Sunday, December 30, 2018

Day of Epiphany

Texts: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Call to Worship
We gather wondering,
'Where will we find the Babe
born in Bethlehem?'
We will find the Babe
     in the laughter of children,
     in the wisdom of grandparents.

We gather asking,
'where will we find
the Child of Christmas?'
We will find the Child
     where the needy are gifted with hope,
     where the oppressed are set free.

We gather wanting to know,
'where will we find the Christ
who has come for us?'
We will find our Hope
     where fear is overwhelmed by grace,
     where hatred is overwhelmed by love,
     where all people are overwhelmed by joy.

Prayer of the Day
We have heard
of your grace,
Shaper of stars;
from those set free
     from injustice;
from our children
     who whisper of your joy;
from greeters
     of dawn's fresh start;
from late risers
     who listen to the stories
     of the needy.

We have heard
of your Light,
Bright Star of the morning:
which can illumine
     the shadows of our lives;

which can show
     the path to God's heart;
which can point the way
     to where we become
     servants of the gospel.

We have heard
of your promised peace,
Wisdom's Radiance:
that peace
     which can end war,
     as well as heal our hearts;
that peace
     which can conquer our fears,
     and flood us with faith;
that peace 
     which can enter our lives
     and overwhelm us with hope.

We have heard of you,
God in Community, Holy in One,
and will proclaim your glory to all,
even as we pray, saying,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation

Why do we huddle in the shadowed corners of life, rather than running to the Light of life? Why do we love the wrong we do rather than grasping the good news offered to us? As we struggle with such questions, let us speak to God of all we have failed to do, seeking hope and grace as we pray,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We search for your light, Star Caster, but too often end up settling for the dimness of temptation. Our motives for seeking to find Christ are not always pure, for we expect him to fulfill our desires, rather than your hopes for us. We want the gifts of wealth, health, success, fulfillment, rather than those of servanthood, of compassion, of peace. 
     Forgive us, Shaper of our lives, that we are so foolish to put our needs ahead of your grace. Help us to be like those wise people of so long ago, who found hope, instead of a destination; who found grace, instead of gratitude; who found salvation, instead of a sign. As we journey with your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, fill us with the light of your joy and love.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon

Up, on your feet! Grace has been poured into our hearts, love has flooded our souls, the light of hope shines in us.
This is the light which has come to all, the light we will carry and give to everyone we meet. Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May the gifts we offer bring food to the hungry, healing to the broken, community to the lonely, and hope to those who live in the shadows of our time.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

People of Advent: the Lord be with you!
And also with you!

People of Christmas, lift up your hearts.
We lift our hearts overwhelmed with grace to the One who was born for us.
People of the Star, offer your songs of joy and thanksgiving to God.
We will sing our praises to the One

who has revealed glory and hope in the Babe of Bethlehem.

In that first moment, you spoke,
Radiant God,
     and the light of creation
     dispelled the thick darkness of chaos.
You whispered,
     and your glory filled the skies.
You sang,
     and the dust of the earth
     was shaped into your image,
as you breathed life into us.
We could have lived
in grace and peace with you
     for as long as the sun endures,
     for as long as the moon hangs in the night sky.
But we were tempted
by the sweet taste of sin,
     and overwhelmed with temptation's
      wealth of cheap gifts and thrills.
The prophets were sent
to tell of your gifts of joy and peace,
but we listened to the world's news
of success, power, achievement.
Finally, in that dark time of despair,
you sent Jesus,
your servant of salvation.

Therefore, we will join our voices
with the wise ones, as well as the foolish,
of every time and place
who forever sing of your grace:

Holy, holy, holy, God of bright dawns!
All creation renders tributes of praise to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who saves the lives of the needy.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God of redemption,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Overwhelmed with compassion,
he left the glory of heaven,
     to become a prisoner of sin,
          so we could be set free.
Overwhelmed with hope,
he entered death's house,
     to break its dark power forever.
Overwhelmed with love,
     he travelled another road,
     walking to Calvary,
          so we might run with joy
          into your waiting arms.

So, as we remember his birth,
as we prepare to journey with him this year,
we speak of that mystery called faith,
which is revealed to us through Christ:

Christ came, the morning star of love;
Christ died, the night star of salvation;
Christ was raised, the radiant star of resurrection;
Christ will come again, the constellation of hope.

Holy One of stars and sinners,
send down your Spirit of hope
upon those gathered around this Table,
and on the gifts of the bread and the cup,
that they might make us  
your faithful and loving children.
Feed us with the bread of hope,
so when we leave,
we will travel another road,
     to defend the weak,
     to speak for the voiceless,
     to assist those cast aside.
Refresh us with the sweet nectar of grace,
so we, overwhelmed with joy,
would go forth
     to enter the houses
          of the strangers in our midst;
     to enter the despair
          of the lonely and forgotten;
     to enter the hearts
          of everyone we meet.

And when eternity's time begins
and we are gathered around your Table,
with friends and family we loved,
with those we ignored and mistreated,
with all our sisters and brothers of grace,
we will lift our songs of glad joy to you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

Now, God sends us out by a different road.
So we may find those who have been left by the side of the world.
Now, Jesus walks with us down a different road.
So we may serve those who are lonely and frightened.
Now, the Spirit illumines a different road.
So we may take our sisters and brothers by the hand
to walk in wonder and grace.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Liturgy with communion for December 30, 2018 (Christmas 1 - C)

Texts: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52

Call to Worship
Snow-capped mountains and sand castles on beaches,
comets flashing across the night, meteors crashing into moons
Dolphins playing tag in the ocean and trout resting on river bottoms,
storks nesting on chimney tops, and doves cooing in the mornings,
Children making angels in the snow, teenagers knotting in hallways,
grandparents watching favorite movies, nervous singles on a first date,
All creation joins in one song:
Praise the Lord!

Prayer of the Day
Wrap us in the shawl of compassion,
God of holiness,
so that this season of goodness and giving
might last longer than
the after-Christmas sales.

Slip our hands into the gloves of humility,
Brother of the overlooked,
so we might join in your work of
rebuilding communities,
feeding the hungry,
embracing the outsiders.

Teach us your patient ways,
Wisdom from on high,
so we would learn to notice
what we have in common with others,
rather than what divides us;
so we might offer kindness
in the face of bitterness and hurt.

May all we do with our hands, our hearts,
our minds, our feet, our lives be done
in the name of the One who taught us to pray, saying,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Before we put away the ornaments and put the tree out by the curb, before we toss the cards and wrapping paper into the recycling bin, before we store the movies and music back in the closet, let us confess how quickly we forget the true meaning of this holy season, as we offer our prayers to our God, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   How patient You are with us, Loving Creator, and how hard we find it to put up with the foolishness of others.  In humility, You became one of us, and we keep wanting everything to be about us.  You model a life of meekness in service to others, and we are convinced life is all about power and success.  All creation sings of Your kindness, while we hurl angry words at those we say we care about the most.
   Yet, rather than becoming frustrated with us, Joy of Christmas, You continue to forgive us.  Clothe us with Your love, we pray, so we might be more compassionate towards others.  Touch us with Your grace, so we might become more gentle people.  Fill us with that peace which longs to reside in our hearts, even as we seek to continue our journey with the Child of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
In these moments, let God’s peace dwell in your hearts.  For God gives us hope, gives us peace, and gives us new life in the forgiveness of God’s grace.
We will be thankful, for in receiving God’s forgiveness, we are enabled to live as faithful followers of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
You bless us with an abundance of gifts, God of this holy season, not as a reward for doing good, but as a means to reach out with healing to the broken, to clothe those who shiver in winter, and to bless others with the hope which has been ours.  As we offer our gifts to you, we do so in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of Christmas be with you.
And also with you.
Let us open our hearts to the One who would clothe them in garments of service.
We offer our hearts to be swaddled in compassion, kindness, and humility.
Join in singing glad songs of praise to our God.
With our lips and with our hearts, we offer thanksgiving as we exalt our God.

Originator of all that is good and beautiful,
You clothe meadows with wild flowers
and spin rings around planets,
You illuminate waves with a winter moon
as tiptoe shadows across lawns for kittens to chase.
You did not create these wonders for Yourself,
longing share them with those formed in Your image,
inviting us to follow You into these delights,
   but we stayed behind, learning as much
   as we could from the elders of death.
Those we call prophets, women and men of hope,
came to place Your words in our hearts,
   yet we turned a deaf ear to them,
   preferring the siren songs of sin.
So You sent your Child to us,
who was willing to be involved in
Your business of redemption.

With songs of praise that are always in our hearts,
with silence which walks with us each day,
we offer thanksgiving to you in these moments:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Author of all life.
Creation joins with those of every age and place in praising You.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who teaches us songs of wonder.
Hosanna in the highest!

You are holy, God of eternity, yet
in a little baby, You set aside holiness
   to wrap yourself in a caregiver’s humility;
in a young boy, You planted the seeds of hope
   so we might learn compassion for others;
in a young man, You placed the gift of patience
   so we would discover how to put up
   with those who drive us to distraction;
in brokenness on a cross, You put on love,
   not staying behind in the grave,
   but coming forth singing the refrain of resurrection.

As we move on from the celebration of a Birth
to learning what it means to follow Jesus into life and death,
we seek to proclaim that mystery called faith:

Dying, Christ sought to do everything in God’s name;
raised to new life, Christ gave thanks to God;
returning to us, Christ will clothe us in resurrection’s grace.

We come to Your meal once again,
praying that You pour out Your Spirit
not only upon those who have gathered this day,
but on the bread and the cup, the symbols of life for us.
As we set aside our fears and doubts
to eat of the bread which is broken,
we ask to be clothed in Your compassion,
   so others might find hope in us;
to be swaddled in Your humility,
   so we might serve in Your name.
We would drink from the cup
that Your grace might fill us
   so we might use our hands to lift up the fallen,
                  our feet to walk with the lonely,
                  our heads to solve the problems of poverty,
                  our hearts to love those hated by others.

And when all time comes to an end,
no one will stay behind, but all Your children
will be gathered around Your Table of grace and live,
where we will sing canticles of hope and wonder to You,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Let us go to praise our God!
We will sing of God’s hope as we offer compassion to the hurting.
Let us go to praise the Brother of the poor!
We will offer psalms of passion as we seek to lift others to new life.
Let us go to praise the Spirit of humility.
We will join in canticles of conciliation and peace for our broken world.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Day

Texts:  Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:1-20

Call to Worship
In snow-capped churches,
and on sand-strewn beaches,
God’s people gather in joy
to celebrate a birth.
With hopes littering our hearts
like wrapping paper under a tree,
We offer our thanks and praise
for the gift of grace swaddled in love.
With eyes wide open like little children,
with hearts full of wonder and laughter,
We join our lives with Mary and Joseph,
with the shepherds who ran to tell the good news.

Christmas Morning Prayer
Grace dawned this morning,
   streaking our bleary eyes
   with bright shafts
   of beauty and goodness.

Joy sang us awake
with carols of wonder
   written by the shepherds,
   the tunes composed by children
      who could not sleep.

Hope was fixing breakfast
for us while we slept,
   toasting the Bread and
   slathering it with jam,
      pouring us a cuppa
      steaming grace.

We rejoice and give thanks
God in Community, Holy in One,
our Grace, our Joy, our Hope,
even as we pray as your Child taught us,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
On this morning of love and joy, of laughter and families, we must remember and confess how we dampen the spirits of others, speak hurtful words to those we love, turn our backs on those in need.  Join me, as we pray together saying,

 Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   Manger-dwelling God,
      we heard the songs of the angels,
         yet we easily tune-out the cries of the needy;
      we feel the breath of our children on our faces,
         yet remain untouched by your Spirit of peace;
      we are surrounded by gifts as precious as those
      brought by the Wise Ones,
         yet have trouble sharing with those
         who are from other countries, other faiths.

   Forgive us, Grace swaddled in mystery.
      We believe in Christmas,
         help us to believe in you even more;
      we hunger for happiness,
         feed us on your peace;
      we long for community and acceptance,
         surround us with our brothers and sisters
         we find in all those, of every age and every place,
         who follow and serve alongside our Lord and Savior,
         Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate this day.  Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Born that day was grace – for the broken and bereft;
born that day was hope – for the vulnerable and forgotten;
born that day was love – for all of us!
Thanks be to God, we are forgiven!  We will go to tell others of all we have seen, heard, experienced, and know.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May the gifts we share be from the heart, just as yours was that day, God of Bethlehem.  ay they serve those who look for welcome,
those who struggle with loss and grief,
those who need to be blessed by hope
This we pray in the name of your Child, Jesus.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
Now, may Bethlehem’s Child bless you!
And also bless you!
Now, may the children of God open their hearts.
We offer them to the One who loves us each and every morning.
Now, may we join in the songs of the angels.
We join our voices with those of every time and place.

In the silenced night of chaos,
creation rejoiced with the carols of wonders
you had composed, God of surprises:
   as joy sparkled in the sky,
   as rivers swarmed with fish,
   as turtles plodded through meadows.
The Word gently gathered up earth’s dust
and the Spirit breathed life into those
shaped in your image, so we might
be at peace and be with you in joy.
   But we were tempted by sin’s decorations
   and death’s commercials of life without you. 
Time and again, you sent folks to call us home.
Miriam and Micah, Ruth and Habakkuk
spoke of your hopes for of us,
   yet we found rebellion the better
   road to take in our journey through the years.
Finally, you chose to offer yourself
in that Child born into poverty,
that little One who would strengthen all.

With those who gathered on that first morning,
with all who have celebrated with songs and service,
we sing carols of praise to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of all turned away by the world.
Creation joins the angels in praising you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who clears the Way for us to walk.
Hosanna in the highest!

In the silence of the night, God of holiness,
your Child crept in among us,
so small no one would notice,
so poor no one would care.
But those who are forgotten by the world,
   like shepherds and the disabled,
   come to worship, and to tell us the good news.
Those who have no money to their name,
   gift us with their hopes and love,
   even as he did so long ago.
Those children who are overlooked by culture,
   sing to us of the One given to us,
      so we might find our way home;
   of the One who gives himself to death,
   so resurrection love might destroy sin’s power,
      and we might be swaddled in grace.

On this morning when we celebrate his birth,
in the days to come when we follow him to Jerusalem,
we sing carols of that mystery we call faith:

Christ was born, so we might have life;
Christ died, so we might have forgiveness;
Christ was raised, so we might have resurrection;
Christ will be born again, to gather us together with him.

In the silence of these holy moments,
pour out your Spirit upon
those gathered on this morning
and on the gifts of the Feast of Joy.
As we are welcomed here,
   may we remember and include
   all rejected by the world.
As we are fed by the bread,
   may we be strengthened
   to go and bring tangible hope
   to all who are famished by despair.
As we drink from grace’s cup,
   nourish us, so we may go
   to overflow with love and peace
   for everyone we meet in every season.

And when all history and time ends in silence,
and we are gathered with our sisters and brothers
around the feast of the lamb,
we will join the angels in singing carols to your forever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.              

Let us go,
to join the angels in singing
of God’s glory and grace.
Let us go to share the good news,
that Jesus, the brother
of the vulnerable and forgotten
is in our midst still.
Let us go to offer
peace and goodwill to everyone,
joining the Spirit in telling
of all we have seen and heard.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Christmas Eve

Call to Worship
Joy comes to the world this night!
In our God who sets aside glory
to become as hopeful and helpless as we are.
Hope comes to the world this night!
In Jesus who embraces the poor as family,
who brings justice for those who are oppressed.
Peace comes to the world this night!
In the Spirit who would reconcile the divided,
who build bridges and tear down walls.
Evening Prayer
Here, the faithful come
that we may adore you,
God-who-is with us.
Here, the lonely come
to find you and your family,
God-who-gathers us to your heart.
Here, little children look
with wide-eyed wonder,
God-who-comes in wonder.
Here, older folks listen
for comforting words,
Here, we join with
those who watch,
Here, we join the animals
gazing at new life,
Here, we welcome all
who have travel in this season,
Here, we sing our carols
of joy and grace,

Here, we gather on this holy night,
to adore you, God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as we are taught:
(The Lord’s Prayer)  

Call to Reconciliation
Be near us this night, God of compassion and hope.  Be near us, as we bring our foolish lives, our damaging words, our poor choices to your heart.  Be near us, and touch us with that mercy which gives us new life, even as we rejoice in the life which was in the Child whose birth we celebrate in these silent moments.

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   We sing of the one who away in a manger, God of holy nights, but ignore the cries of little ones who are forgotten.  We imagine the holy family was well-off as we are, forgetting they are the relatives of the poor around us.  The gifts of wonder and grace are offered to us, but how silently we use them in our words and lives.
   Come to us once again, Bethlehem’s Child, to give us new life and hope.  May we join the angels in singing songs of joy, as we bring healing to the broken.  May we open the doors of our hearts to those searching for refuge from their journeys to escape fear and danger.  May we see each person as precious in your eyes, as well as ours, as the One whose lowly birth we celebrate this night, Jesus our Brother, our Lord.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Here in the silence of these moments, in the light of candles as well as grace, in the warmth of hope as well as those around us, we are offered the good news.  This is the night God came to us, to remind us that we are never alone, we are loved and welcomed and affirmed by our God.
O come, let us adore our God whose love came down this night; whose grace and justice walked among us; who peace and hope are the gifts we can share with all around us.  Glory to God, Glory to God in the highest!  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
God of holy nights, as we offer our gifts, gather them up to be the hope for all who struggle, food for those who hunger, shelter for those who sleep rough, life for all who yearn.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of silent nights be with you.
May the God of holy nights be with you.
Come, let us adore our God as we lift our hearts.
We pray that God will fill them with joy and wonder.
Let us echo the songs we have heard from angels on high.
We will sing glad songs of joy and compassion.

In the bleak mid-winter of chaos,
where empty winds moaned,
your heart sang new songs,
God of great joy,
and creation tumbled forth:
   birds that fly south
      and bears which hibernate in winter;
   snow that drifts in meadows,
      and waves that crash on shores; 
   stars which guided wise ones to a stable
      and point sailors safely home.
All that was good and beautiful was shaped
for those created in your image,
   but we had no room in our hearts for your grace,
   and sent your hopes away empty-handed.
Through Hannah and Zechariah,
with the songs of Isaiah and Mary,
you told of what you were going to do
to offer us life and bring us back,
   but we preferred the gifts offered by temptation,
   the old stories told by death.
So, you became on us, taking on
our birth, our life, our death
so we might know your love for us.

As we join in the joy that has come to the world,
as we look for your light in the shadows of this night,
we sing our praises to you:

We join the angelic chorus, all those around us,
and all creation in praising you, God of silent nights.
Glory in the highest!

Blessed is the One born this night.
Glory in the highest!

It was in David’s hometown
that your holiness became humility,
your power turned into weakness,
your glory transformed in humanity
as a baby too its first breath.
Placed in a feeding trough,
   Jesus came to feed us
   on life-giving bread;
with animals as his midwives,
   Jesus came to offer all creation
   new hope and wonder;
born into poverty,
   Jesus came to share with us
   the abundance of God’s love;
dying our death,
   Jesus came to set sin’s power aside,
   to break death’s cold grip
   with the warmth of the resurrection.

As we celebrate his birth on this night,
as we seek to follow him every day,
we proclaim that mystery known as faith:

Born, Jesus knew the hunger of babies;
walking, Jesus scrapped his knees
   and wandered the streets of home;
living, Jesus knew the hurt of rejection
   and the welcome he offered others;
dying, Jesus knew our deepest fear
   and the moment of separation from life;
being raised, Jesus knew God’s love
   and faithfulness being fulfilled;
returning, Jesus will be the One
   to journey with us into God’s new life.

And though the days are hastening on,
you continue to pour your Spirit
on the gifts of the holy meal of this night
and on all your children gathered in this moment.
Here, God-who-is-our-life,
the broken bread gives us the strength
   to share hope with those in despair,
   to challenge the injustice all around us,
   to rebuild neighborhoods others rush past.
Here, God-who-is-our-grace,
the cup is poured into our souls so we may
   offer a welcome to all who are forgotten,
   embrace those who grieve amidst so much joy,
   reconcile with those from whom we are estranged.

And when that birth of new life comes,
as all time and history comes to an end,
we will join our sisters and brothers
of every time, and of every place,
in praising you forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.  

Let us go to share God’s joy with all the world.
We will bring wonder and grace to those around us.
Let us go to be the hope of Jesus for others.
We will seek justice where there is none.
Let us go to offer the Spirit’s peace.
We will welcome all rejected by the world.

© 2018 Thom M. Shuman