Sunday, August 25, 2013

Proper 17/Ordinary 22/Pentecost 15/Trinity 14 - C

Texts:  Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1, 10-16; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14

Call to Worship
We come to worship our God,
to listen to the One who calls us here.
We come trusting God to lead us in the coming days,
as surely as were our grandparents in the faith.

We come to worship our God,
to shout with joy to the God of all people.
We come to the Creator of all things,
to be bathed in the waters of life.

We come to the Feast of God's faithful,
to be fed by the One who never forsakes us.
We come to worship our God,
to sing aloud to the One who saves us.

Prayer of the Day

Yesterday, God of our days,
when our hunger for hope
had so weakened us
we could barely speak,
     you fed us with
     the Bread of life,
          spread with the sweet honey
          of your grace.

Today, Host to the poor,
when we look for you
in the powerful and the rich,
among the superstar and celebrity,
     we will find you
     seated with the children,
          your knees squeezed painfully
          under the table,
entertaining them
with your stories.

Tomorrow, Spirit of Service,
when we will be scrambling
for the seats of honor,
     you will be in the kitchen
          cooking dinner for the prisoners;
     making up the guest room
          for the immigrants;
     singing lullabies of love
          to the lost children
               of our world.

God in Community, Holy in One:
yesterday, today, tomorrow, always,
we will pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

Despite all the ways we speak of sin - failures, mistakes, intended acts, Scripture tells us that we are stubborn-hearted, wanting only our way. But if we pause to listen to God, if we open our mouths (and our hearts) to confess our sin, God will fill our emptiness with forgiveness and hope. Let us pray together, as we say,

Unison Prayer of Confession
     We are always uncomfortable, Watching God, when you notice how we want to sit in the seats of honor. We can be so proper, so good, so well-off, that it is easy to imagine we are superior to the poor. We are so busy completing our 'To Do' list each day, that we forget to do good when we have the chance.
     Forgive us, Welcoming God. Fill our emptiness with your grace and humility that we would spend our lives alongside Jesus, our Lord and Savior, throwing a party for the poor, the damaged, the prisoner, the lost, the oppressed.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
This is the good news: after what God has done for us, what can anyone or any thing do to us? We are new people, graced by our loving God.
Forgiven, embraced, welcomed by our God, we will offer open hearts and serving hands to everyone we meet. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
People of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the God who welcomes us at this Table.
Let us sing aloud to God.
We will offer glad songs of thanksgiving to the One who delivers us.
We would sing aloud
our songs of joy to you,
Master of the Universe.
Out of the emptiness of chaos,
you brought forth creation,
     plentiful with all we need,
     graced with gifts beyond imagination.
Offered the place of honor
in your good Garden,
     we filled our souls with worthless lies,
          moving out of glory's neighborhood
          into the junkyard of the world.
Prophets brought your word of judgment,
and your gracious invitation to come home,
but we would not listen
to the advice they offered to us.
Then you sent Jesus,
who humbled himself
that we might be exalted.

Therefore, we come to your Table singing,
our voices joining with those
in every time and in every place,
lifting our glad songs to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God our strength!
All creation shouts for you to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

We welcome the One who shows hospitality to strangers.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Mothering God,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Life.
Glorified as your True Child,
     he came to show hospitality
          to all the strangers of the world.
Deserving of the seat of honor,
     he humbled himself
          to serve the guests.
Refusing to let us be left
in the ruthless hands
of sin and death,
     he entered that prison
     we call the grace
          to set us free to live with you.

As we remember his life and death,
as we come to the Table of the resurrection,
we speak of that mystery we call faith:

Dying, you took the seat of dishonor;
Rising, you humbled yourself to be exalted;
Coming again, you will honor us in the presence on the One
     who invites all to sit at the Table of grace.

Send your Holy Spirit
upon the Bread and the Cup,
simple gifts from creation
which grace us with your life,
and upon those who gather
around your Table.
Fed with the finest wheat,
     may we go forth to fill the lives
     of all whose emptiness
          imprisons them.
Having tasted the cup of joy,
     may we bring the sweet honey of hope
          to those parched by despair.
Welcomed without question
at your Table of grace,
     may we open our hearts
     to throw a party for all
          who have been forsaken by the world.

And when we gather around the Wedding Feast in glory,
with all the poor, the broken, the prisoners, the oppressed -
we will open our mouths to receive your joy,
and sing aloud to you
our praise for all eternity:
God in Community, Holy in One.

© Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Proper 16/Ordinary 21/Pentecost 14/Trinity 13 - C

Texts:  Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17

Call to Worship
Before we got up this morning
and decided to come to church,
God was waiting for us,
to welcome us with grace.

When we are unsure of what to do;
when we falter before the next step,
we come to listen to God's voice,
to learn from the One who teaches us
all we ever need to know.

When we are surrounded by cruelty and injustice;
when our fears cripple our souls,
God delivers us with steadfast love;
we are set free to be God's sons and daughters.

Prayer of the Day
Rock of Ages:
when we are afraid
and can only whisper our fear,
     yet once more,
          you bend over to listen to us.
When everyone acts as if
they can't remember our name,
     yet once more,
          you know us as your Beloved.
When we cannot seem to tell others
all that you have done for us,
     yet once more,
          you put the Word into our mouths.
And we tremble with praise.

Word of the Lord:
when others would weigh us down
with shame and guilt,
     yet once more,
          you set us free with your joy.
when we are bent over
by our doubts and questions,
     yet once more,
          you reach out to touch us
          with your hope and grace.
And we tremble with praise.

Refuge of Wisdom:
when we wander
from one crippling spirit to the next,
     yet once more,
          you lead us into hope.
When our fears
shake us to the core,
     yet once more,
          you touch us with your serenity.
When we cannot stand up
and see our way,
     yet once more,
          you take us by the hand
          to lead us home.
And we tremble with praise.

God in Community, Holy in One,
yet once more, we tremble with praise and joy
as we pray as Jesus has taught us,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

When we were children, we learned not to touch hot things so we would not be burned. If only avoiding sin was that easy! But sin seems so comfortable, so easy, and so harmless that we cannot stop ourselves from reaching out to touch it over and over again. Let us confess our sins to the One who chooses to forgive us and love us unconditionally, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
     Yet once more, we come to you with our prayers, Holy God. Our crippling spirits keep us from following you. Our grudges weigh us down until we cannot walk straight in your way.  Our anger becomes a fire which scorches our friends and loved ones. Our fears blind us to the goodness in those we believe to be different.
     Forgive us, God our Rock, and set us free from our wrong-doings and failures. From the day of our birth, we have known your love, grace, and hope. So may we offer you our joyful thanks, as Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, reaches out to touch us with your healing forgiveness, yet once more.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God chooses not to turn a deaf ear to us, but to listen to our prayers.
God chooses not to shame us, but to save us.
This is, indeed, good news for us! We are set free to drink deeply from
the waters of life. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
People of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to our Rock and Refuge.
Daughters and sons of God, give thanks to the One who saves us.
We lift our thanks and joy to the God who is our hope.
With a simple Word,
Creator of the Universe,
you caused chaos to tremble with fear,
     as mountains stretched
          to touch the clouds,
     and rivers cascaded
          through barren deserts.
With a single Breath,
life was given to our ancestors,
     who stood up straight
          to walk through your Garden.
But the spirit of sin
     put out its hand and crippled us;
death enslaved us
     with its unjust and cruel grip.
You touched the lips of the prophets,
appointing them to call us home,
but we could not lift our heads to see,
we would not turn our hearts to listen.
Yet, you would not leave us hopeless,
but sent Jesus to set us free.

Therefore, we joining our voices
with the faithful of all time and all places,
singing our songs of joy to you:

Holy, holy, holy, God our hope, our trust.
All creation worships you with reverence and awe.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes as the mediator of the new covenant.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God of the Ages,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, our Hope, our Trust.
Your Child from before time,
he became a son of Abraham,
     so we might all be a part of your family.
From the day he became human,
he taught us of your hopes for us,
     so we would not give in to despair.
Seeing us held in the unrelenting grasp of sin and death,
he put out his hand and rescued us.

As we remember his life, ministry,
death, and resurrection yet once more,
we will proclaim that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, to set us free from sin;
Christ arose, to set us free from death;
Christ will come again, rejoicing at all the wonderful things
          God has done.

Pour out your Holy Spirit
upon the gifts of the Bread and the Cup,
and upon your daughters and sons
who come to this Table.
We come with knees knocking,
with hearts pounding,
taking shallow breaths,
trusting and believing that
     here, we will find healing,
     here, we will be touched by your grace,
     here, we will hear your Word of hope.
Then, fed by your love
and nourished by your dreams,
     we shall go to bring your peace
          to a warring world.
     We shall speak out on behalf
          of those whom society has rendered voiceless.
     We will not be afraid to stand up straight
     and look injustice and cruelty in the eye
          and proclaim, "Enough!"

And then, when we are gathered
with our sisters and brothers
from the beginning of creation,
we will sit at the Table of the Lamb,
joining hands and lifting our eternal praise to you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

© Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Proper 15/Ordinary 20/Pentecost 13/Trinity 12 - C

Texts: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Hebrews 11:29 - 12:2; Luke 12:49-56

Call to Worship
The One who commands the clouds
calls us to be poured out for others.
We can, by faith, be the waters of peace
which quench the fires of hatred.

The One who creates mercy and hope,
longs for a world of fair play and grace.
We can, by faith, let righteousness and
justice be our constant companions.

The One who is with us in every moment
composes a love-song for our hearts.
We can, by faith, teach this song
to everyone we meet.

Prayer of the Day

Gracious God,
in the debris and litter of the world,
you clear a place
where we can be planted:
your justice
which can bring hope
to the oppressed;
your righteousness
which can receive
even our enemies
in peace.

Jesus Christ:
you break up
the stony ground
of our hearts,
so grace might be planted.
You take us by the hand
to lead us through
the waters of baptism,
so we can stand
on the far shores
on your kingdom.

Holy Spirit,
early every morning,
you are out ahead of us,
walking the paths of life,
clearing away all the temptations
which would cause us
to stumble and fall.

God in Community, Holy in One,
hear us as we pray as Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior, has taught us, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

Being human, we never find it easy to ask for forgiveness.  But as God's children, called to live in relationship with one another, we know we must speak of how we have hurt others, so we might be forgiven and restored to new life.  Please join me as we pray to God, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
   What more can we say, Expectant God, that you don't know already?  You long for justice for all people, but it is washed away by the flood of violence in our world.  You hope that righteousness will walk with us, but you hear the clear cries of those we mistreat.  You ask us to speak up for those in need, but we shut our mouths and turn away.
   Forgive us, Righteous God.  Have mercy when we do not bear the fruit we could.  Even though we have not lived our faith to the fullest, may we receive the promises of hope and grace you have given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Shhh, listen!  Can you hear them?  The saints of heaven  -  those who have gone on before us  -  are cheering us on as we run towards the finish line of our faith.
Thanks be to God!  The victory has already been won for us in Jesus Christ.  We are forgiven.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

May God be with you.
And also with you.
People of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the One whose heart is broken for us.
Offer your praises and joy to the God who is our Creator.
We sing our love-songs to the One who loves us and watches over us.

It is our greatest joy
to offer our thanks and praise to you,
God of all time.
At the dawn of creation,
you sang your love-song:
covering mountains with cooling shade,
directing the clouds to pour rain
upon the cedar seedlings,
filling your garden of grace
with all the goodness we would need.
But longing for a view
of temptation's delights,
we chopped down the hedges
surrounding Eden and protecting us,
and we were devoured
by sin and death
You sent the prophets
to tend and nurture us,
pruning us so we could bear
the fruit of justice and righteousness.
You took pity on us
as we weakened ourselves by our pride,
and placed your hand upon Jesus
sending him to be strong for us.

Therefore, we lift our thanksgiving to you,
joining our voices with the witnesses of every age,
echoing their glad songs of praise,
offering our hope to you:

Holy, holy, holy, Creator of the Vineyard.
By faith, all creation cries out for your salvation.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to run with perseverance
          the race which is set before him.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Shepherd of all people,
and blessed is Jesus Christ,
your sign of hope and grace.
Surrounded by all the faithful,
he humbled himself,
coming to set the pace for us
in this race we call life.
Worthy of all glory and praise,
he disregarded human acclaim,
and died on the cross
that we might be given life.
Picking up sin and death,
and tossing them aside,
he cleared the way to you,
that we might enter your kingdom.

As we remember his death and resurrection,
as we look for signs of his life in our time,
we receive that mystery of faith
which is promised to us:

Christ died, the perfecter of salvation;
Christ is risen, the pioneer of resurrection;
Christ will come again, for the sake of our joy.

Pour out your Holy Spirit
upon the gifts of the bread and cup,
and upon those who, by faith,
come to your Table.
As we receive these signs
of a grace we cannot see,
may we be transformed
into signs of peace and hope
for our time.
As we taste the broken Bread,
may we draw strength
to serve a shattered world.
As we drink of the gift of grace,
may we become robust
in our giving to others.
As we open our hands to you,
may we go to hand out justice
to the lost, the little, the least.

Then, when we are no longer divided,
but all people are gathered
around the Feast of the Lamb,
we will never turn away from you,
but will sing our songs of love
to you through all eternity,
God in Community, Holy in One,
forever and ever.  Amen.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Proper 4/Ordinary 19/Pentecost 12/Trinity 11 - C

Texts:  Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40

Call to Worship
We are people who have been called to follow where God leads us.
By faith we can obey, even when asked to walk into an unknown future.
We are people who have been challenged to tell God's story to others.
By faith we have the ability to share the good news.
We are God's children who are invited to feast at the Table of grace.
By faith we will embrace our sisters and brothers in Christ.

Prayer of the Day and our Lord's Prayer

Creator of the light:
when our sins
stain our lives,
you dissolve them
with your mercy;
when our souls become calloused
by the hardness of our hearts,
your grace makes them as soft
as a cashmere sweater,
so we can be dressed
to serve others.

Creative Word:
when you had enough
of our hollow words
and empty promises,
you came to listen
to the echoes of your hope
deep within our hearts.
When you became bored
with our endless meetings
and petty squabbles,
you took delight
in our willingness
to follow you.

Breath of Creation:
when we could be sitting
at home watching television,
you encourage us
to rest in stillness with the grieving.
When we could be out shopping,
you nudge us to share our abundance
with the poor and needy.
When we could be relaxing
in our achievements,
you sit us down next to a child,
struggling to read.

God in Community, Holy in One,
as we seek to grow in our faith,
hear us as we pray as Jesus has taught us,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

We would like to keep our sins hidden and our failures a secret.  But God would not have us keep silent, but speak our confessions out loud, so we may be blessed with God's mercy and grace.  I invite you to pray with me, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
  You have a vision of all people as your beloved children, Imaginative God, but we see folks whose language, dress, and skin make them different.  You have a vision of a universe filled with goodness and beauty, and we damage it with litter, with violence, with poor choices.  You have a vision of a Table where we can feast on your grace and hope, but we line up at the fast food counters of sin and greed.
  Forgive us, Envisioner of Mercy, as we confess that we are not "insiders" but immigrants searching for our true home.  You love us enough to want us to be with you forever, so may we take the hand of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who leads us into your kingdom.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
There is nothing to fear.  God's hope is more tenacious than our despair; God's  joy is more resilient than our grief; God's love is more compelling than our hate.
P:    By grace, we are gathered to God.
       By faith, we rest in God's promises of
       forgiveness and restoration.  Thanks be
       to God!  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May God be with you.
And also with you.
Open your hearts to God, followers of Jesus.
We open them, so the Light of Love shines through us.
People of God, give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is our greatest joy and honor to offer thanksgiving to God.
You called the heavens and the earth
out of the deep emptiness of chaos:
soft breezes caressing our cheeks,
songbirds caroling your glory,
children tap dancing through mud puddles -
all that we see, hear, and feel
have sprung from your imagination,
Creating God.
All that you thought, dreamed, and wondered
was shaped for us
that we might live with you
in peace and hope.
But we wondered what we would do
with your glory and power;
we dreamed of being divine
and thought we were your equal.
So we reached out for wealth and power,
those false idols who enticed us
even as they ensnared us with their lies.
You sent the prophets
to remind us of your vision for us,
and to assure us of your hope for us.
But we took no delight in their words.
Then, your Word took on flesh
and came to us as Jesus the Christ,
to summon us out of the empty lives
we had created for ourselves.

Therefore, we gather with your faithful ones,
in this time and in this place,
joining our voices with the heavenly choirs
who sing of your justice and grace:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God the Creator!
The mountains sing your praises,
the valleys echo your glory.

We welcome the One who comes in your name,
who comes to call us to life.

Holy are you, God of infinite imagination,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son,
our Hope, our Lord and Savior.
He should have been clothed
in royal robes of purple and gold,
but put on the uniform
of a condemned prisoner,
so we could be clothed in your grace.
He should have been given
every honor the world has,
but was cursed
so we might receive your blessings.
He should have had a long and healthy life,
but was put to death at an early age,
so we might live forever with you.

Remembering that is not our words which save us,
but your imaginative Word of beauty and love;
remembering that it is not our achievements,
but our hope in Jesus Christ which assures us of your love,
we celebrate that mystery we call faith:

Lord Jesus, you call us:
    open our eyes that we may see you,
    open our souls that we may long for your presence,
    open our hearts so we may follow you.

God of Gentleness:
pour out your Spirit of grace and peace
upon these, your simple gifts,
which become the Bread of Heaven
and the Cup of Salvation for us.
As we taste the goodness of Christ,
and let his brokenness heal us,
may our eyes be opened
to the oppression and injustices
the world would keep us from seeing.
As the rich wine of hope and joy
refreshes our hearts and souls,
may we be ready
to share all we have been given,
to speak up for the voiceless,
to gather the lost into our family.

And when all time has stopped moving
and all the faithful have been gathered,
when we sit down at the feast prepared for all,
we will join hands to sing
the eternal anthem of your vision
of hope and peace for all creation,
proclaiming forever and ever your glory:
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

© Thom M. Shuman