January 3, 2021
Gislebertus, Dream of the Magi, 1120-30, Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, Autun, France
(posted on the Facebook page of Stephen Ellcock)
Prelude —Something Meant to Hold, written and performed by Susan Gascho-Cooke
Both prelude and offertory pieces are songs Susan wrote in the last year. She was surprised to look back in Advent and realize that she had written several songs in which dreams figured prominently.
Lighting the Peace Candle
There is a piece of light in all of us,
seen or unseen, the light is there,
ready to kindle, eager to expand,
refusing to be tightly contained.
As soon as the tiniest space is allowed
it quickly emerges, floods outward,
illuminating the darkest of places.
One single candle lights a little dark space,
many candles light a world full of people
desperately in need of each other’s glow.
Each lone light makes us stronger when we all stand together.
from The Cosmic Dance: An Invitation to Experience Our Oneness
Call to Worship
The Magi had a dream.
They dreamed of a Messiah.
They dreamed of just rulers.
They dreamed of a new day for all people.
The Magi had a dream, and this dream led them to action.
They journeyed to unknown places.
They followed a star.
They walked for days to get to Jesus.
So may we be like the Magi,
may our dreams inspire action.
May we worship the one true God. Amen.
(from A Sanctified Art, “Those Who Dream”)
Gathering Songs— O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (G.F. Handel: Messiah)
Children’s Time Introduction— Come and see, HWB #20, sung by CMCL on Feb 16, 2020
Children’s Time — Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck
Offering —Thank you for your continued support of your congregation. Our budget supports our staff, our building, our congregational care, and our outreach commitments. We are grateful that this community can be a place to seek and give mutual aid and to reach out beyond our community, too. Thanks so much for being the church and giving to the work of the church.
Like the magi of old,
we bring our gifts to you, God-with-us.
They are not gold, nor frankincense, nor myrrh,
but they declare our love and loyalty to you.
We pray that all we have and do
may be used for your service.
Sing the Story, 140
Offertory— The Famine Years Good-Bye, written and performed by Susan Gascho-Cooke
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:
6 You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel.”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.
Sermon— Susan Gascho-Cooke
This week — on January 6 — we come to the end of the Christmas season. There will have been 12 days (the 12 days of Christmas!) since Christmas. The church calls this day Epiphany. The great Aha!
We tell the story of the wise ones who visited Jesus and Joseph and Mary. And the image associated with this day is light. Often in the form of a star.
This materials we used for Advent/Christmas/Epiphany this year had a mandala for Epiphany Sunday — a star, which incorporated images of the Magi story. You’ve seen it throughout Advent. The little camels from this mandala led us on our path through Advent.
I hope most of you received an envelope in the mail from us last week — with a little Christmas card from the staff — but also a little blue card with a “star word” on it, and a printout to go with it. These star words have become an Epiphany tradition in many Protestant churches in recent years. They are to be used devotionally throughout the coming year — a guiding light, an intention setter, a reference point. This year, we are inviting each of you to adopt a star word. You may adopt the one you were sent. Or perhaps another word or symbol has arrived for you for this year. If you want a mulligan, or replacement card, we can send you one. Or if you want different cards for each person in your household, we can send you those, too.
You may have fallen in love at first sight with your word and embraced it for your year. You may have thought: “No!” at first sight. We’ve already sent out some replacements! You may have no idea what your word means and gone scrambling to Webster’s or Google. You may think this is a load of hogwash. Take it as it is: an invitation to play with something this year. Or not.
This December, you could say our star word was “dream” — we were invited to be those who dream, “dreamers.” I felt some reluctance at this theme at first, because I’m not someone who often remembers my night-dreams. But the Christmas stories are full of dreamers. At least, they’re full of dreams. But not all the recipients of those dreams seemed to be very experienced dreamers. They almost all showed surprise at being addressed in a dream. But they honored those dreams — they didn’t dismiss them or explain them away. And they brought their night-dreams with them into the light of day — allowed them to influence their decisions.
Dreams can be bridges — pathways by which inner knowing and divine knowing — can reach us. In the daytime, many of us have set up intricate filters to control what reaches us from outside, and also what pieces of our inner monologue get through to our conscious thinking, much less get shared beyond ourselves. These filters can be very good. But they can also keep us from seeing or hearing new things, unexpected things. Or at least keep us from entertaining them long enough to really consider them. Dreams can also help us notice patterns in things we’re trying to pay attention to.
While dreams are associated with sleep, they are really about waking us up to deeper realities. Realities we can find difficult to recognize when all our daily life apps are running. Dreams can bring us to awareness of realities not unknown, but rather details unnoticed or patterns unseen.
Speaking of unseen patterns, I didn’t notice that dreams were a theme in my songwriting in the last year or so. Not until I was thinking about today’s service and choosing music for it, and realized I’d written several songs in which dreams are a significant part. One of the reasons this is a shorter reflection than some, is because you’ve heard some of my reflections already, in the prelude and offertory.
I found myself watching re-runs of a particular television show this December, called “The Medium.” (aside: I don’t mention it as a particular recommendation — there’s a lot that’s been entertaining, interesting and provocative for me in it, and there are problematic elements, too, as in much entertainment.) The show is about a woman who is, as she says, “sensitive.” Some might call her a psychic. She helps law enforcement solve crimes with the insights she’s given by the spirits of the dead. Most often these interactions happen for her in her sleep — in dreams.
It didn’t occur to me that I might be drawn to this show because of our Advent theme. In fact, my mom had to point out to me that it was interesting I was watching a show about dreams during this Advent theme.
It has been interesting to watch this woman navigate the gift and the curse of her dreams. She is constantly assessing what her dreams mean, and what she should allow across that bridge between dreamed and lived reality. She both learns to trust her instincts and to respect the her dreams rarely turn out to mean exactly what they first appear to. Watching the show has felt like both an endorsement — and a real caution — about the power of dreaming.
I invite you to take a closer look at the image of the medieval stone carving at the top of this order of worship. I’m pasting it here:
I love the playfulness of this image — the angel delicately poking one of the sleeping Magi, with just one finger. Although it is clearly meant to picture the traditional “three wise ones,” these three sleeping figures could be various facets of one person — perhaps the ego, super-ego and id of one person, to use Freudian terminology. And even while they are asleep, the eyes of one are open. The blanket they sleep under is a medieval rendering of the night sky, which is what the magi shared in common: studiers of the night sky and its meanings and portents.
Some say that the wise ones in the Matthew story were magicians or astrologers. So, of all the characters in these stories of Jesus’ infancy, perhaps the Magi were the ones most likely to welcome Wisdom’s dream-visit. They were, after all, already on a fantastic journey, following the triangulations of a star in the night sky. They were not even believers of the faith in which this child would be Messiah. And yet, here they are, willingly following where the star leads. And being practiced in the remembering of dreams, and the honoring of their messages — they defied a king and went home by another way, saving the life of the little star-born child they’d sought and found.
So, where has all this December talk of dreaming brought us to this January?
Where might it lead us in this coming year?
What centering words, or stars in the sky, might give us grounding or guidance?
To what things might we need to fall asleep in order to gain awareness of others?
To what realities might the divine be nudging us awake?
- a new spark of divine life, gestating within? like Mary dreamed?
- a relationship or commitment which requires our loyalty and protection? like Joseph dreamed?
- a wonder we might witness, if we are invited to? like the shepherds saw?
- an unjust power we be called to defy? like the magi did?
- a new and different way home we might be called to travel? like the magi dreamed?
- an invitation to truly enter our lives — our bodies, our relationships, our world? like God-in-Christ dreamed and made real?
Our hymn of response is “Will you let me be your servant?” which we unknowingly sang to our future selves, back in Advent 2018.
Let’s continue being “those who dream” — fierce dreams, brave dreams, new dreams, dreams of love made flesh in this beautiful, longing world.
Congregational Song— Will you let me be your servant (We are wise ones on a journey), HWB #307, sung by CMCL on Dec 30, 2018
Sharing Time— Email your prayer requests or reflections (or any dreams you’ve been dreaming!) to email@example.com. They will be sent out by email by Monday morning.
Wisdom of God,
Whirl of the Spirit,
Star in our Hearts,
Open us to the radiance of your presence,
to the guidance of your companionship,
to the compassion of your indwelling,
to the lighting of your blessed vision.
Trusted friend, beloved companion,
mercy-maker, truth-bearer, love-dweller,
all goodness resides within you.
Take us by the hand
and bless the frailty of our weak places
strengthen our ability to dwell in darkness
for it is there that your deepest secrets are revealed.
from The Star in My Heart: Experiencing Sophia, Inner Wisdom by Joyce Rupp
Closing Hymn— May You Find a Light, written by John Arndt and David Gungor, performed by Edmunds United Methodist Church
Benediction— Beannach/Blessing, by John O’Donohue
Beannacht / Blessing
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
Worship Leader: Christy Heatwole Kauffman
Sermon: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Scripture reader: Nouraiz Leister Chaman
Prelude & Offertory: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Tech Host: Ken Nissley