Thursday, 3 December 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Worship - Advent 2 - 06 December 2020

                     Marsden Road Uniting                           Church Carlingford


Finding Comfort versus

Being Comfortable, 

Sunday 06th December 2020

Advent 2 year of Mark 9.30 am

          Gathering God’s People

 Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land. 

Call to Worship - (Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)       

Let us hear what God will speak, for the Holy One speaks peace to the people, to the faithful, and to all who turn to God in their hearts.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet. Righteousness and peace will embrace.

Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.

The Holy One will give what is good, and we will bring our praise and song. 

The world is dark and cold.

We look for signs of your coming.

The world is hungry for righteousness.

We look for signs of your coming.

The world yearns for your love.

We look for signs of your coming. 

Hymn TIS 272: Come, thou long-expected Jesus

                        (tune – Stuttgart) 

Come, thou long expected Jesus,

born to set thy people free;

from our fears and sins release us,

let us find our rest in thee.


Israel's strength and consolation,

hope of all the earth thou art;

dear desire of every nation,

joy of every longing heart.


Born thy people to deliver,

born a child and yet a King,

born to reign in us forever,

now thy gracious kingdom bring.


By thine own eternal spirit

rule in all our hearts alone;

by thine all sufficient merit,

raise us to thy glorious throne.

Composer (attr): Christian Friedrich Witt (1715)

Words: Charles Wesley (1707-1788) 

     Lighting of The Advent Candle - Peace

      The glory of the Lord will be revealed, for the Lord has spoken.
Like pale spinifex in the sweltering desert, the grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever.
We wait with hope and expectation for the Word, which was in the beginning with God, to come into the world.
We light this candle as a symbol of our hope.
Congregation member lights a purple candle.
The glory of the Lord will be revealed when love and faithfulness meet, and righteousness and peace kiss.
We long for the day when the angels’ song of peace and goodwill will be heard in all the world.
We light this candle as a symbol of peace.

      Second Candle is lit. 

     Opening Prayer 

God of winter and starlight, you have promised us your presence: to live among us, to right all wrongs, to bring good things to all who wait for your new day. In these dark days, we look for signs of your coming: the sounds of children at play, the music that fills our hearts with anticipation, the company of all who serve the last and the least. Make us at home with righteousness, that we may be ready to walk in your holy ways. Amen. 

A Prayer of Confession 

God of love and kindness, you have promised to renew our lives, to be with us in a new heaven and new earth— a realm where steadfast love and faithfulness embrace forever.

We are afraid of your promised coming. We cling to rules we understand: the rules of privilege and power.

We are afraid of a world of true justice and peace, afraid that you will change the way things have always been. As we wait for you to live among us, we confess our unwillingness to see that you have always been here. 

Declaration of Forgiveness      

In God's love and mercy, we are given each new day for the healing of the world. In the name of Christ, you are forgiven. In the name of Christ, you are forgiven.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace 

Shout for joy! Live in laughter! Share signs of peace and love with everyone you meet.

Peace be with you!

And also, with you!

Offering Prayer 

Merciful One, prepare our hearts to receive anew the coming of your Son with fire and the Spirit. We offer you our thanks and these gifts, that all may know the power of your love to transform the world with justice and righteousness. Amen 

Hymn 607: Make me a channel of your peace

                  (Tune – Channel of Peace) 

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.


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.


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.


Make me a channel of your peace.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

In giving to all men that we receive;

And in dying that we're born to eternal life.


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. 

Author (attributed to): St. Francis of AssisiAdapter: Sebastian Temple
Tune: [Make me a channel of your peace]

                     The Service of the Word 

The First Reading:                                            Isaiah 40:1-11

The Gospel Reading:                                        Mark 1:1-8. 

Readings: NRSV Translation 

Isaiah 40:1-11 

1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord ’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ 6 A voice says, ‘Cry out!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever. 9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ 10 See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep. 

Mark 1:1-8. 

1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”’, 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

Preaching of the Word - Finding Comfort vs. Being Comfortable,  

“Comfort ye! … Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain made low.”

What heart-lifting words we hear from our God shouted across the millennia into our very own day. Isaiah offers us images in just 11 verses that have become the focus of artists and musicians who have turned the words into pictures and music that channel our thoughts deep into the heart of God. We lay grasped by God’s arms and held tightly – our fears and concerns known by this immanent God who wants us to share those worries, and trust they are as important to God as they are to us.

A tenor opens Handel’s “Messiah” with a delicate, yet brilliant “Comfort ye!” When you listen to it, does your hear not soar with the beauty? This is our God calling out to us in our world – this world torn by evil, war and debilitating poverty.

Can there be any comfort for us? Maybe, for those of us who live in a relatively safe country, for those of us who have more than we need – a roof over our heads, food, clothing, safety. We can become comfortable, which is different from finding comfort. And we can feel that being comfortable is enough, perhaps until life takes a disastrous turn.

We can take God’s presence in our hearts for granted. But this isn’t the comfort Isaiah is talking about. His comfort is an overwhelming truth that surpasses the feeling of having “enough,” his comfort is the comfort of our God, who lives deep in our lives, even when we don’t think about it, even if we may not believe it, even if our fear blinds us to that presence.

The prophet goes on to explain what the truth of God will do for us. Valleys will be raised up, mountains will be laid low! No, Isaiah is not talking about a disastrous environmental exercise, he’s, of course, using an image to explain how the coming of the Lord will level the way for all people to see God’s glory and share in God’s goodness.

What a wonderful image! Instead of struggling over the rocky wilderness paths up into the mountains and down across arid deserts, the people will have a safe highway, broad and smooth. Even in life’s most difficult moments, God leads the soul along that safe, broad highway.

“But,” we may want to argue, “look at our world. See the things happening to people that would make a rocky path and an arid desert walk look like a picnic in the park. This image doesn’t work.”

And that’s true. Life does seem to throw ever more obstacles into our paths. Where is this highway?

And so, we continue reading the prophet’s words and find that, yes, we are all grass, and grass withers and fades; we are mortal, and life is often difficult. So, to make this highway image work at all in our world, we are told we must work together. We must want this world to change, we must also see beyond this mortal life and trust in God’s promise of eternal life.

“All people shall see it together,” says Isaiah. One way to think about this image is that we won’t see it if we harbor exclusion in our hearts. When we choose to separate ourselves from any of our neighbours, we begin to see only ourselves. We may not be aware of it, but doing that makes us stumble along the rocky path of injustice and sadness – a path that causes us to circle only inward, blindly into the darkness of self.

Another way to think about it is to look at what happens when groups join forces out of hatred for others, or ignorance or fear. The Israelites sometimes found themselves carried off to foreign lands because of their unfaithfulness. Some then took on the practices and idolatry of the pagan nations, to their downfall. They lost everything. We see the same thing happening today. Children get caught up in bullying, out of fear or a need to be accepted. Young people join gangs. People are drawn into terrorist organizations, to the horror of their families and friends. Sadly, we can be lured off the highway of our God by temptation and the false, bright promises of evil.

But all is certainly not lost. If we keep reading, we come to the final image of our passage and can’t help but hear again Handel’s “Messiah,” when the soprano’s beautiful voice sings, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd and he shall gather the lambs with his arm … with his arm.”

On our worst days, the Shepherd is with us. We need only to turn back and allow him to offer comfort and forgiveness. The sheep of his flock are a community – a community like us. Together, a community can offer healing and love to those who have been excluded. A community can begin dealing with their issues of poverty and helplessness.

We don’t have to build that level highway; God does that for us if we open our eyes and hearts to the gifts God has placed in our midst. We can begin demolishing the lure of evil, the temptation of ill-gotten power and greed if we work together with our children, being unafraid to teach about the power and graciousness of our God – if we ourselves are unafraid to trust that God is our shepherd, that God is our comfort.

In just a few weeks, the Incarnation of our God will descend over us like a blanket of stars, and we will be filled with the song of angels, the gentle amazement of shepherds, and the humility of the kings. If the image and the songs of Bethlehem can fill us that day, we might pray during these last few weeks of waiting that our hearts will be filled with the comfort of God and strengthened to bring that Good News to all. 

Hymn TIS 270: On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
                             (tune -  Winchester New) 

1 On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

Announces that the Lord is nigh;

Come, then, and hearken, for he brings

Glad tidings from the King of kings!


2 Then cleansed be every breast from sin;

Make straight the way for God within;

Prepare we in our hearts a home,

Where such a mighty Guest may come.


3 For Thou art our salvation, Lord,

Our refuge, and our great reward.

Without Thy grace our souls must fade

And wither like a flower decayed.


4 Stretch forth Thine hand, to heal our sore,

And make us rise and fall no more;

Once more upon Thy people shine,

And fill the world with love divine.


5 To Him who left the throne of Heaven

To save mankind, all praise be given;

Like praise be to the Father done,

And Holy Spirit, Three in One. 

Words: Charles Coffin, 1736; Trans. John Chandler, 1837

Tune: Winchester New (Havergal) 

Intercessory Prayers 

We wait, 0 God, for your glory to be revealed, for the angels' message of peace and joy. We pray for the peoples of your world and for all your creation: for those in places of war and civil unrest; for those in places of injustice and cruelty. Speak peace to your people, God. Come, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We wait, 0 God, for your glory to be revealed, for the good news that salvation is at hand. We pray for your church throughout the world: for leaders of churches in this land; for the clergy and people of this parish; for prophets who call your church to repentance today. Speak salvation to your church, 0 God. Come, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We wait, 0 God, for your glory to be revealed, for the Christmas message of reconciliation and love. We pray for our community: for our homes and our neighbours.

for our schools, our hospitals and our workplaces. Speak tenderly to your people, 0  God. Come, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We wait,0      God, for your glory to be revealed, for your good news of healing and wholeness. We pray for all in need of your comfort and care: for those whom we neglect and those who cannot care for themselves; for those without resources and those without hope; for the sick and for the sorrowing. Speak comfort to your people, 0 God. Come, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We wait, 0 God, for your glory to be revealed; with all your saints we wait to hear the words. Behold your God. We give you thanks for your prophets of old, and for all who call us to follow your ways of righteousness and peace. May we repent of all that is displeasing in your sight, that, with your faithful people of ages past, we may be gathered into the joy of your presence,

inhabitants of a new heaven and a new earth. Come quickly to your people, 0 God. Come, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer. 


Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen. 

Hymn TIS 517: Alleluia! sing to Jesus

                      (tune – Hyfrydol) 

1 Alleluia sing to Jesus!

his the sceptre, his the throne:

Alleluia! his the triumph,

his the victory alone.

Hear the songs of holy Zion

thunder like a mighty flood:

'Jesus out of every nation

has redeemed us by his blood!'


2 Alleluia! not as orphans

are we left in sorrow now:

Alleluia! he is near us;

faith believes, but knows not how.

Though the cloud from sight received him

whom the angels now adore,

shall our hearts forget his promise,

'I am with you evermore'?


3 Alleluia! bread of heaven,

here on earth our food, our stay:

Alleluia! here the sinful

come to you from day to day.

Intercessor, friend of sinners,

earth's redeemer, plead for me,

where the songs of all the sinless

sweep across the crystal sea.


4 Alleluia! King eternal,

you, the Lord of lords we own;

Alleluia! born of Mary,

earth your footstool, heaven your throne:

you, within the veil have entered,

robed in flesh, our great high priest;

yours the blood and yours the body,

in our eucharistic feast.

Words: William Dix / Jubilate Hymns

Music: Hyfrydol (Rowland Hugh Prichard) 


        Go out to a world that hungers for righteousness.  Prepare the highway for our God: make ready the paths of peace.

        Go forth in the name of the living Word, the One whose words bring forth the fruit of the kingdom in your own lives! Amen.       

        Hymn 779: May the feet of God walk with you.
         (Tune – Aubrey)


May the feet of God walk with you, and his hand hold you tight.

May the eye of God rest on you, and his ear hear your cry.

May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you life.

May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you Home. 

        Robyn Mann (1949 -)          Aubrey Podlick (1946 -)

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