Friday, August 16, 2019

Liturgy with communion for September 1, 2019 (Pentecost 12/Trinity 11/Proper 17/Ordinary 22 - C)

Texts: Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1, 10-16; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14

Call to Worship
We come to worship our God,
to listen to the One who calls us here.
We come trusting God to lead us in the coming days,
as surely as were our grandparents in the faith.
We come to worship our God,
to shout with joy to the God of all people.
We come to the Creator of all things,
to be bathed in the waters of life.
We come to the Feast of God's faithful,
to be fed by the One who never forsakes us.
We come to worship our God,
to sing aloud to the One who saves us.

Prayer of the Day
Yesterday, God of our days,
when our hunger for hope
had so weakened us
we could barely speak,
     you fed us with
     the Bread of life,
          spread with the sweet honey
          of your grace.

Today, Host to the poor,
when we look for you
in the powerful and the rich,
among the superstar and celebrity,
     we will find you
     seated with the children,
          your knees squeezed painfully
          under the table,
entertaining them
with your stories.

Tomorrow, Spirit of Service,
when we will be scrambling
for the seats of honor,
     you will be in the kitchen
          cooking dinner for the prisoners;
     making up the guest room
          for the immigrants;
     singing lullabies of love
          to the lost children
               of our world.

God in Community, Holy in One:
yesterday, today, tomorrow, always,
we will pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Despite all the ways we speak of sin - failures, mistakes, intended acts, Scripture tells us that we are stubborn-hearted, wanting only our way. But if we pause to listen to God, if we open our mouths (and our hearts) to confess our sin, God will fill our emptiness with forgiveness and hope. Let us pray together, as we say,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We are always uncomfortable, Watching God, when you notice how we want to sit in the seats of honor. We can be so proper, so good, so well-off, that it is easy to imagine we are superior to the poor. We are so busy completing our 'To Do' list each day, that we forget to do good when we have the chance.
     Forgive us, Welcoming God. Fill our emptiness with your grace and humility that we would spend our lives alongside Jesus, our Lord and Savior, throwing a party for the poor, the damaged, the prisoner, the lost, the oppressed.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
This is the good news: after what God has done for us, what can anyone or any thing do to us? We are new people, graced by our loving God.
Forgiven, embraced, welcomed by our God, we will offer open hearts and serving hands to everyone we meet. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we are offered opportunities to reach out to those who are in need of hope, healing, and friendship.  This is why you pour out your blessings upon us, trusting that we will share from our abundance to bless others, even as we have been blessed.  Receive the gifts we offer, multiply them, and use them in the work of grace and justice.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
People of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the God who welcomes us at this Table.
Let us sing aloud to God.
We will offer glad songs of thanksgiving to the One who delivers us.

We would sing aloud
our songs of joy to you,
Master of the Universe.
Out of the emptiness of chaos,
you brought forth creation,
     plentiful with all we need,
     graced with gifts beyond imagination.
Offered the place of honor
in your good Garden,
     we filled our souls with worthless lies,
          moving out of glory's neighborhood
          into the junkyard of the world.
Prophets brought your word of judgment,
and your gracious invitation to come home,
but we would not listen
to the advice they offered to us.
Then you sent Jesus,
who humbled himself
that we might be exalted.

Therefore, we come to your Table singing,
our voices joining with those
in every time and in every place,
lifting our glad songs to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God our strength!
All creation shouts for you to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

We welcome the One who shows hospitality to strangers.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Mothering God,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Life.
Glorified as your True Child,
     he came to show hospitality
          to all the strangers of the world.
Deserving of the seat of honor,
     he humbled himself
          to serve the guests.
Refusing to let us be left
in the ruthless hands
of sin and death,
     he entered that prison
     we call the grace
          to set us free to live with you.

As we remember his life and death,
as we come to the Table of the resurrection,
we speak of that mystery we call faith:

Dying, you took the seat of dishonor;
Rising, you humbled yourself to be exalted;
Coming again, you will honor us in the presence on the One
     who invites all to sit at the Table of grace.

Send your Holy Spirit
upon the Bread and the Cup,
simple gifts from creation
which grace us with your life,
and upon those who gather
around your Table.
Fed with the finest wheat,
     may we go forth to fill the lives
     of all whose emptiness
          imprisons them.
Having tasted the cup of joy,
     may we bring the sweet honey of hope
          to those parched by despair.
Welcomed without question
at your Table of grace,
     may we open our hearts
     to throw a party for all
          who have been forsaken by the world.

And when we gather around the Wedding Feast in glory,
with all the poor, the broken, the prisoners, the oppressed -
we will open our mouths to receive your joy,
and sing aloud to you
our praise for all eternity:
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.


Having listened to God's words, we are sent to serve others.
Today and tomorrow, we will follow where God leads.
Having joined in songs of praise and hope, we will carry these gifts into the world.
Today and tomorrow, we will serve beside Jesus.
Having been filled with the Spirit of justice, we will go to be with all who struggle.
Today and tomorrow, we will bring justice and peace to those around us.

(c) 2016 Thom M. Shuman

Liturgy with communion for August 25, 2019 (Pentecost 11/Trinity 10/Proper 16/Ordinary 21 - C)

Texts: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17

Call to Worship
Before we got up this morning
and decided to come to church,
God was waiting for us,
to welcome us with grace.

When we are unsure of what to do;
when we falter before the next step,
we come to listen to God's voice,
to learn from the One who teaches us
all we ever need to know.

When we are surrounded by cruelty and injustice;
when our fears cripple our souls,
God delivers us with steadfast love;
we are set free to be God's sons and daughters.

Prayer of the Day

Rock of Ages:
when we are afraid
and can only whisper our fear,
     yet once more,
          you bend over to listen to us.
When everyone acts as if
they can't remember our name,
     yet once more,
          you know us as your Beloved.
When we cannot seem to tell others
all that you have done for us,
     yet once more,
          you put the Word into our mouths.
And we tremble with praise.

Word of the Lord:
when others would weigh us down
with shame and guilt,
     yet once more,
          you set us free with your joy.
when we are bent over
by our doubts and questions,
     yet once more,
          you reach out to touch us
          with your hope and grace.
And we tremble with praise.

Refuge of Wisdom:
when we wander
from one crippling spirit to the next,
     yet once more,
          you lead us into hope.
When our fears
shake us to the core,
     yet once more,
          you touch us with your serenity.
When we cannot stand up
and see our way,
     yet once more,
          you take us by the hand
          to lead us home.
And we tremble with praise.

God in Community, Holy in One,
yet once more, we tremble with praise and joy
as we pray as Jesus has taught us,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
When we were children, we learned not to touch hot things so we would not be burned. If only avoiding sin was that easy! But sin seems so comfortable, so easy, and so harmless that we cannot stop ourselves from reaching out to touch it over and over again. Let us confess our sins to the One who chooses to forgive us and love us unconditionally, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     Yet once more, we come to you with our prayers, Holy God. Our crippling spirits keep us from following you. Our grudges weigh us down until we cannot walk straight in your way.  Our anger becomes a fire which scorches our friends and loved ones. Our fears blind us to the goodness in those we believe to be different.
     Forgive us, God our Rock, and set us free from our wrong-doings and failures. From the day of our birth, we have known your love, grace, and hope. So may we offer you our joyful thanks, as
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, reaches out to touch us with your healing forgiveness, yet once more.
Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God chooses not to turn a deaf ear to us, but to listen to our prayers. God chooses not to shame us, but to save us.
This is, indeed, good news for us! We are set free to drink deeply from the waters of life. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May we welcome your gifts with thanksgiving, Loving God.  May we share you gifts with grace, so others might be touched by your love, healed by your touch, fed and nourished by your compassionate as well as the fruit of your creation.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

People of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to our Rock and Refuge.

Daughters and sons of God, give thanks to the One who saves us.
We lift our thanks and joy to the God who is our hope.

With a simple Word,
Creator of the Universe,
you caused chaos to tremble with fear,
     as mountains stretched
          to touch the clouds,
     and rivers cascaded
          through barren deserts.
With a single Breath,
life was given to our ancestors,
     who stood up straight
          to walk through your Garden.
But the spirit of sin
     put out its hand and crippled us;
death enslaved us
     with its unjust and cruel grip.
You touched the lips of the prophets,
appointing them to call us home,
but we could not lift our heads to see,
we would not turn our hearts to listen.
Yet, you would not leave us hopeless,
but sent Jesus to set us free.

Therefore, we joining our voices
with the faithful of all time and all places,
singing our songs of joy to you:

Holy, holy, holy, God our hope, our trust.
All creation worships you with reverence and awe.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes
     as the mediator of the new covenant.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God of the Ages,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, our Hope, our Trust.
Your Child from before time,
he became a son of Abraham,
     so we might all be a part of your family.
From the day he became human,
he taught us of your hopes for us,
     so we would not give in to despair.
Seeing us held in the unrelenting grasp of sin and death,
he put out his hand and rescued us.

As we remember his life, ministry,
death, and resurrection yet once more,
we will proclaim that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, to set us free from sin;
Christ was raised, so we might be set free from death;
Christ will come again, rejoicing at all the wonderful things

     God has done.

Pour out your Holy Spirit
upon the gifts of the Bread and the Cup,
and upon your daughters and sons
who come to this Table.
We come with knees knocking,
with hearts pounding,
taking shallow breaths,
trusting and believing that
     here, we will find healing,
     here, we will be touched by your grace,
     here, we will hear your Word of hope.
Then, fed by your love
and nourished by your dreams,
     we shall go to bring your peace
          to a warring world.
     We shall speak out on behalf
          of those whom society has rendered voiceless.
     We will not be afraid to stand up straight
     and look injustice and cruelty in the eye
          and proclaim, "Enough!"

And then, when we are gathered
with our sisters and brothers
from the beginning of creation,
we will sit at the Table of the Lamb,
joining hands and lifting our eternal praise to you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

Having been welcomed with grace,
let us go out this day.
We will go to serve all of God’s children,
deciding to meet them where they are.
Having listened to God’s Word,
Let us go to share what we have learned.
We will go to stand with those who are uncertain about life,
to walk with those who have stumbled on their journey.
Having been set free by the Spirit
let us go to be sisters and brothers with all,
we will go to release those bound by cruelty and injustice,
to bring healing to those crippled by fears.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Liturgy with communion for August 18, 2019 (Pentecost 10/Trinity 9/Proper 15/Ordinary 20 - C)

Texts: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2; Luke 12:49-56

Call to Worship
The One who commands the clouds
calls us to be poured out for others.
We can, by faith, be the waters of peace
which quench the fires of hatred.

The One who creates mercy and hope,
longs for a world of fair play and grace.
We can, by faith, let righteousness and
justice be our constant companions.

The One who is with us in every moment
composes a love-song for our hearts.
We can, by faith, teach this song
to everyone we meet.

Prayer of the Day

Gracious God,
in the debris and litter of the world,
you clear a place
where we can be planted:
     your justice
          which can bring hope
          to the oppressed;
     your righteousness
          which can receive
          even our enemies
               in peace.

Jesus Christ:
you break up
the stony ground
of our hearts,
     so grace might be planted.
You take us by the hand
to lead us through
the waters of baptism,
     so we can stand
     on the far shores on your kingdom.

Holy Spirit,
early every morning,
you are out ahead of us,
walking the paths of life,
     clearing away all the temptations
     which would cause us
          to stumble and fall.

God in Community, Holy in One,
hear us as we pray as Jesus our Brother

has taught us, saying,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Being human, we never find it easy to ask for forgiveness. But as God's children, called to live in relationship with one another, we know we must speak of how we have hurt others, so we might be forgiven and restored to new life.  Please join me as we pray to God, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     What more can we say, Expectant God, that you don't know already? You long for justice for all people, but it is washed away by the flood of violence in our world. You hope that righteousness will walk with us, but you hear the clear cries of those we mistreat.  You ask us to speak up for those in need, but we shut our mouths and turn away.
     Forgive us, Righteous God. Have mercy when we do not bear the fruit we could. Even though we have not lived our faith to the fullest, may we receive the promises of hope and grace you have given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Shhh, listen! Can you hear them?  The saints of heaven - those who have gone on before us - are cheering us on as we run towards the finish line of our faith.
Thanks be to God! The victory has already been won for us in Jesus Christ.  We are forgiven. Amen.
Prayer of Dedication/Offering
As you share your blessings with us, Gracious God, you show great faith that we will use them wisely and offer them generously to others.  So, by faith, may our gifts bring healing to the broken, hope to the despairing, and laughter to those who mourn.  This we pray, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May God be with you.
And also with you.
People of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the One whose heart is broken for us.

Offer your praises and joy to the God who is our Creator.
We sing our love-songs to the One who loves us and watches over us.

It is our greatest joy
to offer our thanks and praise to you,
God of all time.
At the dawn of creation,
you sang your love-song:
     covering mountains with cooling shade,
     directing the clouds to pour rain
          upon the cedar seedlings,
     filling your garden of grace
          with all the goodness we would need.
But longing for a view
of temptation's delights,
we chopped down the hedges
surrounding Eden and protecting us,
     and we were devoured
     by sin and death.
You sent the prophets
to tend and nurture us,
pruning us so we could bear
the fruit of justice and righteousness.
You took pity on us
as we weakened ourselves by our pride,
and placed your hand upon Jesus
sending him to be strong for us.

Therefore, we lift our thanksgiving to you,
joining our voices with the witnesses of every age,
echoing their glad songs of praise,
offering our hope to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Creator of the Vineyard.
By faith, all creation cries out for your salvation.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to run with perseverance

     the race which is set before him.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Shepherd of all people,
and blessed is Jesus Christ,
your sign of hope and grace.
Surrounded by all the faithful,
     he humbled himself,
          coming to set the pace for us
          in this race we call life.
Worthy of all glory and praise,
     he disregarded human acclaim,
          and died on the cross
          that we might be given life.
Picking up sin and death,
and tossing them aside,
     he cleared the way to you,
          that we might enter your kingdom.

As we remember his death and resurrection,
as we look for signs of his life in our time,
we receive that mystery of faith
which is promised to us:

Christ died, the perfecter of salvation;
Christ was risen, the pioneer of resurrection;
Christ will come again, for the sake of our joy.

Pour out your Holy Spirit
upon the gifts of the bread and cup,
and upon those who, by faith,
come to your Table.
As we receive these signs
of a grace we cannot see,
     may we be transformed
     into signs of peace and hope
          for our time.
As we taste the broken Bread,
     may we draw strength
          to serve a shattered world.
As we drink of the gift of grace,
      may we become robust
          in our giving to others.
As we open our hands to you,
     may we go to hand out justice
          to the lost, the little, the least.

Then, when we are no longer divided,
but all people are gathered
around the Feast of the Lamb,
we will never turn away from you,
but will sing our songs of love
to you through all eternity,
God in Community, Holy in One,
forever and ever. Amen.

In faith, we have worshiped the God of all grace and hope.
By faith, we will go to be poured out for all around us.
Through faith, we have come to follow the Servant of the poor.
With faith, we will go with our companions,
justice and righteousness, to serve the oppressed.
By faith, we learn the songs of the Spirit of love.
In faith, we will sing these songs with those
for whom the music has gone silent.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Alternate texts liturgy with communion for August 11, 2019 (Pentecost 9/Trinity 8/Proper 14/Ordinary 19 - C)

Texts: Genesis 15:1-6; Psalm 33:12-22; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40

Call to Worship
We trust in God,
and so we hope in God.
We hope in our God,
and so we offer our hearts,
so our God may fill them with grace.
Every time, we trust, we hope, we come to God,
God is waiting for us . . . every time.

Prayer of the Day
It was faith which made them
listen to your words,
trust in your promises,
dare to imagine a different country,
risk undertaking new adventures,
setting aside their fears and doubts.
Give us such faith,
God of our ancestors,
give us such faith.

It was faith which helped you
as you walked through the world,
telling stories of reversals,
listening to the ignored,
touching those we did not love,
pointing to that Community
being built all around us.
Give us such faith,
Jesus or Brother,
that we might follow.

It is faith which you give to us:
so we can trust the hope
which the world cannot see;
so we can journey into
places we have never been;
so we can welcome strangers
as sisters and brothers.
Continue to give us such faith,
Spirit who walks with us
in faith, every moment, every day.

With the faith you give us,
with the faith you have in us,
God in Community, Holy in One,
we lift that prayer taught to us by faith:
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We are blessed when we trust in God, but too often we offer our loyalty to idols.  We are blessed when we see each others as family, but we prefer to see them as strangers, even enemies.  So, let us come with our prayers to the One who loves without reservation and offers compassion without conditions.  Join me as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   We must admit, Loving God, that if faith is a trust which cannot be confirmed, it is easier not to trust.  Of if faith is the gut feeling that hope is just around the corner, we prefer to keep our eyes closed.  And surely, if faith is to be lived out in difficult moments, we often leave it behind at home.
   Call us into your backyard, God of wonder, to point up to the stars and remind us that we cannot begin to imagine, or count, how many times you will forgive us.  Give us the trust to have faith in you, the faith to hope in you, and the assurance you will surround us with the grace, hope, and wonder shared with us through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Like our grandparents in the faith, we can dare to trust in the promises of God, even without any actual proof staring us in the face.  This is the good news of God's love.
We will trust in those things that last, in the grace, which counts, in the mercy no one can take away from us.  Thanks be to God, we are forgiven!  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
All it takes is one person, then another, than more, who hear God's hopes, trust God's promises, and have the faith to merge our gifts together, so they can be used to bring hope, healing, grace, and peace to our communities, to our sisters and brother.  This we pray.  Amen.

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of faith be with you!
May God be with you as well!
Let us open our hearts in trust.
God fills them with grace in every moment.
Join together in singing songs of thanksgiving.
We lift our voices in glad adoration to our God.

When there was only the emptiness
of chaos, God of our hearts,
you dared to imagine that from
things unseen might come wonders
to behold:
   stars too many to count in the night,
   flowers varied in colors and shapes,
   creatures that roamed, flew, swam.
You spoke the Word which brought
all this into being for those who are
created in your image of hope and love,
   but we chose to trust temptation's lies
   and to hope in the emptiness of death.
In dreams, with words, with love,
women and men continued to call us
back to you, who would fill us with grace,
   but we always turned away, trusting
   power, hate, fear, injustice instead.
Then, you chose to become one of us,
so we might see hope walking among us,
so we might taste grace in fish and bread,
so we might know love that never ends.

With those who have faith which astounds us,
with those who long to see your beloved Community,
we join our voices in praise and wonder:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God who watches over us.
All creation trusts in your grace and hope.
Hosanna in the highest!

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

By grace,
you set aside glory to become
one of us, Christ of creation,
   so we might be filled with compassion
   we can share with others.
By faith,
you told stories of servants,
of prodigals, of children,
   so we could see ourselves
   as who God longs us to be.
By trust,
you dared to let death wrap
its cold arms around you,
   so we might be released
   into the comforting embrace
   of resurrection's hope.

By grace, we come to this Table.
By hope, we tell the story of Jesus.
By faith, we share the mystery of salvation:

Jesus died, to bring light into death's gloom.
Jesus was raised, to bring life to all God's people.
Jesus will come, so all are welcomed by God.

Now you come, Holy God,
pouring out your Spirit
on the gifts of the bread and cup
and on your people gathered here.
May the bread which is broken
give us the strength to go and
   choose love, not hate;
   to share hope, not fear;
   to gather people together, not divide them.
May the cup of grace
nourish us to be the ones
   who offer compassion without conditions,
   who offer justice and grace to all,
   who will love without reservation.

And when all time has come to an end,
we will sit at the table in your backyard,
feasting with our sisters and brothers
under the stars we never stopped counting,
rejoicing with them in your grace,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

As God's people, let us be ready:
to bring light into the shadows,
to confront the bullies around us.
As followers of Jesus, let us be ready:
to invite strangers into our hearts,
to set the table for everyone.
As those gifted by the Spirit, let us be ready:
to choose love, not hate;
to feed those who wander 
through both food and fear deserts.

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, August 02, 2019

Liturgy with communion for August 11, 2019 (Pentecost 9/Trinity 8/Proper 14/Ordinary 19 - C)

Texts: Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40

Call to Worship
We are people who have been called
to follow where God leads us.
By faith we can obey,
even when asked to walk into
an unknown future.

We are people who have been challenged
to tell God's story to others.
By faith we have the ability
to share the good news.

We are God's children who are invited
to feast at the Table of grace.
By faith we will embrace
our sisters and brothers in Christ.

Prayer of the Day
Creator of the light:
when our sins
stain our lives,
     you dissolve them
     with your mercy;
when our souls become calloused
by the hardness of our hearts,
     your grace makes them as soft
     as a cashmere sweater,
          so we can be dressed
                to serve others.

Creative Word:
when you had enough
of our hollow words
and empty promises,
     you came to listen
     to the echoes of your hope

          deep within our hearts.
When you became bored
with our endless meetings
and petty squabbles,
     you took delight
     in our willingness
          to follow you.

Breath of Creation:
when we could be sitting
at home watching television,
     you encourage us
          to rest in stillness with the grieving.
When we could be out shopping,
     you nudge us to share our abundance
          with the poor and needy.
When we could be relaxing
in our achievements,
     you sit us down next to a child,
          struggling to read.

God in Community, Holy in One,
as we seek to grow in our faith,
hear us as we pray as Jesus has taught us,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We would like to keep our sins hidden and our failures a secret. But God would not have us keep silent, but speak our confessions out loud, so we may be blessed with God's mercy and grace. I invite you to pray with me, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     You have a vision of all people as your beloved children, Imaginative God, but we see folks whose language, dress, and skin make them different. You have a vision of a universe filled with goodness and beauty, and we damage it with litter, with violence, with poor choices. You have a vision of a Table where we can feast on your grace and hope, but we line up at the fast food counters of sin and greed.
     Forgive us, Visionary of Mercy, as we confess that we are not "insiders" but immigrants searching for our true home. By faith, may we be willing to be as gracious, as compassionate, and as hopeful as you are.  You love us enough to want us to be with you forever, so may we take the hand of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who leads us into your kingdom.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
There is nothing to fear. God's hope is more tenacious than our despair; God's joy is more resilient than our grief; God's love is more compelling than our hate.
By grace, we are gathered to God.  By faith, we rest in God's promises of forgiveness and restoration. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
It is by faith that you bless us, hopeful God.  So, it is by faith that we offer back to you a portion of what we have and who we are, trusting that you will take these gifts and use them in the work of that kingdom of justice and hope, of grace and wonder, which is yours.  This we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

May God be with you.
And also with you.

Open your hearts to God, followers of Jesus.
We open them, so the Light of Love shines through us.

People of God, give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is our greatest joy and honor to offer thanksgiving to God.

You called the heavens and the earth
out of the deep emptiness of chaos:
     soft breezes caressing our cheeks,
     songbirds caroling your glory,
     children tap dancing through mud puddles -
all that we see, hear, and feel
have sprung from your imagination,
Creating God.
All that you thought, dreamed, and wondered
was shaped for us
     that we might live with you in peace and hope.
But we wondered what we would do with your glory and power;
we dreamed of being divine and thought we were your equal.
     So we reached out for wealth and power,
     those false idols who enticed us
          even as they ensnared us with their lies.
You sent the prophets
to remind us of your vision for us,
and to assure us of your hope for us.
But we took no delight in their words.
Then, your Word took on flesh
and came to us as Jesus the Christ,
to summon us out of the empty lives
we had created for ourselves.

Therefore, we gather with your faithful ones,
in this time and in this place,
joining our voices with the heavenly choirs
who sing of your justice and grace:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God the Creator!
The mountains sing your praises,
     the valleys echo your glory.

We welcome the One who comes in your name,
who comes to call us to life.

Holy are you, God of infinite imagination,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son,
our Hope, our Lord and Savior.
He should have been clothed
in royal robes of purple and gold,
     but put on the uniform
     of a condemned prisoner,
          so we could be clothed in your grace.
He should have been given
every honor the world has,
     but was cursed
         so we might receive your blessings.
He should have had a long and healthy life,
     but was put to death at an early age,
          so we might live forever with you.

Remembering that is not our words which save us,
     but your imaginative Word of beauty and love;
remembering that it is not our achievements,
     but our hope in Jesus Christ which assures us of your love,
we celebrate that mystery we call faith:

Lord Jesus, you call us:
     open our eyes that we may see you,
          open our souls that we may long for your presence,
               open our hearts so we may follow you.

God of Gentleness:
pour out your Spirit of grace and peace
upon these, your simple gifts,
which become the Bread of Heaven
and the Cup of Salvation for us.
As we taste the goodness of Christ,
and let his brokenness heal us,
     may our eyes be opened
     to the oppression and injustices
         the world would keep us from seeing.
As the rich wine of hope and joy
refreshes our hearts and souls,
may we be ready
     to share all we have been given,
     to speak up for the voiceless,
     to gather the lost into our family.

And when all time has stopped moving
and all the faithful have been gathered,
when we sit down at the feast prepared for all,
we will join hands to sing
the eternal anthem of your vision
of hope and peace for all creation,
proclaiming forever and ever your glory:
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

By faith, let us go out as God’s people.
We will gather others around us and dance into God’s kingdom.
By faith, let us go to follow Jesus to serve with compassion and grace.
We will share the good news of hope and peace with everyone we meet.
By faith, let us go to join the Holy Spirit in welcoming all of God’s children.
We will add as many chairs as are needed, so all may feast on God’s love.

©  Thom M. Shuman