Monday, December 28, 2020

A different road - a liturgy for Epiphany in a season of pandemic

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

Call to Worship

L: This past year, we found ourselves

on a different road,

P: yet we still look for that Baby

born long ago in Bethlehem.

L: This year, we are worshiping

in different ways,

P: yet we still look for that

Child of Christmas

who gifts the needy with hope,

who sets free the oppressed.

L: This year, we gather

in different places,

P: yet we still long to find

the One who has come for us,

even as we remain apart

from those we love so much.


Prayer of the Day

Shaper of stars

we know by name

and those we have numbered,

you call us to travel

different roads than

we expect:

to walk with the forgotten

down that road

which leads to justice,

and to follow them

rather than trying

to show them the way.


Bright morning star

of every morning,

you would illuminate

those new roads

you want us to travel:

the neighborhoods potholed

by poverty’s heavy trucks,

the communities where

the cries of the vulnerable

are drowned out by the shouts

of the wealthy at expensive gatherings.


Wisdom which can teach us

different ways of living,

of loving, of caring,

you would have us reach out

to those who have known only indifference,

and to open our eyes

to see the isolated and lonely

so we can gather them to our hearts.


In these times which seem

when we long to turn around

and go back to the way it used to be,

you call us to continue

to travel down different roads,

God in Community, Holy in One,

even as we pray, saying,

(The Lord’s Prayer)


Call to Reconciliation

We find it so easy to walk down the familiar roads of foolishness, turning our backs on those God would have us love, and ignoring the map God gives us.  As we speak of our choices, let us open our hearts to the One who offers us the hope and grace we seek, even if we don’t realize it.


Unison Prayer for Forgiveness,

   If we turned toward the Light you offer, Creator of stars, we would find the road you want us to travel.  But we are more comfortable on those shadowed streets of seduction we know all too well.  We can drive down the roads of rebellion with our eyes closed.  We continue to play hopscotch with hate and fear on the sidewalks placed along the paths of prejudice.

   Have mercy on us, Shaper of universes as well as our lives.  How foolish we are to continue to take the easy paths, rather than that road of justice, that road of hope, that road of forgiveness that are less traveled in these days.  May we be like those wise ones of so long ago, who found grace, salvation, and you by following that different road of faith which lead them to that Child called Jesus, who would guide them and the rest of us, from that moment on.  Amen. 


Silence is kept


Assurance of Pardon

L:  Open your eyes!  The Light has come to all of us, to each of us.  The Light of justice, the Light of love, the Light of life.

P:  This Light is not just for us, so we will carry it to everyone we meet, as we travel down the different road of faith in our lives.  Thanks be to God, we are forgiven! Amen!


Prayer of Dedication/Offering

We could take the high road of self-righteousness



Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

L:  May God be with you, Advent travelers!

P:  May God be with you, as well!

L:  Now in these moments, lift your hearts,

     all who found their way to Bethlehem.

P:  We bring them to the Child born,

     who has come to fill us with grace.

L:  Wise travelers, little children, everyone,

      join in singing praises to our God.

P:  we have followed the Star to hope,

     and will take a different road home,

     the road of mystery and faith.


L: Chaos had laid out a path for you,

God on unparalleled imagination,

but you chose a different road,

   paved with the bricks of beauty,

   lined with majestic oak trees,

   right next to rivers flowing into oceans.

This gift, which we call creation,

was given to provide light

out of the emptiness of temptation,

   but we continued to live

   in those shadows we found

    so appealing and comfortable.

you sent women and men to us,

those ordinary folks who spoke

of your steadfast love and hope,

   but we continued to trail behind

   temptation as it led us further from you.

since you knew we could not find

our way back to you on our own,

you sent Jesus to us,

your servant of salvation.


so, with the wise as well as the foolish,

with those who know the way by heart,

and those in need of road assistance,

we sing of your grace and love:


P: Holy, holy, holy are you, God of the vulnerable.

    All creation delights in praising you.

    Hosanna in the highest!


    Blessed is the One who gathers the isolated.

    Hosanna in the highest!


Though he knew the streets

of glory like the back of his hand,

though he had played hopscotch

on the sidewalks of eternity,

when in your holiness, God of grace,

you called him to become one of us,

Jesus was willing

   to become a prisoner of sin

   so we might be set free;

Jesus was willing

   to travel another road,

   going to Calvary, so

   we could run with abandon

   into your arms of grace.


So, as we celebrate his birth and love,

as we start down a different road called faith,

may we understand that mystery revealed through him:


P:  Christ came, the morning star of love;

     Christ died, the night star of salvation;

     Christ arose, the radiant star of resurrection;

     Christ will come again, the constellation of hope.


We have traveled different roads

than we expected this year,

Star Maker and Bread Baker,

yet we have all been led to this Table,

where you send down your Spirit

upon the gifts of life and grace

and all who have gathered wherever they are.

Hope was broken on the cross,

but like this bread, it gives us the strength

to travel different roads

   as we seek justice for those who have none,

   as we challenge power to listen to the voiceless,

   as we stand with those who are cast aside.

Grace was poured out in resurrection love

and through the gift of this gup, it refreshes us

so that we can go down different roads

   to share meals with strangers in our neighborhoods,

   to welcome the lonely as close family,

   to continue to distance ourselves, so that

      one day we can embrace each other.


And when our different roads lead us to you,

gathered around your feast of love,

with all we have missed and lost,

all who have been ignored and dismissed,

all our sisters and brothers

from every time and from every place,

we will join in songs of praise to you,

God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.



L: Now, let us go into the world with our God,

P: taking the different road of grace

     to bring hope to everyone.

L:  Now, let us go with Jesus to care for others,

P:  taking the different road of justice

     to bring healing and life to the forgotten.

L:  Now, let us go to bring the Spirit’s light

     into the shadowed corners of isolation and fear,

P:  taking the different road of faith and confidence

     to walk with those who feel so alone.


© 2020 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Liturgy with communion for December 27, 2020 (1st Sunday after Christmas - B)

 Texts: Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3; Psalm 148; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40

 Call to Worship
Praise the One who spoke and made everything!
Let the rivers ripple with joy;
let the mountains stomp their feet.
Praise the One who adopts all of us as children!
Let old folks tell familiar stories;
let little children swim with dolphins.
Praise God!
We will sing of God's glory;
we will shout our joy to the heavens.

Prayer of the Day
Creation's Father:
of all that you created and love,
you choose us to be your children;
of all the places
you could love,
you make us holy
by your Spirit's presence;
of all that you could offer to us,
you have given us Jesus.
Destiny's Child:
you came to clothe us
in salvation's finery;
you amazed the wisest
with your humility;
you know all the thoughts
we dare not share with anyone.
Spirit of Abba:
as we celebrate a Birth,
be born in us each day;
as we sing God's praises,
whisper the good news to our ears;
as we seek to be faithful to our calling,
lead us into the kingdom waiting for us.
God in Community, Holy in One,
hear us as we pray as we have been taught,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
It is easy to become slaves to our passions, it is harder to live as God's children. Let us confess the easy choices we have made, so God can strengthen us to be faithful sisters and brothers of Christ.  

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     Abba God: we know that given the chance, we rarely praise others. We are guided more by meanness than by your gentleness. And we are seldom wise enough to listen to your voice, preferring instead the sweet, sweet songs of sin.
     Forgive us, Heart of Heaven. Touch those inner places of hope and joy that they might become the gifts we can offer to those around us, as we seek to follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Hear the good news.  the time is now; the place is here: God has redeemed us from sin; God has claimed us as the children of Hope.
Praise God, all people, for life is given to us anew; eternity is our home.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
By these gifts, Gracious God, may those who have so little be clothed with your abundant grace; may the hungry be fed with food that strengthens them and hope which gives them new life; may all who are searching find that they are your beloved children.  In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen.
Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of Christmas Joy be with you.
And also with you.
Children of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the One who came to us in Bethlehem.
Children of Hope, give thanks to God.
We sing our songs of joy to the One who became one of us.

How can we keep from praising you,
Glory's Father?
You spoke,
and stars danced in the sky;
you whispered,
and snow fell gently in the night;
you sang,
and the Spirit
breathed life into us.
Yet, we allowed ourselves
to be guided by the Evil One,
being led into the wilderness of sin.
But you could not sleep,
tossing and turning in grief.
You sent the prophets
to adorn us with your grace,
but we ignored them.
Finally, with time almost running out,
you sent your most precious possession,
Jesus Christ, your Beloved Son.

So, with all creation echoing
the songs of angels,
we join in praising your name:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God who alone is exalted.
All creation rejoices in you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who would not keep silent.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Mighty God,
and blessed is your Son, Jesus Christ.
When we thought we could do no wrong,
he came to make us right;
when the world had forgotten us,
he called us by a new name;
when the time came,
he went to the cross,
that sin's slaves might be set free
and become your children.
As we celebrate his Birth,
and remember his death and resurrection,
we speak of that mystery we call faith:

By Christ, we are redeemed from sin;
by Christ, we are delivered from death;
by Christ, we are adopted as God's children.
Guiding Spirit,
as you moved over creation,
come to bless this bread and cup,
and your children gathering around this Table.
As we eat of the Bread of angels,
may we be nourished by your justice,
to bring hope to all people.
As we are filled with the Cup of grace,
may the seeds of righteousness
planted deep within us,
bloom that all creation can be made whole.
Then send us forth
not as slaves to sin,
but as servants of salvation
to those longing for new life.
Then, when the time comes,
and we are all gathered in heaven,
we will join hands and dance around your Table,
singing our praises to
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever.  Amen.

The God of creation goes with you now.
As we go to care for all that has been given to us.
The Child of Bethlehem goes with you now.
As we seek to serve with humility and hope.
The Spirit of Abba goes with you.
As we would show others how to find the kingdom.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Christmas Eve liturgy with communion

 Texts: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20

Call to Worship
L: With eyes wide open
and our ears on edge,
P: we look for shepherds
and listen for the songs of angels.
L: In the light of winter’s moon,
with the Southern Cross lighting the way,
P: we gather outside the door of a mystery,
wondering if we dare go enter.
L: With folks and friends we love,
with strangers we have just met,
P: we gather, becoming the holy family
for this time and in this place.
Christmas Eve Prayer
Now in the silence,
whisper of joy which comes
into every life.
Now in the comfort of carols,
sing of hope which
takes away the despair
which envelops us.
Now in familiar words heard anew,
speak to us of grace
which is born into barren lives,
of peace which is birthed
in war’s shadowed fears.
Now leaning next to those
who have always been a part of us,
and those from whom we have been apart,
remind us of your heart
which always accepts us,
always welcomes us.
Now in the love which is ours forever,
draw us closer to your heart,
so we can be surprised by wonder,
swaddled in serenity,
embraced by tenderness.
Now touch us once again with Christmas,
God in Community, Holy in One,
as we join in praying as we are taught,
(The Lord’s Prayer)
Call to Reconciliation
This is the night we are reminded that God loves to be with us. Yet all too often – by our choices, our words, our silence – we choose not to be with Go. Join me as we pray on this holy night to the One who was born to gift us with mercy and hope.
Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
This was going to be the year, God of silent nights, when we were going to give away more than we spent, but we didn’t. This was going to be the season when we spent more time with others, but we filled our calendars with meetings. This was going to be the Christmas when we wrote personal letters to friends and family, but spent too much energy filling out our to-do lists. This was going to be a truly holy season, but it just got to harried and hurried.
Forgive us, Love Gifter, and draw us closer to the Baby born not into wealth and power, but into poverty and weakness; to the One who loves unconditionally and welcomes all; to the Child who gathers other children to him, to bless them and serve them; to the One who drew near to us, so we might be drawn to your heart – Jesus Christ, our Brother, our Lord.
Silence is kept
Assurance of Pardon
L: Into the valleys of our death, Jesus comes with life;
into the shadows of our world, Jesus brings light;
into the brokenness of our lives, Jesus brings forgiveness and peace.
P: Thanks be to God for the gift of the Baby of Bethlehem, who brings joy and peace to us in these moments of forgiveness and in all the days to come. Amen.
Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Now, on this night of giftedness, remind us of those who struggle to put food on the table, to buy a single gift for their child, to wrap a warm blanket around a grandparent, so we might realize how blessed we are and share from our abundance. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L: May the God of silent nights be with you!
P: May the God of herald angels be with you!
L: Open your hearts to the One born in the little town of Bethlehem.
P: May Emmanuel come to abide in our hearts.
L: Join all believers in singing of our joy this night.
P: May our voices blend with those of the angels and shepherds.
L: You crept into chaos so long ago,
so creation might be born:
sheep gathering on hillsides,
stars glittering in the night skies,
sea horses frolicking in warm waters.
Silently, you gathered up the dust,
shaping us in your image
as the Spirit breathed life into us.
All the gifts of your heart were for us,
but we slammed the door of our hearts,
saying there was no room for you in our lives.
Prophets came time and again,
scattering your clues throughout the Story,
but we were too busy enjoying
the sleights of hand done by sin and death.
When you saw we could not
understand the Mystery on our own,
you sent Jesus, to reveal everything to us.
As we gather with children dressed in bathrobes,
as we join with the voices around us,
we sing praises to you this Christmas night:
P: We will not be afraid,
for great joy is ours this night;
we will look for the signs of your presence,
grace swaddled in hope,
love wrapped around broken hearts.
L: Glory to you, God in the highest heavens!
May peace fill the lives of all your children!
Leaving your side, God of holiness,
your Child came to walk with us
through the cold streets of our lives.
Born in poverty’s shadows,
he is the light which illumines
your heart for us.
Unwrapped from glory’s embrace,
he gathers us from all the corners
of our confused choices to make us one with you.
Placed in a rude feeding trough
layered with our fears and doubts,
he breathes in your hopes
and lives your will, until
he is placed in death’s cold embrace,
waiting in the silence,
where he breathes in resurrection’s breath,
and brings forth life for all who follow.
On this night, when we sing of the baby in the manger,
as the shadow of the cross is cast by the stars,
we proclaim that mystery called incarnation:
P: Christ is our light,
and we will join the angels in singing the good news;
Christ is our life,
and we will join the disciples in telling the Story;
Christ is our promise,
and we wait for the joy of his return.
L: Here in the silence and the singing,
with children, carols, and candlelight,
we gather around the Table of joy,
as you pour out your Spirit upon
the most precious gifts of bread and cup.
As we feast upon the bread,
we remember a young pregnant girl,
and would serve those who are expecting,
those who cannot have a child,
those who have lost children.
As we drink from the cup,
we think of a worried father,
and would be with those who assemble toys this night,
as well as those who will work this night
to pay for food and medicine for their families.
As we are surrounded by family and friends,
we would care for
those whose closest companion is loneliness,
those separated from loved ones,
those who hear no music, joy, or hope in their lives.
And when all time and history becomes silence,
we will be gathered with our sisters and brothers
from Bethlehem and Belfast, from Cairo and Chicago,
from Capetown and Istanbul, from Sydney and Shanghai,
from every corner and moment of every universe,
to join the angel choirs in forever singing your praises
as we dance to the Table of wonder and grace,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.
L: Let us go to be the gift another needs,
P: sharing God’s blessings of love and grace,
running to tell the Story we heard from the shepherds.
L: Let us go to be the comfort which can swaddle others,
P: sharing Jesus’ compassion with the poor and needy,
welcoming the holiness offered by the most vulnerable we meet.
L: Let us go to kindle the lives around us,
P: sharing the Spirit’s peace with all the broken,
learning the language of hope from the children in our midst.
© Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Liturgy w/communion for December 13, 2020 (Advent 3 - B)

 Texts: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

Call to Worship
When God restores our fortune,
our dreams will come true.
We will sing "Glory!" to our God;
we will rejoice in our Savior's birth.
Our mouths shall be filled with laughter;
joy shall chime from our lips.
God has made it clear:
those who serve are God's children.
Then we will proclaim:
'look what the Lord has done':
so others will know beyond any doubt
how the Holy One has blessed us with hope.
We wept  -  now we will cheer "Joy!  Joy!"
We were lost - now we will run home laughing.
For God has picked us up where we fell;
God has kept the promises made so long ago.

Prayer of the Day 

Lover of justice:
you flex your righteousness,
   and scatter evil to the wind;
you plant hope in our hearts
   and reap a bumper crop;
you wipe away the tears 
from our eyes,
   and anoint us with joy's oil.

Servant of God:
you bandage our souls
   as you take our wounds upon yourself;
you set us free from sin,
   by being bound to the cross;
you console the grieving,
   by carrying death
   to its resting place.

Spirit of Passion:
when sin strips us of life,
   clothe us in salvation's finery;
when we are deafened
by the peddlers of fear,
   whisper the Good News to us;
when we shiver in death's winter,
   wrap us in the shawl of hope.

God in Community, Holy in One,
anoint us with your grace,
even as we pray as Jesus teaches us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
God's promise to us is eternal.  God wishes to bless us with hope, with joy, with life.  But our desires lead us to reject God and these blessings.  Let us confess how too often we choose the path of tears, rather than the joy which can lead us to God's heart.

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness 
   We try not to do any evil, Anointing God, but it is so hard to let go of those little things we enjoy - gossiping about the pregnant girl in the neighborhood; making light of the accomplishments of a co-worker; daydreaming about someone else's partner.
   Forgive us, Loving God.  You have freely given us salvation, yet we act as if we are the ones who paid for it.  Help us to rejoice always in your grace, and to give thanks in every moment for that life we receive through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept    
Assurance of Pardon
Go, and take God's Good News to others:
   to those held captive by sin;
   to those cradling broken hearts;
   to those grieving lost relationships.
God forgives us all and makes us new.
Even as we rejoice in God's mercy, we will tell everyone we meet, "God has done such wondrous things for us, and wants to do the same for you!"  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May the gifts we offer in these moments be light for those in the shadows of society, be food for those who hunger, refreshment for those parched by life, and hope for all who cry out to you, O God.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of peace be with you.
And also with you.
May the Prince of peace fill your hearts.
We open them to the healing and hope offered in these moments.
May the Spirit of peace teach you new songs of joy.
We will learn them, so we can sing without ceasing.

Creation took place in chaos,
Gardener of glory,
as you spoke of life and beauty
and your Spirit anointed with
   food enough to feed the hungry,
   stars scattered over desert skies,
   seeds of hope growing into forests of justice.
You offered all these gifts 
to those created in your image,
inviting us to live with you,
   but we only gave answers
   to the foolish questions of sin and death.
Time and again, you sent prophets,
women and men anointed by the Spirit,
   yet we despised their words,
   believing their voices to be hollow.
Then, so your mercy might stretch
from age to every age,
you sent Jesus into our midst,
the sign of your grace which never ends.

As we gather for your feast this day,
as we would be bathed in joy's oil,
praises tumble out from our hearts:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of the everlasting covenant.
All creation sings gladness to you.
Glory to God in the highest!

Blessed is the Lover of justice who comes to us.
Hosanna in the highest!

Your holiness took place in humanity,
God who sees us for who we are,
as your Child was born into poverty.
Your word of love,
   he came to speak hope to the oppressed,
   not tell them to wait patiently.
Your anointing oil of life,
   he came to heal our wounds,
   not to pick at the scabs.
Your incomparable compassion,
   he came to wipe our tears,
   not to make us grieve.
Your repairer of our brokenness,
   he came to knock down
   the walls of death,
rebuilding them into the bridge
we cross to resurrection love.

As we draw closer to the celebration of his birth,
as we long to follow Jesus beyond Bethlehem,
we proclaim that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, to scatter the arrogance of death;
Christ was raised, picking up resurrection and
   carrying it into the new dawn;
Christ will return, as your love stretches
   to the end of time.

Life takes place here and now,
as you pour out your Spirit
upon those gathered around the Table,
and on the gifts prepared for the meal.
The bread which is broken,
not only feeds us, but gives us the compassion
to hear the voices of those crying
   in the wilderness of want,
   in the deserts of despair,
   in the forests of fear,
   in the hollowness of hate.
The cup of grace touches us 
so we will not douse the Spirit, but be
   voices of justice,
   repairers of poverty's potholes,
   lock-pickers of addiction's cells,
   weavers of garments of kindness.

And when you gather us with our sisters
and brothers at the end of time,
we will be fed by your gifts
as we rejoice without ceasing,
praising you forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

The God who makes everything whole,
sends us forth to bring healing to the broken-hearted
and to comfort the mourners in our midst.
The Christ who comes to be with us,
sends us forth to stand with the oppressed,
to release those held captive by sin,
to invite the lonely into our lives.
The Spirit who calls you to faithfulness,
sends us forth to proclaim the gospel
that today is God's moment,
the day when all people will be blessed.

(c) Thom M. Shuman