Dunsford United Church Worship Service Advent 3 – “Joy” December 13, 2020

Welcome to our community of faith family.

Mission Statement: We are a diverse, intentional, inclusive, compassionate, hope-filled Christian family of faith, seeking to respect everyone’s individuality and dignity as Jesus modelled, creating safe space, to demonstrate the spirit of God’s love through worship, work, growth, and respect for all creation. We celebrate and value people of every age, health, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, family configuration, background, ability, interest, culture, economic circumstance and faith journey. All are encouraged to be in full participation in the life and work of all ministries. We endeavor to be aware of, and responsive to, the needs in our community and beyond.

This morning thank-you to:

Greeters: Carolle and Abi

Candle Lighter and Scripture Reader: Cliff

Ministry of Music Soloists: Brenda and Christena-Lynn

Media Technologists: Sound: John; PowerPoint: Mary Lou

Zoom / Hall overflow to TV monitor: Carol

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there is no junior church. All children should remain in their family bubble at their seats. Please ensure your family has picked up their JAM pack (Jesus and Me backpack) JAM packs should remain at the church. Each child has a notebook in the JAMPack and children’s worship bulletins are in Ziploc bags.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there is no fellowship or refreshments times following worship. Please proceed outside immediately following worship as directed.

Bold print – Congregational response              

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are not currently permitted to have congregational speaking or singing. Today we will have some soloist accompaniment the hymns to help us continue to adjust to these many new ways of being together safely and following public health and UCCAN.

  Thank-you for your understanding and patience.

* – rise in body or spirit (stand or remain sitting according to your comfort.)

To Ponder: “Now is the time,” our present moment, how does that speak to you today? What feels in the liminal space of between now and not yet, spaces of betwixt and between in your life? How and where do you experience God here?

Please provide feedback as we learn these new ways of being together and a part.

WE GATHER TOGETHER

*GATHERING MUSIC: “Who Would Send a Baby” (Words: Mary Kay Beall) Solo by Brenda

Who would send a baby to heal a world in pain?  Who would send a baby, a tiny child? When the world is crying for the Promised One, who would send His only son? Who send a baby to light the world with love?  Who would send a baby, a tiny child? When the world is hoping for the Promised One, who would send His only son?

Surely God is in this place. Help me notice. My name is Sharon Ballantyne, and I am the minister at Dunsford United Church. We are an affirming ministry of the United Church of Canada. Wherever you are, whoever you are, there is room for all. We warmly welcome everyone and thank-you for joining us wherever you are for this worship service on December 13, 2020, this third Sunday of Advent, known as the Sunday of joy. May our joy ring out to the whole world.

In this Advent season it is our custom to light a new candle for each week of Advent, today we relight the candle of hope, the candle of peace and today we add the third candle, the candle of joy. For those worshipping virtually, please have three candles ready today if you wish, or if you have one candle or light source, that is great too! Whether you have physical candles or not, let Christ’s love light shine in you.

I invite Brenda to play some quiet music as Cliff lights three candles.

We light this candle of hope to remind us to experience hope this week as we seek hope in our lives, in our neighbourhoods and in our world.  We light this candle of peace to remind us to experience peace this week as we seek peace in our lives, in our neighbourhoods and in our world. Today’s third candle is our pink candle of joy. We invite joy in our own life, joy in our church, joy in our family, workplace, neighbourhoods and through all creation.

Let joy be reborn anew this Advent season. Shine joy on us today loving God.

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “What Child Is This” VU #74 (Words: William Chatterton Dix)

What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping?

Refrain:     This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; haste, haste to bring him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary!

Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.  Refrain

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh; come, one and all, to own him. The King of Kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone him.  Refrain

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE LANDS: 

We acknowledge, honour and respect this land and the Anishnabeg/Mississauga peoples with whom Treaty 20, Williams treaty, was signed, on the lands where we are and we acknowledge also and give thanks for the lands and people of treaties and unceded territories of all who are worshiping. It is up to all of us to live into truth, respect, reconciliation and right relations.

CALL TO WORSHIP:

Listen to the long stillness:

New life is stirring

New dreams are on the wing

New hopes are being readied:

Humankind is fashioning a new heart

Humankind is forging a new mind

God is at work.

This is the season of Promise. – Howard Thurman

We know courage is fear that has said its prayers. We come with our hearts open. Now is the time for joy! We gather in gratitude and grace, inviting joy.

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “Be It unto Me” Solo by Christena-Lynn

OPENING PRAYER/ASSURANCE/WORDS OF HOPE:

I invite Brenda to keep playing as we open ourselves to prayer…

Invite joy to fill all the places within you that are heavy, hurting, lonely, afraid and uncertain.

As a candle shines brightly, let the light of God give you a heart of joy and thanks today. In whatever way you feel comfortable, receive the holy, experience the presence of the divine …body, mind and spirit. As we take a deep breath in, we feel God’s presence filling us and centering us, stilling us, creating space for joy within us. As we release our breath, we let go of all that pulls us away from God, that which diminishes our joy.

If our pain and heaviness feels too great and the moment too overwhelming to feel joy, receive God’s tender presence that we are not alone. We are enough. God embraces us in our lamenting. Let’s breathe it in together and let it out into silence. A time of silence …

Holy comforter and friend, we come as we are, some of us too burdened to feel the joy we want to experience. Fill us with your presence and receive us in our fears and discomfort, our worries and concerns. Your joy in loving and accepting us brings us new hope and resilience.

God of this Advent we want to shout Jesus is coming, Shout for joy! Joy to the world is the message of the season. Joy is the theme of this day. Some of us are bone dry and our desert and wilderness season feels devoid of joy. Some of us might only dip a finger, take a small sip. Some of us feel the mighty flow of joy overflowing. Guide us each to do what we can as you, Holy God, create in us a fountain of joy.

If not now, in the not yet, in our waiting we anticipate joy can and will come to us. Whether a drop, a trickle, a stream or ocean the fountain is within us to receive. Stir in us a spirit ready to dance. Kindle in us the fire of gladness. God of joy, we prepare for the child who will lead us toward love and justice, bring us hope, peace and joy. Amen

FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG AT HEART:

A favourite children’s story has always been “The Little Engine that Could.” I remember an illustrated children’s book, perhaps one of those “little Golden books” once so popular with a cartoon image of a little train engine with animated eyes and mouth, sort of like Thomas the tank engine idea. Well you will remember the little engine did not think it could make it up the hill, it felt like a big mountain, but the little engine just kept doing great self-talk, “I think I can I think I can” and very slowly that little engine pulled its load, the other train cars to the top. Coming down the other side that self-talk “I knew I could, I knew I could” and the little engine did. There would be more hills and mountains, but that little engine had found its confidence and its ability to believe in itself. I think I can is a great saying to help us.

In a Bible story, Jesus went up a mountain with some of his friends and at the top he began to glow, his face, his clothes all became dazzling white, and Jesus’ friends saw Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah. They wanted to mark the spots where this great transfiguration took place, but instead Jesus would remind them they would have to come down the mountain. Jesus wanted people to learn from their experiences and take them with them through life’s ups and downs. In this season of Advent we are getting closer to Christmas and we think of Mary and Joseph, travelling to Bethlehem, how difficult it might have been and how Mary and Joseph kept trusting God and believing. I imagine they had to say “I think I can” a lot too! We all keep trying.

Let’s pray:

Dear God, thank-you for the joy of trying new things, for helping others, for working together. Sometimes we are afraid we cannot do the job, but you always are there with us. Help us remember “I think I can” and keep believing in ourselves to do our best and be our best, to be positive and to help others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “Mary’s Boy Child” (Songwriters: Fred Jay, Frank Farian, Jester Hairston)

Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible say,
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day!

Trumpets sound and angels sing, listen to what they say!

That man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day!

That man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day!

Today’s scripture reading comes from Mark 1:1-8 and I am reading from the New Revised Standard Version.  1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” VU #48 (Words: Charles Wesley)

Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King, peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!’ Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies; with the angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’ Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’

Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord, late in time behold him come, offspring of a virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail, the incarnate deity,pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel! Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’

Hail, the heavenborn Prince of Peace! Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.  Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’

MESSAGE:  Rev. Dr. Sharon Ballantyne

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts and meditations of all of our hearts bring praise to you O God, as we dwell in liminal space, betwixt and between, we trust that something is coming, hope rising, open us to receive. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Here we sit with so much unknown. We practice waiting in the NOW, confident that the NOT YET is beckoning. We can fill in our own blanks of wanting to move forward, get through situations, move to places of safely gathering, worshipping, fellowshipping together, actively sharing our faith. Picture John the Baptist, a bit of a wild man image, probably the epitome of one who lived by the land, ate organically, eating wild honey and locusts, wearing clothing from what was available to him in the wilderness. He seemed as unlikely a leader as any, but the message of his heart was so real, so profound and so full of love for God and deep faith that his prophetic voice rang out “Prepare the way!” He wanted all to be ready for Jesus. When Mary, mother of Jesus, came to her cousin Elizabeth’s, Scripture tells us John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb. A leaping for joy!

C. Clifton Black, a seminary professor, tells a story of a ski instructor who met with a class of skiers who wanted to improve their skiing. The instructor asked permission to video each skier as they skied down the slope. Back up at the top of the hill after their first run, the instructor asks them to take a second turn, this time skiing the way they imagined themselves skiing after the lessons. They take action! Put simply, ski like you had met your learning goals, accomplished what you set out to do through this skiing class. Without exception, each skier showed vast improvement between their first and second run. They skied as if they already had done the lessons. They skied believing they could do it, being empowered to be their best and to show it. They skied with confidence.

How can you apply this to your life right now? Can you imagine life beyond COVID, letting that hope and joy fill your heart now? How will you commit and actively support, living into envisioning a strong worshipping community of faith able to gather in Advent and Christmas 2021?

“I’m a believer! There is much to be said for imagining and believing, for continually making efforts to make a difference. John the Baptist felt he was not worthy to even untie Jesus’ sandal, but he still kept crying out in the wilderness, not only believing what he preached but practicing his faith to the fullest and at the greatest of odds. We read stories of John, his deep faith and his willingness to keep sharing the love of God, no matter how adverse the situation. Even from prison he shared the message of God’s love.

We may be struggling to get through these moments. So much is different. Our lament, our grief and our longings are real and they hurt. Alongside the pain, we hold on to the moments of hope and joy, of peace, that is transforming love in our hearts and helps us take action, living into our goals. God’s love never leaves us. We listen for what is needed and believe, like those skiers demonstrated. we can do it! A village pulls together in both good and challenging times. Taking the next right step alone is hard but as a village, there is strength, encouragement and support!

In my recent course, the story of Stone Soup was lifted up as sacred story, with its simple yet profound message. There are several different versions of this story, but the premise is that some strangers come to town and are hungry. People are too busy, too tired, too fearful, feel they are without sufficient resources to help and expect someone else to take action. Eventually, the hungry decide they will make stone soup. The community is curious and one by one responds to the suggestions of how wonderful the soup is, but it would be even better with the addition of various food stuffs. The members of the village each bring a small gift, some carrots from one, onions from another, some meat and so on. 

How are we responding to needs? Bringing forth our own gifts to add to the soup, really working together to feed physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual hunger? The pandemic has stretched us. Some may have gotten used to just being away. Some may be questioning whether they will feel safe to return to church and when? These are hard things. We continue to pivot and adapt.

Where are you in the progression of Stone Soup? Beginning? Middle? Ending? Are you in different places depending on the context and details of what you are reflecting about your life?

No matter what is going on we do not want our spirit to be crushed!

I love the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the feelings laughter, and the energy of Christmas. I miss seeing the Christmas lights and decorations, but I delight in taking out each special decoration with its story and memory. I miss what we cannot do this 2020 holiday, but I celebrate what we can creatively do to connect. I am so humbled to journey with folks for which this season is difficult and am humbled by their courage to face each day. My dad’s words… “I’ll say a little prayer” resound within me. The light of God’s love and the hope lived out in our faith truly reveals the awe and wonder of God’s love, where our spirit sings and our cup overflows.

What are the gifts you bring, your ministries, your actions, to add to the stone soup in this Advent, Christmas, and upcoming Epiphany season?  Let the resilience of a rich heritage, beloved memories, wonderful connections, what we value most about our community of faith fuel vision, mission and moving into a future filled with opportunities. Now is the time!

The Dalai Lama XIV, is quoted as saying “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Believe it! Share love! Share compassion! Work together! Be transformed!

What could be more surprising than a God who comes to dwell with us in the form of a poor, helpless child born in obscurity to peasant parents? Indeed, God came to us as ‘one of the least of these’–and still does.” Celebrate!

Trailblazing, steadfast God, help us prepare the way! Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Spirit that sings in our hearts, we raise our voices in songs of praise and thanksgiving. We listen and feel your holy presence. Receive us, with all our doubts, uncertainties, questions and fears. Receive us, with all our waiting, excitement, joys, gratitude, and our praises. Fill us with your abundant grace. Eternal God, help us do what is needed and live into whatever actions we need to take. Help us try and to continue to prepare the way of your great love.

Receive the joys and concerns of our hearts…

As Jesus prayed with his friends, we say together:

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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever! Amen.

WE ARE SENT OUT IN FAITH TO SERVE

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “Joy to The World” VU #59 (Word: Isaac Watts)

Joy to the world! the Lord is come: let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns: let all their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground: he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the earth with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love, and wonders of his love, and wonders, wonders of his love.

COMMISSIONING AND BLESSING

Go now in peace.

We dwell in liminal space, betwixt and between.

Joy is stirring!

Offer your gifts!

Make a difference!

Believe it! Share love! Share compassion! Work together! Celebrate!

We prepare the way!

Stay safe and stay well. AMEN.

* CHORAL RESPONSE: “Good Christian Friends Rejoice” VU #35 Verse 1 (Words: John Mason Neale) 

Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice! Give ye heed to what we say: News! News!  Jesus Christ is born today. Ox and ass before him bow, and he is in the manger now. Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

POSTLUDE

References

Howard Thurman, The Long Stillness, a Poem in Advent resource from Prayer Bench

Janice MacLean, Advent 2020. The Prayer Bench: Now Is the Time – Liminal Space.

Celia’s Message. November 23, 2020. C. Cliffton Black’s Ski Illustration. GUC. Ptbo. UCCAN

Pegi Rideout. November 24, 2020. Sacred stories. Baltimore, Maryland: IMN Congregation-5

Reflection Questions:

1. What word, phrase or verse speaks to you in the gospel passage?

2. How do you relate to John the Baptist as a leader this Advent 2020?

3. What connections do you make between the scripture story, The Little Engine That Could, the skiing illustration and Stone Soup? What action will you take?

4. Where is God in your present moments of waiting, of liminal space, of being betwixt and between?

5. What gift(s) do you bring to your faith expression?

6. What does “prepare the way” mean to/for you?

Continue to hold the life and work of Dunsford United in your prayers and in your commitments of action and support.

A Few Announcements:

Sharon’s final day as Dunsford United Church’s Minister is December 31, 2020.

A reminder to watch email for the YouTube link to the worship services, to be sent out when available each week, for your anytime virtual participation.

Christmas Eve in-person service will be an outdoor service. Join us at the manger as we gather at the stable beside the church building. Our outdoor service will take place at 4:00 P.M. This is dependent on weather and public health protocols. Watch for updates. A separate Christmas Eve service will be recorded from the sanctuary for anytime viewing on YouTube.

Thank-you to all who supported the Fill the Bank outreach for the Dunsford Community Food Bank. If you need food or know someone who does, please do not be hungry. The food bank is open to those in need. Fay Carslake is the food bank coordinator.

Please remember in your prayers those dealing with physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual difficulties, their care providers, those at home, in nursing homes and in hospital who are facing illness, bereavement and other life challenges.

Please let us know if someone is ill, in hospital or going through a challenging time.

PAR is a direct debit program through an automatic monthly withdrawal from your bank account. It is a convenient way to provide consistent, year-round financial support to our church. Completed forms may be sealed in an envelope, attention: Kathy Prentice

If you are already on PAR (pre-authorized remittance), THANK YOU! We encourage you to continue to make your financial offerings to the church. Offerings can be made by cheque, attention Kathy.  Please do what you can to continue to support our ongoing mission and ministry together. 

Please bring all personal belongings such as coats, sweaters, hats, umbrellas, boots or other outerwear to your pew. The pew in front of you and behind you will be empty, so you can place outerwear if you would like. We are entering at the narthex but exiting at the front of the sanctuary.

Cliff and I wish to thank-you for four and a half years of prayers, support and encouragement in the time we have shared together. May God guide and direct your paths, as you discern the next steps in calling or appointing your next minister. God has not brought us this far to leave us, not yesterday, today or in all of our tomorrows.

Love, Prayers and tail wags,

Stay safe and stay well!

Sabbath Blessings, Sharon

DUNSFORD UNITED CHURCH

Church Office Hours: Wed. 9-5 and by appointment 705-793-2511 dunsfordunitedchurch@bellnet.ca   www.dunsfordunitedchurch.com

Minister: Rev. Dr. Sharon Ballantyne 705-875-8837    

Email: sharon.ballantyne@gmail.com

Music Director: Brenda

Envelope Steward: Kathy 

http://dunsfordunitedchurch.com   Visit our website. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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