Welcome to St. Andrew

Scroll Down to Experience This Virtual Worship Service

Due to our In-Person, Outdoor Worship Service* this morning, we will not hold our All Church Coffee Hour this week – staff will be busy on-site.

Please join us next week – Sunday, November 22nd, for our Coffee Hour Fellowship on Zoom!


*Reservations are now closed for this week’s outdoor service. If you hoped to attend and didn’t get a chance to RSVP, we hope you will join us next time. Information coming soon!

SUNDAY – NOVEMBER 15, 2020

“The Great Gratitude Experiment”


Rev. Jan Reynolds

Welcome to this “virtual” worship service for Sunday, November 15, 2020

Many thanks for technical assistance / contributions from Ron Moser, Amy Cox, Rev. Jan Reynolds, Monica Bolanos, Tracy Walthard, Kelsey Walthard, and Dawne Carver.

Opening Hymn

“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”, words by Henry Alford (1844), Music by George J. Elvey (1858) – Performed by Lifeway Worship – Photographs of Harlan County, Kentucky by Vickie Ball

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Discovery Time & Sunday School

Click the arrow to watch Monica Bolanos present Discovery Time:

Our Sunday School Lessons for today are as follows:

PRESCHOOL LESSON:

Preschool Memory Verse for November:

Click the arrow below to watch the Sunday School video for our Preschool children for Sunday, November 15th:

Preschool Bottom Line for the week of November 15th:

GRADES K-5 LESSON:

Grades K-5 Memory Verse for November:

Click the arrow below to watch the Sunday School video for our Kindergarten – 5th Grade children for Sunday, November 15th:

Grades K-5 Bottom Line for the week of November 15th:

Message for Youth

Are your words blessing others? Are the words positive or negative? Are they encouraging or disheartening? Our words are powerful. And we say a lot of words each day! Encouraging words fill people with life, with hope! Yet negative words are more common. Why is that?

My mom always cautioned me in regard to my words. She would tell me that the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” was not true at all. She said that once words were spoken, they could be forgiven but the words were not forgotten and that I should choose carefully. She also said that when angry, I should calm down before speaking. She was speaking from her experience. My mom had a lot of angry words spoken to her.

The Bible talks about the power in our words and to be careful with our speech:

“Gentle words may bring life and health; deceitful tongues crush the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so you that your words will be an encouragement to those that hear them.” Ephesians 4:29

“Let your speech always be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6

We talk a lot in youth group about building each other up with our words, not tearing each other down. That we need to share words of hope, encouragement and love. Our words should be a blessing on others and ourselves. We should use our words to inspire and let others know they matter. Toby Mac has a song “Speak Life”. I love this song because it makes me think before I say anything (most of the time). The song reminds me to speak hope, love and life. That I have the power to brighten or darken someone’s day. That my words can be a blessing.

It’s not always easy to be uplifting. It takes practice and God’s help. Life has its daily struggles. Sometimes in my struggles, I lash out. Yet that is when I need to be extra aware of my words. When I’m exhausted, stressed out or fearful, my words aren’t always uplifting. I feel bad afterwards. And, I missed an opportunity to be a blessing to someone else.

We need to speak words of encouragement, to speak truth in love. The world has enough negative words. Let’s build each other up with our words. Speak hope today and be a blessing and a light in someone’s life. 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.

Prayer

Click the arrow below to read and hear Ron Moser read this morning’s Prayer or read the Prayer below

May we join hands around the dinner table,
To pray for the strength and patience to love one another.
May our circle grow with every birth and union,
Into a community united by love.

May every hardship make our circle stronger.
May it teach us that whenever we reach out in need,
Our hands will always be clasped in the palms of others.

– Taz Tagore

And now we pray as Jesus taught us:

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

Thankful for our God who grants our lives on earth.

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

DOXOLOGY

“Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”, words by Thomas Ken (1674), Tune: OLD HUNDREDTH – performed by Heidi Nadine

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Scripture

Click the arrow below to read and hear Amy Cox read this morning’s Scripture or read the Scripture below

Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

2 Corinthians 9:8-12 
And God can provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,
“God scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
  his righteousness endures forever.”
God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.

Sermon

“The Great Gratitude Experiment”

November 15, 2020

Rev. Jan Reynolds

Click the arrow below to see and hear Rev. Jan Reynolds’ Sermon or read the Sermon below

Ok, I Confess: there are quite a few situations where I don’t feel particularly grateful. I’ve been grumbling a lot over these last months. Thankfully, I’m in good company. With some of you, perhaps. And there are many Bible scenes with complaining people! “The manna that falls from heaven each morning is boring!” “Why does my brother get a party thrown in his honor?” “Who gets to sit on Jesus’ right side?”

Gratitude isn’t some simplistic platitude… thankfulness takes effort, practice and sometimes discipline. Actually, I think it’s courageous to practice gratitude in the face of all the difficulties we are experiencing perhaps in our homes, our country and the world.

Fortunately, each of us has the free will to kickstart the neurobiological feedback loop of gratitude! There is a spiral of well-being that is triggered by small acts of generosity and thankfulness.

I find it comforting to know that 80% of all people in the US practice gratitude, regardless of their spiritual tradition. The great majority of humans understand that we are dependent upon others and goodness beyond ourselves for our very sustenance. Having a sense of knowing one’s place in the great interconnected ecological and universal system gives us perspective. It’s life-giving when we are aware of the amazing interwoven web of all creation that sustains us.

Of course, Jesus was a Jew, and the very heart of the Jewish tradition is gratitude! Every devout Jewish person was and is devoted to and practicing two daily forms of prayer. One is called the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Because the Jews see God as their great benefactor, they pray the Shema every day and post it on their doorposts.

Then the other form of regular Jewish prayer is called the 18, or the 18 benedictionsBenediction means Good Words. In Hebrew, a benediction was any prayer that began with the word bless. To bless is to speak good to someone.

The ancient Rabbis taught that everything is a gift. The general principle that they lived by was to bless God for everything. And this practice marked Jesus’ life. They had blessings for meals, visiting a holy place, blessings for rain, blessings for completing a home and even blessings for going to the bathroom!

Gratitude comes when you see ordinary things as they really are, particularly our blessings. All of life comes from a wonderful benefactor, and we are the grace-filled recipients.

I just finished reading the book Run by Ann Patchett. One of her characters, an aging priest, is on the brink of death. He begins to wonder at the end of his life, whether pining for the afterlife was overrated. He realizes as he is about to leave this life, that

“God was in the folds of his bathrobe, the ache of his knees. God saturated the hallways in the form of a pale electrical light. … Father Sullivan now hoped to elevate the present to a state of the divine. It seemed from this moment of repose that God may well have been life itself. God may have been the baseball games, God could have been the masses in which he told people how best to prepare for the glorious life everlasting, the one they couldn’t see as opposed to the one they were living at that exact moment in the pews of the church hall, washed over in the stained glass light. How wrongheaded it seemed now to think that the thrill of heartbeat and breath were just a steppingstone to something greater. What could be greater than the armchair, the window, the snow? Life itself had been holy. We had been brought forth from nothing to see the face of God in this life!”

We can heed this poignant understanding. Let’s not let our lives go by without recognizing that we are seeing the face of God in everything we’ve been given.

Jesus knew what it was like to live with this kind of gratitude, connected to God the Father in this life. Jesus knew God in the celebrations, in the healing, in the water at baptism and at the well, in the meals he shared with his friends. Jesus saw God in the Temple, yes, but also in his walks among the multitudes from town to town, in the conversations by the seaside. In the touch of an outcast woman on his robe.

Jesus’ own way of life teaches us how to run a great experiment of gratitude. Let’s get fully engaged in this gratitude experiment! Here are a few ways to dive in:

First, consider writing a “gratitude letter”. Think of somebody who has impacted your life for good, somebody who you have known for quite a while perhaps: a friend, a mentor, an encourager, somebody without whom you’d be a different person. Then take your time and write them a letter telling why you are grateful to God for them. Then if you can, call them up and say you want to meet with them face to face, even social distanced. Tell them why you are grateful for them and deliver your letter. One study from the University of Pennsylvania found that people who wrote and delivered a heartfelt thank-you letter actually felt happier for a full month afterward!

Gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for the “big” things in life. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life and recognizing that there is nothing too small to be thankful for.

Opening our eyes to more of the world around you can deeply enhance your gratitude practice. Make a game out of noticing new things each day. Even if it is as simple as appreciating the clear air we are now breathing or that the lines in the grocery store were fast moving today, or the checker was especially kind. The more specific and smaller the gift received, the more our lives will overbrim with the satisfaction of gratitude.

And yes, as so many of you have discovered in this time of Covid and political anxiety, we can find gratitude everywhere, even in our challenges. Gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences. In fact, sometimes thinking about negative or difficult situations can help to really nail down what we are truly thankful for. Dig a little deeper into some of your own challenging times and see how they have helped shape you into the person you are today.

This year may indeed be a sadder Thanksgiving. Because of Covid, many families are foregoing the travel necessary to visit this year. Our memories can sustain us, full of gratitude for the people we will not see, even our relatives who can be a challenge to us at times. In fact, what a wonderful opportunity to think back at all the tables of Thanksgiving past, imagining and thanking the people who will never join at the table again.

We can keep the gratitude and giving cycle in play as described in our 2nd Corinthians passage.

Giving, serving and volunteering in response to your own gratitude is the single most reliable way to increase your own well-being. In other words: helping others helps us create an unending cycle of generosity and gratitude.

Scientists say it only takes eight weeks of gratitude practice for people to start showing changed brain patterns leading to greater empathy and happiness. So, if you keep a gratitude list each day, noticing what you are grateful for, your brain will “rewire” to habitually experience more gratefulness, and you’ll regularly feel happier and more content.

God’s cycle of gratitude and giving never stops. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect on the things they experience, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.

When we practice gratitude, we simultaneously feel humble and lifted that we should be the recipients of such grace and generosity ourselves. No wonder that our heart rate goes down and the good hormones surge when we are practicing gratitude.

Every small gift from God is something to celebrate in gratitude. Enjoy this Thanksgiving Season for what it presents to us… an opportunity to praise God from whom all blessings flow!

All God’s Blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving season.

Closing Hymn

“Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty” – by Joachim Neander and Stralsund Ernewerten Gesangbuch – Catherine Winkworth (English Translation), Tune: LOBE DEN HERREN – Performed by Altar of Praise Men’s Chorale

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