Sunday, March 03, 2013

Fourth Sunday in Lent - C

Texts:  Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Call to Worship
Do you feel it? God's kingdom is beneath our feet.
We live in the new creation shaped by God out of our brokenness.
Do you know it? God's reconciling love in Christ has shattered our ways of viewing people.
No longer do we label our sisters and brothers, we welcome them with open arms.
Do you believe it? God has made everything, including us, new,
and sends us forth to share this good news with everyone!

Prayer of the Day
Holy God, Word Shaper:
you are not our accountant,
     but our lover;
you are not angry at us,
     but you forgive us;
you are not our enemy,
     but the One who runs towards us
     with wide open arms,
throwing steaks on the grill
to celebrate our newness!

Jesus Christ, Shaper of our story:
you travel to that distant country called our sin
     to bring us home once again;
you share your inheritance with us
     so we might be blessed;
you know the famine of our spirits
     and fill it with your hope.

Holy Spirit, Life Shaper:
surrounded by your grace,
     we offer glad cries of salvation;
encircled by your constant love,
     we shout for joy;
enclosed in your comforting arms,
     nothing can overwhelm us.

God in Community, Holy in One,
from now on we will remember our life in you,
even as we pray as Jesus taught us,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
We know our faults -- the way we have treated others, our alienation from God, our unwillingness to be faithful people. We will not hide our sin or remain silent, but confess them to the One who surrounds us with steadfast love. Please join me as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
   On this very day, Waiting God, we admit all the lengths to which we go so we might avoid you. You offer us that kingdom of joy and wonder, yet we would hide in places where temptation waits. You invite us to feast on your grace and peace, but we stubbornly refuse, because you also welcome those we call 'outsiders.' We are quick to see all the mistakes that those around us make, but hope you will ignore our foolish choices.
   Celebrating God, before we come to our senses, we find you running towards us, sweeping us up in your arms, tears of grace mingling with our cries of confession, a mighty river washing away our sinful ways to restore us to new life.  In Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we find no limitations on your grace, no reservations about your love, but a feast that overflows with wonder, a place we can finally call home.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God rolls away everything that stands in our way - our past, our sin, our pain, our hesitation, and reshapes us into new people living in the new creation. What wonderful grace. We are forgiven!
Broken, we are made whole;
lost, we are brought home;
empty, we are filled with songs of gladness.
We rejoice and give thanks to God who has graced us with mercy. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

May Abba our God be with you!
And also with you!
Lift your hearts to the One who welcomes you home.
We open them to our God, who runs to embrace us with grace.
Sing glad songs to the One who provides this feast.
We join in singing to God, who throws a party for us in this place.

On those days you called creation
from the hiding places of your imagination,
     mighty rivers rushed down to the seas,
     a rainbow of produce sprang up in fields,
     day and night rippled with your beauty.
All this was from you, God of Wonder,
gifts for those created in your image.
But we demanded our share,
     traveling to that far country called death,
     squandering everything in sin's hidden shadows.
Longing for us to come home,
you sent the prophets to surround us
with glad songs of deliverance,
     but we regarded their words as empty husks,
     continuing to waste away all our days.
So you sent Jesus, your Son,
to lead us back from the dead
so we might celebrate your life.

With all the prodigals as well as the pious,
with all the saints as well as the sinners,
with all the faithful, we sing to you:

Holy, holy, holy, God who reconciles us to yourself.
All creation is glad and rejoices.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who finds the lost and guides them home.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God of prodigals,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, in whom there is no deceit.
Coming to that far country we call life,
     he shared the gifts of grace and peace;
telling us stories of families reunited,
     he points us to you sitting by the kingdom's window;
seeing us green-eyed with jealousy,
     he hands us the glasses of reconciliation
          so we might see others in a new way;
going to the cross and dying,
     he comes to life in joy,
          surrounded by your glad cries of resurrection.

As we remember how he welcomed those we overlook,
as we celebrate at the feast which is offered in his name,
we would reflect on that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, to be our salvation;
Christ rose, to be our reconciliation;
Christ will return, to lead us home.

On this day, Parenting God,
pour out your Spirit
on the gifts of the bread and the cup,
the celebration of our new life with you.
In this feast you provide,
     we find the healing we hunger for
     in the bread which is broken for us.
At this table of peace and joy,
in the deep richness of grace's cup,
we receive new sight,

so we can see our sisters and brothers in a new way,
not strangers,

     but siblings,
not outsiders,

     but members of the family.
And on the very day when all time will end,
we will gather with your family around your table,
our voices singing through all eternity glad songs to you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

© Thom M. Shuman