December 13th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeIn the Bleak MidwinterChris Johansen, piano
OpeningPastor Linda
Gathering SongAs the Dark Awaits the Dawn
#261
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
GreetingPastor Linda
Canticle of Praise
Thanksgiving
from Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
Lighting the Advent Wreath
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 141from Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
Scripturefrom IsaiahPastor Linda
Gospel Canticlefrom Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
SermonPastor Linda
HymnThe King Shall Come
#260
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Advent CreedPastor Linda
Prayers of Intercession
Lord’s Prayer
Blessing
from Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludeBach’s G Major PreludeChris Johansen, piano

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

P: We gather in the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

O Lord our God, we stumble as those lost in the night.

C: O Star of promise, scatter night.

P: We live burdened by our sorrows and sins, by the cares of this world.

C: we await your light.

P: We hear the promise of you Word made flesh, bearing your love for all, and to all, and in all:

C: may we your healing light release.

P: We long for the light of your redemption for this earth, her creatures and people.

C: Shine your future, that through us streams holiness, bright and blest. Amen


Gathering Song – As the Dark Awaits the Dawn

1.
As the dark awaits the dawn,
so we await your light.
O Star of promise, scatter night,
loving bright, loving bright,
till shades of fear are gone.

2.
As the blue expectant hour
before the silvering skies,
we long to see your day arise,
whole and wise, whole and wise,
O Lucent Morning Star.

3.
As the moon reflects the sun
until the night’s decrease,
may we your healing light release,
living peace, living peace,
unto your holy dawn.

4.
Shine your future on this place,
enlighten every guest,
that through us stream your holiness,
bright and blest, bright and blest;
come dawn, O Sun of grace.


Greeting

   P: May the One who was, and who is, and who is to come, be with you in grace and hope.

     C: And also with you.

   P:  And may the light of the Christ shatter the darkness and shine on God’s people here.

Canticle of Praise
Thanksgiving

Holden Evening Prayer


Lighting the Advent Wreath

We praise you, O God, for this circlet of green that marks our days of preparation for Christ’s advent. The arrival is fast approaching. The light of our wreath is growing. As we light the third candle, we remember Mary – her fear, her puzzlement, her “yes” to make room in her womb for God to grow. Enlighten us with your grace, and prepare our hearts to welcome Christ with joy – whose coming is certain and whose day draws near.  Amen

Prayer of the Day

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, and come. Nurture in us joy, humility, and wonder so that we have eyes to see Christ in the world and spirits willing to to do the work of renewal and new life. Shower us with your peace. Amen

Psalm 141

Holden Evening Prayer


Scripture Reading – from Isaiah

There are three Isaiahs who contribute to the prophetic book bearing this name. The first was prophet to the Assyrian plunder and fall of the northern kingdom. Then Babylonia conquered. And then the Persians, who ascended and ended the Babylonian exile of the southern kingdom. Second Isaiah spoke words of comfort and healing at that time; and now third Isaiah speaks God’s word to those who returned, who are deeply discouraged, who are lost in their own land.

They are refugees who once belonged; who came home to find others in their place – not enemies, but fellow Judeans who had not ranked high enough to be taken into exile. And foreigners – in many cases, now spouses of those left behind – who had been displaced into Judah from their own conquered homelands. Returning a generation later to a place you’ve always thought of as home, but that doesn’t feel like home, doesn’t welcome you home or remember you, didn’t hold your place…. Can you imagine how that would feel? They have longed to return to Jerusalem – and find it in ruins, the temple destroyed, its stones scattered, repurposed. Their hearts are melting with grief and rage and confusion.

 We have those feelings and it’s only been 10 months of COVID. I say “only” – while recognizing that there are gaping wounds of loss and death and financial ruin and exhaustion. However, our walls are still standing; our buildings empty, but waiting for our return, holding your spot in the pew or restaurant or around the family table. Judah was small. Jerusalem was big within it. Every person was affected, disoriented, on edge, exhausted, at cross purposes. They had no stable, unifying leadership. How do you re-establish all that has been lost and ruined? Who is there to help or to care? “Sorrowing wand’rers in darkness yet dwelling,” says the Finnish Advent hymn, “Plaintively sighing with hearts full of anguish…Will you help us soon, will you help us soon?” Trust, hope, wisdom, community had to be re-found, regrown. It was too late for restoration. The prophet’s task was to proclaim the promises, to instill in them a vision of renewal, of healing, of a future… of God.

            Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.

            I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?   

I will – somewhat painfully – remind you that this was the situation 500 years before Jesus was born.   That it rings so true for us in 2020 is, I think, because these are stories of life, more than history. And of the interpretation of life seen through a theological lens. These ancient people attributed more to God’s agency than we tend to do, but we, too, look to God for guidance, for a living truth, for wholeness and care, for a new way forward out of the iniquities of our current time.

58:6 Is not this the fast that I choose: [God speaks through the prophet] to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

Doesn’t that sound remarkably current? Isn’t this the culture we want to create and inhabit? Isaiah continues his sermon in ch 59.

See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. 2 Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he cannot hear. 9 Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light, and lo!there is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. 10 We grope like the blind along a wall, we stumble at noon as in the twilight,…11 We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully. We wait for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.

The prophet’s job is to not only to show forth God, but to hold a mirror to the people, to reveal the truth among them. And, when he has their attention, when he has shown the abyss between their behavior and God’s desire for their co-creaturely, co-creative life, Isaiah speaks God’s saving, traveling mercy.

60:1Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

I will appoint Peace as your overseer and Righteousness as your taskmaster. [says the Lord your God]18 Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and the gates of your city, Praise. 20…the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. 21 Your people are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified.

61:1The spirit of the Lord God is upon me [Isaiah tells], 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; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 … 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. 4 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.

10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, [says Isaiah] my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”


Gospel Canticle

Holden Evening Prayer


Sermon

Our reading for today (that last paragraph) is beautiful, powerfully hopeful and forward leaning. I added all the rest to it because today is the last reading from the Old Testament for the year, and because I think we always need the context, more of the story, not a ‘feel good’ snippet. I’m sorry about that if you come to worship wanting to feel better and be inspired.  

My theological life lives in 2nd and 3rd Isaiah. Advent, too, dwells here, I think. And Lent. And there’s a reason for that. Advent and Lent are transitional seasons. Something is ending. There is grief and darkness and isolation in each: but a new thing is about to spring forth. I appreciate the imagery of Advent. Jesus does kind of spring forth in Easter as the gospels describe it (or rather, as they fail to describe it – we see the death and then the life newly sprung from the tomb without knowing the in-between process.) But we know all about birth. In the experience of human females, there is very little springing forth from the womb, but lots and lots of slow, painful labor pushing at that new thing. The last, intense stage of labor is called transition, the new life crowns, then squalls; then the real work begins. That’s proper imagery for Advent, and of the transitional life of Judah in return from exile, and for Christian life between Jesus’ birth and return, and of whatever new thing will be created out of this nation-wide, world-wide year of being unwell, displaced, disoriented, in solitude with time to think and observe other people’s struggle and oppression and lives and death. 

I hope and pray a new thing will be created. We need healing. We need something good to look forward to: there’s been a lot of dread this year and it continues, but with hope around the edges.

There has been, and continues to be lots of painful labor getting us to this point: protests for equal dignity and opportunity; soul-dredging work for doctors, nurses, medical personnel, hospital workers, morticians – so many others; teachers and parents trying to keep children cared for, fed, educated, challenged… you know the list. It seems endless. This has been an extraordinary year of labor, of human capability and sacrifice and innovation and pain. What will crown this Covid year, I wonder? What will it all bring to birth? What have we glimpsed, or experienced, or realized? 

It is an extraordinarily powerful thing to have the whole nation exposed. I don’t just mean to the virus. I mean to the whole thing – the big four of the year – the coronavirus pandemic, our endemic racism, heightened awareness and signs of the environmental crisis – especially in those fires and the plethora of tropical storms, and the devastation and depth of political division. We have learned so much about each other: our lives, beliefs, doubts, fears. Each trauma reveals elements of the other three. It is an incredibly important year – if we pay attention, if we can / are willing to remember, if we are willing to care once things find a way back going forward. We could raise up the former devastations, repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. These devastations are in plain view, in the current imagination. There is the possibility of hope around the edges simply because we have all seen it together. But it will take work and vision and a lot of birthing. It will keep us in Advent mode – a deep blue hope underneath, a surging, growing longing for light and communal well-being, and service to each other and the planet on the scale of that of healthcare workers during COVID. And we know human nature. We know we prefer happy, giddy, gleeful Christmas morning joy to Advent joy. 

The Judean refugees had returned to the place of their familial belonging, but life was not easier – in many ways – in most ways – it was more difficult than it had been in exile. Things were not going how they had imagined or hoped. They had to build up the ancient ruins, raise up the devastations. The imagery of greening and growth, of old oaks still growing by flowing streams, growing as sentinels in vineyards and olive groves might have given them hope. New life among the ashes, green buds sprouting on dead wood can be inspirational and symbolic of what is possible when God is involved. They had been given the mission to build and renew – to bloom again in the desert. 

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 

I don’t think these are conditional in a temporal sense – if you do this, then and only then will this other thing happen. I think they are natural contingencies – if we live in peace and humility, good things naturally will come of it.

11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 

Though joy and praise are not mandated, in the mercy of our God, they are possible – and when they bud, they display God’s glory. 


Hymn – The King Shall Come

1.
The King shall come when morning dawns
and light triumphant breaks,
when beauty gilds the eastern hills
and life to joy awakes.

2.
Not as of old a little child,
to bear and fight and die,
but crowned with glory like the sun
that lights the morning sky.

3.
Oh, brighter than the rising morn
when Christ, victorious, rose
and left the lonesome place of death,
despite the rage of foes.

4.
Oh, brighter than that glorious morn
shall dawn upon our race
the day when Christ in splendor comes,
and we shall see his face.

5.
The King shall come when morning dawns
and light and beauty brings.
Hail, Christ the Lord! Your people pray:
come quickly, King of kings.


Advent Creed

Of the Father’s love begotten ere the worlds began to be, he is Alpha and Omega,
he the source, the ending he, of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see, evermore and evermore.

This is he whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord,
whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
now he shines, the long expected; let creation praise its Lord evermore and evermore.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father, and, O Holy Spirit, Thee,
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving and unwearied praises be:
honor, glory, and dominion, and eternal victory evermore and evermore. Amen

~verses 1,3,5 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” – Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, 348-413 AD

Prayers

Holden Evening Prayer


Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen


Blessing

Holden Evening Prayer


Postlude

Chris Johansen