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  • Rev. Cathy Surgenor

December 6 Worship

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, December 6 will be hosted on Zoom. We will share prayers and reflections. We will be celebrating Communion this Sunday. Please have a cracker/bread of your choice and juice/beverage on hand to join in this sacrament.


For computers:

(Or use )

For smartphones and tablets, download and install the Zoom app.

If prompted: Click “JOIN Meeting” and enter:

Meeting ID: 912 5000 7273 Passcode: KOLWED

FACEBOOKLIVE: Click on the church Facebook page

The Zoom meeting will open at 10:15 am to allow folks to connect and greet each other.

If you have a camera, you will have the option to share your face and smile—be prepared. You can also have a cup of your favorite morning beverage at hand.

The worship will include familiar elements (although recorded rather than live) as well as live leadership of prayers, scripture reading, and the sermon.


Union Church, Newburgh NY

December 6, 2020 10:30 am



We are glad that you are joining us today and hope you feel God’s blessings. If you do not have a church home, we sincerely invite you to be a part of the Union Church fellowship.


December Worship Schedule: All services will be online ONLY via Zoom and FacebookLive and posted on YouTube afterwards.

December 13 at 10:30 am: Focus – Third Advent candle focusing on Love December 20 at 10:30 am: Focus – Fourth Advent candle focusing on Joy December 24 at 7:00 pm: Focus – Light

December 27 at 10:30 am: Cantata (recording from previous years)

Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. Dec. 7 and Wed. Dec. 9 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.

Pledge Update: As of Nov. 22, we have received 26 pledges for 2021 in the amount of $62,730. Last year at this time, we received 26 pledges in the amount of $68,253.

Presbyterian Church USA Christmas Joy Offering: This annual special offering provides scholarships for students to learn and grow in faith at Presbyterian related schools and colleges, equipping communities of color and provides assistance for current and retired church workers and their families with critical financial needs. 50% of gifts to this offering go to educational support and 50% supports special needs of clergy and families. As you donate, just note Christmas Joy Offering on your check.

Resource Information for Churches from Thom Rainer

Six Mistakes to Avoid as Your Church Regathers After COVID​ ​

We would all love for things to return to normal, but this will not happen any time soon, if ever. Six mistakes to avoid as your church regathers.

1. Assuming that “normal” will return.

2. Neglecting community ministry and outreach.

3. Talking more about problems than opportunities.

4. Failing to seek outside perspectives.

5. Failing to reach the digital mission field.

6. Obsessing about non-returning members.

VIRTUAL Coffee Hour: Begins immediately after worship. If you have joined worship on Zoom you don’t need to do anything more. If you are joining us for fellowship time only use mobile phone or computer video. Check email or website for access instructions.

Choral Music will precede the worship service beginning at 9:45 as people ‘tune in’ to the zoom service.



PRELUDE He Shall Purify Messiah, George Frederick Handel

ADVENT WREATH Peace Kristin and Helen Eksuzian


Leader: Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

ALL: Let us worship our God.


Almighty God, as we move deeper into Advent, we focus on preparing for the Prince of Peace who came to bring healing and justice so that the world might know shalom. This is not the trembling peace of subjugation but the experience of wholeness in your beloved community. As we worship you this morning may your Holy Spirit create this living community among us. Strengthen our faith in the power of this love. Amen


If we say we have nothing to confess, then the truth is not in us. It is as though we refuse to show the doctor our wounds and so cannot be healed.

So then, let us confess what hurts and ask for God’s grace.


Holy God of Blessing, we have grown weary of trying to do right, be brave and carry on. We are anxious for this year of malaise and anxiety to end. Yet the winter looms before us. This virus rages around us and the death toll climbs We have made mistakes, giving in to angry thoughts and words. We demand that others risk their lives to serve our wants. We believe lies rather than face harsh truths. We are wounded just as the people of ancient Israel were wounded. We turn to you in prayer just as they came out to John the Baptist seeking a renewed spirit. Forgive us Lord. You are more worthy and powerful than John. In you we can find shalom.


May the God of the whole world, the world of which we are a part, forgive us our sins and renew us in extravagant love, radical hope and abundant joy. Amen PASSING THE PEACE

“May the Peace of Christ be with you.”

“And also with you.”



May these familiar words of scripture resonate within us and connect us to Advents past even as they hold promise of Christ’s coming.


OLD TESTAMENT Isaiah 40:1-11

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out!”

And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.


The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

SERMON Preparing for Peace Rev. Cathy Surgenor

HYMN On Jordan’s Bank Chet Valley Churches


You can support the work of Union Church by mailing donations to 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh, NY 12550 or visit to donate online.

OFFERTORY Peace Will Come Union Choir




Holy God, through Isaiah and John you sent your word into the wilderness, crying out to repent, seek forgiveness, and prepare the way of the Lord. Now prepare the way in us and in our world for the coming of your living Word, so that all flesh may know your saving grace; through Christ, who is coming to reign.

Lift up the names Nancy Thomas

Heal us, body and soul and let us know your peace in these difficult days.


Heal our relationships so that we may know the joy of friendship and family.


Heal our community that we may walk in peace.


Heal our nation that we may participate as people seeking the common good.


Heal our world that the people maty know shalom.





Prayer of Great Thanksgiving

Words of Remembering

Prayer after Communion



SERMON TEXT Preparing for Peace Rev. Cathy Surgenor

And so, begins the very first gospel ever written. Though it is placed second in our Bibles, we now understand that it was written first of the four gospels in the New Testament. Mark is the first effort to share/proclaim the amazing news/story of Jesus Christ in written form.

It’s a bold, action filled account of Jesus’s public ministry that brings the reader into the journey with vivid descriptions of a mysterious man who suddenly appears and invites those he meets on an adventure which will change them forever. Mark invites us, challenges us to witness Jesus through his words and to decide whether we dare to be changed too.

Mark titles the work The Gospel of Jesus Christ Son of God – The Cry of Joy – announcing that at last God’s Son is with us! Mark’s Jewish listeners would have understood immediately what was being said with this opening and the reference to Isaiah 40. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight.” At last this moment that the world has been longing for is here – the promise has been lived out through Jesus the Messiah! Halleluia!

Mark is in a hurry and so he leaves the back story of Jesus’s birth to others. The opening scene is of the prophet who would prepare crowds of people for the messiah. The physical description of John’s appearance and clothing, the camel hair and belt, show that he is a prophet like those of old. A prophet had not been seen in Israel for 500 years. And the crowd would recognize that this is not just any prophet but the return of Elijah the very greatest of prophets. (Except Moses.) Elijah, (Yahweh is my God) you may remember, had defeated the prophets of Baal and was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire. The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, states that God will send Elijah “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5).

Mark is proclaiming in this opening that “It is happening as foretold.” John is Elijah come back to introduce the most important person who ever lived. And more than a person, God with us. And how will John fulfill this work of turning the hearts of fathers and children? By demanding that they change their lives. That they repent, that they turn their lives around.

Why did all these people go out into the wilderness along the Jordan. What drew them from the powerful center of their faith, their glorious temple in Jerusalem? What/who were they seeking. Something was deeply wrong. Something was missing from their lives and the systems that had kept life in balance seemed broken. The very temple itself did not suffice. Life was broken, and John the Baptist says that the one who can restore wholeness is arriving. The promised Messiah.

The crowds may well have remembered Isaiah 9 as well.

“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Wholeness, completeness, health, restoration of the bonds of connection and well being are at hand. What is the Hebrew word that signifies this understanding of wellbeing – Shalom – A word that means wholeness, unbrokenness – like a perfect round stone or a wall with no stones missing, or a flock with no sheep missing. None have gone astray or been destroyed by wolves. Or a household, village, city or nation, world where justice reigns, all have enough and all are cared for -especially the vulnerable – the stranger, the widow and the orphan.

Jesus was coming to bring this Shalom – Peace that goes beyond the absence of war. Mutuality. Community, indeed the Beloved Community. Without justice there cannot be peace. But also, without forgiveness there can be no peace. Without mercy there can be no peace. And so this Messiah comes with healing in his wings. Mighty and yet gently leading the lambs and ewes. This is the vision Marks listeners would have held in their hearts.

And we are Mark’s hearers today in this place. It is critical that we too can see this vision. For without this vision of Shalom there can be no peace. Especially this year we need to see it clearly even because it seems distant. Whatever steps we can take to bring it into focus we are called to do.

This is a human capacity, however imperfect. Today one of the most remembered stories of that disaster that was WWI was of the Christmas truce – when one hundred thousand men on the front lines stopped killing each other for a few precious hours. Not only did they stop shooting but these exhausted soldiers came out of their muddy trenches and talked, exchanged small gifts, and may even have kicked a soccer ball around. The possibility had been building over time. The two sides were so close they could hear one another, and they understood that they all suffered the same hardships. It is said that on Christmas Eve the Germans started singing Silent Night and the British joined in. That act of singing a beautiful hymn together created something beautiful that lasted through the night and gave them the courage to risk their lives for a few hours of peace. The truce did not last, but the story has.

The stories that we tell have lasting power. Stories of sacrifice and risk and courage in the name of Shalom provide hope.

A story of our own time and place gives me hope and I hope if I share it with you it will inspire you too. In the fall of 2015, at a Halloween party on Broadway in Newburgh, Tammy Cruz and Omani Free – two young women, one White and one Black were murdered in a hail of bullets that injured 7 people. The man that did the shooting is serving 40 years to life in prison. But the mothers of those two girls somehow managed to forgive him at his trial. And beyond that they have created a small non-profit called For the Love of Tammy and Omani. For the past five years they have been seeking ways to honor these two daughters by working to end gun violence in their streets, our streets. Each Halloween they lead a vigil of remembrance with candles and prayers. Each August they celebrate their daughters’ birthdays with a part for Newburghs children. They have connected with the national Victims Rights organization an participated in their actions locally. Whether you knew it or you have supported their work and witness through the One Great Hour of Sharing. And as of last week they are one of several organizations that you help support through your own Benevolence Committee. The work that this congregation does matters and your support of each other to do this work ripples and connects and restores broken places. You are the peacemakers and thus you are children of God, followers of the Prince of Peace. Amen.


Rev. Cathy Surgenor Rev. Peter Surgenor

(845) 216-4328 (914) 907-9685

Union Church

44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550

Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955

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