December 22, 2014

Worship

Join us as together we praise our Creator on Sunday mornings. [Scroll down to view older posts.]

Advent Moment – December 18, 2014

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[Highlight: Snow is a covenant of love… and snow is in today’s forecast!]


Simply Love Us by Mary Luti

“But after me comes one who is more powerful than I,
whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” – Matthew 3:11

John the Baptist says he isn’t worthy of the one who is coming, but it’s not
because the One who is coming is a powerful big shot. It’s because the
power of the One who is coming is love, and he is coming to love us.

If John feels unworthy, it’s because he is unworthy. When it comes to
the heart of the matter – love indiscriminate and unaccountable – no one is worthy. Thus the question of worthiness is forever the wrong question. Love does not require worth; love bestows it.

Sometimes we work hard for the kingdom as if it were all up to us.
Being driven by holy duty is not bad, but the One who comes offers
something better – life and work that spring from the unending
well of worth bestowed. God wants us to be loved, and to know it.

Loved like that, we can rest as well as toil, keep still as well as
speak, let go as well as commit. Loved like that, we can welcome
without anxiety, wait without control, love as we are loved.

Love is first, love remains, love is all in all.

There comes Another. “Amidst ten thousand losses and swirling joys”
we wait. For the one who truly loves us, simply loves us, only loves
us, loves us, loves us.

PRAYER: Advent, by Patricia Van Ness

Amidst ten thousand losses and swirling joys
At this very instant
On this sacred Earth
I wait.
Come to us,
Beauty, Wisdom, Goodness, Peace,
Solace, Grace, Counsel, Love.

Through the open archway this cold night
Air, rich as gold, flows.

Fine snow glistens on our faces.
Each flake,
Every exquisite crystal blossom
Is a covenant of your love
Told a thousand thousand times. Amen

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Luti is Interim Senior Pastor, Wellesley Village Church, Wellesley, Massachusetts.

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org

 

 

Advent Moment – December 17, 2014

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[Highlight: These are festive moments – join the party!] 

 

When the child is at the center

by William L. (Bill) Wallace 

When the child is at the center,

When the babe is in the stall,

When the adult nurtures wonder,

When the carols warm us all,

Then the fragments come together

And the vision shines as one

In each particle of being,

In each daughter and each son.

When the angels come as people,

When the wise ones dwell inside,

When the shepherds are the workers,

When the babe our inner guide,

Then our Christmas comes each moment

That our minds perceive God’s grace.

Every time our hearts are opened

We see Christ within each face.

Sing and dance the Christmas story,

Celebrate the Child’s great feast,

Be the festive wine and dancing,

Be the joy that grows like yeast,

Fill the heart with thankful praises,

Clear the mind of dismal thought,

Celebrate the Christmas wisdom,

Dance the Way that Jesus taught.

Alternative tune: POLISH CAROL, 8787 version

Text © William Livingstone Wallace. Music © Barry Brinson.

Visit here to hear the music:  

 http://progressivechristianity.org/resources/when-the-child-is-at-the-center/

 

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org

 

 

Advent Moment – December 16, 2014

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[Highlight: What does resurrection have to do with Christmas? – from PUCCer]


As we continue on this Advent journey individually and communally, we want to share a reflection from Val, one of our PUCC family members. If you have theological thoughts about Advent and/or the Nativity, we would love to hear them…. kevin@parkwayucc.org… Please indicate if you would be willing for us to consider sharing your reflections with the faith family. If so, do we have permission to attach your name or would you prefer to be anonymous?

“It always feels like there’s such a short window in the church year (not counting funerals and memorial services) that the word Resurrection is in the forefront. Resurrection is connective tissue to our faith. The entire New Testament is formed through the lens of Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus. Even with all their miraculous events, tenderness and tension, the nativity stories could not have been written without the Resurrection. There’s a cross in that manger and yet many seem to get stuck in Bethlehem.

A thoroughly critical (in the best sense) look at the nativity stories can stretch our credulity about why on earth we keep celebrating Christmas or Advent. It’s like the authors made up their own particular beginning to match the ending, which was really the beginning. Go ahead – scratch your head. And hey! Mark and John – no opinions? No stories?

Except for the crucifixion, I have no idea what events are literally or at all true, yet all shed light and truth. But Resurrection, whether in all the forms we experience in our lives or the Big One at the end, is the glue of Hope and Cope for me. To be resurrected is to be re-formed, changed, made anew – to overcome death or crumbling forces in our lives.

November’s issue of our monthly newsletter Intersections (link here) had at least three deeply touching stories of resurrection and the continuing process of growing, healing and re-forming. Let us name them as resurrection and perhaps, maybe, just maybe we can lose some of our fear of death, metaphorical and literal, in order to embrace new life and new light. Then we can truly be touched by the Christ Child.”

- Val Detjen, PUCCer

 

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org

 

 

Advent Moment – December 15, 2014

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[Highlight: Do you have a list for this time of year? You may want to revise it some.]

Christmas To Do List – revised!

 

Buy Presents (Be Present);

Wrap Gifts (Wrap Someone in a Hug);

Send Packages (Send Peace);

Shop for food (Donate Food);

Visit Santa (Visit a Saint – in a Nursing Home)

See the lights (Be the Light)

 

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org

 

 

Advent Moment – December 14, 2014

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[Highlight: Church needs to be relevant to today… a mix of head/heart… challenging and embracing]

Reasonable, Rigorous and Real by Lillian Daniel

I want to make a case for a church that is reasonable, rigorous and real.

By reasonable, I mean that we should not demand that people believe things that seem preposterous to them. We should respect people’s questions. We should not ask them to leave their brains out on the sidewalk. We should expect that we will land in different places, intellectually and experientially.

I want the church to be rigorous. You can be welcoming and open and still have standards and expectations. You can say that attending worship matters. You can ask people to share their money. You can expect people to follow through in their ministries and be of service. You can hold up the minimal standards of a sports team or a music teacher by saying that the more you practice, the better you will get at this.

I also want the church to be real. I want there to be room for the people who don’t follow through, don’t show up and who don’t yet get what any of this is about. I want the church to admit that sex, drugs and rock and roll are a tempting trinity for a reason. I want mental illnesses to be listed in the prayer concerns as often as cancer treatments and surgeries.

And if it’s all you can do to get out bed in the morning, I want you to come to church in your pajamas.

Reasonable, rigorous and real. Bring your questions, your uncombed hair and your low expectations. Jesus can work with all that. And then he may even raise the bar.

Prayer: Loving Christ, expect more from your body here on earth. Use me to refine and shape your church. Loving Christ, expect more of me. Amen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lillian Daniel, author of When “Spiritual But Not Religious” is Not Enough

***

WE BELIEVE THAT PARKWAY UCC IS REASONABLE, RIGOROUS AND REAL. WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHY NOT INVITE SOMEONE TO COME WITH YOU TODAY, NEXT SUNDAY AND/OR CHRISTMAS EVE… THEN YOU CAN ASK THEM IF WE ARE R, R AND/OR R!

 

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org

 

 

Advent Moment – December 13, 2014

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[Highlight: Joseph opens his hands and heart.]

 

Advent Hands

by Catherine Alder

I see the hands of Joseph.
Back and forth along bare wood they move.
There is worry in those working hands,
sorting out confusing thoughts with every stroke.
“How can this be, my beautiful Mary now with child?”
Rough with deep splinters, these hands,
small, painful splinters like tiny crosses
embedded deeply in this choice to stay with her.
He could have closed his hands to her,
said, “No” and let her go to stoning.
But, dear Joseph opened both his heart and hands
to this mother and her child.
Preparing in these days before
with working hands
and wood pressed tight between them.
It is these rough hands that will open

and be the first to hold the Child.

I see a fist held tight and fingers blanched to white.
Prying is no easy task.
These fingers find a way of pulling back to old positions,
protecting all that was and is.
Blanched to white. No openness. All fright.
But then the Spirit comes.
A holy Christmas dance begins
and blows between the twisted paths.
This fist opens
slowly,
gently,
beautifully,
the twisted fingers letting go.
Their rock-solid place in line has eased.
And one by one the fingers lift
True color is returned
And through the deepest of mysteries,
The holiest of holies,
O longing of longings
Beyond all human imagining
this fist,
as if awakened from Lazarus’ cold stone dream

reaches out to hold the tiny newborn hand of God.

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org

 

 

 

Advent Moment – December 12, 2014

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[Highlight: We’re halfway there… Don’t rush through these next days and waste them… We still have two weeks of Advent.]

‘5 Reasons to Celebrate Advent’ by Eileen Flynn

In my memory exists an idyllic wintry scene from my girlhood. Snow-covered hills. Frosted windowpanes. And the candles of the Advent wreath illuminating our small, wood-paneled dining room as my father intoned: “We await a Savior/The Lord Jesus Christ/Who will reshape the body of our lowliness/After the shape of the body of His splendor.”

I was as Santa-obsessed as any other kid. But during December, our Sunday evening tradition of prayer and song kept my desire for Barbie dolls in check. It was a reminder that Christmas wasn’t here yet. So now, whenever I hear Christians complaining about the “war on Christmas” or deriding secular culture for ignoring the “reason for the season,” I wonder which season they think we’re in. It may come as a surprise to some believers, but we are in the season of Advent, not Christmas.

Christians who want to make Jesus the star attraction should begin at home – by celebrating Advent. Here’s why:

1. Because it’s liturgically correct.

The Christmas season doesn’t actually begin until December 25. The (roughly) four weeks leading up to Christmas day are meant for the solemn observance of Advent. Ok, so not all Christians follow the liturgical calendar. But, you don’t have to be a Catholic or an Episcopalian or a Lutheran to see the value of a ritual that reminds believers that this sacred time is meant for preparing spiritually for the birth of their savior.

2. Because these are our darkest days.

It’s not only that we have less actual daylight – darkness of a different sort can pervade our lives this time of year. We have a nagging sense that, amid the decorating and shopping and eggnog sipping, we are emptier than ever. Crass consumerism and forced cheer can do that to a soul. But, the tiny flames of the Advent candles can pull us back from the brink and give us a little perspective.

3. Because “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

This is the hymn most often sung during an Advent ceremony – and it’s a gorgeously haunting melody whose beautiful E-minor chords can help Christians focus on what they’re supposed to be yearning for this time of year: hope and peace and light. And, it’s even cooler when you sing it in Latin. That can’t be said for “White Christmas” (no disrespect to Bing).

4. Because patience, grasshopper.

Anticipation is good for us. A little self-deprivation – or mere restraint – is healthy. You don’t party like it’s 1999 during Lent, do you? No. Lent is a time of reflection and fasting and preparation. You celebrate the resurrection on Easter, not before. So, don’t rush Jesus’ birth, either. (Remember: Mary had to wait a lot longer.)

5. Because it’s simple, yet meaningful.

If you have children, this is one of the simplest and best gifts you can give to them. It doesn’t take much to assemble four candles and a bit of greenery and pull some devotional material off the Web. (Some might find pastor John Piper’s Advent devotional or Helen McLoughlin’s guide of Family Advent Customs useful.) No matter how you do it, your kids will remember that special time you set aside every Sunday to light the candles, to pray and sing, to slow down for ritual. And – gasp – they may actually appreciate the real reason for the season.

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org

 

 

Advent Moment – December 11, 2014

IMG_9315_The_Abstract_New_Annunciation_biblical_virgin_Mary_contemporary_Jesus
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IMG_9315_The_Abstract_New_Annunciation_biblical_virgin_Mary_contemporary_Jesus

[Highlight: Angel Gabriel asked other girls before Mary and they said, “No.”] 

 

 

Are You Sure?

by Madeleine L’Engle

There is also a legend that Mary was not the first young woman to whom the angel came. But she was the first one to say yes.

And how unsurprising it would be for a fourteen-year-old girl to refuse the angel. To be disbelieving. Or to say:

 “Are you sure you mean -

but I’m unworthy -

I couldn’t anyhow -

I’d be afraid. No, no,

it’s inconceivable, you can’t be asking me -

I know it’s a great honor

but wouldn’t it upset them all,

both our families?

They’re very proper, you see.

Do I have to answer now?

I don’t want to say no -

it’s what every girl hopes for

even if she won’t admit it.

But I can’t commit myself to anything

this important without turning it over

in my mind for a while

and I should ask my parents

and I should ask my -

Let me have a few days to think it over.”

Sorrowfully, although he was not surprised

to have it happen again,

the angel returned to heaven.

 

When do you say YES to the Holy … When do you say NO?… How about MAYBE? 

 

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org
 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve Services

christmas eve 2014
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christmas eve 2014
4:30pm – Family Friendly Worship

This service will be alive and spirited with many children present. The traditional nativity scripture will be shared as we mingle Christmas carols and contemporary reflections. We will sing Silent Night by candlelight at the close of the service.

 

7:30pm – Candlelight Communion Worship

Prelude music for flute and organ begins at 7:15pm. This is a quieter and more contemplative service than the earlier one. We hear the Christmas Gospel, sing traditional carols and reflect upon what all of this means for us today. The choir will sing. We will celebrate the sacrament of communion at our open table and sing Silent Night by candlelight.

Advent Moment – December 10, 2014

kids-paint-hands-art
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kids-paint-hands-art

 

5 Ways to Make Advent More Serene and Less Stressful

by Mary DeTurris Poust

 

We are ten days into December, and most of us have been bombarded by so much Christmas music and Christmas advertising and Christmas everything that we’re already sick of the season. In a world where the Christmas countdown begins sometime before Halloween, it’s easy to lose sight of the beauty of Advent, and to get so caught up in the material trappings that we can’t see the spiritual forest for the tinsel-covered trees.

 

We live in a goal-oriented society, and in this case, Christmas is the end zone we’re running toward at breakneck speed, hardly looking at what’s going on along the sidelines. But Advent beckons us to stop the madness, to stop the running, to focus on the journey as much as the destination. Advent offers us serenity amid the insanity, with its beautiful interplay of darkness and light, its Scriptural focus not only on the coming of the Christ child but on the second coming of Jesus, and with its quiet but constant insistence that we prepare — not just for a day but for a lifetime, and the next life one.

How do we translate those transcendent ideas into everyday practices? Here are five easy ways to slow down and savor the season – it’s not too late!

1. Create rituals. Simple daily rituals can serve as spiritual anchors whenever the secular version of the holiday season begins to suck you in and stress you out. These rituals can be as elaborate or as easy as you choose to make them. If fashioning a Jesse tree out of branches and homemade ornaments depicting scenes from Scripture will make you more stressed, find something simpler, perhaps a traditional paper Advent calendar with little doors that reveal the signs and symbols of the season. And there’s always the Advent wreath, a peaceful, prayerful way to mark the days leading up to Christmas. The glow of its candles, increasing with each week, serves as a visible reminder of the light that comes into our world at Christmas and overcomes the darkness for all time.

2. Practice patience. Advent is about waiting, a concept that’s becoming increasingly unpopular in our world of instant gratification and constant connectedness. We want what we want and we want it now. Advent reminds us that waiting can be a good thing, a time to prepare ourselves, a time to rediscover what’s important, a time to serve those who are not as fortunate. When you are waiting in an endless line at the mall or circling a parking lot fighting for a space, try to be intentional about the way you approach and accept the situation. What if you pray for the woman who just stole your spot? What if you smile at the man who runs back to grab an extra item off the rack while you stand in the check-out line gritting your teeth?

3. Seek out silence. Here’s another challenge for those of us used to the constant buzz of the world around us, whether it’s the TV at home, the radio in the car or the Muzak at the mall. We don’t like silence. It makes us uncomfortable. It feels unproductive. Shouldn’t we be doing something during this quiet time? Not necessarily. Take just five minutes each day to sit in silence. Turn off cell phones, TVs, computer bells and whistles, anything that will distract you, and just be. Chances are that after only one week of daily silence, you’ll be a lot better at #2 on this list. Silence breeds interior peace and exterior calm. Try it and see how five minutes a day can change your Christmas season and your life.

4. Rethink gift-giving. Advertisers tell us we need stuff, lots of stuff to be happy, and our loved ones need lots of stuff, too, preferably wrapped in shiny paper and bows. Before you know it, the shopping and spending and running and wrapping has us wishing the Christmas would just get here already and be over and done.

Take back the gift-giving part of this season. Tell family and friends to cut back on the gifts they plan to give you and yours. Give from the heart rather than the wallet. Instead of a gift card, find some one-of-a-kind gift that will surprise and satisfy — if it’s locally made, even better. Rather than an extra video game or doll, give a child a “date” with mom or dad, a special day where they get to go somewhere or do something with a parent without distractions like Facebook or work phone calls or TV. Even gift cards can become heartfelt when done right, say with an offer to tag along on the shopping spree and buy lunch for the two of you.

5. Start close to home. You can’t change the culture, but you can change the way you participate in it. Rather than scold society for the ways it doesn’t live up to the spiritual aspects of this holiday season, do what you can to refocus on Jesus and the Advent journey within your own four walls among your own family. Light a candle and pray before dinner each night. Express gratitude to and for each other. Give your loved ones the gift of your time and your presence. Find a charity that could use some help, whether it’s through donations or volunteer hours. Begin to set your own life to a sacred rhythm, and before you know it people around you will want a piece of what you’ve found. That’s how the culture changes: one heart, one home at a time.

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org