Peace: Laying the Foundation
Gathering Music - “The King Shall Come” Jan Green Edward Broughton [tune: Farrant]
Welcome to the Mantua Center Christian Church
- We are a community seeking to have open minds, open hearts, and open arms, building community in a fragmented world.
- We want to welcome everyone who is in the house today and everyone online. We are grateful for all the many ways you can join us for worship on this Lord’s Day.
Scripture Reading - Matthew 7:24-27
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
*Response - Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord
*Call to Worship - Katie Baird
ONE: If life was a home, then we would pray—
ALL: may love be the foundation.
May God be the cornerstone.
May the Spirit be the windows—ushering light in.
And may peace be the walls—holding us together.
ONE: In this hour of worship, let us work toward building that home together.
ALL: We may not know the path ahead, but God is here, even now.
ONE: Let us give thanks for a foundation of love.
ALL: Let us worship Holy God.
*Advent Candle Lighting - Roger Cram and Linda Eakin
A: As we reflect on the foundation of our faith in our lives, we gather together around the candle of peace.
B: The home we long for is a home that knows peace—
A: peace that rests between us and our grief,
B: peace around our anxiety,
A: peace between us and our self-criticism,
B: peace amidst our relationships,
A: peace at the core of our being,
B: peace hovering through and in our world.
A: The home we long for is a home that knows peace.
B: So today we light the candle of peace—as a reminder and as a prayer.
A: Let it be so. Amen.
*Opening Hymn - Come, O Long-Expected Jesus #125, v.1
1 Come, O long-expected Jesus,
born to set your people free.
From our fears and sins release us;
Christ, in whom our rest shall be.
You, our strength and consolation,
come salvation to impart;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of many a longing heart.
Offering of Praise - Katie Baird
Zechariah gave one of the greatest gifts he could give to his son.
He gave him a foundation of love—words of purpose, pride, love, and belonging.
So, in turn, remembering that joyful day, we try to make a similar impact by giving
what we can. And we pray that the gifts we give now—our time, our money, our
talents—will be infused by the Spirit to make a more purposeful world of love and
belonging that we can be proud of.
So let us give now. Let this be the foundation—the very start—of a better world.
Children’s Moment - Ally Bozeka
Read: This is what Paul wrote to his friends in the city of Philippi while he was in prison for preaching about Jesus: “I thank God for the help you gave me while I preached the Good News. You helped from the first day you believed until now. God began doing a good work in you. And he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again. I am sure of that.” —Philippians 1:5-6 (ICB)
Wonder: I wonder how Paul’s friends helped him. I wonder whether Paul helped start the “good work” he talks about. I wonder what good work God is doing in you. I wonder who is helping you right now like Paul helped his friends. I wonder what kind of person you’ll grow into.
Say: The good news is that we are always growing. Your family and your church and your teachers are all helping you to learn and grow into the person God has created you to be.
Pray: Let’s pray. Dear God, we are so glad to always grow and learn and change. Thank you for the people in our lives who laid a good, solid foundation for us to build upon. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Pastoral Prayer - Rev. Chad Delaney
God of days gone by, and God of the here and now—
As we contemplate the Greatest stories ever told, help us to revisit those first moments when we heard the story. Though we have heard it so many times, this season invite us by your Spirit to be awestruck, in wonder, in excitement. To listen again for the first time. To prepare a way in our hearts, minds, and spirits to receive you again.
God we confess that we we don’t always know is what the next right step is on our journey. We crave your voice in our ear—guiding our steps, revealing the way. We thank you for the many little gifts you give us in our lives that give us peace and contentment…..for the moments when the doctor says the scan is clear, for the surprise kindness we receive in the store, for when our dog greets us at the door.
for every small miracle and beauty in our life—may we be awestruck and grateful. May we be filled with peace.
But in between whispers of deep gratitude, there are other times we marvel at the difficulty in the world. The suffering and despair, grief and loss, violence and injustice. With every young person killed in the street or in a school, we lose our breath.
With every threat of violence, we lose our words. With every updated report on climate change, we lose our sense of peace in the world. And the cycle goes on and on and on.
Creator God, who breathed life into us, move between us and our despair. Give us a voice to speak gratitude in the face of beauty, and justice in the face of destruction. Give us words to heal where there is hurt and to invite where there is isolation. Help us build a strong foundation in your love so that we might sow peace and receive your peace that passes all understanding.
Together we lift our deepest thanksgivings and concerns to you know in silent prayer…
Meditation - Liz Meeker
Communion Hymn - Come Share the Lord #408, v.1-2
We gather here in Jesus' name,
His love is burning in our hearts like living flame;
for through His loving Son the Father makes us one:
Come, take the bread, come, drink the wine
Come, share the Lord.
No one is a stranger here, everyone belongs;
finding our forgiveness here,
we in turn forgive all wrongs.
He joins us here, he breaks the bread,
the Lord who pours the cup is risen from the dead;
the One we love the most is now our gracious host:
Come, take the bread, come, drink the wine,
Come, share the Lord.
Prayer & Lord’s Prayer -Liz Meeker
Words of Institution - Rev. Chad Delaney
Distribution of Communion elements
Prayer of Illumination
God, who speaks a good news language—
we admit, listening has never been our greatest gift.
We are easily distracted,
our minds run a million miles a minute.
we doubt your faith in us,
and take the easy way out when it comes to hope.
So today we bow our heads and ask for help.
Settle our hearts.
Quiet our minds.
Steady our breathing.
Help us to rest in you.
Help us to listen for your good news.
Gratefully we pray,
Scripture Reading - Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’
Sermon - "Laying the Foundation"
Being married to a Kindergarten teacher I get to hear a lot of fun stories, but what I’ve learned over the years more than anything is that Kindergarten is one of the very first battlegrounds for the continuation of civilization itself. I kid you not.
What you have there is a group of 15-25 five-year olds from various backgrounds and experiences. Some are still learning to speak. Some don’t yet know their ABCs. Some know all their sounds and can read. Some have been going to daycare for years and others only know their mom and dad as authority figures. Some live with grandparents or great grandparents. Some live with parent who are physically present but emotionally absent. Some come from homes where food is scarce and they get themselves up to get ready for school. Some of them are loved so much they are astonished that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Some are loved so little that just a few words of affirmation and gentle correction changes their entire life.
Kindergarten teachers have a huge role because they lay the foundation for the rest of kids’ school life and it begins with some simple activities. They learn to listen to and trust another adult. They learn manners and signs of respect. They learn how to share, how to resolve a conflict on the playground, and how to zip their own jackets. They learn how to raise their hand and do a single task for a period of time. They learn how to stand in a line and walk calmly down the hall. They learn how to sit still at the carpet and keep their hands to themselves. Very simple things...yet they have to be learned. And if you think that sounds easy, I would invite you to gather 10 cats together and have them sit in a circle for a story.
It is very difficult, but it is so worth it. Christin says that if you DON’T lay down those foundational pieces at the beginning of the school year...you’ll pay for it the rest of the year and the kids will too--long term.
John the Baptist is our Spiritual Kindergarten teacher. He is the VOICE crying out in the wilderness to PREPARE the way of the Lord. Everything he says and does is to prepare us for what’s next. He is a teacher, agitator, and all around tough character. He is convicted of the truth and sees the big picture of the Kingdom of God. He invites those who have ears to listen to lay a foundation to receive the one whom he says he isn’t fit to untie the thongs of his sandals.
So soon after his “Prepare the Way” announcement the people around start asking what they should do then?! And what does Mr. the Baptist teach them? Complicated theological and doctrinal treatises? Does he bring out a 20-slide PowerPoint Presentation with biblical footnotes and cross references? No.... simple things.
- Say you’re sorry. Repent when you’ve done wrong.
- If you have 2 coats, share with someone who has none.
- If you have food, share with someone who has none.
- Don’t take advantage of people.
- Be honest.
John gets us back to the basics. With all the craziness in the world, the division, the hurt, the anger---When life gets complicated, hard, confusing. When we aren’t sure who or what we are supposed to be. Those very simple things--generosity, kindness, respect, honesty-- are building blocks, the scaffolding to make the straight and the rough ways smooth. These help Prepare the Way of the Lord...lay a strong foundation, John says.
But if you think John’s job is easy, I suggest you gather 10 cats together for a story.
Even the basics can be hard sometimes and we forget them. So Advent, of course, is a great time to look at our foundation. We might recognize that all is not as it should be, but there is no time for shaming and self-flagellation, but while we are waiting for the coming of the Lord...to do some self-examination. To make some changes in our thoughts and habits. To regain that determination in our hearts, minds, and souls to love God and love neighbor. To make ready the way of the Lord!
What then is one small thing you can do to prepare the way? One small thing. And yet, likely it will still be hard--but it will be worth it and it will matter. A strong foundation will make your lifehouse strong and resilient. Able to withstand the storms of trial, temptation, and difficulty. To extend peace and hope and love in your life. And building your house on the Rock is not just for your own benefit...but our families, our church, our community and all who come after us. Our preparation, our investment, our laying a foundation of doing what is right and good...some gentle correction...will help change the world. Will help make Peace with communities and families and ourselves. So that all might see and experience the Salvation of God.
To close I want to offer to you this beautiful poem by Wendell Berry called A Vision
If we will have the wisdom to survive,A Vision –Wendell Berry
to stand like slow growing trees on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it…
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides…
The river will run clear, as we will never know it…
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields…
Memory, native to this valley, will spread over it like a grove,
and memory will grow into legend, legend into song,
song into sacrament.
The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling light.
This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its reality.
Let’s get to it church! May it be so….Amen.
Closing Hymn - The First Noel #151, v.1-2
1 The first Noel, the angel did say;
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
born is the King of Israel.
2 They looked up and saw a star,
shining in the east, beyond them far,
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night: [Refrain]
*Benediction - Rev. Chad Delaney
As you leave this service, your service begins:
Comfort the homesick.
Open your doors to others.
Lay a foundation of Goodness, Grace, and Generosity that makes peace
And remember that here in God’s house, all are welcomed—so come back soon.
In the name of our Foundation—Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit—
go in peace.
Departing Music - Carol Medley [Robert J. Hughes], piano by Jan Green