Sunday, September 29, 2013

Proper 22/Ordinary 27/Pentecost 20/Trinity 19 - C

Texts:  Lamentations 1:1-6; Psalm 137; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10

Call to Worship
We gather, as God's people, bringing our fears and pain,
knowing that when our spirits have grown cold,
God rekindles the gift of faith in us.
We gather, as God's people, hanging our broken hearts
on the branches of the tree of life,
knowing that while friends may turn against us,
God transforms enemies into sisters and brothers.
We gather, as God's people, hungering for healing and hope,
knowing that even when life is no picnic,
God prepares a feast for us.

Prayer of the Day
Singer of Songs:
when we have lost
the melody of your hope,
     you reshape the notes of our hearts;
when we can find
no resting place,
     you are the lap
         that cradles us;
when we are held captive
by our complaints,
     you free us for praise.

Seed Planter,
you only did
what you ought to have done:
traveling the empty roads
of our world;
     listening to
          our midnight cries;
      overtaking us
          to shoulder our burdens.

Spirit of Love,
as you enter our hearts
to ease our loneliness:
     may we not forget
          who our protector is;
     may we remember the faith
          which has been gifted to us;
     may we be stewards
          of the good treasure that is ours.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we lift our prayers as Jesus taught us,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

Our faith has been placed in our hands by our parents and grandparents. But we know we have not always done what we ought to have done. Let us lift our prayers to the One who is always ready to place forgiveness in our hearts.

Unison Prayer of Confession
     We stand before you in this moment, Listening God, and state what you already know. Our cheeks are carved with the tears of the pain we have caused. Our hearts are so empty we cannot comfort others. Our desires have taken us to places where we cannot sing your praises.
     Heart-seeking God, forgive us. Plant a tiny seed of hope that it might grow into a bouquet for others. Increase our faith until it spills over in thanksgiving to you.  Fill us with the love that overwhelms all our complaints and rekindles our desire to follow faithfully Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
While are failures and frailty are fresh, God's grace has been ours before time began. This is great news - we are forgiven.
God plants the seed of faith deep within us, growing a harvest of grace and hope. Thanks be to god, who has given us the promise of life in Christ Jesus our Lord! 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 who cradles our hearts in loving hands.
People of God, let us give thanks to the God who sets a Table for us.
We praise the Lord our God who welcomes us with open arms.
It is our greatest joy
to sing our songs of praise to you,
Gardener of Creation.
You planted the seeds of faith
in our ancestors
who sought to pass it on to us.
But your gifts of love and self-discipline
found no resting place in our souls.
Your tears washed
the streets of the kingdom
     when we abandoned them
     to walk the world's lonely paths.
We do not remember who protects us,
     and we rely on those false gods
     who would lead us into despair's captivity.
But you will not forget us,
or leave us orphaned.
Hearing us crying in the night,
you sent our Hope, Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we lift our voices,
singing our praise with those
in every time, and in every place,
who have been brought out of death's exile
and who forever sing your joy:

Sung: (tune: Bunessan
God of Creation, Lord of all beauty,
All creatures join in singing your love;
Holy Compassion, Joy of our mornings,
Fill us with grace which comes from above.

Holy are you, Speaker of our hearts,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, Promise of Life.
When we had hung our souls
on the branches of loss,
     he handed them back to us,
          teaching us the ageless
          harmonies of grace.
When the world left us
by the side of the road
like rusty automobiles,
     he came to restore us to newness.
Splashing in sin's puddles,
     he washed our feet
     and dried them with his love,
          leading us into the kingdom.
Daughters of despair, sons of sadness,
orphans of woe -
     he gathers us all up
     in his arms of mercy
          wiping out death,
     and sits us down
          at the family Table.

As we remember his grace and love,
as we dare not forget his sacrifice for us,
we sing of that mystery we call faith:

Sung: Christ of the outcast, Comfort of mourners,
Neighbor to strangers, Love without end;
Bearer of burdens, Grace ever with us,
Blessing our children, Brother and Friend.

Holy Spirit,
as we offer the gifts
of the bread and the cup
for your blessing,
so we present ourselves:
     our accomplishments, our failings,
     our hopes, our realities.
Make us weak,
     so we might rely
          on your strength.
As we have heard the Word,
     may we listen
          to the cries of the poor.
As we are family
with those sitting beside us today,
     may we love our sisters and brothers
          in every corner of creation.
As you hold out
the bread and the cup to us,
     may we reach out to enemies
          to clasp hands as friends.

God in Community, Holy in One,
all honor and glory are yours,
as we sing our praises through all eternity:

Sung: Spirit of kindness, Breath of forgiveness,
Faithful Companion, just as Christ said;
God's little children gathered together,
Drink of salvation, feast on your Bread.

© Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Proper 21/Ordinary 26/Pentecost 19/Trinity 18 - C

Texts: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31

Call to Worship
The word has come for us from God:
who promises to shelter us under the wings of hope and grace.
The word has come to us from Jesus:
who encourages us to remember the good news we have received.
The word flows to us from the Spirit:
who reminds us to place our hope and trust in God.

Prayer of the Day

When we fall into the traps
of groundless fears,
     you deliver us.
When an epidemic of worry
threatens to overcome us,
     you protect us.
When harmful words
are flung at us,
     you answer our cries for help.
Gracious God,
we worship you.

When our lives crumble,
     you urge us to buy hope's fields.
When we are tempted by wealth,
     you point us to those
           who have nothing but share everything.
When we are eager
to grasp senseless lies,
     you wrap our hands
          around God's promises.
Servant of the poor,
we follow you.

When the world silences our hope,
     you give us the words to make
          the good confession of faith.
When we have lost our way
and can no longer endure
the emptiness of our lives,
     you satisfy us from the abundance
          of God's grace and joy.
Sheltering Spirit,
we seek your peace.

God in Community, Holy in One,
our Refuge, our Trust, our Hope,
we lift our prayer to you
as Jesus has taught us, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

In God's presence, our lives are exposed, our words are shown for their hollowness, our need is revealed.  Let us confess who we are, as we ask God to embrace us with grace and hope.

Unison Prayer of Confession
     We need to confess, God of Abraham and Lazarus, how often we are not content with the simple gifts and lives you offer. Tempted by everything, we can become insensitive to those who have nothing. Encouraged by the world to accumulate more, we may miss the chance to gather your goodness and godliness. Chasing after all which has no value, we may not have the energy to pursue the faith, the love, the gentleness you have for us.
     Forgive us, God of Reversals. You have sent the One who speaks the words we need to listen to in order to have life.  Help us to remember how you have redeemed us, and in remembering, may we make that good confession that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, now and forever.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
This is the good news that comes from God: I will hear your prayers, I will answer with hope and peace, I will deliver you from your sins.
God has covered us with grace; under God's hope we will find shelter. Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

May God our refuge be with you!
And also with you!
Open your hearts to the One who watches over you.
We lift our hearts to God, who covers us with grace.
Sing to the One whose faithfulness wraps around you like a warm shawl.
Our voices unite in praise to God, in whom we trust.
In your presence, life-shaping God,
your heart besieged chaos,
     planting hope and joy
          where there was only despair,
     bringing forth fields of flowers
          where there was only emptiness.
You created us in your image,
signing the deed for all creation,
and sealing it for us, the Word
and Spirit witnesses to your generosity.
     But we sought shelter in sin,
          choosing to live in the shadow of death.
You called to us through the prophets,
but we did not answer.
Determined to rescue us,
you sent Jesus to us,
bring hope and grace and mercy
to us once again.

So, with those who have trusted you
in every time and place, we join
our voices with our sisters and brothers,
singing your glad praises:

Holy, holy, holy, God of faithfulness.
All creation takes hold of your life.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who dwells in unapproachable light.
Hosanna in the highest!

King of Kings,
Jesus humbled himself as our servant,
     bringing everything we need into our world.
Lord of Lords,
he set aside eternal glory with you,
     to take on our fleeting life.
Brother to the poor,
he turned from the riches of heaven,
     to offer the wealth of your mercy to all.
Bearer of your good news,
he bore witness to Pilate
and all who rejected him,
     of your grace which is stronger than death,
     your love with defeats evil,
     your redemption that gives new life.

As we remember Jesus' faithfulness in life,
as we celebrate his victory over death,
we would speak of that mystery we know as faith:

Christ died, enduring the cross;
Christ rose, taking hold of eternal life;
Christ will come, giving new life to all things.

Here, in the shelter of your grace,
surrounded by the gifts of the bread and the cup;
here, in the shadow of your love
which stretches through all creation
and touches your children everywhere,
we pray that you would pour out
your Spirit of peace, of hope, of joy.
As we are strengthened by the life
shared with us by the Broken One,
     we would go forth to live out our faith,
     satisfying the hunger of the world
          for reconciliation and for freedom.
As we take hold of the Cup of life,
we will not fear the terrors that besiege us,
     but journey on in trust and obedience,
          pursuing righteousness and justice for all.

And when all life has ended and your Word calls to us,
at that time we will gather with our sisters and brothers
around the Table of wonder and mercy you have prepared,
forever singing our praises to you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

© Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Proper 20/Ordinary 25/Pentecost 18/Trinity 17 - C

Texts:  Jeremiah 8:18 - 9:1; Psalm 79:1-9; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13

Call to Worship
We gather together to celebrate the joy in our lives.
God's love fills our hearts to overflowing with laughter.
We gather, in God's presence, to find comfort and hope for our pain.
God's grace wipes away our tears and knits us together as one people.
We gather together, in God's presence, to worship God in faith and truth.
Alleluia! Amen!

Prayer of the Day

Healing God,
when dismay
is our daily companion,
     you come to touch us
          with your healing hope.
When grief falls on us
like a wall of bricks,
     you rebuild our joy
          with your comfort and love.

Jesus Christ,
Faithful Spirit,
when bullies pick on us,
     you stand by our side.
When neighbors taunt us
for choosing to be faithful,
     you commend us
          for our wisdom.

Teaching Spirit,
when we are heart-sick
over the brokenness of our lives,
     your compassion races
          to bring your gentle balm.
When our joy is gone
and we are stained
by the world's cruelty,
     you bathe us in the tears
          flowing from God's broken heart.

God in Community, Holy in One,
hear us as we pray as Jesus has taught us,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

Before we speak, God knows our needs, yet our words open our hearts to God's grace. Let us prepare ourselves for God's healing as, in words and silence, we tell of all that separates us from God and one another. Please join me as we pray,

Unison Prayer of Confession
     First of all, Everlasting God, we must confess how we have not lived as your people. We serve many masters - work, wealth, power, addictions - yet find no hope in them. We hear the cries of the poor, and shut the doors of our hearts to them. We ridicule those who expose their hopes and dreams to us.
     Forgive us, Compassion's Heart, and heal us of our brokenness. Make us well, so that by our healing, we might be the hope and love others need in their lives, even as Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, brought these gifts to us, calling us to be faithful with the grace, peace, and joy entrusted to us.

Silence is kept
Assurance of Pardon
Now that we have let go of the pain, the bitterness, the anger of our lives, let us be kind, tender-hearted, and gentle towards each other, forgiving as God has forgiven us.
We are God's beloved children, and will model God's grace and love in our hearts. Thanks be to God! We are forgiven! Amen.
Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the one God be with you!
And also with you!
Lift your hearts to the One who heals them.
We offer our hearts to be filled with the balm of Gilead.
Sing praises to our God who would fill us with springs of joy.
Glad songs of thanksgiving are proclaimed to the One who delivers us to new life.

We praise you for our inheritance,
God of wonder and delight:
     springs of water trickling into mighty rivers,
     birds of the air cart wheeling in the morning mist,
     tall trees dancing with the wind.
As your children, we were blessed
with abundant gifts beyond measure,
     but we squandered this bounty, choosing
     to buy property in sin and death's community.
Heartsick, you sent the prophets to us,
who indicted us for ruining ourselves,
but we were not strong enough
to pull up our roots and return to you.
So you sent Jesus, faithful in all,
to restore us to full health.

As we join our voices with all
who seek to serve you, far and wide,
we lift our songs of praise to you:

Holy, holy, holy, Author of grace and goodness.
All creation affirms the depths of your love.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is your Child of Compassion who sprints to us.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God of our salvation,
and everlasting is the salvation brought
to us by Jesus Christ, our Mediator.
When we were too weak to dig
our way out of the mess we were in,
     he came to show us the way out.
When we were too proud to ask for help,
     he humbled himself, to become our brother.
When we could not account for our lives,
     he balanced the books for us.
When we were faithless in so much,
     he determined to go to the cross for us,
so that we might know of your longing
for everyone to be saved.

As we remember his faithful life in every thing he did,
as we celebrate his spirit of sacrifice,
we speak of that truth we call faith:

Christ died, paying the price we could not;
Christ arose, becoming our means of new life;
Christ will come, leading us to that quiet, peaceable life with you.

In these moments, in this holy place,
upon these gifts with offer hope and life,
upon these people who seek to be faithful,
pour out your Spirit of compassion and peace.
As we eat of the bread, tasting its grace,
may we move swiftly in service,
     carrying compassion to the lost,
     the hurting, the hungry, the homeless.
As we drink from the cup of love,
may the tears of our eyes
     at the brokenness of the world,
     become the healing balm for your children.

And when all time is gone, when eternity is upon us,
we will join our sisters and brothers from far and wide,
in singing forever your glory and wonder,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

© Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Proper 19/Ordinary 24/Pentecost 17/Trinity 16 - C

Texts:  Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28; Psalm 14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10

Call to Worship
The foolish say, 'there is no God.'
We come, trusting in Jesus, the face, the voice, the presence of the God who loves us.
The scoffers of our age ask, 'why do you seek after God?'
We come, in this time, because God's grace has spilled over in our lives.
The hopeless around us think, 'no one cares about me.'
We come, in this time, to this place, because Jesus has found us and brought us home.

Prayer of the Day

When we are short-sighted
and think we can't see you,
     you show us a mother
          cradling her sick child.
When we are anxious,
certain you don't care about us,
     you are confident enough
          to trust us with your grace.
When we are cynical,
sure that nothing matters,
     you are optimistic enough
          to become one of us.
God, you are our Hope.

You sweep the streets
of the world,
     to uncover the people
          we consider to be trash.
You shine your grace
into sin's shadows
     to find us when
          we have lost our way.
You would leave us
     to go find the sister
          we left behind.
Jesus, you are our Joy.

When we walk
the dusty desert of desolation,
     you refresh us
          with showers of grace.
When our lives
lie in ruined rubble,
     you come and build
     a foundation for us
          out of love and faith.
Spirit, you are our Life.

God in Community, Holy in One,
our Hope, our Joy, our Life,
hear us as we pray as Jesus teaches,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

Which of us has not hurt someone this week? Which of us has not spoken (or thought) ill of a sister or brother in Christ? Which of us has failed to do good when given the chance? Which of us? All of us and each of us! But Christ came to save people just like us, so I invite you to join me as we offer our prayers to God, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
     Although we believe we are experts at faithfulness, Holy God, we must confess we are unskilled workers at doing good for others. Too often, we turn a deaf ear to the cries of people we have judged to be fools. We easily scoff at those we believe have nothing to teach us or share with us.
     How foolish, Searching God, how foolish we are! Forgive us, and restore us to your goodness. Then, send us forth to search for all who sit in the shadowed corners of our world, yearning for someone to come and find them, even as Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, came to find us.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Our actions sometimes show we do not know God. Our words and lives show we do not understand God's hopes for us. But with utmost patience, God sets aside our foolishness, and fills us with mercy.
Mingled with faith and love, grace is poured into our sin-parched souls, giving us new life, restoring us as God's children. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

May the God of the lost be with you.
And also with you.
People of God, lift up your hearts to the One who searches for you.
We lift them to our God, whom we find dwelling in our deepest being.
God's precious treasure, offer your thanksgiving to God.
We glorify our God, who does not give up on us, but rescues us when we have wandered away.
When only the hot wind of chaos
blew, and there was no light,
you spoke, Immortal, Invisible God,
     your Word bringing forth fruit-filled lands,
     your Spirit moving the hills to and fro
          until they stood silent over the valleys.
In your wisdom, you shaped us
in your image, your grace freely offered.
     Foolishly, we chased after temptation's dreams,
          becoming skilled workers in constructing
          evil out of your good and wonderful gifts.
You showed the upmost patience towards us,
sending prophets with challenging words
to remind us of your promises to all,
but we were too foolish to listen.
So, you sent Jesus to us who,
like a friend who has lost touch
with those dearest to his heart,
reaches out to reconnect with them.

So, with the company of the saints in glory,
with the sinners and losers of this world,
we sing our praises to you:

Holy, holy, holy, God whose heart overflows with faith and love.
Joy echoes down the corridors of creation.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the One who comes searching for the lost.
Hosanna in the highest.

The wise seek after you, God of Grace and glory,
for you sent Jesus, our Lord to us.
Like a woman searching the shadows
for a lost coin, he comes,
     to find your greatest treasure.
Like a brother who has lost
touch with his siblings, he comes,
     to reconcile us as your family.
Like a sister who would stay awake
while the younger children sleep, he comes,
     to be our true friend
          in every moment, in every place.
Like a shepherd who would face
danger in rescuing his sheep, he goes,
     to the cross, experiencing our death,
so he can carry us into
the resurrected life.

As we gather at his feast,
as we know we have been completely accepted,
we proclaim that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, relentless in trusting God;
Christ is risen, as God purposed;
Christ will come, to rejoice with us in glory.

As we come to your Table at this time,
pour out your Holy Spirit upon
this company of sinners
who long to be right-living people,
and on the gifts you have prepared.
As we eat of the Bread of Life,
strengthen our hearts and spirits,
     so we may search for the lost.
As we drink from the Cup of Grace,
may we be found to be faithful,
     as you appoint us to serve the oppressed.

And at that time when we will be with you,
gathered around the Table of the Lamb
with all who were lost, and like us, were found,
we will join our voices in singing your praises,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

© Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Proper 18/Ordinary 23/Pentecost 16/Trinity 15 - C

Texts:  Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33

Call to Worship
We gather in the presence of God:
Who knows us when we wake up and when we go to sleep,
and in all the moments in between.

We gather in the house of God:
who has created a family for us, here as well as in Baghdad,
in Belfast, and in Nairobi.

We gather to be the people of God:
who appeals to us to follow in love, in faith, in service.

Prayer of the Day

Eternal God our Potter:
you come to us
     before we come to you.

You send your Heart,
Jesus Christ, to us
     before our hearts
     are turned to you.

You send your Spirit to us,
     when our spirits
          wander far from you.

You set a Table for us,
     when our souls are hungry,
          when our hearts are empty.

God in Community, Holy in One,
hear us as we pray
as Jesus has taught us, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

Our sins are not to be hidden from God.  Rather, we bring them into the Light and lay them on the Table, trusting in the One who shaped us for goodness and will transform our brokenness into wholeness.  Please join me as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
     Searching God, we are so attached to our possessions, we have trouble sharing them.  We are so connected to our pleasures that we cannot feel the pain of those around us.  We are so stuck on ourselves, we cannot sense our souls slipping away into the shadows.
     Most merciful God: loosen us from the grip of the world, so we may feel your healing touch.  Sever us from our sin, so your Spirit might bind us to you. Reshape us, redeem us, renew us, so we may take up our crosses and follow our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
The God who calls us is the God who created us; the God who formed us is the God who forgives us.  This is the Good News - we are God's new creation.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are reshaped, renewed, forgiven. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Potter of life be with you.
And also with you.
People of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the One who reshapes them into grace.
People of God, give thanks to the Lord our God.
We praise the One who has shaped us for love and service.
With joy we praise you,
Creating God.
You stooped down and took the clay
lying on earth's floor,
shaping us in your image.
But we wondered
what it would be like
to follow our own paths
     and detached ourselves from your side.
We counted the cost
of being your children,
     and found it to be too much for us.
We pondered your words
     and found them useless for our lives.
But you did not take your hands from us,
but continue to recreate us,
to reshape us, to redeem us.

Giver of breath, shaper of words,
all the living find voice to praise you,
as we celebrate with the people
of every time and place,
singing to your glory:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God who shapes us with hands of grace and hope.
Your wonder works of creation praise your name.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes, appealing to us on the basis of love.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Redeeming God,
and blessed is Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior.
Traveling with us,
     he points out the paths
          we are to walk.
When he could command
us to do whatever he wants,
     he appeals to us
          to follow his example.
Whatever wrong we have done,
whatever good we have failed to do,
Christ charges them to his account,
     that we might be counted
          as your beloved children.

So, as we come to the Table of grace and hope,
we remember that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, having counted the cost.
Christ rose, laying the foundation of resurrection.
Christ will come, refreshing our hearts for all eternity.

Spirit of the Living God,
renew us with this bread and this cup
which have been set aside for sacred us,
even as you refresh our hearts.
Fill us with all the goodness of the kingdom,
that we may do good for Christ
as we serve others:
     in the ways in which we treat our families;
     in our willingness to draw
          the outcast to our side;
     in our efforts to be your healing hands
          to the sick and grieving.

Then, here at the Table and beyond;
here in this moment, and through eternity:
remind us that we are always with you,
God of all places and times,
Christ of those who suffer,
Spirit of justice and hope:
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

© Thom M. Shuman