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Trinity United Church
Sunday, December 19, 2021
Advent 4

“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. 

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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

We have lit the candles of Hope, Peace, and Joy. This week we light the candle of Love.
Love isn’t about warm fuzzy feelings. It is something bigger. 
Love is how we treat one another.
As we trust that Advent ends in a new creation, as we do what is right to bring peace, as we respond with joy to the Call of Advent, we are called to also love one another. We are called to participate in bringing down the powerful and feeding the hungry, scattering the proud and lifting up the lowly.
We are called not only to receive love, but to offer it.
As we light the fourth candle of Advent, may we learn to love.
[The last blue candle is lit]

*2021 WorshipCollective

Sung Response: “Open Our Eyes”

Open our eyes 
to the wonder of the season,
0pen our hearts to your love
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

Opening Prayer:

Holy One, 
Open our hearts to your love.
Teach us the humility of saying, “yes” 
to serving your people.
In the name of the awaited child, we pray. 

Hymn: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” VU 8  CLICK HERE

Reconciliation Meditation

Our vigil is almost here. The story today brings us to Mary. While Christmas Eve we will celebrate Joy to the world and peace on earth, we aren’t quite there yet. Imagine that young child, Mary, unexpectedly pregnant and not by her fiancé, having traveled a great distance on foot to a strange town, and setting up in a stable for the night. She and Joseph are tired, probably worried and anxious, maybe hopeful, maybe grateful… Not so much unlike us in much of our daily living. Let us take a moment to lay aside our fears and sit in God’s reconciling love.
You may want to close your eyes, or simply let them relax and feel your weight on the pew. Become aware of your breathing, maybe acknowledge each inhalation as a gift, each exhalation as a letting go or releasing of stress. I invite you to imagine God’s steadfast love. What is God’s love like as you imagine it? Is it a bright light? A warmth? A tingling sensation? Maybe a deep, deep comfort. However you imagine God’s love, hold on to that image or feeling. I am going to read a few words from Scripture, then we will sit in God’s steadfast love for several minutes. If you feel your thoughts getting busy, simply repeat silently to yourself the words from scripture and return your attention to God’s love.

Luke 1:47 “…glory to God.”

[3 min silence]

May all our souls give “glory to God.” Amen.


The Story: 

Angel: put hand around mouth and say, “Glory! Glory! Glory!”
Mary: hold hands out and say, “Here I am!”
God: put hands on hips and say, “Don’t be afraid!”
Jesus: fist pump and say, “Amen!”

God “Don’t be afraid!” knew it was time to announce the birth of Jesus. “Amen!” So God “Don’t be afraid!” sent the Angel “Glory! Glory! Glory!” Gabriel down to the city of Nazareth to a young woman named Mary “Here I am!”. Mary “Here I am!” was engaged to a man named Joseph of the house of David.
The Angel “Glory! Glory! Glory!” came to Mary, “Here I am!” and said, "Hail, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!"
But Mary “Here I am!” was afraid and didn't know how to respond.
So the Angel “Glory! Glory! Glory!” said to her, "Mary, “Here I am!” You have found favour with God! “Don’t be afraid!”  You will become the mother to a little boy, and you will call him Jesus! “Amen!”"
"He will be great, and will be called the son of God! “Don’t be afraid!” And the Lord God “Don’t be afraid!” will give to him the throne of the King of Kings.  And he will rule over the children of God “Don’t be afraid!” forever!  And to his Kingdom there will be no end because God “Don’t be afraid!” will be with him!"
And Mary “Here I am!” said to the Angel, “Glory! Glory! Glory!” "How can this be?  I have no husband!"
But the Angel “Glory! Glory! Glory!” said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come to you and the power of God “Don’t be afraid!” will cover you.  The child to be born will be called holy, and the Son of God! “Don’t be afraid!” And behold!  Your Cousin Elizabeth is with a child in her old age; even though she was unable to have children, she is now six months pregnant.  For with God “Don’t be afraid!” nothing is impossible!"
And Mary “Here I am!” said, "I am God's “Don’t be afraid!” servant.  Let it be according to God's “Don’t be afraid!” will."
And the Angel “Glory! Glory! Glory!” left Mary “Here I am!” after telling her about Jesus. “Amen!”

And the story continues with Mary visiting Elizabeth in the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John:

Reading: Luke 1:39-45 / Luke 1:47-55 CLICK HERE for video.

Hymn: “There Was a Child in Galilee” MV 134

Message: Rev David Cathcart

God of expectant waiting,
as we reflect on the visitation
between Mary and Elizabeth
and hear Mary's proclamation of
the powerful brought low and the lowly raised up,
fill us with your Holy Spirit,
that we too may bear your good news into the world.

It is still Advent. Christmas is a week away. And we hear the Visitation. Mary, after being visited by the angel, visits her older cousin Elizabeth who is 6 months pregnant with John.

Both women are pregnant in ways that would have aroused suspicion. Both of these pregnancies would have elicited scandal. Elizabeth is old and has been barren until now... was Zechariah the problem and Elizabeth found a loop hole? And of course, Mary was unmarried. Scandal! Scandal everywhere! But the two women come together to give each other support, as they are birthing the word of God. The Word of God comes to us in scandalous form.

Mary enters the house of Zechariah. Now, Zechariah is indisposed, as you might recall. He had been visited by the same angel six or so months earlier. He doubted what the angel told him and so the Angel made him unable to hear or speak until after Elizabeth's son was born. Zechariah isn't able to host in his own home. Scandalous.

As soon as Mary enters the house of Zechariah, we are told the unborn John leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb at the approach of Mary and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and Proclaims, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb..."

Isn't it interesting that the designated priest, the Elizabeth's husband, the religious authority, has been struck mute and deaf, and it is Elizabeth, the elderly pregnant woman, formerly believed barren, who has become the prophet?

Even before we hear Mary's Song, we have a reversal of status between Zechariah, the priest, and Elizabeth, the barren old woman. Zechariah has lost his voice, and Elizabeth is exclaiming with a loud cry. Scandalous... a woman speaking and the priest is silent!

When Elizabeth has finished her proclamation, we hear what is known as the Magnificat, or Mary's song. We could also call it, the Gospel according to Mary. And it is even more scandal.

Mary starts by giving thanks and praising God for what God has done for her personally, elevating her status.

Now lets be clear... God made Mary pregnant. In all practical ways, Mary's status in the occupied state of Judah as a poor, unmarried girl with child, would have made her status as low as low can be. Scandalous! But that isn't Mary's experience at this point, "All generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done Great things for me and holy is his name."

Mary does not end with praise for what God has done just for her, but continues to praise God for what God is doing for all God's people:

"He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel..."

I would call this the heart of the Gospel of Mary. Again we see reversal after reversal: scattering of the proud, bringing down the powerful, lifting up the lowly; filling the hungry; sending the rich away empty. Scandalous.

This is a recurring theme throughout Luke's gospel, "some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." Luke 13:30

In the telling of the birth of Jesus, Luke doesn't just talk about reversals of status but actually shows us what it will look like: a barren woman will have a voice, a designated religious authority will lose his voice; an unwed mother will be blessed by all generations. Scandal.

According to Luke, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus means the world as we know it will be turned upside down.

It often bewilders me that a church that takes these texts seriously could exclude women from leadership for centuries. Luke is so clearly saying that the Good News is carried into the world by pregnant women! Scandalously pregnant women at that!

Mary's Gospel is good news to the hungry, the lowly, the oppressed. It probably sounds less than good news to the powerful, the rich, and the proud, who are being scattered, brought down, and sent away hungry.

But here's the thing. The Good News is Good News for everyone, the rich and the poor, the lowly and the proud.

I'm angry about a doctor telling me I can't eat foods that I enjoy. It feels like some kind of punishment. But I know that if I restrict my diet, I will be healthier, live more comfortably, and probably a little longer. The same can be said for the rich the powerful and the proud. If they lived with less, life would be better.

I suppose within our own little contexts it is possible that we of Trinity United Church could think of ourselves as the hungry, the lowly, and the oppressed. Especially if we have bought into the secular gospel of scarcity and eternal want. However, on a global scale we are far from wanting. We as a congregation resemble the powerful, the rich and the proud far more than the lowly, the hungry and the oppressed.

Trinity has been a very wealthy community. We have a HUGE building, a large piece of land, and several staff people managing our ministry. We have a legacy, a history of which we are maybe a little too proud. Until fairly recently we have spent in excess of $250,000 annually on our ministry.

And we have recently approved a budget with an anticipated deficit of $68,000.

What if God is telling us we would be better off with less?

Maybe it is time for this particular designated religious authority to be silent and let someone without a voice speak?

Maybe we need to be making room for more people from the margins and taking up less space ourselves?

Maybe being scattered, or socially distanced, has a different kind of offering for us?

Scandal! Scandal everywhere!

God's promise is for the rich and the poor, the hungry and the powerfull, the proud and the scattered. And the promise is that things will NOT continue to be as they have been, but they will be remade new. and that the new heaven and the new earth, will be better than the old.

May we not be put off by the scandal of the Good News.
May we trust that the Good News is for the rich and the hungry, the powerful and the lowly.
And like Mary and Elizabeth, may we cling to each other for support as we birth new things.

Special Music:  David Rogers



Our souls, like Mary’s, are magnified by you, O God!
    We rejoice in your favour!
May the gifts we bring of money, time, skill and worship be signs that you have done great things for us!
May generation to generation call us blessed as we remember your mercy with acts of justice, kindness and compassion.
In the name of the child awaited in Bethlehem, we pray.  Amen.

Prayers of the People:
God of Hope, hear us as we pray for your world and your people…
    for those who will spend these days alone;
    for those who will not have enough for a feast;
    for those whose tables will have an empty place this year.
Lift our hearts in anticipation of your vision. Shine a light in the shadows of fear.
Sing a song of rejoicing in the lonely heart.

God of peace, on this Day of Love we pray
    for the people of Bethlehem, of Israel and Palestine;
    for refugees who have nowhere to lay their heads,
    for those who find themselves in strange lands.
Watch over and protect them,  God of the morning star.
Guide all people in the ways of mercy.

God of Joy, open our hearts, that we might receive you and hear your voice. Open us to the possibility of true change, in us and in others. Remind us of your promise, made again to each generation, of your forgiving and transforming love. May things on earth be as they are in heaven.

God of Love, heal the wounded heart, humble the proud and lift of the down-trodden. Reconcile us one to another; in our homes, our families and our communities. Remind us this Christmas season of your love for us, revealed in the child of Bethlehem, and revealed again in all our hearts.

We pray these things in the name of the One who comes, Jesus Christ*

*2021 WorshipCollective

Disciples’ Prayer: “Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother”    CLICK HERE


Hymn: “She Walked in the Summer” VU 12  CLICK HERE

Sending Forth: 
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]

*2021 WorshipCollective