The Promised Leading

In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully updated for 2016-2017 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 13, 2016. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 4, 2016.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Old Testament lessons, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge me at the author of the material.

I have centered worship around the prophetic promises about what God will do. Each week, the sermon is focused on a promised action from God.

Advent 4 – December 4, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Leading

Leader:

The prophet Isaiah names a future leader who will rise from what is perceived to be a dead nation. In the underground roots of a conquered people, God’s subterranean activity on behalf of equity, righteousness, and faithfulness continues despite appearances to the contrary.

God’s promises surprise us in this way. What we had thought no longer useful, what we had believed to be irrelevant, houses new possibility and nurtures emerging strength.

People: “A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; a branch will sprout from his roots” (Isaiah 11:1).

 Leader: As people of God’s promise, we cast our lot with those who will not be deceived by appearances, who will not follow hearsay. We believe in God’s hidden movement in the midst of our world, even if we are not able to understand God’s ways just yet.

People: “My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my plans than your plans” (Isaiah 55:8)

 Leader: We light this candle on the fourth Sunday of Advent counting on the promises of God that challenge our assumptions and exist beyond our perceptions.

People: The promises of God shall be fulfilled. On that day, Christ will come again; and there will be no more night.  All things shall be revealed.

 All: Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Rev. Amy Persons Parkes © 2016

The Promised Peacemaking

In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully updated for 2016-2017 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 13, 2016. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 4, 2016.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Old Testament lessons, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge me at the author of the material.

I have centered worship around the prophetic promises about what God will do. Each week, the sermon is focused on a promised action from God.

Advent 3 – November 27, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Peacemaking

Leader:

The future God has planned for the nations of the earth is a peaceable kingdom, an existence in which all the nations and their peoples will not have a need for war or weapons of war. The prophet Isaiah saw a day that is to come when swords and spears would be fashioned into tools for tending the earth, tools that bring life not death.

In this third week of Advent, we join our voices to that of Isaiah as we proclaim the promise of God to make peace among the nations and to settle their disputes so that all may be taught the ways of God without fear.

People: “Nation will not take up sword against nation: they will no longer learn how to make war” (Isaiah 2:5).

Leader: As we wait for Christ’s coming, we do what we can to make peace with our neighbor; and we trust in the power of God to bring an end to every war and to reconcile all humankind.

People: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Leader: We light this candle on the third Sunday of Advent confidently waiting on God’s promise of a world free from violence.

People: The promises of God shall be fulfilled. On the day of Christ’s appearing, peace shall reign forever and ever.

All: Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Rev. Amy Persons Parkes © 2016

 

The Promised Gathering

In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully updated for 2016-2017 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 13, 2016. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 4, 2016.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Old Testament lessons, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge me at the author of the material.

I have centered worship around the prophetic promises about what God will do. Each week, the sermon is focused on a promised action from God.

Advent 2 – November 20, 2016
Scripture: Jeremiah 23:1-6
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Gathering

Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgy

Leader:

Not all who have been called prophets agreed with one another. One prophet encourages, “Nothing bad will happen to you” (Jeremiah 23:17); and another prophet warns, “Your own weapons will be turned against you” (Jeremiah 21:4). And, both claim to be speaking for God. So, the faithful are aware that the true prophetic voice will only be recognized as such, with the passage of time.

Jeremiah was a prophet whose message of accountability and judgement no one wanted to hear, but time told the truth. In this season of Advent, we affirm with the prophet Jeremiah that God has looked upon creation and all contained within it and that God as the Good Shepherd denounces the actions of all who have misled and scattered the Good Shepherd’s sheep. In this season of Advent, we join Jeremiah’s prophetic voice to proclaim God’s promise to gather in the sheep of God’s fold and to keep them from harm.

People: “The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing” (Psalm 23).

Leader: Trusting in the promise of God spoken through Jeremiah, we look toward a coming day when the sheep of God’s pasture will listen to the voice of the True Shepherd and follow his voice.

People: “They won’t follow a stranger but will run away because they don’t know the stranger’s voice” (John 10:5).

Leader: We light this candle on the second Sunday of Advent believing in the promises of God, which will stand the test of time.

People: The promises of God shall be fulfilled. The night may be long; but the sun will rise.

All: Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Rev. Amy Persons Parkes © 2016

The Promised Creating

In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully updated for 2016-2017 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 13, 2016. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 4, 2016.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Old Testament lessons, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge me at the author of the material.

I have centered worship around the prophetic promises about what God will do. Each week, the sermon is focused on a promised action from God.

Advent 1 – November 13, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Creating

Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgy

Leader:

The call of the prophets of old was to relentlessly proclaim the promises of God for all the people. The prophet was not a seer nor a fortuneteller, rather a voice used by God to call a stuck, imprisoned, misguided people toward the plans God had for them.

As the church, we have received God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, who has died and rose again for our sakes; but we are also prophets of a new day when Christ will come again.  The season of Advent, that we observe in the four weeks preceding our Christmas celebration, is an opportunity to recognize the chasm existing between our world as it is and the new creation that God will bring about in Christ’s coming again.

So, on this first Sunday of our Advent observance, we hear the prophet Isaiah proclaim the promise of God’s creating.

People: Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew within us right spirits (Psalm 51).

Leader: We join our voices with that of Isaiah to speak hope to hurting world, to proclaim a day that is coming when weeping and death will be no more.

People: On God’s holy mountain, no one will hurt or destroy (Isaiah 65).

Leader: We light this candle on the first Sunday of Advent placing our trust in the promises of God, which no force of darkness can thwart.

People: The promises of God shall be fulfilled. That new day will dawn.

All: Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Rev. Amy Persons Parkes © 2016

Advent Opening Prayer 2016 & Scriptures with Sermon Themes

In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully updated for 2016-2017 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 13, 2016. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 4, 2016.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Old Testament lessons, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge me at the author of the material.

I have centered worship around the prophetic promises about what God will do. Each week, the sermon is focused on a promised action from God.

Advent 1 – November 13, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Creating

Advent 2 – November 20, 2016
Scripture: Jeremiah 23:1-6
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Gathering

Advent 3 – November 27, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Peacemaking

Advent 4 – December 4, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Leading

Because I tend to use one collect in worship for a season or month, depending on the time of year, I have also written a collect/opening prayer that keeps these themes of prophetic promises before the congregation for the four Sundays of Advent. Again, feel free to use this in worship; but I do ask that you acknowledge me as author.

God of the Coming Day,
we await Your advent among us
with hope and assurance.
We have no need to worry or fret,
nor to anxiously pace back and forth,
because you are as good as your Word,
because you keep your promises.
God of the Coming Day,
we rise up in the darkness preceding the dawn,
looking East, toward Your appearing.
For we know that when You appear,
You will create a new world;
You will gather in all of your people;
You will make peace the law of the land;
and You will lead us in life everlasting.
God of the Coming Day,
we await Your advent among us.  Amen.

Amy Persons Parkes © 2016

 

Betrayal

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Photo Credit: Amy Persons Parkes, August Clouds in Georgia

A Reflection for Maundy Thursday
John 13: 1-35

On this night, we hear again the story of Jesus’ betrayal.  We hear again the very ordinary story of one friend coming to the end of a friendship to the great, the grave disappointment of another.

We hear the often-told story of how a subordinate is finally fed up with the grand ideas and the vision and the direction of a superior, so fed up that he copies all the client’s files, backs-up business plans, cleans out his desk and sets up shop in a new business a few streets over.

On this night, we hear the story of Jesus’s betrayal; and we can almost see ourselves as one of the ignorant, innocent dinner guests who watch the slow motion disaster of intimate secrets of spouses shouted across the table at one another. We are left with our jaws hitting the tablecloth, as accusations are launched and other members of the dinner party indicted, when the affair and its participants, are now named, exposed among us.

On this night, we watch as the dipped piece of bread is discreetly passed, hand to hand from Jesus down to Judas; and we recall the last time words were whispered behind palms of hands “See, her over there.  She’s the one.  Yes, all $10,000 came from the estate that she wrongly inherited.”

We have seen this story of betrayal played out in the minutia of our everyday lives, when promises made are not kept, when money meant for savings was spent on a discretionary desire, when people we have trusted to think clearly and rationally have been blindsided by denial and rationalized what was, and is, irrational.

Betrayal is an everyday occurrence; and in the way only Jesus is able to do, Jesus makes the moment of betrayal a holy moment.

Jesus took bread and renamed it his body.  Jesus poured out wine and called it his blood.  Jesus was immersed beneath the waters of the river Jordan; and in those moments, he died to human desires and rose up to his divine calling.

And, now, when one of his own, one who used to keep the purse and count out the benevolent funds to be used for emergency food for the homeless or a trolley pass for the wayfarer, when this one who used to help Jesus meet the needs of the poor and offer healing to the sick, when this one intends to walk out on him, to report him to the authorities, Jesus hallows the moment and washes his enemy’s feet along with everyone else.

Let’s be clear. Judas may be the one with the most malicious intent; but Judas is not the only one who will walk away.

Judas is not the only one who will desert Jesus.

The other disciples will also desert Jesus — some in fear, some convinced that they need safety.

Some will desert Jesus because they are beginning to doubt that this path of nonviolence is really worth it. They will prefer, in the midst of the fraying fabric of friendship, a military leader not a Messiah.

Betrayal.

All of the disciples know betrayal.  Jesus knows betrayal.

We know betrayal.

We know betrayal because we have been betrayed by friends who took advantage of gifts, by family members who curried favor with other loved ones by telling the story of what happened in less than favorable terms for us.  We know betrayal because we have been betrayed by bosses who demanded every bit of energy we could muster and took all the credit for our work.  We have been betrayed by children and husbands and wives when they took the love and faithfulness and loyalty we offered and treated them like the doormat at the back stoop.

We know betrayal because we have betrayed.  We have told confidences from friends and co-workers that we promised we would never reveal — but the moment came in a conversation, and we’re not exactly sure why or what happened; but the story just slipped out. And, no matter how many days we have fretted over those loose lips, nothing –  nothing – can take it back.

We know betrayal because we have betrayed. We have bent the rules of the office.  We have hugged someone too closely, texted someone too frequently.  We know betrayal because we have ignored the needs of committed and covenant relationship too many times.

We have betrayed our children with our idle and empty and manipulative threats. We have betrayed ourselves, our values and our principles for the sake of agreement, for the sake of winning an argument, because it was the path of least resistance. We have betrayed ourselves, our values and our principles for more money, for a better job, for a nicer house, and in the hopes that someone would like us.

But the beauty of this moment of betrayal, that we remember tonight, is that Jesus takes this everyday occurrence of betrayal and makes it a holy moment.

And, he asks us to do the same.

Betrayed by Judas (for the betrayal committed in his heart before the Last Supper will find its expression in later hours), Jesus kneels and washes his feet.  One more act of love.  One more act of service.  One more attempt to let forgiveness outlast and overcome revenge.

Knowing Judas will not deviate from the script that had begun in his heart, Jesus does not cajole him, threaten him, beg him, condemn him, or curse him.  He washes his feet and lets him go.

In this same freedom, Jesus encounters us – betrayed and betraying — and he loves us, serves us, woos us.  But, in kind, we are gifted with freedom to respond, to receive and walk into newness of life.

Jesus takes the everyday occurrence of betrayal and makes it a holy moment.

And, Jesus, bids us, his followers, to do the same.  “Love your enemies. Do not repay evil for evil, but repay evil with good.  They will know you are my disciples if you love one another.  Wash one another’s feet, even as I have washed yours.”

Thanks be to God who has loved us beyond our lovable-ness and sees the possibilities within us that we have tarnished within ourselves.

May we be transformed by such a love.

Amy Persons Parkes © 2016

Invite Wonder

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Photo Credit: Amy Persons Parkes

In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship blog post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully in 2015/16 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 15. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 6.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Gospel Lessons, Gayle (the Chairperson of our Worship Committee) selected key phrases from different translations of the Bible and paired the phrases with two words that will be used for silent meditation at the beginning of worship. Using these phrases and two-word meditations as inspiration, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge Gayle Youmans and Amy Persons Parkes as the authors of the material.

December 6, 2015 (Advent 4)
Luke 3:1-6, key verse v. 6 (CEB):  “And all humankind will see God’s salvation.”
Two-word meditation:  Invite Wonder

Leader:  With wonder and humility, we look to the heavens, mindful of our small place in the vast universe you have created, O God.  We marvel at your attention to the details of our lives, amidst the expansive nature of existence.

In a universe containing some 70 billion trillion stars, you see our pain and longing. In a world encompassing the astounding paradox of creatures like the 400,000 pound blue whale and the 1/2 inch krill upon which it feeds, we are confounded by the interconnectedness of creatures great and small. How miraculous that the largest animal which has ever lived, only does so because one of the smallest creatures exists and multiplies and migrates day in and day out. With amazement, we ponder the infinite mystery of our own bodies whose cells contain enough strands of DNA, that laid end to end would make over 70 roundtrips from the earth to the sun.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we light these candles, at last, holding only to the promise of your coming. Gazing toward the heavens, we are stunned by your greatness. Turning inward, we are mystified by the intricacies of these bodies you have created. Our hearts and minds fall short in contemplating the ways in which your salvation will be made known to all humankind.

People: We wait actively for your coming, Lord.

Leader: We practice discernment until we see and know the Truth.

People: We allow the discomfort that accompanies the birth of a new heaven, a new earth, the fullness of the Kingdom of God among us.

Leader: We invite wonder to soothe our longing and to nurture the embers of hope lying dormant yet

alive within us.

People: For you, O God, know the stars, feed the blue whales, and are well acquainted with our DNA.  In you, O Lord, the heavens and the krill live and move and have their being.

All:  With wonder, and the hope it engenders, we believe, “Come! Come, Lord Jesus, Come!”

Gayle Youmans & Amy Persons Parkes © 2015