“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
- 2 Peter 3:13 (8-15), King James Version
Call to Worship - Cindy Weber-Han, Board Member
One: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way (Charles Dickens, “Tale of Two Cities, 1859).
Congregation: This sounds like our world today, that’s why we are waiting for the promised Child of God who will bring us justice and peace.
One: Then prepare the way and ready the Human Race. We are called to have courageous conversations with one another even when difficult.
C: God IS calling to us. We are to be midwives of the birth of a New Way for all of humankind.
O: Yes, we are called! We are calling on God’s Wisdom, Guidance and Hope for this New World.
ALL: “But what we await are new heavens and a new earth where, according to the promise, God’s justice will reside” (2 Peter 3.13).
Lighting the Candle of Peace - Gail Erisman-Valeta, Board Co-Chair
Invitation to sing: While We Are Waiting, Come - Supplement #1032 Vs 1
One: While we are waiting, come.
All: But we’ve waited so long. And the nights are long. It’s so hard to wait!
One: While we are waiting, we wait for a promise.
All: What are we waiting for?
One: The promise of new heavens and a new earth!
All: We wait for the promise of Peace! Where righteousness is at home!
One: We light the Candle of Peace. We need the light of peace to shine upon our path. The journey is long, and we grow tired. May this candlelight shine upon us, revealing a pathway to the peace that only Christ brings. Amen.
Children’s Story - Marie Benner-Rhoades, Youth and Young Adult Peace Formation Director
Begin by setting a timer for five minutes (vary the time depending on how talkative your children tend to be and how much time you have for the story time). If possible, use an old kitchen timer that clicks the whole time. Make a big deal about setting the timer, say something like, “Let’s get the timer started.”
Sit quietly for the first 15-30 seconds letting the timer tick away.
Ask children to share some things they are really looking forward to. Likely, responses will focus around Christmas- invite children to share specific things about Christmas that they are looking forward to (eating cookies, presents, family gathering, snow, etc.). When ideas run out, let the timer run quietly for another 15 seconds or so.
Ask the children what it’s like listening to the timer. Waiting for something to happen. Is it easy or hard? Does it feel like a long time or short? Is waiting exciting or frustrating? If kids aren’t particularly talkative you can ask them to raise their hands- who thinks it is easy to wait? Who thinks it is hard?
Wait quietly for another 15 seconds or so.
Ask what are some things you do while you’re waiting for something? Some may connect with the things they are waiting for (make the cookies, wrap presents, etc.) Other ideas may be silly- singing songs, playing games, etc. If the timer is still ticking, try one or two ideas out.
When the timer goes off, connect with the scripture verse from 2 Peter. In scripture, we read about people waiting for a new heaven and new earth. And the waiting doesn’t have a timer that they can check. While waiting, we are asked to look for ways that God is acting now, glimpses of heaven, and we are called to work for peace.
Pray: God, help us while we wait to look for You and to work for peace. Amen.
Prayer - Barbara Avent, Board Member
Today we are gratefully giving THANKS for God Almighty, the Holiest of the Holy, Jesus Christ, Holy, Holy, Holy, Son of God, Holy Counselor that Imbues the Holy Spirit, which is the Holy Trinity now. On this Peace Sunday, we are praying for the “Peace that Passeth Understanding”, that can dwell within our hearts, minds, bodies and Spirits. This Peace that we are receiving brings us more Joy, Abundance, Justice, Beauty, Righteousness and Wisdom that is available to each woman, man, boy and girl within our communities, in the United States and throughout the world.
As Disciples of Christ, we speak words of Peace and love, living a life of harmony, compassion each day and seeing the goodness of Jesus in each person we meet. This day we pray for the protection, peace, and love for our immediate families, extended families and the family of humanity. We surrender our little will to the Big Will of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit now. We give thanks for God’s protection, blessings, guidance and direction. We accept the life lessons that are presented to us as we walk our path of purpose and destiny. For we know that Our God and Jesus is able to provide for us and make a mighty way out of no way, as long as we have Faith that is only the size of a mustard seed. Thank you God each day that we can pray and witness to the Goodness of Jesus Christ as we live transparent and authentic lives. Knowing and expressing the greatest Power and Force of Jesus, LOVE, we express more Peace. We ask these blessings in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Scripture Reflection - Lamar Gibson, Development Director
2 Peter is no laughing matter. From a surface reading, it sounds like a warning of the hellfire and damnation we later see in Revelations. Just beneath that, it’s yet another unwelcome reminder to our instant satisfaction-seeking and selfie generation that not everything will come when we want it. God’s answers and timing aren’t synced with our Amazon Prime subscriptions and they don’t arrive through next-day delivery via FedEx.
The passage opens with the casual assertion that for God, one day is like a thousand years. Paul was writing to a church that faced grave external threats while also being in turmoil internally and his suggestion was to be patient! Many of us today might see ourselves and our churches in the same way. Patience is the last thing we want to be reminded of when the pressures around us seem so great. Patience seems like avoidance and ignoring what’s right in front of us.
I remember, as a child, my frustration with understanding God’s timing. In my southern church upbringing between Holiness and Pentecostal churches, I often heard the phrase, “Wait on the Lord!” Old saints would use it when young people were venting about some injustice in the church. Subscribers to prosperity gospel would share it as encouragement with one another to reaffirm that the material blessings they sought were on the way. Preachers would center a week’s worth of revival sermons around the theme and the promise was always the same: God would show up when God was ready and nothing we did could change that. Wait, wait, and wait.
These lessons of my formative years shaped my early view of God as a kind of unreliable construction site foreman who may or may not be around when you needed your work approved. I remember periods of extreme dedication to my Christian practice during my youth in which I would wait earnestly to hear God’s voice of approval for my work. That approval, at least in the form I was seeking it, never came. “How could God be so busy when the world is in such desperate need?” I wondered.
I wouldn’t find an answer to my questions until I took a Quaker Theology class as a college student. I was shocked to discover that the Quakers believe, that because Jesus walked among us, that the kingdom (kin-dom) is now. They believe that the responsibility of the followers of Christ is to create the kingdom and its conditions here, inspired by the example of Jesus. This discovery shook me to my core as it flew in the face of everything I had been taught about God and how I should approach my work as a follower. How could I give up the belief that Earth was some forsaken place doomed to be burned up? How could I shift my childish view of heaven as the site of the world’s greatest family reunion to a place that I had a role in building and creating? Peter’s inquiry into what kind of people we ought to be helps shine some light on possible answers to these questions. From the King James Version of the Bible, verse 13 of the passage reads, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
This idea of looking or searching for new heavens and a new earth provides an exciting new lens to approach our frustration with waiting. It has the potential to shift us from passive onlookers to active participants in the development of the kingdom. It suggests that we have a role to play like the words in Luke 4:18 that proclaim, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me and I have been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free.”
As we look for and seek out the new kingdom, we become models of it as we are transformed through the process. We realize that we can and must stand up for justice with the same fervor in which we seek to build peace. We come to see ourselves as fellow citizens in the household of God (Ephesians 2:19) and in doing so, we welcome the foreign-born stranger and we acknowledge the truths shared by people of color about their experiences around the world. We let go of the fear of loss if we speak up. We realize that we are equipped for the process by the teachings and life of Jesus and that when we begin our journeys of looking for, seeking, and creating, we are not alone.
As I close this reflection for On Earth Peace Sunday (and Peace Sunday in Advent), I want to invite us to wrestle with the scripture reading. Most translations of this passage use the words, “wait for” instead of “look for” (KJV) in verse 13. How do we as believers hold these two seemingly opposite ideas (waiting versus searching) together? How do our beliefs about the world’s future determine whether or not we wait or search? Are the two things closer than they appear? What do we have to give up and what can we gain if we go out and begin seeking rather than waiting?
Moment in Mission - Bill Scheurer, Executive Director
In this time of Advent, arrival, approach, we note how the Spirit of Christmas–a holiday season where the sacred and secular uniquely merge–fills the air.
The hope, anticipation, comfort, goodwill, and joy are tangible–in sights and sounds, tastes and smells, feelings and memories–as heaven and earth draw near.
From On Earth Peace, we come bearing gifts.
- We bring you questions: Are we prayerfully waiting, or actively building and looking, for the change to come; and how are these both, different and the same?
- We bring you challenges: A vision of Beloved Community, the Kin-dom of Heaven, both in the making and at hand; and values as stake-posts for that big tent.
- We bring you invitations: For celebration and participation in programs and practices where we all raise that big tent–peacefully, simply, together.
- We bring you worship: Gathering under that big tent to wait and watch, work and pray, for that new heaven and new earth which is both promised and delivered in this time.
We often note that at On Earth Peace it is Christmas and Advent all year long. It is in our name, which is also our mission and message, and in our work and ministry.
And we have congregations and disciples like you to thank.
Because your gifts for this ministry are what make it possible all year long for the On Earth Peace community to keep “look[ing] for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”–justice and peace–both, in the church and beyond.
Benediction - Cindy Weber-Han, Board Member
O: As we leave our worship, let us take the inspiration we have felt today into our week and know that God is with us in all of our conversations.
C: We will use courage in heartfelt listening to engage one another to become compassionate midwives for God’s peace and justice in the world. Partnering with God, we assist the birth of “New Heavens and a New Earth.”