Rev. Lindsay Borden, interim pastor at the Lafayette Presbyterian Church in NYC, put together this resource for the second Sunday in Advent. It incorporates a congregational conversation about the identity of the Church (www.pcusa.org/identity) the encourage engagement in the denominational process. Please feel free to use some or all for your service!
LIGHTING OF THE ADVENT CANDLE and CALL TO WORSHIP
(from Baruch 5 – for 2 – 6 readers)
Reader __________: Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Advent means “coming,” and as we await the coming again of Christ into our world, we light the second candle, the candle of peace.
Reader ___________: Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
Reader ___________: for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven; and God will give you evermore the name, “Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.”
Reader ___________: And God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of God’s glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from God.
Reader ___________: As a beacon of peace in our warring world, we light this candle, as we look for the coming of the One called Prince of Peace. (The second candle is lit.)
Reader ___________: People of God, let us work for Christ’s peace!
All: Let us worship God!
CALL TO CONFESSION
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee… the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
As God’s faithful beloved, let us turn to God in repentance, trusting in God’s mercy and grace.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Loving God, we have heard the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
But we have failed to prepare for your coming.
The chasm between those in the valleys and those on the mountaintops gapes wide.
If we find our pathways smooth, we take the credit, and ignore those for whom the road is hard.
If we ourselves find the way rough-going, we try to struggle on alone, forgetting that we can do more together than we ever can on our won.
O God, have mercy on us.
Mend our crooked little hearts. Enlarge them with your love.
In Christ we ask it. Amen.
DECLARATION OF FORGIVENESS
Hear the good news: all flesh shall see the salvation of the LORD – and that won’t be our doing, but God’s. Believe the good news; live the good news: in Christ we are forgiven; in Christ we are made whole. Amen.
PASSING THE PEACE OF CHRIST
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
God of Peace, by your Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your Word. Teach us your way, that we may put away our garments of sorrow and affliction, and put on forever the beauty of your glory: the mercy and righteousness that come from you. Amen.
Philippians 1: 3-11
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
COMMUNITY CONVERSATION: What does it mean (to you) to be church?
This week’s theme is about peace and, in the weeks building up to Advent, we have seen anything but peace on the news: rejection of Syrian refugees based on the bombing in Paris, “guilt shaming” as countless acts of violence occur around the world, and the desire to seek our own safety and peace before that of others. In some ways, it’s natural. We want to be safe. We want to be secure. We want peace.
Seeking peace is something that must be practiced. If we don’t know what it looks or feels like, then we don’t know how to obtain it. Today’s passage from Paul to the Philippian church highlights the way we are to prayerfully seek God’s call in Christian community. He says, “…this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best…”
Today, together, we are going to practice seeking peace. The conversation begins right here, with the people we are sitting next to in our pews. So, we are going to engage in a conversation with one another. I invite you to first turn to your neighbor or neighbors and answer this question: “What does a church seeking peace look like?”
(give them 3-4 minutes)
Have people report back. Then ask, “If we strive to become that church, what must we save and what must we let go of?”
(give them 3-4 minutes)
Conclude by saying that, “Everything we do is to contribute to the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ through the glory and praise of God as Paul says in today’s passage. What fruit do we hope to harvest as a community of faith?” Encourage people to lift up things as they feel led. Make a connection to the work of your local congregation through the presbytery all the way up to the national level of the denomination. One way to encourage our work together is to participate in the conversation going on in the PCUSA now…”
[From PCUSA website: “In a religious landscape that has been changing substantially in recent history, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its agencies have been wrestling with what these changes mean for the church, its identity, mission, and focus. The Office of the General Assembly seeks new ways to faithfully carry out the direction given by the General Assembly in the 21st century. In the midst of these changes and this collective discernment, the important question arises as to whether the purposes and mission of the agencies that have served the church in the past are right for our future as a church.
The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly has called for a church-wide consultation that seeks to engage the whole denomination in a conversation about what the church is called to be and do, what it means to be a connectional church, and what is our shared identity, so that the 222nd General Assembly in 2016 will be substantively informed by the insights and wisdom of congregations, councils, and agencies when it gathers in Portland to ponder these things.
What are we called to be and do as a denomination in the 21st century? The objective of this study is to engage the whole church in conversation, and to provide a summary of this conversation to commissioners at the 222nd General Assembly, where they will weigh important matters of purpose, function, mission and ministry. We have the opportunity to share our hopes and dreams about the church with the General Assembly. Will you join the conversation?”]
CONCLUDING UNISON PRAYER:
God of Hope, we pray that – as individuals, as a congregation, and as a denomination –
our love may overflow more and more with knowledge and insight,
that through your gracious Spirit we may determine what is best –
that is, what is your will for us – so that in the day of Christ’s coming,
we may be found dressed in your beautiful righteousness, clothed in your everlasting love.
In Jesus Christ we pray, to the glory and praise of your eternal name. Amen.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from Matthew 5: 3 – 11),
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
SACRAMENT OF COMMUNION
Invitation to the Table
Hear the words of the prophet Baruch: “Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them.”
At this table we are given a foretaste of that day, when all God’s people shall come from the ends of the earth, and all people shall be welcomed and fed.
To come to this table, you do not have to be without sin; none of us is sinless.
You do not have to be good; only God is good.
You do not even have to be Presbyterian – for this is not the table of the Presbyterian Church
or of any church; it is not the table of the perfect, but of the loved.
At Christ’s bountiful table, all are beloved, and all are welcome
Great Prayer of Thanksgiving (from Luke 1:68-79)
Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Minister: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them to the Lord.
Minister: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give our thanks and praise
Blessed are you, LORD God of Israel, for you have looked favorably upon your people and redeemed them. You raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, and you spoke through the mouths of your holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies within and without / our wayward and wandering ways.]
Thus you showed us the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembered your holy covenant, the oath that you swore to our ancestors Abraham and Sarah, to grant us that we, being rescued from our sinful natures, might serve you without fear, in holiness and righteousness before you all of our days.
And so we praise you, singing with all the saints on earth and all the saints in heaven:
(Hymn # 568) Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Yet we continued to turn from you, but you never turned from us.
You sent a prophet called John to go prepare the way of our Lord,
to give knowledge of salvation to your people by the forgiveness of their sins.
And in the fullness of time, by your tender mercy, O God,
you sent your child Jesus, to shine into our lives with the dawn of a new creation,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
In his birth, in his life, in his ministry, and even in his suffering and death,
Jesus taught us what it is to be fully, joyfully, generously human –
loving you and our neighbors just as we are loved.
In his resurrection, we learned that even death cannot destroy your love.
And so, according to his commandment:
We remember his death,
we proclaim his resurrection,
we await his coming in glory.
God of Grace, as we wait with holy impatience for the advent of our Savior,
send your Holy Spirit now
upon these gifts of bread and wine, and upon your gathered people,
to bless us and bind us together,
to make us indeed one with the risen Christ and with each other,
to feed and sustain us for your holy work of loving the world.
Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor are yours, almighty and merciful God,
now and forever. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer.
[Words of Institution, if not said during prayer]
Prayer after the Communion
O God you have fed us at your bountiful table.
May this holy and joyful meal encourage us to help prepare your way:
To straighten the paths of injustice,
To fill in the valleys of poverty
And tear down the mountains of injustice;
To strengthen our hearts, until that day
when all flesh shall see the your salvation
through Jesus Christ our peace. Amen.
CHARGE AND BENEDICTION