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St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Sunday Worship Recording , Bulletin and Sermon
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St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Sunday, December 13th, 2020 s 10:00 a.m. Worship Service
Third Sunday of Advent
Val Gordon, Worship Leader
Mr. David Warfield, Director of Music Ministry
Jeff Snider, Liturgist
GATHERING WE PREPARE OURSELVES FOR WORSHIP BY PASSING THE PEACE OF CHRIST, ACKNOWLEDGING WHO WE ARE,
AND RECEIVING THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S GRACE.PRELUDE “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” Carlton Young
GREETING & ANNOUNCEMENTS
ADVENT READING AND CANDLE LIGHTING
We light candles for HOPE and JOY
and today we also light the candle of PEACE.
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
With the spirit of wisdom and counsel and knowledge we seek the peace of the Lord.
CALL TO WORSHIP
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.
HYMN #82 ” Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” HYFRYDOL
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
With its opening “Come,” this hymn sounds the note of entreaty and invitation that characterizes the Advent season (from the Latin Adventus = coming). Its blending of memory and hope helps us to give voice to our present faith as we stand between the past and the future.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION Holy and loving God, we hear your voice in the wilderness, and we come, seeking a glimpse of your glory in these days of lengthening darkness. We look for your star shining in the night sky, for the flickering candle holding back the shadows, and we strain our ears to listen for your word amidst the clamor of the festive season.
We confess that we don’t always want to hear what you are saying. We don’t want to turn and go another way, nor to stop and wait in the quiet when there is fun to be had. We are skeptical of comfort that is more than warm fuzzy feelings, or that asks something of us.
We confess that we are prone to fading away like flowers and grass, unable to withstand challenges to our way of thinking or our way of life. And yet still you call, still you tell us to take comfort, still you come among us and live within us and believe in us.
Forgive us, O God, our fickle hearts, so often full of things other than you. Forgive our tendency to wander away, to prefer shallow comfort to your deep peace. Open us again to your love, that we may walk with you in every way. We pray in the name of Christ, the prince of peace. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF GRACE
PASSING OF THE PEACE (USING ASL)HEARING
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD, WRITTEN & PROCLAIMED. GOD’S WORD IS CENTRAL TO OUR FAITH;
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING Isaiah 61:1-4 Kai Gordon
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion– to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
SECOND READING Excerpts from Luke 1: 26-55 Tate and Sadie Gordon
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
SERMON Versions of the Story I’m a glass half empty kind of person. If there were two types of people only that existed in this world, which there’s not, but let’s just say there was, I’m the glass half empty type, not a glass half full. I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of wearing rose colored glasses, putting a rosy spin on anything. I like gray colored glasses. I’m more likely to tell you everything that will go wrong. I’d be Eeyore, not Tigger or Pooh Bears in the Hundred acres wood. A few years back I worked with a colleague Doug who could not have been the more opposite. Doug and I both work for InterVarsity, an interdenominational ministry for college students. At that time we were tasked with growing communities on campus that allowed God to transform us as we partnered with Him in being change agents on campus. We would lead multi-day long trainings, meetings and coaching sessions for staff and students and at the end of every day he wanted to celebrate and all I wanted to do was talk about what went wrong. It got to the point that he would force me to name 10 good things that happened that day and we could toast them. I would often struggle to find 10 good things, try not roll my eyes during what felt like excessive positivity. I should mention, Doug is from California and I am from crusty old New England so that might have something to do with our differing outlooks. But I would stomach my way through it so we could actually get on to the work of naming all the bad things that happened to fix them the next day. Years of this same routine started to shape me. One of the things Doug would ask me when I was going on and on about how this thing was never going to work was “well that’s one version of the story, is there another?” Another version of the story? What does that even mean? Doug would say well the version you like to tell Val is the one where we will fail, but what’s the version of it succeeding? What’s the version that includes God maybe wanting good things for these students? For the campus? For his purposes for students and the campus? And then he would say Let’s tell a version of the story where the students are the heroes. Let’s tell a version of the story where God is the hero. And then after we tell a few versions, let’s figure out the most true version of the story, one that takes into account all the versions. Because it’s not that your “we’re doomed” version is all wrong, it’s not the most accurate. As I read the first chapter of the book of Luke and consider all the sermons I have heard over the years, I think there are many versions of the Christmas story and each has a story to tell, a a lesson to lean into and all of them fit into the larger story of God and the big thing he is up to. One version of the story that we all love to tell is the version of Mary as a young, poor, unmarried girl from Nazareth—the very last person anyone who knows anything would choose to be the mother of the Savior. Nazareth was a transient seaport town, one that sailors would come in during their travels for a good meal and one night stands. It didn’t have a great reputation. Remember when people heard about this Jesus from Nazareth the first thing they say is “can anything good from Nazareth?”—well that’s because not many good things were associated with Nazareth. And this is where Mary is from. It’s a poor working class seedy town, it’s ordinary. Mary comes from an ordinary working class town—she is not well to do and likely not super educated. But she comes from a family that honors God. She knows the law and the scriptures. She is waiting for the Messiah. I’m not sure anyone would have chosen Mary or would have thought someone like Mary would get the honor or challenge of being the mother of Jesus depending on how you look at it, And yet she was the chosen one Luke says she’s was perplexed by the words the angel said– “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. I’m not sure what I would do with a greeting like that… Um okay? Thank you? Or you know prob because I’m glass half empty I’d say oh no that’s not true…I’m not favored. Trust me. Mary is perplexed. That’s all we know. Angel inform hers–You will bear son of God. She is confused…How can this be she asked as physically she had done what she knows she would have had to do in order to have a baby. I don’t see how you can do it. But Mary says yes. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Although she doesn’t understand and is confused she says yes , quickly. How is it that young poor girl from Nazareth was able to say yes to God’s invitation when prominent faith leaders before her struggled to say yes when God called them—Moses said no initially because he didn’t speak well, Jonah said no and got swallowed by a whale. Mary’s quick yes is a contrast to their early no’s. Maybe Mary would have been more at home in California than New England. This version of Mary’s story remind us that God is still looking for people who say yes to him like Mary did. Doesn’t mean that we are not scared or confused, but God is looking for willing servants, people who are oriented toward saying yes to God and His purposes. Mary says, Here am I, the servant of the Lord. One version of the Advent story is the story of Mary a young poor ordinary virgin who says yes.Another version of the story seems to be the version of how God sees Mary. God knows her life, her story, her class, her education level, her age, her unmarried state…and he doesn’t count her out for being chosen to carry his son. God doesn’t count anyone out. So where we may look at the outside and think her resume doesn’t seem to match the opportunity she is being given, that is not how God is making His decision. An Angel of the Lord visits her and tells her she has favor. Angel doesn’t give her list of qualifications or try to convince her of her extraordinariness…he calls it favor. Nothing is extraordinary about her. It’s about favor . What is favor? Favor is something you have that is undeserved. When I ask someone to do me a favor I am asking them to help me even though I know I don’t deserve their help. Favor is like that, you don’t deserve it, if you did , it would not be a favor. It’s not clear what exactly God was looking for in the woman he was choosing to carry Jesus—we know that it wasn’t about class, education or anything found on a resume. If we consider what God seems concerned about with any human being, it usually is the state of their heart. He longs for people’s hearts to be inclined towards him not away from him. He knows that we are fickle, selfish and imperfect, but he is constantly showing us who he is and coming towards us…and he leaves us with the choice—will we stop and wait because we are not sure, walk towards him because we want to know more or turn away from Him and reject him. Mary likely was a person who did not turn away. Maybe she wasn’t always moving towards God, but her heart was inclined towards him. Her heart is how she found favor. God looks at the heart. Mary has a heart for God. She has devoted herself to God which positions her for God to do something in her life. God’s version of the story reminds us that God doesn’t disqualify us from being part of his purposes and mission –our resume is not what he sees, the mistakes of our past don’t need to inhibit us. It begs us to consider What is the current condition of our hearts? If you look at your actions this year has this been a year of moving towards God, standing still or turning away? You might have guessed that my favorite Christmas special is. The Grinch. A seriously glass half empty character. I love every version of this story, but in the original animated one there is a scene that moves me every time I see it. Grinch has just done his grinch thing and tried to ruin Christmas and didn’t work and is dawning on him that maybe he’s been wrong about this whole thing. The narrator says and Grinches heart grew three sizes that day, and then you watch this tiny red heart on the grinch bright green body grow and grow. This is such a helpful image for me when it comes to God—God’s heart for me and you is so large it topples his body and the fruit of God in our lives is that our hearts keep growing in size. Our hearts may have taken a beating in 2020. There has been loss of all kinds and anxiety that may have been a more real part of our daily existence—health, financial, professional. I would not consider myself to be an overly anxious person, but I have been more aware of my own anxiety even as I have had a fairly sheltered life. My anxiety about how much this year of weird learning and social distancing and increased video games will affect the overall development and futures of my kids has been high at times. Anxiety about contracting or worse giving the virus to someone else. This week in Advent we reflect on the concept of PEACE, that the coming of the Messiah was the coming of PEACE into this world. Maybe better said a PROMISE of peace to come which means anxiety and fear may be a daily struggle but knowing that the Prince of Peace came into the world can help us walk towards God believing him to be the ultimate Giver of peace . God’s version of the story is that he chooses to use ordinary people like Mary with a hearts inclined towards him to be part of something extraordinary, the birth of his son. That is still a version of the story today. God is looking for ordinary people like to us to accomplish extraordinary purposes. The limitation is us, our hearts can inhibit this version of story. The good news is that unlike making our resume better which can take money to get more education and time to get a degree, inclining our hearts towards God can be fairly simple…it’s a small yes to pray, a small yes to confess our need for God, a small yes of kindness. A version of the advent story is remembering that God looks at the heart. Another version of the Advent story comes through the lens of Elizabeth. After the angel tells Mary she’s going to carry the great one, the one that all of history has been waiting for she goes to see her friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth is not young poor uneducated. Elizabeth is older, well established. She lives in the hill country which likely signals a class difference between her and Mary. She’s a preacher kid married to a priest. In the people of faith circles she was likely looked at with respect, honored for her family and husband’s position. Although who knows how much honor she was getting or feeling in the past years before Mary’s visit. Her private burden that was publicly known is that she could not have children. In these days children were blessings from the Lord so not having them made people question. Children were seen as blessings from God and we know from the Old testament the shame that being barren was for women. There was often the assumption that maybe God was punishing a couple when they couldn’t have children. But for Mary this is her go to person. Elizabeth is an older wiser woman of God and Mary needs to understand Elizabeth’s version of the story Elizabeth’s version of the story is that Mary you are blessed. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. “ Now if you think about this Elizabeth could have wondered why she wasn’t she the chosen one—after all she was older, wiser, educated, married to a Priest. She has recently found out that miraculously she is pregnant after all these years but not the mother of the Christ child. She easily could have been jealous. Or worse she could made Mary more insecure –do you understand what is happening to you? What this means? Are you ready? All to which Mary would have answered No, no and no, only making her feel worse. But Elizabeth sees a different version of the story—one where she calls out what is actually true. Her heart is oriented toward God and his purposes. Elizabeth’s version of the story is God doing something in you. You are not crazy and though you may feel young and poor and shamed because you are pregnant and not married, God is literally birthing the Christ child inside of you. That’s what happening. Elizabeth’s version of the story reminds us that we need people to affirm the work of God in our lives. Just like Mary needed the confirmation that God was indeed at work, we may need someone to help us see that—in our personal lives and in the world . It’s very easy to either forget what is true or just not have eyes to see. We need other people to remind us what is really true about God. We need people to call out the ways God is at work—this God who can work quietly, redemptively, and sometimes outrageously. Part of my role in InterVarsity is to call out how God is at work. I am considered a veteran staff in my organization . I work with many people who are 20 years younger than me and I have the opportunity to be an Elizabeth to many Mary’s. In the past year I’ve had the privilege of formally mentoring 6 different woman who want to grow in their leadership and I have coached men and woman in applying and interviewing for new positions within the organization. As I have mentored and coached people in speaking and leadership and strategy, I love helping each of them understand the greatest superpower they have and help them leverage that. But it’s not my age that allows me to do that it’s a mentality of hoping the people that I am invited to be an Elizabeth to are 10x more influential than me. And that’s because years ago I had mentors like Scott, Brian and Kim who were my “Elizabeths”, people who developed me to succeed and lead and have places of influences even greater than they had. I learned to be an Elizabeth. I hope you had many Elizabeths in your life, people who rooted for you and called out how God uniquely created you for his purposes. And if you didn’t –and there have been seasons of my life where I have not, my experience has been choosing to be an Elizabeth for other people anyway has led to a surprising overflow in return I didn’t expect. Afterall God had favor on Elizabeth too—she would get her baby in the end, a baby that prepare the way for Jesus and his Kingdom. In affirming the work of God in Mary’s life, Elizabeth got to be part of the extraordinary as well. In the economy of God there is room for everyone to find favor. Elizabeth’s version of the story is Mary , this is the work of God in your life, He’s at work in my life, and He is fulfilling the promise he said he would. Hearing Elizabeth’s affirmation allows for another version of the story to emerge through Mary’s song which was read earlier Mary’s song is evidence of her heart. It is a hymn of praise to God. God is the hero in the hymn, and Mary calls our specific characteristics of God his mercy, his might, his power, his faithfulness, his holiness and his desire to save and rescue are specifically praised. “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
She owns the favor that has been given to her, not because she thinks she deserves it but because the Lord sees her. She calls it lowlines. She isn’t denying all the things we previously has said about her—young, poor, Nazarene. She knows those things are true. “From now on, all generations of call me blessed.”50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation. Mary knows she’s a nobody who is now going to be the mother of the King who she and everyone else have been waiting for. She understands that she is experiencing God’s mercy but she knows that it’s not just mercy for her, but for her people…that her story is found in the larger story of God. The rest of the song is about the story of God. 54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty. Mary anticipates that the purpose of God is justice. That God is seen to be on the side of the oppressed, poor, and humble, and he will accomplish justice. Many see Mary’s song a critique of the rich and the dangers of wealth . Some see her song as a political critique or as a revolutionary hymn meant to call the church to justice when she says 51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly; Mary is foreshadowing the kind of leader Jesus would be. In our OT reading this morning from Isaiah we hear references to what would become Jesus mission statement. Fast forward 30 years or so and Jesus is a grown man and God is essentially calling him to begin his formal ministry on earth and Jesus’ first message is a directly from Isaiah 61 -The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; This was his mission statement for his new Kingdom. Rachel Evans Held , who was a young Christian columnist, blogger and author who before her early tragic death did deep reflective work on issues of faith wrote thisWith the Magnificat, Mary not only announces a birth, she announces the inauguration of a new kingdom, one that stands in stark contrast to every other kingdom—past, present, and future—that relies on violence and exploitation to achieve “greatness.” With the Magnificat, Mary declares that God has indeed chosen sides.And it’s not with the powerful, but the humble.It’s not with the rich, but with the poor.It’s not with the occupying force, but with people on the margins. It’s not with narcissistic kings, but with an un-wed, un-believed teenage girl entrusted with the holy task of birthing, nursing, and nurturing God. Mary’s song reminds us that God has done for his people what he promised. In Jesus, the Messiah, we see God’s immense love for the marginalized, and his faithfulness extended to the nations. The story of advent, he story of Jesus is, He is fulfillment of the long covenant God had with Israel , the covenant God has with the whole world. This version of advent is about the big story of God, the one where God fulfills his promise to us through the birth of a savior who would bring hope where there is no hope, light in darkness, peace in the midst of war and unrest. It’s the story of God and it’s our story if we choose to see ourselves in it. The versions of the advent story are not half empty or half filled. It’s bothAdvent is the fulfillment of a promise of Savior who would come back and fix everything that was wrong with the world. When we look at the world around us that is broken and not right we hold on to the hope that Jesus is alive, at work now establishing his Kingdom. When we walk through the challenges of this life we remember that peace entered the world with Jesus who would later go to the cross so that we all could have peace, everlasting peace and we look forward to the day when Jesus will one day wipe every tear and restore every part of his world that broken.What version of the story do you most need to hear today?· The version where you say yes to God for the sake of the bringing his purposes to this world· The version that allows you to examine your heart and return or incline yourself more towards God· The version where you look for ways to be Elizabeth’s for others, to call out how you see God at work in their lives· The version where you remember that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise that God would send a Messiah who would enter into the brokenness of the world and bring change, hope, joy, peace, both for today in part and one day for good. What’s true is that Advent takes on more meaning when we find can put ourselves in the story and see how we are invited into the big story of God. RESPONDING GOD HAS SPOKEN, AND WE RESPOND. WE AFFIRM OUR FAITH, PRAY FOR THE WORLD, RE-COMMIT OURSELVES TO MISSION,
PRESENT OUR TITHES & GIFTS, AND OFFER THANKS THAT GOD CONTINUES TO SPEAK TODAY.* AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
We believe in God,
creator and lover of the earth,
origin and destiny of us all.
We believe in Jesus the Christ—
God coming to us
in the fragile promise
of a baby yet unborn—
who emerges as the herald of hope,
God’s laughter in the face of despair.
Plunged into death and hell,
he broke free the captives,
and is leading the way
to the land of promise
where justice and peace will flourish.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who implants the seed of truth,
brings us to birth
as the body of Christ,
and empowers us
to confront and transform
all that is corrupt, degrading and deceitful.
We believe in the coming reign of God.
Announced by John the Baptist,
it has drawn near to us in Jesus,
and will be consummated
in the glorious marriage of earth and heaven,
when all who have passed through
the world’s deep sorrow
will be raised from the waters,
robed in righteousness,
and gathered into the joyous fulfilment
of God’s desire.
For the coming of that day on this day,
we work and pray:
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!
* HYMN#99 My Soul Gives Glory to My God” Geoff Gordon
(Song of Mary) MORNING SONG
My soul gives glory to my God; my heart pours out its praise.
God lifted up my lowliness in many marvelous ways/
My God has done great things for me; yes, holy is God’s name.
All people will declare me blessed, and blessings they shall claim.
From age to age to all who fear, such mercy love imparts,
dispensing justice far and near, dismissing selfish hearts.
Love casts the mighty from their thrones, promotes the insecure,
leaves hungry spirits satisfied; the rich seem suddenly poor.
Praise God, whose loving covenant supports those in distress,
remembering past promises with present faithfulness.
This 20th century paraphrase us based on the Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55), commonly known by its opening Latin word, Magnificent. This song of praise offers clear reminders that God’s purposes often lead to the reversal of human values, exalting the poor and dethroning the mighty.
PRESENTING OUR TITHES & OFFERINGS
(If you’re joining us via Zoom,
we invite you to make your offering online.
Thank you to everyone for your generous support!)
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING & DEDICATION
Loving God, we bring you our gifts, grateful that we have something to share, glad to be part of a network of mission and mercy that encompasses the earth. Bless all the ministries supported by this congregation and the efforts of your people everywhere to love and care for their neighbors. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
SHARING OUR JOYS & CONCERNS
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
SENDING WE HEAR THE CHARGE, RECEIVE THE BENEDICTION, AND ARE SENT TO CARRY GOD’S WORD INTO THE WORLD.CHARGE & BENEDICTION
POSTLUDE “ Veni, Emmanuel” Robin Dinda