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Worship Service: When God Breaks In: He Stretches Us - Jonah

A service plan for Advent recounting how God "broke into" the story of Jonah, calling him to a task and stretching him until he was willing to be obedient. God also broke into the life of Nineveh through Jonah. Part of an Advent series of anticipation focused on what happens when God breaks in to our lives.

When God Breaks In

This series explores how Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting for God's act of "breaking into" world history for his redemptive work.

Theme of the Service

We continue the Advent season and our focus on God's acts of breaking into history to accomplish his plan of redemption. The themes of anticipation and hope are prominent.

God broke into Jonah's life, calling him to a task that at first seemed very attractive. But as soon as Jonah discovered he was called to Nineveh, he wanted nothing to do with it. God, however, continued to break in and stretched Jonah until he was willing to be obedient. God also broke into the life of Nineveh and brought salvation and hope to the Gentile city.

When God breaks in, he often stretches us too.


Prelude: "Variations on 'On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry,'" Burkhardt [organ],
or "The King of Glory Comes," Burkhardt [organ] and/or Honoré [handbells]

The Call to Worship

Preparing for Christ's Coming
The First Reading-Isaiah 55:1-3
Lighting Three Candles
*The Gospel Reading-Luke 4:16-21
*Song: "Magnify the Lord" PsH 622, RN 131, SFL 13

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Worshipers greet one another with the peace of Christ

*Song: "View the Present Through the Promise" SNC 90
or "Make Way" RN 60, SNC 98


Anthem: "Prepare Ye," Robinson

Our Confession of Sin
The Reading of Matthew 22:37-39
Sung Response: "Change My Heart, O God" (refrain) RN 143, SNC 56

The Reading of Exodus 20:1-11
Sung Response: "Change My Heart, O God"

The Reading of Exodus 20:12-17
Sung Response: "Change My Heart, O God"

The Assurance of Pardon-Isaiah 55:6-7

Song: "Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning" PH 67, RL 230, TH 206, TWC 182
or "We Come, O Christ, to You" (st. 1-2) PsH 238


The Pastoral Prayer

The Offertory: "Comfort, Comfort Now My People," Ferguson [organ] or Pachelbel [organ or piano] or Dobrinski [handbells]

The Offertory Prayer


The Children's Moment

*Song: "Comfort, Comfort Now My People" (st. 1-3) PH 3, PsH 194, RL 169, SFL 121, TH 197, TWC 132

The Reading of Scripture: Selections from Jonah 1-4
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: When God Breaks In He Stretches Us (#3)

The Prayer of Application


*Song: "Go, Tell It on the Mountain" (st. 1-3) PH 29, PsH 356, RL 224, SFL 131, TH 224, TWC 151

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*A Moment of Meditation

Postlude: "Huron Carol," Visser [organ] or "Go, Tell It on the Mountain," Carter [piano]

*You are invited to stand

Sermon Notes

  1. You'll want to survey the entire drama of Jonah's story. However, since reading all four chapters would be too lengthy for public worship, we suggest reading excerpts that will capture the main movements of the drama-1:1-3, 17; 2:10; 3:1-5; 4:1-11.
  2. Continue to reinforce the theme of this season and this series by reminding the listeners that when God breaks in there is much comfort and hope for us. But sometimes there is also great surprise, and even disturbance. Jonah's story illustrates such a disturbance, and he finds that God has stretched him in the process.
  3. Make sure people hear the theme of God as the "disturber." Sometimes God comes to us to shake us out of our comfort zone and confront us with needs and tasks that we'd rather not face. The Bible is full of such examples-Haggai, Malachi, Mary and Joseph, the Pharisees, even Paul and Peter.
  4. Once the hearers are familiar with the idea of God as the disturber, a retelling of the drama of Jonah's life will illustrate it very strikingly. Jonah's first response was anger and an attempt to override God's plan. He found that God would not allow him to do so.
  5. The irony in this story is that when Jonah finally followed God's plan, he got a response he didn't want (repentance from the Ninevites) and then discovered he couldn't love those whom God loved (Gentiles). There seems to be at least a little of Jonah in all of us!

Music Notes

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)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. Please take note that the music of this service is related to calls for personal repentance or the call to missions.
  2. The music suggestions for prelude can be found in the following sources:
    - "Variations on 'Puer Nobis,'" arranged by Michael Burkhardt and published by Morningstar MSM-10-005 [1992] [M]
    - "The King of Glory," arranged by Michael Burkhardt in "Five Psalm Improvisations," published by Morningstar MSM-10-511 [1997] [E-M]
    - The King of Glory," arranged by Jeffrey Honoré for 3-5 octave handbell choir and published by Concordia 97-6528 [1995] (E-M)
  3. The unaccompanied SATB anthem "Prepare Ye" by Marc A. Robinson includes a tenor solo. It is published by Kjos 8830 [1996] [E]
  4. The offertory suggestions on "Comfort, Comfort, Now My People" can be found in the following sources:
    - "An Advent Triptych" by John Ferguson, published by Morningstar MSM-10-008 [1995] [E-M]
    - "Selected Organ Works" vol. 4 by Johann Pachelbel, published by Barenreiter 1016 [E-M]; most in this set of variations are written for hands together without pedal and so could be transferred to piano easily
    - "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People," arranged by Cynthia Dobrinski for 3-5 octave handbell choir, published by Agape 1861 [1996] [M]
  5. Alternative accompaniments for the stanzas of "Comfort, Comfort Now My People" can be found in "Festival Hymn Settings for the Christmas Season" set 1 by Michael Burkhardt, published by Morningstar MSM-10-126 [1995]
  6. The postlude suggestions can be found as follows:
    - "Huron Carol," arranged by Larry Visser in "Noels on Christmas Themes," published by Wayne Leupold Editions WL600090 [1998] [E]
    - "Go, Tell It on the Mountain," arranged by John Carter in "Carols for Piano" and published by Hope 232 [1987] [E]

Liturgy Notes

  1. Information previously posted for October 19 will provide suggestions for the readings associated with the Advent candles. Three candles are to be lit this week.
  2. The confession of sin is set up as a responsorial in which God speaks his will to us from his word (in this case the Ten Commandments and their summary) and we respond with a sung plea that God will change our hearts. The song is actually larger than the portion of it we are suggesting. There are three possibilities for structuring this: we have suggested that only the refrain be used and that it be sung at three intervals; you may wish to sing the entire song at those three intervals; or you may wish to sing the entire song after God's Law is read.
  3. Notice the Assurance of Pardon uses the words from Isaiah 55, a continuation of the Old Testament reading with the Advent candle lighting.
  4. Children readily live into the story of Jonah and so this one is an ideal subject for the Children's Moment. Try to get them to feel the dilemma of "what do we do when it's hard for us to love some people that God loves?" and then point to Jonah as someone who had to learn it the hard way.