Sunday, December 29, 2019

Day of Epiphany - ABC

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

Liturgy with communion for January 5, 2020 (Second Sunday after Christmas - A)

Texts:  Jeremiah 31: 7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18

Call to Worship
On this day, we remember the gift of God's Word,
who gathers us together from the farthest parts of the world
to worship in joy and hope.
On this day, we remember the simple graces of the bread and the cup,
those plain gifts shaped by God's love into nourishing hope.
On this day, we remember the gifts of water and oil,
cleansing us in the baptismal pools, anointing us as God's children.

Prayer of the Day
You could let us continue to shuffle
through the world's deserts,
God of Christmas,
     but you choose to walk with us
     beside the rivers of life.
You could forget who we are,
     but you adopt us into your family,
     your children of hope and joy.
You could decide we are not worth all the love
or all the agony of caring,
     but your redeem us and make us whole.
Blessed are you!

It was only the other day
the angels were singing of your birth,
Tiny One of Bethlehem,
and now, here you are,
running swiftly toward us:
     to melt our frozen faith,
     to comfort us in our loneliness,
     to lead us into life in your kingdom.
Blessed are you!

At the edge of a new year,
we wonder what life will be life,
and what do you do,
Gathering Spirit?
     You water our parched souls with laughter;
     you teach dance steps to those
          too weary to tap their toes;
     you fill our emptiness
          with overflowing gladness!
Blessed are you!

Blessed are we,
God in Community, Holy in One,
as we lift the prayer Jesus has taught us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Have we really been to Bethlehem? Have we worshiped at the manger? Have we changed, for the better? Or have we simply gone back to being the people we were before the joy, the peace, the gifts of Christmas? Let us confess how we have not lived as those who have seen the Baby, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
God of Christmas:
we still are playing with our new toys,
     the creche figures have not been put away;
we have the stacks of Christmas cards,
     but we memorize the words sin has taught us;
we set limits on who we will love,
     we make promises we cannot keep,
we fail to see the pain and hurt we cause.

God of the angels and shepherds, forgive us.
     Your Word has come to reshape our lives;
     your Light has come to show us the way home;
     your Son has come to make us your family.
Have mercy and make us new people. This we pray
in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Like the Baby of Bethlehem, we are born anew. God's forgiveness cradles us; God's love is poured out on us.
What a marvelous gift - forgiveness! Filled with hope and new life, we can sing God's praises forever. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Blessed are we, O God, for you came to be with us, to walk with us, and to share our lives.  As we offer our gifts to you, may we be willing to share in the lives of those around us, to share in their journeys, and to be your presence and spirit in their lives.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of newness be with you.
And also with you.
People of Christmas, offer your hearts to God.
We lift them to the One who comes,
new hope and life cradled in loving hands.
People of the Holy One of Bethlehem, sing glad praises to our God.
We come, for we have received the good news,
we have believed the Word, we are given joyful songs to sing.

When chaos thought there was no end,
you began, Fullness of all time.
Your Word ran sprints through creation,
     scattering the seeds which sprang forth
     into fruit, flowers, mountains and molehills.
Your Spirit sang songs of wonder and hope,
     that Breath which gave your children life.
We were as close to your heart
as the blood which flows through ours,
but the soft, insistent whispers of sin
grew louder and louder in our ears,
     and we ran off, letting the shadows
     of seduction overwhelm us.
Time and again, every time you could,
you sent your messengers to us,
crying out in love and hope, 'return!'
     but we did not recognize them
     nor listen to their words.
So turning to the angels,
you said, 'Watch!' as you
sent Jesus to bring us home to you.

So, with those in every place,
and with those from every time,
we join our voices, singing to you:

Holy, holy, holy, God of every blessing.
All creation lavishes praise on you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to live among us.
Hosanna in the highest!

You could have kept us scattered
to the limits of loneliness, God of Wonder,
but you sent Jesus, your Glory,
to become the Gatherer of those
who had wandered far from you.
Peering into the shadows of our lives,
     he is the Light which overcomes
     all our fears, our doubts, our worries.
Speaking into the hollows of our hearts,
     he is the Word who teaches us
     new songs of gratitude and awe.
Gathering the cross into his arms,
     he is the Deliverer who breaks
     sin's death grip on us,
          walking with us by the brooks of water,
           into the kingdom of life eternal.

As we begin this year with hope,
we remember his promise to be with us always,
even as we tell of that mystery we call faith:

At the beginning of time, Christ was the Word of creation;
at the right time, Christ was the Word of redemption;
at the end of time, Christ will be the Word who brings us home.

And in this time, in this place,
with these people, we come to your Table,
     Gatherer of your children.
The simple gifts we take for granted,
the bread which has been a staple of life,
the cup which refreshes us when we thirst,
     you transform into imaginative grace,
     the Meal which is blessed by the presence
     of your Spirit of power and peace.
You bring us from every point on the compass -
     young and old, the mother with her son,
     the grandfather balancing the girl on his knee,
     those who run circles around us,
     and those who point the way with their canes -
welcoming that great parade of your children
who come with outstretched hearts
to receive every blessing imaginable.

And when our beginning has come to your fullness,
when we come, our faces glowing with wonder,
our voices ringing with the songs of freedom,
we will gather around your Table in heaven,
comfort and gladness our eternal inheritance from you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

Go forth now, with God's Word echoing in your hearts.
We will go to share God's hope with all who are empty.
Go forth now, with the grace of Jesus filling your souls.
We will go to share the justice of Jesus with all who are forgotten.
Go forth now, with the Spirit's peace resting on you.
We will go to share this peace, placing it like a shawl
around the broken, the grieving, the lonely.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Liturgy for December 29, 2019 (First Sunday after Christmas - A)

Texts:  Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23

Call to Worship
All creation, all people: praise the Lord!
stars shooting across the sky,
sing glad songs to our God!
Snow clouds approaching, birds sitting on a branch:
praise the Lord!
Sleeping cats and barking dogs,
sing new choruses of praise!
Rich and poor, leaders and followers:
praise the Lord!
Old and young, families and singles,
we will lift our joy to our God!

Prayer of the Day
On that not so silent night,
you came to us, Mothering God,
     like a night nurse
     on the pediatric floor,
     to gather us in your arms
     and swaddle us in your hope.

On that not so silent night,
you came to us, Child of humanity,
     to be cradled with the lost,
     to share a stable with outsiders,
     to confront the bullies who
          threaten our children.

On that not so silent night,
you came to us, Spirit of joy,
     to lift us up and carry us to salvation,
     to help us persist in praising God,
     to share our lives with us.

Be with us in all the nights and days to come,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as you taught us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We know all that God has done for us, as well as all we could have done for others.  Let us confess to God our failures and foibles, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   We could proclaim your name, God of this holy season, but we spend too much time talking about celebrities.  We could tell others about all your gracious deeds, but are comparing notes about the exploits of our favorite athletes.  We could let your Word guide our lives, but instead we do what the politicians think is best.
   Why?  Because we forget who we are called to be.  But you remember, Faithful God.  You
remember that we put our trust in others, not you; you remember how we chase after idols,
not follow you; you remember to save us in our distress, which is why you sent Jesus to
us, our Lord, our Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
In the silence, in the dreams, in the wonder, in the words, God comes to save us and have mercy on us.
It is fitting that we offer our thanks and praise to the One who forgives us.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offertory
As we offer our gifts to you, Holy One, may they join all creation in blessing and serving your people.  Called to be your people, may we notice those who are forgotten and offer our lives and hearts to them.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of Christmas be with you!
And also with you!
Put your trust in the One who has come.
We offer our hearts willingly to our God.
Join all creation in praising God.
We join in the chorus of glad songs to God.

In that not so silent
moment, you spoke to creation,
God of our dreams and hopes,
     and birds warbled in the morning,
     thunder rumbled over the waters,
     cows lowed in the meadows.
For us, those shaped in your image,
were these gifts imagined and formed,
     but we took up after death,
     getting up to follow sin.
Prophets came to praise your name,
and to bring us back to you,
     but we thought they were
     trying to trick us.
Then you sent Jesus, Pioneer of salvation,
to proclaim your name to us.

With those who are shy and silent,
with those who persist in glorifying you,
we offer our thanksgiving songs:

Holy, holy, holy are you, ever-loving God.
All creation praises your name.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who put his trust in you.
Hosanna in the highest!

In the silence of the night,
your holiness became human, our God,
and you blessed us with Jesus, Child of grace.
When he could have stayed with you,
     he came to offer us help.
When he could have remained in Nazareth,
     he got up to bring us the good news.
When he could have played it safe,
     he shared his flesh and blood on the cross,
     so we might have life through the resurrection.

As we celebrate the gift of his life,
as we remember his death and rising to new life,
we proclaim that mystery called faith:

Christ died, putting his trust in you;
Christ rose, taking on the resurrection life;
Christ will come, to carry us home to you.

Into these moments of silence
and sacrament, send your Spirit
upon those gathered in this place,
and on the gifts of the Bread and Cup.
As we eat of the Bread,
send us out to serve
     the hungry and the homeless,
     the lost and forgotten,
     the broken and battered -
all whose hopes have disappeared.
As we drink from the Cup,
may we see the
     lonely and forsaken,
     the hurting and ridiculed,
     the oppressed and imprisoned -
all whose dreams have become nightmares.

And when we are gathered to your side,
we will proclaim your glory to
our sisters and brothers around the Table,
our praises being offered to you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Praising God is not enough.
And so we will go to offer practical help to our sisters and brothers.
Joyful noises do not feed those around us.
And so we will go with Jesus to the food pantries and shelters,
to care for those forgotten by our society.
Songs of thanksgiving do not replace service.
And so we will go to share the peace of the Spirit
with a broken, yet hopeful world.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Christmas Day Communion Liturgy - Year A

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.

© Thom M. Shuman