This new thing began last week. Because writing is good. I like writing. I need to write. I especially need to write liturgy.
So here we are again.
Here are some Liturgical Lights. The following prayers focus on Matthew 25:31-46 which is the focus passage from the Narrative Lectionary on March 22, 2015. So often, when we hear these words, we focus on the actions for which we might be judged: the feeding, the visiting, the quenching of the thirst, the caring for the sick. We focus on the least of these as if they are someone other than ourselves. But, at some time and some place, we can all be defined as the least of these. We all find ourselves at the feet of Christ trying with all that is in us to redefine the powers that be.
It is not a power that is held over us. There’s enough of that kind of power in the world. Call it Caesar, Empire or whatever else. There are too many powers that hurt and divide. There are too many powers that separate the sheep from the goats. But, there upon that throne, we will see the power of resistance [over and against] ‘all rule and authority and power and dominion.’ The usual powers of this world will not be strongest, but the power of the least of these will be Lord and Savior of us all — in every nation, in every time and place. It’s not something we have to do for the hungry, the thirsty or the imprisoned. This is not a salvation that we must achieve — but one that we find at the feet of Christ.
That’s where we want our feet to be guided in Lent and every day.
Call to Worship (Responsive)
On the left and on the right,
We have been divided.
Divided as Republican and Democrat,
as liberal and conservative,
as male and female,
as old and young,
We are separated.
On the left and on the right,
We come to blur the lines.
We come to be gathered together.
We come to find blessing.
Ask your musician to play a few bars of this favorite spiritual after these words before the worship leader or the pastor invites the congregation to pray with these words of invocation. (I wouldn’t print these words in the bulletin but only note that the invocation goes here.)
Let us pray:
O Lord, gather us in.
Gather us not as people separated one from another,
but as one flock looking for answers.
Be our shepherd in this time and in this place.
Lead us away from our easy answers
to find your mysterious strength at the feet of Christ.
Guide our feet under the throne.
Guide our hearts under the throne.
Guide us, all together,
some on the left and some on the right,
to find your power at the feet of Christ.
Without voicing an amen, let the musician guide the congregation into singing Guide My Feet after the last words of the Invocation are spoken. I would then try to weave this spiritual throughout worship. Use it after the Shared Silence and before the Assurance of God’s Grace. Use it in place of the Doxology as the congregation gives its tithes and offerings. Use it to lead the people out after the Benediction. As fits your congregation, use this song to encourage movement toward that grace we all need. Maybe you sing the four verses at different times throughout worship. Or maybe you sing the whole spiritual in the beginning of worship and only sing the first verse as a reprise as worship continues.
Prayer of Confession
Guide us, O Lord,
to find the strength within ourselves
to admit that we think we know better than you.
Guide us in this silence to name the many ways
that we have claimed our own personal power
rather than your saving grace.
Assurance of God’s Grace (Responsive)
There is saving grace.
It is far above every ruler and authority.
It is far above any power that might be named
not only now but in the future.
God put that power under Christ’s feet.
It is all we need.
This is where we find God’s saving grace.
And it will be our all in all.
Tell the Story
This Gospel Lesson requires incarnation. To understand more fully the division between the sheep and the goats, try embodying the Gospel in a brief drama. Instead of merely reading this text, ask someone to take the role of the Son of Man. Sit him or her on a throne and be sure there are plenty of angels around. No need for costumes. Tinsel garlands on each head would be enough. Ditch the bathrobe for the Son of Man. Dress her instead in power heels and a dress. Dress him as a teenager.
Invite this Son of Man to engage with the congregation in the pews by separating the left side of the space from the right. Ask this Son of Man to emphasize that the sheep are on the right and the goats are on the left. Use a curtain or a huge bolt of cloth to divide the congregation to really amp up this division. (This actually works best if you only prepare the Son of Man in this dramatic telling. The goats will get upset right away and if your congregation is used to talking in worship, the questions in the text will be asked right away. If not, prompt it. Then, ask them how they feel having heard the Son of Man’s answer.) Be sure that the Son of Man offers the wisdom offered in the Gospel including the last verse.
Use the sermon to explore the measures of power in this world — and what it means to discover the power of the least of these under the feet of Christ.
Let us go into the world undivided.
Let nothing separate us.
On our left and on our right,
may we only find blessing.
May we know that that saving grace is with us,
now and always.
If you use the prayers I’ve written in your worship, and I hope you will, please do offer me credit with as follows:
The prayers in our worship this morning were written by/adapted from Liturgical Lights for Sunday March 22, 2015 by the Rev. Elsa Anders Peters. Elsa is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who blogs at https://elsaacook.wordpress.com.