Saturday, December 14, 2019

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community Third Sunday of Advent – December 14, 2019 Presiders: Janet Blakeley, ARCWP and Sally Brochu, ARCWP and Community: Music Minister: Linda Lee Miller Lectors: Joan Meehan & Cheryl Brandi

Presider:  Welcome to Mary, Mother of Jesus, an inclusive Catholic Community where all are welcome to share Eucharist at our Banquet Table.   We use inclusive language in our Scripture readings and prayers.   We invite respectful sharing at the homily that is related to our readings. We welcome all of you to share your intentions at the Prayers of the Faithful. In the Eucharistic Prayer we invite anyone to ‘voice’ one of the prayers if you are comfortable doing so and all pray the words of Consecration.   We welcome all newcomers and we are so pleased that you joined us today.   All are invited to join us for supper at a local restaurant after the liturgy.

Advent Candle Lighting and Blessing Prayer

Presider: 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 is within each of us and connects us all.
ALL: We light this third candle and remember that in the heart of every person on this earth and in all of creation, there burns the spark of luminous goodness – the presence of the Divine. Let us kindle the light of joy! Amen.

Gathering Song: “You Come, You Come, Emmanuel”
You come, you come, Emmanuel,
You gathered all who stumbled and fell.
You share your life you share your love;
Your dawn breaks forth in wonderous light above.

Rejoice, rejoice, O people of the earth! In God’s great love we comprehend our worth!

You come with grace, O Source of Light,
You teach us to find courage in the night.
Your way is justice, mercy and peace,
Your wisdom is the path to true release.

Rejoice, rejoice, O people of the earth! In God’s great love we comprehend our worth!

Opening Prayer:
(Pause briefly and reflect on the need to grow more in love with others and with creation.)
Presider:  We give you thanks most loving and compassionate God, for this time of waiting when we search to find you present in our midst. Open our hearts and minds to finding You in new and unimaginable ways during this Season of Advent. Plant the seed of your presence deeper in us and help us to nourish it into new life. AMEN.
Communal Reconciliation Rite
Presider: We pause now to remember the times we have not asked for forgiveness or forgiven.
(Pause briefly.   Please extend your hand in blessing and sing the Ho’oponopono Prayer)  I am sorry.   Please forgive me.   I thank you.  I love you.
                                                             LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Isaiah 35: 1-8a, 10                                                                
The following words are attributed to Isaiah, who lived in the 8th Century BC and who received his prophetic vocation while in the Temple of Jerusalem. Some scholars say that this chapter of poetry was written later by one of Isaiah’s spiritual descendants, who is referred to as a post exilic prophet known as Second Isaiah.  These are meaningful words to be reflected upon in this time of Advent.

The wilderness and the dry lands will be glad, the desert will rejoice and blossom.
Like the first flowers of spring, they shall burst into bloom, and rejoice with joyous song.
The glory of God will be seen in the barren land, the majesty of God revealed.

Strengthen shaking hands. Steady trembling knees.
Say to those whose hearts are anxious and fearful,
“Be strong, fear not! Here is your God who comes with vindication.
With divine justice, God will come to restore you.”

Then, the eyes of those who cannot see will be opened,
and the ears of those who cannot hear will be unstopped.
Those who cannot walk will leap like a deer,
and the tongue that is speechless will sing for joy.
Waters will gush in the desert, and the streams flow in parched land.
The burning sand will become a pool of cool water,
and the thirsty ground bubbling springs.

A highway will appear there too, a road called “The Holy Way”.
Upon it, God’s people, restored, will return, and enter the Holy City with singing.
unending joy will be their crown. Sorrow and sighing will take flight,
gladness and rejoicing will be their escort.

These are the inspired words from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and we affirm them by saying “Amen”
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm #146 – (As adapted by Nan Merrill)

O Divine Lover, You gave birth to the universe, the heavens, the galaxies, the planets, the earth, the seas and all that is in them. You are ever faithful, bringing balance and harmony to Earth and nourishment to body and soul.

You secure justice for the oppressed, and give bread to the hungry.
You set prisoners free. You give sight to the blind.
You raise up those who are weighed down.

Refrain: May you live forever in our hearts.

You love the righteous and protect the resident alien.
You come to the aid of the orphan and the widow.
You watch over those who journey, sending guides and angels to lead them.

May you live forever in our hearts!
Loose the fetters of fear that bind us.
May we praise You with joyful song through all generations:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Refrain: May you live forever in our hearts.

Reading from the Letter of James Chapter 5: 7-11

Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Messiah.
Look how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of Earth, patient with it until the ground receives the early rains and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, for the coming of God is at hand.
Do not grumble and complain against each other that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. The prophets who spoke in God’s name exemplify perseverance and patience. We call blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s endurance, and you have seen the desire of God’s heart. How compassionate and merciful is our God!

Gospel Acclamation:
Litany for Advent:  (sung)
Right side: Word of mercy, Alleluia,                        Left side:   Live among us, Maranatha!
                   Word of power. Alleluia,                                          Live within us, Maranatha!
       Word of justice, Alleluia,                                         Come to dwell here, Maranatha!
Gospel: A Reading from the Gospel attributed to Matthew – Chapter 11: 1-10.14-15  (John the Baptizer)
“When Jesus had finished instructing his disciples, he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.
John, meanwhile had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting? Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on:
The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the suffering of the earth learn that God is on their side. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed.”
When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, “I’m sending a prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you”.
Let me tell you what is going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer, but in the kin-dom he prepared for you, the lowest person is ahead of him. If you read the books of the Prophets, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the Kin-dom. Looked at in this way, John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive to introduce the Messiah.
Are you listening to me? Really listening?
A Reading of the Gospel attributed to Matthew, as written in The Message, a New Testament translation in Contemporary Language, by Eugene H. Peterson
Gospel Acclamation:

Homily and Community Sharing

Let’s look at two elements of today’s Gospel reading: First, the person of John the Baptist, and then, the people who listened to him.  

John was probably not what you would call an attractive man.   He didn’t want to live “in society” – i.e., with his family or friends and neighbors.   For his own  reasons, he chose to live a solitary life in the desert.   That meant that when the sun was too hot, he sought shelter in a cave.   When he was hungry, he ate what was as hand.  (According to Scripture that would have been locusts and honey -  although a Lebanese guide taught us that “locusts” did not refer to insects - a good source of protein! - but to a fruit by the same name.   When his clothes wore out, he covered himself in animal skins.    Had he tried to come back to the city like this, people might have run away, or thrown rocks at him.   Still – he had his reasons.  
When I spent some time with this strange man, as you would sit with your own shadow side, I found something truly wonderful in him.   It was an overwhelming desire to get down to basics – to leave ordinary distractions and occupations behind – in order to be able to recognize in this life the voice that spoke to him, the force that moved him, the fire in his heart.   That same thing drives me to want to be unattached from everything in order to see clearly, hear clearly, love singularly.   The difference between us is that he arrived at that in this life.   It seems as if we must wait until God lifts us out of this material world and brings us to a purely spiritual state.   Not until then will we be able to see our God face to face.
The people who listened to John did not jump into their cars and take a Sunday drive out to the desert to get a glimpse of this strange phenomenon.    Instead, they rose well before dawn to escape the heat of the day, and walked from wherever they were to the place where John was to be found.   It took a sizeable effort to do that.   But that effort was commensurate with their desire to know if his message might be true.   The people of Israel had waited generation after generation for the Messiah to come.   Was this the one of whom the prophets spoke?  Of whom John was speaking?   It mattered enough to trek out to the wilderness to hear him.
We realize that some heard the message and felt they recognized the one who was to come, and others did not.   At this point we can all say, with gratitude, that God has never seemed overly interested in our getting things “right” but more in wanting us to love him/her and each other.   And at that point of recognition (or not), God went smoothly on loving each person there.
I did wonder if the people sitting or standing around listening had any awareness of the huge step they might or might not take.   Those who did see Jesus as the Messiah were unwittingly stepping off into the unknown and starting what in time would become a paradigm shift in the world!   Those who did not were maintaining the foundations of our faith so that we might not lose sight of its essential elements.    And God loved them all!  
Remembering that might help us in our era.   We, too, stand at a stepping off place.    Many of us in this sanctuary have already taken the first big step away from the institution that formed us.   We are looking at where to go next, and how far we dare to go.   Some have suggested that we must throw it all away in order to move on to what awaits us.   But that seems not in keeping with the way we have evolved, which is systemic – not throwing away the past but adding to it, expanding it, enriching it.   The problem is in identifying what is essential to keep.   We can test things by the seemingly eternal signs of the presence of God, the symbols of Advent – does that which I am considering bring Peace?   Love?   Joy?   If so, we can feel secure in moving ahead.  
Questions for reflection:
Can you identify with the Jews who wondered if Jesus was truly the Messiah?
Do you experience yourself as standing at a crossroads or “on the edge” of something new?
What guides you?                            

Statement of Faith  (Taken from “The Friends in Faith” and shared by Joan Meehan)
Gathered together as people of faith, we profess our belief in God who is larger than we can name, unable to be contained, yet present in each one of us. We have come to know this God in the living of our lives, and in the holiness of the earth we share.
We believe in a God revealed in all peoples – all genders, religions, and orientations. We embrace a compassionate God, who champions justice and mercy, and is always faithful when we call. Our God gives and forgives, patiently loving without conditions.
We gratefully believe in a God who feels our deepest struggles and celebrates our deepest joys. A God who both dances with us in celebration and holds us when we cry. This God is not the “other” to us but shares our breath in every moment and promises we are never alone.
We believe in a God who believes in us – believes that we are precious and incredible gifts, worthy to claim image and likeness to the divine. We hold fast to our God who journeys with us, who continually calls us to choose the shape of our days through the choices we make. This God accepts us as we are and shares each hope we have for becoming. This is the God in whom we believe, our Creator, our Mother and Father, who became human in Jesus, our brother. Our God is the Spirit of Life, the voice that continues to speak love, and asks us to answer. In this God we choose to believe. AMEN.
Prayers of the Community
 Presider: As we prepare for the sacred meal, we bring to this table our blessings, cares and concerns.   All please feel free to voice your concerns beginning with the words “I bring to the table….”  
 Our response is “Holy One, may your love for all, help us to experience joy in our hearts”.
Presider: For what shall we pray?
Presider: We pray for these and all unspoken concerns that we hold in our hearts.   Amen.
Offertory Song: “Holy Darkness” #472
Refrain: Holy darkness, blessed night, heaven’s answer hidden from our sight,
              As we await you, O God of silence, we embrace your holy night.

1)    I have tried you in fires of affliction; I have taught your soul to grieve.
              In the barren soil of your loneliness, there I will plant your seed.
     4)  In your deepest hour of darkness, I will give you wealth untold.
          When silence stills your spirit, will my riches fill your soul
Preparation of Gifts (presiders lift up bread and wine and book of intentions)
Presider: Blessed are you, O Holy One, and blessed are we as we gather around this table.   We bring this bread, this wine and our lives to share at this banquet of love. Through this sacred meal may we become your new creation as we respond to your call to use our gifts in loving service to our sisters and brothers.
All: Blessed are You forever.
Presider: All are welcome to join us around the table.

                        LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST

Presider:  God is with us, blessing the world through you.
All: And with all of creation.
Presider: Lift up your hearts.
All: We lift them up in the Holy One.

Presider: O Holy One, we lift up our hearts to You, You who gently invite us to enter into a deeper relationship with you, a relationship that will affect how we live our lives and decisions we make.  This transformation frequently comes through difficulties and pain, yet you are there with us through all our days. Come Holy Spirit, Shekinah, be with us and with all who have gone before us, as we lift up our hearts in praise and song:
All: We are holy, holy, holy (you, I, we) by Karen Drucker
 Refrain: (Sung after each verse)
Spirit Divine, Come to me
Feeling love, Healing me.
Open my heart, Allow me to see,
Beauty and love, Lives in me.

All: We trust you to continue to share with us your own Spirit, the Spirit that filled Jesus, for it is through his life and teaching, his loving and healing that all honor and glory is yours, O Holy One, forever and ever.

Voice: Holy One, You transform these gifts of bread, wine, and our lives, with boundless grace that nourishes and sustains us on our journey.
Voice: On the night Jesus sat at the Seder supper with his companions, he reminded them of what he taught them and bent down and washed their feet. Jesus returned to his place at the table, lifted the Passover bread and spoke the blessing, and then broke the bread with these words:
ALL: Take and eat, this is my very self.

Voice: Jesus then raised high the cup of blessing, spoke the grace, and offered them the wine with these words:

ALL: Take and drink of the covenant made new again through my life for you and for everyone. Whenever you do this, you remember me.
Presider: Let us proclaim the mystery of wonder in our midst.
ALL: Jesus died, Christ rose, Christ comes again and again and again.
Voice: Jesus who walks with us on the path to holiness, you are the spark of love in whom we believe; the Wisdom of Sophia in whom we trust; and the desire for justice that consumes us.

Voice: As we celebrate the memory of Jesus, we remember our prophetic leaders. We remember now the communion of saints who have inspired and loved us and all who have gone before us. ( Names………)

(Presiders hold up bread and wine.)
ALL: For it is through living as Jesus lived that we awaken to your Spirit loving through us to promote justice and equality in our service to our sisters and brothers.
Presider: Let us sing the Prayer, as Jesus taught us:
Prayer of Jesus: “Our Father and Mother…”

Sign of Peace: Presider: While remaining in your place, please turn to the person on either side of you and extend them a sign of peace and say: “May God’s peace be with you”

Prayer for the Breaking of the Bread
Presider: Please join in the prayer for the breaking of the bread. (Presiders break the bread.)
All: O God of Courage, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice. We will live justly. 
 O God of Compassion, You call us to be your presence in the world.   We will love tenderly.
  O God of Truth, You call us to speak truth to power.   We will walk with integrity in your presence.
(Presiders hold up the bread and wine.)
Presider: This is the bread of life and the cup of blessing.   Through it we are nourished and we nourish each other.   All are welcome to join in the Feast. 
Presider: Let us share the Body of Christ with the Body of Christ. All are welcome at this table.
Communion song: Instrumental:  “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” - #90
Prayer after Communion:
Presider: We rejoice in your amazing love, O Holy One! We rejoice in the life-changing opportunities You open to us. Out of that joy, we offer our thanks and praise as we leave this place. May we be challenged, encouraged and empowered so that we may continue to live as joyous partners in creating a world filled with love and ruled by justice. Bless our families everywhere.
Prayers of Gratitude and Announcements
Presider: Let us raise our hands and bless each other.
All: May you be blessed with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships.  
May you seek truth boldly and love deeply within your heart.
May you continue to be the face of the Holy One to all you meet.
May your name be a blessing in our time.

Presider: Go into this week, held together by the love of God, clothed with the nature of Jesus our Companion, and reinforced by the strength of the Holy Spirit.
ALL:  Amen.
Presider: Let us go in faith to ponder in our hearts the mystery and the wonder of this Holy Season.
ALL: Amen.

Closing Song: “People Look East” #40, verses 1 & 4
People look East, the time is near of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.
People look East and sing today, Love the Guest is on the way.

Angels announce on this great feast: Him who cometh from the East.
Set ev’ry peak and valley humming. With the word our God is coming.
People look East, and sing today: Love the Christ, is on the way.