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  • Rev. Peter Surgenor

November 29 Worship

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, November 29 will be hosted on Zoom. We will share prayers and reflections.

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. 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

November 29, 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.


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.

Congregational Meeting will begin right after worship on Zoom. You will need to connect by Zoom (either computer, phone/tablet using zoom app, or by phone using phone numbers above.)

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.




Micah 5:2

We remember these words from the Prophet Micah

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel,

whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Genesis 12:1-2

We remember these familiar words from Genesis. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

Isaiah 40:1-5

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.

OPENING PRAYER Church of Scotland

Even if we cannot gather in person

Emmanuel, God with us

Even if some Christmas traditions have had to go

Emmanuel, God with us

Even if we might not get to hug family and friends

Emmanuel, God with us

Even if we cannot sing carols beside each other

Emmanuel, God with us

Even if Christmas cheer is harder this year

Emmanuel, God with us

HYMN O Come, O Come, Emmanuel


The world turns and we find our space in it. The sun and the moon brighten short days and the long nights. Light in the darkness. Hope for the world. Where the pandemic divides us into haves and have-nots, Where deep loneliness sits alongside community, Where poverty rises: seen and unseen.

People: We are a part of this world.

Where the currency of climate is too high a price for ‘progress’, Where belonging means gender and skin color and borders, Where wagers of war sneer at brokers of peace.

People: We are a part of this world.

In our world where healthcare and water and schooling are denied, Where communities flee homelands threatened by climate and conflict, Where locusts plague harvests and households and hope.

People: We are a part of this world.

We anticipate the child in the stable. Where an outcast young mother carried hope for the world, Where light shone in the darkness for those weary of waiting, Where God came among us, before us, behind us.

People: We are a part of this world. In the here and the now, in the when and not-yet, We are one with our neighbors nearby and afar. We are holders of hope, bearers of the promise the Kingdom of God, incarnate through us. God renew our short comings. Amen.


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


May the Peace of Christ be with you.

And also with you.



May these words of scripture reach those ears that are open and those hearts that are prepared to receive their wisdom.



O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,

so that the mountains would quake at your presence—

as when fire kindles brushwood

and the fire causes water to boil—

to make your name known to your adversaries,

so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,

you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

From ages past no one has heard,

no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

who works for those who wait for him.

You meet those who gladly do right,

those who remember you in your ways.

But you were angry, and we sinned;

because you hid yourself we transgressed.

We have all become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.

We all fade like a leaf,

and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

There is no one who calls on your name,

or attempts to take hold of you;

for you have hidden your face from us,

and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;

we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,

and do not remember iniquity forever.

Now consider, we are all your people.

NEW TESTAMENT Matthew 13:24-37 NRSV

“But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

SERMON Can’t Wait? Rev. Peter Surgenor


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

OFFERTORY Waiting from the Cantata Night of the Father’s Love


We give you thanks, generous God that we can each share what we have: goods,

finances, courage, faith, and friendship to one another. They are gifts from your hands. Amen



Holy God:

We give you thanks and praise for all you have done for your people. We thank you that you have revealed yourself in your son, that you have made a way that we can come into new life, and that we can constantly be reshaped into your image and likeness.

We thank you for all the blessings of life, for family and health and peace, for provision and shelter and friendship.

As we enter into the season of Advent, we thank you also for what you have planned that we cannot know. We thank you for the unexpected. Thank you Father, for all you have planned that is beyond our comprehension.

Give us a spirit of holy expectation, a capability to live our lives with wide eyed wonder for the surprises you have in store for us.

We have grown accustomed to making our lives as routine as possible. We have come to expect that what you will do is what you have always done, that what you will give is what you have always given, that who you will be to us is what you have been, that we will always be who we have always been, that we will always accomplish for your kingdom the kinds of things that we have always done.

You shocked the world and turned it upside down when you took flesh in Jesus and made a new covenant, when you visited the world as one us and the God who created all things became a part of creation.

So, shock us again. Visit us in surprising and unexpected ways. Give us a yearning for your visitation and a hunger to see what you will do in us. Let your work of salvation in us be fresh. Renew your calling upon our lives and use us in ways we never imagined. Give new life to our relationships. Visit us again and do what only you can imagine. Come, O come Emmanuel.


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 debts,

as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

for ever. Amen.

HYMN Come Thou Long Expected Jesus St. John’s College Choir


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all.


SERMON TEXT Can’t Wait? Rev. Peter Surgenor

We are challenged to stay awake as this passage is read. As I studied this I was reminded of a moment in a volunteer organization where I volunteer. The chief staff member had led an education process that was resulting in huge change for the organization, but as you can imagine there was great resistance. A group of volunteer leaders from all over the country were flying to Colorado for a crucial meeting. As we arrived the chief staff member related the story of her flight.

For the last leg of the flight she was sitting in the waiting room (do you remember waiting in the airport for a flight?). She noticed a young boy and his grandmother waiting as well. As the time grew closer, the little boy got more excited. The passengers were allowed to go onto the plane with lots of shuffling and searching for the assigned seats. The staff member sat down and realized that the little boy was sitting in the seat behind her. The airplane was pushed back from the gate and the boy was excited by the changing scenery. As they lined up for the take off the boy grabbed the back of the seat in front of him (my friend’s seat) and began shaking it as the plane rumbled down the runway. The takeoff was exciting but items in view were getting smaller and smaller. Finally, things appeared to be moving very slowly and the boy complained to his grandmother, “This is boring. When will we get there?” This was stated in all innocence not understanding that the plane was moving at its fastest speed.

The chief staff officer related this experience and shared with the assembled volunteers that it was exciting to dream, discuss and start to implement change. But then comes the time when progress slows as other people need to process the proposed change. So, there is a need for patience as change filters through an organization, but the result will we what was so attractive at the beginning of the process. Just like the landing of the plane was exciting for the little boy at the end of that trip.

We are on a journey that we did not choose to begin as we discern how to live safely and caringly in this time of COVID. We can easily chart our feelings about this journey: Frustration, anxiety, can’t wait. But the landing will come – we will arrive in a different place

In the meantime: Today feels a bit like being in mid flight. Or stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day”; every day the same even as we expect the skipping record to jump ahead to the next day. This is stressful but with no end in sight

This is where our conversation about eschatology comes into play:

We wish we could know how our current situation will end

We wish we could know when the Kingdom of God will come

But both are still concepts (subjects of philosophical discussion based on ideas). We are just like the people Mark and Matthew are writing to – hoping for a change, but clearly not in control of the timing.

The people Jesus was speaking to had been waiting for eons – and longer. We just need to look as far as the second phrase in our call to worship today.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:1-2.

God promised Abraham in one of those moments when there was no reason to hope, a promise saying: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing”

The people Mark and Matthew wrote to had been looking for this fulfillment for thousands of years. And a quick review of the old Testament reveals at least 47 other messages pointing to the Kingdom of God – in the future.

Today, we are entering Advent. An unusual Advent in unusual times. But we are indeed “waiting”. Waiting for Christmas and for the end of our COVID confinement.

This week as I pondered our situation, I was reminded of the song “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth”. I can’t remember the tune – maybe someone could sing it for us in Fellowship time. And I can understand the anticipation of the singer as our 7-year-old granddaughter is currently missing her two front teeth – but she proudly knows that it is part of growing up. But there is no predicting the timing of replacement teeth. I guess that sharks are so impatient that they have the replacement ready right away. But humans have no control over the growth of those new teeth – it is up to hormones. And- surprise, surprise the new teeth are not a direct replacement for the old!

We have been reading Matthew the last couple of months and I was reminded of the opening of Matthew. As we have mentioned, each of the gospels starts the story of Jesus differently. Matthew begins with a recitation to establish a connection between Jesus and that promise to Abraham.

Look at it again. Listen – sometimes we tune out because it seems to be someone else’s family story or family home movies. Matthew includes it to make at least two firm connections:

The family tree of Jesus Christ, David’s son, Abraham’s son:

Abraham had Isaac,

Isaac had Jacob,

Jacob had Judah and his brothers,

Judah had Perez and Zerah (the mother was Tamar),

Perez had Hezron,

Hezron had Aram,

Aram had Amminadab,

Amminadab had Nahshon,

Nahshon had Salmon,

Salmon had Boaz (his mother was Rahab),

Boaz had Obed (Ruth was the mother),

Obed had Jesse,

Jesse had David,

and David became king.

This list is easy enough to read, but we need to remember that each of these phrases represents 20-25 years.

David had Solomon (Uriah’s wife was the mother),

Solomon had Rehoboam,

Rehoboam had Abijah,

Abijah had Asa,

Asa had Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat had Joram,

Joram had Uzziah,

Uzziah had Jotham,

Jotham had Ahaz,

Ahaz had Hezekiah,

Hezekiah had Manasseh,

Manasseh had Amon,

Amon had Josiah,

Josiah had Jehoiachin and his brothers,

and then the people were taken into the Babylonian exile.

Some of these names are hard to pronounce! But we need to stop and think about all the

families and family stories involved in each of these simple phrases.

When the Babylonian exile ended,

Jeconiah had Shealtiel,

Shealtiel had Zerubbabel,

Zerubbabel had Abiud,

Abiud had Eliakim,

Eliakim had Azor,

Azor had Zadok,

Zadok had Achim,

Achim had Eliud,

Eliud had Eleazar,

Eleazar had Matthan,

Matthan had Jacob,

Jacob had Joseph, Mary’s husband,

the Mary who gave birth to Jesus,

the Jesus who was called Christ.

There were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, another fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and yet another fourteen from the Babylonian exile to Christ

That is a lot of people! But a direct connection back to Abraham! An important point for Matthew. With mention of a number of important women who were always important to this lineage. In addition, there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, another fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and yet another fourteen from the Babylonian exile to Christ.

A conservative definition of a generation is 25 years. Imagine 14 times that! I’m sure someone can quickly do the math. But as Matthew relates, it was not just 14 generations but three times 14!

During all that time – they were waiting, waiting, waiting – looking for signs, but waiting, waiting, waiting. All the while enjoying the predictable cycle of seasons and religious celebrations. So much waiting that people would not recognize the change that Jesus brought.

Our case is different – we cannot ignore the change brought into the world this year. But because of that we have a chance to step away from the predictable, step away so that we can approach the season and our preparations with fresh eyes and minds. Even as we mourn the usual we have a chance to embrace new ways to celebrate. What will be the new addition rather than the mourned loss this year?

A Christmas classic came to mind as I pondered this passage and message. “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. You can probably recite the opening lines with me. “All through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” This is a story about waiting for an expected event that only depends on the clock.

What is it like in your house – waiting for Christmas to arrive? Waiting for Christmas morning? Some homes are decorated already, others wait till Christmas eve to decorate. All following family patterns that mark the holiday. Maybe members of your household spend Christmas Eve day and evening on pins and needles, unable to calm down, amazed at gifts freely given.

Others might easily fall asleep on Christmas Eve only to wake way before dawn in anticipation of sharing the morning with grandchildren or children. Or to wait for lovely and warm phone (or zoom or facetime) chats with family. Cathy’s grandparents were always waiting in their car having arrived before excited children got up.

Fortunately, the clock is predictable – we only need to manage our expectations and automatic bodily reactions. The day will arrive just like today arrived – prompt and on time with unpredictable weather.

Relax. It is only four weeks and five days! How will you immerse yourself in this unusual time leading to an anticipated and predictable day?

Remember that airplane ride? Anticipation in the waiting room. Excitement on boarding and take off? The bad news is that we are way up in the air in midflight in our journey with COVID-19. The airport is not in sight, the time passes slowly as there is little visible change. When that gets overwhelming just think of the three sets of fourteen generations waiting for the fulfillment of the prophesy to Abraham.

The good news today. In only four weeks and five days we can be sure that Christmas will arrive. The airport for the advent journey is in sight and the pilots are preparing to land. Life will get bigger and anticipation will grow as the days pass, as we prepare to land on Christmas. We can be sure that the landing is coming either a smooth anticipated landing or with a jarring bump. But predictably it will come.

All because the God who teaches us about gift giving is with us. The God who teaches us to gently receive gifts (like forgiveness) is with us.

But remember what Mark and Matthew teach. The anticipated events will occur on God’s timing. But just like my two front teeth or ‘Twas the night before Christmas, things will be different.

Remember, we really mess with the timing of the narrative when we have the Wise Men arrive on Christmas day. They had a months long journey. But in God’s time we can easily imagine that long before the actual birth in Bethlehem they were seeing the Star in the East and began planning their journey to Bethlehem. If you need some help passing the days, follow the “Wandering Wisemen” in Facebook.

God is in charge of the timing – make the most of it! Remember all those in recent and ancient history who waited (patiently or impatiently)! Pay attention. Stay awake.


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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