Saturday, March 25, 2017

Liturgy w/communion for April 2, 2017 (Lent 5 - A)

Texts:  Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45

Litany for Lent
In the buds on the trees eager to burst;
in the flowers poking their heads out of the dirt;
in the children chalking spring on the sidewalks:
we see how you love us, God of steadfast love.
In the tears of a worried father over his son's illness;
in the weariness of a mother facing a long shift at work;
in the woman who anoints her grandbaby with talcum powder:
we see how you love us, our Resurrection and our Life.
In the touch of a wife on her husband's papery skin;
in the birds which rush into the sky before spiraling down;
in the words we are given to offer to the empty-hearted:
we see how you love us, Breath of our souls.

Silence is kept

Creator of life:
bring us light, we pray.
Mourner of the dead:
take away our grief, we pray.
Refresher of dry lives:
bind us to God forever, we pray, as we say together,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
If it is true that God has recorded our failings, we hope it will never be published.  But in truth, if the book was opened, every page would be blank, for God forgives us of everything we have done, or failed to do.  So, let us wait for God's mercy and grace, as we come with our prayers for forgiveness, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We are set free by your saving grace, Generous God, yet we must confess how we are still bound by our pride and arrogance.  We seem unable to throw off the grave clothes of our habitual sin, finding them too comfortable to wear.  We cling to our fears, for they are so familiar and make such good companions.
     Yet, there in every corner of our lives, in every shadow we fear, into the cold embrace of death itself, you come, Steadfast Love.  You break the bonds of sin and terror, giving us new strength and hope for the journey, and calling us to new life through the love and sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
You can put your hope in God, dear friends, for God offers us that love which never fades, that life which never ends.
We wait for God, and God does not fail us.  God's hope, God's love, and God's grace are forever.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
For all left by the side of society, for all whose strength has vanished, for all whose bones are brittle with despair, may our gifts bring hope and healing, peace and plenty, in your name and in your love.  This we pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of tears be with you.
And also with you.
Offer your hearts to the One who calls us out of death into life.
Unbound, we bring our hearts to our God of new mornings.
People of God, sing songs to the One in whom we hope.
We rejoice in God, who dwells in our souls.

In that first moment, God of wonder,
you cried out, 'Unbind creation and let her go!'
      and flowers grew in the cracks of chaos,
     blustery winds played talk through the forests,
     lambs leapfrogged one another in the meadows.
Your hand came upon the dry dust of earth,
and your Spirit breathed life into us.
You longed for us to be with you,
     but we allowed sin and death
     to lead us around by the nose.
You called to women and men,
'Prophesy!' urging them to call us back.
     but we did not believe their words.
So you sent a certain man named Jesus,
to cause new life to come upon us.

With those who have stood beside graves,
and those who wait for signs of hope,
we sing our praises to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of our shadowed valleys.
All creation hopes in you and waits.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who calls us to new life.
Hosanna in the highest!

You are holy, Caresser of our souls,
and Jesus is our Child, our Friend.
Seeing that those he loved were sick,
     he brought us healing.
Finding us wandering in despair,
     he showed us that our hope
     need never turn to dust.
Believing that you loved him,
     he went to the cross, for us.
And when he was in death's cold arms,
you stood at the door of the tomb,
crying out, 'unbind him, and let him go!'
and our Resurrection and our Life
came forth for us.

Believing that he is the One who calls us to new life,
trusting that, by his tears, he takes away our pain,
we proclaim that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, taking away the sins of the world;
Christ was raised, taking away the power of sin and death;
Christ will return, taking us by the hand to lead us home.

In the bread and the cup,
you give life to us,
as the Spirit comes to dwell
in every room of our souls.
You bless the bread, breaking it,
so it might heal and strengthen us
so we can say
     to the barren, 'here is your life;'
     to the despairing, 'here is your hope!'
As the grace-filled cup nourishes us
we would go into the world
     to visit those who are sick,
     to wait with the expectant,
     to share tears with the broken.

And when you call of us to your side,
we will join Lazarus, Mary, Martha,
and all our sisters and brothers
in forever singing your praises,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Sending
Now go forth with God's hope!
We have put flesh on our faith and will go to serve others.
Now go forth to fill others with Christ's Light!
We will go to call others to new life, wiping away their tears.
Now go forth with the steadfast love of the Spirit!
We will go to share that hope for which all people long.

(c) 2017 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, March 17, 2017

Liturgy w/communion for March 26, 2017 (Lent 4 - A)

Texts: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Call to Worship
Early each morning, God waits to greet us with joy and wonder.
We awake to find ourselves enveloped in grace.
During the day, Jesus comes to invite us to serve.
We rise from our work and leisure to bring healing and hope to others.
In the shadowed evenings of our fears and worries, the Spirit is with us.
The Light of life is shines on us in every moment of every day.

Prayer of the Day
One thing we know,
Listener to our hearts:
     you are the One
     who sends us on journeys
     and waits for us at
     the final destination.

One thing we know,
Healer of our lives:
     when we find ourselves
     in valleys veiled in shadows,
     you are walking alongside us
     even though we may never notice.

One thing we know,
Comforter of our souls:
     when we are weakened
     by the burdens of our lives,
     you come to us, to rest
     your strengthening peace upon us.

One thing we know,
God in Community, Holy in One:
once we could not see you in every moment,
but now our eyes are opened wide,
and so we pray together, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
God longs for us to sit by the still waters of love, but we are too busy stirring up trouble with our actions, with our words, with our inability to be God's children.  Let us bring our prayers to the One who will restore us with goodness and mercy, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     Like Cinderella, Loving God, we sit in the ashes of our hopes, but you see us as your beloved children.  We pay strict attention to all who break the rules, but ignore the grace which is poured out upon us.  We try to box you in with boundaries we can manage, but you continue to burst forth to bring newness into the world.
     Have mercy on us, God of forgiveness, and open our eyes to your presence among us.  As you look at our hearts, may we see others in a different way, not as enemies or strangers, but sisters and brothers of the same family, kin to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
The Spirit of the Lord has come upon us, bringing hope, life, and forgiveness for each person.
Now we will go forth as God's children, sent to bring the good news to everyone we meet.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
With you as our shepherd and by sharing our gifts, we can indeed anoint others with grace, prepare feasts for the hungry, welcome the stranger, and love those we consider to be our enemies.  Bless these gifts, and use our lives for others, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of still waters be with you.
And also with you.
Lift your hearts to the One who gives you rest.
We open ourselves to God, who restores us.
Join together in glad songs of praise to God.
We rejoice in the One who is our comfort and hope.

You prepared a feast of wonder
for us, Imagination beyond power,
when creation burst forth:
     green pastures radiant with sunflowers;
     cool, still pools for rest and renewal;
     paths formed by antelopes up mountainsides.
Your heart overflowed with love
as you showed us what to do
that we might live with you in peace.
     But looking at sin and death,
     we said, 'surely these are the
     ones we should follow,' and
     trailed after them.
You would not reject us,
but sent prophets to pursue us,
calling us to return to you.
     But we did not know
     where they came from
     and so ignored them.
Then you sent Jesus to us,
providing a Savior for yourself,
and for those who wander death's valleys,
so we might be brought home to you.

With all who once lived in the shadows,
but now walk in the light of grace,
we sing glad thanksgivings to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God our Shepherd.
All that is good and right and true sings your praises.
Hosanna in the highest!

 Blessed is the One who prepares this Table for us.
 Hosanna in the highest!

You are goodness, God of pastures and pools,
and Jesus Christ, your Son, is our mercy.
He came peacefully,
     so our differences might be reconciled.
As he walked along,
     he brought light to those
     who could not see the way.
Seeing the foolish choices we made,
     he decided to look at our hearts,
     so we might be drawn closer to you.
Your anointed One,
     he went into death's deepest valley,
     coming forth as the Risen One,
     bathed in resurrection's life.

Once we were children of the shadows,
but now we are heirs of the Light of Christ,
and so we speak of that faith we know as a mystery:

Christ died, his spirit broken on the cross;
Christ was raised, the Spirit of God coming upon him with joy;
Christ will come, the Spirit shining upon us.

Here is the Table prepared for us,
God of still waters and deep love,
your Spirit transforming the simple gifts
of the bread and the cup into
that goodness and mercy which is always with us.
We take the bread, broken for our healing,
and share it with one another
so we may go forth and do all
that makes your heart race with joy:
     bringing hope to those who suffer,
     listening to the voices of the hopeless.
We take the cup which overflows with grace,
and take it to pour out on
     all who have lost their way,
     all who long for community.

And when our journeys have ended
around the Table prepared for us in glory,
we will join our hearts and voices
with those from every age and time
and forever sing your praises,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Sending
Now go to take the love of God into the world.
We will show others the way to God's fields of grace.
Now go to take grace of Jesus into the world.
We will seek to bring others to the still waters of peace.
Now go to take the community of the Spirit into the world.
We will work to restore the lives of all whom we meet.

(c) 2017 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Liturgy w/communion for March 19, 2017 (Lent 3 - A)

Texts:  Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

Call to Worship
Come and see the ambassador of God's friendship for us.
We will find Jesus waiting to meet us:
in classrooms, at a shopping center,
in all the common places and moments.
Come and hear the One who speaks of God's joy in us.
We will listen to Jesus, whose words of grace and peace
raise the rafters of our hope.
Come and know how much God loves you.
We will discover Jesus, who offers us the gift of reconciliation.

Prayer of the Day
When we were determined
to remain at war with you,
you sent the Prince of Peace.
When our relationship with you
was laying in pieces on the floor,
you offered the broken Bread
to restore us to wholeness.
When petty pride
stiffens our necks so much
we cannot bow down
in your holy presence,
you massage our souls
with grace's tender touch.
We worship you in joy,
God, our God.

When our ears become stuffed
with our selves,
you open them with songs
of grateful praise.
When our mouths overflow
with rich, sweet whine,
you wash them out
with living waters of hope.
When all we can say
is 'Give me! Give me!'
you challenge us
to submit to servanthood.
We worship you in sprit,
Jesus, Water Giver.

When our souls are empty,
you fill them with living water.
When we are reluctant
to follow Jesus,
you steer us in the right direction.
When we are tempted to boast,
your whispers of grace silence us.
We worship you in truth,
Comforter of our hearts.

God in Community, Holy in One,
our joy, our truth, our spirit,
we worship you, as we pray, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Walking the dog, reading a bedtime story, recycling newspapers - in every moment, in every place, God is there.  Let us confess how often we do not see God in our lives, especially in how we live them.  Join me, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   God of eternity, you know how often we travel down the rocky roads of doubt and fear.  We pester others with our worries; we hurl bitter words at those we love.  We have chances to offer ourselves in service, but only give our contempt to those in need.  We could share the living waters with the world, but want to store it in jars for safe-keeping.
   Fountain of Grace, you turn towards us, to meet us wherever we are.  You break open our rock-hard sin, so we might be made whole.  In Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, our thirst for hope and joy is quenched.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God does not disappoint us.  Our sins are forgiven, our lives are made whole, we are sent forth to serve.
In Jesus Christ, living water breaks through the roof of our hearts, in such abundance that we don't have enough buckets to hold it all.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
We pray, Gracious God, that our gifts may provide nourishment to those who thirst for justice, strength to those who hunger for hope, a community to those living in loneliness.  This we pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
The God of wilderness and wells be with you!
And also with you!
Lift your hearts to the One who comes bringing life.
We offer them to our God of hope.
Make a joyful noise to Salvation's Rock.
We will sing songs of praise each day.

With the Spirit,
you struck stony chaos,
and creation gushed forth,
to fill the hollows of heavens,
to seed the mountains
you cradled in your wisdom.
You longed to sit by Eden's well,
telling us stories of the world
you were shaping for us.
But we tested you
with our quarreling ways.
Hearing the boasts of sin and death,
we bowed down and
worshiped at their altars.
Prophets came to lead us
through despair's desert
back home to you,
but our ears were clogged
with temptations seductive songs.
Finally, you sent Jesus
to meet us in our brokenness,
to save us by your grace.

Therefore, we join our voices
with saints and sinners,
with testers and pesterers,
who forever sing your praises:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God our Rock.
All creation sings glad songs to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to ease our thirst
        for salvation.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Grace-giving God,
and blessed is Jesus Christ,
the Fountain of our hope.
When we were too weak to resist,
Christ came to take on sin and death.
When we are unfaithful,
Christ shows us your constant love.
When our fears and failures
stain our souls,
Christ cleanses us.
When our hopes for life had faded,
Christ died that we might live forever.

As we remember his gentle touch,
as we recall his words of hope and grace,
we speak of that mystery called faith:

Christ died, pouring himself out for us;
Christ was raised, pouring God's love into us;
Christ will come, pouring hope into us.

Pour out your Spirit
upon your children
gathered in this place,
and on the gifts
of the Bread and the Cup.
May they be the grace
which nourishes and sustains us.
As we come to reconciliation's table,
may our broken relationships
be made whole again.
As we see you in these gifts,
may we go and proclaim the good news.
As we open our hearts
to your never-ending love,
may we offer our selves
to everyone we meet.

And when all time is ended.
when hunger and thirst is no more
as we are fed at the Lamb's feast,
we will join our hands and hearts,
bowing down to worship you forever:
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Sending
Let us go now, to meet all thirsting for God.
We will share the living water with everyone we meet.
Let us go now, to listen as Jesus does with us.
We will hear the stories and hearts of all
who are considered voiceless by our world.
Let us go now, to bring the Spirit's wholeness to others.
We will bring peace and healing to the broken and lonely,
even as they offer us hope and grace by their lives.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Liturgy w/communion for March 12, 2017 (Lent 2 - A)

Texts:  Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17

Litany for Lent
Christ of the comfortable,
you would call us
from our security and sameness,
down that unknown path
which leads to God's heart:
with trust, we would place
our hands in yours, and follow.

Companion of our sleepless nights,
you would beckon us
out of the shadows of our fears,
calling us to bring our doubts
and questioning hearts along:
with humility, we would listen
to those answers we do not
expect, or even understand.

Word which creates out of nothingness,
you would fill us with life
where we see only emptiness,
you would keep your promises
when all ours lie littered on the ground:
we would let your grace transform
us into faithful disciples.


Silence is kept

Keeper of every moment,
walk with us, we pray.
Watcher in the night:
stay with us, we pray.
Spirit of new life:
be in us, as we pray together saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
When we least expect it, even when we are not ready, God comes to us, calling us to trust, calling us to follow, calling us to set aside our foolish lives, for the grace-full ones which are offered to us.  Let us confess how often we choose not to follow, as we pray together saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We are all too human, Faithful God, and so think we have nothing to learn from others, and thus discount ancestors in the faith like Nicodemus or Sarah.  We look for an answers online, convinced that we can trust whatever we find.  We close tight the shutters of our souls, so the Spirit can only rattle us, but not get in to transform our lives.
     Yet you continue to keep watch of us, Promise Giver, whether it is when we swagger through the sunshine of our lives, or in those shadowed moments of uncertainty in the night.  You will not stumble as you continue to come to us, to lead us into your kingdom.  You will always be our help, whether or not we recognize it or accept it, even as you remained faithful to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.


Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Our hope, our help, our peace, our joy?  All come from God, the One who loved us, and the world so much, that Jesus came to bring us salvation.
Keeper of our souls, be with us;
Watcher of our days, lead us;
Salvation of our lives, have mercy on us.  Amen.


Prayer of Dedication/Offering
You trust us enough to place your blessings in us, so may we be as faithful in offering them back to you, so others might be kept in their loneliness, might be fed in their emptiness, might receive hope in their despair.  This we ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

May the God of great adventures be with you!
And also with you!
It is God who is able to keep our hearts filled with hope and peace.
We will offer our hearts to the One who is our Keeper.
Trust in the promises whose fulfillment we cannot see.
We lift our songs to the One who is always with us.

You went into the shadows of nothingness,
bearing your Light of creation, Keeper of all,
so that life might burst forth where there was none:
     white sands at the edge of blue green seas,
     shale formed under the crust of the earth,
     warm mornings and frigid nights to mark the seasons.
You blessed your children with creation's gifts
so we might prove to be a blessing to others,
     but we watched the comings and goings
     of sin and death, allowing ourselves
     to be blown about by them.
Prophets responded to your call to them,
daring to bring us those words we did not want to hear,
calling us back to a way of life we had abandoned,
     but we knew that we preferred life
     in the absence of your presence.
For this reason, you sent Jesus into the world,
so that we, along with all creation, might be saved.

With those who toss and turn in the night,
with those who have responded to your call,
we lift our thanksgivings to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Who neither slumbers nor sleeps.
All creation blesses your glorious name.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to answer our questions.
Hosanna in the highest!


Holy One, you are the God of blessings,
and Jesus Christ is your Faithful One.
The One who could truly boast,
     he humbled himself to become like us.
The One who was truly righteous,
     he emptied himself to fill us with grace.
The One who had spoken life into existence,
     he embraced death on the cross,
     so that we might be justified
     through your grace and wonder.

As we continue on the journey to Jerusalem,
as we seek to leave our comfortable lives to follow,
we would talk about that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, faithful to the end;
Christ was raised, so all creation might be saved;
Christ will come, to bring us to that home he will show us.


What then are we to say, Keeper of our lives?
It is your Spirit poured out upon us
and upon the gifts of the Table
which brings us new life.
It is the brokenness of the bread
which gives us life, that life
     poured out for those who have no hope,
    for those who wander in the shadows.
It is the grace of the cup
which overflows with your gifts,
     so we might go to be a blessing
     to all forsaken by the world.

And when our journey has ended
and we find ourselves in that land
which you have prepared for us,
we will sing our glad songs to you forever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Sending
Now go with the Spirit, from the comfort of this place,
so we may go to bring hope to the world.
Now carry the Light of Christ with you,
we will go into the shadows with this gift.
Now trust in God who is always with you,
we will follow that life called discipleship.

(c) 2017 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, February 24, 2017

Liturgy w/communion for March 5, 2017 (Lent 1 - A)

Texts:  Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

Litany for Lent
Jesus of the temptations,
you enter the wilderness
   of our hungers,
   our lust for power,
   our eagerness to test God:
be with us on our journey to Jerusalem, we pray.
Jesus of hopes,
you set aside your glory,
choosing to cradle us
in your scarred hands:
hold us in your tender embrace, we pray.
Jesus of the Feast,
you are broken
   so we might be healed,
you pour our your self
   so we might be drenched in your grace:
feed us from the simple gifts of creation, we pray.

Silence is kept

Lamb of God:
have mercy.
Servant to the poor:
have mercy on us.
Free gift of our righteousness:
have mercy on us, even as we pray, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We are easily seduced by the temptations all around us.  But if we are willing to trust God and offer our confessions, God is quick to forgive us and fill us with hope.  Join me, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   Led by the crafter of lies, Lord God, we wander into the wasteland of wrong-doing.  We hunger for more and more, and feel emptier and emptier.  We seek power, especially over others, only to do harm.  By our choices, we worship the false gods of success, wealth, and spectacle.
   Have mercy on us, God of love, and forgive us for the power we give to temptation in our lives.  Help us to become as vulnerable as Jesus, for in that vulnerability, we find the humility to trust you in all things; in that trust, we discover the grace which sets us free from the grasp of the shrewd one; in that freedom, we can leave our badlands behind, in order to follow Jesus in this life, and into the next.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Be glad and rejoice! Give thanks with shouts of joy!  Grace abounds for everyone.
With glad cries of deliverance, we offer our thanks to God who loves us and forgives us.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Too often, we give into the temptation to keep everything for ourselves.  But you would have us notice those how hunger for hope, as well as bread; those who are caught in the injustices of the world; those who struggle to find themselves.  And in noticing, we become generous and loving, even as we have been graced by our Brother and Savior, Jesus, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of discipleship be with you.
And also with you.
Let us begin our Lenten journey with open hearts.
We offer them to the One who walks with us.
Let our voices resound with thanksgiving to the One who shows us faithful care.
We rejoice in our God of hope and love.

You held nothing back,
Gardener of grace,
as the Spirit led creation
into the hinterlands of nothingness:
     spreading rich soil in the valleys,
     planting seedlings and flower bulbs,
     making mountains from river clay,
     sprinkling water over everything.
Mornings came in Eden's beauty,
all that wonder and goodness
given for your children,
     but we listened to evil's whispers,
     believing those lies so easily told.
Like a crew launching in boat
to rescue those who are adrift,
prophets came, counseling us
to let go of our stubbornness
and return to your side,
     but with our eyes wide open,
     we followed that path which
     took us away from the middle of the garden.
So you sent Jesus to us,
that free gift of grace for all.

With the faithful who have gone before us,
with companions through this journey today,
we offer glad songs of deliverance:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of steadfast love.
Creation sings your praises as on that first morning.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who brings grace to us.
Hosanna in the highest!

You alone are holy, Hope of our lives,
and Jesus Christ is your blessed righteousness.
When we got what we wanted
in knowing both good and evil,
     he came, so we might receive
     what we need most - your grace.
When we left the garden
to enter the deserts of temptation,
     he came , to show us
     the path back to your heart.
When we had given control
of our lives to sin and death,
     he came, to break their hold on us
     as he was resurrected from the grave.

As we begin to follow him to Jerusalem,
as we would choose to embrace his suffering,
we speak of that free gift called faith:

Christ died, going into the wilderness of the grave;
Christ was raised, shattering the grip of sin and death;
Christ will come, so we might follow him to the New Jerusalem.

You hold nothing back from us
as the Spirit comes to rest
on the gifts of the bread and the cup,
so that those gathered might be fed.
Like your heart, the bread is broken,
so we might be made whole and,
     by our healing, go forth
     to bring hope to those around us.
Like your Child, the cup is poured out,
so we might be filled with your grace, and
     go out into the world
     to empty ourselves for others.

And when our journeys in and out
of the wildernesses of the world are ended,
you will gather us around the
great Feast of the Lamb,
where we will sing glad songs of joy to you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Sending
May God lead us to all who are afraid.
We will follow God into the barren spots of our world.
May Jesus lead us to all who look for a friend, a companion in this life.
We will follow Jesus into all the places where the lonely live.
May the Spirit lead us to all who are tossed aside by the world.
We will follow the Spirit to the neighborhoods filled with injustice, to bring hope.

(c) 2017 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ash Wednesday alternate service

Texts:  Amos 5:8-15; Psalm139:7-12; Romans 8:31-35; Luke 18:9-14

Call to Worship
We gather in the dimness of evening
to be with the God who brightens
the shadows of our lives.
We gather in the quiet of this place,
to be with Jesus, knowing that nothing
past, present, or future separates us.
We gather to be marked as disciples,
to be fed for the journey through Lent,
to be sealed by the Spirit as God’s own.
 
Evening Prayer
You wait on this evening,
Patient God, for us to come back:
to stop going away from you
   on our self-focused travels;
to set aside our empty fears;
to cease shaping you in our image,
   so we can discover you closer
   than we ever dare imagined.

You wait for us this night,
Companion of our hearts,
for us to follow once more:
leaving the shuttered corners
   of our lives;
refusing to go from one failed
   promise to another;
coming out of the panic rooms
   we have built in our souls,
so you can take us by the hand
to lead us to resurrection life.
 
You wait in scattered ashes of our lives,
Spirit of silence, for us to find you:
in the broken bread
   which strengthens us to serve;
in the cup of grace
   which fills our emptiness;
in our sisters and brothers
   who are willing to hold us up
   when we falter,
so you can embrace us
with joy and hope in every moment.
 
As you wait, and as we seek
to return to you in these moments,
we pray as we are taught,
(The Lord’s Prayer)
 
Invitation to the Lenten life
Not for the first time, yet fresh once more,
we accompany Jesus to Jerusalem.
Because of his experience in the wilderness,
we discover how we might have the strength
to turn our back on evil, so we can choose good.
By his example of fasting and prayer
In the midst of serving and caring for others,
we can learn that rhythm of faithful living
which allows us to work for justice and hope,
as we draw strength from the timeless acts
of silence, feasting on the word, and prayer.
As we remember our baptism into faith,
as we gather at the feast of grace,
as we are marked as Christ’s own,
we prepare ourselves to come to God,
on this holy night.
 
Call to Reconciliation
On this night, we begin our journey to Easter.  Before we can take the first step, we must admit how we have not been faithful to our God.  Let us pray together, saying,
 
Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   We have trouble telling the truth, God of broken hearts, yet we must admit on this night how we have trouble being your people.  We may not trample the poor, but we sometimes walk right past them.  We don’t receive bribes, but we are more privileged than many around us.  We trust more in ourselves than in you, and spend far too much time patting ourselves on the back, rather than holding out a hand to others.
   Where can we go for forgiveness but to you, God of the ashes?  When we are greedy, you promise to be gracious.  When we have trouble confronting injustice, you stand at our side.  When we struggle to seek good, you point us to Jesus, our Brother, our Savior, who shows us how to turn our back on evil to follow him.  Amen.

Silence is kept
 
Assurance of Pardon
God refuses to stand far off, but comes close to us – to hear our prayers, to touch our hearts with forgiveness, and to walk with us during this holy season and beyond.
We have no need to go anyplace else, but into the comforting and restoring heart of the One who loves us.  Thanks be to God.  We are forgiven.  Amen.
 
Imposition of the ashes
Just yesterday it seems, the palms were
fresh and green, held tight in hands
as we reenacted Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
But then they dried, shriveled, became
almost too fragile to touch, until
we burned them into the ashes for tonight.
Yet, by the grace of our God,
with the Spirit resting upon them,
they are mixed with oil and placed
on our heads or hands,
the dust of life resting upon us
as a sign that by sharing the gifts
of peace, reconciliation, justice, and generosity,
we will live into the people we long to become.
 
As we are touched with this mark,
God of all moments,
remind us that just as you
shaped humanity from earth’s dust,
so, from the ashes of repentance and denial,
that grace which is gifted to us
through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer,
will shape us into faithful followers.  Amen.
 
(In the silence, those who wish may come to have the sign of the cross placed on their foreheads or back of their hands.  The ashes are from palm branches used in previous Palm Sunday services, mixed with oil)

Invitation to the Table
 
The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of the ashes be with you.
And also with you.
On this night, let us offer our hearts to God.
We open then so we may be filled with the gifts of Lenten discipleship.
Let us lift glad thanksgiving to our God.
We offer praise to the One who gives us the strength for this journey.
 
There at the edge of the emptiness of chaos
you spoke, God of all graciousness,
   brightening the shadows with lights in the sky,
   pouring the waters into rivers and seas,  
   planting seeds to feed all creatures.
From the dust of creation, you shaped your children,
offering us all the goodness and beauty
which overflowed from your heart,
   but we trampled through your hopes,
   as we turned from your heart
   to chase after evil’s false promises.
But no matter where we went,
or how far we sought to flee from you,
you continued to meet us in all those places,
constantly inviting us to return to you
and be filled with your steadfast love.
 
Therefore, we join with our sisters and brothers,
in the silence and shadows of this evening,
to offer you songs of thanksgiving:
 
Holy, holy, holy are you, God who is at our side.
We join all creation in singing your praises.
Hosanna in the highest!
 
Blessed is the One who makes us right.
Hosanna in the highest!
 
Your constant love is the seal of your holiness,
and Jesus is the One who comes
so we will never be separated from you.
He endured every hardship we experience,
   so we receive the hope you offer to us;
he experienced the hunger of loneliness,
   so we might become members of your family;
he was willing to set aside his life,
   so death would have no power
   to keep us apart from you, but
   your resurrection power would give us
   the same life he received from you.
 
As we take our tentative first steps towards Jerusalem,
as we would be marked as his companions,
we remember that mystery known as faith:
 
Christ died, not withholding his heart;
Christ was raised, so that he might become our advocate;
Christ will come, to draw us to your side.
 
Here at this Table of life and longing,
pour out your Spirit on us,
and on the gifts offered to us.  
May the bread which is broken
strengthen us so nothing can separate us
   from those who struggle with life;
   from those who mourn a death;
   from those who have no power or voice.
May the cup which overflows with grace
nourish us so we pick up
   those who have been trampled by misery;
   those who are trapped by injustice;
   those who are pushed aside by the privileged.
 
And when neither death nor life,
neither time nor history
can keep us apart from you
as you gather us around your Table
with our sisters and brothers,
we will sing your glory and praise forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.
 
Sending
Smudged this night with the ashes of penitence,
we will go out to share God’s forgiveness
with those we have hurt, with those who are forgotten.
Fed this night by the Host of the Feast of grace,
we will go out to bring healing to the broken,
to offer grace to those trampled by the powerful.
Called this night to journey through suffering to new life,
we will go out to stand with those experiencing injustice,
to share the Spirit’s peace and reconciliation with the world.
 
© 2017 Thom M. Shuman   

 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Liturgy w/communion for February 26, 2017 (Transfiguration - A)

Texts:  Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

Call to Worship
It is good to be here in this sacred space,
in the shelter of God’s love and hope.
It is good to be here with folks we know well, as well as with new friends,
joining with all of God’s beloved, sisters and brothers of Jesus.
It is good to be here, where we can hear God’s voice,
calling us to be eyewitnesses to the Spirit’s presence.
 
Prayer of the Day
We could build grand edifices
crafted out of our opinions
of how you should act and be,
God of mountains,
   or we could gather up
   all the broken dreams
   of the most vulnerable
to build a more just world.

We could join the denigrating
chorus which ridicules all
who have been pushed aside
by those climbing to the top,
Dawn of Hope,
   or we could hear songs
   of reconciliation and hope
   in the lingua franca
   of all who seek peace.
 
We could avert our gaze
from those who have fingers
pointed at them because
of where they come from,
Spirit of love,
not who they are,
   or we could catch
   a glimpse of you
   coming down from the
   closet shelf where we put you
      so you can be with us.
 
When we could stay on the mountaintop,
take us by the hand to lead us into service,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as we have been taught,
(The Lord’s Prayer)
     
Call to Reconciliation
We wait for God to show up, and while waiting, do not notice the words we might have spoken, the good we could have done.  Let us confess to our God, who waits to surround us with grace and hope, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   Our judgment often becomes clouded by our foolishness, Sheltering God, and so we make all the wrong choices.  We let fancy philosophies draw us away from your grace.  The flowery words of politicians can lead us into valleys of worry and despair.  Our fears can convince us that those around us are conspiring against us.
   You can take all our foolishness, Creative God, and make us wise enough to see you among us.  You take the shards of our broken lives to recast us into a faithful people.  You speak gently to us, so we can listen to your dreams of our seeing each person as your beloved, even as Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, sees us through such eyes.

Silence is kept
 
Assurance of Pardon
On mountaintops and in valleys, in moments when our lives are shrouded and as well as when we reflect Christ’s light, God is with us, declaring we are the beloved!
In this moment, in every moment, may we glimpse the grace of God which comes and transfigures our lives.  Thanks be to God, we are forgiven!  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Let us not keep our treasures stored in the mountaintops of our fears of how others might use them, but pour them out so they might be used to transform all those who find themselves in the valleys of hunger, of loss, of loneliness, and of injustice.  This we ask in the name of your Beloved.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of each dawn be with you.
And also with you.
Let us open our hearts to God who gathers us at this Table.
We delight in the grace which fills our lives.
May we offer our praise to the One who calls us the beloved.
We give thanks to our God of holiness.
 
You took the shards of chaos,
Repairer of all brokenness
and transfigured them into
   mountains where we could draw closer to you,
   valleys where we could serve your people,
   bright stars of each morning.
These gifts, and so many more, were offered
to the children of dust you call Beloved,
   but we joined death and sin
   in their conspiracy to make themselves
   more important than you in our lives.
You waited for us to return to you,
sending invitation after invitation
through men and women of every age,
   but we continued to plot,
   listening only to sin’s foolish words.
When you could no longer wait,
you sent Jesus to us,
so we might take shelter in you.
 
With those who have seen your glory,
with those who hunger for your grace,
we join in praising your name:
 
Holy, holy, holy are you, God who offers shelter.
We join all creation in glorifying you.
Hosanna in the highest!
 
Blessed is the Morning Star of salvation.
Hosanna in the highest!
 
You alone are holy, God who laughs
at our foolish posturing,
and blessed is Jesus Christ,
who came to tell everyone of your love.
He could have remained seated in glory,
   but chose to walk with us
   down this path called life.
He could have remained on the mountaintop,
   but came down to minister
   to all in despair’s empty valley.
He could have simply told us
how we should live,
   but demonstrated genuine love
   by dying on the cross, so
      death’s power might be broken
      by the grace of the resurrection.
 
As we rejoice in your heart’s Beloved,
as we would listen to him with our souls,
we speak of that transfiguring mystery called faith:
 
Christ died, breaking sin’s power forever;
Christ was raised, as love conquered death;
Christ will return, to gather all the beloved to God.
 
Overshadow us with your grace, we pray,
as the Holy Spirit is poured out on us
and the gifts of this holy table.
As you give us the broken bread
to strengthen our service to others,
   may we offer hop to all
   surrounded by injustice.
As your cup of life nourishes us,
   may we see each person,
   not as a stranger or outsider,
   but part of your beloved family.
 
And when the waiting is ended,
when the stars of mornings and evenings
shine the way to your holy feast,
we will join our sisters and brothers
in forever singing your praises,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.
 
Sending
God sends us from this experience of worship
to serve all those around us.
We will go to take the light of hope
into the shadowed corners in our midst.
Jesus, the Beloved, invites us to join him
in everyday life, in everyday service.
We will go to be blessed by all those
overlooked by the world.
Glory’s Spirit takes us by the hand
to lead us down path of humility.
We will enter into the mists of mistrust,
so we can offer hope to many.
 
© 2017 Thom M. Shuman