Liturgical Lights for Sunday May 24, 2015

J A S M I N E

It’s Pentecost!

For this special day, in which we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Narrative Lectionary has not one — but two readings — including Acts 2:1-4 and Romans 8:18-38.

What a day!

These two passages came together in a sermon I preached back in 2013. It’s this sermon that shapes these prayers. You’ll also find that there’s a slight nod to Memorial Day in the second prayer. It is an observance that I wouldn’t tend to include in the formal liturgy because it’s not a liturgical holiday — but would surely add to the Pastoral Prayer.  Admittedly, the Prayer for the Wind below doesn’t really do a very good job of acknowledging that this Sunday is Memorial Day and not Veterans Day. Just be aware of the distinction as you craft your Pastoral Prayer so that you’re praying for the service men and women who have died — not those who are currently serving.

Call to Worship (Responsive)

Can you hear that sound?
It’s the sound of God’s glory!
Can you feel the wind?
It’s what we’ve hoped to see.
There is something happening in this room.
There is something just about to change.

Prayer for the Wind (A Prayer of Invocation)
Inspired by the Navy Hymn on Memorial Day

Come Holy Spirit!
Be the wind in our sails
for we are breathless with anticipation.
We cannot quite escape the sinking feeling
that all hope is lost.
So, come. Come Holy Spirit!
Turn our breathless, hopeless sighs
into your powerful wind.
Fill this entire space where we are sitting.
Make it so that Pentecost was not something
that happened just once but that happens
again and again when your people feel
your wind pushing us, encouraging us, guiding us
toward the hope we cannot see for ourselves.
Oh, hear us gathered here in this place,
hear us with flames upon our tongues as we cry
out for the gale force of you love.
Blow Holy Spirit!
Blow through the chaos.
Blow through the confusion.
Blow into our weakest parts
so that we are not so tempted to go back
to the way that things used to be
but can truly feel that something has happened.
Something has changed us and we will never be the same.
Come Holy Spirit! Blow through this place!

I would love to hear what you’ve go planned for worship on Sunday. Is there something really wild that you’d like to try? Are you planning something special for this Sunday? I’d love to hear what you’re daydreaming about in the comments below. And, if you happen to 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 May 24, 2015 by the Rev. Elsa Anders Peters. Elsa is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who blogs at revelsaanderspeters.com.

Liturgical Lights for Sunday May 3, 2015

J A S M I N EThe Narrative Lectionary on May 3, 2015 is Romans 1:1-17. The first Sunday in May was the particular Sunday that my home church always celebrated the Confirmation of its youngest members. J.R. Daniel Kirk comments that the thesis of this letter in verses 16-17 answers all of those big questions about faith. Or at least, it begins to describe what Paul thinks the Gospel is all about.

It seems to me that we can’t omit the powerful witness of what it means to be a Christian community in the preceding verses. For those that fear that Confirmation is a graduation, or those that fear that they are supposed to have all of the answers, there is no greater affirmation than that we will encourage each other to pass along our spiritual gifts (whether or not we know what they are) and that we will mutually encourage each other. Whether or not we find a mirror image of our own faithfulness, we’ll be encouraged by the faithfulness we find. Seems like good solid wisdom for those of us that are still trying to figure things out. The liturgy you’ll find below reflects these themes with a particular nod toward Confirmation Sunday.

Call to Worship (Responsive)

We gather together to remember that
we are dearly loved by God and called to be God’s people.
We come to mutually encourage each other. 
We come to remember that we are not alone.
We come to find strength.
Because while we’ve been apart
we haven’t been so certain of ourselves.
We haven’t believed as we should.
We haven’t been reminded of our gifts. 
We come to words for our hope.
We come to find a tune to sing of God’s grace.
We gather here to be the body of Christ.

Affirmations of Faith 

It has become very popular to encourage young people to write their own Statements of Faith which are often read in worship on Confirmation Sunday. I don’t like to do anything quite that simple — because it’s not really the teenagers that are thinking about this for the first time. At every age, we are trying to complete the sentence, “This I believe…”

Begin this interactive moment of worship by saying:

This I believe, said Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ,
I believe God promised good news about his Son ahead of time
through his prophets in the holy scriptures.
His Son was descended from David.He was publicly identified as God’s Son
with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness.
This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received God’s grace.
This I believe was to bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience for his name’s sake.
And you are included. You who are called by Jesus Christ to share what you believe.
Come forward and receive a word of inspiration from one of the index cards before you.
Write on the reverse side your “This I believe…”
Let us mutually encourage each other in these words.

It’s at this moment that the musician would play something meditative.

Upon a table, or several tables if you have a large congregation, have colored index cards. On the unlined side of each card, write one theological term including in big bold block letters: GOOD NEWS, RESURRECTION, JESUS, GOD, CHRIST, GRACE, FAITH, COMMUNITY, SALVATION, ENCOURAGEMENT, HOLY SPIRIT, MEMBER, BAPTISM, PRAYER, and CHURCH. Make duplicates because you’ll need one for every member of the congregation. On the reverse side, each worshipper will use this particular word as inspiration for her brief 2-3 sentences of “This I believe…” I strongly suggest printing directions on a piece of paper upon the table. I always frame these instructions in cheap black frames as you can see here. Provide plenty of pencils on each table so that worshippers can write at the table. You may also choose to include some version of the instructions from the NPR version of This I Believe.

As the music concludes, these affirmations must be shared aloud. Do so with music. Lead a refrain of This Little Light of Mine and then invite the congregation:

This I believe, said Paul,
but you are included. Your faith encourages us too.
Let us continue singing “This Little Light of Mine”
after we’ve heard an affirmation of the faith gathered here.
You’re invited to share your affirmations — one by one —
between verses of “This Little Light of Mine.”
What do you believe?

This may be slow going — so you can repeat the question “What do you believe?” after each refrain. As you can probably guess, this could take FOREVER so it’s best to have a way where these affirmations might be shared. In a manner fitting to your space, display these cards in the narthex or in worhsip space.

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 May 3, 2015 by the Rev. Elsa Anders Peters. Elsa is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who blogs at revelsaanderspeters.com.

Liturgical Lights for Sunday April 26, 2015

J A S M I N EThe Narrative Lectionary on April 26, 2015 is Acts 13:1-3; 14:8-18. There is something that transpires here between Paul and the man who could not use his feet. The man listens — intensely, it seems — to all that Paul has to say. But, Paul does not seem to be preaching at him.

It is not one of those finger-wagging sermons but seems instead to be about listening as much as it is about speaking. For when Paul is done, it is said that Paul looked at him intently and saw that he had the faith to be healed (verse 9).

Eric Barreto imagines that this illustrates a different kind of healing.  It is not filling a void but an act of hope. It is the hope for this healing and a trust that God and God alone could provide it. Not something to be imposed or even claimed, but something to embrace. Something to believe. Something to feel. And so, the prayers I’ve written this morning play with this hope.

Call to Worship (inspired by 1 Corinthians 12)

Now at the church in Antioch
there were prophets and teachers.
There are a varieties of gifts.
Here at the church in {insert town name}
there are a variety of activities.
It is the same God who brings us together.
Every word, every action, every hope
is activated by the one and same Spirit.
Now and then, then and now,
we gather in worship and praise
seeking the more excellent way.
Let us become the body of Christ.

Call to Confession

We are quick to point out the weaknesses of others.
We can see what cripples them in fear.
It is so obvious what will not allow them to embrace the hope of healing.
Now and then, it is important to stand before God — and God alone — and admit that it’s not just their crippling weaknesses but our own. We come to confess so that we might stand firm in that hope of healing God has made. Let us pray:

Prayer of Confession (Unison)

Now and then, we can see what we have done wrong.
Every once in a while, we can admit that we are weak.
We make mistakes. We err. We sin.
We mess up more than we want to admit.
Living God, who made the heaven and the earth
and the sea and all that is in them, we need your help.
Because we’re so eager to point out who is not using their feet.
We know who isn’t using their hands or even their heart.
We can name their disabilities, but we dare not name our own. Living God, help us.
Help us to admit that we haven’t put our whole bodies in your hope.
Help us from not holding back anymore as we meet you in this silence:

Shared Silent Confession and Personal Prayer

Sung Words of Assurance 
There are plenty of words that might be offered here to remind us of God’s love — but it is music that we remember most. So, instead of words, move from this shared silence into a time of singing of God’s amazing love. A few possibilities may include:

Great is Thy Faithfulness, refrain only
We, Your People, God, Confessing, verse 4
There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy
Your Love, O God, verse 4

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 April 26, 2015 by the Rev. Elsa Anders Peters. Elsa is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who blogs at revelsaanderspeters.com.

Liturgical Lights for Sunday April 19, 2015

OJ A S M I N Ever the weekend, I saw Woman in Gold. Throughout the film, even in the most subtle of moments, there is this question about how an individual or a nation participates in Nazism. Is it just something that happened? Are our ancestors to be blamed? Or did they actively take part? How do you atone for such things so many years later?

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Walking out of the theater, my love and resident military historian quoted Martin Neimoller’s poem First They Came. I hadn’t realized that this poem was about Austria. It was about how the people didn’t really believe it would happen to them. And so, they didn’t speak out. They didn’t do anything.

The Narrative Lectionary on April 19, 2015 is Acts 10:1-17, 34-35. On that blanket before Peter, it’s all kinds of four-footed creatures, reptiles and birds. It’s not Communists and Socialists and Jews. At least, it’s not to our common reading. But, I’m intrigued by Eric Baretto’s certain claim: The vision was not about food or what one can or cannot eat. The vision is about people. He follows this claim by asking how many times we are quick to condemn the people around us. Perhaps we do so passively. We don’t speak. We don’t act. But, that’s not what God does. As Peter says himself, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

It is a confession that I offer today from my own heart.

Prayer of Confession 

O God, if I am really honest with myself —
and more importantly, if I’m honest with you,

I really am a little bit racist.
I’m a little bit sexist.
And I’m a whole lot more homophobic
than I would like to admit.

I’ve convinced myself that it doesn’t matter
because you condemn who I condemn.
You love who I love.
But, God, I know it’s not true.

You love the woman that cried rape.
You love the black teenager in a hoodie.
You love the girl even more when she’s brave enough to call herself a lesbian.

Forgive me. Forgive me for being so quick to condemn and help me to do what is right and acceptable to you. Help me to love without any partiality. I pray in the name of the one who came to show us your love, Amen.

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 April 19, 2015 by the Rev. Elsa Anders Peters. Elsa is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who blogs at revelsaanderspeters.com.