Sunday, February 26, 2012

Second Sunday in Lent - B

Texts:  Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38

Call to Worship
L:    Pilgrims, we are invited to journey through this season of Lent
P:    towards the One who calls us each by a new name.
L:    Disciples, we walk with Jesus wherever he leads us,
P:    pulling our fears, our doubts, our longings behind us.
L:    Believers, we seek to trust the God who always surprises us,
P:    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
L:    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.
P:    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
L:    May the Lord of the journey be with you.
P:    And also with you.
L:    Pilgrims of God, lift up your hearts.
P:    We offer them to the One who denied himself
            to carry us into life forever.
L:     Sing songs of thanksgiving to the God who
           is faithful in keeping promises.
P:    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:

P:    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:

P:    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

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lent 1-B

Texts:  Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1st Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15

Call to Worship
L:    We come, so God might open our eyes,
P:    that we may discover the wonders surrounding us;
       that we may embrace the joy deep within us.
L:    We gather, so Christ might widen our hearts,
P:    that we may hear the sounds of brokenness around us;
       that we may sing the melodies of hope.
L:    We are here, so the Spirit might teach us the ways of humility,
P:    that we may walk that street named Enduring Love;
       that we may wait at the corner called Faithfulness.

Prayer of the Day
How you love us, God of rainbow promises!
Like a mother who teaches her son
the steps for his first dance,
like the father who goes out
with his daughter after work
so she can learn how to drive,
you love us that much and more.

How you offer yourself to us, Brother of the beloved!
You gather us up in your arms,
simply to hear our deepest hopes;
you reach out your scarred hands
to gently wipe our fears away;
you stain a cross with your blood,
so we might washed clean in the tears
pouring down God's face.

How you share yourself with us, journey's Spirit!
You bathe our wearied souls
in the cooling waters of baptism;
you wipe the dust of the wilderness
out of our eyes so we can see the kingdom;
you teach us those ancient ways
which offer new life for each of us.

God in Community, Holy in One,
be with us in this Lenten season,
even as we pray, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
God takes broken promises and turns them into vows of faithfulness.
God takes our biggest failings and shapes lives of service.  God
listens to our prayers of confession and changes them into songs
of mercy.  Let us come to the One who pours forgiveness into
our lives, praying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
   We admit we are hesitant to walk to Jerusalem and beyond with
you, God of Glory.  In a world where we worry about tomorrow
before enjoying today, we race by your moments of silence, of
learning.  In that flood of worries, which can overwhelm us, we may
miss that assurance that you have not cut us off from your grace.
In the deserts of our desires, we may ignore that feast of hope, of
joy, of life you offer to us.
   Forgive us and have mercy on us, Gentle Guardian of our souls.
In humility, may we offer our lives to others.  In love, may we share
your grace with everyone we meet.  In hope, may we wait for you
all our days, as you come to us in the life and joy of Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
L:    In this place we find God's word, God's way, God's love,
        God's forgiveness.  What more do we need to sustain us
        as we continue as pilgrims along the Way?
P:    In every wilderness, on every road;
        in every moment, in every life;
        in every journey, in every heart,
        we receive the daily bread we need - God's hope,
        God's mercy, God's joy.  Thanks be to God, we
        are forgiven.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L:    May the God of Lent be with you.
P:    And also with you.
L:    People of God, open your hearts.
P:    We open them to the One who calls us 'Beloved.'
L:    Beloved of God, give thanks and praise to the One
       who loves you forever.
P:     We sing our hymns of joy to the One
       who leads us into the kingdom.

Hearts overflow with you, Covenant Keeper,
as we lift our hearts to you.
When there was no time as we know it,
you crafted day and night,
so we could wait for you in every moment,
tasting the savory goodness of grace.
You imagined those moments
of gathering us to your side
to teach us all the wonder of your ways,
but we turned our ears towards
the whispered invitations of the Evil One,
running off to play in the wilderness
with rebellion and death our guides.
You recalled the promises you had made
to Noah, to Sarah, to Joseph, and to Hannah,
and so sent the prophets to remind us
of the good gift of your covenant
and to point out the ways to your heart.
When we continued to ignore their words,
you sent Jesus to be with us,
to set us free from the imprisonment
we had created for ourselves.

So, we lift our voices with those who waited patiently,
and with those who trust your covenantal promises,
joining the choirs of heaven and earth,
who forever sing of your hope and love:

P:    Holy, holy, holy, Everlasting God of grace.
      Every living creature in heaven and earth sing your praises.
       Hosanna in the highest.

       Blessed is he who sits as your right hand of mercy.
        Hosanna in the highest.

Faithful and holy are you, Creator of all,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, Steadfast Love and Hope.
When he could have stayed at your side
during the days of our rebellion and pride,
he came to be our friend and guide.
When he could have feasted on your power,
in those days of glory with you,
he came to prepare a Table for us
where our hardened hearts might be softened,
and our broken lives might be made whole.
When he could have the angels waiting on him,
he came to serve us your forgiveness and grace,
enduring death on the cross
so we could have life forever.

As we begin once more our Lenten journey,
as we seek to follow faithfully, remembering
the life, the death, the resurrection of Jesus,
we tell the story of that mystery we call faith:

P:    Christ died to set us free from sin;
       Christ rose to break the power of death;
       Christ will come again, to bring the kingdom
            as close to us as God's heart.

Pour out your Spirit of imagination
upon this bread, and this cup,
gifts of your good and wonderful creation.
As we are embraced at the Table
by the One who has prepared it for us,
may we open our hearts to welcome
our sisters and brothers.
As we have been set free by your love,
may we proclaim freedom to the prisoners
confined by fear and oppression;
as we are filled with the Bread of life,
may we never cease feeding
the hungry of our world;
as we are nurtured by compassion's cup,
may we go out into the wilderness around us,
to take the lost, the last, the least, the little
by the hand to walk together
into that kingdom prepared for all your children.

And we we are gathered around the Table
with your beloved children of every time and place,
our songs will join together as our tears of joy mingle,
singing your praises forever and ever to you:
God of David and Rebecca, of Mary and Noah;
Jesus of the outcast and lonely;
Spirit of those who seek peace and reconciliation:
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen and Amen.

(c) Thom M. Shuman       

Sunday, February 05, 2012

6th Sunday after Epiphany/OT 6 - B

Texts:  2nd Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1st Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45

Call to Worship
L:    At night, when our cries for help echo off our walls,
        you hear us;
P:    you turn our tears into rivers of joy,
        Listener of our hearts.
L:    Each day, as our fears push us closer
        to the edge of loneliness;
P:    you tug us back into the safety of your grace,
        Servant of the suffering.
L:    Every time we stumble over our efforts to be perfect;
P:    you pull us to our feet to learn new dance steps of hope,
        Peace of our souls.

Prayer of the Day
When you could choose
to cover us with judgment,
you stretch out your hand
to pull us out of all the holes
we have dug for ourselves.
When you could simply
turn up your nose
when we run to you
covered in sin's slime,
you fill the tub with
the Spirit's soapy water,
gently washing us clean.
When you could see fit
to clothe us in grief's tattered rags,
you take our sack cloths
down to the thrift store,
coming back with arms loaded
with grace-wrapped boxes
filled with hope and comfort.

God in Community, Holy in One,
you choose to love us beyond our wildest dreams,
as listen to our hearts as we pray saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
Would a mother not comfort her son who has made a
foolish mistake?  Does a father not let go of his anger
at his daughter to embrace her in forgiveness?  This
is how God is towards us, longing to dry our tears,
to make us whole.  So let us come, confessing to the
One who loves us so much.  Join me as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
   We must admit that on most days, we are so busy
racing around that we do not notice the street signs for
the kingdom.  Rather than lifting the fallen to their feet
and brushing them off, we belittle them as we walk on
past.  When we could offer a cup of hope and joy to
the broken-hearted, we turn away so we do not have
to see the tears sliding down their faces.
     Forgive us, God our Maker, and touch us with
your grace.  Mend our hearts, so we might be more
loving.  Fill the emptiness of our souls with the Word
of life.  Turn our faces towards the need of the world,
so we might offer our lives to bring healing and hope,
even as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, touches us
with these gifts.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
L:    What is God like?  God is the One who turns despair
        into dancing, who transforms grief into grace, who
        binds brokenness with cords of compassion, who
        makes us whole once again.
P:    As Jesus chose to make the leper whole, so God
       chooses to forgive us.  We can cast off sin's
        sadness, putting on the garments of joy.  Thanks
        be to God.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L:    May our God be with you.
P:    And also with you.
L:    Come to the one who offers us grace,
        opening your hearts to God.
P:    We come to the One who proves beyond any doubt
        how much we are loved.
L:    Faithful people of God, sing praises
        to the One who loves and heals us.
P:    Our souls will not remain silent,
        as we lift our songs to the God of compassion.

You could choose to create
 in any manner you desired,
God of truth and beauty,
so you brought light
to enlighten the shadows,
living waters to course the fields,
birds to sing your hopes to us.
All that you created
you called good and wonderful,
including those created in your image.
Believing that your call to stay with you
by the tumbling brooks of joy
to be too difficult a task,
we chose the easier way,
drowning ourselves in the
twin rivers of sin and death.
Prophets came, extolling your love,
seeking to attract us back to you.
We picked quarrels with them,
so we would not have to listen
to the truths which they spoke.
So, you sent Jesus to us,
choosing to send your heart
that our hardened ones might be broken
and made new with your love.

We join our voices with the lepers and the lovers
of every age, of every place, who stretch out their hearts,
singing of your glory and grace forever:

P:    Holy, holy, holy, God of healing and hope.
       All creation will not remain silent in singing your praises.
       Hosanna in the highest.

       Blessed is the One who chooses to come in your name.
       Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, Compassionate Heart,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, Lord of Creation, Healer of all.
When we tried our best
to pick quarrels with you,
he stretched out his hand,
touch his finger to our lips
whispering, 'Peace.  Be healed.'
When he could remain
leaning against the wall,
he taps death on the shoulder,
cutting in, to twirl us
around and around
the kingdom's dance floor.

So recalling he he chose to heal your children,
remembering his willingness to give himself for us,
we will not stay silent but proclaim that mystery called faith:

P:    Christ died, to give life back to us.
        Christ arose, to bring us out of the grace.
        Christ will come again, stretching out his hand
            to lead us into the kingdom.

As you stretch out your hand
to offer us the gifts of this Table,
pour out your Spirit of peace and life
upon the Bread and the Cup.
We open our hands
to receive the life offered to us
in the Bread of heaven,
so we can them use them
to serve your children
in the world around us.
We offer our brokenness to you,
that it might be immersed
in your rich, life-giving grace
poured out of your heart,
so we might go forth
to welcome others into
the dance of hope and joy
you intend for all your children.

And when our race is finished,
when we gather with all our sisters and brothers
from every moment and every place,
we will come to the Table of the Lamb
with hearts overflowing with joy,
and our voices united, forever praising you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

(c) Thom M. Shuman