Welcome to St. Andrew

Scroll Down to Experience This Virtual Worship Service

In addition to this Virtual Worship Service, you are invited to join us on Zoom for the
All Church Coffee Hour
Sunday, March 14 – 10:00am – 11:00am
It will be a time for Check-in, Birthday Blessing, Prayers, Communion (bring something to eat and drink – it can be anything you have on hand) and 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 – MARCH 14, 2021

Gifts of the Dark Woods

“The Backdrop of God”
Rev. Nicole C. Trotter

Many thanks for technical assistance / contributions from Ron Moser, Amy Cox, Rev. Nicole Trotter, Tracy Walthard, Kelsey Walthard, and Dawne Carver.

Opening Song

“I Have Made Mistakes” – by The Oh Hellos

Mistakes, broken promises, doubt and fear are part of our human condition, but as this song reminds us in the chorus – The rain will strengthen our soul and make us whole.

Licensed to YouTube by: WMG; LatinAutor – PeerMusic, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, LatinAutorPerf, Sony ATV Publishing, WAMA, Inc., CMRRA, and 9 Music Rights Societies

Opening Video Visual Liturgy – A meditation and prayer

“A New Mind” This video is beautiful and packed with questions and worth every minute. Take what you like

The Work of the People – Ben Thomas

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 March:

Click the arrow below to watch the Sunday School video for our Preschool children for Sunday, March 14th:

Preschool Bottom Line for the week of March 14th:

GRADES K-5 LESSON:

Grades K-5 Memory Verse for March:

Click the arrow below to watch the Sunday School video for our Kindergarten – 5th Grade children for Sunday, March 14th:

Grades K-5 Bottom Line for the week of March 14th:

Message for Youth

If you have ever been on caravan (or a youth trip where I am driving!), you have probably experienced one of my “Adventures”. Some call it getting lost. I call it going on an adventure! It sounds so much better. It’s as if I chose to go on another path instead of finding myself lost. Yet no matter how I word it, it still means that I went off the direct path. That the way I had planned to go isn’t the way I am going.

We all get lost in our lives. Lost in direction, lost in our jobs/schools, lost in a relationship, lost in sorrow or lost in what our next step is. We find ourselves in the dark woods, sometimes having no idea how we got there and many times not knowing where to turn next. And that is where you and I can choose. Do I choose to see the gift of being lost? How am going to react to being lost? “What gift?”, you ask. There are gifts. Here are a couple that resonate with me: The gift of looking around, really looking around with new eyes. The gift of being still and being more aware of what is around me. Of hearing things that were being drowned out in my everyday life. The gift of asking for help. Those are all gifts if we choose to view it that way.

On my driving adventures, we would see new areas and we would start looking at the signs around us. I became more focused on the area and the next step to our destination. I would listen more intently to the person with the map. There were a lot of jokes and definitely memories being made on those adventures.

Sometimes being lost is frustrating. Sometimes scary. Sometimes freeing. Sometimes it completely derails me from where I was going and the plans I had made. And that’s where God steps in. Allowing me to turn to Him. Letting Him show me His path for me. A path that I’ve wandered off from. And that’s when the true adventure really begins.

This is a time for you and me to look at our lives. To see where we are lost. This is the time to be still, with an open mind, listening ears and with an open curiosity to where God is leading. He will make our path clear. You and I just need to ask, and then be patient as the path becomes clear and we find ourselves walking out of the woods and once again into the light. Blessings, Dawne Carver

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

Prayer for Illumination – Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen

Numbers 21:4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.”So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Sermon

“The Backdrop of God”

Rev. Nicole C. Trotter

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

Good morning, St. Andrew. I really miss being with you live. Now that I’ve had a taste of outdoor worship, I can say that it’s quite a lovely experience. For those who haven’t been I encourage you, if you’re comfortable, to try that. But even more than that I want to plug our live Zoom worship, which will be happening hopefully for the first time on Palm Sunday. If all should go well technically, that is our hope. There will be lots of little surprises for you on that day and I do hope that you can attend. It will give us the opportunity to be together in one space, in live time. I’m very excited about that. It’s been such a good experience, too, to get to know so many of you. This church is really a blessing in so many ways. This week I’m probably most aware of what a blessing it is to listen to your stories and your journeys with God. You are an incredibly aware group of people and I’m not sure that I have anything new to tell you, maybe only new ways of telling it. So, with that in mind, let’s pray…

And now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

I’m pretty sure what I’m about to say may place me in the minority, but I miss the long East Coast winters. I’ve never gotten used to the shorter winters here, despite having lived longer on this coast than I did on the East Coast. Every February when the pink leaves being to open, and the sun begins to warm, I feel a sense of anxiety like a hum that says, I’m not ready, I need more “wintering” time.

Wintering is a term I learned from the writer Katherine May who has a book by that same title. In it she writes;

“Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Wintering is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”(1) I had to look up the word crucible because the play by Arthur Miller is so prominent in my memory. But crucible is “leading to the creation of something new”. So winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible, leading to the creation of something new.

You could say the experience of this pandemic year has been a crucible, or one long period of wintering. But wintering takes on different meanings for different people. When I say I miss wintering, I mean on the couch with a warm blanket. That’s not true for those with no shelter from the harshest parts of this wintering pandemic. Many have been required to be on the front lines, to work harder, to show up whether they like it or not. The same is true for parents who have to work harder at caring for children out of school. Many are out of jobs, out of homes, out of food. Wintering is not just a cozying up to a fire with a blanket. Winter can also bring exposure to brutal winds and sub-zero temperatures for those who have been exposed to illness, death and grief. 

The Israelites in this morning’s scripture are experiencing just that kind of storm, a long period in the wilderness, hungry and tired-

(Numbers 21:4-5) the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”

And so what does God do? (Numbers 21:6) God sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.

This is not one of those bedtime bible stories we read to toddlers. And as far as I know there’s no pretty morning hymn written for it. But to skip over the difficult scriptures (as I was tempted to do) would be a disservice to God and all of us. God’s response in this scripture is not what we want to hear. Which is why I shied away from it. 

The Israelites wanted an end to the harsh wilderness, and rightly so. They’re hungry and unsheltered. They began to wonder if they weren’t better off in slavery. Rabbi Rav Miller describes this as a complaint against God’s grace after being given so many miracles. (2)

That’s part of what makes God’s response so difficult to read. The Israelites’ response is a very human response. We all tend to forget the grace we’ve been given in the past, when we’re in the middle of our current suffering. We’re a forgetful people. We forget the grace that saved us in the last storm, when we find ourselves in the middle of the next. When life falls apart we begin to doubt whether it will all work out again this time. Even though in some intellectual way we know it, our all too human hearts fall apart in fear and we begin to lose faith that God can see us through.

We forget, that’s why remembering is so central in the Hebrew Bible…we forget. And God’s response in this scripture feels awful to imagine, but I don’t believe we’re supposed to get stuck there. The scripture continues for a reason. There’s more to the story…

When we understand this passage in its entirety, we can understand it the same way that Katherine May described wintering, as a period where transformation occurs. 

God is the God of second chances….

The people appeal to Moses, 

Numbers 21:7-9 
“We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.”

So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.”

Rabbi Miller refers to the serpent as the representation of the Yetzer harrah or evil inclination. (3) (or what I referred to a few weeks ago as the not so good inclination.(4)) This is also what we might refer to as sin, which when translated from Hebrew to English is to “miss the mark, go astray, off the path.” The serpent is representative of that ability in us all. But The serpent, or snake, is a formidable threat because it’s quiet, it blends in with its surroundings, it sneaks up on you.(5) It’s insidious in that way, elusive, until it strikes. I can think of many things like that in my own life, qualities that when kept unchecked, when left unaware, will grow like an invasive plant, until I no longer recognize myself. Things like gossip, criticism, vapid kinds of judgement, complaints. On the one hand I’m all for complaining to God when it’s warranted. It’s part of our human inclination to complain when we’re hungry, to feel impatient when we’re in pain. The Israelites and many of us in the tradition of the prophets can hear our lament, but they are never meant be so loud that they drown out our thanksgiving for the God who has graced us in the past.

God tells Moses to take this symbol of all the ways we get it wrong and make a bronze statue out of it- to be used for healing. God takes what is a representation of something we are all vulnerable to, something that hides like a snake in the grass, and raises it up for all to see, with God’s sky as the backdrop. And then uses this same symbol as a conduit for healing when looked at, when faced. We complain, we forget, we have a long list of the ways we follow our inclination of not so good. We don’t face the ways we got it wrong in a vacuum. They’re lifted up and set against the backdrop of God. The God created sky reaches beyond our comprehension. The more we can face our shortcomings against the light of that sky, the more we are healed by the God of endless second chances.

This is hard for us to do. Especially as protestants. We’re pretty polite, especially at church. We like to keep that which is unpleasant swept under the rug or pew. Now, I didn’t grow up that way. I grew up in New York, half Italian. Not only didn’t we sweep anything under the rug, we also had absolutely no ability to filter our thoughts, which as it turns out is no better than sweeping things under the rug, just a different set of problems.

There’s a middle ground. It’s born over time. It’s the wisdom that comes from having courage. And I prefer Brene Brown’s way of defining that word, courage. She says, Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — is from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart” — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell the story of who I am with my whole heart without saying a whole lot of things that might make you rethink your choice in a pastor. It’s what Brown calls the power of vulnerability. Those who are able to express vulnerability are what Brown calls the whole hearted. The whole hearted have the ability to let go of who they think they should be in order to be who they are. They believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful. They don’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor do they talk about it being excruciating — They just talk about it being necessary. Brown came to understand vulnerability as the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears, she writes, vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. (6)

God lifts up the symbol of our greatest vulnerability as something to be seen- not something to keep hidden and ashamed of, but as a reminder that when placed up high with the God of the earth and skies placed behind it as a backdrop, we have the courage to love that God with our whole heart, be dependent on that God with all of our soul, and to be grateful to that God for the healing which brings life that which is seemingly dead in winter.

Katherine May, writer of Wintering, continues-
…my understanding now, as I get older, of being human, is that my life is fundamentally cyclical, that everything repeats itself, that nothing lasts. And that sounds very nihilistic, but I don’t think it is, actually. I think that if we can truly grasp and believe in how fleeting this life is, how delicate, how subject to powers beyond our control, that we can begin to set our minds to a better way of living within it. That, for me, is humanity.

That for me, is eternal life. This life, the one that endures that which only seems to be dead in winter. Jesus Christ was lifted up on a cross and lifted up from a tomb and is held up…with an outpouring of love upon us, cyclically, continuously though this life and eternally.

Or in the words of John’s Gospel – And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Amen.

___________________________________

(1) https://onbeing.org/programs/katherine-may-how-wintering-replenishes/
(2) MyJewishlearning.com
(3) MyJewishlearning.com
(4) “Not so Good” Spoken by Rabbi Stacy Friedman, Rodef Sholom, in a Yom Kippur Sermon
(5) MyJewishlearning.com
(6)https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability/transcript?language=en#t-1023701

Special Music

Second Chances – by Gregory Alan Isakov

The chorus of this song sings – If it weren’t for second chances we’d all be alone. It is through Christ, the One who came down to be God With Us, Emmanuel, that we are never alone and given endless second chances by the One whose very being breathes forgiveness through love.

Licensed to YouTube by: SuitcaseTown (on behalf of Suitcase Town Music); UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, Audiam (Publishing), LatinAutor, SODRAC, ASCAP, UMPI, LatinAutorPerf, and 16 Music Rights Societies

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.

Pastoral Prayer followed by the Lord’s Prayer

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

Gracious God, we’ve reached a year-

A year of sheltering and grief.
A year of hope and hopes lost.
A year of plans made and plans canceled.
A year of fear and of reassurance.
A year of gratitude and deep joy for a new sense of a precious life worth embracing.

We are growing impatient and and want to follow our impulses. Help us not to rush the process but to ask-

Where have we been?
What have we learned?

Help us to pause and breathe for lives lost, for grief still processing, for healing that needs to take place, for those who are still waiting for vaccinations, jobs, and openings. Help us to look forward with gratitude for a renewed appreciation for touch, bodies in pews, reunions.

Your time is not our time. And life prevails. Renew our trust in the One who walked to the cross not to rush the process but to endure for the sake of those He loved. And let us pray together the prayer He taught us to pray 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

Closing Song

“River” – by Leon Bridges

This powerful song carries us into the smooth waters that carry all that’s gone wrong away, and brings us into a new way of living, a new way of knowing, a new life.

Licensed to YouTube by: SME (on behalf of Legacy Recordings); Sony ATV Publishing, Downtown Music Publishing, ASCAP, LatinAutor – SonyATV, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, SOLAR Music Rights Management, Global Music Rights LLC, CMRRA, LatinAutorPerf, and 18 Music Rights Societies

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