Trinity United Church
Sunday, December 12, 2021
“Connection not Perfection”
Rev David: May the peace of Christ be with you.
Welcome to Trinity United Church in Port Coquitlam, BC.
We are so grateful that you have chosen to spend some time with us, we are glad you are here.
If you are joining us on YouTube, please check out our website at ucpoco.ca. We would also appreciate if you would subscribe to our channel, and like and share our service. Those buttons are right below the video, and it does make a difference when you interact with our account.
Acknowledgement of Territory
Much of what we know as the Northwest Coast of North America was occupied by the Coast Salish Peoples. The territory where Trinity United Church of Port Coquitlam resides is the unceded territory of the Kwikwetlem First Nations. Our acknowledgement of unceded traditional territory is a first step in reconciliation between settler cultures and indigenous peoples and the decolonization of western systems that continue to oppress and exploit indigenous peoples and land. The work of reconciliation is daunting. The work of reconciliation will not be ours to complete, but neither is it ours to abandon.
Let us prepare our hearts and minds for worship.
Prelude: “Welcome Home Video” CLICK HERE
Lighting of the Advent Candles
The first week of Advent, we lit the candle of Hope. Last week we lit the candle of peace, reminded that we are called to do what is right so that all may live in genuine peace. This week we light the candle of Joy.
Joy is not something we passively receive. It is also something we actively offer.
As we respond to the call to participate in genuine peace, we respond with joy.
Joy isn’t happiness. It is something bigger. Joy bubbles up from the ground of our being and overflows to the world around us. Joy infuses our whole being and endures even when we aren’t necessarily happy. Joy resonates in the heavens above and the earth below and will require a multitude of angels to properly express.
As we light the third candle of Advent, may we respond to the Advent call with joy.
[The pink candle is lit]*
*copyright 2021 WorshipCollective
Sung Response: “Open Our Eyes”
Open our eyes
to the wonder of the season,
0pen our hearts to your joy
God of the universe
we are dust within such vastness
God of the baby,
stars and angels sing your praises.
Open our hearts to your hope, God.
Open our hearts to your peace.
Open our hearts to your joy, God,
and open our hearts to your love.*
*copyright 2021 WorshipCollective
Open our hearts to receive your joy.
Empower us with you Holy Spirit
to make the crooked ways straight
and to mend the broken souls.
Hymn: “My Soul Cries Out” MV 120 CLICK HERE
Even during a pandemic, we are moving through a season that can quickly become overwhelmingly busy and full with preparations, events, concerts, visits, and to-dos. Added to that traditional busy-ness is a new anxiety around the pandemic, financial stability, and ecological crisis. Now is a time for us to make some space to receive the gift that God wants us to receive, the gift of joy. Remembering that Advent Joy is not merely happiness dependent on our circumstances but something bigger, I invite you to slow down for a moment with me. Maybe take a few deep cleansing breaths. Maybe close your eyes or just let them rest half-lidded. And imagine a felt sense of God’s joy. What might joy feel like to you? Imagine the physical sensation of being joyful. Imagine what joy feels like and hold on to that feeling. Breathe into that feeling and let it grow and be refined into a pure joy. This is the gift God is preparing you to receive. I am going to read a line from scripture. Then we are going to sit with God’s gift for us for a few minutes. If you feel your thought’s are getting busy again, simply repeat the words from scripture silently to yourself and return to this pure gift.
Isaiah 12:6 “…shout for joy.”
“…shout for joy.” Amen.
WE HEAR THE WORD OF GOD
The Story: “John Proclaims Repentance” CLICK HERE
I wonder what it's like to be told you've been misbehaving
I wonder what it's like to have to tell someone they've been behaving badly
I wonder what it is like to realize you've done something wrong
This is a story about a man who came to tell the people of Israel they'd been up to no good.
John came from out of the wilderness telling people that God wanted them to change their ways. When they had promised to change their ways, John would baptize them in the river. Many, many people came to John to be baptized.
But John could see that some of the people hadn't really changed their bad ways. So he called them a brood of vipers who showed no signs of having changed their bad behaviour.
The crowd asked him, "What shall we do?"
And John said, "Share what you have."
The tax collectors asked him, "What shall we do?"
And John said, "Don't be greedy, taking more than your share."
The Roman soldiers asked him, "What shall we do?"
And John said, "Don't tell lies, and don't use violence to take other people's things."
People were filled with awe listening to John, wondering if he might be the one scripture talked about; the one they were waiting for; the one sent by God.
But John said, "The One talked about in scripture is greater than me! I baptize you with water. But he will baptize you with the holy spirit!"
I wonder, "What shall we do?"
Hymn: “Comfort, Comfort” VU 883 CLICK HERE
Reading: Luke 3:7-18
Hymn: “Isaiah the Prophet has Written of Old” VU 680
God of the wilderness,
as we reflect on your word
speak to our hearts
and turn us around
to face your joy and fulfillment.
In the name of the Awaited One we pray,
It’s still Advent, and here is John.
"You brood of vipers... Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'.... 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!"
"What should we do?" The crowd, the tax collectors, the Roman soldiers asking what they should do that would "bear the fruit worthy of repentance.”
To the crowd he says, "Share what you have." To the tax collectors he says, "Only take your share." To the Roman soldiers he says, "be content with what you have and don't use violence to take more."
John's response is for people to live generously and justly. John isn't concerned about fervent prayers, or faithful worship. John is concerned about what we do with abundance, how we exercise public service and how we steward the gifts we've been given. John's call is for us to be less selfish and more generous, to be less self-centered and more just, to be less deceptive and more honest.
The fruit worthy of repentance is generosity, contentment, justice and honest stewardship.
Would John recognize our repentance? Would John look at our behaviour and see generosity, contentment, justice and honest stewardship?
Here we are, we want to hear about a joyful baby Jesus and John has us doing a moral inventory:
Would John the Baptizer consider us generous?
A traditional benchmark for generosity in the church is a tithe. That's 10% of our income. Very, very few people tithe their entire income. And fewer people tithe to the church. Thank you to those who do. A tithe doesn't need to be on your entire income, but could be after taxes, after mortgage payments, or after other debts and costs of living. But a tithe of something is a good way to measure how generous you want to be. It is my goal to tithe my gross income by the time I'm 55. I’ve been building up to that over the years.
Being generous of time and skill is in addition to financial generosity. Volunteering doesn't replace financial support. No amount of volunteering is going to pay salaries, or Hydro bills.
Would John the Baptist consider us generous, or would he be calling us a brood of vipers?
Would John consider us content with what we have?
We know statistically that we are richer than 90% of the world's population. Are we content with what we have or do we constantly long for more? The miracle is not that Jesus fed 10,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish, but that the people were satisfied.
Capitalism and Consumerism encourage dissatisfaction and a sense of scarcity. If we were satisfied, if we truly believed there was enough, we might stop shopping. If we subscribe to the ideologies of dissatisfaction and scarcity, then John would call us a brood of vipers.
God's creation is plentiful. The way we distribute God's plenty is shameful.
How do we exercise satisfaction? How do we exhibit contentment?
Are we Just? God help us all. We have developed global systems that are horrifically unjust. And we are complicit in genocide, colonization, racism, economic oppression, and gross mismanagement of natural resources. God help us all.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if you are bearing the fruit of justice:
When making choices, do you mostly consider what's most convenient for you, or do you consider the impact the choice has on others?
A second question: How am I participating in decolonization? If you don't understand the word "decolonization" that's a word for you to look up and learn about. Learning about decolonization is to participate in decolonization.
A third question: How am I challenging systemic racism? If your first response is, "I'm not racist" then you are part of the problem. We all participate in a system that was designed to benefit certain people and oppress other people. When we remain ignorant of those benefits, we contribute to the harm done to the people who are oppressed.
Just by educating ourselves we contribute to dismantling the system.
Would John recognize our choices as just? or would be we a brood of vipers... God help us all.
That brings us to Stewardship. Are we practicing good stewardship as individuals and a community? How do we manage what God has so generously given us? Do we hoard up our abundance for a "rainy day" that may or may not ever come? Do we plan wisely for the future? Do we plan, not only for our future, but the future of others?
It has surprised me that so few people, mention the church in their wills. I have to wonder what John's thoughts would be on those of us who say the church is important, and help to provide for the church's present, but don't contribute to the church's future by naming the church in their wills as a beneficiary. Ten percent of one’s legacy divided among a half a dozen or so grandchildren isn't much money to the grandchildren, but it would be a huge gift to the church and other charities. Legacy planning is an important part of planning the use of the abundance God has given us.
So here we are with a very unpopular message. We'd rather be hearing about the baby Jesus, when John the Baptizer comes in, proclaiming a baptism of repentance, telling us to bear fruit worthy of that baptism.
I believe that a life that really lives into the principles of generosity, contentment, justice and stewardship is a life that will be filled with joy.
As I've gone through this inventory while reflecting on John's proclamation, I know that I would like to do better. I believe that is the purpose of the church, to help each other live more fully into repentance, changing our ways to live lives that are more generous, content, just, and honest.
May we hear the joy of John's message,
May we live more deeply into fruit of repentance,
And may the awaited one find us prepared to receive him. Amen.
Special Music: David Rogers
WE RESPOND TO GOD’S WORD
God of justice and grace,
We pray that our gifts of prayer,
resources and service
may help to feed a world hungry for healing and hope.
For the sake of the awaited one, we pray. Amen.
The Great Thanksgiving:
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift our hearts in prayer.
Let us give thanks to God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.
Holy God of Advent waiting, you are the beginning and the end;
You are the Alpha and Omega, the East and the West the Heavens and the Earth;
You are the air we breathe, the breath of life, the winds of change;
You are our all in all, from everlasting to everlasting.
From the dawn of our being you have been with us, intricately weaving us into creation,
forming our inward parts;
You have placed dreams in our hearts, words on our lips and promises in our hands.
You gave us life through Adam and Eve, a promise through Abraham and Sarah, a law through Moses and Miriam, and a calling through the prophets.
You gave us an example and teacher through Jesus Christ: born in a stable, raised in exile, persecuted with injustice, killed on a cross, raised from the tomb;
Jesus calls us to seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly with you.
For all this we give you thanks.
And so with all of creation, the Angels and saints we sing these words of praise:
“Holy, holy, holy…” VU 932 ff
We remember how on a hillside, the disciples were filled with doubt. Thousands of people following Jesus sat hungry and longing for food, healing, comfort and good news. Jesus said, “Feed them,” and the disciples challenged him, insisting that there was no food available and even if there were, many years’ wages could not feed such a multitude. A small boy offered all he had, a few fish and a few loaves of bread. While the disciples argued and asserted their doubts, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks for it, broke it and fed the multitude. The multitude was satisfied and there was abundant bread left over.
We remember how Jesus, his mother Mary and his friends went to a wedding. The wine ran out. Again, amidst great doubt and shame, Jesus ordered the water jars filled, he gave thanks for them and wine of the best quality and in outrageous abundance poured forth, more than could possibly be required.
Let us pray: God of all hope, peace, joy and love, we rejoice in the gift of your abundance in the midst of our scarcity, hope in the midst of our despair, faithfulness in the midst of our doubt. As darkness looms, creation grows big with your promise for a new beginning.
Confident your everlasting promise, may our lives proclaim the mystery of our faith:
“Christ has died…” VU 933
Make us mindful, God of Holy Preparation, of your presence in these gifts of juice and bread and upon us and what we do here. May we be prophets of hope, peace joy and love in the world this Advent season, through our actions and gift giving.
Praise be to the Source, Praise be to the Spirit, Praise be to the Living Christ, Three in One.
“Amen…” VU 933
Disciples’ Prayer: “Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother” CLICK HERE
The bread of new life.
The cup of promise.
Prayer after Communion:
God of Advent Mystery,
you are the fulfiller of all promises.
We give you thanks for the feast
in which we have just shared.
May we prove worthy of the shoot,
springing up from the stump of Jesse,
branching out into the world
with hope, peace, joy and love,
proclaiming your presence, and righteousness.
In the name of the Awaited One we humbly pray. Amen.
WE GO FORTH
Hymn: “Hark the Glad Sound” VU 29
Let’s go from this place today…
trusting [fold your hands over your heart]
in the voice of God, [hand over your mouth]
whispered in the soft brush of wings [sweep hands high and down like wings]
in the hand of Christ, [hold out one hand]
offering to help [hold out the other hand]
when we feel small [hug yourself, bow your head]
trusting [hands over your heart]
in the power of the Holy Spirit [flex your arm muscles]
that reminds us of a bigger story [sweep arms overhead]
Let us go in peace [fold hands over heart]