Saturday, February 17, 2024

Liturgy w/communion for February 25, 2024 (Lent 2 - B)

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

Call to Worship
Lent calls us to journey, this and every day,
following Jesus wherever he leads us.

Lent calls us to journey:
to the place where God covenants with us,
to receive the new names we are given.

Lent calls us to worship together,
to tell future generations the good news.

Lent calls us to practice justice,
to bring God's hope to all people.

Lent calls us to faithful living,
to trust the One who gives us life.

Lent calls each of us to take up our cross,
to trust the One who bears it with us.

Lent calls us to journey with God.

Let us worship God, who walks with us,
this and every day.

Prayer of the Day

Choosing an aged, barren couple
to parent your holy people;
calling us to set aside ourselves
and to shoulder a cross;
showering us with love and mercy,
when we do nothing to deserve these gifts:
You always act in ways
which surprise us,
God of our parents.

In hospital rooms,
where we wait in anxious expectation;
in classrooms,
where we chew on pencils while taking tests;
in this unholy mess
we call life:
you always call us
to faithfulness and trust:
Cross Bearer for us all.

In the warmth of spring's approach,
we hear your voice;
in the moonlight of winter's last night,
we see your face;
in the silence of a child sleeping,
we are breathe in your grace:
you are always with us
in the ordinary moments of life:
Spirit of Holiness.

God in Community, Holy in One,
May we see you, hear you, and know you
as we move through this Lenten season,
even as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Given a test on our faith, would we have a passing grade?  Looking at our lives of discipleship, would we be considered good models for others?  When we fail to trust God, we discover that we do indeed lead barren lives.  Let us be honest as we stand before our God, and bring our confessions for forgiveness and hope.

Unison Prayer of Confession
  God of Sarah and Abraham, in this holy place, we know how weak is our discipleship.  We can spend hours at the computer, but only give you fleeting moments of our time.  We can talk endlessly on our cell phones, but fall silent when it comes to sharing our fears, our worries, our hopes with you.  We seek quick fixes for our problems, rather than seeking your vision and future for our lives.
   God of Peter, Paul, and the psalmist, forgive us:
      for our lack of trust;
      for our faithless living;
      for our closing our ears to the call of Jesus.
Forgive us, so we may lay aside all the keeps us from you, so we may take up the life you offer to us, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
This is the good news:  God does not go back on the promises made so long ago.  God does not reject us, God redeems us.  God does not withhold love, God pours it into our barren lives.
Forgiven of our sins, filled with hope, living in relationship with God and one another - we are a new people.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May these gifts represent our willingness to deny ourselves, so others might be blessed by your grace, your peace, as well as your hope, in every moment of their lives.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
The God of the Lenten journey be with you.
And also with you.
Open your hearts to God, heirs of the covenant.
We open them to the One who fills them with promise.
Let us lift glad songs to our exceedingly faithful God.
Our praise will resound in this great congregation.

"Walk before me," you whispered
to creation, God of the covenant,
and wonders beyond imagination sprang forth:
  bees flitting from flower to hive,
  planets spun from the gases of space,
  dinosaurs plodding through forests.
All this exceeding fruitfulness was offered
to those you shaped in your image,
that we might live in relationship with you,
  but sin's praises weakened our faith,
  and we stood in awe of death.
Prophets came, calling us to set
our minds on all things divine,
  but we turned a deaf ear
  to their impassioned pleadings.
So you chose to send Jesus
to teach us your heart
by the way he lived and loved.

With those who find self-denial easy,
with those who find their cross too heavy,
we glorify you in these moments:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God who calls us by new names.
All creation praises your surpassing wonders.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to us for our sake.
Hosanna in the highest!

You are holy, God of every promise,
and we are blessed by your Son, Jesus Christ.
He did not act as if
he had no use for us,
  but called us his sisters and brothers.
He was not grossed out
by those sins which tormented us,
  but came to heal us.
He did not turn
a deaf ear to us,
  but listened to us in a way
  no one else ever did.
He rebuked death, declaring,
"get behind me,"
  as he walked out
  into resurrection's dawn.

As we remember Jesus' ministry and death,
as we would seek to live for him,
we proclaim that mystery we know as faith:

Christ died, taking up his cross and following God;
Christ was raised, the covenant promise fulfilled;
Christ will come, declaring "God has done it!"

Because our faith depends on your grace,
pour out your Spirit upon this feast
and those you welcome to the Table.
As you nourish us with broken bread,
send us forth
  to feed the poor until they are filled,
  to clothe the naked until they are warm.
As you strengthen us
with the cup of grace,
  we will take the hand of searchers
    so, together, we may find you;
  we will welcome those rebuked
    by the world, so our hearts
    might live forever.

And when you gather your great
congregation around the Lamb's Table,
we will join our voices in proclaiming,
"You have done it,
God in Community, Holy in One!" Amen.

Go now with God, on your journey through Lent.
We will discover the new name given to each one we meet.
Go now with Jesus, walking wherever he leads.
We will put all our fears, as well as our longings, behind us.
Go now with the Spirit, who is always full of surprises.
We will share the good news called Jesus with everyone.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Monday, February 12, 2024

Liturgy w/communion for February 18, 2024 (First Sunday in Lent - B)

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

Call to Worship
Here, at the outer limits of Lent,
we are called to walk:
to the paper-thin edges which cut us
      to the soul;
to the workplaces which weary us;
to the people who confuse us;
to the faith which threatens us.
Here, at the corner of Steadfast Love
and Faithfulness, we are called to wait:
when our clenched stomachs awaken us;
in the moments of unbearable sorrow;
with the angels who would carry us.

Here, where time is fulfilled,
where God's Kingdom is as near to us
as our neighbor, we begin Lent:
with the Beloved, whose tears wash away
     our fears,
with the God who will not let go
     of our hands.

Prayer of the Day
You love us, O God.
Like a mother
who upholds her son through
the temper tantrums,
the ball-broken windows,
the smart-alecky remarks:
you love us, O God.
Like a father
who walks his daughter through
the terrible twos,
the giggling fours,
the confusion and chaos of adolescence:
you love us, O God!

You give to us, Holy Brother.
In the tears crevassing our cheeks,
in the depths of our sighing;
in moments of exquisite joy
and the lingering days of loneliness:
you give to us - yourself.
In the chorales of morning birds,
in the silent prayers of our hearts;
in a night sky splattered with stars,
in a cross stained with blood and tears:
you give to us - yourself.

You dance with us, Gentle Spirit.
In baptismal waters soaking our knees,
when desert dust chokes our hymns:
you dance with us, Gentle Spirit.
in jail cells and courtrooms,
on the journey to death,
and striding forth from the tomb:
you dance with us, Gentle Spirit.

God in Community, Holy in One,
in any season, but especially in this Holy Season,
you love us, you give yourself to us, you dance with us;
and so we lift the prayers Jesus has taught to us, saying,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
God looks at the most broken soul and sees an angel aching to take flight.  God sees our worst faults and washes them away in the waters of life.  God hears our prayers of confession, and whispers sweet grace in our hearts.  Let us pray together as we say,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
    the silly sins of childhood,
    the exuberant sins of adolescence,
    the faded sins of aging;
    the sins we shout in the streets,
    the sins we whisper to ourselves;
    the sins we didn't give a second thought to,
    the sins we plot in the middle of the night;
    the flood of sins which threaten us,
    the wilderness of sin which we offer to others,
    the sin which seeks to imprison us:

Forgive us, Good and Gentle God,
forgive us and have mercy on us,
so we might walk the path of faithfulness
with Jesus, to Jerusalem and beyond,
so we might know your steadfast love in our lives.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
What can sustain us in the days to come, what will nourish us on our Lenten journey?
Look, here is all the food we need: God's Love, God's Word, God's Hope.
Through the wilderness and into the kingdom of life, we are given daily bread for every day of the journey.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.
Prayer of Dedication/Offering
As for us, Holy God, we offer our gifts to bring healing to the broken, hope to those in despair, light to those in shadows, and grace for all your people.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

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

Hearts full of joy are lifted to you,
Crafter of Covenants.
When there was no time as we knew it,
you created Day and Night,
so we could wait for you all day long,
enjoying your grace and goodness.
   But instead of learning your ways,
   we listened to the seductive whispers of the Evil One,
   and wandered into the wilderness of rebellion and sin.
Remembering the promises
made so long ago to our ancestors,
you sent the prophets to teach us
and to show us your paths to hope,
   but we ignored their witness and their words.
Yet, you would not see us left in death's desert,
and so sent the One who could lead us back to you.

Therefore, we lift our voices
with the faithful of every time and place,
and the choirs of the kingdom,
who forever sing of your goodness and love:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God our Teacher.
All creation trusts in you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who leads us in truth.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God of Faithfulness,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Steadfast Love.
In those days,
he could have remained by your side,
   but came to be by ours;
in those days,
he could have feasted on your glory,
   but came to eat and drink with sinners;
in those days,
he could have remained whole and pure,
   but died broken on a sin-stained cross,
   that we might have
   all the days of eternity with you.

As we begin that journey to Jerusalem
which will test our faith
and offer us opportunities to serve,
we remember the life, the death,
the resurrection of the One we follow.

Jesus was baptized, the Spirit resting on  him;
Jesus died, resisting the temptation to reject God;
Jesus was raised, fulfilling the time to defeat death;
Jesus will come, to fulfill God’s time for all of us.

On this day, and in this place,
God of Mystery,
pour out your Holy Spirit up us
and upon the bread we break
and the cup we share.
Through these gifts,
make us one with the Risen Christ,
and send us forth to serve the world.
Set free by the goodness of your love,
   let us proclaim liberty to the prisoners;
filled with the Bread of Life,
   let us feed the hungry of our communities;
our thirst cooled be the Cup of Grace,
   let us reach out to those
   who stumble through the desert of life;
walk with us through the wilderness of the world,
so we can gather our sister and brothers
in your love, your hope, your joy,
and journey together into your kingdom.

Then, seated around the Table you set before us,
with the Beloved of every time and of every place,
we will merge our songs of praise
with those who have shown
your steadfast love and faithfulness
to all generations,
singing our praise to you,
God of Abraham and Noah, of Rebecca and Mary;
Jesus of the poor and oppressed;
Spirit of the lost and the least:
God in Community, Holy in One.
Amen and Amen.
Trusting in God, let us go from this place.
Taught all we need, we will bring hope and peace to others.
Trusting in Jesus, let us go into the world.
Given all we need, we will go to serve those around us.
Trusting in the Spirit, we will not be tempted to stay, so let us go.
Baptized in hope, we will go to welcome others as God’s Beloved.
© Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Where ashes and love collide - an Ash Wednesday service for February 14th

Call to Worship
One: It is love which calls us here.
All: That love which may see its own shadow
yet continues to bring light to all.

One: It is love which gathers us to this place.
All: That love which whispers in our hearts,
the love which sings in our silent souls.

One: It is love which surrounds us in these moments.
All: That love which is fresh with each breath,
the love which endures forever.



When we choose to go off
pursuing our foolish choices,
your love is never held back.
Like a father sitting by a window,
staring down the street for us
to turn the corner towards home,
your love waits by your side,
God who never abandons us.

If we turn our backs
chasing after those pied pipers
of politics, pride, and prejudice,
your love never wavers.
Like a sibling who is more patient
with us than we can imagine,
your love lets go of all frustration,
Jesus who walks with us.

As we continue to persist
in shaping you in our image,
your love waits for us
to come to our senses.
Like a mother who sits by the bed
and listens to our worries,
your love gathers us to your heart,
Spirit who is always patient.

You always put up with us,
you never stop believing in us,
your hopes for us never stop,
you go through everything for us,
God in Community, Holy in One,
and so we lift our family prayer to you,
(The Lord’s Prayer)


Isaiah 54:7-10

Psalm 136:1-3


I Corinthians 13

John 15:9-17

Spoken or silent reflection

Invitation to the Lenten life of love

Here is the place where
ashes and love collide,
as we are called once more
to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem,
where dreams will turn to dust
as love is silenced by betrayal and death.
When ashes and love collide,
we are challenged to remember
that his wilderness experience
models for us how to choose good over evil,
how to turn our backs on the voices
that call us to utter cruel words,
how to find the strength to work
for justice and care for the forgotten,
how to set aside our personal desires
so we can serve the most vulnerable,
how to draw on the ancient traditions
of silence, engaging with scripture, and prayer.
As ashes and love collide,
we remember our baptism into faith,
we come to the Table of grace,
we are marked as Christ’s own,
we come to be embraced by God’s
love which never, ever ends.

Call to Reconciliation

As we begin our journey to Easter, we must be honest with our lives. We must speak of how often our faith fails us, how reluctant we are to not only deny ourselves, but to do more for others. Let us pray together saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   If it was only for a moment, God of our lives, it might not be too bad. But we abandon you far too often, far too easily. We are impatient people, not suffering those we consider to be foolish. We are jealous of what others have. We persist in demanding things be done according to our whims. We like to boast about all we have done. And the lists of the wrongdoings of others? Oh, we run out of space, trying to keep track of them.
   Here at the crossroads of love and ashes, we pray for your forgiveness, God whose heart we break. Hear our faltering words, and whisper to us of your mercy. Take all our foolish choices and toss them in your bin of forgetfulness. Mark us with the ashes of the One who shows us how to be your people, Jesus, our Sibling, our Lord, our Friend. Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
One: God will not leave us alone but walks at our side. God’s grace marks us as Beloved children. God’s love lasts far longer than that very short memory God has of our foolish lives. This is indeed good news.
All: It is God’s compassion which welcomes us. It is God’s peace which surrounds us. It is the constant love of God which embraces us with mercy. Thanks be to God, we are forgiven. Amen.

Imposition of the ashes

Here are the ashes formed
not only from palm branches,
but from dreams that were lost,
hopes which were never fulfilled,
choices which turned to dust,
losses which overwhelmed us
with grief and terrible loneliness.
Here is the love we long for,
found in the remains of the cheers
we offered to Jesus when he first
came into our lives, but we soon
turned our backs on him, forgetting
the life which he offered to us and
continues to hold out for us.
Here, in this place and moment,
God takes the ashes and the love,
using them to mark us as God’s own,
constantly surrounded by that love
which is never held back from us,
comforting us with that hope which
is as constant as the rising of the sun,
embracing us in the gifts of peace,
reconciliation, justice, and generosity,
to help us to live as God’s people.

As we are touched with both
the ashes of memories and
the everlasting gift of love,
God of our every moment,
remind us that just as you
shaped us from creation’s dust,
it is from your love that we come
and when our time ends,
it is to your love we will return. Amen.

(in the silence, those who wish may come forward to have the sign of the cross placed on their foreheads or back of their hands. The ashes are from palms used in previous Palm Sunday services, mixed with oil representing God’s love poured upon us).

Invitation to the Table

Communion Song

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

One: The God of ashes is with us.
All: The God of steadfast love is here.
One: At this beginning of a familiar journey
may we offer our hearts to our God.
All: We bring hearts which are broken for healing,
we bring hearts full of grace for sharing.

One: In the silence of our hearts,
in the stillness of our souls,
we would offer praise to our God.
All: For here, even though we may struggle
to find the words, God already knows them.

While theologians ponder
and scientists try to find that
very point, that precise moment,
we know that it is love which
caused you to bring all of creation
out of the chaos on emptiness,
God of unparalleled imagination.
You spoke, and Word
   crafted multi-hued butterflies,
   pushed mountains toward the sky,
   hurled galaxies as far as possible.
You whispered, and Spirit
   moved upon seas and ponds,
   drifted as mist in the morning,
   breathed life into those shaped
in the image of love.
We could have remained in the arms
of your love which never lets go,
but we turned our backs on you
   choosing the shallow life sin offered
   as we handed ourselves over to death.
But you would not forget
nor would you leave us
to our ever-foolish lives.
Into the ashes of our failures,
of our crushed dreams, of our death,
you sent your Beloved
to come and walk the dusty
roads of life and mortality.

So, in these moments of silence,
with all marked with your love,
we offer you our songs of thanksgiving:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God who abides in us.
We join all creation in singing your wonder.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to call us friends.
Hosanna in the highest!

That is who you gifted to us,
God of all time.
Unimaginable love shared
with us in the One who dared
to become just like us,
   knowing our pain,
   experiencing our fears,
   weeping our tears.
Steadfast love offered
to us through Jesus who
constantly shared your love
   in the stories which were told,
   in conversations with others,
   in all the meals together.
Transformative love seen
through the final parts of
that life which was always for others,
   in the refusal to claim glory,
   in the brokenness of body and spirit,
   in the greatest love for all your people.
Resurrection love was the surprise
of grace and hope you give us
   bringing forth Jesus from the ashes
   of death’s destroyed power.

As we prepare to leave to follow
the One who leads us from life to death
and beyond to your steadfast love,
we speak of faith’s mystery:

In love, Christ came to us.
With love, Christ gave himself.
Through love, Christ was raised.
For love, Christ will come again.

It is here at this Table
we will find your love,
taste your grace,
know the meaning of the ashes.
Pour out your Spirit on the gifts
of the bread as well as the cup
and on all who are gathered.
In hope, may the bread
which represents the brokenness
of your steadfast love
strengthen us to go to serve,
   to be more patient,
   to offer more kindness,
   to set aside arrogance,
   and to lift up the fallen.
In grace, may this cup
which reminds us of the spirit
of love which never gives up,
enable us to go out and
   learn from the forgotten,
   find joy in speaking truthfully,
   bring justice to the forgotten.

And when all time ends
as our joy is made complete
in that love which has endured
from the very beginning of creation,
we will join with our siblings
in singing your glory forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

© 2024 Thom M. Shuman

Venmo: @Thom-Shuman

Monday, January 29, 2024

Ash Wednesday Service with alternate texts

 Texts:  Amos 5:8-15; Psalm 139:7-12; Romans 8:31-35; Luke 18:9-14

Call to Worship
We gather in the dimness of evening
to be with the God who brightens
the shadows of our lives.
We gather in the quiet of this place,
to be with Jesus, knowing that nothing
past, present, or future separates us.
We gather to be marked as disciples,
to be fed for the journey through Lent,
to be sealed by the Spirit as God’s own.

Evening Prayer
You wait on this evening,
Patient God, for us to come back:
to stop going away from you
   on our self-focused travels;
to set aside our empty fears;
to cease shaping you in our image,
   so we can discover you closer
   than we ever dare imagined.

You wait for us this night,
Companion of our hearts,
for us to follow once more:
leaving the shuttered corners
   of our lives;
refusing to go from one failed
   promise to another;
coming out of the panic rooms
   we have built in our souls,
so you can take us by the hand
to lead us to resurrection life.

You wait in scattered ashes of our lives,
Spirit of silence, for us to find you:
in the broken bread
   which strengthens us to serve;
in the cup of grace
   which fills our emptiness;
in our sisters and brothers
   who are willing to hold us up
   when we falter,
so you can embrace us
with joy and hope in every moment.

As you wait, and as we seek
to return to you in these moments,
we pray as we are taught,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Invitation to the Lenten life
Not for the first time, yet fresh once more,
we accompany Jesus to Jerusalem.
Because of his experience in the wilderness,
we discover how we might have the strength
to turn our back on evil, so we can choose good.
By his example of fasting and prayer
In the midst of serving and caring for others,
we can learn that rhythm of faithful living
which allows us to work for justice and hope,
as we draw strength from the timeless acts
of silence, feasting on the word, and prayer.
As we remember our baptism into faith,
as we gather at the feast of grace,
as we are marked as Christ’s own,
we prepare ourselves to come to God,
on this holy night.

Call to Reconciliation
On this night, we begin our journey to Easter.  Before we can take the first step, we must admit how we have not been faithful to our God.  Let us pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   We have trouble telling the truth, God of broken hearts, yet we must admit on this night how we have trouble being your people.  We may not trample the poor, but we sometimes walk right past them.  We don’t receive bribes, but we are more privileged than many around us.  We trust more in ourselves than in you, and spend far too much time patting ourselves on the back, rather than holding out a hand to others.
   Where can we go for forgiveness but to you, God of the ashes?  When we are greedy, you promise to be gracious.  When we have trouble confronting injustice, you stand at our side.  When we struggle to seek good, you point us to Jesus, our Brother, our Savior, who shows us how to turn our back on evil to follow him.  Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God refuses to stand far off, but comes close to us – to hear our prayers, to touch our hearts with forgiveness, and to walk with us during this holy season and beyond.
We have no need to go anyplace else, but into the comforting and restoring heart of the One who loves us.  Thanks be to God.  We are forgiven.  Amen.

Imposition of the ashes
Just yesterday it seems, the palms were
fresh and green, held tight in hands
as we reenacted Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
But then they dried, shriveled, became
almost too fragile to touch, until
we burned them into the ashes for tonight.
Yet, by the grace of our God,
with the Spirit resting upon them,
they are mixed with oil and placed
on our heads or hands,
the dust of life resting upon us
as a sign that by sharing the gifts
of peace, reconciliation, justice, and generosity,
we will live into the people we long to become.

As we are touched with this mark,
God of all moments,
remind us that just as you
shaped humanity from earth’s dust,
so, from the ashes of repentance and denial,
that grace which is gifted to us
through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer,
will shape us into faithful followers.  Amen.

(In the silence, those who wish may come to have the sign of the cross placed on their foreheads or back of their hands.  The ashes are from palm branches used in previous Palm Sunday services, mixed with oil)

Invitation to the Table

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of the ashes be with you.
And also with you.
On this night, let us offer our hearts to God.
We open then so we may be filled with the gifts of Lenten discipleship.
Let us lift glad thanksgiving to our God.
We offer praise to the One who gives us the strength for this journey.

There at the edge of the emptiness of chaos
you spoke, God of all graciousness,
   brightening the shadows with lights in the sky,
   pouring the waters into rivers and seas,  
   planting seeds to feed all creatures.
From the dust of creation, you shaped your children,
offering us all the goodness and beauty
which overflowed from your heart,
   but we trampled through your hopes,
   as we turned from your heart
   to chase after evil’s false promises.
But no matter where we went,
or how far we sought to flee from you,
you continued to meet us in all those places,
constantly inviting us to return to you
and be filled with your steadfast love.

Therefore, we join with our sisters and brothers,
in the silence and shadows of this evening,
to offer you songs of thanksgiving:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God who is at our side.
We join all creation in singing your praises.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who makes us right.
Hosanna in the highest!

Your constant love is the seal of your holiness,
and Jesus is the One who comes
so we will never be separated from you.
He endured every hardship we experience,
   so we receive the hope you offer to us;
he experienced the hunger of loneliness,
   so we might become members of your family;
he was willing to set aside his life,
   so death would have no power
   to keep us apart from you, but
   your resurrection power would give us
   the same life he received from you.

As we take our tentative first steps towards Jerusalem,
as we would be marked as his companions,
we remember that mystery known as faith:

Christ died, not withholding his heart;
Christ was raised, so that he might become our advocate;
Christ will come, to draw us to your side.

Here at this Table of life and longing,
pour out your Spirit on us,
and on the gifts offered to us.  
May the bread which is broken
strengthen us so nothing can separate us
   from those who struggle with life;
   from those who mourn a death;
   from those who have no power or voice.
May the cup which overflows with grace
nourish us so we pick up
   those who have been trampled by misery;
   those who are trapped by injustice;
   those who are pushed aside by the privileged.

And when neither death nor life,
neither time nor history
can keep us apart from you
as you gather us around your Table
with our sisters and brothers,
we will sing your glory and praise forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Smudged this night with the ashes of penitence,
we will go out to share God’s forgiveness
with those we have hurt, with those who are forgotten.
Fed this night by the Host of the Feast of grace,
we will go out to bring healing to the broken,
to offer grace to those trampled by the powerful.
Called this night to journey through suffering to new life,
we will go out to stand with those experiencing injustice,
to share the Spirit’s peace and reconciliation with the world.

© Thom M. Shuman

Liturgy w/communion for February 11, 2024 (Transfiguration of the Lord - B)

 Texts: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-5; Mark 9:2-9

Call to Worship
You are with us, God of sunrises:
you awaken us with each bright new day,
overflowing with promise.
You are with us, Inviting God:
calling us to respond to all the chances
to share the spirit of grace and hope.

You are with us, Glory of God:
gathering us into the presence of your peace,
listening to the deep sighs of our hearts.

Prayer of the Day
Glory of all creation:
as the sun nudges us
out of bed each morning,
so you gently lift the veil
of doubts and fears from our hearts
that we might see your joy.
At the setting of the sun,
you do not leave us alone,
but you sit with us
through the night,
sharing stories of hope.
And we do not lose heart.

Joyous Face of God:
on the peaks of promise,
we discover your grace,
sparkling with gentle delight
as it comes to rest
within our weary lives.
In the valleys of despair,
as we trudge long,
our burdens dragging behind us,
we turn to discover you
putting them on your shoulders,
the gentleness of your compassion
lighting the way to the kingdom.
And we do not lose heart.

Listening Spirit:
in the hard times
which life may offer,
you are there with us,
hearing not only our struggles,
but the hopes singing
silently in our souls.
In the barren seasons
through which we may walk,
we find you ahead of us,
planting the seeds of joy
which will once more blossom
in the springtime of God's love.
And we do not lose heart.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we lift our hearts, our hopes, our voices
as we pray as Jesus teaches us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We can become so burned out by our hectic days that we lose sight of the One who gives us life.  We can become so impatient  waiting for God to astound us with wonders, when we have the simple pleasure of each day.  In these quiet moments, away from all those things which distract us, let us bring our brokenness to the One who listens to our hearts, and heals our souls.  Join me, as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   The radiance of your grace is poured out in every moment, Shaper of mountaintops, but we dull its luster by living in the shadows.  We indulge in fantasy games and watch shows which claim to be 'real,' but we have trouble simply sitting in your presence, in your healing silence.  We can become so infatuated with your love for us, we overlook those who hunger for acceptance and hope.
     Revealer of mystery, forgive us.  In silence, may we hear your whispers of grace.  In mercy, may we feel your forgiveness lifting the burden of guilt from us.  In trust, may we go forth to serve your world, filling it with the light and love of the One who is the Light of the world, Jesus Christ.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
The promise is true--God's Light has come into the world, and into our lives.  We are graced with glimpses of God's glory, even as we are filled with mercy and forgiveness.
Here we find the peace and quiet we need; here we are set free from all that keeps us from serving; here we are given mercy and hope.  Here we give thanks to our God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
We could remember the giants of the past, or serve the little ones of today; we could build grand facilities, or restore neighbors; we could stay on mountaintops, or go into the valleys of loneliness with our arms full of grace.  May our lives and gifts we offer be used in your work of justice and hope, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May God be with you.
May God be with you also.
Lift up your hearts, people of God.
We open them to the One who loves us.
People of God, give thanks to the One who meets us
on the mountaintops of glory and in the valleys of service.
It is good that we offer praise and thanksgiving
to the One who is with us in every moment.

You crafted mountains on which
we might find your majesty;
you carved rivers of life
where we might bathe in your grace.
All things were shaped by you,
Bright Glory of creation,
and given that we might live
in the abundance of your hopes for us.
When we could have lived in that garden
of serenity which you planted for us,
we caught a glimpse of temptation
out of the corners of our eyes,
and sought gifts from sin and death,
who were only too eager
to offer us a double portion.
You sent the prophets to lead us out
of the valleys of despair
back to the mountaintop with you,
but we chose to remain in the company
of the false gods of this world.
But you would not forsake us,
but became one of us,
that we might be transformed
into your faithful children.

With the Breath of life within us,
with the Word of grace in our hearts,
we join all who have gone before us,
and with those who are with us now,
singing the ancient song of glory:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of glory and grace.
Heaven and earth sing loud songs of praise to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to offer us
    a double portion of grace and mercy.
Hosanna in the highest!

Mighty God, lover of justice,
you summoned your Son, our Savior,
to come to us that we might be redeemed.
Coming down Glory's mountainside,
he does not remain silent about your hopes,
but calls to us to follow him into
your kingdom of mercy and love.
He carried his cross to the top
of that garbage heap called Calvary,
to be put to death beside two thieves.
Surrounded by sin and death in the tomb,
he made a path through them
into the new life given by God,
tearing their power over us into pieces.

Remembering that he could have chosen to stay
with Moses and Elijah, but came to serve us,
we proclaim our faith as we come to the Table:

In love, Christ died for us.
In joy, Christ was raised for us.
In glory, Christ will come again to us.

Now, on the gifts of the bread and the cup,
and on your children gathered in this place,
pour out your Spirit, God of Joy.
As we share the brokenness of Christ,
may we be restored to wholeness;
as we drink of his forgiveness,
may we become more gracious.
May his return in faith
find us praying for your peace;
may his return in hope,
find us working for your justice;
may his return in love,
find us welcoming all your children.

And when Christ does come again in glory,
when all have received a double portion of your grace,
when creation is made whole once again,
and joins in the glad songs of praise,
we will worship and adore you, forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

God sends us from this sacred space.
We will go to share the good news of grace,
to offer healing to the broken.
Jesus would not have us stay here forever.
We will go to find our sisters and brothers
in the valleys of injustice and the neighborhoods of addiction.
The Spirit fills us with the gifts we need as we leave.
We will go to help rebuild the lives of those around us,
to share feasts of hope and peace with everyone.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Liturgy w/communion for February 4, 2024 (Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany)

 Texts: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

Call to Worship
We gather to worship God,
whose creative imagination never fails:
For the sake of God, we will search for the outcasts.
We gather to praise our God,
whose steadfast love never weakens:
For the sake of Jesus, we will lift up all who have fallen.
We gather to offer our best to God,
who walks with us through eternity:
For the sake of the Holy Spirit, we will walk with the weary.

Prayer of the Day
You lift up those
we step over
in our race to success;
you soak our aching feet
in the waters of life;
you massage hearts
bruised by others.
We praise you,
Rebuilder of crumbling souls

You pick those not chosen
on the playgrounds of life;
you cover open sores
with your grace;
you wander our streets,
inviting those
who huddle in doorways
to feast at your Table.
We follow you,
Bread of Heaven.

You gather those
who are cast aside
by a throwaway society,
and call them by name;
you melt hearts hardened by cynicism
with the warmth of your hope;
you energize us
so we can sprint into the kingdom.
We welcome you,
Delightful Spirit.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we come to you as your people,
praying as Jesus has taught us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We walk through life, confident, strong, boasting of all our achievements.  But God sees the hurts we have inflicted on others, the weariness in our bones from chasing after bad choices, and all the foolishness we trip over in the busyness of life.  Let us come to God, for the One who listens to our faltering words is the One who gives us the Word filled with grace and mercy.  Join me as we pray together, saying, 

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We cannot hide from you, Everlasting God, even if we were to go from one edge of creation to the next.  you speak to us of compassion, but the ways in which we treat others show we have not been listening.  You explain your hopes to us, and we act as if we don't have a clue as to what is going on.  We run as fast, and as far, from you as we can, and wonder why we have no energy to follow Jesus.
     Yet you search for us in all the deserted places we flee to, Never-wearied God, so you can take us by the hand to show us the way to life with you.  You heal our broken hearts so we can offer them to others.  You fill us with your strength so we can bind ourselves to Jesus, our Savior, following him to serve all of your children.

Silence is kept 
Assurance of Pardon
Have you not been listening.  God never tires out, nor is there is an expiration date on God's forgiveness.  God is ever with us, healing us with mercy, and strengthening us for service.
If God numbers the stars, surely our names are known by the One who loves us and offers us grace.  This is indeed good news for all!  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
You lift us to our feet so we can walk with you, Loving God, and you fill us with your gifts so we may pour them out for those around us.  Take what we offer and use them in that kingdom work which strengthens the weary, feeds the hungry, and gives hope to the despairing.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May God be with you.
May God be also with you.
People of God, open your hearts.
We open our hearts to God and to each other.
Let us give thanks to the Living God.
With joy and praise, we offer our thanks to the One who offers abundant life.

In the morning, Awakening God,
you took creation and flung it
to the far corners of chaos,
   naming the stars twinkling in the night,
   shaping deserted places for prayers,
   feeding all the creatures in the fields.
You longed to walk with those
created in your image, so we would not weary,
   but we listened to the boasting of death,
   as it proclaimed sin's opportunities.
You sent the prophets, who cried out,
'haven't you been listening; don't you
realize what God is trying to do for you?'
   but we continued to delight
   in all which opposed you.
So, having created all things,
you became the one thing we needed,
our Savior.

With those so weary that cannot take another step,
with those revived by your grace and hope,
we lift our praises to you now and forever:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of all knowledge.
All creation sings glad praises to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who came for our sake.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Star Namer,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son.
He became weak,
   so the power of the world
   would be shattered;
he became poor,
   so we might be filled
   with the riches of your grace;
he went to that deserted place
we call the grave,
   so death might be
   knocked off its pedestal,
as you breathed new life
into his knackered spirit.

As we search for him in our time,
as we would proclaim the gospel,
may we find that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, not boasting in himself;
Christ was raised, the gospel lived out in him;
Christ will come to take us by the hand, giving us strength.

Here is that Bread, which though broken,
   can strengthen the powerless;
here is that Cup, which though emptied,
   can fill the weary with hope.
Pour out your Spirit not only on these gifts,
but upon your children gathered around the Table.
We come, bone-tired,
   so make us bone of your bone,
   and flesh of your flesh.
We can barely take another step,
   so empower us to walk
   beside the lonely and the homeless.
We are so fatigued by our despair,
feed us with your hope and joy,
   so we may proclaim your kingdom
   to everyone we meet.

And when the day comes
to gather with all your children
around the Feast of the Lamb,
we will join hands
and dance around the Table,
singing your praise forever and ever:
God our Creator,
Christ our Servant,
Spirit of Newness,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

God sends us forth into the world,
so we will go to walk miles in the shoes of others.
Jesus calls us to serve everyone we meet,
so we will become all things to all people.
The Holy Spirit encourages us to let go of our gospel-given rights,
so we may breathe new life into the faint.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Liturgy w/communion for January 28, 2024 (Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - B)

 Texts: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28

Call to Worship
We gather in this sacred space,
to offer our thanks to God with all our hearts.
We gather with this community of faith,
to follow Jesus, who longs to lead us into life.
We gather in these moments,
to learn all we can of grace from the Holy Spirit.

Prayer of the Day
You pull on your work boots,
   crafted from love;
you hang justice and peace
   on your tool belt;
you take on rebuilding neighborhoods
   when we would walk away.
What have you to do with us, Holy God?
You model compassion for us.

You take us by the hand
   to lift us to our feet;
you show us the path
   which leads to humility;
you leave a trail of grace crumbs
   so that we might follow.
What have you to do with us, Brother of the poor?
You call us to serve by your side.
You plant words of peace
   deep into our hearts;
you raise up little children
   to whisper hope to us;
you stand by the side 
   of all who look for life.
What have you to do with us, Spirit of grace?
You teach us how to build up others with love.
What have you to do with us,
God in Community, Holy in One?
Everything it turns out, everything,
as we lift our prayer to you,
(The Lord’s Prayer)
Call to Reconciliation
Though we think we know it all, our lives reflect how little we respect others, how often our words and actions damage those around us.  Let us come to our God, with our prayers as ell as our hearts, so we may be healed with forgiveness.
Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   We come on this holy day, God our God, to speak of how we live.  Politicians, celebrities, talk show folks have become our so-called gods.  Our choices often cause those around us to trip over our anger and slip on our pride.  The words we speak to others show how we really want nothing to do with you.
   Forgive us, Holy God, and have mercy on us.  May we silence our fears, so words of hope may be spoken.  May we give thanks not only with our hearts but with the grace we can share with others.  May justice and peace be the tools we use as we serve beside Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
We know who God is – the One who comes to love us, to forgive us, and to save us.
Thanks be to God.  We will spread this good news, and share this grace and hope, with everyone we meet.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Gather our gifts, our hearts, our very lives, Loving God, and use them in your work of reconciliation, grace, and hope for all your children.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May God be with you.
And also with you.
In this gathering of God’s people, lift up your hearts.
We offer them to our God who fills us with hope.
In this sacred space of joy, sing glad songs.
We join in giving thanks to our God.
You are indeed to be praised, O God,
for you poured your Spirit into chaos,
and with your Word raised up
   towering peaks kissing the sky,
   snowflakes blanketing the meadows,
   little birds flitting from bush to bus.
All was formed and offered to us,
your children shaped in your image,
   but we listened to sin and death,
   imposters calling themselves gods.
Because you knew us,
you continued to send prophets to us,
to call us back to you,
   but we said, ‘what do you have
   to do with us?’ ignoring their words.
So, you sent your Child to us,
so that we might know who you are.
With the upright and faithful,
with those who stumble along the way,
we will give wholehearted thanks:
Holy, holy, holy, are you, Awesome God.
All creation delights in praising you.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who teaches us with grace.
Hosanna in the highest!
You are holy indeed, Majestic God,
and you astounded us by sending Jesus,
your very Self, to be with us.
By his humility,
   he teaches us 
   to serve others;
by his weakness,
   he models the strength
   to challenge injustice;
by his silence,
   he helps us to listen
   to hearts, not just words;
by his death,
   he shows us how
   to trust in resurrection hope.
As we come to the Table,
we proclaim the mystery 
that Jesus came, not to destroy us,
but to save us:
Raised up on the cross, he died as he lived,
   trusting in you;
raised from death he points us 
   to your resurrection love;
raising us from our fears, he promises 
   to have everything to do with us.
As you pour out your Spirit
on those gathered in this place,
you provide the bread and the cup 
from the simple gifts of creation,
blessing them with your love.
As we eat of the broken bread,
may it bring us closer to all
we are called to serve:
   the hungry, the hurting,
   the cold, the oppressed.
As we drink from the cup,
may its grace raise us up
to go out and become
   carers of the forgotten,
   workers of justice,
   builders of shelters.
And when we gather in the company
of our sisters and brothers of every 
time and place around your table,
we will give thanks with our whole hearts,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.  
Now, let us go from this sacred space,
to be with the homeless on the streets,
with the lonely in the hospitals.
Now, let us leave this family of God,
to care for those who have been forgotten,
to lift those shoved aside by the world.
Now, let us set aside this holy time,
to go into the moments of hunger for little children,
to be with those whose days seem to have no end.
© Thom M. Shuman