It has become a tradition at First Church (as it is in many faith communities) be mark the season of Advent with creating a paper chain onto which brief passages of Scripture are written. Then, each day as Christmas draws nearer, one link on the chain is torn off, that Scripture is read, and we anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
This year, I chose Scripture texts related to the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love; themes connected to the Scripture texts we hear in Worship each Sunday and which have become identified with the four candles on the Advent Wreath.
These Scriptures were designed to be printed on mailing labels (the 30 labels per sheet template) and can be accessed here: advent. The color of the text matches the color strip we used in Worship Circle. (We used construction paper slips 1″x9″ stapled. This year, you will need a total of 18 purple, 7 pink, and 1 white strips.).
Blessed Advent to you!
This Sunday we celebrate vocation as students and teachers return to school, asking God’s blessing upon backpacks and messenger bags, tool kits and briefcases… Whatever container you use to help you carry the stuff you need to do the work God has called you to do… we’re going to bless it. And bless you as you do God’s work of peace-making, justice-creating, and compassion-offering.
Entering into the story of Jesus’ healing of the Centurian’s Servant began with an Ace Bandage…
We drew a face of the Ace Bandage and it became a “puppet,” the Servant who helped to tell the story. When the Servant was sick, the puppet was laying down… when Jesus healed him, the Servant stood up (radical, I know). We then reflected on the idea of trust… Do we each have someone in our lives we can trust? I wonder… what does it mean to trust? What might it mean to trust God? What does trusting God look like?
We then went outside to work in our garden… Lots of weeding… Lots of watering…
Finally, we rejoined the upstairs congregation for Eucharist.
Jesus finished saying all those things to the people. Then he entered Capernaum. There the servant of a Roman commander was sick and about to die. His master thought highly of him. The commander heard about Jesus. So he sent some elders of the Jews to him. He told them to ask Jesus to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and begged him, “This man deserves to have you do this. He loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. When Jesus came near the house, the Roman commander sent friends to him. He told them to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself. I am not good enough to have you come into my house. That is why I did not even think I was fit to come to you. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. I myself am a man who is under authority. And I have soldiers who obey my orders. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes. I tell that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him. He turned to the crowd that was following him. He said, “I tell you, even in Israel I have not found anyone whose faith is so strong.” Then the men who had been sent to Jesus returned to the house. They found that the servant was healed.
For many of us raised in the Christian tradition, the word “faith” has been construed to mean “belief.” If we have faith in something we are intellectually assenting to it. However, it seems to me, a more biblical understanding of faith might be radical trust. We see this illustrated in the story above. The commander does not say he believes anything particular about Jesus, who he is or his relationship to God, he simply trusts, trusts that Jesus can bring healing and wholeness to his beloved servant. I wonder… in whom, or in what, do you place your trust? What does that trust look like? How do we become people whom others can trust?
Trust. Verb. \trəst\.
Middle English, probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse traust trust; akin to Old English trēowe faithful — more at true. First Known Use: 13th century
1) a : to place confidence : depend
b: to be confident : hope
2) a: to sell or deliver on credit
1) a : to commit or place in one’s care or keeping : entrust
b : to permit to stay or go or to do something without fear or misgiving
2)a : to rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of : believe
This week we celebrate Trinity Sunday, the only holiday (as best I can tell) dedicated to a doctrine rather then an event or a person in the Christian Story. While some reject the doctrine of the Trinity, I love it. For me, it is the church’s way of painting a picture of God, reminding us that the Divine is encountered in relationship and in community (The Trinity is traditionally understood as One God existing/made known to us in Three Persons. Wikipedia has a great article where you can learn more about how different traditions understand the Trinity and why some may be suspicious it it). The marks of the triune relationship are mutuality, equality, and unity in diversity… ideals, I believe, ought to mark our human relationships as well. As we prepare for Sunday, I wonder… what picture would you paint of God?
Some resources to help us prepare…
Some of us grew up in churches where, each week, we sang or said the Gloria Patri, the Glory to the Father…
or, one of my favorites…
What parts of God do you glorify in this day?
Three-in-one challenge (from Barnabas in Churches… check them out for more great ideas…)
Pass around various items among your group. As individuals or as teams, they should try and come up with three different ways the same object could be used. Encourage them to use their imagination as vividly as possible. Objects could include:
a cardboard tube; a piece of hose; a plain piece of cloth; a coloured square of plastic; a twig from a bush; a juggling ball; a ball of cotton wool; a jam-jar; a piece a bamboo cane; a free CD disc
Play a game of linking up three words with a 4th word that connects them all. Write these words out on pieces of card first and hide them around the room. In teams they should try and collect as many complete sets as possible. Here are the sets:
- Composer – Musician – Instrument = Music
- Sap – Branch – Leaves = Tree
- Electricity – Filament – Bulb = Light
- Tyre – Hub – Spokes = Bike Wheel
- Water – Ice – Steam = H²O
- Body – Mind – Spirit = Human Being
- Caterpillar – Egg – Cocoon = Butterfly
- Envelope – Stamp – Writing paper = Letter
- Page – Cover – Binding = Book
- Hand – Pen – Ink = Writing
- Faith – Hope – Love = Virtues
The day of Pentecost came. The believers all gathered in one place. Suddenly a sound came from heaven. It was like a strong wind blowing. It filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw something that looked like tongues of fire. The flames separated and settled on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in languages they had not known before. The Spirit gave them the ability to do this. Godly Jews from every country in the world were staying in Jerusalem. A crowd came together when they heard the sound. They were bewildered because they each heard the believers speaking in their own language. The crowd was really amazed. They asked, “Aren’t all these people from Galilee? Why, then, do we each hear them speaking in our own native language? We are Parthians, Medes and Elamites. We live in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia. We are from Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia. Others of us are from Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene. Still others are visitors from Rome. Some of the visitors are Jews. Others have accepted the Jewish faith. Also, Cretans and Arabs are here. We hear all these people speaking about God’s wonders in our own languages!” They were amazed and bewildered. They asked one another, “What does this mean?” But some people in the crowd made fun of the believers. “They’ve had too much wine!” they said.
This week we celebrate Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence among, within, and around us. We had a lively day here at First Church with an intergenerational service filled with skits, song, and the Spirit… and lots of red food (to remind us of the Spirit setting us on fire with gifts for ministry): strawberries, watermelon, and twizzlers… Where have you experienced the Spirit’s presence so far this week? How is the Spirit moving in, among, and around you today?