Sunday at Scarboro – December 10, 2017

Worship Start Time:  10:30am
Worship Leader: Rev. Lee Spice
Theme: Advent Two - Prepare

Come early for coffee at 10am, and stay after church for coffee and conversation in the Memorial Hall. You may notice markers and large banners at the back of the Sanctuary and downstairs by the Memorial Hall. You are invited to colour these banners before, during, and after the service. Christmas pageant players will meet for a first run through this Sunday after church, with a full performance workshop on Sunday, December 17 from 11:30-3pm.

See what is going on at Scarboro here. We are collecting most needed items for Closer to Home throughout Advent, and socks for the DI are due at the church by Sunday, December 17.

Co-op Gift Cards will be available for purchase in denominations of $25, $50 and $100 from Mary Axworthy - cash or cheque only please.

If you haven't already, pick up an Advent Journey booklet, and log your steps toward Bethlehem as we meditate through movement this Advent. Download a copy here.

Sermon: Advent II: Prepare
December 17, 2017
Rev. Lee Spice

Many of us in this room are familiar with Facebook.  Every now and then, the algorithms at Facebook put together a message that says something like, “Lee, at Facebook, we care about you.  Here are some memories from 5 years ago.”  Then you look at pictures from back then.

My first response, if it’s from about 5 years ago, is, “Wow, look how skinny we are!  Look at the muscles in my arms!”  That’s because, 5 years ago, we were preparing to climb Aconcagua, which, at 22,840 ft., is the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalaya.

In preparation, we swam, we hiked, we skied, we ran, we walked….we did something almost every day.  And when the time came, we ascended and summited the mountain.  As the only woman on the trip, and one of the three of us over 50, I was grateful for every minute of preparation that I’d put in.

The scriptures today speak of preparation, and that’s usually interpreted as a kind of gentle, internal preparation.  You know – “Lord Jesus, come into our hearts” kind of preparation.

The scripture from Isaiah says, “A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

“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.”

OK, so anyone recently experienced driving through construction?  That place at Sarcee and Hwy 1 where you have to know what the names of the roads are on the other side of the highway or else you’ll get in the wrong lane and drive there and have to turn around? (not that I would know…). In Okotoks, they’re created a subdivision out of what was part of the D’Arcy Ranch, and the size and number of the earth scrapers is jaw-dropping – great beasts moving tonne after tonne of earth – flattening the land down to suburban standards.

Construction is a little ugly, a lot of disruption, and, sometimes, very, very painful.

“Every mountain shall be made low!”  Scraped and scratched and backhoed and dug and dynamited….we’re not talking about something gentle, here.

And out of the wilderness, every year, comes John the Baptizer, wearing animal skins and eating wild food, and INSISTING that preparations be made for the coming of Christ into the world.  “Prepare the way of the Lord.  Make his paths straight.”

How do you make a path straight?  Whether it is a garden path or the path to Highway One, you don’t make a path straight by just looking at it – there is work to be done – digging and flattening and hauling away of all of the stuff that you don’t need.

Preparation, too, is a little ugly, a lot of disruption, and, sometimes, very, very painful.

In the story from Mark, John the Baptizer appears, and proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Ah, there it is.  There is the hard work.  There is the digging and flattening and the hauling away of stuff that you don’t need.  Repentance.  For the forgiveness of sins.

In the United Church, we don’t talk about sin very often.  Perhaps, as a church, we’re trying to distance ourselves from the notions of original sin.  Perhaps we want to emphasize that everyone is beloved, and created by God.

Yes, yes and yes – but it’s a fact of being human that humans mess up.  Humans get things wrong.  Humans hurt other people.  Humans hurt even ourselves.  Humans miss the mark. Humans get on the wrong path, and sometimes find that it’s more like a merry-go-round that keeps going faster and it’s really, really hard to get off onto solid ground.

All of these things get in the way of living the life to which God calls.  They are stumbling blocks – things that get in between us and God…thangs that isolate or alienate ourselves from others…things that prevent each of us from knowing our authentic self.  Things that are heavy and hard to carry around. And they’re prickly, and they continue to hurt.

And that’s what the Bible calls “sin.”

This gentle account from Mark doesn’t do justice to the hard work that John’s message implies.  Repentance is the preparation that John the Baptizer is talking about.

To “repent” means “to turn around.”

Get off that path, jump off the merry-go-round.

Take a good look around.   What is hurtful?  What needs attention?

Where are the great mountains of regret getting in the way? What is wedging itself between you and God, between you and others, or between you and your true self?  What needs to be dug or backhoed or dynamited?

What needs confessing?  What needs apology?  What needs a new start?

Look inward.  Look deep.  Spend the time.

And then, get out a shovel and dig. Turn up the soil and haul away that which is hurting you and others.  Leave the stuff that needs to be left.  Move things around.  Create a new landscape.  Lower the mountains, straighten the paths, prepare the way.

Make the call. Send the text that says, “Can we talk?” Find your mentor. Look up the program.

Is this easy? No. No. No.  But preparation is a little ugly, a lot of disruption, and sometimes, very, very painful.

Of course, in construction, you don’t leave the patch of real estate as a flat, empty, scarred up piece of land.  A least, not forever.

It is being prepared for something.  New systems of electricity and natural gas and water will be put in, homes and roads will be built.

Pathways and green spaces will invite healthy living.  Gardens will be planted.

And new life will be born again.

Maranatha. Come, Holy Jesus, come.

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