Welcome to St. Andrew

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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 28 – 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 28, 2021

Gifts of the Dark Woods

“Cross Stitched Letters”
Rev. Nicole C. Trotter

Welcome to this “virtual” worship service for Sunday, February 28, 2021
Many thanks for technical assistance / contributions from Ron Moser, Amy Cox, Rev. Nicole Trotter, Tracy Walthard, Kelsey Walthard, and Dawne Carver.

Opening Visual Liturgy

“Dayspring of Life” 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 M. Shuman or read the Prayer below

Written by Thom M. Shuman

Holy One,

Choosing an aged, barren couple
to parent your holy people;
calling us to set aside ourselves
and to shoulder a cross;
showering us with love and mercy,
when we do nothing to deserve these gifts:
You always act in ways
which surprise us,
God of our parents.

In hospital rooms,
where we wait in anxious expectation;
in classrooms,
where we chew on pencils while taking tests;
in this unholy mess
we call life:
you always call us
to faithfulness and trust:
Cross Bearer for us all.

In the warmth of spring’s approach,
we hear your voice;
in the moonlight of winter’s last night,
we see your face;
in the silence of a child sleeping,
we are breathe in your grace:
you are always with us
in the ordinary moments of life:
Spirit of Holiness.

God in Community, Holy One,
May we see you, hear you, and know you
as we move through this Lenten season,

Amen.

Opening Music

“True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper – Performed by Camden Voices

Video production, arrangement & piano by: Ed Blunt, Mixed and mastered by: Dan Bryer – CCLI #885509

Discovery Time & Sunday School

Click the arrow to watch Tracy Walthard 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 28th:

Preschool Bottom Line for the week of February 28th:

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 28th:

Grades K-5 Bottom Line for the week of February 28th:

Message for Youth

As I write this, we, the youth group, are planning to fast for 30 hours. (As you read this, we will have completed our fast.) Thirteen youth and two adults are going to go without food for 30 hours. We are going to look deeper into what effects poverty and hunger have on children, their families and the community. We get to remember that we have the opportunity and responsibility to be part of helping our brothers and sisters. And hopefully we will raise money. Money that will go to SOS (Sonoma Overnight Support), helping those people living on the streets and to Romania where we are in partnership to help the Roma community with food, water and God’s word.

This is my 15th year doing a fast. Each year is a little different. Each year, I learn something new. Each year, my eyes are opened to where you and I get to say “yes” to God. And to say “no” to self. 

Usually, the youth and leaders gather at the church, play games, do service projects and look at what scripture has to teach us about serving those in need. We are together, supporting each other as we really explore what it’s like to live on so little, allowing ourselves to ask the hard questions of God and teasing each other as our stomachs grumble while we talk about the foods we can’t wait to eat. We have the food put away and we are distracted from our hunger by being together.

This year, we are going to challenge ourselves even more by doing our fast at home. Doing a fast surrounded by family, a humming refrigerator and full pantry! We will still have activities, a service project and scripture. We just won’t be at the church. Instead we will be adding texts and zoom time to support each other on the journey. A journey that will look and feel different and have a different set of challenges. The challenge (and discipline needed) when being surrounded by the snacks on the counter, the call of the refrigerator and the smell of the family’s meals. Challenges that will hopefully take us deeper on the journey. And hopefully I will gain a deeper insight to the homeless person who walks by the restaurant or the bakery with the aroma permeating the air of the food that they can’t afford to have. Hopefully, I will gain a deeper sense of the daily struggles of where to eat, sleep, and find clean water that you and I enjoy and take for granted each day.

It’s interesting experiencing peoples’ reactions when I tell them I’m fasting and raising money for those who are in need. “Why would you do that? That doesn’t sound like fun!” “Can’t you raise money without the fast?” These are just a couple of questions asked (usually with a bewildered look on their face) and my answers are simple: We fast to raise awareness and money for those that don’t have. (I’m having a conversation right now and you are thinking of poverty and hunger.) That I’m blessed and in my gratitude I want to give back. That experiencing the fast as a group is fun and challenging. And God calls us to help those in need. In fact the Bible has a lot to say about helping people in need. 

And, yes, we could raise money without fasting. We could have a bake sale or a car wash. Yet when you and I sacrifice by giving up food and time from friends and family, God does something inside of us. I’m more compassionate about what it must be like to not get to eat. I recognize that I have plenty and in my gratitude, I’m more willing to give, to serve others. I see people more with God’s eyes, with God’s love. 

Sometimes, it’s hard to miss a celebration or a sporting event. Sometimes it’s hard to give up food and time for the fast. Yet we still fast, we still learn a deeper compassion for all God’s children and we learn that we have a responsibility to help those in need. And, finally, we learn that helping others actually blesses us as well. Blessings, Dawne Carver

If you would like to donate please click on this link

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 of all Goodness, we are so grateful for the beauty with which You grace our lives. Too often, we shy away from the shadows of life. We want to avoid and numb the effects of stillness, silence, and darkness. We want to look the other way when injustice thrives, convincing ourselves we can’t make a difference. Like Peter we want to deny the pain of the crosses we bear. Help us to endure in the waiting, in the unknown. Give us trust that to deny ourselves and take up a cross is to carry the power of Your radical love wherever we go. By Your grace and our determination we devote ourselves to Your son who taught us to pray together saying….

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. 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 Rev. Nicole Trotter offer this morning’s Scripture Readings or read the Scripture below

Mark 8:31-38

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Sermon

Cross Stitched Letters
Mark 8:31-38
Rev. Nicole C. Trotter

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

Cross Roads

Dear Justice Minded Ones,

Those of you who take up the cross and carry it into the community and world around you, you’re on the cross roads of faith. If you’re listening, and I know you’re out there, I want you to know the world needs you, God needs you. Whether you’re advocating for yourself or on behalf of others, may God continue to bless you in your passion and your energy. That’s the good news of the Gospel in action. It’s not unlike where I imagine Peter and the disciples are in this morning’s passage. They’re ready to go, maybe they have signs in their front yards, T-shirts made, tweeting away. They’re ready to enact change. They want their homeland restored to wholeness and peace. They’re fighting the good fight, against the Roman empire which divides them. They stand to free the captives, the oppressed, the weak and marginalized. Their call is yours: to restore justice so that all God’s people can thrive in a system that is just. To you, Dear One, the one to whom this letter is addressed, I say, “Amen, good and faithful servant, onward Christian soldiers, they will know you by your love.”

And, and in this morning’s scripture, Jesus says, but before you head out, know this: If you’re following me in this work, you’re signing up for a journey that will be anything but easy. Roadblocks will require you to face moments of despair that moves beyond the usual frustrations of local politics. There will be moments, dark woods moments that have you questioning your faith in humanity as you witness the world as an all too selfish place, with people looking out for themselves, their interests, their individual pursuits of happiness, as though what happens to their neighbors doesn’t seem to matter at all, unless it affects them directly. We all think we want to house the unsheltered, as long as they’re not sheltered in our backyard. We all think we want social programs that provide health services and food, as long as it doesn’t hit our wallets too hard. And for this shortcoming, we are no different from Peter, to whom Jesus said: you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Jesus says, this work requires you to carry a cross. There’s a cross to bear when we follow Christ. There’s pain and suffering in this work. It may even be a thankless job, so check your motivation, because if you’re looking for glory, if you’re looking to be thanked and applauded, if you’re looking for the seat of honor, you’re on the wrong path. If you want to be esteemed for your work, there are other ways. We live in a world that will applaud us for so many things, and the more we focus on only our own self interest, the more we may be applauded. But there’s another choice, says Jesus. To deny your self, to take a different position, one of humility, for Christ’s sake, for the sake of the Gospel, says Jesus. Kingdom building is not always a feel- good endeavor, despite the fact that we live in a feel-good culture.

For you, Dear Disciple, Jesus wants to remind you that if you want to be reborn, there will be a death in the process. Societies don’t change overnight, and as we’ve witnessed throughout history, the ways we’ve always done things doesn’t mean they’re right and just, and maybe, like the song says, maybe it’s time to let the old ways die. Following Christ, and taking up the cross is a path that often runs counter to the norms. Jesus says to you “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.” That’s one of the great paradoxes of our faith and the best way to understand it is to experience it. At our last Deacons meeting, one dear deacon described how her days preparing and serving meals to the unsheltered fly by and never does she feel so good. Good, as in purposeful, with meaning, much like finding your life, by losing it in service to others. When we’re doing something for God, we lose ourselves in it, only to find we’ve discovered a new version of ourselves.

And, as Jesus wants to remind us, it won’t be easy. The movements of today, whether local or national, will be met with roadblocks. There will be those who disagree with you, who argue with you, who tell you you’re wrong. There will be those you’re advocating for who are different from you, who might tell you they don’t want your help, that you’re part of the problem. There will be moments when you may find that to be be true, because some of us benefit from the system we’re fighting to change.

Peter had a plan. A plan rooted in the messianic promise that God would restore the land to wholeness and a new king would reign, bringing the Roman Empire to its knees. And Jesus points out, it looks different than the way Peter had planned. If the empire powers over and rules through fear and intimidation, Jesus chooses to die under that power and then through the subversive power of love, God has the last word on Easter, making His power universally available to anyone willing to lose their old ways of being and find His new way of living.

I’ll end this letter with this edited prayer by Mother Teresa, who knew all too well what it meant to take up a cross:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Amen.

Cross My Heart

Dear One at Home Suffering a Personal Dark Woods,

I know this wasn’t part of the plan. I’m not sure what your individual plan was, but I’m willing to bet the death, the diagnosis, the chronic pain, your child suffering depression, the job loss, the anxiety, addiction, divorce, you can fill in the blank… Whatever has you feeling lost in these dark woods moments of life without a clear path, was not part of the plan, even though we’ve lived long enough to know that none of us are immune to these moments, whatever form they might take.

To you I want to say, I know this dark place, but more importantly, I want to say Jesus knows this place all too well. The cross you carry may be your own, but when understood in the context of our faith- you don’t carry it alone.

John O Donahue, in his Blessing for the Interim Time, talks about our ability to endure these dark moments as a way to refine our hearts, in preparation for a new dawn.

In part, he writes-

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.

The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

The arrival in the new dawn sounds like an Easter morning moment. God gifts re-birth moments to us multiple times over the course of a lifetime. We like to be an Easter people, eager to get to the butterflies of Easter, but Jesus asks us to endure with Him, the darkness of Good Friday and the waiting of Holy Saturday. The world wants to sell us the belief that if we just think positively enough, our pain will go away. And Jesus says, not on this path. This path is one of contemplation. It requires endurance, faithful endurance that will refine your heart. The longer you can stay in the discomfort of not knowing what’s next, in the dark, the more you can deny yourself or desire for a quick fix, the more room God has to transform and transfigure your life from what it was to what it can be. That’s not an easy path, but it’s one that saves you for the temptations of your own despair. I’ve never known anyone to walk out of the dark woods unchanged, or not reborn in some way.

Mother Teresa, as you know, was a Catholic, and in the Catholic faith is the practice of making the sign of the cross over one’s heart. I’d like to suggest you try this occasionally. The cross, over our heart, each time one prays, as a reminder of what the cross gives us. Death and life. God gives us both, not once but continually.

Cross Product

I suppose there’s a third letter in me this morning-

Dear St. Andrew Community,

I’ve been through a number of dark woods moments in my life, or what St. John refers to as the dark night of the soul. Here’s what I can testify to: While I wouldn’t wish those times on anyone, and while I don’t want to return there, I can also say I’ve been changed in ways I thank God for. Each time I return to God, I return to a new understanding of God, myself and my responsibility to others. Each time the light returns in the darkness it’s with a new quality of joy, a new set of eyes, a new way of understanding. I can say this because I never feel it’s by my own doing, but always through an understanding of what God is doing, the kind of understanding that brings me to my knees in humility.

I had a backyard visit on Sunday afternoon with a man who described this kind of humility better than I can. As I listened to him, my eyes welled up in tears, something I try not to do when listening to other peoples’ journeys. I try instead to hold it together to be there for them, because it should never be about me, I tell myself. But in this moment, it was about me, in the sense that it was about Christ, and Christ in him that was touching Christ in me, and for a moment, there was no separation.

Or in the words of scripture, in that moment of shared cross bearing, shared re-birth and shared humility, we were one in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Closing Song

“The Bay Area Blessing” – Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the San Francisco Bay Area – Original Song “The Blessing” by Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Elevation Worship. Written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Steven Furtick.

Licensed to Youtube by: SME (on behalf of Elevation Worship Records); BMI – Broadcast Music Inc., LatinAutor – UMPG, SOLAR Music Rights Management, LatinAutor – SonyATV, Essential Music Publishing, CAIOS Co Ltd, Capitol CMG Publishing, Adorando Brazil, LatinAutorPerf, Adorando Publishing, and 12 Music Rights Societies- CCLI #885509

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