A Village Church With A Heart For The World
 Sunday,  November 22, 2020
12 Perth St., PO Box 113, Lyn, ON, K0E 1M0
(613)498-0281 (Phone)                                (613)498-2589 (Fax)
lynunitedchurch@cogeco.net                        www.lynunitedchurch.com
Follow on Twitter:  @Ch1United


                 Minister:  Rev. Wendy MacLean                                                                           Music Director:  Tim Hallman



ADVENT 1 HOPE

People not attending in person can find us on Christ United Church Facebook at 10:30am.
We will be live-streaming - Pray for Us!

 Music Used in Today’s Service:
VU 6:  A Candle is Burning, words by Sandra Dean with permission
VU 1: O Come, O Come Emmanuel, CCLI #2678690
VU 5: All Earth is Waiting; Alberto Taule; UMPH, used with permission
MV 92: Like a Rock   One License 97534
Go Now In Peace: One License #78821
CCLI Streaming License #: 20558674
CCLI Copyright License #: 2928232
One License Copyright & Streaming License #: 737026-A

 Ring the Bell!

Gathering Music

Welcome back! We are very happy to see you all today, after so very long. We also recognize that we are missing many people who would love to be here, but have chosen not to be here, for their safety, and/or the safety of people they need to be with in their bubbles. 

Since we can’t sing together, I will invite you to find other ways of participating, maybe by closing your eyes and listening differently, or moving and grooving—or looking at each other...

Lighting the Christ Candle and Opening Prayer

 Ritual for Re-entering the sanctuary: *
Calling the ancestors: Hands open downwards, facing the earth
We remember and give thanks for the foundation you built,
the church you loved, the community you grew. We carry our faith in this new day.
Reaching out to each other: Hands open, circle around (pivot!)-and of course...from a distance
We reach out to each other, greeting each other without words.
We are thankful for the blessing of being present, here,
in our sanctuary, with each other. We offer blessing, in this new day.
Remembering our friends who are not here: hands over heart
We are grieving the dear ones who are not here.
We lament that it is not safe to move freely because of COVID 19.
For all who are missing, but close in spirit, We hold you in love, this day.
Trusting God with the future and our descendants: raise hands in gesture of “Let it be”.
We do not know what the future holds, Holy One,
We extend our hopes and prayers for the world,
out in cyber space, across the distance, into the community.
We bless, in your name. We pray, as your people.
May we be a sign of your coming, and a sign of hope
for the new world, the new day
that is born in Christ, each day, as we pray in the words he taught us:
OUR FATHER....

Light the Advent Candle: HOPE

Sing: VU 6  "A Candle is Burning"

Scripture: Isaiah 64:1-9: Calling on God to ACT!

 Sing: VU 1: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Verses 1, 2, 3)

Reflection:

Reverend Wendy MacLean, Christ United Church, Lyn
Advent 1 November 25, 2020 Isaiah 64: 1-9

Oh, that you would rend the heavens! That you would come down! Isaiah 64:1

Holy One, you have always been a mover and shaker:
In Christ, you move us from sin and loss
to new life and freedom.
In Christ, you shift our attitudes from resentment and anger
to healing and forgiveness.
Today, loving God, prepare our hearts
to be the home where love is born.
As the shape of our world
is being changed beyond anything we can imagine,
may we recognize you in the Gospel
and the Word of life, proclaimed in human flesh in Jesus.
Be in my words, may they be true and faithful to your spirit,
and may our understandings be a blessing to you.
AMEN.

This year we will understand the Christmas story better than we have ever before.
Without parties, without big get-togethers and shopping sprees, we just have the story.
More than other years, we will know what it is to be far from the ones we love, and far from the rituals and expectations that have tended to define the holiday season. Like Mary and Joseph, we have to be flexible with our plans.

The monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, has wisdom for us:
“We all exist solely for this: to be the human place God has chosen for his presence.”
We are Bethlehem: we are the place where God comes to be born.
Little old Lyn, Christ UC: we are the inn. Be ready!

 This is the first Sunday of Advent, traditionally recognized as a Sunday for hope. In a season of waiting, we are reminded to draw on our faith so we do not lose hope. We are invited to use our spiritual imaginations to hope for a better world.

 So, if we do our part, and wear our masks, and sanitize the manger, will God do God’s part?

 In a time of turmoil and change and uncertainty, the prophet, Isaiah called out to God: Will you tear open the heavens and come down? Will you do the awesome deeds that shake the mountains, and make the nations tremble?

We might add our own prayer to this: And while you are at it, will you cleanup the environment and cure all disease and poverty?
Will you smite our enemies, and the virus, and let us get on with our lives?

 We can ask, my friends, but the wise prophet, Isaiah, when he complains about God hiding himself, also acknowledges that God has caused this desolation because the people have sinned, and need to be saved.

 Isaiah is wise enough to cry out and to howl his prayers to God.
He trusts God. He knows that the people can’t even recognize God’s power if they don’t first acknowledge their own power to make changes in their world.

If we feel helpless in the face of so much craziness/evil/destruction, we are in good company. We cannot heal, we cannot hope, unless we first face the grief we are all feeling, as month after month we hear news of COVID 19 increasing.
 
In the early years of my ministry, on the first Sunday of Advent we were part of a United Church campaign called “Beads of Hope.” We were praying for healing from AIDS and HIV. In the eighties and nineties, even into the 21st century, AIDS decimated a whole cohort of people in North America. Gay men and women watched as one after another of their friends died. In Africa, deaths from AIDS left whole villages to the care of grandmothers. The parents had all died of AIDS.

In the 14th century, a tiny, obscure woman from Norwich, in England, enclosed herself in a small cell attached to St Julian’s Church.  A window in her cell opened out into the church, so she could see Mass being celebrated. Another window opened onto the street. People would come to her for advice and prayer, listening to her words through this tiny window. She became known as “Julian of Norwich.”

Julian was born in 1332, in a time of when the Black Death/Plague was raging, the church was in chaos, Europe was engaged in the Hundred Year War, and Britain was rocked with political unrest. Julian dared to root her faith in the peace and acceptance of God’s love. On May 8, 1372, as she lay dying, she had a series of visions. “Julian of Norwich” as she is known to us, wrote them down, in what is known in our time as “Revelations of Divine Love.” The rest of her life was spent exploring their meaning.

Julian’s visions have been a comfort to many. “God did not say you would not be afflicted, or tempest tossed. But he did say, you shall not be overcome.”  Imagine how outrageous her advice was to a world wracked with war and disease and turmoil, when she said: “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”

Do we dare to use this as our statement of faith? Can this be the hope we proclaim this Advent?

We have been out of our sanctuary for eight months, displaced by the Pandemic. How does it feel to be back?

We are in good company as we look back through our biblical history. The Israelites had also been displaced from their Temple. They had been betrayed by their leaders, who had made foolish alliances with one set of conquerors after another. Isaiah was preaching to a people who had been taken from their homeland and Temple in Jerusalem, into Babylon. After a generation away from Israel, the exiles return to Jerusalem. The temple was in ruins.

In exile, the people learned new ways of worshipping God.
Without the physical temple, they had to learn how to honour their faith with new traditions. They wrote the stories of faith down, and revised the creation stories. They wrote down the prophecies.
In exile, the people began gathering in small groups to praise God and study the stories and scripture. These small groups were called “synagogues”: which means “people together.” (I wonder of ZOOM is a cyber equivalent in our time???)

When Jesus came, his followers completely changed their understanding of the temple again.
In their teacher, they saw God’s life revealed so clearly, that they recognized him as the new temple.
God’s holy of holy is not held in a building of stone, but in the human flesh of Jesus. He becomes the temple. As the church, we become the body of Christ. We are the temple.

Here we are, folks. In our sacred space together. In cyberspace, together. The temple is not made of stone. It is made of love.

Julian of Norwich described God’s love as “all-enfolding”. She was “enclosed in her cell, yet free of spirit,” is how she is described six hundred years after her death, by the keeper of the shrine at St. Julian in Norwich. (Father Robert Llewelyn)

 She dared to proclaim that God loves us, not for our goodness, but because God made us, and we belong to God.

Jesus tells his followers to watch and wait, and know that he will return.
Not because the world has ended, but because it is time. The kingdom comes.
Every single day of our lives, we are part of the new creation that God is building in us and with us. We are cooperating with God as the world is being made new.

It is strange to be waiting for a baby who came two thousand years ago.
It is really strange to be waiting every year for that baby.
But that is what we do, every year during Advent. We wait in expectation of a miracle that happens again and again. We live in hope.

Get ready, my friends, because you are the innkeepers. Mary and Joseph will come to us and need space for the birth of their child.

Our descendants will look back on our hopes and they will marvel.
They will see our strength, even if it looks like weakness.
They will see how we managed, each day, to be kind, or generous, or patient.
They will see we persevered. They will see how we built new communities, online, reaching out to each other with new technology. (They will probably laugh at that -- it will be so old fashioned within a year or two...)
We are the ancestors in waiting.
Let us wait in faith, with love, and in hope, enfolded in God. AMEN

 Anthem: VU 5 “All Earth is Waiting”

Offering and Prayers of the People
Lord, open our minds to a new understanding of your wonderful world
which is such a mystery, but is the root of our faith.
Open our eyes so we can see the Spirit guiding us
and open our hearts to share the Christ within us as we continue the journey of faith
thanking you for all that has gone before and for the future yet to come.
For the faith of our mothers and fathers throughout history
and the sons and daughters who followed them,
For the visions of prophets and disciples
who shared your Word, and all who believed them,
for the wise people, for leaders and followers,
for all who are waiting for new life, in this world or the next,
we pray.
For our world, and the distress and fear caused by the unknown,
for all who are struggling with pain or suffering, in body mind or spirit,
for all who are seeking a new path because the ones they know are no longer open
we pray.
We pray for your leaders, here in this congregation, and in our community, province, country and world.
In a world of hard voices and criticism, may we be kind and generous with our blessings.
We pray for families who are having to find new ways of being together across the distance,
In a world that needs courage to face new days, we pray for and strength to face each new challenge:
we pray for teachers and first responders and healthcare workers.
For each moment, each breath, each miracle of a new day we praise you and give thanks.
In Christ’s name we pray. AMEN**

Sing: MV92 “Like a Rock”

Benediction and Commissioning

Sing: “Go Now in Peace”

*by Wendy MacLean
**adapted from Richard Becher in: Shine on Star of Bethlehem
Peace”