God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Christ is made the sure foundation
Call to Worship: (Psalm 46:8-11)
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
I surrender all
God of majesty and mercy,
we give you thanks and praise for your commitment to your creation. In Christ, you have turned the world upside down, revealing your strength through weakness, and your power through compassion. In the cross of Christ you taught us that no hopeless situation or frightening possibility is beyond your reach. We praise you for your love at work around us and within us, always able to do more than we can ask or even imagine. Receive our love and our loyalty this day, our Sovereign and our Saviour.
God of wisdom and warning, we confess that we often prefer our own plans to your purposes. We shrink from acts of service that seem too demanding. Forgive us when our commitment wavers and we think someone else will take up the challenges we face. Inspire us with the example of Jesus, and energize us with your Spirit to follow him as our Shepherd, wherever he leads.
In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 1:68-78
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
Sermon: Learning from our past about the new world that is coming
It has been very instructive to see how car companies are trying to reinvent themselves from making gas driven cars to electric cars. Companies like Tesla began making electric cars at the first go. Other companies are adding electric cars to their lineups. One thing you will notice is that all these cars are cars even though they are electric or gasoline driven. “New” in these cars is how they use electric energy instead of gasoline fuels. Otherwise everything else looks pretty much the same. Things like wheels, seats, even much of the shapes of cars have not changed. Indeed, most of us do not see the difference between these cars except when we need energy to drive from one place to another.
This change in car manufacturing is very instructive. In one way, they may look similar and familiar, but the essential energy that makes the car operate is totally different and requires entirely different components to build cars. It’s not just that we require batteries instead of gasoline, electric motors instead of gasoline motors. The new way of designing a car with electric motors is different from the old way we designed gasoline cars. At the same time, how our cars will be serviced at a garage is also changed in a way we have not thought through. Keeping electric motors humming is very different from maintaining gasoline engines.
I am in conversations with many people who want to find a new way to reverse the decline that has plagued churches everywhere in North America. What I find intriguing is that in all the new ways we imagine, people always seem to include important things from the past. We do not throw out the baby with bath water so to speak. Sometimes it is very difficult to figure out the essential from the non-essential in our attempts to bring something new. In this sense new is all about keeping the time tested and cherished experiences and knowledge as part of the new. However, without intentional care, so called time tested and cherished experiences can only contain what certain powerful people desire to keep rather than what everyone thinks is important to keep.
In the Old Testament and New Testament, something else is in play in order to bring about the new. As we can see in today’s passage, it has everything to do with God’s promise and God’s ways in history. It did not matter whether people insisted that certain things were well tested to be received as truth or cherished by the people of Israel, It had everything to do with the fact that God acted in history according to God’s own will/agency and continues to do so in the present. God’s promises and the way God fulfilled the promises are the very things that bring into our world the “new.”
Today as Christians we celebrate the Reign of Christ Sunday. That means next Sunday we will begin our Advent. The Reign of Christ Sunday tells us that this is how we mark our ordinary or earthly time as Christians proclaiming and living under our Christ who reigns in the universe. We look back to Pentecost which was preceded by Easter and Ascension. It is the Sunday of celebration for Christ being the ruler, judge and Lord of the universe. As we anticipate the coming Lord, we, therefore, remember Christ’s presence with us.
Our passage for today is the prophecy of Zechariah. This prophecy remembers the promise God gave in the past as well as God’s deliverance of Israel. As much as this prophecy remembers the past events of what God had done in the past, it points everyone’s thoughts to the future. The future, of course, always anticipates the newness of our world. For Christians, however, this anticipation of something new is familiar and full of blessings from God because it is based on God’s past promises being fulfilled.
This is why we often look back and see how God’s promise of the new world entered into our time. This is why we plumb the depths of the past to recall God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants. Also by reciting ways God entered into human history, we are able to prepare for the new future that was foretold in the very promises God gave and sustained in our past. As the custodians of these promises we celebrate with Zechariah God’s mighty acts in history in order to unfold before the eyes of the world the coming world.
In Zechariah’s prophecy, there is another aspect of understanding what it means to live life under Christ and take part in Christ’s ministry. It is the way Zechariah prophesies about his son John. In our Christian tradition Zechariah’s son John is received as the one who came to prepare the way of our Lord. John became an extraordinary person who carried a very specific purpose in God’s way of loving our world. By the prophecy, then, his father Zechariah, revealed God’s intent on his son.
One thing we learn from Zechariah’s prophecy is that our remembering of God’s promises and God’s gracious deliverance of God’s people from sufferings in the world throughout history opens our eyes to these still active promises and fulfilling of these promises of God in the present. This remembering points us to the future. What is exciting and great about the content of the prophecy is that it points not only to the past, but also to the future. It does this by revealing a way to the coming Christ and how God is preparing this way in the world through a person of John. As John lives out his life, God’s mission is being unfurled in the world.
This is the point about our celebration of the reign of Christ today. Like John, those of us who are called to be the followers of Christ have particular responsibilities in preparing the way for Christ to return to this world. This is why we remember promises given and ways God continually engaged in the past. From remembering, we are assured of Christ’s reign with us in the present and are given tasks to prepare for the coming world in Christ. Joys and delights in our past remind us of God’s blessings and grace that were part of the promise and fulfilment. As we experience our living Lord today, we are prompted to fulfil our calling in ushering in God’s reign here on earth.
In other words, ushering in new heavens and a new earth where Christ reigns may look pretty much the same as before. However, like electric cars replacing gasoline engine cars, in this new world, Christ replaces all the leaders of the world and Christ’s ways prevail over all the ways that humanity has carried itself until the time of Christ. This new is all about Christ and his reign of the universe. In this new world God’s love and grace given in Christ’s death and resurrection are shared as the most important, fundamental and essential components of life. As Christ’s people who are under his reign, today, we live life in ways that God’s promise was fulfilled and through all that we do Christ’s love is manifested in all that we do.
Lord Jesus Christ,
we give you thanks that you reign through love as the power that embraces the world with mercy and hope.
Thank you for revealing that to trust is wisdom, to forgive is the best way to deal with enemies, and to serve is the best way to lead. We pray that, through the grace of your kingdom, each beloved creature and citizen will know safety and satisfaction in their homes. Let the vision of your peaceable kingdom take root in our hearts, bringing healing to families and communities, and in every place wounded by violence or destruction.
Lord Jesus Christ,
We give you thanks for reaching out to those on the margins and those others shunned, so that each one knew they belonged in your kingdom. We pray for those who face discrimination or insecurity in our communities, longing for respect and a change to thrive. Teach us how to live differently as neighbours,
to acknowledge and work with others we’ve never worked with before. Lead us by your Spirit to share in your work of mending the world.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Thank you for enduring the pain of the cross and the darkness of the tomb to show us there is life beyond death through your resurrecting love. We pray for those who are grieving a loss this day, the loss of someone beloved, the loss of love or hope or trust, the loss of opportunity or security or future plans.
Be present with all who feel the sadness and disruption of a loss, and bring each one comfort and courage.
Lord Jesus Christ,
This day we pray for your church at work in the world, confronting the challenges and changes of these times. Unite us in witness and service, and encourage us when difficulties arise, for we are your people, committed to the unfolding of your reign among us, as we pray the words you taught us:
Our Father ...
Merciful God, you envision a world where the hungry are fed and strangers are welcomed. We bring you our gifts to share in that vision. With your blessing, may our gifts bear fruit in Christ’s name, and offer his blessing to those we serve for his sake. Amen.
If you have been knitting, please make sure to bring them in. We will collect mittens, toques, scarves, and socks until Sunday, December 4.
Cinnamon Bun Tuesday
We will stop with Cinnamon Bun Tuesdays as of Tuesday, November 29. We will be resting during winter months as we celebrate Advent and Christmas. We thank everyone who came out and shared in fellowship. We thank all those who served and made this fellowship possible.
Last Sunday’s Music Worship
Special thanks to all who have come out and took part in our new music worship. We also thank all of you for inviting your family and friends. It was good to praise God somewhat differently than we usually do.
Love Your Church
Love Your Church fundraising will continue until the end of December. Please prayerfully consider making donations.
In Christ there is no east or west