December 6th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeLo, How a Rose E’er BloomingChris Johansen, piano
OpeningPastor Linda
Gathering SongHark, the Glad Sound
#239
Chuck Parsons, organ
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
ScriptureJoel 2: 12-13, 2: 28-29Pastor Linda
Gospel Canticlefrom Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
SermonPastor Linda
HymnEach Winter As the Year Grows Older
#252
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Advent CreedPastor Linda
Prayers of Intercessionfrom Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
Great Thanksgiving
Communion
Lord’s Prayer
Pastor Linda
Blessingfrom Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
Closing HymnComfort, Comfort Now My People
#256
Chuck Parsons, organ
PostludeCome, Though Long-Expected JesusChris 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: from our fears and sins release us.

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

C: let us find our rest in thee.

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

C: hope of all the earth thou art.

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

C: Come, thou joy of every loving heart. Amen


Gathering Song – Hark, the Glad Sound

1.
Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes,
the Savior promised long;
let ev’ry heart prepare a throne
and ev’ry voice a song.

2.
He comes the pris’ners to release,
in Satan’s bondage held.
The gates of brass before Him burst,
the iron fetters yield.

3.
He comes the broken heart to bind,
the bleeding soul to cure,
and with the treasures of his grace
to enrich the humble poor.

4.
Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,
your welcome shall proclaim,
and heav’n’s eternal arches ring
with your beloved name.


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. As we light the second candle, kindle within us the fire of your Spirit, that we may be light shining in the darkness. 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. You speak words of comfort and hope. When the things of this world wither and fade, when we are separated by disease, distance and discord, grant that we may stand fast in your Word. Grant us patience in our waiting for renewal and return. Shower us with your peace. Amen

Psalm 141

Holden Evening Prayer


Scripture Reading – Joel 2: 12 – 13; 28-29

12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
    return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 
    rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
    and relents from punishing.

28  Then afterward
    I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions. 
Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days, I will pour out my spirit.


Gospel Canticle

Holden Evening Prayer


Sermon

The biblical book of Joel is short – just 3 chapters, and nothing is really known about him. It was likely written around the year 500 BCE, coming from Judah during the period of return after exile.

Joel vividly describes the results of a drought and subsequent locust plague, comparing the invading grasshoppers to the sound and fury of an advancing army. Grief upon grief.

What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten.What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. Wake up… and weep; and wail.…

Like blackness spread upon the mountains, a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old… Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, but after them a desolate wilderness. Nothing escapes them. 4 They have the appearance of horses, and like warhorses they charge. 5 As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. 10 The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.

The locusts chomp through every living plant from field and bush and vine to tree, leaving the land to scorch and burn, to erode and flood, as even the stubble is chewed up and spit out. Fields and vineyards, flocks and herds – all are affected. The locusts enter houses, scale walls, climb and leap and fly and chatter into skin and hair and clothing – everything swarms with cutters and hoppers and eaters. They literally drive people mad as they come on, wave after wave. A great and terrible day of the Lord.

Joel uses this awful natural disaster and language of an overpowering, merciless army to awaken his community to the seriousness of their situation and its significance in regard to God – to their relationship with God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16gather the people. Assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast.” No one is exempt. This gathering of the whole community without regard to social class or station is telling of the degree of crisis facing them. Even privilege is suspended.

Malachi promised that God would see the people’s repentance and turn toward them in mercy. But God has been silent. Joel simply hopes this is true. 14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain-offering and a drink-offering…”

But, finally, in the midst of this awfulness, Joel hears God’s word. “Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people.” And God makes a promise. After a long silence-of-the-spirit in which there have been no prophets, no visions; days and years into which God has whispered no oracle of judgment or of hope; into the solemnness and suffering and silence – God’s spirit and voice return.

I am sending you grain, wine, and oil overflowing and running down, and you will be satisfied.

I will remove the army far from you, you will know that I am in your midst, that I, the Lord, am your God – and there is no other. 21 Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! 22 Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield. 23 O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. 24 The threshing-floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

I wonder if they could do it – rejoice and be glad – ahead of any food, just on the prophet’s word and some rain. I am quite sure we have grown too cynical of words of promise without further proof. I don’t think we would listen, or blow the horn of fast or feast. I’m quite sure we would not be willing to change our ways, to return, to rend our hearts. Climate change warnings, racial/gender/identity/faith differences, our proclivity to argumentation and war – even about wearing facemasks to prevent the spread of a novel coronavirus – these and many other traits of our modern culture and the invading army of locusts seem to have a lot in common, and our response as a people has not been terrifically encouraging.

“Rend your hearts and not your garments,” God said.

This has been a year of rending. Families have been torn asunder by COVID for major life events – births, weddings, graduations, holidays; from expected routines like school, work, worship, and travel; from support systems and basic economic sustainability; some, many, from life itself. Neighborhoods and communities have been rent by violence and protest and death revealing how deep and wide our racial inequality remains. Floods, hurricanes, and fires have torn apart towns, ripped through great swathes of forest and coastal habitats leaving the vulnerable of many species homeless, turned out. An election has divided our nation, families, marriages, friendships; the democratic process in dystopic confusion affecting all of these issues. And through it all, the climate clock is ticking.

Rend your hearts and not your clothing.

In ancient Hebrew life, clothing was precious, valuable – all hand-made, hand stitched. People didn’t have wardrobes. They had a robe. A couple garments. To tear your garment was a sign of deep grief, of pathos. Significant.

In ancient Hebrew thought, the heart was not simply the location of love or emotion, but also of rationality and will. To rend your heart is to totally disrupt, open up, your life. Turning to God is a life-changing offering. Not words, not an outward show like the ritualized action of grief or remorse in tearing a garment, but a Humpty-Dumpty, complete, now-and-for-all-time, never the same again, reorientation to God’s way and word. 

Some life events do that to us. Most of us don’t suffer at that depth. We don’t rend our hearts if we have any choice in the matter; even when the resulting changes are vitally important. COVID is the easiest item of my list. Most of us only need to suffer a little bit, change our lives and lifestyles for months. We have every hope of re-establishing a pattern that feels normal. Racism, however, and all the ‘other-isms’ in which we are complicit, can only be healed by turning our hearts inside out so that we truly see others who are different from us as equal to us in love and value. And then, we have to act on it!  Feeling, thinking, learning about change is good, but incomplete: living it – living the changes that are needed for radical inclusion, radical carbon reduction, real and meaningful change will rend our most cherished sins. It will open them up. Shake things apart.We hear the modern prophets. We can see the trajectories of our actions. But breaking our hearts over those needs and trajectories, remolding our hearts and wills…. sigh.

“Rend your hearts and not your garments,” God says……. “and return to me.”

Into the gloom and fear and hunger and scarcity of his time – Joel’s prophetic vision shines.

Return. “Then, afterward…”

Then, afterward, will come not the dark Day of the Lord, but a day radiant with the outpouring of God’s Spirit. God will bucket down his spirit “on all flesh” — not drizzle a few drops on the elite male priests of Israel, or sprinkle the prophets of the periphery. The spirit gushing, sloshing, drenching is more than a match for the locusts that reduce life to dust and stubble. It speaks of a return to Eden, backing up into the garden of plenty and the presence of the Lord. Rewind and return. The image of destruction is re-formed into one of overwhelming abundance and hope and peace. “Return to me and be restored,” says the Lord your God. Come back.

That is, actually, what Advent is meant to be and to do. It is a harbinger of presence. Rewind and return; seek, accept, discover restoration of God’s spirit, of love and plenty and provision and concern for all, for all flesh… including beasts and beavers and birds, fields and forests, lakes and bogs, streams, insects – all life, all of creation finds restorative justice in God’s gracious Word who took on this matter of life.

Return to me with all your heart, and mind and strength – it’s an intimate invitation – one that involves risk and vulnerability. To whom do you open your heart – or, perhaps the better question, do you surrender your heart, to God or to someone? Do you dare? Are you able to be that honest – and can you trust the tender reception of God, the pathos of God’s patient, judgment-borne compassion for you.

Rend your heart – open your defenses – come with fasting, weeping, mourning – come to God in all your grief, your sorrow; come with your questions, your fear, your doubts; come with your joy – come with all that is in a heart unzipped.  Bring it to God, holding nothing back. This is the invitation – but it is one we very rarely take up.

“Return” in Hebrew does not have the same image as repentance in New Testament Greek. It doesn’t have that dualistic, black and white, turning-around-in-your-tracks sense of metanoia, of becoming a new creation. In Hebrew, it means reworking the old, rewinding oneself, loosening that stiff neck, opening your closed heart, so that you are receptive. It signifies an openness to who God is.

Because, return is not about you.  Return is about the One to Whom you return; the One inviting, the One who welcomes you back and gathers you in. Return requires recognition of who we are in relationship to who God is.  It requires humility and honesty, and, perhaps, allows for too much free will. It allows us to wander away. The people of Israel took one step back, then two steps forward. Always.

“Return to me,” the invitation stands. “Come to me, all who are thirsty and who hunger, Come to me all who bear heavy burdens, Return and rewind, and I will give you life,” says the Lord your God.

Does the invitation sit unopened on your kitchen table?

“O Lord, how shall we greet thee?” an old Advent hymn begins. How do we receive the invitation of this God who bids us come, and who would come into our hearts, into our world, into our lives and change the shape of them? God who would come in person, who would come in the flesh… who would come in a beating heart, and rend it for us? A God who would come, not just for us, in our private lives, but would come for all?  O Lord, how shall we greet thee? With heart and strength and mind rent open, receptive, if not exactly ready.


Hymn – Each Winter as the Year Grows Older

1.
Each winter as the year grows older,
We each grow older too.
The chill sets in a little colder;
The verities we knew
Seem shaken and untrue.

2.
When race and class cry out for treason,
When sirens call for war,
They overshout the voice of reason
And scream till we ignore
All we held dear before.

3.
Yet I believe beyond believing,
That life can spring from death:
That growth can flower from our grieving;
That we can catch our breath
And turn transfixed by faith.

4.
So even as the sun is turning
To journey to the north,
The living flame, in secret burning,
Can kindle on the earth
And bring God’s love to birth.

5.
O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
Brighten today’s world by tomorrow’s,
Renew our lives again;
Lord Jesus, come and reign!


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


Great Thanksgiving
Communion
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


Hymn – Comfort, Comfort, Now My People

1.
“Comfort, comfort now my people;
tell of peace!” So says our God.
Comfort those who sit in darkness
mourning under sorrow’s load.
To God’s people now proclaim
that God’s pardon waits for them!
Tell them that their war is over;
God will reign in peace forever.

2.
For the herald’s voice is crying
in the desert far and near,
calling us to true repentance,
since the reign of God is here.
Oh, that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way.
Valleys, rise to greet the Savior;
hills, bow down in humble favor.

3.
Straight shall be what long was crooked,
and the rougher places plain.
Let your hearts be true and humble,
as befits God’s holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord
now on earth is shed abroad,
and all flesh shall see the token
that God’s word is never broken.


Postlude

Chris Johansen