Home Worship Service November 8

Union Church
Biddeford Pool
…a place of peace and Presence by the sea

Home Service Image, November 8, 2020
jfcs-eastbay.org
A Prayer for Unity and Peace
November 8, 2020

 

Focus:  I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.                                        ― Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome: 

Threshold Moment:  We Need a Silent Night
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PG9jSxTC_o)

Gathering Music:  Perfect Wisdom of God (by Keith & Kristyn Getty)  -Michelle Currie

Call To Worship:    Wisdom of Solomon 6: 12-16
One:   Call upon God’s Wisdom
All:    She will answer!
One:   Seek God’s Wisdom
All:    She dwells in the midst of life.
One:   Follow God’s Wisdom
All:    She leads us in the paths of light and generosity.

 Opening Prayer:
Holy God, We hear echoes of your Wisdom in Christ Jesus,the One you sent to dwell in our midst and lead us to abundant life. Keep us alert to the call to follow, ready to respond with justice and joy in your holy moment, which is always Now. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Anthem: Wisdom Song (by Laura Woodley Osman)    -Michelle Currie

Scripture:  Isaiah 65:17-25, Wisdom 6:12-20     -Nancy Batchelor

SermonHope on the Horizon      – Rev. Paula Norbert

Meditative Music: America the Beautiful (by Samuel A. Ward)      -Michelle Currie

Musical call to Prayer:  (two times)  Hush now in quiet peace, be still your mind at ease. The Spirit brings release, so wait upon the Lord.

Prayers of the People:

Closing Music:  Spirit of Holiness Wisdom and Faithfulness (by Alfred V. Fedak)     -Michelle Currie

Benediction:
Keep your hearts open,
ready for the call of God.
Go in peace, counting on
the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God, and the sweet communion
of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Postlude:  Go In Peace
Go in peace and the peace of God be with you this day.
Go in peace and the peace of God be with you always.
Celebrate and share the joy. Celebrate new life.
Go in peace and the peace of God be with you always.

 

 Readings

 

The Glorious New Creation

17 For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;[a]
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
24 Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.

 

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-20

Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her.  She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.  One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate.  To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought. The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction, and concern for instruction is love of her, and love of her is the keeping of her laws, and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality, and immortality brings one near to God; so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.

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Sermon – November 8, 2020

Hope on the Horizon

Rev. Paula Norbert

 

Isaiah 65:17-25

In Isaiah’s reading today, we hear words of great comfort and hope that were spoken to the people of that time, close to 500 years before the time of Jesus on earth.  I imagine they may serve as words of comfort and hope to us in this day as well. The people at that time had come through a very difficult period of exile and had returned to Jerusalem, but much was in ruin and their faith was challenged because it was not as they hoped it would be.  Their reality was filled with hunger and sorrow and suffering and death, yet into this dark place, the prophet speaks of the promise of a new heaven and a new earth…of a day to come when all of God’s people will be satisfied and live in peace.  Let us pray, God of Isaiah’s vision, we thank you for the comfort these words offer us still. We thank you that you are still working your purpose out in a world with too much weeping, fear, and injustice. Help us to discern what we can do to reduce harm and bring joy.  In Christ we pray. Amen.

To really appreciate this reading today, we might try to imagine how things must have felt for the people of Jerusalem around 475 B.C.E., two generations after they returned from exile and tried to rebuild their devastated city. They knew of the former glory of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the rebuilt version didn’t quite measure up to the glory of Solomon’s Temple. Imagine the prophet Isaiah, walking through the rubble of the city.  We might imagine some of the destruction we have seen from war-torn parts of our world or in the wake or the fires and hurricanes we have seen recently in parts of our own nation. Much of the city was still in ruin, including homes and markets, and many people continued to suffer the effects of oppression and dislocation. Hunger, thirst, illness and early death, sorrow and grief, economic injustice and political turmoil were the realities of the day.

The first generation had returned excited and full of joy about coming home to their own land, their own great city: Jerusalem. And yet, when the prophet we call Third Isaiah wrote the beautiful words in this week’s passage, the people were still hungering for a word of hope. In this setting, Isaiah speaks of a vision from God, who, in the midst of human suffering and despite the long wait, is about to do a new and great thing: “to create new heavens and a new earth….be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating: for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy and its people as a delight” (65:17-18).(Rev. Kate Matthews)

This has surely been a year unlike any other in most of our lives.  Over these months and certainly in the past few years, our nation has witnessed a level of division and pain unlike any most of us may recall in recent history.  Some have likened it to the sixties and I’m sure many of you have memories of those days with protests against the war and for civil rights; politics dividing families, and so much else.  Too many of us are fearful and sad and frustrated and angry; too many feel a level of upset that is hard to make sense of. Many are deeply upset by how divided our nation has become.  It truly saddens me.  In Isaiah, he speaks of the new heavens and a new earth…and  of the hopes of the people at that time,  much as we are mindful of the hopes of people today for better days ahead.  What has become of us?  Why have so many people felt so injured and so deeply afraid over these past many months.   I recall something a friend sent me  after the election in 2016 that went something like this…tomorrow, when all of this is over, children will still wake up hungry in our country and many schools will still not have the funds they need, and too many elderly and veterans will not have adequate housing or decent healthcare, and we must then ask, where are our priorities?  Millions and millions of dollars have been spent on this recent election. Is this not sinful in a world with so much need?

And I understand that we have had difficult elections in the past.  If you listen to presidential historians they can speak of contentious struggles way back to the beginning of our democracy.  I know that people have very real concerns and very real needs that affect how they think about all of this.    Is it about fear?  I understand fear, I do, and yet what does it say about us as a community if fear overrides our ability to treat others with respect and dignity, even if they don’t share our political point of view or they are of a different, race, religion or gender. Are we not neighbors to one another?  Did Jesus not tell us to love one another as I have loved you…and when he said love your neighbor, I seem to recall that he didn’t put conditions on who counts as our neighbor, and in fact, he was very clear that when it came to the last judgement, the most important question would be how we treated the least of our brothers and sisters.

And so we are faced with an important question.  How do we repair the damage that has been done?  How do we look ahead and believe in hope?  How do we make sure that no one is left behind in a country where there is surely a growing gap between the haves and the have nots.

There are many who are already at work in building bridges in our world.  Some months ago, I saw a nice piece on two NFL players who are seeking to facilitate conversations among leaders in some of the cities that have been torn apart by racial division in the wake of the death of another unarmed black man.  These two are good friends and when something erupts, they are in touch by phone and they travel to the city to invite folks to sit down at the table, police, city leaders and leaders within the black community who are angry and hurt and afraid and together they invite dialogue and a conversation about how to move forward in hope.

There are many churches around  the country who have made important efforts to gather folks at the table who share different views on significant social issues or who are members of other faith traditions to allow for dialogue and discovery of what they have in common and how they may witness to hope in their communities.

In Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address in 1861, given on the eve of the Civil War as a plea for unity when seven Southern states had already seceded, he said, “The mystic chords of memory … will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Sadly, the Civil War was fought and many lives were lost and yet, Lincoln, tried in so many ways to bring healing and unity back to our broken nation.

Perhaps we may find solace from the words of Isaiah and of President Lincoln today; we may discover strength and courage from the faithful people who have come before us, who also lived with anger and suffering, oppression, fear and hopelessness.  But this promise of new heavens and a new earth is a promise to us as well.  It is also a promise that we are invited to help make into a reality.  We hear this reading from the  prophet Isaiah many centuries after it was written, many centuries after the destruction of Jerusalem, the return from exile, and the life and ministry and death of Jesus, and the fall of the empires that oppressed his people. Still, we persist in the belief, the trust, that is at the core of Israel’s story, of the gospel story, as well as our own: that God is at work for the good of all of God’s children, no matter how things may appear at the moment.  We are each called to be bridge builders in whatever form that may take.  For us to be a part of God’s plan for our world is a labor of love, and it requires some important adjustments in our lives and the life of the world, adjustments in our priorities about what really matters that are consistent with the plan for God’s Kingdom. We dream, then, not just of bread, or justice, for all, but peace for all, and healing and peace for all of creation at last.

This blessing for Election Day was written by Rabbi Rachel Weiss and her cohort of 20 rabbis Clergy Leadership. Let us come together.

 

Source of the Universe,

may we find a way through this together,

moving from fearful to fearless, to courage and transformation.

Let us draw strength and wisdom from our ancestors,

as future generations call us to action, however we are able.

Help us to bind up the nation’s wounds,

past and present, realizing that

in a fight among brothers and sisters, everyone loses.

May the ground shake with the rumbling of redemption,

as we remember where we have been and how far we have come,

yet too, how much father we must go

for the voices of those silenced to be heard.

May the results of this election, may the safe transfer of power,

be one step on the path to something new. Something just.

Something still broken, but something that names each of us, expansively.

Something that welcomes us into life.

Source of the Universe, call us to celebrate our diversity

as our greatest strength,

as we use our collective wisdom to prepare for what is to come.

And let us say: Amen.

 

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