URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 12th December 2021 – Advent 3 – Karen Campbell

Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
Service for the Third Sunday of Advent
Sunday 12th December 2021

Meghev Gandhi / Pexels.Com
 
Karen Campbell
 
Introduction
 
Hello.  Welcome to our worship service today, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. My name is Karen Campbell, and I am the URC Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries.  I am a Church Related Community Worker, and before starting my present post, I served as a CRCW in an ecumenical project in the culturally and religiously diverse context of Luton.  Before that, I lived my whole life in the inner-city, multicultural realities of Tottenham, North London, which is where I came to faith.  All these contexts have helped shape a faith which is very grounded, very practical – very much ‘faith in action’.
 
Call To Worship
 
We wait for the Lord!  We take courage; we are stout hearted for we wait for the Lord!
 
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. We wait for the Lord!  We take courage; we are stout hearted for we wait for the Lord!
 
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. We wait for the Lord!  We take courage; we are stout hearted for we wait for the Lord!
 
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday. We wait for the Lord!  We take courage; we are stout hearted for we wait for the Lord!

Hymn       Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace
Sebastian Temple (1928-1997)
 

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred
let me bring your love;
where there is injury,
your pardon, Lord;
and where there’s doubt,
true faith in you.
 
Oh, Master, grant that I
may never seek
so much to be consoled
as to console;
to be understood 
as to understand;
to be loved,
as to love with all my soul.
 

2 Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope;
where there is darkness, only light;
and where there’s sadness, ever joy.

3 Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
in giving of ourselves that we receive;
and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

 

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness

A Prayer of Awe
 
Eternal God, so high above us; so deep beneath us; so vast around us.
Long before time and stretching forth into eternity, connecting us with all there has been and all that ever will be. Let us pause –  just a moment – to bask in your presence and drink in the wonder of you. Intimate yet unknowable; within us, yet uncontainable; awesome yet everyday wonderful God.
 
Just as we are
 
Here we are, Lord, just as we are. We are incredible – because we are made in your image, fashioned by your hand. We are fallible, because we are human, and you alone are God. Rejoice with us and in us  when we live up to the standards of our calling. Lament with and for us when we let ourselves down – by failing each other, and failing you. Call us by name.   Remind us, assure us, of your promise of forgiveness –
so that we will never be afraid to approach you, to confide in you,
to come to you – just as we are – and in your presence, find new life.
God of grace, here we are.  Amen
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Open our eyes to what you want us to see. Open our ears to what you want us to hear. Open our minds to what you want us to understand.
And whatever we see, hear, or understand, remind us that there is always more- far beyond the limits of our imagination. So, keep us open to insights from the people around us, and keep us open to you.  Amen
 
Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Luke 3:7-18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
 
Hymn:      Will You Come And Follow Me
John L. Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958)

 

Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?
 
2  Will you leave yourself behind
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer
in you and you in me?
 
3   Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around,
through my sight & touch & sound
in you and you in me?
 
4 Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love & footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

 

Sermon  Living Prayers

I am struck by the contrast between our two texts. First, we have Philippians.  Gentle, reassuring:  Don’t worry.  Be at peace.  Rejoice.  Give thanks.  Whatever the case, whatever the issue… just bring it to God in prayer.  And let your mind be at ease! Then, just when we’re settling into that nice, warm fluffy place, we hear those special words from John the Baptist:  ‘You brood of vipers!’  Ouch!  And if that didn’t sting enough, it is followed by a warning – don’t rest in the (false) security of being Abraham’s descendants.  So what?  God can raise up descendants from the very stones that litter the ground.
 
John made it clear – Claiming a lineage isn’t enough. Claiming a history isn’t enough.  For us, today, calling ourselves ‘Christian’ isn’t enough.  Identifying ourselves as ‘the Church’ is not enough.  ‘Bear fruits worthy of repentance’, says John.  Heritage won’t set you – or anyone – right with God.  If you’re serious about your faith, if your faith really matters, it cannot be passive.  It cannot be practised in a detached place in your head which fails to practically engage and address the realities of the world around.    You’ve got to live in today; engage with now – open your eyes – look at the world, look at yourself – and respond.
 
‘Bear fruits worthy of repentance’.  This, to me, suggests doing something.   Don’t just come with good words, come with actions – God-inspired ways of living and loving.  There must be some practical outworking of your faith.   For me, the Philippians text conjures a picture of gentle prayer and supplications.   The Luke text demands that we live the prayers we speak.  Be the answer to the supplications we make to God.  Here I am, Lord.  Send me!
 
We are in advent.  Christmas is coming.  Christmas is wonderful and wonder-filled.  The coming of the long-awaited Christ in the most vulnerable human form.    A baby, born to an unmarried virgin, from nowhere spectacular.  Hallelujah, what a Saviour!   Who would think to work such wondrous plans in such unpredictable, unexpected and logic-defying ways?
 
Who else, but our God, who works in mysterious ways. And yet, I frequently find myself considering that God’s mysterious ways of working are often not that mysterious.  In my experience, God rarely goes ‘zap’… and makes things ‘just happen’.  Don’t get me wrong… I absolutely do believe in miracles; but I don’t believe in magic.  As I look around at the world, I find that God repeatedly enables great and miraculous things to happen, but usually it is through the hands and feet and lips and inspired-will of ordinary human beings – like you and me, like a virgin called Mary, who had courage to say yes; and a carpenter called Joseph, who dared to act according to God’s will.
 
Our wonderful, awesome, God of creation chooses to work through ordinary, flawed human beings.  And right there is where miracles become possible, and prayers are answered!  Human as we are, flawed as we may be, we are amazing – because we are made in the image of our amazing God.
 
We are not helpless. We possess far more than the option of passive prayer – speaking the words and leaving it to God to work the magic. 
We are called and equipped to be people of power – because we have God in us.  When God asks, ‘Who shall I send?’ we all have the potential to say ‘Here I am.  Send me!’  Yes, of course we can and should speak prayer, but how much more powerful, how much more effective, if we are truly willing to be the answer to the pleas of our own hearts and the hearts of others.  What if we are ready and willing to be prayers in action.
 
‘But Lord’, we might cry, ‘the troubles of the world are just too much – you alone can make the difference!’   But is it God alone? Surely it is God – in partnership with us!  Us in partnership with God!  Definitely, God does not leave us to fend entirely for ourselves.
 
So, we can retain the inner peace referred to in Philippians.  We can pour out to God whatever might be on our hearts, whatever we see that needs holy attention.  We can trust that things can and will be possible – even when we cannot see how.  But let us not allow ourselves to become bystanders – people who close our eyes in prayer and wait for God to do the work.
Let’s open our eyes and get on with it.   Don’t just pray for the poor – let’s consider what we, personally, can do to help address the issues in our neighbourhoods, our cities, the UK, our world. Don’t just condemn injustice with our lips – let’s act in ways which support justice for all people – through our personal dealings, our spending habits, our politics, our everything.  Don’t just pray for peace – let’s make peace, in our little bit of the world – through our words, our attitudes, our engagement with the people we encounter.
 
Let’s challenge the structures which uphold a world out of step with God’s will. And let’s start with whatever changes are needed in ourselves.
Let there be peace on earth… and let it begin with me!  ‘Bear fruits worthy of repentance’, says John.   Just imagine, if we all did this much, so many of our prayers would be needless – they would have been answered even before they were prayed!     Then we really would have cause to rejoice and give thanks…  and truly enjoy a peace beyond all understanding.  Amen

Hymn       Father I Place Into Your Hands
                  Jenny Hewer. Words to v3 adapted by Karen Campbell.
 

Father, I place into your hands
the things I cannot do,
Father, I place into your hands
the things that I’ve been through.
Father, I place into your hands
the way that I should go,
for I know I always can trust you.
 
2: Father, I place into your hands
my friends and family.
Father, I place into your hands
the things that trouble me.
Father, I place into your hands
the person I would be,
for I know I always can trust you.
 
3: Father, I long to see your face,
please help me hear your voice.
Father, I long to live your praise
and in your name rejoice.
Father, please let me walk with you
and in your presence rest,
for I know we always can trust you.
 
Father, I want to be with you
and do the things you do.
Father, I want to speak the words
that you are speaking too.
Father, I want to love the ones
that you will draw to you,
for I know that I am one with you.

 

Affirmation of Faith
 
Do you reject Satan?                                                             We do.
And all his works?                                                                  We do.
And all his empty promises?                                                We do.
Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth?                                              We do.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died,
and was buried,  rose from the dead,
and is now seated  at the right hand of the Father?    We do.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting?                                                              We do.
 
God, the Creator almighty, has given us, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, new birth and forgiveness for all our sins. May God also keep us faithful to Jesus Christ, our coming King, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 
Intercessions
 
Time for Jubilee
 
Let there be singing; let there be dancing; a celebration as there has never been before. Let there be laughter and great rejoicing O let there be jubilee.
 
God of Liberation cries
Unshackle my people, remove their burdens, set them free
God of Unity says
    tear down your barriers; live radical welcome
God, who sees the shunned and hears the excluded, says
    raise the voices of those who are silenced and ignored
God of Diversity, demands
    abundant life for every people and every nation
God of justice says
    deal equitably and fairly with ‘mighty’ and ‘lowly’
God of extravagance says
    share the harvests of food, medicine, science and technology –
            let all have enough; let all people flourish
God of Creation says
    let the Earth be renewed
        and all Creation burst with praise
 
When, O God, when is the time
    for releasing and embracing
        listening and life-giving,
            justice and sharing
                renewal and praise?
 
God of Eternity says now is the time – time and past time.  Today is the day for Jubilee.
 
For Our World…
 
Dear Lord, thank you for rainforests, deserts, and oceans.
Thank you for the creatures, big and small, that live there.
Thank you for cities, full of houses and shops, and for towns and villages.
Thank you for places that are quiet and places that are noisy.
Thank you for outer space and places we can still explore.
Help us to look after our planet. Help us to look after our universe. Amen

Offertory Prayer

Our God is a God who doesn’t just give life, but gives life in all its fullness;
Who doesn’t just give enough,  but gives in abundance. Let us offer back to God just some of what God has given to us:
 
Generous, extravagant God, thank you.
Thank you for your gifts of life and love, time and talents, vocations and skills. Thank you for your repeated desire to exceed our needs. Inspire us by your generosity to be generous too, with all that we have and all who we are. Bless all the gifts we offer to you; May they be pleasing in your sight, and according to your will.  Amen
 
Hymn:      I, The Lord of Sea and Sky
Daniel L. Schutte (b.1947)
 

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

2 I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my Word to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord,if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
 
Blessing

This time of worship is ending.  Now let us go out to live, love and serve,
with God in our hearts, Christ on our tongues and in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen
 
Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship adapted from Psalm 37 by Andy Braunston, Affirmation of Faith adapted from the Apostles’ Creed.  Prayer for our world by Zekiah Campbell-Davis (7yrs).  All other liturgical material by Karen Campbell.
 
Thanks to Graham Handscomb, John Wilcox, Ray Fraser, John Young, Marion Thomas, Sylvia Nutt, Dan Morrell and Katie Henderson for reading various spoken parts of the service.
 
Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace – Sebastian Temple (1928-1997) from the Prayer of St Francis © 1967, OCP Publications – Performed on BBC Songs of Praise
Will You Come And Follow Me – John L. Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958) © WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH – Performed on BBC’s Songs of Praise
Father I Place Into Your Hands – Jenny Hewer © Thank You Music Ltd sung by David Williams – Words to v3 adapted by Karen Campbell.
I, The Lord of Sea and Sky – Daniel L. Schutte (b.1947) © 1981, OCP Publications Performed on BBC’s Songs of Praise
 
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776, some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved. PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762.
 
 
 

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