*Call to Worship
Scripture tells us that “God is love” and if we don’t love, we don’t know God. But what is love? What does it mean to love someone? What does it mean to love God? Jesus shows us by his example. The prophet Isaiah says of that day when love shall reign supreme that “a little child shall lead them. This morning we will share the story of God’s love come to earth as a baby. And our children will lead us in telling that story. Let’s worship God!
Call to Worship
Here at First Congregational Church of Stamford we wish you joy. Why? Because joy is a force for positive change. Joy gives us the energy to make things right. Joy is the moment when everything comes together. And if you have that joy energy moving through your body you become contagious. You naturally share that joy. Fear is contagious, too. Fear can lead to some pretty dark places. But joy is light. Joy is healing and healthy and whole. So let’s get infected with joy this morning.
Call to Worship (in the form of guided meditation)
As we gather ourselves for worship this morning, I invite you to find a comfortable position in your pew. Sit up and imagine a string from the top of your head to the ceiling, as if you were a marionette. Place your feet on the floor. Hands in your lap. Feel yourself rooted in your hips and pelvis. Now take a slow breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel your belly expand and contract. Breathe again. One more time. Feel the peace the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Let’s worship God.
Prayer of Dedication
Prince of Peace, we dedicate our offerings to you. May they be a catalyst for justice so that all may be at peace. In your name we pray. Amen.
What’s Up with Pastor Todd 12-3-18
The theme of the second Sunday of Advent is peace. The lectionary connects peace to the story of John the Baptist, which on the surface might seem ironic because John is remembered as a great disturber of the peace. In fact, he did such a good job at disturbing the peace that the authorities had him executed!
John was Jesus’ near relative–a cousin, perhaps. His role was to “prepare the way” for Jesus’ message. John did that first by practicing repentance himself and then by inviting others into that repentance. Here’s where the peace disturbing comes in. Human reality is that we tend to become attached to our bad habits and hurtful ways. We do them because on some level they work for us, so we ignore their negative effects. I eat doughnuts because I love them even though healthwise I know I should and could make better choices. Corporations pollute the environment because they can make more money that way even though they may be poisoning their neighbors. Politicians lie because it helps them politically even though–as Christ said–it’s the truth that sets us free. Repentance threatens to disrupt our lives on one level in order to bring healing on a deeper level.
And that’s where the peace comes in. John’s ministry was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah who wrote, “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 made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.” For me, the image of the smooth way is an image for peace. Peace is unobstructed action. It’s a smooth flow. It’s not getting hung up or stressed out or stuck in a rut. Peace “undramatic.” Mountains are dramatic. Valleys can be a place where–in the words of the Psalmist–we face “the shadow.” But peace is even keeled and often overlooked. Peace doesn’t make for good television.
That’s why it’s all the more important in this media oversaturated world that we practice and then proclaim peace. The good news is that there are many, many good people in the world doing amazing, everyday, self-sacrificing things. So we have to make it our job as Christians and as a church to acknowledge and thank them. Practicing peace is not flashy. Practicing peace does not call attention to itself. But if we don’t practice peace, where will we and the rest of the world find refuge?
God of change,
Empires rise and fall, rulers come and go, temples are built up and torn down, but your pervasive, sustaining love is available to us in this moment and the next throughout time and space eternally.
We rest in that love. We open ourselves to your limitless energy to change ourselves and change our world.
There is so much suffering. Give us the courage to do something. Give us the patience and wisdom to discover what that something might be.
On this Stewardship Sunday we dedicate our pledges. On this Thanksgiving Sunday we offer our gratitude. On this Sunday we honor the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20. We remember transgender victims of violence. We pray for safety, welcome, and respect for all our transgender family, friends, loved ones, and neighbors. Amen.
Call to Worship
Change is the reality of our lives. Sometimes we welcome change, when, for example, a grandchild is born or when we get that dream job. Other times, we find change frightening and difficult. Spiritual practices like worship, Scripture study, prayer, and devotion are tools for grounding ourselves in God’s boundless and unchanging love. Firmly grounded in God’s love, change is no longer a problem to be solved or a tragedy to be avoided but an opportunity to celebrate God’s steadfast faithfulness. Let’s worship God.
Prayer of Confession
God we confess our tendency to embrace the changes we enjoy and resist the changes we dislike. Teach us to face life squarely, courageously, and with clear vision so that we can make choices that are in line with our commitment to follow you no matter what the cost. We trust in your boundless love to sustain us no matter change life might bring. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
*Dedication of Offerings and Pledges
Holy God, we pledge to you and to your church our time, talent, and treasure. We trust that you will show the place where our deep longings and the world’s deep needs meet. We trust that you will help us honor our pledges for the blessing of our lives and the building up of you kingdom. Amen.