John and Jesus: righteousness and peace (click here)
Welcome to worship at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Salmon Arm. We are delighted that you have joined us online.
You are invited to join us for a virtual Christmas Eve Service. We invite you to come with a plate of cookies or other sweet Christmas treat, and warm beverages (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, mulled cider or wine, ) for the Agape Feast during the service.
On New Year's Eve we invite you to join us for a virtual prayer meeting, as we lament for what 2020 has brought and pray with hope for 2021.
- Do not forget December's Loonie Offering to the SAFE House and the PWS&D Christmas Card project. To find out more check the "Recent Posts" to the right of your screen.
- Thank you Rev. Ena for leading us in worship today and may God bless us all with understanding and wisdom as we hear the Word today.
Please have an advent wreath or a candle handy to light as a part of the call to worship.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Second Sunday in Advent: PEACE
Reader: In this season of Advent, we celebrate God’s peace.
All: Jesus Christ, born the Prince of Peace, calls our community to justice and leads us in the way of peace.
Reader: We call one another to honesty and humility and respond to each other with abundant grace and forgiveness.
All: Our community values relationships. We live in harmony with one another even when we disagree, and strive to glorify God in everything we do.
Reader: Our community longs for unity. We work together with other churches and organizations, and live out God’s reconciling love for all the world to see.
All: Together, we are a sign of God’s peace in the world.
The candle of peace is lit.
Unison Prayer: God of all people and all nations, you break through the cynicism of our world and lead us like a gentle shepherd. Open our eyes to see the signs of your coming kingdom and inspire us to participate in all you are doing in Jesus’ name. Amen.
HYMN 126 On Jordan’s Bank
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Lord, in the midst of our busy time, when we are in the rush to Christmas, you burst into our lives with the tantalizing promise of something new. Open our hearts and spirits to the glorious possibilities of hope and peace to come. Help us to prepare our lives to receive you. We thank you for all the blessings you pour on us and for the privilege we have in sharing these blessings with others. Be with us all this day and all these days that we may serve you better by helping others in need. Seeking your creative and healing energy we come together to pray, trusting in you to hear our confession
UNISON PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God, we are a people who are surrounded by noise outside of us and filled with noise inside of us. The clutter within builds up and buries the way to our hearts. You've given us a gift to clear a way, to unburden ourselves, and that's confession.
We come to You as people came to John the Baptist to confess—
In the silence we allow the memories and the words to rise up so that we may speak them to You. Here's what we've been carrying around, the harm we've done knowingly or unknowingly to ourselves and others, here's what has crowded out Your Voice of Love...
Just admitting them lifts a burden. Just speaking them to You allows our hearts to be bathed and cleansed, preparing a way to hear Your invitation to repentance. May we not only confess but turn away again and again from the thoughts and actions which create the burdens and clutter.
Give us grace to continuously prepare a way for You in our hearts, our community and our world. Come Lord Jesus, Amen
Assurance of Pardon
O People of God, hear the good news of hope and triumph. In Christ we are made new. We are healed and forgiven, we are challenged and guided to become those who work for the better rather than those who would destroy and damage. You call us your people, O God, and we are eternally grateful. Praise be to God, in Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
PASSING THE PEACE
The face of God shines brightly on us,
that we might be saved.
The love of God revives us,
that we might call upon God’s name.
Seek out the shining face of God in one another
as we share the peace of Christ.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. And also with you.
Share a sign of peace with those nearby, or ask the Spirit to bring his peace to another you may know, or to a world situation.
Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13
1 You, Lord, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
8 I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps. (NIV)
Mark 1: 1-8
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with[f] the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)
Today in the Scriptures we look at the juxtaposition of some very different aspects of our relationship with God. Do we wonder at the very intimate linking of these aspects of our faith?
Love and faithfulness will meet together; and righteousness and peace will kiss each other…..that’s what we read in the Psalm. What does that mean? For us? For the coming kingdom of God?
What does it mean for us as we consider the coming of Jesus, as a baby, as a saviour and even as a warrior king?
What will the demands of love, faithfulness, righteousness and peace mean in a pandemic? They are portrayed here as very intimate parts of our interaction with God and with one another. How do we live this new way from six feet apart? Or in a Zoom?
Especially in these days where close contact and touching is discouraged, how do we reconcile these images of the coming of grace among us.
What does it mean in Biblical terms to meet together?
Lately, even when we have been together, passing the peace has meant a heartfelt wave. Long gone are the times when we mingled and passed the peace with a handshake or a hug.
In Biblical terms even those are restrained signs of sharing God’s peace. In Paul’s time the peace was passed with a holy kiss. Not the polite 3 kisses right, left, right; but full on the mouth kisses. Love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace are meant to be demonstrative, intimate and powerful symbols of our unity in God.
However, we live in a PC World. Even before the pandemic, we would have had trouble with that kind of intimate sharing. Those kinds of kisses would have us running to examine the guidelines of “Leading with Care”. It would certainly mean that we would take a second look at those practices and suggest something a little less touchy, after all no one wants a sexual harassment investigation.
Yet the demonstrative, intimate and powerful symbols of greeting and kissing are meant to show us the depth of God’s love, mercy and grace. Our God is not a tidy, polite, politically correct God.
Salvation was not a tidy, politically correct action. In every age with God, love, faithfulness, righteousness and peace have been radical, and political, spiritual acts. Perhaps even outright acts of defiance and insurrection that destabilized the political status quo.
So it is no wonder that both John and Jesus were seen as political threats. Especially when we look at John, by all accounts a fire and brimstone preacher, shouting at the people and demanding repentance. Then challenging and calling out those whom he calls servants of darkness, and nests of vipers to heed the words he speaks. He threatened the religious leadership, and the political authorities and politically that threat was felt right into Herod’s palace.
Yet John calls people to righteousness so that we will recognize Jesus when he comes. Without righteousness we will be unable to know true peace.
God is about to come to his people in a radical new way, the salvation in Jesus would be unprecedented, unexpected, perhaps even unbelievable…and as such it demanded a complete destabilization of power--politically, religiously and personally. Even those who listened to John preaching in the wilderness and responded to the call to repentance, were challenged to their very core. Repentance is not an easy process.
Repentance means turning ourselves around.
Changing our behaviour.
Looking at the world with fresh eyes.
Making a commitment to serve God and God alone.
At stake were values like:
Loyalty, Family, Patriotism, Ethics, and service to others, --all those things that are a part of our inner moral compass. For that reason, John’s greatest challenges were very disturbing to the teaching of the Temple and the demands of the politicians. Insurrections like this are not taken lightly.
The social, religious and political ways people lived would be shaken to the very core.
They would be challenged to consider who was worthy to be loved.
They would be challenged to change the way they thought about faith and what living in faith meant.
They would have to change their view of righteousness. John challenged people to look inside to examine their righteousness. No longer would it be good enough to put on a good face, to live as whitewashed sepulchres. Righteousness, like love, like faith, would be a matter of the heart. And not in a sloppy Hallmark card kind of way, but in a tough demanding, live like God has created you, kind of way.
Righteousness, love and faith, according to John, are demanding and when we respond to them it will change the way we live and love and interact with others.
To undergo the repentance that John called for would be so radical that it would be more likely to lead to discord and a lack of peace for people. We see how very true that was for John and his followers and for Jesus, and those who followed Jesus. John himself would be beheaded. How could this possibly be righteousness and peace kissing one another?
Jesus was called out by his own family for being too radical. Jesus would be tested, tricked and bullied by the religious leaders. He would be brought to trial before the temple as well as the political authorities. He would die a cruel death on a cross. Again I ask, how is this an example of righteousness and peace kissing one another?
For us right now, it means that we need to look at our comfort with the trappings of Christendom. How often do we go along to get along? How often do we reconsider our commitment to love and faith?
The Psalm calls us to consider how we will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
yet in order to have true peace, we are warned that we cannot lean to folly.
The depth of love, faith, and righteousness that will lead to an intimate experience of God’s peace will require everything that we have to give.
Last week we talked about God always taking the risk in loving, and in bringing us salvation and peace. That is true, and nothing I am saying now changes that. The risk taker is God. But we cannot simply be passive consumers of grace.
Today each one of us faces John shouting at us in the wilderness. We may go to the wilderness eager to hear his message. We may come slowly to the riverside, hesitantly considering the cost if we respond. We may stand on the hillside, trying to see how we can take what John offers without any effort on our part.
But the truth that each one of us has to grapple with is how willing we are to examine our lives, and examine our hearts and then give to God what holds us back from repentance. Give to God, what holds us back from righteousness. Give to God what holds us back from peace.
We have to answer the question, “is this a giving up of our rights and all we hold dear?” or is it a “gaining of the kingdom of God”?
The collision of righteousness and peace waits for us. It is not a tidy collision, and it will come with a lip-smacking kiss, and a huge bear hug. It will be uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable or not, it is only when that collision happens that we will know the salvation of God.
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Today we remember the gift of Jesus Christ given to us.
For ways in which to bring your offering into the storehouse check the front page of the website. Thank you.
Let us now pray for the offering received
Lord, we bring these gifts to you, thankful for all the ways you have healed and enriched our lives. May these gifts be used in service to others in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We need to remember
that how things are now is not how they’ve always been;
and it’s not how they always will be.
We need to remember
that your kingdom has come,
that it is growing among us now,
and that the time will come
when it fills the world with justice and love.
And so we pray for your coming,
to those around the world
whose poverty, pain, trauma, and grief
make your kingdom feel like a pipe dream;
WE PRAY FOR YOUR WORLD
That the people of Chili and Peru will recover from the earthquake
For California with new fires out of control.
For governments around the world as they prepare to distribute vaccines to their people, and for the Canadian government that it will finalize its approvals and start their plans to distribute.
And so we pray for your coming,
to those in our community
who long to see your love and justice
expressed through your followers;
WE PRAY FOR THE COMMUNITY AND ALL THOSE WHO WORK FOR OTHERS
The Church’s Thrift Store
For Doctors and Nurses, all support staff at the hospitals
For first responders and this day especially for: The RCMP
The Women’s Safe House
And so we pray for your coming,
to those in your Church
who seek to be faithful and to make a difference
while juggling the needs of themselves and their families;
WE PRAY FOR THE CONGREGATIONS IN OUR TOWN, SEEKING TO SERVE YOU IN FAITHFULNESS
We pray in thanksgiving for the faithful response to today’s Loonie offering and for the women who will be helped through it.
We pray for those people and places in Africa which will benefit from the water project we are sponsoring as our Christmas Gift into the world.
We pray for the Session as they seek to make decisions in accordance with the public health guidelines.
And so we pray for your coming, to those whom we love
and we remember before you their needs
The people who we know who are in need of your grace and your peace.
And so we pray for your coming, to us,
who long to know you more,
and to live as citizens of your kingdom
in this place and time.
May we be seen as people in whom righteousness and peace greets every new day.
May your coming be something we hope for,
but also be something we experience, and even more so, something we work for.
Thus today we promise that moment by moment, and through our daily celebrations, we will remember that you O God have been faithful in all your wanderings among your people. Yet you come again, to save, to heal, and to guide. May we experience you as we faithfully follow where you are leading us.
Remind us now and always that we pray in the name and strength of Jesus who taught us to pray saying:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory for ever. Amen
CHARGE AND BENEDICTION
God is bringing light to our darkness. We are called to go into the world, confident in God’s loving presence, to serve others in need. Go, bringing hope and peace to this darkened world. Go in God’s love.
And may God’s love surround you, the peace of Jesus encompass you, and the power of the Spirit flow through you. Amen
SUNG BLESSING: Emmanuel