Liturgical Lights for Sunday April 12, 2015

J A S M I N EThe Narrative Lectionary on April 12, 2015 is Matthew 28:16-20. It feels so odd not to share in the story of Thomas. I want to stick my fingers in that story. I want to wonder about my doubt. But, that’s not what happens in this cycle of readings. Instead, we are pushed to wonder how we might “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

This week, as bulletins may well already be printed, I don’t have a full liturgy to offer. Instead, I offer an affirmation of faith. I come from a tradition that has testimonies, not tests of faith. Ours is a statement of faith. Not a creed. Not a catechism. We have testimonies that come from every time and every place. It can make faith confusing and overwhelming. It can seem totally chaotic so that people might say we are Unitarians Considering Christ. (Don’t say that. I hate that.)

But, especially after Easter, I love the experience of standing together as the gathered body of Christ (that’s right, Christ) and trying to put some words to what we believe. Sometimes I use the more traditional versions in my own liturgies. Sometimes I use some that are not so well known. There is something amazing about standing together and saying these words as part of our experience of the resurrection. This particular affirmation has stolen a few lines from one of my favorite Easter hymns, Christ the Lord is Risen Today.

Here is an affirmation of faith for this day — and maybe the 50 days of Easter:

Affirmation of Faith

Now we gather together
in fear and great joy
to raise our triumphs high
because everything has changed.
Christ has died and Christ has risen.

Now we rise early on the first day of the week
because we have heard what the angels told us.
We have been changed by this news
and we believe in the power of resurrection.
We believe that this message will change our world.

Made like him, like him we rise.
We rise to be made into better disciples.
We rise to allow ourselves to soar where Christ has led.
Because love’s redeeming work is not yet done.
There are still children of God crucified
for their passionate love of the world.

Now we wait for Christ to come again.
We rise to be students of this message.
We rise to be taught by this way.
We rise in the certain faith
that Christ will come again.

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 12, 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 5, 2015

J A S M I N EAfter that last supper, after the disciples have deserted and one of them has betrayed all that he once believed to be true, after the one they had been following died the most horrible death one might have imagined then, it will be Sunday.

It will be Easter.

It’s what happens after — but it can’t come without those things happening. It doesn’t come without the hope and expectation of the procession into Jerusalem or the number of ways that the followers of this would-be Christ will screw up over the past week. All of that stuff happens first.

And then, there is resurrection.

Something changes — but perhaps not everything. There will still be the memory of the death and worry over what has come to pass in the past few weeks. Will it change everything? Will it change nothing Will we go on living as we always have? These seem to be the central questions of Easter. As much as we want the joy — as much as we want to sing and dance and shout “alleluia” — we have to also ask ourselves if we’re ready to be changed. Did we change? Have we changed? How will this cause us to live differently now that Easter has come?

The Narrative Lectionary on April 5, 2015 is Matthew’s version of the Resurrection. In Matthew 28:1-10, we follow Mary to the tomb to find that this message is for us. This message is for us — and so we try not to be afraid as find the courage to tell the story in our own words. What better than to find that courage than through the music of my colleague and friend Rob Leveridge. Rob recently came out with a wonderful album of progressive music for worship called Dancing on the Mountain.

For Easter, I’m particularly inspired by the ninth track Let it Live which I imagine being played just after the Call to Worship to set the tone for worship. No lyrics yet. Just the tune on guitar, piano or whatever you’ve got going on instrumentally this Sunday. This would then build up to when the congregation gets to sing along during dance party that happens somewhere after the sermon. (What?! You don’t have a dance party on Easter? You should.) For me, Easter is a dance party even when these three days haven’t healed everything that has come to pass. That stuff is still there — the sense of betrayal, loss and desertion is all still there. It’s not the only thing that’s there — but it hasn’t totally gone away as we try to allow ourselves in the resurrection.

It’s the first line of Rob’s song that says this so well:

I’m starting to see…

It is this line that inspires the only prayer I’ll offer this week.

Invocation

Let us pray:

Come into our fear.
Come into our questions.
Come into all of that we are still holding onto right now.
Because it is Easter, Lord.
It is Easter. And we need to be resurrected.
Come, Lord.

Come and help us remember that he was raised from the dead.
Come and help us see him ahead of us.
Come and help us see him before us.
Because you hoped that this would be a message for us.
So, come Lord. Come into our fear and our questions.
Come and separate us from the death we cling to.
Bring us out of the tombs we cling to.
Push us up from the grave.
Help us to begin to see.
Help us begin to see all that you see.
Come, Lord. Come on this Easter morning.
Come and resurrect us all. Come.

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 5, 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.

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Liturgical Lights for Sunday March 29, 2015

J A S M I N EThis Sunday brings the palms.

Call it a parade.
Call it a procession.
Call it a protest.

Our church people expect to wave palms happily in the air before the resurrection is proclaimed next week. Pastors struggle with this. This is the week that they are busy cranking out bulletins for Holy Week. They are trying to figure out an interesting way to tell this story — the whole story — so that we can rise with Christ the following week. Pastors (like myself) tend to want more of the Passion than the Palms. They want to be sure that the whole story is told before Easter morning. Today, I got tapped by a colleague in my denomination to provide some tweaking to a liturgy that I wrote for the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways three years ago. (Click on March 29-Palm-Passion Sunday and the file will automatically download.)

So, after starting these Liturgical Lights a few weeks ago, I’m going to continue to play with that worship service that features a series of adapted Scripture Readings through the Gospel of Mark’s version of the Palm and Passion. Each reading is followed by an extended silence or a congregational hymn. It is not a joyful service. It is a worship experience that searches the heart and mind of God. It begs for answers and never really gets them. The Narrative Lectionary on March 29, 2015 is Matthew’s version of the Palm Parade. In Matthew 21:1-17, we move from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem into the Temple where Jesus has a little fit before going to Bethany to rest. There are so many unanswered questions in this text that only intensify our concern for the world. So, I offer these adapted prayers searching for answers.

Call to Worship (Responsive)

Come. Come seeking words.
Come to let your tongue give praise.
Come. Come to find your voice.
Come to hear the response.
Come. Come to open your ears.
Come to listen.
Come. Come to be healed by the silence.
Come to stand together.
Come. Come to approach what words cannot describe.
Come to find God.

Invocation (Responsive)

Let us pray:

Come. Come O Holy One.
Come through the streets.
Come into the house.
Come to find a space beside us at the table.
Come to challenge our answers about

Why tragedy comes
Why poverty increases
Why we are afraid.

Come O Holy One.
Speak to us in the silence

With wisdom greater than ours
With love deeper than ours
With change wider than ours.

Shared Silence

Come O Holy One.
Fill in these stories
with your wisdom
with your love
with your change
so that we might rely on your answers.
Here and now. Amen.

Prayer of Confession (Responsive)

O Holy One, your house shall be called a house of prayer.
Your house shall be a place for healing.
Your house is where we praise Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee,
but our lips have no praise. We have made your house a den of robbers
so we can’t see you in the parade. We are too busy talking.
We think we know why bad things happen,
about why the rich get richer, about why the world feels so broken.
But, this is your house where the blind can see and the lame can walk.
This is your house where we come to pray.

O Holy One, speak to us.
Fill our silences.
Comfort us with your love
so that we may find your understanding.
Trust us to find your answers
when we finally tire from our own.
Save us, O Holy One, with your steadfast love. Amen.

Assurance of God’s Grace

God opens your ears.
God speaks when you are silent.
God approaches you
in the parade and at table
in your denial and your praise
to be your help.
Now and always. Amen.

Telling the Story

As I shared with my colleague in ministry on Facebook today, what I have found to be most powerful about this worship experience both times I’ve led it is the silences. In the original liturgy, the congregation hears a huge chunk of Scripture from the Gospel of Mark. In the Narrative Lectionary, it is only 17 verses. Still, I would break up this reading and intersperse the readings with silence and congregational singing. If I were so lucky to lead this service, here’s how I would break up and tweak the readings.

Entering Into Jerusalem

They were looking for answers. So, they went to Jerusalem. They gathered in the streets to make a way for peace. On the other side of the city, there was another procession. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, rode into Jerusalem with an army of horses, armored soldiers and waving banners.

On the other side of the city, when they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.”

They wanted to understand why this must happen in this way. But, it was only said: this took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Come. Join in the parade, you who need answers, you who came looking for peace.

Hymn: Mantos y Ramos

The Palm Parade

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
 Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Come. Lose your voice in the shouting crowd, you who are weary, you who don’t have any answers.

Shared Silence

Who Is This?

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil. No one understood what was happening. No one knew what would happen next. They had thought they knew how the world worked. They had thought they knew. But, they didn’t understand. So they could only ask: “Who is this?”

The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Come. Listen to what God might be saying. Listen to what God might be doing that doesn’t fit with everything that you have been taught about this world. Listen for God to speak. 

Shared Silence

The Cleansing of the Temple

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It is written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
    but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Come. Join those who wander through temples, churches, ashrams and mosques. Join the crowds who have come looking for answers, looking for peace. 

Hymn: Inspired by Love and Anger or Lord, Hear My Praying, Listen to Me

What Is He Saying?

The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and Jesus cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry. The chief priests, the elders and the scribes knew their answer. They thought they knew the ways of God. They thought they knew all that God could do. There was nothing that could convince them otherwise. So, they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”

Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise for yourself’?”

They had come looking for answers. They had come looking for peace, but they didn’t understand his way. So, he left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

Come. Follow outside the bounds of your understanding, you who need answers, you who came looking for peace.

Hymn: I Want Jesus To Walk With Me

Benediction (Responsive)

Go into the world to find your voice.
Listening to what God will do.
Go into the world to find each other.
Reaching out when we need support.
Go into the world be amazed.
Knowing that God is always with us.

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 29, 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.

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