Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Palm/Passion Sunday - B

Call to Worship
We come to prepare for the holiest of weeks.
We will journey through praise, with joy on our lips;
we will travel through betrayal and death,
cradling hope deep in our hearts
Jesus leads us through this week, and we will follow,
for he is the life we long for,
he is the Word who sustains us.
We wave palm branches in anticipation,
we lay our love before him, to cushion his walk
Setting aside all power, glory, and might, he comes:
modeling humility and obedience for all of us.
Hosanna! Hosanna!
Blessed is the One who brings us the kingdom of God.

Prayer of the Day
Steadfast Love:
you hand us the palm branches,
so we can wave them in hope;
you steady us in the days
when pain is stuck
to the bottom of our lives,
when fear is our constant companion.
We empty ourselves
so you might fill us with joy.

Humble Healer:
When our mouths turn numb
and we cannot speak our dreams,
you tenderly caress our cheeks,
leaning over to hear our faltering words.
When our arms have grown weak
from the burdens we carry,
you take them from us,
and strengthen us with your mercy.
We empty ourselves
so you might fill us with grace.

Voice of Wisdom:
when death hovers so close
we can feel it's cold breath,
you come to us,
the warm breath of resurrection
pushing aside our fears.
When we hesitate to walk into
the unknown stretching before us,
you tightly clasp our hands
and teach us the first step.
We empty ourselves
so you might fill us with peace.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we open our hearts to you,
as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
When the parade is over, do we pick up our lives, brush them off, and live in the old way? Do we toss our palm branches aside, so we can grasp the seductions of the world? As we begin the journey through the holiest of weeks, let us speak the truth, as we confess to our God, praying together,

Unison Prayer of Confession
Ever constant Love, mixing love and hope together, you pave the way to the kingdom, but we prefer to stub our toes on the potholed roads of temptation. You would touch the cup of grace to our parched lips, but we seem to hunger for the ashy taste of bitterness. You beg us to learn the songs of salvation, but we hum along with the chorus death plays in the background of our lives.

Have mercy upon us, God of Holiness. As you come to us, you bring healing for our brokenness, peace for our troubled lives, hope for our doubting minds. May we empty ourselves of everything which keeps us from following you, so we may receive these gifts, and more, from Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silent prayers may be offered.

Assurance of Pardon
Laying aside judgment, God offers us redemption; setting aside anger, God embraces us with love; letting go of grief, God pours living water upon us. This is the good news, my friends: God's steadfast love endures forever.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the One who brings us the kingdom of God! Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
Morning by morning,
creation's voices join in praising you,
God of every goodness.
The forests form a festal procession,
the heavens reflect your glory's light.
Though we were formed by you,
we looked around at everything
sin and death had to offer,
and followed them through the world,
thinking they could protect us.
You gave prophets
the tongues of teachers,
to comfort our weariness
and teach us the way back to you,
but we turned our back on them.
When judgment did not
lead to redemption,
you sent Jesus to reach out in love,
to bring us home to you.

So with those who spread cloaks before you,
and those who are sustained by your love,
we join our voices, singing,

Holy, holy, holy, God of enduring love.
From every part of creation come glad songs.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the One who comes in humility and hope.
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, Sustainer of the weary,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Love become human.
He emptied himself of glory,
to be filled with our broken hopes and hearts.
He chose the path of suffering love,
so that we could run through
the streets of the kingdom
waving branches of joy.
He walked the sin-cold stones
into the tomb which could not hold him,
so we could join our voices together,
'Hosanna! Hosanna! He is risen!"

As we journey through Jerusalem and beyond,
as we struggle with death, loss, and grief
we would ponder that mystery we call faith:

In trust, Christ died.
In joy, Christ was raised to new life.
In hope, Christ will come again.

Here at the Table graced
with creation's gifts,
we discover the world you intend.
Here where you love enlivens
the bread and the cup
we are given more than enough
of everything we need.
Sharing deeply in the Spirit,
we can give hope its wings,
as it carries us to serve
the broken all around us.
Strengthened by the grace
with which you feed us,
we can join together
to sustain the weary of the world.

And when the gates of joy
have been opened to us,
we will spend moment by moment,
every knee in creation bending,
singing our praises to you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lent 5 - B

Call to Worship
Each day is a gift from God,
each moment is that opportunity to reach out
in service to all creation.
Each day is a reminder of the new covenant:
not written on stone tablets easily broken,
but inscribed on our hearts filled with joy and hope.
Each day we draw closer to God:
who has forgotten more than we ever learn;
who has forgiven us more than we ever acknowledge.

Prayer of the Day

Scribe of our Hearts:
when we 'fess up
to messing up our lives,
you feed our souls
with gritty resolve.
When we are through
playing in the puddles
from sin's tempting showers,
you douse us with your grace,
wrapping us up in
mercy's warm towels.

Hour Bringer:
when arrogance kept us
from seeing God's glory,
humility became second nature
for you as you walked among us.
When our hopes
were an arid riverbed,
you became the wellspring
of living waters gushing forth.

Planter of Peace:
when doubts blister our hearts
and fears buckle faith's foundation,
you recondition our spirits
with mercy and joy.
When our lives become
so gunked up with worries,
you pour out your lifesaving compassion,
until we have to grab extra buckets
to be able to hold it all.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we join our voices in thanksgiving,
even as we pray saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
We close our heart's eye, and wonder why we cannot see Jesus. We wander down the same old paths, and are amazed that Jesus is not ahead of us. We speak and live in ways which keep us from being God's children. Let us come to the One who offers us grace and mercy, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
Love that knows no boundaries: we crowd our lives with so much activity, that it is hard to find time for you. We become so focused on ourselves, we can overlook those around us who are searching for hope. We fill our spiritual emptiness with junk, rather than feasting on your Word.

Abundant Mercy, forgive us. Open our eyes, that we may see your new covenant written in plain sight on our hearts. Open our hearts, that we may join you in serving the broken of the world. Open our love, so we may pour it out as abundantly and graciously as your love is given to us in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is observed

Assurance of Pardon
Like a parent tenderly washing her child, God bathes us in the warm waters of forgiveness, cleansing us, and restoring us to new life.
Through Christ, we are made whole; through Christ, we are loved; through Christ, we become new people. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the Lord of Lent be with you.
May the Lord of Lent also be with you.
God's people: lift up your hearts.
We lift our hearts to the One who has engraved them with love.
God's people: offer thanks to the One who creates new life in you.
With our lips, and with our lives, we will praise the God who sustains our spirits.

Hearts overflow with joy,
Maker of covenants,
as we lift our songs to you.
In the midst of that creation
filled with bright stars and blue skies,
you shaped us in your divine image.
Cradling our hearts in compassion,
you planted those seeds of hope and joy
which could bring us the life you envisioned.
But we hardened our hearts,
preventing them from blossoming,
and we chose to live in the shadows of sin,
rather than dance in the light of your grace.
Yet even our arrogance and anger
could not keep you from loving us,
as you called to us through prophets' voices,
inviting us to come back to your side.
And when we continued to love our way more,
your steadfast love became even more abundant
as you sent Jesus to restore our brokenness.

Therefore, we will join with all those
of every age and every place,
our mouths singing your praise:

Holy, holy, holy! God of compassion and grace!
Heaven and earth overflow with your goodness.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the One who comes with a willing spirit.
Hosanna in the highest.

Only you are holy, Engraver of our hearts,
and blessed is the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ.
Your Beloved, he was baptized
and chosen by you to share our life.
He came, to melt our frozen hearts
with the warmth of your mercy.
He came, to be broken
that we might be mended.
He came, to suffer death for our sake,
that seed of new life planted
deep in death's cold tomb,
so he could be raised to newness,
your glory and hope made known
to all who come seeking him.

Here, at this Table of forgiveness and life,
we remember his life of humility and service,
even as we proclaim that mystery we call faith:

The Word that spoke creation into being
has become the Voice which shattered death,
and will call us home at the end of time.

Here at the Table of peace,
we find the gifts you provide,
the bread and the cup drenched
with the Spirit of hope and life.
As we are fed by the bread
created from creation's goodness,
may the seed of your compassion
which has been planted deep in us,
bloom forth in service to your children.
As we drink from the Cup
which is filled with your righteousness,
may our spirits overflow with justice,
as we bring your good news
and generous presence to all
who are oppressed in our world.

And when, at last, all people are free,
when creation has been restored once more,
when we gather around your Table in glory
with our sisters and brothers from all time,
we will join in singing your praise forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lent 4-B

Call to Worship
We come, to offer all we have to God:
our minds, our bodies; our hearts, our hopes.
We come, to offer all we are to God:
our relationships with families and friends,
our longing to draw closer to other pilgrims.
We come, to offer all we would be to God:
our faith, our discipleship; our yearning to follow Jesus.
We come, to offer our selves to God:
who offers life, joy, and peace in Jesus Christ.

Prayer of the Day
When once we let sin
coil itself around our hearts,
you wrap us in the
comforting shawl of grace.
When once
we obssessed over us,
you freed us to give
our selves away to the world.
Ceaseless Creator,
your love overwhelms us
each and every day.

Where once
we sat by the edge of the way,
with sin and death on either side,
now we can pull up a chair
next to you, to rest our lives onyou.
Where once
we hungered for love
and thirsted for compassion,
now we are filled at your Table.
Healing Hope,
your grace flows through us
each and every day.

When we are tempted
to submit our resumes
to the Evil One,
you put us to work,
caring for the outsiders.
When we are tempted
to mutter our way
through each moment,
you teach us songs of grace.
Faithful Spirit,
your peace surrounds us
each and every day.

You are with us each and every day,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as we have been taught,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
In becoming one of us, God became poor so we could receive the riches of mercy. In coming to us, God took on our death, so we could be made alive together with Christ. Come, offer your confessions, knowing that by grace you have been saved.

Unison Prayer of Confession
The words we speak all too often do not show you in our lives, God of our pilgrimage. We spend so much time boasting to others, they imagine we have no need for you. We grumble impatiently when you don't respond immediately to our requests, but are slow to sing your praises. We mutter under our breath about the behavior of those around us, when we could be asking them if there is some way we could serve them.

It is on our journey to the cross and the tomb that you fill us with the riches of your mercy, Steadfast Love! You do so, not because of any thing we have done, but because of the compassion which flows from your heart wounded by our failings. As we open our lives to receive your forgiveness, may we turn to the Light which brings us life, following Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, every step of the way.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
How much does God love us? Enough to send the divine heart, hope, and spirit to us, not to condemn us, but to save us.
Not by our speaking or doing, but by God's good and precious grace are we saved. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Lord of Light be with you.
And also with you.
As Christ was lifted up to save us, let us offer our hearts to God.
We lift them to the One who feeds us on the Bread of heaven.
Pilgrims of Lent, continue to offer praise to the One who leads you into life.
We give thanks to God, whose love is constant through all eternity.

You spoke the Word,
Enduring Love,
and life flowed from
that emptiness called chaos,
becoming goodness and beauty.
You showered the earth
with your peace and kindness,
filling our lives with light.
We grew impatient in the garden,
grumbling that there was nothing for us,
and hearing the cries of seduction,
offered our lives to their deadly songs.
You sent prophets to us,
so we might be drawn to you,
but like disobedient children
we closed our ears to their words.
Hearing the silent cries
of our deepest hearts,
you sent Jesus to us,
to lift us to your presence.

So with wilderness wanderers
and ungracious grumblers,
with those who have been offered life,
and all who seek to follow your Son,
we lift our voices in thanksgiving:

Holy, holy, holy, God of everlasting love.
All those gathered from every corner of the world
sing your praises.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the One who comes to save the world.
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, Merciful Creator,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, Light and Life of all.
Knowing how we choose the shadows,
he became the Light to illumine
the way back to you.
Hearing our hearts breaking in grief,
he became the Love
which would defeat sin's evil.
Seeing you weep
over your poisoned creation,
he became the Compassion
which would save the world,
including your children.

As we remember his life, his ministry, his death;
as we follow him through Good Friday into Easter,
we speak of that mystery known as faith:

Christ came to call us back to you;
Christ died to save us;
Christ will come again to lift us to you.

Silence our foolish grumbling,
so we might hear you
calling us to the Table,
where the simple gifts of
the bread and of the cup
are filled with your Spirit.
As you heal us with
the brokenness of Jesus,
send us to bring hope to the world.
As you satisfy us with
the joyous taste of grace,
may we go forth to offer
mercy and peace to everyone we meet.

And when our pilgrimage has ended,
when we join our sisters and brothers
of every time and place around your Feast,
the redeemed of the Lord will lift their voices
forever singing of your steadfast love,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, March 09, 2009

Lent 3 - B

Call to Worship
When God speaks, all creation answers:
the pale winter moon cries, 'Glory!'
the sun hums a song as it warms the earth.

When God speaks, lives are changed:
those held hostage by oppression are set free;
the voiceless shout the story of salvation.

When God speaks, everything is turned inside out:
the wise learn the language of grace from little children;
the strong take lessons from the powerless.

Prayer of the Day
You speak, life-giving God:
and all creation resounds
with your precious words.
Grace runs through
our neighborhoods,
singing your praises;
hope tells of your
enduring dreams for us,
without uttering a word.

You come, Servant of all:
so we can discover
that all the books
in the world cannot
tell us what we learn
about God from you,
and that all our words
cannot begin to speak
of your compassion for us.

You stay with us, Breath of joy:
your peace gentling
our warring passions;
your wisdom helping us
to learn how to live in
community with all around us;
your quiet presence
residing deep with our hearts
the only sign of hope we need.

God in Community, Holy in One,
may our words find favor with you,
even as we pray as we are taught, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
Perhaps we have spoken words which harm another. It may be we have failed to honor another of God's children. Maybe we have let our fears, our worries, our desires come between us and God. Whatever we might have done, God waits to listen to us, to offer us grace and healing. Join me as we pray together saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
Even with those simple commandments, Eternal Love, we manage to get it wrong. We misuse your name on an almost daily basis, and dishonor our friends and neighbors by talking behind their backs. We hunger for what others have, and think we can put you in a box, storing you away on a shelf. We find little enough time for our families, for ourselves, you - much less setting aside an entire day for that rest you call Sabbath.

Forgive us, Abiding Love. We think we are so wise with the choices we make, only to end up with all that keeps us from you. Your Word has come, to fill our speech with grace, with hope, with peace. As we journey to Jerusalem, may we invite others to join us as we seek to follow Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Day to day, God offers us mercy and hope. Moment to moment, we are surround by God's never-ending love. Friends, trust this Good News for you!
God takes our brokenhearted prayers and crafts them into words of grace, of joy, of peace. Thanks be to God, we are forgiven. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

From the very beginning,
Vulnerable God,
all creation has sung your glory:
goodness laughing from the mountaintops,
beauty echoing in every valley.
You shaped us from creation,
your Word calling us by name,
your Spirit breathing life into us.
You set us free to live with you
in that garden of delightful wonders,
but we believed our thoughts
were better than yours.
We shaped idols to look like our desires,
and placed them in such a way
that we would not see you.
There is nothing that stays hidden from you,
so you saw how foolish we were.
Sin muddled our minds
so that we could not listen
to the prophets you sent,
so Jesus came to show us
your love which had never abandoned us.

With those who stood at the foot of Sinai,
with those who were astounded in the temple,
with those who have become foolish by following you,
with all your children of every time and in every place,
we lift our songs to your glory:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Architect of creation.
The heavens, the earth and everything you made
overflow with your gracious joy.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who walks on to Jerusalem.
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, God of grace and glory,
and blessed is Jesus, the Christ, our Lord.
When we insisted on worshipping
every petty and pretty idol,
he came to show us exactly
what your love looks like.
When we put our expectations in his way,
hoping that he would stumble over them,
he picked them up and threw them aside,
so he could continue until
he reached the end of your journey.
When we looked for a sign
that God is with us,
he died on the cross,
and was raised to new life.

As we seek the strength to follow your Child,
as we long to be as obedient as he was,
we would speak of that mystery called faith:

Christ became weak, so death would lose its power;
Christ looked foolish, so we might become wise enough to believe.
Christ will come again in glory, to bring us home to God.

Pour out your Spirit
upon the gifts on this Table,
Ever Faithful God.
Here, where creation
yearns for comfort,
speak hope.
Here, where your children
are broken, longing for life,
speak healing.
Here, where the bread
fills us with life and peace,
where the cup refreshes
our weary spirits,
send us forth to offer ourselves
in all those ways of service
the world finds so foolish.

And when our journey has ended,
when we are gathered around that Feast
which awaits us in that place called home,
we will join our words and our hearts,
honoring you with praise and song,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lent 2-B

Call to Worship
Pilgrims, we are invited to journey through this season of Lent
towards the One who calls us each by a new name.
Disciples, we walk with Jesus wherever he leads us,
pulling our fears, our doubts, our longings behind us.
Believers, we seek to trust the God who always surprises us,
whose promises take on flesh and blood in the good news called Jesus.

Prayer of the Day
Though people may turn
their backs on us,
you do not hide
your face from us.
Though others may try
to take away our hope,
you assure us of
that future waiting for us.
You speak your name,
Inscrutable Creator,
and it is enough.

When we try to dictate
our fears to you,
you invite us to follow you
into self-denial and service.
As we struggle to shape
our lifestyle to yours,
you carry us with you
wherever we go.
You speak your good news,
Teacher of open hearts,
and it is enough.

Though we have done
nothing to earn them,
you pour out the gifts
of grace and mercy upon us.
When we stumble
over our lack of trust,
you set us back on our feet,
to follow you into the kingdom.
You speak your peace,
Breath of Holiness,
and it is enough.

God in Community, Holy in One,
it is enough that you hear us
even as we pray as we are taught,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

Looking deep within ourselves, we see that barrenness that dwells in our souls. Reluctant to trust God, we find our faith wavering when we have to make difficult choices. We look for quick fixes and easy solutions, rather than for God's answers in our lives. Let us be honest with ourselves, and with God, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
God of our ancestors in the faith, we are a people who have known the hurt of broken promises, and have spoken words we could not keep. We are quick to condemn those who make wrong choices, but want only gentle criticism directed our way. We let our lives be guided so much by our past, rather than opening our eyes, our hearts, our hopes to your amazing future.

Forgive our distrust of the vows you have made to us, God of Sarah. Forgive our disbelief that you can bring hope to those places where we see only despair, God of Abraham. Forgive our hesitancy in denying all that keeps us from committing ourselves completely to you, God of Peter and the psalmists. Forgive us, so we may take up the life you offer to us in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Listen carefully, dear friends. God does not reject us, God redeems us. God does not back out of the relationship created so long ago, God restores it to its original purpose. God does not hold back, but pours abundant forgiveness into our lives.
Forgiven, we can follow;
filled with hope, we can empty ourselves for others;
restored to new life, we can live in relationship with God,
with our neighbors and enemies, with ourselves. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the Lord of the journey be with you.
And also with you.
Pilgrims of God, lift up your hearts.
We offer them to the One who denied himself to carry us into life forever.
Sing songs of thanksgiving to the God who is faithful in keeping promises.
We offer glad anthems of joy to the One who calls us by name.

Out of that barrenness called chaos
you called into life all that is good and true,
Beneficent God:
your face shining in the starlight,
your voice echoing in the crashing waves,
your heart, your hopes, your love
poured into those created in your image.
Showering them with peace and mercy,
you began to teach them all they needed
in order to live in hope, and in joy, with you.
But setting their minds on all the desires
which temptation revealed to them,
they began to rebuke you,
denying your dreams for them,
as we thought only of ourselves.
You continued to speak of your promises,
sending the prophets into all the barren places
where we lived and worked and dreamed,
but we were ashamed of the words they spoke,
and would not listen to the love which formed them.
So, you asked the One called Blameless
to leave your side and walk before you,
coming to share your faith in us.

Therefore, we join our voices with those
from every time and in every place,
and with the choirs of heaven,
who forever sing your praises:

Holy, holy, holy, God who calls life into being.
All the ends of the earth and far corners of the universe
sing your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the One who comes to take up his cross.
Hosanna in the highest.

You are holy, God of Abraham and Sarah,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is blessed forever.
When he could have stumbled over our distrust,
he called us to follow him into your promises;
when our rejection could have weakened his faith,
he grew strong in his commitment to deny himself;
when he could have remained silent,
he declared your salvation to all,
even to those not yet alive;
when he could have hidden his face in fear,
he turned towards Jerusalem,
going to his death and into the grave,
that you might give life to all
who had died to sin.

As we come to the Table he has prepared,
we declare that in his crucifixion and resurrection
we find that mystery we call faith:

Christ died to bring forth life;
Christ has risen to declare 'God has done it';
Christ will come again in glory.

Here, at this Table,
where the gifts of the bread and the cup
are offered to your children gathered around,
pour out your Spirit of healing and hope.
Feed us with the food of heaven
which can make us whole once more,
so we can go to serve all
whom we have treated with contempt.
Nourish us with the cup of life
which can change us into your faithful people,
so we can go to bring healing
to those disabled by our prejudices.

And when we are brought home to you,
when we are gathered with our sisters and brothers
from all the ends of the earth,
we will sing your glory and grace forever,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman