December 11, 2016 – Advent 3

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

The Liturgists Podcast: Suffering (Part 1)
Working Preacher
Rex Hunt

Rob Bell – “The Robcast” with Rabbi Sharon Brous
Gifts With Vision “Build a Well
Charity Water (referred to in The Liturgist Podcast)

Kirtan Soul Revival (official website)(itunes)

St. Luke’s United Church
December 11th, 2016
Hymn Still, Still, Still VU 47

Words of Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada. If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship. We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information. If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Lighting the Advent Wreath & Centering
Advent Chant Phil Porter

Call to Worship:
One: Three candles burning brightly offering hope, inspiring peace and sharing joy. Sharing in other’s joy is the gift that keeps on giving.
All: One candle offers hope. Two candles inspire peace. Three candles share joy.

Opening Prayer:
Source of deep joy, we pray that this time together be filled with giving and receiving joy. May we see your presence in the joy of others and experience you in our own moments of joy. May it be so.

Hymn Joy to the World VU 59

More Stories from Our Family Tree
Spin Me A Story

Readings Isaiah 61:1-11
Luke 4:16-21

Hymn Joy Is Now in Every Place VU 45

Joy in Suffering.
I’ve listened to two very impactful podcasts lately that just won’t leave me. The first I referenced in my Advent letter. The Liturgist Podcast introduced the idea that suffering runs on a large spectrum. That something that we take for granted can be the root of so much suffering. And the biggest kicker of all is that this particular suffering is needless. The suffering I’m talking about is lack of access to clean, safe water. Now, I’m sure everyone understands that we need water to live. If you were part of the United Church a few years ago, you probably heard about our campaign against bottled water, and if you’ve been to a larger United Church event, you’ll likely notice many folks are toting reusable mugs and water bottles and asking where the fountains are located. Simply put, water is a gift from God and should not be sold for profit.
People suffer from lack of water. They suffer physically. They get sick. People can die from lack of water or from diseases that come from drinking water that is unsafe. People suffer emotionally from lack of water. People walk for kilometers to access water that is safe to drink. Young women will stay home from school because they don’t have enough water for proper hygiene. One person explained to the hosts of the program I was listening to about how lack of water leads to a lack of dignity. In some communities there is only a certain amount of water for each family, and not always enough for each person to drink, let alone wash themselves.
Then I remembered my own experience meeting families in Guatemala, who gave their children pop to drink because it was cheaper than buying water and supposedly safer than drinking the water that was available in their village. The smiles of the children were somewhat unforgettable. After hearing how people all over the world are suffering from a lack of water, I saw a video this week that kind of kicked me in the gut. These people, who have no easy water in their lives, still smile. They still have joy.
This idea that it’s all a state of mind is what Jesus was getting at in this passage. To make the point hit home even harder, he quoted a sacred text, which we also heard this morning. Jesus was telling them they didn’t need to idly wait for a savior to rid them of their oppression. The solution to the problem already existed. They had the power amongst themselves to ensure that they were treated with dignity and respect. There was hope! There would be peace! There will be joy! They just needed some help seeing how.
Jesus read the passage about justice and liberation to people who were feeling misused, maltreated and trapped. They desperately wanted a change. So Jesus read the prophets words about a time of rising up, liberation and freedom in general, then he told them it was all possible not in the future but today. TODAY. All that was required was a change of thinking.
The second impact podcast I listened to was an interview by Rob Bell of a Rabbi Sharon Brous in Los Angeles who is leading in the Emergent Jewish Network, and speaking openly about the need for us to stop worshiping the structures of our varied religions and change the worship container so that we are truly able to focus on the source that challenges us to treat others as we would wish to be treated. You don’t eat the bowl, you eat the soup that’s in the bowl. We can’t seem to eat the soup because we are constantly distracted by the bowl. Not so different from Jesus’ constant sermon: All that’s required is a change of thinking.
You might be wondering where the “joy” is in all this. I’m telling you that the joy exists when you stop worrying about everything else and focus on simply loving other people. Sometimes, you do get burned, but other times, amazing things happen. Getting burned isn’t so horrible when you are focused on simply offering others love. It’s their choice how they use it. I didn’t understand this until this past annual meeting of the Maritime Conference. I had just finished dealing with someone who was quite upset and someone asked me how I could deal with everyone and still keep smiling. I did it because I kept singing one of my favorite songs – a Kirtan hymn actually the words are “I release and I let go, I let the Spirit run my life. My heart is open wide and I’m only here to love.” I’m just here to offer loving kindness, it’s someone else’s choice if they choose to use it well, take advantage of it and me or even ignore what I have to offer. The opposite is true too. When others offer me loving kindness it’s my choice to use it well, take advantage of it or ignore it.
So what are you going to do? Are you going to let go of some of the things that keep you from experiencing joy by focusing simply on loving? Are you going to accept the gifts of loving kindness offered to you even though you wanted something else? Are you going to shift your thinking so that you are focused on what really matters?

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Abundance over flows all around us. Because we are abundant people, we choose to give.

Offertory Laughter Lit The Stars of Morning MV 190 v1

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR offer justice and joy to those in need. Amen.

Prayer Music Never Ending Joy MV 40 refrain, v3, refrain

Prayers of the People
Ending with the traditional Prayer of Jesus, found in Voices United, pg 921 or on the screen.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Hope Is A Candle Linnea Good v3 with story bit, v2, v1

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