A Meditation 

When I was a youngster, my dentist father would take me to his office sometimes in the evening to watch him do his lab work. Among his tasks, I watched him deftly and precisely sculpt teeth, dentures, and bridges. Sculpting is the best word to describe how he shaped and polished something that, once it was fitted into place, would enable someone to do what humans should be able to take for granted: eating, speaking, and smiling.

He was also a goldsmith who cast fillings and inlays. These took the greatest precision because they needed to drop right into place with the smallest tolerance for deviation from where they would nestle in the jaw and mouth of a the patient.

In the book of Malachi, we read the passage: For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. (Malichi 3:3)” This process is done not with a small flame, but rather a jet of fire, fortified with extra oxygen and pressure. You can feel the power of the heat that virtually make everything nearby vibrate, roil and dance. The goal is not merely to melt the gold and its alloy, but crucially to burn off any impurities, call dross. Melted and purified in a crucible, the gold spits and shimmers until absolutely pure.

This is how the prophet Malichi describes the preparing of John the Baptist, to give him strength, courage, and wisdom to be Israel’s last great prophet. John would herald the coming of Jesus, whom Christians believe would be the Messiah. John was worthy, sacred, and powerful to the task.                                    Pastor Neil

OPENING ACCLAMATION

Celebrant and people We gather together as we live our lives, in the name of the ☩ Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins;
People His mercy endures forever.
Celebrant Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

THE COLLECT OF THE DAY

Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

THE LITURGY OF THE WORD

A READING FROM MALACHI, AT THE 3RD CHAPTER

Malachi 3:1-4
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Reader The Word of the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.

LET US READ FROM LUKE 1 RESPONSIVELY
The Song of Zechariah
Luke 1: 68-79
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies, *
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the most high, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

THE EPISTLE
A reading from Philippians, at the 1ST chapter
Philippians 1:3-11
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Reader: The Epistle of the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.

A READING FROM THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, AT THE 3RDCHAPTER
Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas—the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”
Celebrant The Gospel of the Lord.
People Praise to you, O Christ.

Sermon Pastor Neil

THE APOSTLES’ CREED
Celebrant and people
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth;

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Reader In peace, we pray to you, Lord God—
Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Guide the people of this land, and of all nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good. Heal the rifts that bind, vex, and scare us. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory. Heal the wounds of those who have been victimized by climate change and destruction. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give us purpose and hope in troubles; and bring us the joy of your salvation. Bestow courage upon those who look at the world, and who wonder if there is a safe and gracious place for them. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Silence to lift our own prayers to God

Celebrant Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage, we may always be supported by this community of fellowship of love and prayer. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

A CONFESSION OF OUR SINS TO GOD
Celebrant Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
Silence may be kept

Minister and People
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy on you, ☩ forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all
goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in
eternal life. Amen.

The Peace
Celebrant The peace of the Lord be always with you.
People And also with you.

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is a right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every-where to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. For you are the source of light and life. You made us in your image and called us to new life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, we praise you, joining our voices with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:
Celebrant and People Holy, Holy, Holy Lord—God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Celebrant We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.
On the night before he died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”
Therefore, according to his command, O Father, we say together:

Celebrant and People
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Celebrant And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord of all, presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine. We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of

praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.

Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be ☩ for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace. At the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

Celebrant and People By Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to pray:

THE LORD’S PRAYER

People 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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

A CALL TO COMMUNION

Celebrant The gifts of God for the people of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

Celebrant will distribute communion to people in their chairs.

THE GENERAL THANKSGIVING
Celebrant and People
Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

THE BLESSING

Celebrant Sisters and brothers, we go out into the world in peace. We live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, to hold on to what is good, and to return to no one an evil for an evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.

 

THE ART WORK ON THE COVER OF THIS BULLETIN

Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) St. John the Baptist Preaching Galleria Borghese, Rome

In sixteenth and seventeenth Italy, giants moved across the earth. They did it with paintbrushes and canvases. They had names that are still familiar: Michelangelo, Raphael, Reubens, Rembrandt, Titian, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, and the painter of the work on today’s bulletin, Veronese. They could name their price to buyers. They often broke their agreements. They could be unreasonable, even scoff at their patrons. They were bold, demanding, even infuriating. Kings, princes, cardinals, popes—everyone waited outside their doors. The final outrage is they created “schools” of artist-students, who painted paintings that their masters then signed as if they were their own.

Veronese—he was from Verona—was in that firmament. Contemporary French connoisseurs thought him to be the “greatest colorist who ever lived.” Veronese could pain the highlights of his painting without making them seem brassy, and the darker portions without drifting to muddiness and boredom. Because patrons of Veronese’s religious painting weren’t the least bit interested in verisimilitude of the grittiness and poverty of ancient near- east Israel, Veronese painted as if he were featuring well-to-do Italians hanging out in city plazas and verdant fields. The extraordinary beauty of Venetian fabrics exhibited his painting of St. John the Baptist reflected the best in Renaissance weaving and embroidery. The men John was speaking to were Pharisees, and Veronese (perhaps rightly) saw them as the most privileged and affluent people in the land.

In this painting St John heralds the coming of Christ. Persons listening to John are wrapped in magnificent oriental silk robes and three are wearing turbans. Their differing reactions to the sermon are reflected in their facial expressions. The skillful composition of the painting creates a balance between the weight of the group of figures on the right and the countryside perspective on the left. The drama of the scene is obvious. There is artistic license, but the two virtual worlds that John and the Pharisees inhabit are accurate down to the thread and the hem. Pastor Neil