In hope and humility, we come to worship the God who cleanses and renews.
A Call to Worship
Advent 2C 2015
Malachi 3: 1-4
We come, aware that the fire of God’s love is both warming, and yet refining.
In trust and honesty, we come to worship the God who forgives and restores.
We come, aware that the cleansing of God’s love both purifies and liberates.
In awed reverence, we come to worship the God who is amongst us and within
us; and who challenges those who have forgotten the power of God’s presence.
We come, aware that we are unworthy of the refining, renewing, restoring love
that God pours so generously over us; and that when we come to worship God
with penitent hearts and minds, our Loving God will accept our worship and praise. Amen.
Malachi 3: 1-4
1 “Look! I am sending my messenger,
and he will prepare the way before me.
Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple.
The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly,
is surely coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes?
Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?
For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal,
or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes.
3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross.
He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver,
so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD.
4 Then once more the LORD will accept the offerings brought to him
by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past.
Prayers of Penitence
Challenging God, we come before you in worship, very conscious that we
Advent 2C 2015
Malachi 3: 1-4
would be unable to stand and face God because we know we have failed
to be true to our commitments to God in all of God’s holiness and power—
and that we can only come into God’s holy presence because of God’s mercy.
Yet in hope and humility we come, because just as we have trusted God’s
warming fire of love; and because God is God, we know we can also trust
in the heat and power of God’s refining actions on our lives. In penitence
and trust we come, asking that you, O God, will remove all that contaminates
our thoughts, desires and actions; and give to us a renewed focus to our living.
Welcoming God, in penitence and humility we gather to worship the God of
compassion and understanding. Our lives and our living has been smeared
and stained by the filth of evil that surrounds us; and even though we accept
that it is hard to remain separate from all that defiles us; yet we seem unable
to help ourselves when tempted. So in trust and honesty, we come to worship
the One True God who alone forgives, renews and restores us when we fail
to live as God’s faithful people. Wash away our sin-inspired stains and smears—
so that once more we may worship you with as healed and restored people.
Refining and cleansing God, in awed reverence we come to worship the God
who is amongst us and within us; and who challenges those who have forgotten
all about the wonderful power of God’s presence. Grace-filled God, we pray that
you will gift us with a new awareness of your holy presence with us every day and
night, even if we are not mentally aware of that holy presence; may our spiritual
selves know and recognise that you are near with our mercy and grace, so that
our living becomes a constant act of reverent worship and awed praise for all that
you are and will be to us in our earthly pilgrimage. Transforming God, in humble
gratitude, we come now into your holy presence, giving thanks that when temptation
strikes any of us, you give us the strength as we hide in God’s ever-present Being. Amen.
A Personal Meditation
With no psalm selected for Advent 2C, I have chosen the Old Testament reading
Advent 2C 2015
Malachi 3: 1-4
from the ancient prophet Malachi, who lived about 450 years BCE, when the people
of Israel had returned from exile and their Temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt.
In particular, Malachi called the priests to a renewed faithfulness to God’s covenant
and for a renewal of honesty in their worship of God. Malachi followed the ancient
tradition of the earlier prophets who were given “a word from the Lord” to speak in
a particular time and in specific circumstances. He was also the last of the recognised
prophets until the arrival of John the Baptiser. The God of the Covenant love, mercy
and compassion, was also the God who would not accept the priests and people’s
impure worship or their hypocrisy. The warnings from the earlier prophets Isaiah,
Jeremiah and Amos, etc were revisited and reinterpreted within a new context, so
that the “word from the Lord” came as “written words” from God rather than “spoken
words”. However, their message was still powerful in their call for penitence and a
renewal of worship; as is the call for us in the season of Advent as we prepare for the
coming of the Incarnate God, born in the vulnerable form of a helpless human baby.
|Creative pause:||Advent is a season and a call to renewed penitence and preparation.|
How suspicious and sceptical we all are! We all like to celebrate the warmth of God’s
presence and holy love as it gentle refines our fragile minds and egos; but we are also
frightened of God’s blast-furnace-heat presence whose heat refines us in a special way.
For a metal to be refined for another purpose, it requires intense heat, and often other
reducing substances that combines to free the required metal. When a substance is
refined it changes in form, and often becomes molten into a fluid soupy-like substance
that finds it own shape. As God frees us from all that contaminates us, we too can be
changed in our appearance, our actions and our attitudes; and thus from being purified—
we can then fulfil a more specific ministry through our worship, our witness and service.
|Creative pause:||We are changed as God frees us from that which contaminates us.|
We also like the gentle imagery in Psalm 51 where the psalmist prays: “....wash me,
and I will be whiter than snow…. Create in me a clean heart, O God….” but the power
of God’s love sometimes requires a harsh scrubbing with a powerful cleansing agent
to have the desired effect prayed for in Psalm 51. The early forebears of my family
came to Australia in the gold rush days in the early settlement of Victoria, and they
lived in the gold fields region of Dunolly, where they created their own brand of soaps—
“Yankee Magic Soap” and “Butterfly Soap" – "because the soap made dirt flutter by”
out of the miners clothes. My forebears did not actually work in the gold mines, but were
part of the service providers for those itinerant miners. Whilst “Butterfly Soap” and “Yankee
Magic Soap” may have done all that they claimed, and it is my guess that it was a very
harsh substance that scoured the fabric of the clothes with damaging effects. We seek
your cleansing and renewing presence, so that when we come into the presence of the
Holy One, and dare even to look into the face of our Liberating God, we are not shamed.
|Creative pause:||Sometimes we need to be scrubbed and scoured to be truly cleansed!|
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation,
copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
*Revised Indexing Scheme from 'Consultation on Church Union' (COCU).
I acknowledge and give heartfelt thanks for the theological inspiration available from the writings of
Professor Walter Brueggemann; and through the resources from the internet and “The Text this Week” (Textweek).
If the Prayers and/or Meditations are used in shared worship, please provide this acknowledgement:
© 2015 Joan Stott – ‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year C. Used with permission.
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