Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Liturgy for Fourth Sunday in Lent in a time of pandemic (March 14, 2021)

Texts:  Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

Call to Worship
L: Taking part safely from home,
staying a safe, masked distance in church,
we are reminded of that promise:
P: God's love endures forever!
L: Despite our pandemic fatigue,
in spite of the grumbling it inspires:
P: the Light of Christ shines in our lives!
L: Unable to sing together (or to shy to sing alone),
when we wonder if we have
the energy to continue to care for others,
P: we are taught new songs by the Spirit,
who encourages us to not give up!

Prayer of the Day
For far too long,
fear has coiled itself
around our hearts,
slowly trying to squeeze out
all our love and compassion,
but you release its grip on us,
and wrap us in a
comforting shawl of grace.
Good and Generous God,
we give you thanks!

We see worries slowly crawling
toward us, slowly rattling
their tails with all which overwhelms,
but you pick them up
and set them free in
the wilderness of forgetfulness,
as you take us by the hand
leading us to the table of hope,
where we can join our
sisters and brothers.
Healing Word:
we give you thanks!

We are tempted to believe
that the end of this uncertain season
has come to an end, and
when can jump back into life
without any thought or concern.
You put your hand upon us,
to calm our too-eager impulses,
so we can remember those
still waiting for their vaccinations,
still waiting for schools to open,
still waiting for jobs to come back.
Spirit of Srenity,
we give you thanks.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we give you thanks for your presence,
even as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
After the year we have had, how can we not be impatient, chomping at the bit to return to the way life was before the pandemic.  But our God, who has been with us, reminds us to think of how this time can be used to transform us into the people we are meant to be.  Let us open ourselves to the One who overflows with love for us, as we confess our impatience to God.

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     It has been easier these last few months to be embraced by the shadows, Creating God.  Those worries that tap each night at the windows of our souls.  Those fears which follow us around like stray kittens looking for a meal.  Those doubts that you have not been with us as much as we have been told.  
Forgive us, Eternal Love,
    may the Light of the world
      lead us out of these shadows,
    may you raise us up, as your family,
       so we may go to knell by the side of the forgotten;
    may we be showered with your hope, your grace, your peace
       which has been given to us through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. 

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
L: Let those worshiping at hope say so:
P: God's love endures forever!
L: Let those safely gathered in sanctuaries say so:
P: God's love endures forever!
L: Let those scattered in all places say so:
P: God's love endures forever!
L: This is the good news for us:
P: God's love endures forever.
Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
wherever we are, however we can, may the gifts we offer in these days, bring hope to those who hunger for justice, bring healing to the grieving, bring community to those so alone in these moments.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L: May the God of uncertain times be with us.
P: May we feel God’s presence in every moment.
L: Wherever we are, may we lift our hearts to God.
P: God will fill the emptiness of our hearts and hopes.
L: Even now, in days when alleluias have disappeared,
let us sing thanksgiving to our God.
P: We sing joy, life, and peace to our God. 
L: There into the emptiness of creation

You planted the seeds of creation,
God of that first moment,
   bringing forth the beauty of daffodils,
   shining the warmth of the sun on all,
   teaching birds the songs to dispel winter.
you set out be way of creation
All was offered to those created in your image
but in our impatience,
   we dashed your dreams as we chased after
   death and its false promises.
Over the ages, you sent those women and men
to bring the words of healing,
    but we chose to listen to the siren songs
    of seduction every time.
So then you sent your Child,
to bring us from our pandemic of foolishness,
and to gather us home.

With those who are rich in your mercy,
with those who long to draw near to you,
let your redeemed sing your praises:

P: Holy, Holy, holy are you, Steadfast Love.
Your praises are sung from every corner of creation.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to save everyone and everything.
Hosanna in the highest! 

L: Into the emptiness of a people
whose hopes had been disappointed,
you came to them, God of wonder,
bring them life by becoming human.
As they lived in a time of oppression,
   Jesus came to offer them freedom,
as they lived in great uncertainty,
   Jesus came to remind them of your presence,
as they struggled to remain faithful,
   Jesus showed them the path of discipleship,
as they wondered if anything
lay beyond the death which awaited,
    Jesus went into the grave to break its power,
    your weakness becoming Resurrection strength.

As we remember his journey to the cross,
as we celebrate Jesus being raised from the grave,
we speak of that mystery that by grace we are saved:

P: Christ died, calling us back to you;
Christ was raised, so all the world might be saved;
Christ will come, lifting us up to bring us to you. 

L: Now, into the emptiness of our uncertainty,
take these gifts of bread and cup
and pour out your Spirit upon them
and those gathered together
as well as those eating the meal alone.
Though broken, your grace enables
the bread to strengthen us
   to live through these days,
   to care for others as much as ourselves,
   to remember all forgotten by so many.
Though simply a cup filled with liquid,
your peace transforms it
   into the healing we can bring the broken,
   the justice we can bring the oppressed,
   the hope we can share with those who struggle.

And when, by your grace, we are gathered
from north and south, and from east and west,
not by anything we have done, but by your love,
we will join our sisters and brothers,
the saints and sinners, the complainers and the committed,
in singing our songs of thanksgiving to you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

L: Wherever you are, whoever you are,
never forget you are God’s community.
P: Share God's enduring love this week!
L: Whoever you are, wherever you might be,
know always that Christ is alive in you.
P: Share Christ’s enduring light
into the shadows of uncertainty this week!
L: Now in this moment, and in every moment to come,
remember you are gifted by the Spirit.
P: Share those gifts of grace, of hope,
of justice, of peace with everyone you meet this week!
© 2021 Thom M. Shuman