God on Broadway – Fiddler on the Roof – Being Honest with God

Being Honest With God        god on broadway header final (1)
Summer Series – God on Broadway 
Fiddler on the Roof
Genesis 18: 1-5, 9-15
Psalm 22
June 28, 2015
Rev. Cynthia Cochran-Carney, Willow Grove Presbyterian Church,
Scotch Plains, New Jersey

fiddler

1 God appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them. 3He said, “Lord, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. 4 I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. 5 I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.”   ….Abraham went into the tent and asked Sarah to make bread and he got other food for them.

9 The visitors said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” He said, “In the tent.” 10 One of them said, “I’m coming back about this time next year. When I arrive, your wife Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was listening at the tent opening, just behind the man. 11 Abraham and Sarah were old by this time, very old. Sarah was far past the age for having babies. 12 Sarah laughed within herself, “An old woman like me? Get pregnant? With this old man of a husband?” 13 God said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, ‘Me? Have a baby? An old woman like me?’ 14 Is anything too hard for God? I’ll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby.” 

15 Sarah lied. She said, “I didn’t laugh,” because she was afraid. But God said, “Yes you did; you laughed.”                                          Genesis 18: 1-5, 9-15

Our second reading comes from the book of Psalms.  Psalm 22 is a prayer, of lament.  Listen to the honest words of the psalmist.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. 3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 

…..11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. 12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. a company of evildoers encircles me. …

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! …22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 24 For the Lord did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. 25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!                                                                                                                          Psalm 22

Clip #1  First Scene   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V2lxFWBqfI

Remember when you first saw Fiddler On The Roof?  On stage?  The movie?  My home church did a production.  It is one of those rich musicals that has stayed with me.  I wanted to start this God on Broadway series with Tevye.  What can we learn from this character from the arts that informs our faith?

We can learn honest prayer. Tevye’s prayer life is a series of ongoing conversations with God, including prayers of lament.  He holds his traditions close to his heart as he lives and breathes and talks with God.  The book of Psalms exists today because the people of Israel used these songs, including the songs of lament, in their worship, and they sang them often enough that the psalms were remembered and recorded for future generations.  This songbook of Israel contains more psalms of lament than any other type of psalm.

Honest prayers to God.  For me this has been a week of lament.  As I wept in disbelief about the hate-fueled killings of faithful Christians gathered for Bible study and prayer at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC,  I offered my own prayers of lament.  As I listened to Fiddler I heard to Tevye’s honest prayers to God echo in my own prayers.   He has a conversation of lament, of frustration, of hope.

What can we learn about laments?  How are they structured?

Address. A biblical lament cries out to God. This is not an internally focused process of grieving, it is first and foremost a prayer, a conversation. My God My God  We cry to an omnipotent God, a good and merciful God, a just God, a God who created the stars and  universe and yet is as close as our own breath.  God whom we know best in the life, ministry, of Jesus the risen Christ. God  invites us into personal relationship with him.

Complaint. A lament honestly and specifically names a situation or circumstance that is painful, wrong, or unjust—in other words, a circumstance that does not align with God’s character and therefore does not make sense within God’s kingdom. The emotional tone of the complaint varies, depending on the type of lament psalm. It may express sorrow, remorse, weariness, anger, disappointment, or doubt.  “a company of evildoers encircles me.”  Complaint – honest prayers of what is on our hearts – the cancer, the broken relationship, the financial burden, the sorrow and anger about violence.

Request. A lament expects a response or an answer. It expects that God will be able to do something about the situation. Most often the request sounds like a demand: it is the psalmist’s essential heart-rending cry, God, do something!  Do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!

Expression of trust. A lament generally includes an explicit expression of trust, sometimes woven through the complaint and request, and other times concluding the psalm with surprising note of praise.  Some laments  divide the psalm into two parts: lament and praise. Yet to understand biblical lament properly, we must see  that the expression of trust, with all its praise and joy, is part of a psalm of lament.

Biblical lament, then, is an honest cry to a God who is powerful, good, and just—a cry that this situation is not in alignment with God’s person or purposes. It’s a cry that expects an answer from God, and therefore results in hope, trust, and joy rather than despair.

We can apply the psalms of lament to our own lives. We begin to see that biblical lament is necessary in a world that does not always operate according to God’s purposes.  This was a week of lament for Charleston, for our country, for us, for me. Honest prayers to God about hate, about racism, about violence.

Genesis – Honest prayers, trust and times when it is too good to be true

In Genesis we hear that Abraham trusts God, but Sarah is not so sure.  It is impossible.  She laughs.  Sometimes we laugh at God when a door opens, when something good happens, when there is an unexpected blessing .  I felt that way when I met Jeffrey.  Felt that way when we received Lilly grant for sabbatical.

Fiddler invites us to see a man of deep faith whose prayers are conversations with God.

Clip #2  Tevye praying Dear God     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8q9EIi863c

Some of my favorite quotes of Tevye talking to God.

  •  Am I bothering You too much? I’m sorry. As the good book says… aaahh, why should I tell You what the Good Book says?
  • Sometimes I wonder, when it gets too quiet up there, if You are thinking, “What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?”
  • It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. After all, with Your help, I’m starving to death. Oh, dear Lord. You made many many poor people. I realize, of course, it’s no shame to be poor… but it’s no great honor either. So what would be so terrible… if I had a small fortune?
  •  I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?

Our Honest Prayers

Honest.  Tevye is struggling with poverty, with Russian Tzar closing in, with changes in culture.  He bends, he begins to see with different eyes, eyes of  love. He sees his daughters differently.  He keeps praying. He bends his beliefs for the first 2 daughters but when the third chooses to marry a Gentile he turns his back.  There is a tragic ending to the movie.  The priority of religious traditions becomes much more important to people than the commandment to love.  He and his family flee to America for safety and we are left wondering what happens to them.

What honest prayers can we offer to deepen our sense of God in the midst of lament and in blessings, both individually and together?  How do we pray when forces of evil seem to have power to tear communities and families apart?  May we turn to God with honest prayers.  May we trust in God who I believe is also weeping over Charleston, over other murders, suffering.  May we open ourselves up to God of love who pierces our hearts with a deepest truth that despite evidence to the contrary, we will live into God’s promise that love will have final victory, and is stronger than hate, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death.  Amen.

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Portions of this series were adapted from a God on Broadway series developed by Rev. Kerri Parker for her congregation, McFarland UCC in McFarland Wisconsin. Used with permission. Read more on her blog, Tell the Stories, at www.tellthestories.us

Reflections on “Antidotes to Fear” – A Sermon by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

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Sermon preached on January 18, 2015  
by Rev. Cynthia Cochran-Carney, 
Willow Grove Presbyterian Church, Scotch Plains, New Jersey      
Images are from Powerpoint used during the sermon

Fear- What are you afraid of?

type-fear

(some responses from congregation – falling, being assaulted, losing my job, war, dying, someone I love getting hurt or dying, terrorist attack)

These are realities and worries that can make us feel afraid.  Dr. King lived with realities that could cause most people to be afraid.  Today I am going to share parts of his sermon entitled, “Antidotes to Fear” found in a collection of his sermons Strength to Love.  Every year in January I read some of his sermons.  His words challenge me in my faith journey as a Christian and as a pastor.  Today’s sermon is based on I John 4, specifically verse 18.   

 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us….. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. Picture1

This week around our country,  the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be remembered in school assemblies, church services, newspaper articles and in public memorial services.  Many will hear his vision, his valor and his courage and will be motivated and asked to do something, to make a difference through acts of service, acts of kindness and acts of justice.   In our community our church and many of us will participate in the MLK Day of Service here in Scotch Plains and Fanwood.

I have been inspired throughout my life by Rev. King because of his vision, his courage and his leadership in the Civil Rights movement, but also because of his Christian faith which motivated and sustained him to go forward and fight for justice.   I grew up in Southern California in a multi-racial, multi-ethnic community and schools.  I did not see blatant racism or segregation growing up, but I have come to realize I need to listen to Dr. King’s words and listen to the stories of people of color to have a deeper understanding of the past and the present.  I need to listen so I can more genuinely be about the work of building the Beloved Community and fulfilling God’s vision of shalom.

Martin Luther King was the son of a Baptist pastor who was licensed to preach in 1947 Picture2when he was just 19 years old.  In 1948 and became the Associate pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church where he served with his father. He graduated from Morehouse College and then Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania where he would receive his Bachelor of Divinity degree.

In 1954 he was appointed as the twentieth pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, after receiving a PhD in Systematic Theology from Boston University.   In 1960 the family would move back to Atlanta where Rev. King would again serve as co-pastor with his father at the Ebenezer Baptist Church and as director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference until his assassination in 1968.

Throughout his career as a Baptist minister and pastor, I imagine Rev. King doing all the typical pastoral duties and functions that are part of the calling and the job.    As a man with a deep and abiding Christian faith I imagine him spending time in prayer, reflection, Bible study, and sermon preparation.   He would have spent time visiting church members in their homes, making hospital and nursing home visits, counseling and praying with people during times of crisis or ill health.  He would have done funerals, weddings, served Communion and performed Baptisms.  He most likely spent hours in meetings at the church.  I imagine him at a Church Council meeting involved in ordinary but important conversations that all churches discuss such as the Sunday School curriculum or a plumbing problem. Capture 6

But there was something else that Rev. Dr. King had to deal with that went beyond the typical pastor’s job description.  It is something I have not had to face.  It was something he couldn’t  ignore or dismiss. Martin Luther King had to deal with racism, racial injustice and the fear and the hate of segregation.  While he was a pastor, husband and father, the Civil Rights movement was picking up speed and Rev. King was compelled to speak out and to get involved.  As Rev. King spoke out more often, he began to feel the effects of his public words upon a community filled with fear and hate.  Twice bombs were thrown onto the porch of his home; many threats on his life.   All because of the color of his skin.

And he saw many black African Americans with a growing hate and fear of many whites.  And he saw many white people with a growing sense of fear and hatred of black people.  Certainly not all but many.

I wonder if Dr. King was ever afraid.

There was a great deal to be afraid of.  Nothing seemed to stop him, but fear could have paralyzed him, and he could have just continued on quietly as a pastor at a church or as a professor at a university.  But fear did not stop this man of faith and of conviction and so what was his antidote for fear?  There is still fear all around us and within us.

What are Pastor King’s words to us about fear?  (1)

In a sermon entitled Antidotes for Fear, Pastor King says we are to:

Face our fearsrevised
Be courageous
Master fear through love
Be filled with faith in God

This sermon, with these four antidotes for fear are based on 1 John 4:18 , “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”

He begins this sermon presenting the problem of fear. King says:

In these days of catastrophic change and calamitous uncertainty, is there any man who does not experience the depression and bewilderment of crippling fear, which like a nagging hound of hell, pursues our every footstep?

He goes on to list a number of fears; fears about our physical health and well being, as well as threats from the physical world.  He mentions our phobias, our emotional and mental fears, our economic fears, our religious fears, the fear of the atomic bomb and the fear of death.  But Pastor King also challenges us to see how fear can be healthy.

King says: mlk pic“Fear is a powerfully creative force.  Every great invention and intellectual advance represents a desire to escape from some dreaded circumstance or condition.   The fear of darkness led to the discovery of the secret of electricity.  The fear of pain led to the marvelous advances of medical science.  The fear of ignorance was one reason that man built great institutions of learning.  The fear of war was one of the forces behind the birth of the United Nations.  Angelo Patri has rightly said, “Education consists in being afraid at the right time.”  If man were to lose his capacity to fear, he would be deprived of his capacity to grow, invent and create.  So in a sense fear is normal, necessary and creative.”

King explains using snakes as his example, saying that there are normal fears and abnormal fears; a fear of snakes in the Amazon is a normal fear if you live in the Amazon, but a fear of snakes in a city apartment under your bed is abnormal.  He summarizes Capture 4“normal fear protects us: abnormal fear paralyzes us.”[ I think this is interesting and a challenge – for us to think about how our own fears are healthy.  Pastor King then suggests that we not try to get rid of our fears, but to master them and he gives us these four antidotes to fear:

Face our fears
Be courageous
Master fear through love
Be filled with faith in God

Picture6First we must face our fears and ask why we are afraid.  Many of us have fears and many of us spend wasted years finding ways around them, rather than confronting them head on and going through them.  We avoid things, imagine all kinds of things and often make it worse.  We are fearful even take the first steps, because fear controls our mind and we don’t even want to think about it.  Fears may have come from experiences in childhood.  King points out that we will never be cured of our fears by escapism, but that confrontation will give us power over our fear.

 

 The second antidote to fear is to master our fear through the use of courage.  Courage is Picture7the power of the mind to overcome fear.   Not all our fears are imaginary ones.  There is pain in this world; there are unjust systems and unfair practices that still affect our lives.  We live in an anxiety filled culture.  We can see natural disasters or the results of terrorism or war up close and personal, in color on CNN, moments after they have happened.  King says that “courage is an inner resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations” and he challenges us to “build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

mlk 2Third, fear is mastered by love.   Rev. King turns to his text in 1 John 4: 18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” and then he goes on to explain the strength of this perfect love.   King explains that “love” was not a mamby pamby wishy washy sentimental love.  Love was not the cheap love we see splashed all over the pink and red cards and candy that are already displayed in the drugstores for Valentines’ Day.   He was talking about a perfect love, a redemptive love evidenced in the type of love that Jesus Christ displayed on the cross.  King preached and spoke often about this kind of strong love – this agape love which is the highest form of love that would change the world. And it is his last antidote for fear that will sustain us and help us practice that love.

The Picture8last antidote for fear is that which is mastered through faith.   King believed that it was faith that will sustain us and give us that inner resolve to keep going.   Our faith gives us additional and powerful spiritual resources to use in a fear-filled world and he says this: “…A positive religious faith does not offer an illusion that we shall be exempt from pain and suffering, nor does it imbue us with the idea that life is a drama of unalloyed comfort and untroubled ease.  Rather it instills us with the inner equilibrium needed to face strains, burdens, and fears that inevitably come and assures us that the universe is trustworthy and God is concerned.”

Face our fears -Be courageous – Master fear through love – Be filled with faith in God

And he continues with these eloquent and comforting words:

“Above the manyness of time stands the one eternal God, with wisdom to guide us, strength to protect us, and love to keep us.  His boundless love supports and contains us as a mighty ocean contains and supports the tiny drops of every wave.  With a surging fullness he is forever moving toward us, seeking to fill the little creeks and bays of our lives with unlimited resources. …Any man who finds this cosmic sustenance can walk the highways of life without the fatigue of pessimism and the weight of morbid fears.” Capture

It is this kind of courageous, perfect love and faith that changed the world through the actions of Jesus Christ and also sustained the hard work of Rev. King through all the real fears that could have stopped him.  May that same love do the same for you.  May we join our voices and our actions together to lean into the reality of the Beloved Community and the fullness of Dr. King’s Dream. May your faith “transform(s) the whirlwind of your despair  into a warm and reviving breeze of hope.”   Amen.

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Quotes are from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Antidotes for FearStrength to Love  © 2010 Fortress Press, 1963 original publication date, and © 1981,   pages 119-132.

(1)  Consideration of “Antidotes for Fear,”  By the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Rev. Deborah J. Blanchard,  First Baptist Church of Littleton, MA   http://fbclittleton.org/antidotesfear.html Parts of this sermon were adapted for today’s sermon.

Advent Devotion Christmas Eve – Christmas Joy

standing_nativityWednesday, Christmas Eve,  December 24                                Luke 2:1-7, I Peter 2:9-10

 Willow Grove Church—A Sign of Christmas Joy & Instrument of God’s Mission

 Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn

 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

 Mary and Joseph, two ordinary people, were called by God to be instruments of God’s mission of love and redemption.  The church is called not only to be a holy people at worship, or a community of mutual love and service, but also an instrument of God’s mission. God’s salvation does not fall magically from the clouds, but reaches to the end of the earth through the life and ministry of the church.

 The question which has to be put to every local congregation is the question whether it is a credible sign of God’s reign of justice and mercy over the whole of life, whether it is an open fellowship whose concerns are as wide as the concerns of humanity, whether it cares for its neighbors in a way which reflects and springs out of God’s care for them, whether its common life is recognizable as a foretaste of the blessing which God intends for the whole human family.(Lesslie Newbigin)

 As we gather on this holy night in worship to welcome the Christ child,  we are called as Willow Grove Church to be a community of  faith that is committed to:

 Proclaiming Christ’s liberating power in word and deed.

Presenting an alternative identity and vision.

Seeking freedom, equality, and justice.

Pursuing peace and unity for all creation.

 Prayer:  Lord, in the year ahead, help us to respond to your mission for us, to live a life of kindness with one another and mercy to those around us, near and far. Amen.

Advent Devotion Dec. 21 Shepherds Hear the Good News

Shepherds-and-AngelsFourth Sunday in Advent,                   December 21                                         Luke 2:8-11  

 Shepherds                                                    In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

 In Luke’s gospel, the earthy shepherds, of all people are given the most prominent role to play in the story. Lowly, unglamorous, unsophisticated shepherds are to be the first to hear the glad tidings of the angel of the Lord. They hear the angels. They are the first to go to Bethlehem, the first to share the good news of great joy.  And they are the first to have the great privilege of returning to their lives with the new calling of glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard in all that they say and do, which is, the best definition of Christian discipleship I know.

 Why the shepherds? Why did they receive such unprecedented privilege, these country folks who watched their flocks and slept under the stars? Everybody who was anybody lived in the city, in Jerusalem. They were nobody that anybody who was anybody had ever heard of: that’s who the shepherds were. And yet, they are the ones to whom the angel speaks. They are the ones who receive the magnificent message that the savior is born.  Maybe it was because they were willing to hear.  Maybe it was because they had fewer distractions.  And they needed some good news that they mattered, they mattered to God.  (Joanna Adams)

         Who are the shepherds in our community today? 

            How can Willow Grove Church bring good news to them?

              Would you consider playing a shepherd in the all ages Christmas pageant?

              What is the good news from God you need this Christmas?

Prayer   God of all people, help us hear the Christmas story with fresh ears this year.  Give us the humbleness of those shepherds who saw the coming of light and the advent of your love.  Amen.

Advent Devotions Dec. 16 Love and Relationships

love_thy_neighborTuesday, Third Week of Advent,  December 16             

Matthew 5:21-22, 22:34-40

Love and Right Relationships

 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

 In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus provides his interpretation of several key commandments in the Jewish Law (found in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament). There is a sharp contrast between his interpretation (the way of radical love stated in Matthew 22:34-40) and widely-accepted understandings of first century Judaism. In doing so, Jesus provides six examples of right relationships. These examples offer a guide for disciples to live in a manner compatible with Jesus’ vision of reality. They are worthy of our attention and reflection. It is not just murder that is the problem, for radical love avoids the expression of anger that destroys relationships in community and the name-calling that diminishes a Christian brother or sister.

 How does Matthew 22:21-22 influence your understanding of Jesus’ view of right relationships?

How might our congregation more fully manifest this vision of community?

What insights have you gained about the church as a community living in right relationships?

Prayer:   O God, we commit ourselves to your way of gentleness and right relationships, of peace and justice. Help us to trust in you to act on our behalf and on behalf of all those who suffer because of others’ wrongdoing. Amen.

 

Advent Devotion Dec. 15 Salt and Light

june10thMonday, Third Week of Advent,  December 15              Matthew 5:13-16

 Salt and Light

 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

 There is always a danger that a faith community becomes inward-focused.  To counter this tendency, Jesus’ sayings in the next segment of the Sermon on the Mount offer two images that emphasize the world-wide and world-affirming mission given to the Christian community: “You are the salt of the earth…” (5:13), and “You are the light of the world…” (5:14). The community’s mission as salt and light is a gift of God’s grace. With both images, Jesus uses the second person plural to describe the new identity of the community of faith conferred “You are (all of you together) the salt…” and “You are (all of you together) the light…”

 Yet these images also point to the task conferred upon the community of faith: joining in the mission of Jesus Christ: “You are the salt of the earth…” “You are the light of the world…” Jesus’ follow-up comments for both images emphasize the tragedy of salt that no longer serves as salt, and the absurdity of a city on the hill being hid or a lamp being put under a bushel rather than on a lamp stand. Put positively, salt is to do its salting and light is to do its illuminating.  So we have a unique purpose and usefulness. If a church does not fulfill this purpose, it is of no use.

 If a church is dramatically formed by what it does, what are some of the works that currently shape our congregation? What kind of a witness do these works present to the world?

How could Willow Grove  live more fully as salt and light for the world?

 Prayer:   Let us pray for Willow Grove Church and all churches, that Christ’s light may not be hidden under a basket but put on a lamp stand. Let us pray for those in our community and the world, that they may see Christ’s light reflected in us. Amen.

Advent Devotion Dec. 14 Mary and Her Song

annunciationThird Sunday in Advent,  December 14                    

Luke 1:46-47, 43-55

Mary and Her Song

 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

 “According to Luke, when Mary sang, she didn’t just name those promises but also entered into them. Notice, for instance, that the verbs in Mary’s song are all in the past tense. Mary recognizes as she sings that she has already been drawn into relationship with the God of Israel, the one who has been siding with the oppressed since the days of Egypt and who has been making and keeping promises since the time of Abraham. The past tense in this case doesn’t so much signify that everything Mary sings about has been accomplished, but rather that Mary  is now included in God’s history of redemption.

 How do the words of Mary’s song, The Magnificat, speak to you?

 When you think about Mary’s response to God, what are some of the words you would use to describe her—Faithful?  Courageous?  Open to God’s plans?

       Joyful?  Grateful?  What can we learn from Mary?

 Prayer:  Lord, let us as a congregation claim your promises to Abraham, Israel, and Mary.  Let us take time during this season to  listen to music that inspires us and helps us feel the joy of Christmas. Amen.