Sunday, December 2, 2018

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - First Sunday in Advent - Presiders: Jim Marsh, ARCWP, and Deb Trees, ARCWP

Jim Marsh, ARCWP, and Deb Trees, ARCWP, led the Upper Room’s First Sunday in Advent Liturgy. Jim, homily starter is printed below the readings.

Welcome and Theme
Today we enter into the Season of Advent, the beginning of a new church year. For the most part over the course of this next year, our “Good News” will be taken from the Evangelist Luke. Traditionally, Advent has been a season of expectant, hopeful, even joyful waiting. As children, we knew the season ended with the coming of Kris Kringle, (Santa Claus) and all sorts of Christmas presents. Our parents, religious educators and formators would often remind us that this season celebrated the birth of Jesus who would come again at the end of time. Just what is it that we are awaiting? May our time together this Advent challenge how we answer that question.

Receiving the Stole

So, let us begin in song, carrying lit votive candles as we process (if you are able) around our sacred circle. As the song is ending, please re-enter the circle after leaving your lit votives behind our chairs.

Opening Song:  Rejoice, Rejoice (tune of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”)

Come now, dear friends, for advent time is here;
It's time to cast out doubt and crippling fear –
for soon now, before our wond’ring eyes,
this season will bring forth its own surprise.

Refrain:      Rejoice rejoice!
Our freedom is at hand:
The Dawn of Justice shines upon the land.

This holy season teaches us that we
Who share, with Christ, are one humanity
Must struggle to bring fragile earth
Into the peace that heralds a new birth. Refrain

Let us together ponder how we may
Initiate a new and better day
In hope we are strong, our faith is great
no more delay lest justice come too late. Refrain

Lighting of Advent Candle

Presider 1:          Like our ancestors, we honor the cycles and the seasons that remind us of the ever-changing flow of life of which we are a part.  Ritual acts give life meaning—they honor and acknowledge the unseen web of Life that connects us all.
(Presider 1 lights candle as Presider 2 prays)

Presider 2:          We light this first candle and remember the Holy One, our
Mother, who created light and life out of darkness by loving.  The dark shadow of space leans over us and we are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred also lengthens its shadow over our small planet Earth. 
And so we respond: Let us kindle the light of hope!

Opening Prayer   Poem: Rebirth by William (“Rusty”) Clyma
       Women:        Star-kindling God—shine into our depths,
Let us hear your voice within,
yearning, calling, pleading,
"Bring me to birth once again!"
Men:          Light bearing light—shine in our heart and soul,
show us your fire again,
yearning, calling, pleading,
"Bring me to birth once again."  
        All:          AMEN
From Seasoning the Soul: Images and reflections with a Celtic flavor to bless your year. (2012).  © Collected and edited by Eileen Knoff, D. Min. - used with permission.


Reading 1:  Jeremiah 31:3-6, 8-9, 32:14-16
Thus says YHWH:
“In everlasting love I conceived you.” And now I will continue to show my love for you. I will build you up again, and you will stand firm, Beloved Israel. You will take up your tambourines once more and go forth with the crowd of merrymakers. On again you will plant vineyards on Samaria’s mountainsides. The planters will plant and will enjoy the fruit. For the day will come when sentinels will cry out on Ephraim’s hills, ‘Come let us go up to Zion, to YHWH.’

For I will gather them from the ends of the earth—the blind and the lame will be among them, along with expectant mothers and women in labor. They will return in vast numbers. I will lead them beside streams of water, along level ground where they will not stumble. For I am forever a mother and father to Israel.”

“The days are surely coming, says YHWH, when I will bestow on Israel and Judah all the blessings I promised them. In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous branch from the line of David, who will bring justice and integrity to the land. They will call the land, ‘YHWH is our Justice.’”


Gospel Reading:  Luke 1:5-17
In the days of the ruler Herod, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the priestly class of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron. Both were worthy in the sight of God and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of our God. They were childless—unable to conceive—and they were both advanced in years.

Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s priestly class to serve. And as he was fulfilling his priestly office before God, it fell to him by lot, according to priestly usage, to enter the sanctuary of our God and offer incense. While the full assembly or people was praying outside at the time of day when the incense was offered, and angel of our God appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was deeply disturbed and was overcome with fear.

The angel said to him, “Don’t be frightened, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, whom you’ll name John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at this birth, for he will be great in the sight of our God. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. And he will bring many of the children of Israel back to their God Most High. He will go before God as a forerunner, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the rebellious to the wisdom of the just—to make ready a people prepared for our God.”

Shared Homily

Jim’s Homily Reflection
Let me begin by saying that I received a dispensation from using the Revised Common Lectionary readings from none other than Pastor Dawn Hutchings of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Toronto. In her reflection entitled “Shady Ladies ForgottenStories and Images of God: Casualties of our Advent Lectionary” she urges all worship planners and preachers to ‘tinker away and tell the stories’ beginning with the first chapter of Luke, and not to forget the women!

In our first reading, Jeremiah reminds the Jewish people (exiles, refugees if you will) of who they are and where they are going—what God envisions for them. He tells them they are the beloved beyond measure for all time, and that they will return to their homeland and rebuild the temple, and enjoy the fruits of their labor with much rejoicing. I draw your attention to the inclusivity in Jeremiah’s message—the days of blessing are for both Israel and Judah (the northern and southern kingdoms) and include the blind, lame, expectant mothers, even those in labor to give birth. From this community will come a righteous one who will restore justice and right-relating to the social order of the day.  Indeed, it is a very hopeful and joyous promise by a God who is father and mother!

In our Gospel today, we hear the incredulous story of Zechariah and Elizabeth becoming parents—joyful but a rather anxious expectation for an elderly couple, wouldn’t you agree?

Advent is a time of reflective expectation. As 21st century progressive Christians we commemorate the birth of Jesus not as savior and rescuer, but as one who embodied the Divine in being fully human—how to live mercy, compassion, justice and love life and all creation in very ordinary ways. This is the work of liberation and redemption!
What is it that you and I are awaiting for ourselves, our families, our nation and world?

Are we waiting for the second coming of Christ? The Greek term used in scripture is “parousia’’ which means “being present.” It’s not so much about waiting for something to occur as it is to be aware and recognize what is happening right in our midst. Incarnation happened some 14.7 billion years ago in that great burst of a star and continues over and over and over again in our world each and every day.

May we be Advent people who birth God among us … in the joyful hope of the song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”—God with us and in us!

So what did you hear?

Statement of Faith

We believe in the Holy One, a divine mystery 
beyond all definition and rational understanding, 
the heart of all that has ever existed, 
that exists now, or that ever will exist.

We believe in Jesus, messenger of the Divine Word, 
bringer of healing, heart of Divine compassion, 
bright star in the firmament of the Holy One's 
prophets, mystics, and saints.

We believe that We are called to follow Jesus 
as a vehicle of divine love, 
a source of wisdom and truth, 
and an instrument of peace in the world.

We believe in the Spirit of the Holy One, 
the life that is our innermost life, 
the breath moving in our being, 
the depth living in each of us.
We believe that the Divine kin-dom is here and now, 
stretched out all around us for those 
with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it, 
and hands to make it happen. 

Presider 1: As we prepare for this sacred meal, we are aware that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us. As bearers of LIGHT and HOPE, we bring to this table our blessings, cares and concerns. Please feel free to voice your concerns beginning with the words, “I bring to the table…..  Presider 1 closes: As a community, we bring these and all the unspoken concerns of our heart to this Eucharistic table.”

Presider 2: Source of light, we seek you in this season of winter, when the days are
short and we lift up our hearts and ease our souls into that quiet place
which is your presence among us.
Presider 1:  Please join in praying the Eucharistic prayer together
                                                       (written by Jay Murnane) 
All:    Source of All That Is, we seek you in this season, when the earth is resting and preparing for new life. Like the earth, we long for new life and hopeful beginnings. This is the time of the pregnant woman, filled with life and hope powerful enough to topple structures of oppression.  This is the time of her song of fidelity and celebration.

During this gentle season of Advent, we recognize that you have made us capable of bringing forth justice, like a rising sun. One with all who have gone before us, we sing this song of praise: 

                  Blessed be our God! 
Blessed be our God!  
Joy of our hearts, source of all life and love!  
God of Heaven and Earth! 
God of Heaven and Earth! 
Dwelling within, calling us all by name!  
Alleluia, sing! 
Alleluia, sing! 
(Alleluia Sing by David Haas)

We thank you for those in times past who believed the good news, and lived what they believed.

Blessed is Isaiah and every visionary who insisted on a better future that would
break through the deception, disaster and broken promises of the age in which they lived. 
Blessed is John, in the stark desert of careful focus, inviting the people to be born again in your love.

Blessed is Miriam, who believed the words of Isaiah and opened herself up to the unbelievable.

And blessed is her child Jesus, who felt the sorrows of humankind in his soul, and responded with deep and tender compassion. 
All:    On the night before he faced his own death, Jesus sat at the Seder
supper with his companions and friends.  He reminded them of all that he taught them, and to fix that memory clearly with them, he bent down and washed their feet. 
(Presider 1 lifts plate) 

When he returned to his place at the table, he lifted the Passover bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread and offered it to them saying: 
Take and eat of the Bread of Life
Given to strengthen you
Whenever you remember me like this
I am among you

(after pause, Presider 2 lifts cup) 

Jesus then raised a cup of blessing, spoke the grace saying: 
Take and drink of the covenant 
Made new again through my life in you. 
Whenever you remember me like this, 
I am among you. 

Let us share this bread and cup to proclaim and live the gospel of justice and peace.  (pause) 
All:    We give thanks for our tradition, which is a living history of your love
for all creation. We join ourselves with that tradition, as the visionaries and healers and peacemakers of our own time in history.

We celebrate the many creative traditions which guide and form us and we are grateful that there are many paths to wisdom and life.

Each Advent we make a place in our prayer for all those who are oppressed and marginalized in so many places throughout this earth, and right here among us. 
We are grateful for the gift of your Spirit, always drawing beauty and balance out of chaos.
And like Jesus, standing where he stood, and for what he stood,  
and with whom he stood, we are united in your Spirit, and worship you with our lives.  
All:    Amen.
Presider 2: Let us pray as Jesus taught us:
O Holy One, you are within, around and among us.  
We celebrate your many names. 
Your wisdom come; your will be done, 
unfolding from the depths within us. 
Each day you give us all that we need. 
You remind us of our limits and we let go. 
You support us in our power, and we act with courage. 
For you are the dwelling place within us, 
the empowerment around us, 
and the celebration among us,  
now and forever, Amen.  
(Adapted by Miriam Therese Winter )

Presider 1: Please join in our prayer for the breaking of the bread:
            All:           Loving God, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice.  We will live justly.    
Loving God, You call us to be Your presence in the world.   
We will love tenderly.  
Loving God, You call us to speak truth to power. 
We will walk with integrity in your presence.
                          (Presiders hold up bread and wine) 
Presider 2:          This is the bread of life. Through it we are nourished and we nourish each other.
All:          What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives; as we share communion, we will become communion, both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.
Presider 1:          Our Eucharistic celebration is all-inclusive. You are a spark of the Divine and nothing can separate you from God’s love. All are welcome to receive at this table. As you pass the bread and cup please say “You are a bearer of Light and Hope.”

Presider 2: Our communion meditative song is Say Yes – Bob Franke
When the angel arrives there will be terror, but say yes.
The sound of wings like the breaking of a mirror, but say yes.
It will arrive where you’re little and you’re scared
It will lay claim to the things you’ve never shared
But though your heart and your soul are unprepared, say yes.

And it may tear you from home and family, but say yes.
It may demand you become a refugee, but say yes.
And when you’re tired, and you’re hungry, and you’re poor
When you’re in pain in a room without a door
And when the angel returns and asks for more, say yes.
Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you
Worlds without end depend on you
Blessed is the one whom you bring forth
Whom no one else can bring

And when the legions of angels call you blessed, say yes.
And were you faithful in each and every test? Say yes.
And when they ask you in story and in song,
Were you upheld and protected all along?
And did the power of the spirit keep you strong? Say yes.

Concluding Prayer:      O Holy One, We hear your voice today … in Jeremiah and Luke’s writing as well as in the words of our sisters and brothers here with us. Strengthened by our simple meal of bread and wine, we remember Jesus, and his call to be “good news” to all the world. Despite these long winter days and the frightening, seemingly hopeless and confusing times in which we live, may we give birth and incarnate hope and light to everyone we meet. May it be so, AMEN.

Presider 1: Let us extend our hands as we bless each other:
May we continue to be the face of God to each other.  May we call each other to extravagant generosity!  May our light shine for all to see, and may our name be a blessing in our time! AMEN

Closing Song: Sing Out Earth and Skies! By Marty Haugen
Come O God of all the earth: Come to us, O Righteous One;
Come, and bring our love to birth: in the glory of your Son.

Refrain:      Sing out earth and skies!
Sing of the God who loves you!
Raise your joyful cries!
Dance to the life around you!

Come O God of wind and flame: Fill the earth with righteousness;
Teach us all to sing your name: May our lives your love confess. Ref

Come, oh God a flashing light: Twinkling star and burning sun;
God of day and God of night: In your light we all are one. Ref

Come, O God of snow and rain: shower down upon the Earth;
come, oh God of joy and pain: God of sorrow, God of birth. Ref

Come, O Justice, come, O Peace: Come and shape our hearts a new;
Come and make oppression cease: Bring us all to life in you. Ref

Sing out earth and skies! Sing of the God who loves you!
Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you! Ref

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