It's been interesting to work through Advent with this intentionality about creation and its presence in our worshiping minds. There are some weeks, like Advent 3A, that are just packed with images from the created world, and some weeks like, well, this one, that are a bit more sparse; one has to go looking a bit. The sign from Isaiah, of a mother expecting, put me in mind of the ways our natural world demonstrates expectation, be it in planted seeds or growing rain clouds; others might come to your mind. Maybe part of the point is to learn to see ordinary things like planted seeds or growing rain clouds in a sacramental way, as signs that point us back (when we keep looking away) to the ongoing, in-breaking, unceasing movement of God's purpose in the world, particularly when we choose to (and let's face it, we choose to) live as if we are doomed and all is lost.
The point of the exercise isn't to suggest that every single week should be liturgized (if I may make up a word) creationally (if I may make up another word); were I leading from the table I might have let this week's liturgy pass, for example. I'm not necessarily advocating for taking whole liturgical seasons in this fashion. What I am trying to suggest here is that the more pervasively our liturgical life can draw upon God's creation (of which we are part and partner) and its ongoing lessons to us (lessons that are God's lessons to us after all, as creation is God's creation), the more we can do, hopefully, to undo that detachment so many of us techno-saturated and terminally citified Christians experience from nature. Maybe we'd be a little less likely to be quite so exploitative of the planet. Maybe we'd be a little less likely to befoul it so. Maybe we'd be a little more likely to act as if the planet really does belong to God, as if all of this world is, to borrow a phrase from a hymn by Adam M.L. Tice,"borrowed holy land."
Maybe. It's worth a try.
Call to Worship:
One: Seeds are planted; they germinate, grow, and blossom.
All: A tiny cloud grows into a great storm.
One: Show us, Lord, how to live in expectation of your mighty works.
All: Teach us to see in your creation, in your world, the signs of your glory.
One: The Lord will do great, unexpected things.
All: Thanks be to God.
Prayer of the Day:
O God of all that is, what stands and waits and what lives and breathes, give us eyes to see and ears to hear your presence in our lives. As a great tree grows from a tiny acorn, so let your Spirit grow and thrive within us, that we might be part of your action to bring righteousness, justice, and peace to your whole world. Amen.
Prayer of Confession:
God of might and glory, we do not live as if you are a God of might and glory. We cower in fear rather than living in faith. We shrink from the darkness rather than living as light in the world. Forgive us, good Lord. Shine forth and save us. Redeem our fearfulness and give us your presence to renew and restore us as good and righteous members of your creation, living so that all will see your good works and glorify you.
Assurance of Pardon:
Hear this good news: our God is still at work in the world. Even in the smallest things the great deeds of God are being carried out in creation. Our fearfulness and shame cannot put an end to God’s work. God calls us out from fear to quiet joy, and calls us to step out and take part in the renewing of the world. For this work in Christ, you are forgiven. Amen.
Prayer for Illumination:
Almighty and everlasting Lord, shine your light of illumination and inspiration into our darkened and fearful souls, that we might hear your word in the words of scripture. Amen.
Communion – The Great Prayer:
Hear these words from scripture: (Adapted from Romans 1:2-4)
[God] promised beforehand, through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning God’s son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection of the dead.
Though our eyes strain to see, though we see only ordinary sights such as an expectant mother, God’s purpose is moving in our world. Ordinary everyday things like grains and grapes contain the purposes of God, to intervene in this world and shine light that overwhelms our darkness. In sharing the blessings that come from those grains and grapes we testify to a God who will not stand by idly, but will toss aside kings and scatter darkness, and will undo the world in the birth of a baby boy. The table is open to all who call upon the name of that baby, the one who is light and hope and peace.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Merciful God, we are often not grateful enough for your constant care for your people. From the very beginning when you set light apart from darkness you have shone before us your unfailing care and nurture of your children. Your light shone in pillars of fire, flames of altars, prophetic orations and psalmist songs, unlikely stars and apostolic witness.
Yet we grope and flail about in darkness, denying your light, stopping our ears against the call of prophet and psalmist and apostle, and prefer our dank isolation to the light and warmth of your presence.
Lord call us out of the darkness and renew us in your light, that we might sing with all of the prophets, psalmists, and apostles, with angels and saints and all of creation:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory;
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Teach us, Lord, to rejoice in the work of your Son, Jesus Christ, whose breaking into the world in the unlikely form of an infant we await with longing and eagerness. Taking on the form and substance of humanity, Jesus lived among us bearing witness to your ongoing work among us by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, ministering to the poor and homeless, sharing meals with outcasts, and condemning any form of injustice that continued to spread darkness over your world. In Christ’s living, dying, and living again, we witnessed just how far you would go to reclaim all of your creation.
Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Let your Holy Spirit break out like undying, unbearable light among us, O God. Let us be so filled and overflowing with your Spirit that we cannot help but live as Christ lived, and do as Christ did. Let our witness be one of grace and truth, putting aside fear and living in the light, as light shining in darkness, light that darkness cannot overwhelm. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
The Bread and the Cup:
Jesus took bread and broke it, and gave it to his disciples. In the broken bread shines the love of God breaking into our world.
Jesus took the cup and blessed it, and gave it to his disciples. From that cup flowed life itself, salvation and grace to all.
The table is prepared. Jesus bids us come and eat.
Prayer After Communion:
All-loving God, break into our world and restore us. Drive our our fears, open our eyes and ears, feed us with your heavenly food and drink, that we can do lo less than be your light in a dark, fearful world. Amen.