Sunday, February 25, 2024

Liturgy w/communion for March 3, 2024 (Lent 3 - B)

 Texts: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

Call to Worship
The morning stars profess God's glory:
the waking birds harmonize a refrain of grace.
The sun warms us with God's hope,
the night sky whispers peace to our sleepy souls:
creation's voice echoes continually in our hearts,
reminding us of God's steadfast love.

Our wisdom is shattered by God's absurd love;
God's vulnerability strengthens our feeble faith:
God's words place joy in our hearts;
we follow them to peace and hope.

Prayer of the Day

You saw your children
as slaves in Egypt,
and brought them to freedom;
you see creation
held captive by our desire
for more and more,
and weep;
and so you pour out
your foolish love on us
from day to day.

All that we have learned
and think we know
has not brought meaning
to our lives;
the brokenness
of our world
needs your peace;
our pain-shattered hearts
need your healing:
and so you speak to us
through the mouth
of your Servant, Jesus.

All creation weeps
with grief,
and cries to you for comfort;
all the broken of our world
long for your wholeness;
all who hunger for hope
long for the sweetness
of your grace and joy;
and so you fill us with
the Wisdom of your Spirit.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we tell of your glory from day to day,
even as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
At the center of the law is God's love  -  that divine nonsense shown in becoming human for our sake; that weakness for us which defeats the strongest powers.  This love, this grace is of more value to us than all the stocks in our pension funds.  Let us open ourselves to such love as we open our hearts to confess our sins to God.

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     You give us your commandments, Holy One, so we may have new life, but we continue to make the same old choices.  Your love can anchor us when life threatens to overwhelm us, but we choose to cling to the slippery rocks of anger and bitterness.  Your Word can strengthen us for every moment, but we listen to the foolish promises of the world.
     Forgive us, Redeemer of our lives: may every word be shaped by your Word; may every thought be refined by your grace; may every deed be inspired by your Spirit, so we may tell everyone we meet of your work in us, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
When brokenhearted prayers replace piety, when we seek wholeness through the One broken for us, then we remember we are saved by God's powerful love.
We are healed, to bring healing to our world;
we are strengthened in faith,
     to become spent for others;
we are set free from our bondage to sin,
     so we may become servants of Christ.
Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Make us foolish enough in our generosity, O God, that we might become wise enough to know that our gifts will bless others - the hungry, the lonely, the searching, the weak.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of holy words be with you.
May the Meditation of our hearts be with you.
People of God, open yourselves to the One who is your rock.
God fills us with foolishness, so we may be wise.
Children of God, sing songs of thanksgiving with all creation.
Our voices are lifted to the One who makes all things.

You spoke those words of creation,
God of faithfulness, and
   set the sun to run its daily course,
   filled the seas with imaginative creatures,
   planted fruits and vegetables in the earth.
All that is good and generous was intended
for your children shaped in your image,
   but we bore false witness against you,
   honoring sin and death more than you.
The prophets came to warn against our foolishness,
but we did not find their words acceptable,
   and continued to covet everything
   which did not belong to us.
So you sent your Child to us,
so we might find strength in his weakness,
we might find glory through his humiliation.

With those who have great faith,
with those who have very little,
we sing our thanksgivings to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of mountaintops.
The heavens join all creation to tell of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who is foolish for our sake.
Hosanna in the highest!

Day to day, you are holy, our God,
and Jesus Christ declares your wisdom to us.
The Word of your mouth,
   he came, to tell us of your work
   of grace and hope.
The Meditation of your heart,
   he came, to quiet our frantic spirits
   so we might rest in you.
Your foolishness,
   he was wise enough
   to take our sins to the cross.
Your weakness,
   he was strong enough
   to endure death for us,
until you brought him out of the grave.

As we remember his zeal for your heart,
as we remember his passion for us,
we would speak of that mystery we know as faith:

Christ died, the rock which broke sin's power;
Christ was raised, death conquered by our redeemer;
Christ will return, desiring us more than anything in all creation.

Here at this Table, God of love,
we set aside our power to feast
on the weakness found in the broken bread;
we let go of our wisdom,
to drink from the cup of your foolish grace.
Your Spirit blesses these gifts, as well as us,
so when we have feasted,
we will look at the world with its
injustices, oppressions, wars, and fears,
saying, 'take these things out of here!
Stop making God's creation a house of horrors!'

And when the sun has finished its course,
when the moon and stars shine no more,
we will be given the words from your mouth
so we can sing from the deeps of our hearts to you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

God speaks, and sends us forth.
We will go to proclaim God's grace and glory.
Jesus speaks, and lives are changed.
We will go to set free the oppressed,
to be the voice for those never heard.
The Spirit speaks, and the world is turned inside out.
We will become as foolish as a trusting child,
as powerless as those overlooked by everyone around them.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Liturgy w/communion for February 25, 2024 (Lent 2 - B)

 Texts: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38

Call to Worship
Lent calls us to journey, this and every day,
following Jesus wherever he leads us.

Lent calls us to journey:
to the place where God covenants with us,
to receive the new names we are given.

Lent calls us to worship together,
to tell future generations the good news.

Lent calls us to practice justice,
to bring God's hope to all people.

Lent calls us to faithful living,
to trust the One who gives us life.

Lent calls each of us to take up our cross,
to trust the One who bears it with us.

Lent calls us to journey with God.

Let us worship God, who walks with us,
this and every day.

Prayer of the Day

Choosing an aged, barren couple
to parent your holy people;
calling us to set aside ourselves
and to shoulder a cross;
showering us with love and mercy,
when we do nothing to deserve these gifts:
You always act in ways
which surprise us,
God of our parents.

In hospital rooms,
where we wait in anxious expectation;
in classrooms,
where we chew on pencils while taking tests;
in this unholy mess
we call life:
you always call us
to faithfulness and trust:
Cross Bearer for us all.

In the warmth of spring's approach,
we hear your voice;
in the moonlight of winter's last night,
we see your face;
in the silence of a child sleeping,
we are breathe in your grace:
you are always with us
in the ordinary moments of life:
Spirit of Holiness.

God in Community, Holy in One,
May we see you, hear you, and know you
as we move through this Lenten season,
even as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Given a test on our faith, would we have a passing grade?  Looking at our lives of discipleship, would we be considered good models for others?  When we fail to trust God, we discover that we do indeed lead barren lives.  Let us be honest as we stand before our God, and bring our confessions for forgiveness and hope.

Unison Prayer of Confession
  God of Sarah and Abraham, in this holy place, we know how weak is our discipleship.  We can spend hours at the computer, but only give you fleeting moments of our time.  We can talk endlessly on our cell phones, but fall silent when it comes to sharing our fears, our worries, our hopes with you.  We seek quick fixes for our problems, rather than seeking your vision and future for our lives.
   God of Peter, Paul, and the psalmist, forgive us:
      for our lack of trust;
      for our faithless living;
      for our closing our ears to the call of Jesus.
Forgive us, so we may lay aside all the keeps us from you, so we may take up the life you offer to us, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
This is the good news:  God does not go back on the promises made so long ago.  God does not reject us, God redeems us.  God does not withhold love, God pours it into our barren lives.
Forgiven of our sins, filled with hope, living in relationship with God and one another - we are a new people.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May these gifts represent our willingness to deny ourselves, so others might be blessed by your grace, your peace, as well as your hope, in every moment of their lives.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
The God of the Lenten journey be with you.
And also with you.
Open your hearts to God, heirs of the covenant.
We open them to the One who fills them with promise.
Let us lift glad songs to our exceedingly faithful God.
Our praise will resound in this great congregation.

"Walk before me," you whispered
to creation, God of the covenant,
and wonders beyond imagination sprang forth:
  bees flitting from flower to hive,
  planets spun from the gases of space,
  dinosaurs plodding through forests.
All this exceeding fruitfulness was offered
to those you shaped in your image,
that we might live in relationship with you,
  but sin's praises weakened our faith,
  and we stood in awe of death.
Prophets came, calling us to set
our minds on all things divine,
  but we turned a deaf ear
  to their impassioned pleadings.
So you chose to send Jesus
to teach us your heart
by the way he lived and loved.

With those who find self-denial easy,
with those who find their cross too heavy,
we glorify you in these moments:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God who calls us by new names.
All creation praises your surpassing wonders.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to us for our sake.
Hosanna in the highest!

You are holy, God of every promise,
and we are blessed by your Son, Jesus Christ.
He did not act as if
he had no use for us,
  but called us his sisters and brothers.
He was not grossed out
by those sins which tormented us,
  but came to heal us.
He did not turn
a deaf ear to us,
  but listened to us in a way
  no one else ever did.
He rebuked death, declaring,
"get behind me,"
  as he walked out
  into resurrection's dawn.

As we remember Jesus' ministry and death,
as we would seek to live for him,
we proclaim that mystery we know as faith:

Christ died, taking up his cross and following God;
Christ was raised, the covenant promise fulfilled;
Christ will come, declaring "God has done it!"

Because our faith depends on your grace,
pour out your Spirit upon this feast
and those you welcome to the Table.
As you nourish us with broken bread,
send us forth
  to feed the poor until they are filled,
  to clothe the naked until they are warm.
As you strengthen us
with the cup of grace,
  we will take the hand of searchers
    so, together, we may find you;
  we will welcome those rebuked
    by the world, so our hearts
    might live forever.

And when you gather your great
congregation around the Lamb's Table,
we will join our voices in proclaiming,
"You have done it,
God in Community, Holy in One!" Amen.

Go now with God, on your journey through Lent.
We will discover the new name given to each one we meet.
Go now with Jesus, walking wherever he leads.
We will put all our fears, as well as our longings, behind us.
Go now with the Spirit, who is always full of surprises.
We will share the good news called Jesus with everyone.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Monday, February 12, 2024

Liturgy w/communion for February 18, 2024 (First Sunday in Lent - B)

 Texts:  Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15

Call to Worship
Here, at the outer limits of Lent,
we are called to walk:
to the paper-thin edges which cut us
      to the soul;
to the workplaces which weary us;
to the people who confuse us;
to the faith which threatens us.
Here, at the corner of Steadfast Love
and Faithfulness, we are called to wait:
when our clenched stomachs awaken us;
in the moments of unbearable sorrow;
with the angels who would carry us.

Here, where time is fulfilled,
where God's Kingdom is as near to us
as our neighbor, we begin Lent:
with the Beloved, whose tears wash away
     our fears,
with the God who will not let go
     of our hands.

Prayer of the Day
You love us, O God.
Like a mother
who upholds her son through
the temper tantrums,
the ball-broken windows,
the smart-alecky remarks:
you love us, O God.
Like a father
who walks his daughter through
the terrible twos,
the giggling fours,
the confusion and chaos of adolescence:
you love us, O God!

You give to us, Holy Brother.
In the tears crevassing our cheeks,
in the depths of our sighing;
in moments of exquisite joy
and the lingering days of loneliness:
you give to us - yourself.
In the chorales of morning birds,
in the silent prayers of our hearts;
in a night sky splattered with stars,
in a cross stained with blood and tears:
you give to us - yourself.

You dance with us, Gentle Spirit.
In baptismal waters soaking our knees,
when desert dust chokes our hymns:
you dance with us, Gentle Spirit.
in jail cells and courtrooms,
on the journey to death,
and striding forth from the tomb:
you dance with us, Gentle Spirit.

God in Community, Holy in One,
in any season, but especially in this Holy Season,
you love us, you give yourself to us, you dance with us;
and so we lift the prayers Jesus has taught to us, saying,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
God looks at the most broken soul and sees an angel aching to take flight.  God sees our worst faults and washes them away in the waters of life.  God hears our prayers of confession, and whispers sweet grace in our hearts.  Let us pray together as we say,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
    the silly sins of childhood,
    the exuberant sins of adolescence,
    the faded sins of aging;
    the sins we shout in the streets,
    the sins we whisper to ourselves;
    the sins we didn't give a second thought to,
    the sins we plot in the middle of the night;
    the flood of sins which threaten us,
    the wilderness of sin which we offer to others,
    the sin which seeks to imprison us:

Forgive us, Good and Gentle God,
forgive us and have mercy on us,
so we might walk the path of faithfulness
with Jesus, to Jerusalem and beyond,
so we might know your steadfast love in our lives.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
What can sustain us in the days to come, what will nourish us on our Lenten journey?
Look, here is all the food we need: God's Love, God's Word, God's Hope.
Through the wilderness and into the kingdom of life, we are given daily bread for every day of the journey.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.
Prayer of Dedication/Offering
As for us, Holy God, we offer our gifts to bring healing to the broken, hope to those in despair, light to those in shadows, and grace for all your people.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the Lord of Lent be with you.
And also with you.
People of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the One who calls us 'Beloved.'
Beloved of God, give thanks and praise to the One who loves you forever.
We sing our hymns of joy to the One who leads us into the kingdom.

Hearts full of joy are lifted to you,
Crafter of Covenants.
When there was no time as we knew it,
you created Day and Night,
so we could wait for you all day long,
enjoying your grace and goodness.
   But instead of learning your ways,
   we listened to the seductive whispers of the Evil One,
   and wandered into the wilderness of rebellion and sin.
Remembering the promises
made so long ago to our ancestors,
you sent the prophets to teach us
and to show us your paths to hope,
   but we ignored their witness and their words.
Yet, you would not see us left in death's desert,
and so sent the One who could lead us back to you.

Therefore, we lift our voices
with the faithful of every time and place,
and the choirs of the kingdom,
who forever sing of your goodness and love:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God our Teacher.
All creation trusts in you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who leads us in truth.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God of Faithfulness,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Steadfast Love.
In those days,
he could have remained by your side,
   but came to be by ours;
in those days,
he could have feasted on your glory,
   but came to eat and drink with sinners;
in those days,
he could have remained whole and pure,
   but died broken on a sin-stained cross,
   that we might have
   all the days of eternity with you.

As we begin that journey to Jerusalem
which will test our faith
and offer us opportunities to serve,
we remember the life, the death,
the resurrection of the One we follow.

Jesus was baptized, the Spirit resting on  him;
Jesus died, resisting the temptation to reject God;
Jesus was raised, fulfilling the time to defeat death;
Jesus will come, to fulfill God’s time for all of us.

On this day, and in this place,
God of Mystery,
pour out your Holy Spirit up us
and upon the bread we break
and the cup we share.
Through these gifts,
make us one with the Risen Christ,
and send us forth to serve the world.
Set free by the goodness of your love,
   let us proclaim liberty to the prisoners;
filled with the Bread of Life,
   let us feed the hungry of our communities;
our thirst cooled be the Cup of Grace,
   let us reach out to those
   who stumble through the desert of life;
walk with us through the wilderness of the world,
so we can gather our sister and brothers
in your love, your hope, your joy,
and journey together into your kingdom.

Then, seated around the Table you set before us,
with the Beloved of every time and of every place,
we will merge our songs of praise
with those who have shown
your steadfast love and faithfulness
to all generations,
singing our praise to you,
God of Abraham and Noah, of Rebecca and Mary;
Jesus of the poor and oppressed;
Spirit of the lost and the least:
God in Community, Holy in One.
Amen and Amen.
Trusting in God, let us go from this place.
Taught all we need, we will bring hope and peace to others.
Trusting in Jesus, let us go into the world.
Given all we need, we will go to serve those around us.
Trusting in the Spirit, we will not be tempted to stay, so let us go.
Baptized in hope, we will go to welcome others as God’s Beloved.
© Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Where ashes and love collide - an Ash Wednesday service for February 14th

Call to Worship
One: It is love which calls us here.
All: That love which may see its own shadow
yet continues to bring light to all.

One: It is love which gathers us to this place.
All: That love which whispers in our hearts,
the love which sings in our silent souls.

One: It is love which surrounds us in these moments.
All: That love which is fresh with each breath,
the love which endures forever.



When we choose to go off
pursuing our foolish choices,
your love is never held back.
Like a father sitting by a window,
staring down the street for us
to turn the corner towards home,
your love waits by your side,
God who never abandons us.

If we turn our backs
chasing after those pied pipers
of politics, pride, and prejudice,
your love never wavers.
Like a sibling who is more patient
with us than we can imagine,
your love lets go of all frustration,
Jesus who walks with us.

As we continue to persist
in shaping you in our image,
your love waits for us
to come to our senses.
Like a mother who sits by the bed
and listens to our worries,
your love gathers us to your heart,
Spirit who is always patient.

You always put up with us,
you never stop believing in us,
your hopes for us never stop,
you go through everything for us,
God in Community, Holy in One,
and so we lift our family prayer to you,
(The Lord’s Prayer)


Isaiah 54:7-10

Psalm 136:1-3


I Corinthians 13

John 15:9-17

Spoken or silent reflection

Invitation to the Lenten life of love

Here is the place where
ashes and love collide,
as we are called once more
to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem,
where dreams will turn to dust
as love is silenced by betrayal and death.
When ashes and love collide,
we are challenged to remember
that his wilderness experience
models for us how to choose good over evil,
how to turn our backs on the voices
that call us to utter cruel words,
how to find the strength to work
for justice and care for the forgotten,
how to set aside our personal desires
so we can serve the most vulnerable,
how to draw on the ancient traditions
of silence, engaging with scripture, and prayer.
As ashes and love collide,
we remember our baptism into faith,
we come to the Table of grace,
we are marked as Christ’s own,
we come to be embraced by God’s
love which never, ever ends.

Call to Reconciliation

As we begin our journey to Easter, we must be honest with our lives. We must speak of how often our faith fails us, how reluctant we are to not only deny ourselves, but to do more for others. Let us pray together saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   If it was only for a moment, God of our lives, it might not be too bad. But we abandon you far too often, far too easily. We are impatient people, not suffering those we consider to be foolish. We are jealous of what others have. We persist in demanding things be done according to our whims. We like to boast about all we have done. And the lists of the wrongdoings of others? Oh, we run out of space, trying to keep track of them.
   Here at the crossroads of love and ashes, we pray for your forgiveness, God whose heart we break. Hear our faltering words, and whisper to us of your mercy. Take all our foolish choices and toss them in your bin of forgetfulness. Mark us with the ashes of the One who shows us how to be your people, Jesus, our Sibling, our Lord, our Friend. Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
One: God will not leave us alone but walks at our side. God’s grace marks us as Beloved children. God’s love lasts far longer than that very short memory God has of our foolish lives. This is indeed good news.
All: It is God’s compassion which welcomes us. It is God’s peace which surrounds us. It is the constant love of God which embraces us with mercy. Thanks be to God, we are forgiven. Amen.

Imposition of the ashes

Here are the ashes formed
not only from palm branches,
but from dreams that were lost,
hopes which were never fulfilled,
choices which turned to dust,
losses which overwhelmed us
with grief and terrible loneliness.
Here is the love we long for,
found in the remains of the cheers
we offered to Jesus when he first
came into our lives, but we soon
turned our backs on him, forgetting
the life which he offered to us and
continues to hold out for us.
Here, in this place and moment,
God takes the ashes and the love,
using them to mark us as God’s own,
constantly surrounded by that love
which is never held back from us,
comforting us with that hope which
is as constant as the rising of the sun,
embracing us in the gifts of peace,
reconciliation, justice, and generosity,
to help us to live as God’s people.

As we are touched with both
the ashes of memories and
the everlasting gift of love,
God of our every moment,
remind us that just as you
shaped us from creation’s dust,
it is from your love that we come
and when our time ends,
it is to your love we will return. Amen.

(in the silence, those who wish may come forward to have the sign of the cross placed on their foreheads or back of their hands. The ashes are from palms used in previous Palm Sunday services, mixed with oil representing God’s love poured upon us).

Invitation to the Table

Communion Song

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

One: The God of ashes is with us.
All: The God of steadfast love is here.
One: At this beginning of a familiar journey
may we offer our hearts to our God.
All: We bring hearts which are broken for healing,
we bring hearts full of grace for sharing.

One: In the silence of our hearts,
in the stillness of our souls,
we would offer praise to our God.
All: For here, even though we may struggle
to find the words, God already knows them.

While theologians ponder
and scientists try to find that
very point, that precise moment,
we know that it is love which
caused you to bring all of creation
out of the chaos on emptiness,
God of unparalleled imagination.
You spoke, and Word
   crafted multi-hued butterflies,
   pushed mountains toward the sky,
   hurled galaxies as far as possible.
You whispered, and Spirit
   moved upon seas and ponds,
   drifted as mist in the morning,
   breathed life into those shaped
in the image of love.
We could have remained in the arms
of your love which never lets go,
but we turned our backs on you
   choosing the shallow life sin offered
   as we handed ourselves over to death.
But you would not forget
nor would you leave us
to our ever-foolish lives.
Into the ashes of our failures,
of our crushed dreams, of our death,
you sent your Beloved
to come and walk the dusty
roads of life and mortality.

So, in these moments of silence,
with all marked with your love,
we offer you our songs of thanksgiving:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God who abides in us.
We join all creation in singing your wonder.
Hosanna in the highest!

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

That is who you gifted to us,
God of all time.
Unimaginable love shared
with us in the One who dared
to become just like us,
   knowing our pain,
   experiencing our fears,
   weeping our tears.
Steadfast love offered
to us through Jesus who
constantly shared your love
   in the stories which were told,
   in conversations with others,
   in all the meals together.
Transformative love seen
through the final parts of
that life which was always for others,
   in the refusal to claim glory,
   in the brokenness of body and spirit,
   in the greatest love for all your people.
Resurrection love was the surprise
of grace and hope you give us
   bringing forth Jesus from the ashes
   of death’s destroyed power.

As we prepare to leave to follow
the One who leads us from life to death
and beyond to your steadfast love,
we speak of faith’s mystery:

In love, Christ came to us.
With love, Christ gave himself.
Through love, Christ was raised.
For love, Christ will come again.

It is here at this Table
we will find your love,
taste your grace,
know the meaning of the ashes.
Pour out your Spirit on the gifts
of the bread as well as the cup
and on all who are gathered.
In hope, may the bread
which represents the brokenness
of your steadfast love
strengthen us to go to serve,
   to be more patient,
   to offer more kindness,
   to set aside arrogance,
   and to lift up the fallen.
In grace, may this cup
which reminds us of the spirit
of love which never gives up,
enable us to go out and
   learn from the forgotten,
   find joy in speaking truthfully,
   bring justice to the forgotten.

And when all time ends
as our joy is made complete
in that love which has endured
from the very beginning of creation,
we will join with our siblings
in singing your glory forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

© 2024 Thom M. Shuman

Venmo: @Thom-Shuman