Dec 12 2021 – Sunday Worship Posted
- On December 12, 2021
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This Sunday is the third week of Advent – the Sunday of Joy. My hope is that in the hustle and bustle of the season you have been able to slow down and notice the simple things around you that bring you joy each day!
If you would like to have a pastoral visit during Advent – in person, by phone or over Zoom –please reach out and we will set a time to meet.
Christmas Giving Tree: As has been our custom here at Knox PC Sixteen during Advent we will focus attention on a number of the agencies that we support though our outreach and missions. Each Sunday during the Advent season we will focus on a different agency. This week we will focus on Evangel Hall, the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s center city mission in Toronto. Please checkout the Evangel Hall website https://www.evangelhall.ca/ and consider making a contribution – either by placing an envelope on the tree or through your regular offering designated as missions.
If you would like to become more involved in the mission outreach of our congregation, please mention your interest to Rev. Patrick.
Evangel Hall Mission (EHM): A Community of Compassion. A place of hope. Founded in 1913 by the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Evangel Hall Mission is a community service agency delivering programs that address homelessness and poverty in Toronto. We strive to be a safe haven where people living with mental and physical health challenges, fighting addictions, and fleeing abuse can take a rest from their burdens and access supports to work towards brighter futures. We offer a continuum of care, meeting the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness and poverty, while also providing them with tools and community support to attain stable housing, financial independence, and self-sufficiency. Over the past year EHM has housed +100 homeless people, served +100,000 meals and provided +600 dental visits.
Christmas Eve Service: The Christmas Eve service of worship will be held at 7:00pm. Due to the continuing concerns related to the pandemic Session has taken the following steps to ensure the safety of the members of the congregation who wish to attend worship:
- All people attending worship will be required to be double-vaccinated.
- Members will be asked to reserve their space for worship (this will allow Session to assign seating)
- The Christmas Eve worship will not be advertised to the public. The website will indicate that the service of worship, will be limited to members of the congregation due to capacity restrictions. Members of the public who contact the congregation will be informed of this decision by Rev. Gushue.
- If capacity allows, members of the public who arrive for worship unannounced will be requested to show proof of double vaccination – as per the public health guidelines concerning public gatherings. A poster indicating such will be posted.
Ministers Vacation: Rev. Patrick and his family will be travelling to Newfoundland to celebrate Christmas with their family. They will be leaving bright and early Christmas Day and returning the first week of January. In his absence Rev. Sean Foster from Hopedale Presbyterian Church will provide pastoral care to the congregation. His contact information is available through Brenda.
December 27, 2021:
there will be no service of worship (live or virtual)
January 2, 2022:
The service of worship will be offered through a video which will be made available through the weekly e-mail. There will be no in person service of worship.
January 9, 2022:
Live worship will resume at Knox PC Sixteen at the regular time 10:30am
Service of Worship
December 12, 2021
3rd Sunday of Advent
- Come thou long expected Jesus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dmO8UPlWoo
- Long ago, prophets knew https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S63rjDtYRYg
- What child is this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1cfCEzniEg
- Joy to the World https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyciMYZq2-Y
Isaiah 12: 2-6
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day:
Give thanks to the Lord,
call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be known in all the earth.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Luke 3:7-18 NRSV
7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,[a] 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
Prayer for Illumination
you are our guide and ultimate assurance.
open our hearts to the promises and the challenges contained with-in your Word
and stir us again with the fire of your love. Amen.
Reflection: What God is this?
If ever there was a word that I needed this week. This is the word.
You may remember that it was the word made famous by Mary Poppins.
But you may not remember why it is such an important word to know!
Is the word to use when you don’t know what else to say.
How do you engage a reflection from a passage that starts with, ”You brood of vipers!”?
How do you comfort people, “when the ax is at the root of the tree?”
How do you rationalize preparing the way for the prince of peace with the chaff he will burn in the unquenchable fire.
It’s the word you use when you don’t know what to say (pause)
Now there was the obvious way to approach this passage. I could have ignored these references to axes and fires and burning all together and simply honed in on the exhortation of John that called the people of the time to repentance: to acknowledge those things in their lives that separated themselves from God and other people and to then begin to live in a new way. I could have picked up one of the themes from last week’s reflection. I could have focused in on step 3 of the 4-step process of change … went a little deeper into the meaning of repentance and teased apart that there are two parts to repentance: the first is to turn from bad and the second is to move toward good.
And I could have illustrated this by talking about a school yard bully I once knew. I would have told you I went to school in a tough neighborhood. How tough you would have asked? And I would have told you about one particular nun – a Sister of Mercy – who was famous for saying, “ If I catch you on the pond, I’ll kill ya.” I would have described for you the plan that my little brother and I had to get away from the bullies, by me faking that I was hurt so that he could run to safety. And I could have told you how this bully took our money and stole Boy Scout apples and beat us up every once and a while. And how his repentance meant more than just stopping the bad things that he did. Stopping the stealing and stopping the fighting were only the first stage. Although, the playground was safe – the bully had not repented. Because to repent also means to move toward the good. … Time passed and the child who was a bully transformed into a youth leader working with the young boys in the very community he once used to terrorize … And I would have mentioned that in this example, perhaps you like me, would have experienced what true repentance looks like. And then I would have invited you to take a moment to reflect on your own life – finding the example of the person who has truly repented – and to recognize how that person lives in a different way than most. (pause)
If I had of ignored the references to axes and fires and burning and honed in on the exhortations I would have insisted that John the Baptist wasn’t looking for flippant “I’m sorries.” John was looking for nothing less than the complete transformation of how the people of the time lived out their lives.
Then I would have gone deeper tweezing out each of the three strands – the three groups who asked “what then should we do?” To the tax collectors – who were notorious for extorting money from their own people; to the soldiers – who lied and cheated to get what they wanted; and to the crowds who were unwilling to share what they had. I would have done a really robust exegesis on this and then I would have asked you to consider what changes you needed to make in your life … what it is that you believe that you should do? And not only what things you needed to stop doing; the things that bring you into conflict with other people, the things that cause tension in relationships, the things that kept you from having an intimate relationship with God. I would have also asked you to reflect on the new things that you needed to start doing. What things you needed to do to mend relationships, what you needed to do encourage others, what you needed to do to draw yourself closer to God.
And I probably would have insisted that there is no one so old, or so lost that they cannot change. In fact, I probably would have insisted that the older or more lost we have become the more important it is to be open to transformation.
That is of course if I had ignored the ax, the fire and the burning. Yes, I could have done all of those things. But as I reflected on the words of John the Baptist “that every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” the words of Lloyd the Organist echoed through my consciousness. For Lloyd’s words proclaim that there is no one good enough to get into heaven by themselves … and no one bad enough to be kept out.
And therein lies the tension in this passage. The tension between a God who punishes and a God who forgives. The tension between a God who wants to be feared and a God who wants to be loved. And how we understand who we are as God’s children created in thisGod’s image. And how we interact with others and the world from this perception – our perspective of who God is.
So, even here however I had to grapple with what it was that I could possibly say. I could have said that this passage is apocalyptical writing. You’ll remember from a few weeks ago that apocalyptical writing is a genre of Jewish and Christian writings that appeared from about 200 BC to AD 150 whose purpose was to affirm for the people, that in their present time – in the midst of what was happening in the world around them – that God was in control. I could have insisted that this particular story affirmed their belief that God was ultimately in control of their lives and their fate in this world. However, it was difficult to find hope as the ax was swinging toward the root of the tree and the flames of the fire burned hotter and higher.
And, so, I could have said that the Baptist was speaking metaphorically, using language from a rural, agriculture context– and that the metaphors of John needed to be interpreted quite differently in our urban, high-tech world.
Or I could have said that this passage was for the soldiers, the tax collectors and crowds – Jews or pagans who have not yet heard the message of Jesus – and that we are different because we have been baptised and have lived our lives as members of a Christian church.
I could have explained away or ignored or negated the words of John. I could have dulled the ax and broken the threshing fork – and interpreted this passage through the lens of the way that I know God – as a loving Father, a comforting presence, a guide in all things – but that would have assumed that I know the mystery of God — and in that … I will not be presumptuous.
So there is nothing I can say. Nothing that I can say or do that can substitute – for your own knowledge of and relationship with God. It is for you alone to resolve the tension in this passage. To answer the question What God is this?
You see, while I believe it is critically important to learn about God and to study Scripture. And while I believe that it is in sharing of our experiences with each other in community that we come to a deeper understanding of God. And while I believe that in personal and communal prayer we can find the courage to be vulnerable, and to open ourselves up to the movement of the Holy Spirt. In the end, there is nothing that I can say. In the end the tension of the passage can only be resolved by you, through your faith and your experiences with God. Only you can answer the question of What God is this?
So to the question, “What then must we do?”
- It is for each of us, in our own unique and special way, as part of our community of faith, to challenge our presumptions of who we believe our God to be.
- It is for us to contemplate the mystery of God – who chose to become human and dwell amongst us – revealing Gods-self in the infant boy Jesus.
- It is for us to reflect on how God, the Holy Spirit was, is and will be active in our lives.
- It is for us to discern what we must do to prepare the way for this God; to prepare to welcome Jesus this Christmas.
My prayer is that when Christ is born he finds room and a warm welcome. Amen