Sunday, November 20, 2022

Liturgy w/communion for November 27, 2022 (Advent 1 - A)

 Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

Call to Worship
We may not know when,
but you are coming to us,
grace overflowing from your heart, O God.
We may not know who,
but your hope will be shared
by the least likely people, Friend of the poor.
We may not know how,
but your peace will transform
our angry words into warm welcomes,
our bitterness into cups of love, Spirit of Joy.

Prayer of the Day
In the days to come,
may we work to establish justice
   in all the places of oppression;
may we learn to set aside our differences,
   like little children on a playground
   meeting those who have just moved in;
may we awaken from our apathy,
   to discover the wonder offered to us
   by those we do not recognize as family.
Then we will find ourselves standing
within the gates of your grace, Approaching God.

In the days to come,
may we be alert to the opportunities
   we will have to welcome the stranger;
may we keep our eyes open
   for the chances to offer hope to the despairing;
may we expect to find you
   in every person we meet,
   in every place we go.
Then we will find ourselves standing
within the gates of your love, Babe of Bethlehem.

In the days to come,
may we discover that fear has fled
   as your hope draws ever near;
may we lay aside the shadows of our doubts,
   and put on the shawl of grace;
may we go take all the weapons
crafted from our fears, our anger, our regrets,
   and transform them into generous gifts
   of hope and life for all around us.
Then we will find ourselves standing
within the gates of your peace, Spirit of gentleness.

In the days to come, may we find ourselves
standing within the gates of your heart,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray the prayer of your Child,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We may not know the time, but our every moment is held in God’s hands.  We may not do and say what we should or could, but God offers us words of forgiveness.  Join me as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   Sometimes it is hard for us to take you seriously, God of our lives.  With variants still stalking us, how can we think of traveling and being in crowds?  With bullies being given unlimited access on social media, why shouldn't we respond with anger and vindictive slights?  With our hopes turned to ashes, how can we become beacons of light for those in the shadows?
   Forgive us, God of holy seasons, and have mercy.  In the days to come, may we discover the grace which has always been ours, so we can share it with others.  May we taste the sweet goodness of your love, and feed those around us.  May we be filled with the peace of your Spirit, so we may expect you to come in those we least expect, in places which surprise us, in moments we overlook, just as you did in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept 

Assurance of Pardon
Reach out and touch the kingdom, for it is right next to you.  Breathe in, and feel the Spirit of peace and hope.  Trust and believe this good news: God is nearer than you might ever imagine.
Thanks be to God, we are forgiven!  We can set aside our differences and embrace everyone, we can seek peace for all in our lives, our neighborhoods, our world.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication
Our gifts seem so insignificant considering the need, so paltry when we look at the brokenness around us.  But in the days to come, you promise to take them so that others might be fed, clothed, housed, and embraced in your grace and hope.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the Approaching God be with you.
And also with you.
In the days to come, People of God,
offer your hearts to the One who comes near.
We will lay aside all that keeps us from
opening ourselves to God.
Now is the time to sing praises to the One who loves us.
We offer our thanksgiving to God,
as we find ourselves standing within the gates of Advent.

You spoke of the days to come, Architect of life,
   when anthills would erupt from dirt,
   when cattle would gather under shade trees,
   when cats would nurture little children,
   when chaos would be transformed into creation,
and we stood within your garden of goodness.
All this beauty, all the wonder, was offered
so, we might walk in your light,
   but we preferred the shadows of sin,
   opening our hearts so that thief, death,
   could come and steal us away from you.
You sent the prophets to us,
urging us to lay aside our foolishness,
   but we continued to put on
   the armor of apathy and anger
   so, we could rebel against you.
Finally, when no one expected,
you came, not in power but poverty,
a crying baby born to nobodies.

With those who worry about your return,
with those who have forgotten to tell time,
we sing of your praises:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of the welcoming heart.
All creation sings of your great love.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes when we least expect.
Hosanna in the highest!

In the days to come, God of life,
may we be reminded of your holiness,
and the blessing of your Child, Jesus.
When we fear what lies over the horizon,
   he comes, arms filled with grace.
When worries fall like leaves on our lives,
   he stands on the front porch,
   arm in arm with hope.
When the rumblings of angry rhetoric
waken us in the night,
   he lullabies us with songs of your love.
When sin would lock us away
in the shadows of death,   
   he comes like a thief in the night,
   to steal our hearts back for you.

As we begin our journey to Bethlehem,
as we seek to be alert and awake,
we would proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ died, seeking the good for all;
Christ was raised, putting on resurrection’s love;
Christ will come, precisely when we least expect him.

Now, pour out your Spirit upon
the gifts of the bread and the cup
and on those gathered in these moments.
Feed us with the bread which is broken,
so, in the days to come, we may
   bring healing to the shattered,
   embrace the lonely,
   invite strangers to our family feasts.
Pour the grace of the cup into us,
so, in the days to come, we may
   wrap others in warm coats,
   lay aside our differences,
   walk with others in the light of justice.

And when you come when we least expect,
to bring all history to an end,
gather us around the Table of joy,
where we will join our siblings
of every place and time in forever praising you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen

We may not know when, but we will go,
to bring God’s grace to our broken world.
We may not know who, yet we will go,
to receive Jesus’ hope from those
we are uncomfortable being around.  
We may not know how, so we will go,
to share the Spirit’s peace
in the most unusual places.

© Thom M. Shuman