5 "The days are coming," declares the LORD,
"when I will raise up to David [Or up from David's line] a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The LORD Our Righteousness.
This morning I went to church here.
The sanctuary has a high wooden pointed roof.
I took home a pew Welcome bulletin this time. The cover has Psalm 122:1 -- I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord" -- on its cover.
If you are a visitor, whether a one-time guest or newcomer, please do not hesitate to make yourself known, and to ask any questions you may have. If the ministers, ushers, or those around in your pew can be of any special assistance to you, let us known. We want to make you feel at home — but if you prefer to just worship quietly and be on your way without giving us your name, please know that we do not wish to intrude.The Processional Hymn was "Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates," and they list hymnal page numbers in the bulletin but for some reason the hymnal doesn't give hymn titles (I didn't check to see if it has a ToC/index) so you really have to know which page you're going to.
This is an Episcopal Church, a part of the Anglican Communion throughout the world. We claim to be both Catholic — that is, true to the ancient Christian faith — and Protestant — truly reformed. We have no required confession of Faith, except the Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed, which we share with many other Christian bodies.
All baptized Christians – from any church and of any age – are welcome to receive Communion. At the altar rail, simply hold out your hands and the priest will place the bread in your hand. please help the chalice bearer by holding the bottom of the chalice to guide it to your lips when receiving the wine. Normally, we share in the common cup as a symbol of our unity in Christ. However, if you have a cold or other communicable illness and prefer to intinct (that is, dip the bread in the wine), a small intinction cup is provided for that purpose. Simply hold up the bread (instead of consuming it right away) as a signal to the chalice bearer that you would prefer to intinct. Those who are not baptized are invited to come to the altar rail to receive a blessing. Cross your arms to your chest indicate to the priest that you would like a blessing instead of Communion.
The choir processed in along with the minister and others, and it felt so High Church to me, and then I remembered that United used to do that.
The first bit of the service was the lighting of the Advent wreath.
Leader: Blessed are you, our God, who created light out of darkness and sent your only Son to bring the light of your love to all people. As we gather together in this Advent darkness to await the dawn of Christ, prepare our hearts and homes to receive our savior.The wreath didn't include a Christ Candle, which I didn't notice until the pastor mentioned, "All four candles are lit. Christmas is here. Almost." And now I can't remember if any of the places I've been this year had a Christ Candle or if United had a Christ Candle before Christmas Eve.
Leader: O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver, desire of the nations, savior of all people.
People: Come and set us free, O Lord our God. Amen.
The service had a lot of what the bulletin called "Collects" -- where the minister recites and the congregation responds.
The Scripture readings were each prefaced with a bit of an explanation of what it's about, which I appreciated.
The first one was 2 Samuel 7:4,8-16. One of the lines disturbed me like whoa. "When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men." The whole passage is talking about the Messiah, and one of the focal points for Christianity is that Jesus died for our sins being sinless himself, so if the Old and New Testaments are supposed to be all part of a continuous whole (i.e. all breathed by the same Omnipotent Omniscient God) this is a moment of serious tension.
This was followed by Responsorial for Psalm 132:8-15 which was based on "Veni, veni, Emmanuel," and I much prefer the original. "Arise, O Lord into your resting place, you and the ark of your strength." Yeah, just doesn't have the same resonance.
Reading: Romans 16:25-27
Hymn: "The angel Gabriel from heaven came"
Reading: Luke 1:26-38
The pastor walked down into the aisle, surrounded by white robed people -- one on each side holding a candle on a pole and one in front holding a cross on a pole -- and read from the Holy Gospel. This whole privileging of the Gospels disconcerts me. Privileging Jesus over his disciples and over the tradition he came out of, sure, but the Gospels are other people reporting on him, and in the Christmas story it's not even Jesus' words.
The seminarian (from Harvard Div, natch) gave the sermon. I didn't catch all of the invocation(?) she said, and I was reminded of the one Kelly (First Churches) always said (which Googling I discover is Psalm 19:14, which shouldn't surprise me).
The seminarian talked about the spareness of the passage and how the story draws her in and keeps her out. She described how she imagines that scene unfolding. Then she talked about how the word for angel is also the word for messenger and if we think of the angel as a messenger that makes the story more accessible, at least for her, since we don't exactly see angels in our daily lives, and she talked about messengers in our own lives, and how we are messengers as well. It thought this was interesting and thoughtful, and she was more articulate than I'm being.
Prayers of the People -- which begin with a whole bunch of cycles. The Norwood cycle includes St. George Orthodox. After "For the aged and infirm, for the widowed and orphans, and for the sick and suffering, especially:" where the speaker lists numerous individuals, Pastor Ed Saling [Emmanuel Lutheran] was on the list, which pleased me. The concluding Collect said something about "Jesus Christ our only mediator and advocate," which I thought was interesting.
The Confession and Absolution opens: "Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone."
They took the offering and we sang the Doxology and there was more responsive stuff. The retelling of the Last Supper story was "On the night before he died for us..." and I've always heard it just "On the night before he died," so that was jarring and interesting. And before the Lord's Prayer it was, "And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say," that last phrase of which is new to me.
[Edit: Part of the pre-Communion talking is:
Celebrant: Alleluia. Christ our passover is sacrificed for us;
People: Therefore, let us keep the feast. Alleluia.
I liked that.
This is followed by the Celebrant saying: The Gifts of God for the People of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.]
When the pastor gave me Communion bread, she said, "The body of Christ, the bread of Heaven." I like that.
The Communion hymn was "O come, O come Emmanuel" so I was kind of sad that I didn't get to sing it.
Celebrant: Let us pray.
Celebrant and People: Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always.
Recessional hymn: "Love divine, all loves excelling"
Celebrant: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.
Short version: I wasn't particularly impressed, either positively or negatively.
The more church services I attend, the less I feel like claiming Christianity. Not like, "These people are all unChristlike vile hypocrites," but like, "The source texts are contradictory," and feeling less and less pull toward reconciling the contradictions. I used to frequently say that I wished I could just have all my belief cut away because that would make my life so much easier than feeling still attached to so much of it while simultaneously finding so much of it problematic and contradictory and just generally untenable as a Truth. And this afternoon, I've been feeling rather like I'm cut off from it, like it's a story other people tell and which has points of value but which I have no obligation to accept wholly. This is odd, and I keep expecting it to pass (and it may well). I also feel like I'm not allowed to quit yet, 'cause I was suppposed to read the New Testament full through and research the historical Jesus and the early Church and make an informed decision as to whether there was enough logic and evidence for me to make a faith leap.
Recently I also keep getting rageful when I read my friends writing about religion (like, "zomg, you are so wrong") which disturbs me 'cause this isn't Walter Brueggemann, these are my friends. And I'm supposed to be rational disagreement girl. (Incidentally, I started rereading The Prophetic Imagination so I could actually write up my thoughts and finally return it to Liz Carr, and while it continues to bring to mind the phrase "plowing through" more than much else I have ever read -- the back cover blurb about "Writing in a popular, conversational style" is a lie -- it doesn't inspire the rage it did last time I read it. I was kinda disappointed.)
Oh, and ages ago eard_stapa linked to this great piece -- How to Solve the December Dilemma: An Orthodox rabbi maps out a peace plan to end the war on Christmas and put the miraculous back in Hanukkah. (Interview by Alice Chasan with Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield) -- and I have been remiss in disseminating it.
Also from her (more playful):
FIGHT NIGHT VIII: Season's Beatings!
SANTA CLAUS vs. THE MACCABEES