Monday, May 25, 2020

Pentecost liturgy in a time of pandemic (May 31, 2020)

Texts:  Numbers 11:24-30; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Acts 2:1-21; John 20:19-23

Call to Worship
No great flowing fabrics of red
hanging from sanctuary ceilings,
yet this is still the day we celebrate
Grace’s breath shattering the shutters of our hearts.
On this day, clad in our pajamas, sitting at home
may we continue to let the Spirit
of new life breathe upon us!
From near empty sanctuaries, through video worship,
we gather with our sisters and brothers,
proclaiming that we are God’s Pentecost.
On this day, we would touch (virtually) all
who remain sheltered in place, safe in God’s grace.
There will be no birthday cakes, no balloons released,
no butterflies emerging from cocoons,
yet in the days to come, we will continue to speak
of God’s love and the Spirit’s peace for all.
So that even apart, people know they are not alone,
so that when that day comes, and we know it will,
people will find a community awaiting them,
even for hiding in fear behind closed doors.  

Prayer of the Day
A spark.
that is all we need
on this day, Imaginative God,
to light our quarantined aloneness
so that we can burst into bonfires
which signal to all those around us
you are bringing to life and grace
to us, and to the whole world.

A word.
just one, little word
on this day, Poet of Pentecost,
so that we can be the voice
of all those forgotten by the world,
so that we can be the warmth
to melt all the hearts frozen by greed,
so that we might speak in that still, small voice,
and be the ones that live out,
your good news to everyone we meet.

A breeze.
a soft, gentle breeze
that stirs the curtains
on this day, Shattering Spirit.
a breeze that will stay quiet,
and peaceful, and still
until the day comes (and it will)
for us to become that storm
of hopes to clear the despair
from all our neighborhoods and lands.

Give us yourself this day,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as we are taught,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Yes, we remain isolated.  Yes, our hopes are shuttered. Yes, our souls are filled with fear.  Yet, on this day, we remember that God comes to such people.  On this day, we celebrate that the Spirit breathes new life.  On this day, we affirm that Jesus restores us to hew hope.  Behind closed doors, hiding from our fears let us speak of our lives as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   O Pentecost’s Spirit – if only we could tell of your wonders in our lives, yet social media and other ways we communicate is filled with anger, bitterness, and political arguments.  If only we could share how you have transformed our lives, but we are stuck in our living spaces, hiding from what is seeking to do us harm.  If only we could pour you out on all those who are lonely, and afraid, and worried about tomorrow, but we are fearful of stepping outside our doors.  
   Even in the closed rooms of our hearts, even with our shuttered souls, you continue to move, to live, to breathe upon us with your mercy and your grace, God of this day.  Now, in this moment, breathe your peace, upon us and a fearful world, so that we might be the balm for all the anger around us.  Now, on this day, breathe your hope upon us, and a desperate world, so that we might drop it off on the porches of all huddling in their homes.  Now, in the moments and days to come, continue to breathe your love upon us, and an uncaring world, so that we might transform grudges into generosity, foolishness into common sense, and rejection into being as welcoming as Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.     

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Listen!  It is not an old story, but ours.  It may not happen with a might wind, but with a soft whisper.  But this is our Pentecost.  This is our reminder that God forgives us and fills us with all things new.
Thanks be to God!  God gives us new hope in endless days of despair, new joy in never-ending moments of grief, and new life when we seem to have lost even the simple ability to breathe – this day and in all the days to come.  Amen.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Blow the dust off our fears, Generous Spirit, so we might be more giving people.  Blow the dust off our material gifts we think are so paltry, so we might realize how they can bring hope and life to others.  Blow the dust off our mistaken views of others, so we might see them as our sisters and brothers, ready to grace us, even as we may bless them with these offerings.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the Spirit of Pentecost touch you this day.
And touch you, as well.
May the soft, gentle breeze of love fill your hearts.
We open them to the Spirit who would overflow from our hearts.
May the words of Pentecost offer you new songs.
We will sing praise and thanksgiving to our God.

Wow!  What you do,
God of imagination and wonder!
You breathe your Spirit into chaos
even the confusion in which we are living,
to shatter the emptiness of our hearts
to reshape them into beauty.
you whispered your Word into the silence,
and rivers raced to the oceans
and bugs creepy-crawled across meadows;
   whisper your Word now
   into the silence of our isolation,
      so we might see the butterflies drifting in the air,
      and see the dolphins leaping from the waves.
Like any loving parent, you fed creation with hope,
as you long for us to care for others,
   but we run off with tellers of lies,
   we lock ourselves in death’s quarantine.
Yet these moments of fear and worry are not new,
and so you keep sending those we call prophets.
to tell of what you are doing and will do,
   yet we continue to huddle in with sellers of fear
   to shutter our hears from such words.
So you sent Jesus to us,
to breathe your peace upon us
and to bring us back to you.

With those who continue to live in isolation
yet long to share the Spirit with others,
we will sing your praise forever and ever:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Shattering Spirit.
All creation will sing until it has no more breath.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who stands in our midst speaking peace.
Hosanna in the highest!

Like your glory, may your holiness be eternal,
God of wind and flames,
and may your Child, Jesus, bless us
with words of wonder and joy.
Though we would sit in our loneliness,
   he comes to be with us in love
though we would keep our souls shuttered,
   he comes to throw them wide open
   with grace and hope.
though we would remain hidden away
in death’s cold upper room,
   he enters to take its power
   over us away, so the bright flames
   of the resurrection might dance
   over our lives bringing us hope.

As we would open our hearts to the Spirit,
as we would welcome the peace and power,
we tell of that faith grounded in Pentecost’s mystery:

Drawing his last breath, Christ died for us;
with the sudden breath of the resurrection,
   Christ was raised;
Christ will return, to breathe the Spirit into us forever.

Here in this moment, with people gathered
wherever they are, alone or with others
may you pour the Spirit of Pentecost
upon the simple gifts of the bread and the cup.
with the brokenness of the bread,
we pray hope might dance upon our souls
   so we will might become a mighty wind
   to bring healing to our shattered world.
Drinking from the cup of grace,
we pray it flow through us
   so we might become a fountain
   of unending generosity
      to parched people
      thirsting for life.

And when that day comes
when we no longer need
to shelter in place or isolate from others,
you will gather us around the Table
with our sisters and brothers
of every time, of every place,
breathing the Spirit upon us,
telling us the Word of grace and hope,
as we sing our thanks forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

The shutters of our hearts have been flung open
by the fresh breath of God!
We will go to offer God’s love to everyone around us
even if only from our living room or porch.
Our souls have been set on fire
by the justice of the Brother of the poor.
We will go to share visions of hope,
to listen to the dreams of the oppressed,
even if only through social media,
a text, or a phone conversation.
Our loneliness and fears will be set aside
by the Spirit of inclusion creating community.
We will speak words of peace to all we meet
even while maintaining a safe distance,
we will open ourselves to the gifts of others
even as we cocoon in place because we love them.

© 2020 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Liturgy with communion for May 24, 2020 (Easter 7 - A)

Texts:  Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Call to Worship
At the presence of God, we rejoice:
glorifying the One who is Parent of all orphans.
In the presence of Jesus Christ, we listen:
to the Voice who calls us to humbly serve others.
Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we speak:
making God's love known to the world-forsaken in our midst.

Prayer of the Day
Giver of power and strength,
you take a rag-tag bunch
of denying disciples and
feckless followers,
creating a new community
of servants who seek
to do your will.

Keeper of all time,
you are enthroned on the
rubble of death's shattered power,
calling us to your side
and giving us a new vocation,
by which we serve the
broken of the communities
in which we live.

Constant Presence of hope,
you strengthen us so
we never give in while
confronted by evil;
you continually pray for us
that we never quit when
faith proves to be more
of a challenge than we imagined.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we lift our hearts to you,
as we pray as we are taught,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We know what we should do, yet don't.  We know the words people need to hear, but utter the ones that hurt them.  Yet, we also know that if we confess our failings to God, we will receive forgiveness and hope.  Please join me as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     God of glory: we are so busy watching the skies for signs of your presence that we forget to look around to see those we can serve in your name.  We are so intent on finding just the right way to tell off someone, that we forget the words of reconciliation you have taught to us.  We are so convinced we can figure out your schedule that we forget to open ourselves to the presence of your Spirit within us.
     Mighty source of our lives, forgive us for all that we have done to others.  Fill us with the wisdom to resist evil in our lives and strengthen us in that faith which is given to us through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Beloved, do not be surprised.  Our God is gracious to all, restoring us to new life.
This is the good news which is for us, and for everyone we will meet in the days to come.  Thanks be to God.  We are forgiven.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Loving God, you pour out your grace upon us without reservation; help us to be as gracious and generous with our gifts and resources, so others might know you hope, your healing, your presence in their lives.  This we ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May Easter's God be with you.
And also with you.
People of God, exult before the Lord.
We lift our hearts to the One who showers us with that grace which never ends.
Sing to the One who blesses you, Beloved.
Glad songs of thanksgiving are offered forever.

You would break the grip of chaos,
Worker of Wonders,
and so you uttered a Word
     and cattle gaze up at the rain
          falling from the sky,
     while rabbits play leapfrog
          in green meadows.
You shaped us into the exact image
of yourself, so we might be your people,
living with you forever.
     But we wandered down to the
     basement where sin and death
     lurked in the shadows to steal us away.
You stood firm in your belief
that we would return, and sent prophets
who called us to humble ourselves.
     Yet we were convinced that
     it was not time to come back to you.
Then, you sent Jesus,
the Pascha of our salvation,
to come to us, to reveal your heart.

So with those who always keep an eye on you,
and with those who look around wondering
if anyone will notice their presence,
we rejoice in your gracious presence:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of all grace.
All creation sings loud songs to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who will come again.
Hosanna in the highest!

You are the One only holy God,
and Jesus Christ is the Brightness of your glory.
Looking around at all the places
where we had wandered,
     he came to bring us home to you.
Hearing our cries of loneliness,
     he came to be one of us,
     so we might all belong to him.
Seeing sin rejoicing in our suffering,
     he went to the cross
     on our behalf, dying
     and then being raised to new life.,
baffling death with your gracious love.

As we remember Christ's life and ministry,
as we rejoice in the hope which is ours in him,
we celebrate that mystery called faith:

Christ died, that we would know that sin is death;
he was raised, so we would know that new life is;
he will come again, in the same way he went into heaven.

In fulfillments of Christ's promise,
pour out your Spirit on us
and the gifts which grace your Table.
We eat the Bread of life
so we might be strengthened
     to spend ourselves so others
     might be made rich in your grace.
We drink deeply from the Cup,
knowing you thirst for self-surrender,
so we might offer ourselves
as a fountain of faith
to be poured out for the world,
     especially the we-forsaken
     who are all around us.

And at the Great Wedding Feast of the Lamb,
we will gather around your abundant table,
our sisters who suffered for you on one side
and our brothers who humbled themselves
to lift others to their feet,
we will join hands, hearts, and voices
in forever singing your glad praises,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

The hour has come to go into the world,
where our worship of God will continue
in every moment of our lives.
The hour has come to serve those around us,
to shoulder the burdens of our sisters,
to ease the pain of our brothers.
The hour has come to glorify God,
with our prayers as well as our praise,
with songs as well as acts of service.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Monday, May 11, 2020

Liturgy in a time of pandemic for May 17, 2020 (Easter 6 - A)

Texts: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

Call to Worship
Come to worship, people of God, with praises on your lips.
Even when we are feeling isolated and fearful,
we can glorify the One who holds our hands in our loneliness.
Come into the presence of the One who makes holy
every place, every space, holy and sacred.
Even where we continue to stay safe in our homes,
the doors of grace are flung wide open for us.
Come and hear the stories of the One who loves you.
In living rooms, on laptops and devices,
We will sing our songs and tell those tales
of the peace and of the hope which is ours.

Prayer of the Day
When it does not seem
to matter to many, Creator God,
we will dare to be your people,
  to love those the world
    would have us reject,
  to be just in the face
    of every reason to be cruel,
  to be unafraid
    of whatever awaits us.

When all the odds seem
stacked against us, Jesus our Savior,
we still dare to live as
your sisters and brothers,
  serving others
    even from the safety of our homes,
  sharing in the burdens
     of our neighbors,
  refusing to leave the lonely
    orphaned with no hope.

When the props are knocked
out from under us
by fears and worries, Faithful Spirit,
we dare to breathe
  joy upon those
    caught in the net of hopeless,
  peace into all
    the quavering hearts around us,
  wonder for all those
    who look for you but do not see.

In you, we dare to live and breathe and be,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as we are taught,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
What is our hope?  Simply put, it is that God has not abandoned us.  With such good news, we can dare to bring our prayers to the One who will not cast aside our words or our hearts.  Please join me as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We must tell you, God who knows us better than we think, how easy it is to put our trust in those who offer easy fixes, quick solutions, cures and tests and false hope in these days.  it is easier to believe the glib words of politicians, the conspiracies of all the theorists, rather than to those who are rational and based in science.  All too easily, we can buy into the notion that the economy is more important than safety, that jobs matter more than the lives of the most vulnerable, that our so-called rights trump the need to be a community of compassion and grace.
     Forgive us, God of mercy.  You are not found in political rhetoric, but in the child who holds our hand.  You are not a simple tweet, but the Word that can transform our very lives.  You are not a disembodied, constantly recalculating voice, but the One who calls us to life, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Despite everything we do, God loves us.  This is grace, pure and simple.  This grace is why, when everything says we should not, we can dare to hope.
We will witness to this grace with every breath we take, with every gift we offer, with every word we share with others.  Thanks be to God, we are forgiven.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Abandoned by hope, forsaken by others, left behind by those who said they loved them - there are orphans all around us, Holy God.  May the gifts we offer be a home, a family, a rest, a respite for them and all the others around us.  This we ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God who knows us be with you.
And with you.
Lift your hearts to the One who will not leave you stranded.
We offer ourselves to God who is always with us.
Bless God, all you who love the Lord.
We sing praises to the One who loves us.

You gathered that orphan, chaos,
into your heart, God of wonder,
and with a simple Word created a family:
     with horses munching meadow grasses,
     birds gliding gently on summer winds,
     snails, snakes, and tree-climbing squirrels.
Gathering up handfuls of dirt, you shaped us,
and with a simple breath, gave us life
so we might be with you in wonder,
     but we crawled out of our strollers
     and toddled off after temptation.
You did not panic, but sent prophets
to come to us and show us the way,
     but the smoke of our offerings to sin
     kept us from seeing them.
Refusing to leave us as orphans,
you sent your Child to us
to reveal your true Self.

With those who praise you every day,
with those who have lost all hope,
we would bring our songs to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God our joy.
All creation pays their vows to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who is our salvation.
Hosanna in the highest!

You cannot be contained by any human
imagining or endeavor, for you are the Holy God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ, is our hope in life.
When we could have been left
as orphans in sin's foster home,
     he came to reveal himself
     as our brother, our sister,
     our mother, our father.
When despair threatened
to take away all our strength,
     he came to plant hope
     deep within us.
When we thought death
was our last stop,
     he came to show us
     the Resurrection Way home.

As we remember the grace with which he loved us,
as we welcome the Comforter he sent to us,
we proclaim that mystery which is faith:

Christ died, doing what was right for us.
Christ was raised by the One who was in him.
Christ will come, just as the hope within us witnesses to us.

As your Spirit of truth comes in these moments
to transform the bread and the cup
and those gathered around the Table,
you show us how much you love us.
As we are strengthened by the broken Bread,
you would send us
     to plant hope in all the places
          where pessimism has taken root,
     to help love stand on the corners
          where hate's gangs hang out.
As you nourish us with the Cup,
you would have us
     take peace into the
          warzones of human hearts,
     bring healing to
          all the broken ones around us.

And when we gather around that Table of love,
with our sisters and brothers, with our enemies and friends
seated side by side, as we pass grace to one another,
we will join in forever singing your praises,
as we celebrate your being in us as we are in you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Wherever you are, continue to speak of what God has done.
We will remind everyone that, despite everything, God loves us.
Wherever you find yourself, continue to sing of what God is doing.
We will rejoice that God has not left us orphaned,
but makes us one with everyone around us.
Whenever you can, continue to imagine what God will do.
We will witness to that hope which seems to distant,
yet is as close to us as our hearts.

© 2020 Thom M. Shuman