is not further eroded but expanded.
We pray for our denomination, for our leaders at various levels of governance that the Holy Spirit will guide them in all decisions.
We pray for our other local churches in our neighborhood… For Enjoy Life and Greenfield Baptist and others. We pray that people in need might find the help they deserve and the hope they need between these many walls and far beyond.
We pray for organizations throughout Edmonton who care for the abused and the disenfranchised.
Our world, Lord, is not all that it could be. It is amazing and yet also filled with hatred, injustice, and greed in its people and within and between the various nations. We pray for a time when all peoples will live in mutual respect and co-operation.
We pray for centers of open armed conflict, thinking of Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Ukraine, the Near East and many others – that negotiation will be seen as the only solution and that leaders may stand up to the challenges of brokering peace deals with their former enemies.
In most modern conflicts the divisions are compounded by ethnic, tribal, or religious differences and so we pray that the warring factions reassess their grievances and focus on those things which they have in common as a first step on the road to peace.
We remember our own armed forces both those active today and those who served in days gone past. We pray for safety and respect and calm heads.
We pray for people across the world whose access even to basic healthcare is limited and who fall victim to diseases that, with modern medicines, are both readily treatable and preventable.
And we give thanks, for despite what the news might accidentally project, we are living in the most peaceful period in human history. But it is not stable.
Despite the way it may appear on T.V. gun violence has been in decline for almost 20 years. But it is not stable.
And we thank you that even though things are expensive we are some of the most privileged people the world has ever know… just by living where we do.
Lord, we pray for our own country and society. We pray for our members and our government and people around our city.
Lord be on the minds of your people. Change the world and make us instruments of that change whenever and wherever possible. Make us children of your Hope until the very end and then beyond. Amen
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
If you are a baptized person from any congregation anywhere you are invited and if you have not been baptized, we can fix that.
Here is the table of the Lord, we are gathered to his supper, a foretaste of things eternal.
Song: I come with joy (530: vss 1-3
The Lord’s Prayer (469: sung)
The Communion Prayer
Our Father, You have called us to be a people for Your own self, and so help us to unify in spirit and in purpose, to do the things You have appointed us to do (Eph 2:10), and this includes partaking and participating in the Lord’s Supper, as a body, which we are commanded to do.
Since this is Your body, the church (Matt 25:34-40), we know that You are present with us, and that You are in each and every one of us; You are all and in all. Let us remain quiet in spirit and in movement God, showing deep reverence for such a sacrament.
Help us stay focused on the bread and wine, and to think about these symbols, Lord. The body and the blood, both poured out as a drink offering, for a once-and-for-all sacrifice (Heb 10:10). We are overwhelmed by such amazing grace God, that I cannot even express it in a words or prayer!
How wonderful are Your ways and awesome are Your blessings; we thank You Lord for the bread and wine and what these mean to us, and what they tell us about our eternity. But more so, what these meant for Christ (John 3:16), as there was no greater love ever shown Lord, in all of human history, and so in a spirit of unity we all now partake of the wine and the bread, and give You the glory for Your amazing grace, in Jesus’ most beloved name I pray, Amen.
Sharing of the bread and wine
Song: One Bread, one Body (540)
Take and eat. The body of Christ broken for you.
The blood of Christ … poured out just for you.
The prayer after Communion
Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you with all our heart for your mercy and grace. Give us now and in the days to come a living hope in you; and as we serve you in the world, help us look and work for that day when at your name every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess you Lord to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Hymn: Lord of all power (626)
Sending out with God’s blessing
May God enrich you in speech and knowledge of every kind;
May Christ Jesus strengthen you to the end;
And may the Holy Spirit guide you in faithful living until he comes.
And when darkness tries to overtake you
Remember there is always hope in this life and the next
For there always are other worlds in which to sing.
Response: The Blessing
Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).
The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.