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Sunday Worship: December 6, 2023

Our church celebrated communion as it does every first Sunday of the month. You won’t want to miss watching this worship service. We had a special moment at the end of communion.

Pastor Josh preached the sermon. The sermon’s title is “God Shapes Us for Wholeness; this is our HOPE.”   

The Gospel reading and sermon begin at the 34th minute.

Here is an outline of the sermon:

I love hope. Hope is just part of who I am.  Hope is what motivates me and gets me out of bed. It is in the fiber of my being. The source of my hope is faith in God because I believe God is good. I trust in the goodness of God. 

And from there, when I have been broken into pieces, my hope is that God’s goodness will mend me and make me whole again.. That God mends together all the different pieces that came from past hurts.

The faith and hope that I have… comes in part from my own intuition and from reading some of the most proud passages in the Bible. 

The ancient Israelites had a long history of being conquered by the superpowers of their time: Babylon, Macedonia, and Rome. The ancient Israelites believed in God’s goodness, believed in God’s love, the love that endures forever. When Rome occupied Israel in Joseph and Mary’s time, many of the people hoped that God would restore Israel by calling a messiah to rise up from God’s people.

They recalled the book of Isaiah, which had critiqued the Israelites when Babylon was at the height of its power and it also offered hope–hope as expressed in Isaiah 9:6.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

During the worship team’s brainstorming meeting a couple of weeks ago, The verse from our Isaiah reading that spoke to us the most “We are clay and God is our potter”. 

If you have ever watched a potter make something out of clay on a turning wheel or you have done it yourself… you know how long it takes to make and how messy it is. The final product is an item, like a bowl, that is unique, and it is complete. The bowl is whole.

God doesn’t make us broken. God is good, and by the presence of God’s spirit to shape and mold us into who we are, we, too, were made good. We were made unique. We were made whole. 

However, life has a way of breaking us into pieces. Every time we have been hurt, part of us has been broken. We may have felt like our life was shattered into pieces. Maybe, the times when we were called lazy, ugly, stupid. Or when we’ve had arguments over a small thing that turned into a nasty fight with name-calling. It might have been when our bodies were violated. Or when the schoolyard bully tormented us and made us lose our confidence in ourselves. 

Those pains and hurts weren’t from God, so God could make us stronger. Those pains and hurts came from others. 

Every time we have been hurt, a piece breaks away. But God is there to pick up the piece. God picks them up and mends them together like the Japanese pottery technique that melds back together the bowl with gold. It transforms us and adds to the uniqueness of who we are. 

God in Christ is the incarnation, the embodiment, of God’s hands like a potter’s. Christ is gentle with us. He cares for our souls and well-being. He greets us with compassion. He looks at us with love. He is the ultimate good. 

He encourages us to pray by his example because he prayed during times of difficulty when he was tormented and ridiculed. He drew strength from God. 

Also, Speaking to someone about our experiences, whether it be a friend, family, or a therapist; someone who can hear our stories. Those conversations are divine conversations. God is present, mending and restoring us.

And, our hope is not limited to ourselves; it is for the whole world. 

Friendships ruined, families torn apart, ethnic group against another ethnic group, nations divided. Political unrest. Violence. All these break the world into pieces. 

And yet, Christ teaches that to restore the world, we are to love our enemies and to seek the end of injustices that make divisions possible.

God works to mend the pieces of the world together. And we share in its mending because God calls us to be peacemakers and to share what we have. 

We are people of hope.

Finally, Advent is a season for us to prepare for the birth of Christ by leaning into hope, and praying that the celebration of his birth wakes people up to follow his life. And, In the midst of darkness, as the world becomes more divided, just when despair is about to take hold, lean into hope and let hope prepare you to withstand these challenges and emerge scarred but ultimately transformed and made whole.

Amen.