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Meeting ID: 825 1215 9155
Welcome and Theme: Dennis
Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, or the Third Sunday of Advent. The initiation of Advent occurred around the 4th Century and originally was a longer time of fasting and preparing for the arrival of Jesus. Gaudete means Rejoice, and this Sunday Celebration was provided mid-way during Advent as a break from the fasting and penitence expected during the rest of Advent. It was a day to rejoice. When Advent was adjusted down to four weeks, the third week was designated for this purpose.
The theme for today is Joy. It is the Joy that is born of the Divine. Our readings provide us insight into how joy exists in the midst of suffering and pain, and indeed provides relief and release by those whose lives are filled with love and joy. So, let us gather together in recognition of the Joy we each bring to this celebration.
Opening Prayer: Dotty
God-With-Us, Sacred Presence, Divine Mysteries, Holy One, Emmanuel....many are your names, legions are your gifts to humanity. We celebrate the gift of joy in this time of contradiction and fear. We are the ones who bring joy to all situations in life. We choose to find joy even in grief and pain. We choose to bring joy to all those whose lives we touch during this time of waiting.
All: So be it!
Advent Candle Lighting Blessing Prayer
Kathie: Like our ancestors, we honor the cycles and the seasons that remind us of the ever-changing flow of life. Ritual acts give life meaning—they honor and acknowledge the unseen web of Life that connects us 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.
And so we respond: Let us kindle the light of joy!
Dotty concludes: Indeed, let us welcome the light within each other!
Opening Song: Joy in Our Hearts by Karen Drucker
LITURGY OF THE WORD
Katie: First Reading - A reading from Enfleshed by Rev. Anna Blaedel
The Joy of God-With-Us does not come as naïve optimism, or surface level feel-good-ness. Joy cannot be imposed from on high. Joy cannot be commanded. The Joy of God-With-Us is mingled with grief, exists side by side with mourning, knows that pain and death are all too real, but do not have the final word. This joy tends tenderly to beauty, and softness, and the gladness that comes from paying attention to what matters. The Joy of God With-Us is collective, liberating us from deadly despair. Joy is gestating in darkness; it comes unexpectedly. Joy invites our expectation and demands our participation. Prepare the way, for joy with sorrow. May Joy be birthed among, within, and through us, this Advent. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel...
These are the inspired words of Rev. Anna Blaedel, and we affirm them by saying, Amen.
Jane: Second Reading - A reading from the Gospel bearing the name John
Then came one named John, sent as an envoy from God, who came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that through his testimony everyone might believe. He himself wasn’t the Light; he only came to testify about the Light – the true Light that illumines all humankind.
Now the Temple authorities sent emissaries from Jerusalem—priests and Levites—to
talk to John. “Who are you?” they asked.
This is John’s testimony: he didn’t refuse to answer, but freely admitted, “I am not the Messiah.”
“Who are you, then?” they asked. “Elijah?” “No, I am not,” he answered.
“Are you the Prophet?” “No,” he replied.
Finally they said to him, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who
sent us. What do you have to say for yourself?”
John said, “I am, as Isaiah prophesied, the voice of someone crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight our God’s road!’
The emissaries were members of the Pharisee sect. They questioned him further: “If you’re not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, then why are you baptizing people?”
John said, “I baptize with water because among you stands someone whom you don’t
recognize— the One who is to come after me—the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy even to untie.”
This occurred in Bethany, across the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.
These are the inspired words from the Gospel bearing the name of the Apostle John, and we affirm them by saying, Amen.
Third Reading - A reading from Thich Nhat Hanh
What does nirvana mean? It is absolute happiness. It’s not a place you can go; it’s a fruit that you can have wherever you are. It’s already inside us. The wave doesn’t have to seek out the water. Water is what the wave has to realize as her own foundation of being.
You are not static. You are the life that you are becoming. Because “to be” means to be something: happy, unhappy, light or heavy, sky or earth. We have to learn to see being as becoming. The quality of your being depends on the object of your being. That is why when you hear Rene Descartes’ famous statement “I think, therefore I am,” you have to ask, “You are what?” Of course you are your own thinking—and your happiness or your sorrow depends very much on the quality of your thinking. You are becoming now, you are being reborn now in every second. You don’t need to come to death in order to be reborn. You are reborn in every moment; you have to see your continuation in the here and the now.
I don’t care at all what happens to me when I die. That’s why I have a lot of time to care about what is happening to me in the here and the now. When I walk, I want to enjoy every step I take. I want freedom and peace and joy in every step. So joy and peace and lightness are what I produce in that moment. I have inherited it and I pass it on to other people. If someone sees me walking this way and decides to walk mindfully for him or herself, then I am reborn in him or in her right away—that’s my continuation. That’s what is happening to me in the here and the now. And if I know what is happening to me in the here and the now, I don’t need to ask the question, “What will happen to me after this body disintegrates?” There is no “before” and “after,” just as there is no birth and death. We can be free of these notions in this very moment, filled with the great joyful silence of all that is.
These are the inspired words of Thich Nhat Hanh and we affirm them by saying, Amen.
Homily Starter and Shared Reflections
Dennis: This Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, celebrates joy, the joy that our first reading says is “mingled with grief, exists side-by-side with mourning, knows that pain and death are too real, but do not have the final word.” Joy “invites our expectations and demands our participation” in making straight the path, preparing the way.
Today’s Gospel has the emissaries of the Jewish leaders questioning John as to who he is. There is an anticipation that perhaps he is Elijah returned, or the prophet, referring most likely to Moses. There is hope in the questions of the emissaries, they want a clear answer to bring back with them. John’s answer is not what they wish for, he shares with them that it is the one in their midst, whom they do not recognize, that is the One whose arrival they await.
Denise shared with us on the 1st Sunday of Advent, the meaning of the word Advent being “arrival”. She stated in her welcome, “The Divine Presence, or as Richard Rohr calls it, the Universal Christ, saturates the universe and everything in it, here and now. We are all pregnant with it.” The idea of being pregnant, the anticipation, the expectation that comes with it, that something new is coming, something that will bring joy and change to hearts, to homes, to the world. This is what John the Baptist was about, preparing the way, creating the anticipation of those who came to him, to call to their attention that the Light had arrived to shine in the darkness, to bring joy where there was sorrow.
And so we are invited to anticipate what the arrival means in our life, but the demand is also made to participate in and with the Light. How does our arrival to a life of joy in the midst of sorrow, pain, and death happen? Thich Nhat Hanh provides us a road map, one that calls us to focus on becoming, “being born now in every second”, to “see your continuation in the here and the now”, to be constantly participating in bringing joy and change to hearts, to homes, and to the world.
Thomas Aquinas, quoting from Matthew Fox’s book, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas says, “sheer Joy is God’s, and this demands companionship.” Aquinas proposes that the universe exists for the sake of Joy—God’s and that of the rest of us. “All beings are gladly doing their best to express God,” says Meister Eckhart.
Aquinas goes on to say that “joy is the human’s noblest act.” Matthew Fox wonders why not “fighting for justice or dying for a noble cause” be the noblest act. But Fox says that for Aquinas “even justice exists for the sake of joy — a just world is a balanced world and is therefore conducive to joy for the many, not just the few.”
According to Aquinas, “love is the cause of joy, the only person who truly has joy is one who lives in love.” And so the call this Gaudete Sunday is to recognize the arrival of the Light, in the midst of suffering, pain, and sorrow, bringing love and joy to all. Can we recognize our becoming, being born anew in every moment, as Thich Nhat Hanh states, “so joy and peace and lightness are what I produce in that moment?” The call is to pass that on to others, who will then pass it on to another, and so on. It is as he says, our continuation, or as Donna shared last week, in our following the example of Jesus, the Light, we become, like him, Life-Givers.
Have I recognized and accepted the Light that is born in me? What will I do to make straight the path, to bring justice, love and joy to the many?
Statement of Faith read by Linda
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.
LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST
Dennis: 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 intentions beginning with the words, “I bring to the table…..”
Presider 1: We pray for these and all unspoken intentions. Amen.
Dotty: With open hearts and hands let us pray our Eucharistic prayer as one voice:
(written by Jay Murnane)
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 a song of praise:
Holy, Holy, Holy
"Here In This Place" https://youtu.be/sgkWXOSGmOQ
Dennis: 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.
Please extend your hands in blessing.
Dotty: We are grateful for your Spirit at our Eucharistic Table and for this bread and wine which reminds us of our call to be the body of Christ in the world.
On the night before he faced his own death, Jesus sat at 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.
All lift their plates and pray the following:
When he returned to his place at the table, he lifted the bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread and offered it to them saying:
Take and eat, this is my very self.
All lift their cups and pray the following:
Then he took the cup of the covenant, spoke the grace, and offered it to them saying:
Take and drink.
Whenever you remember me like this,
I am among you.
Dennis: Let us share this bread and cup to proclaim and live the gospel of justice and peace.
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.
All consume their bread and wine at this time.
Communion Meditation/Song: Tis a Gift to Be Simple
Dennis: Holy One, 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,
Dennis: Let us pray as Jesus taught us:
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
Dotty: Please extend your hands and pray our blessing together.
May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you.
Closing Song: This Joy