Saturday service, Pastor McClean officiating
Because someone didn’t show up to run the soundboard, Susan offered to run it but because she was the reader I graciously offered to run it without remembering the basics. At one time I had four people around me pushing buttons and sliding volume adjusters. I felt like a bowl of kale next to a jar of M’n’Ms.
Where I am a Viking is pressing the ‘forward’ key to advance the slides. Victory!
We sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, “Days of Elijah”, “Change My Heart Oh God”, “Breathe” and “How Great is Our God”.
Pastor began by invoking The Triune God to help us understand His word. He lit the first two advent candles, hope and peace, to remind us of our hope in Him and bringing peace into lives.
We confessed our sins. Those sins were then absolved. Thank you.
And we prayed. We pray for His Church worldwide, our church, before and after Communion including The Lord’s Prayer. We prayed thanks for the offering and a prayer with benediction to end the service. And we recited The Nicene Creed.
Susan read Malachi 3:1-7b and Philippians 1:3-11. Pastor then read Luke 3:1-6. These can be found at the bottom of this post. Read them and improve your life
Sermon: “Looking for Only the Best”
Pastor’s sermon was based on the New Testament reading of Philippians 1:3-11.
He began by asking us what is best for us. Being the Christmas season one can ask,
“What Christmas present is best for me?” or
“What is the best Christmas gift best for my wife, kids and boss?”.
You might think this sounds like a cynical attitude ragging on the commercialism of Christmas. Perhaps so, but there are 11 other months of the year when we want to buy only the best for ourselves. Which is the best or most popular car I can buy? Which is the best travel team my kid can play on this baseball season? What restaurant has the highest rating? I’m on the internet checking out rating stars for burger joints. Which bedding has the highest reviews? Where’s the best vacation spot for spring break? What I’m doing is relying on the opinion of people I’ve never met or even know if they’re telling the truth. The internet would never lead me astray, would it?
But when it comes to church and serving God, we don’t rely on worship service, reading the Bible or helping others as we may. If we recognize the Bible as the inerrant word of God why do we place reliance on Yelp! and Amazon reviews more so. It’s a topsy-turvy set of priorities we humans observe. For many Christians we adopt the attitude that ‘good enough’ is the best we are willing to suffer in return for a Triune love. We might say,
“I’m not worried because God will forgive me because that’s His job, right? Don’t religious leaders tell us that God isn’t a God of laws but rather a God of love?”
God is both. As we live He wants what is best for us and others. He asks us to serve the downtrodden, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give to the poor, heal sicknesses and addictions, support those who serve us – our government, law enforcement and others who provide services for us. These can be done by us individually or having our gifts worked through the efforts of churches and organizations. And pray for the salvation of the lost and undone. By accomplishing His will we are doing which is best for us – having the love of Christ strengthen us. His love directs our compassion and guides us to works which are righteous in His eyes.
Anywot, when it comes to the church we work awfully hard at looking for reasons not to sacrifice our efforts, talents and money.
“Oh, I can’t give to that ELCA church because of their stand on homosexuality”.
“What? Episcopalians need help providing clothes to the homeless? Are you kidding me? They aren’t doctrinally sound. Any items to them will not serve others according to how I think they should be served”.
We go to Sunday service but bug out right after Communion because the ball game starts in an hour. Kids go through the confirmation process but become no-shows after Confirmation Sunday. Bible reading generally starts in earnest on January 1 but quickly fizzles out after return to work and school, or lunch with the girls.
The parts after Communion are as important as the liturgy before Communion filled with hymns, prayers and benedictions. An eighth grader needs to keep attending service because he needs to grow his faith in God especially now that He has an understanding what is involved. Bible reading need not be a chore but a time dedicated for at least a few minutes of peace and, possibly, understanding. There’s no need to read a lot, but at least some. There’s no need to understand, but let God take His time to make that word apparent to you as you go throughout your day. The Bible is not a text book.
So what is best gift for you and others this Christmas holiday? The ability to discern God’s word and make right decisions in His name. Yes, as always, anything good requires time and effort.
Lastly, there are many who want God to be a God of fire and brimstone destroying those whose views they differ with. Some are convinced God sent Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans for its ‘sins’. Still others believe, and maybe hope, God causes an earthquake in California wiping out the film and music industry for its unlikable content. And, incredibly enough, there are those who are certain God killed rapper Juice WRLD* (aged 21) just a few days ago because he had a hit record but could only have achieved it by selling his soul to Satan a la Robert Johnson, a guitar player from the deep South who died in 1938.
Yes, God is a God of justice and if you want justice, just wait, everyone gets it eventually. Those who have faith in Christ will be judged innocent.
*No, I’d never heard of Juice WRLD until he died earlier this week.
3 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.
5 “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.
6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”