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In addition to this Virtual Worship Service, you are invited to join us on Zoom for the
All Church Coffee Hour
Sunday, February 21 – 10:00am – 11:00am
It will be a time for Check-in, Prayers, and getting better acquainted in Small Group Conversation.
We hope you’ll join us – Bring a church friend!

Use the Zoom link in our Saturday and Sunday emails.
Email the church office if you need the Zoom link: Link Request

SUNDAY – FEBRUARY 21, 2021

Gifts of the Dark Woods

“Come However You Are”
Rev. Nicole C. Trotter

Welcome to this “virtual” worship service for Sunday, February 21 2021
Many thanks for technical assistance / contributions from Ron Moser, Amy Cox, Rev. Nicole Trotter, Chris McNairy, the St. Andrew Senior High Youth Group, Tracy Walthard, Kelsey Walthard, Dawne Carver and Meredith Lehman.

Opening Visual Liturgy

“A Death To Awaken” The Work of the People – written by Kelly Stewart Hall, and Inspired by John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul.

Opening Prayer

Click the arrow below to hear Rev. Nicole Trotter offer this morning’s Prayer, written by Thom Schumann or read the Prayer below

Written by Thom Schumann

Here, at the outer limits of Lent,
we are called to walk:
to the paper-thin edges which cut us
   to the soul;
to the workplaces which weary us;
to the people who confuse us;
to the faith which threatens us.
Here, at the corner of Steadfast Love
and Faithfulness, we are called to wait:
when our clenched stomachs awaken us;
in the moments of unbearable sorrow;
with the angels who would carry us.
Here, where time is fulfilled,
where God’s Kingdom is as near to us
as our neighbor, we begin Lent:
with the Beloved, whose tears wash away
   our fears,
with the God who will not let go
   of our hands.

Opening Music

“Sing Gently” by Eric Whitacre – Performed by Eric Whitacre, Virtual Choir 6, and Sam Glicklich

Licensed to YouTube by The Orchard Music (on behalf of UNQUIET); ASCAP, Concord Music Publishing, and 5 Music Rights Societies – CCLI #885509

Discovery Time & Sunday School

Click the arrow to watch the St. Andrew Senior High Youth present Discovery Time:

Our Sunday School Lessons for today are as follows:

PRESCHOOL LESSON:

Preschool Memory Verse for February:

Click the arrow below to watch the Sunday School video for our Preschool children for Sunday, February 21st:

Preschool Bottom Line for the week of February 21st:

GRADES K-5 LESSON:

Grades K-5 Memory Verse for February:

Click the arrow below to watch the Sunday School video for our Kindergarten – 5th Grade children for Sunday, February 21st:

Grades K-5 Bottom Line for the week of February 21st:

Message for Youth

“… for dust you are and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19b
This verse has new meaning for me. This is the verse spoken when receiving ashes from the pastor or priest on Ash Wednesday. It’s basically saying we all started from dust (from Adam) and we will all die and return to dust. Definitely not an uplifting verse. Yet, now a meaningful verse to me.

Ash Wednesday was a special day. It started off with it’s own challenges, yet nothing that being on church grounds wouldn’t cure. As I arrived, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the wind was blowing and all around me were signs of the recent rains. The new green grass, daffodils starting to bloom and the sense that Spring is just around the corner. As I walked to the Narthex, I was anticipating what the ambiance would be like and the feelings I would experience. And of course, God took my expectations and multiplied them!

Let me set the scene. During our Lenten season, you and I are going on a journey through the “dark woods”. We get to explore the gifts that are in the dark, in the struggles of our life, and that journey begins with Ash Wednesday.

So imagine as I walked into the Narthex, to be greeted with the dark woods, to then walk through the woods into the light of the back patio, the cross the focal point, with the backdrop of the pasture and the horses, and the sun shining on my face.

As I take this all in, there is a basket of ashes and a sign that invites me to take a pack of ashes, sit and meditate and if so moved, to apply the ashes on my forehead at anytime. I take the ashes and sit down. Music starts to play. A spoken message and then a blessing is interwoven with the music. And then silence. During this time, I have a chance to see God’s creation all around me, to reflect on where I’ve sinned, where I’ve compromised in my life during the last year. And as I sit with all of this swirling in my heart and my mind, God’s forgiveness comes flooding down over me. I’m overwhelmed at His grace and mercy, His all encompassing love and the knowledge that even in my weakest moments, He loves me. He is constantly drawing me to Him. In that moment, I am still and connecting with God.

I had the blessing of this experience multiple times, alone and with others. To sit in silence with others, being still in His presence. To see how the clouds drifted and the color of the sky changed over the afternoon. To hear the horses and the traffic. To have snippets of conversations with those who were there. I look forward to the upcoming conversations with those that shared the experience and those who weren’t able to. And I’m very curious to discover how God will move in me during this journey. A journey into the dark woods, a journey exploring the gifts that I usually do not consider to be gifts at all. Blessings, Dawne Carver

Joys and Concerns

Please let us know how we can support you in prayer this week. We will share requests for prayer with Deacons and staff, and with the congregation as appropriate.

Click on the image below to submit a prayer request.

Unison Prayer of Wholeness and Healing

Click the arrow below to see and hear Rev. Nicole Trotter offer this morning’s Prayer or read the Prayer below

God, this season of Lent we are called to come to you with remembrance. We look back at the year and we take a moral inventory, searching for the ways we got it wrong. By saying them out loud, if only to you, we take responsibility for the ways we were complacent in the face of injustice. We bear the burden of responsibility when any of your children suffer, and while we do our part, we confess we don’t always do what we can. In the same manner, in our homes and at work, we fall short, giving into impatience, saying hurtful words, critical and judgmental when all you ask of us is to love, through acceptance and kindness. This is the season of Lent when we don’t shy away from owning our sin, because we know that in the power of your grace, the living waters wash away our past allowing us to start again, begin afresh and get it right the next time.

Good and Gentle God, you forgive us, so that we might walk the path or righteousness and justice in love as we journey to the cross.

Amen

Faith Offering

Please continue your giving during this time, so that St. Andrew may continue to serve our local community and our membership. We recognize that some of you have been impacted financially by economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those of you who can, please continue to give on a regular basis.

There are several options available:

  • Give electronically to the St. Andrew General Fund
  • Set up your donation to St. Andrew to be paid through your bill paying service at your personal bank.
  • Mail a check to St. Andrew, or drop your envelope into our locked mail box: 16290 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476

Holy Scripture

Click the arrow below to see and hear Chris McNairy offer this morning’s Scripture Readings or read the Scripture below

Prayer for Illumination-
God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out on us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that our hearts and minds may be opened. Amen.


Scripture-
Psalm 25:1-10
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Mark 1:9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Sermon

“Come However You Are”
Mark 1:9-15
Rev. Nicole C. Trotter

Click the arrow below to see and hear Rev. Nicole Trotter’s Sermon or read the Sermon below

I have a dear friend who’s an atheist. When her daughter was born, she decided to get her baptized, and when I asked her why she would do this, as an atheist, she said …. “Just in case I’m wrong.”

That’s a fear-based decision. And it’s also rooted in a transactional understanding of God. If I do this, then God will do that. And because my friend and I talked about it, I came to discover it was also her understanding of baptism as a kind of ticket into heaven. But that’s not how we are called to understand our baptism in our reformed tradition of faith.

Just before our scripture this morning, John the baptizer has been in the wilderness calling on followers to repent for the forgiveness of sin, by getting in the river. I don’t hear John saying anything about a ticket into heaven. One of the more common understandings of the word “repent”, as translated from the Greek, is to change one’s mind. Changing ones mind in the biblical sense of repentance is more than making a different choice. It’s soulful work, and requires reflection, sometimes a somber reflection, one that can require a kind of sacrifice, because it often means that you may have to give up what you want, or think you want, in order to do what’s right, what is just, for the greater good, for good of the other, the one over there, who if you didn’t take time to think about, would be all too easy to ignore.

Part of being human is making choices. God made sure of that when God gave us free will. As my friend, Rabbi Stacy Friedman, once said, and I’m paraphrasing, we’re taught that we’re all born within us both good and evil. But she prefers another way of understanding that, which is to say that we’re all born with good and not so good.

To change one’s mind or to repent in our faith is to return to good, or return to God, to return to our baptism and immerse ourselves all over again in the covenantal grace of an unconditional love and forgiveness. 

This is my understanding of the repentance that John the baptist was yelling about in the wilderness. 

It’s a second chance, but not a final chance. It’s a new opportunity to get it right- because the God who loves us unconditionally forgives us the same way…. That doesn’t mean a free pass, as though we can do or say whatever we want, because we’re forgiven anyway.

Baptism washes us into new birth, and the babies we baptize are too young to have done anything that needs forgiveness.

Martha Moore-Keish tells the story of a a friend who had taken to telling her daughter each night before she would go to bed that she is a baptized child of God. She writes; “Now at 12 years old, I do this lightheartedly but am aware of the peer pressures she faces. I want her to claim her identity as one who is already beloved of God, who does not need to follow the latest trend or fashion to be of value in God’s sight. I hope she hears this affirmation. She certainly enjoys repeating it back to me.”

Repentance at Lent, or changing our mind, is another way of saying we deepen our commitment during Lent. Deepening our commitment can often require us to take responsibility for our past actions and to hold ourselves accountable to the values we assume when we claim to practice the fruits of the Spirit. You remember the fruits of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Some of us can still hear the children’s song for those). This is the season to take accountability for how we’re doing in those areas, personally, as a community of faith, as a nation and as a world. How are we doing in those areas lately as a nation?

Taking responsibility and being held accountable is not the same as feeling shame. Brene Brown has an entire episode in her podcast dedicated to the difference between shame and accountability and I encourage you all to listen to it if you haven’t already. Shame is a way of telling ourselves we’re bad, as opposed to being good- and doing a bad thing. She writes; We think that shaming is this great moral compass, that we can shame people into being better. But that’s not true. And then she gives an example which I’ve put into my own words…. If a child tells a lie, and you’re that child’s parent, and you choose to shame them, you call them a liar. “You’re a liar.” And if you’ve ever been a child who has been shamed by being labeled, you know it stays with you, like an identity you assume, whether you continue the actions or not, you walk around believing on some core level, that you are whatever you’ve been told.(1)

Brown writes; “Shame corrodes the part of us that believes that we can be different. “If I’m a liar, if that’s who I am, how do I ever change? How do I ever make a different decision?” The alternative is to send a different message as a parent. One that says,“You’re a good person, and you told a lie, and that behavior is not okay in this family.”

And in this family, this family of God’s, we’re adopted through baptism to a God who says I have called you by name and you’re mine… you’re good, and you have the choice to be not so good.…That choice is not made out of fear, fear of displeasing God, you belong to God, the choice is made by being unafraid…

In the words of Scholar Walter Bruggemann:
“Being unafraid is an odd vocation, but it is the vocation of those who have been baptized. The truth is that frightened people will never (turn) change the world, because they use too much energy on protection of self. It’s the vocation of the baptized, the known and named and unafraid, to make the the world whole…

• The unafraid are open to the neighbor, while the frightened are defending themselves from the neighbor. 

• The unafraid are generous in the community, while the frightened, in their anxiety, must keep and store and accumulate, to make themselves safe. 

•The unafraid commit acts of compassion and mercy, while the frightened do not notice those in need. 

• The unafraid are committed to justice for the weak and the poor, while the frightened see them only as threats. 

• The unafraid pray in the morning, care through the day, and rejoice at night in thanks and praise, while the frightened are endlessly restless and dissatisfied. 

So dear people, each of you: Do not fear! I have called you by name; you are mine!” (2)

As I said in my weekly email, Scholars love to debate this scripture. No one seems to want to accept that Jesus needed to be baptized, but maybe that’s because they’re stuck in a transactional understanding of God. But maybe Jesus didn’t need to at all, but wanted to. Maybe it was his way of saying: I’m one of you, here in the water, in the muddy water of what is good and often so hard to hold on to. Maybe it was his way of saying, I get it, and I want you to know that I get it, we’re no different, not when it comes to temptation and choice. Maybe it was his way of saying, I can’t escape the dark woods, any more than you can. For forty days and nights, he fought off temptations, as vulnerably as we do, exposed and susceptible to getting it wrong.

As Rachel Held Evans writes; Where God calls the baptized beloved, demons (whether our internal ones or the dark forces of the world) call the (baptized beloved) addict, slut, sinner, failure, worthless, faker, screwup. Where God calls her child, the demons beckon with rich powerful, pretty, important, religious, esteemed, accomplished, right.

Jesus knew that temptation all too well. And instead of choosing power over, chose the subversive power of love.

Our Lenten series is titled Gifts of the Dark Wood. Which doesn’t exactly sound like a party.

The theme itself is somewhat somber, but as most of us have experienced, those dark woods periods of our lives can be also be gifts. And while most of the time, we don’t recognize the gifts while we’re in the woods, we often find ourselves looking back to understand them that way. Some of us understand this sooner rather than later. When I asked the youth group on Wednesday why difficult periods of our lives might be considered gifts, one answered quite simply, “because you grow”.

We grow.

Our closing song in this service is titled Trusty and True. I chose it for our Ash Wednesday service and I sent it to you in my weekly email, but I was assured by a partner in ministry that it wouldn’t be overkill to include it this morning as a closing song.

As I said in my weekly email, I was first introduced to this song at Congregation Rodef Shalom in San Rafael where it was sung by the congregation at Yom Kippur services. It’s quite a powerful song when you sink into the lyrics, and even more powerful when you sing the lyrics in a room of over 200 people, all of whom have confessed the ways they got it wrong, and the ways they’ve renewed their commitment to getting it right. To do that communally in front of one another is a way of getting into the river together, the muddy waters of I get you, you get me, and we’re here together and we love one another even though we’re far from perfect. Or more accurately, because we’re far from perfect.

Or as the song sings-

We’ve wanted to be
Trusty and True
But feathers fell from our wings
And we’ve wanted to be
Worthy of you
But weather rained on our dreams

And we can’t take back what is done, what is past
So fellas, lay down your fears

‘Cause we can’t take back what is done, what is past
So let us start from here

Come, come alone
Come with fear, come with love
Come however you are
Just come, come alone
Come with friends, come with faults
Come however you are
Just come, come alone
Come with me, and let go
Come so carefully close
Come with sorrows and songs
Come however you are
Just come. (Damien Rice, Trusty and True)

So my friends, repent this Lenten Season, that is, change your mind, your whole being, not out of fear, but because you are one of the unafraid, known and loved, who comes to God just as you are, however you are. Just come.

_________________________________________________

(1) https://brenebrown.com/transcript/brene-on-shame-and-accountability/

(2) Bruggeman, A Way Other Than Our Own, Devotions for Lent

Closing Song

“Trusty and True” – by Damian Rice

Licensed to Youtube by: WMG (on behalf of East West Records UK Ltd); PEDL, Warner Chappell, LatinAutorPerf, CMRRA, LatinAutor – Warner Chappell, ASCAP, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, and 7 Music Rights Societies – CCLI #885509

Benediction Song

“Benediction” – by Josh Garrels

Licensed to YouTube by AdRev for a 3rd Party (on behalf of Music Bed (Music Bed)); AdRev Publishing, and 1 Music Rights Societies – CCLI #885509

Benediction Lyrics-
May all of your days shine brightly
And your nights blessed with peace
Wherever you lay down to sleep
And all things are made good
For those who believe
May you grow from a seed
Into a strong, fruitful tree

As the days unfold
Hold your breath to see
Life is a mystery
And joy, it is severe
When the way is rough and steep
But love will make your days complete

And may the work of your hands help those in need
Befriend the lonely, serve the weak
And forgive enemies
And if you find true love, one day marry
Bear a child from your seed
Help it to grow into a tree

As the days unfold
Hold your breath to see
Life is a mystery
And joy, it is severe
When the way is rough and steep
Love will make your days complete

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