Sunday Service by Revd Andrew Warmback- First Sunday in Advent!

My sermon may be found on YouTube
Please find the text of the sermon below.
An audio version is available.

Service

An outline of the service followed is also given below.
Please note: We hold services on Sunday at 7.30 and 9.15 in the church.

INTROIT: The advent of our King CP 36
PARISH WELCOME FOLLOWING ORDINATION (See liturgy at end)
Lighting of the Advent Candle (see end)
COLLECT: Almighty Father,
your Son came to us in humility as our Saviour
and at the last day he will come again in glory as judge:
give us grace to turn away from darkness
to the light of Christ that we will be ready to welcome him;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God ,
for ever and ever.
Amen.
FIRST READING: Isaiah 64: 1-9
PSALM: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
GRADUAL: Come thou long expected Jesus CP 24
GOSPEL: Mark 13: 24-37
CREED: Nicene
OFFERTORY: In a world where where people walk in darkness CP 476
1st EUCHARISTIC PRAYER
RECESSIONAL: On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry CP 34

 

Sermon by Revd Andrew Warmback

Introduction

In Advent we prepare for the coming of God’s kingdom or reign that arrives in a special way in the birth of Jesus. And in Jesus’ return we anticipate the arrival of God’s rule in its fullness. In our preparations we are to be alert, watching out for the signs of God’s presence among us. We are also to choose those things that promote the flourishing of God’s reign and resist those things that oppose it.

Covid Pandemic

In this pandemic we have become familiar with reading the signs of the times: we can draw on a number of statistics to help us interpret the prevalence of the virus. We monitor things like infection and transmission rates, recovery and death rates, the number of ICU beds available, the number of patients on ventilators etc.

It’s one thing reading and interpreting these signs. It is another thing taking appropriate action for our own safety and the safety of others. If we do not act appropriately- such as sanitise regularly, wear a mask, social distance – we will not alter the course of the pandemic and save lives. The choice is ours to make.

Gospel

In today’s gospel reading Jesus encourages his followers to look out for the signs of the times: the coming of God’s reign on earth. He says that we will notice these signs in the same way in which the changes in nature around us will indicate that a new season is beginning. Jesus puts it this way in the gospel: “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon
as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.” (Mark 13:28)

Dawn

In our context in which the change of seasons is not so distinct, a better comparison may be made with the coming of the dawn. What are the signs for you that a new day has arrived? The light of the sun from outside, the sound of traffic or voices in the neighbourhood, the activity of children in the home, or it is the sound of an alarm clock going off. These days I first hear the chirping of birds outside, and they can start their chirping as early as 3.30 am!
What do we do when a see that a new day has arrived? Do we get up to face it, to make the most of it. Or do we remain in bed? We can decide.

Taking Action

In the same way Jesus’ challenge is not only to notice the signs of God’s reign but to interpret them, and to take the right action, to participate in God’s work of healing the earth, of salvation, or remaking the world.

Gender Based Violence

It is increasingly recognised that we are in another pandemic – that of Gender Based Violence (GBV). The statistics are clear; the signs are all around us. And these are definitely not signs of the coming of God’s rule. These signs of discrimination, abuse and femicide deliver only bad news.

In these 16 days of international action against Gender Based Violence and as part of our Advent commitment let us decide to make a make a difference by challenging abuse, not protecting but reporting abusers, offering support to survivors of GBV, instilling values of gender equality, starting with children and challenging theologies that perpetuate patriarchy and toxic masculinities. Can our church be a safe space for women and for all who may find themselves in vulnerable situations? Can we be a place of hope to those whose lives have been shattered?

In marking World Aids Day on this coming Tuesday 1 December we acknowledge the presence of another virus that has had a huge impact on the world – HIV. Its continued spread has strong links to gender inequality and behaviour that is not respectful of people’s dignity and integrity.

The issue of GBV is one that the Archbishop has asked us to revisit during Lent next year. Let us commit ourselves to ongoing awareness and action around this scourge until it is eliminated.

Xenophobia

The xenophobic violence in our Province and elsewhere in the country has continued, including more recently among truck drivers. This is definitely not a sign of God’s reign, but of divisive and destructive behaviour. With Jesus there are no outsiders; strangers are welcome as part of the family; let us play our part.

The Signs within us

Advent is also a season for reflecting on our own lives. It is an opportunity for spiritual growth. What are the signs we see within us? Can we this Advent take time to get to know ourselves better, and to become more who God created us to be? Do we have a desire to reconnect with God, to live life more meaningfully?

Today we have welcomed a new ministry among us in the ordination yesterday of Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu as a deacon. We look forward to sharing the fruit of this ministry.

Also ask yourself what is the gift you have to share with others? What contribution would you like to make to the world with your life?

Harvest Festival/Thanksgiving

Today we keep as our annual harvest festival or thanksgiving service. The spirit of our Harvest Festival is that what we have we accept as a gift from God and are prepared to offer a share of this to others.

Can you see signs of God at work in your life? Take time to reflect and to consider what are you grateful for?

There is still an opportunity to make a financial contribution to St Paul’s in thanksgiving to God.

Conclusion

As with the changing of the seasons and the dawning of a new day, there is a sense of inevitability about them. We cannot stop them. In the lighting of the first Advent candle at the beginning of our service we marked the coming of light into the world; the light will not be dimmed or snuffed out.

Jesus likened the coming of God’s reign on earth to the growing of a mustard seed. It starts off very small but grows over time to become a tree that birds rest on.

God invites us to be part of this process of growth and change. Let us do so joyfully.

In the new beginnings of Advent let us choose to share with God both in praying that God’s kingdom may come on earth but also to participate actively in making it a reality.

May God bless you this Advent Season.

AMEN

Parish Welcome following Ordination

This service is for the welcome of those who have been ordained elsewhere.
The welcome normally will take place at the start of the regular Sunday worship.
The person newly ordained is seated at the front of the church.

The service commences with the entrance of the ministers, and following the Greeting, the churchwarden addresses the congregation.

People of God, we welcome today Sabelo who was ordained deacon yesterday at the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity.

Do you receive Sabelo into your midst and will you give him all your encouragement and support?

We will
Are you ready to share with Sabelo the responsibility for Christian witness and service?

We are

Will you uphold Sabelo with your enthusiasm and prayers?

We will

The newly ordained is now addressed.

Sabelo, do you in the presence of this congregation, commit yourself to this new trust and responsibility as a deacon of this parish?

I do

The newly ordained is taken to the place from where his ministry will be conducted.

The churchwarden says this prayer
God, our Creator and Guide, we marvel that you have made us to be your Church, co-workers in your divine purposes, and instruments of your gracious love. Hear our prayers for your servant Sabelo, asking that you will fulfil in him the work that you have begun.
Amen

This prayer is said for the household.

Bless and sustain him with your love that his home may be a place where the presence of Christ is found.
Amen

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Let us offer ourselves anew as witnesses to the advent of Christ’s glory, seeking to bring
Christ’s light and love to those who sit in darkness
O come, O come Emmanuel;
you are our light and our salvation:
Come Lord Jesus Christ.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Christian liturgical year.
We celebrate the beginning of another year by looking to the end of time when the culmination of history will point to the authority of Jesus.
We light the candle to remind ourselves of the growing light of the dawn of the Kingdom of God.

Let us pray.

Immanent God

grant us the grace to perceive the signs of your coming that we might ever be alert and awake to receive you anew and afresh;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426