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Like a Plowed Field - Micah 3

An Advent service plan focused on the way God lovingly chastens us that our barrenness may give way to fertility and productivity in a series on Micah and the hope that he pronounced.

Micah's Hope

This series of worship services explores the season of Advent through the eyes of the prophet Micah.

Theme of the Service

In this service we continue the theme of the Advent season and remember the work of God through the centuries through which he has prepared his people for the arrival of the Messiah. In this particular service, we focus on the work of God in which he lovingly chastens his own so that their barrenness may give way to fertility and productivity.


We Gather in the Presence of God

Prelude: “Selections from Messiah or: “Brightest and Best of the Stars” [see music notes]

The Call to Worship:

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Song: “Brightest and Best of the Stars” PH 67, RL 230, TH 206, TWC 182

We Are Renewed in God's Grace

The Call to Confession:

Prepare the way of the Lord!
Let us make our confessions to God. (TWS D.2.1.1)

Our Prayer of Confession:

While we ask, Lord, for the most meaningful Advent season ever,
we sadly confess having done so little with so much.
Forgive us, Lord,
for not bending the knee,
for not reading your Word,
for not searching our hearts,
for not facing our sins.
Forgive us according to your tender mercies, O God!
Grant that when Christmas morning breaks for us this year,
we may have a fresh sense of your presence
and a renewed resolve to live to the praise of Christ's glory. Amen. (TWS D.2.2.8)

The Assurance of God's Pardon:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Your sins are pardoned.
The penalty is paid.
Thanks be to God. (based on Isaiah 40:1,2, TWS D.2.4.2)

Sung Response: "Halle, Halle, Hallelujah!" RN 139, SNC 44:3, WOV 612 [see music notes]

Lighting the Advent Candles: [see liturgy notes of both this service and the previous service for an explanation of Advent Candles]

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world;
the one who follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life.”
We light this candle as a sign of the coming light of Christ.

(Two Advent Candles are lit.)

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
—Isaiah 9:2, NRSV

I will lead the blind
by a road they do not know,
by the paths they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I will do
and I will not forsake them.
—Isaiah 42:16, NRSV

Come, Lord Jesus, our light and our salvation.

Let us walk in the light of the Lord. (TWS, D.1.4.27)

Let us hear God's Call to Live in the Light from Ephesians 5:8-10, 15-17.

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

*Song: "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" RN 152:1-3, SNC 77:1-3, TWC 539:1-3, UMH 206:1-3, WOV 649

God Speaks to Us Through His Word

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Micah 3:1-12

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: "Like a Plowed Field"
Text - Micah 3:12

The Prayer of Application

God's Call in Song: "O My People, Turn to Me" PsH 200

We Respond to God's Word

An Exhortation to Respond to God's Call

Our Sung Prayer: "Lord, You Have Searched Me" PsH 184:1,5

Anthem: "Offertory", Beck

"Our Song of Affirmation: "How Firm a Foundation" PH 361:3-4, PsH 500:3-4, RL 172:3-4, TH 94: 3-4, TWC 612:3-4, UMH 529:3-4 [see music notes]

The Pastoral Prayer

The Offertory:

The offering of music: “How Firm a Foundation” [see music notes]
The offering of our gifts

We Go Out With New Hope

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: “Make Way” RN 60, SNC 98

Postlude: “Prepare the Way” [see music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

Liturgy Notes

1. Note that the Service of Renewal includes Lighting the Advent Candles, as it did last week. This second week of Advent has a slightly expanding script and two candles are lit. Consult the Liturgy Notes of last week for the complete script. This service of renewal will follow the same format throughout all of Advent. Include a variety of readers in the Advent Candle service, but prepare them with adequate "coaching" to lead comfortably and clearly.

2. Reflect carefully on the liturgical actions after the sermon. This service includes a careful attempt to make the need for our response to God's call clear. God's call to us is echoed in song; we are exhorted to respond; the sung prayer ("Lord, You Have Searched Me") continues to emphasize our openness; finally we make our affirmation with "How Firm a Foundation"; and the pastoral prayer collects our responses and expresses them to God.

3. The "Exhortation to Respond to God's Call" can be brief and pointed. It may be most effective if carefully selected verses from some of the other Minor Prophets are used. You may want to consider passages, such as Hosea 14:1-9, Joel 2:12-17, with Micah 2:12-13, 4:1-5 and 6:8.

Sermon Notes

1. Before proceeding with the preparation of this message, review the material of last week, including your study materials and commentaries, to remind yourself of the historical and spiritual circumstances of Micah's ministry. Its context must be clearly in mind throughout this series.

2. Micah is a rural fellow from a small town and was obviously very familiar with plowing. Plowing is hard work. Plowing is very disturbing to the soil. It hurts the soil to be broken up and turned over so violently. If soil could speak, it might say something to us like, "Hey, watch out, that hurts! What are you doing?" But then some months later the same soil, while now producing fertile crops, would tell you that all the pain was well worth it.

3. God, in Micah's day, is going to allow his people to be hurt through captivity in Babylon, a terribly disturbing experience, for the sake of renewing them and producing a more vibrant and healthy nation. Compare the painful predictions of this chapter with 4:1-5; 6:8; and 7:18-20. Plowing to aid fertility is a principle from the natural world that is also practiced in the spiritual realm. A study of chapter three will reveal that the prophet points his finger at the religious leaders who are pinpointed as the cause of this necessary discipline.

4. God continues to work that way and the coming of the Messiah is a large part of such efforts. Compare Haggai's message (2:6-9) and Malachi's (3:1-3) to John the Baptist's testimony (Luke 3:17). Similarly the teachings of Scripture on God's chastening and disciplining emphasize the same principle.

5. Now make the connection between Micah's message and the Advent Season. Advent must be a season that welcomes disturbance for the sake of renewal. What a very different spirit than what we often hear in our culture in this season!

Music Notes

We are suggesting selections from the prophecy section of the “Messiah” by G. F. Handel as prelude music. Specifically we are suggesting “He Shall Feed His Flock”, Comfort Ye” and “And the Glory of the Lord.” This music could be sung as accompanied solo, choral anthem or bell anthem. The handbell arrangements can be found as follows:

  • Handel, G.F., Dobrinski, Cynthia, arranger. He Shall Feed His Flock. Agape 1327 (1988) [3-5 octaves, M]
  • Handel, G.F., McChesney, Kevin, arranger. Comfort Ye Beckenhorst. HB142 (1994) [3-5 octaves plus C instrument, E-M]
  • Handel, G.F., McChesney, Kevin, arranger. And the Glory of the Lord. Agape 1607 (1992) [3-5 octaves, M]

The alternate suggestion, “Brightest and Best of the Stars” [MORNING STAR] is often titled “Brightest and Best of the Sons”. Organ Resources for prelude as well as an alternative harmonization for this tune can be found in:

MORNING STAR [“Brightest and Best of the Stars”]

  • Organ:
    • Held, Wilbur. 6 Hymn Settings for Epiphany. Morningstar MSM-10-206 [1999] (E-M)
    • Wold, Wayne L. Augsburg Organ Library – Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (M)
    • Wold, Wayne L. God with Us. Augsburg 11-10975 [1999] (M)
  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]

The sung response to the Assurance of Pardon will be the same through the Advent season. We are suggesting using the refrain and the third verse of “ Halle, Halle Hallelujah!” [SNC 44]. The refrain would both begin and end this response.

God’s Call in Song, “O My People, Turn to Me” could be sung congregationally or as an anthem by a vocal ensemble or choir.

The keyboard accompanied SATB anthem “Offertory,” based on Micah 6:6-8 was composed by John Ness Beck and published by Beckenhorst BP1280 [1987] (E-M).

Following the acknowledgement of God’s call for both repentance and obedience, take note of the sure promise of God’s care and love for us described in verses 3 and 4 of “How Firm a Foundation.”

FOUNDATION [“How Firm a Foundation”]

  • Choral Resource:
    • Rutter, John. How Firm A Foundation. Hinshaw HMC-667 [1983] (SATB with organ; hymn based; E-M)
  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
    • Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H.W. Grey GB 644 [1978]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Wellman, Samuel. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The offertory music, based on that song of affirmation provides opportunity for the texts just sung to sink deeply into the souls of the congregation in a time of reflection.

FOUNDATION [“How Firm a Foundation”]

  • Organ:
    • Cherwien, David. Interpretations. bk. 9 AMSI SP-106 [1992] (E-M)
    • Haan, Raymond H. Four Hymns of Rejoicing. Morningstar MSM-10-518 [1998] (E-M)
    • Held, Wilbur. Seven Settings of American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-5829 [1984] (E-M)
    • Kosche, Kenneth Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 2. Concordia 97-7015 [2003] (E-M)
    • Linker, Janet. Variations on ”How Firm A Foundation.” Concordia 97-6586 [1996] (M)
    • Murphree, Claude. Toccata on How Firm a Foundation. H.W. Grey GSTC 813 [1955] (M)
  • Piano:
    • David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (M)
    • Medema, Ken. Sanctuary. Genevox 4181-16 [1989] (M)

Suggestions for the postlude, based on “Prepare the Way” reflect the theme of the closing hymn

BEREDEN VÄG FOR HERREN [“Prepare the Way”]

  • Organ:
    • Behnke, John A. Road to Bethlehem. Concordia 97-7071 [2004] (E)
    • Manz, Paul. Augsburg Organ Library – Advent. Augsburg 11-11034 [2000] (M)
    • Manz, Paul. Six Advent Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-002 [1990] (M)
    • Wood, Dale. Wood Works, bk. 2. SMP KK400 [1989] (E-M)

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America;
Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)