Sunday, November 16, 2014

Liturgy for November 23, 2014 (Reign of Christ/Christ the King - A)

Texts:  Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46

Call to Worship
We come, for God gathers us here,
with that community called faith:
where the hungry are served first,
where the thirsty drink life's water.
We come, for God welcomes us here
into that home called grace:
where the naked are clothed in robes of hope;
where the stranger is embraced as the long-lost prodigal.
We come, for God reunites us here,
sisters and brothers in that family called love:
where the imprisoned model justice,
where the sick are cradled in God's peace.
Prayer of the Day
Searcher of the scattered:
where the bullies and biased
have gorged themselves
at cruelty's banquet,
     you will serve them justice
     for dessert.
Where the wounded
are turned away by indifference,
     you will bandage them
     in the swaddling clothes of hope.
Where the hungry
press their foreheads
against the windows
at Chez Plenty,
     you will open wide the doors,
     having made reservations
          for us all.

Bringer of justice:
when we would push
the outsiders further away,
     you pull them closer to your heart.
When we would shove
the next-to-nothings aside
to get to the front of the line,
     you pick them up
     to keep them next to you.
When we scatter our gifts,
throwing them away on foolishness,
     you gather them up
     and give them back to us
          saying, 'here, try again.'

Spirit of common sense:
as soon as
we wander into
the shadows of selfishness,
     you open the eyes
     of our hearts
          so we can see
          that place called home.
As soon as
we think we can find you
only in the rich and powerful,
     you humble us
     with the grace of Jesus.
God in Community, Holy in One,
gather us into your presence,
even as we pray as we are taught,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
They are the promises stretching back into the dim recesses of time, yet as new as this very moment.  When we lose our way, God searches for us until we are found. When we hurt others, God brings healing to all.  When we sin, God forgives us. Let us hold these promises close to our hearts, as we confess those things we try to hide.

 Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We stock the food pantries, but brush aside those who hunger for friendship.  We give our hand-me-downs away, but overlook those whose hopes have been stripped away.  We glad-hand those just like us, but turn a deaf ear to our neighbors who 'talk funny.'
     Forgive us, Hope of the ages.  You persistently search for us in the side streets of the world, gathering us up and bringing us home, so we may be drenched in the waters of your bottomless pool of  forgiveness, watched over by your Child, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God searches for the lost,
and finds us;
God invites the hungry to the table,
and feeds us;
God sends Jesus,
and frees us from death's prison;
God forgives all who sin,
and heals us with mercy and grace.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May these gifts be used to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, to bring medicine to the sick and provide a hospice bed for the dying, to offer hope to those who thirst for it in their lives and to bring friendship to those who sit in jail cells.  May these gifts bring your kingdom to everyone who longs for its presence in every circumstance, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the Searching God be with you!
And also with you!
God gathers us up and brings us to this place.
We lift our hearts to the One who leads us into the kingdom of peace and healing.
God collects us in the power of the Word, whoever and wherever we are.
We will sing glad songs that remind us that we are never, never! lost.

Out of the clouds and
thick darkness of chaos,
you spoke the creative Word,
God of wonder,
and creation burst forth in joy.
     Rivers and streams teemed with life,
     mountains were topped with snow,
     green pastures cradled all your creatures.
You shaped us in your image,
calling us to be your people,
living in your steadfast love.
     But your hopes for us
     were pushed aside by
     the seductions of sin and death,
          and we followed them into
          the uninhabited wastes of the world.
Because we were your priceless treasure,
you continued to search for us,
sending prophets in all the ages.
     When we continued to worship
     all the false powers,
you sent Jesus to gather us up
and lead us back to you.
So, with skeptics and scoffers,
with the faithful and the followers,
we join our voices together
singing our praise to you:
Holy, holy, holy, Shepherd of all creation.
Heaven and earth sing choruses of praise:
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to gather us back to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Steadfast Love,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Child, our Savior.
Seeing us stripped naked by sin,
     he forages through glory's closets
     to clothe us in your joy and hope.
Setting aside his power,
     he would turn oppression inside-out,
     and injustice upside down
          to create the kingdom
          where the least are the most valued.
Searching for us,
     he left no stone unturned,
     even going through death and hell
     in order to find us
     and bring us back to you.
As we remember his service to all,
as we celebrate the promised resurrection,
we sing of that mystery we call faith:
Christ has died, bringing us your justice;
Christ is risen, offering us your love.
Christ will gather us up to lead us home.
In this sanctuary of your heart,
with sisters and brothers in the faith,
we pray that you pour out your Spirit
upon us and the gifts of the Table.
It is here all our scattered lives
are woven together in that tapestry
called the kingdom,
where we are strengthened
by the Bread of life,
     so we may fortify all those
     who have been exhausted by life;
where we are handed
the Cup of hope,
     to quench the thirst
     of all who wander through
     the deserts of injustice.
And when you have gathered
all the nations into your joy,
when the losers and the lurkers,
the weak and the wise ones
are seated around your Table,
we will join our voices
with all of creation,
forever singing anthems of praise,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

We will go now into God's world:
to bring healing to the sick and hope to the despairing.
We will go now to serve Jesus' sisters and brothers:
to offer a hand to those who have fallen,
to put a warm coat around those who shiver in the cold.
We will go now to share the Spirit with everyone we meet:
to be a companion to those in prisons as well as those bound by injustice,
to bring the cup of grace to every parched soul.

(c) 2014 Thom M. Shuman