We continue to find ourselves in the liminal space of the Narrative Lectionary as June begins. As it began last week, we’ll continue to focus on the Psalms offered by Working Preacher to guide us to July 5th. Then, I will likely take a break until the Sunday after Labor Day.
It’s summer and so I want to use prayer stations to ignite and inspire our experience of worship. In this slower time, when the sun is shining and no one really wants to be inside, it seems that prayer stations allow us to experience the breath of God a little differently. In this reading, it is the phrase from sunrise to sunset that captures my mind. It boils down to this question: What do we do from sunrise to sunset to praise God?
I imagine the order of worship that begins with the rising of the sun and concludes with the sun setting. Along the way, we have the chance to reflect upon what we do in each hour of the day to praise God — and even how we might do more in that hour.
To begin worship (though I’m not one that gets up out of bed and spontaneously sings), I would begin with Gathering Songs or Songs of Praise for the Sunrise. Admittedly, I’d be tempted to just sing Morning Has Broken and be done with it — but it seems wise to add a few more songs including When Morning Gilds the Skies or Woke Up This Mornin’. Most hymnals have a morning section to explore.
After this singing, I would begin to shape the arc of this worship experience with a prayer that leads us into the awareness of our days.
Prayer of Invocation
O Lord, rise with us as the sun
peeks over the horizon.
Wake us from our slumber
and move us to praise you
from sunrise to sunset.
Stretch our hearts and minds
throughout this day
and every day
to consider what our bodies
and our hearts and our minds
might do and say to praise you
from sunrise to sunset.
O Lord, make this time
from the sunrise to the sunset of worship
a time to reflect upon the ordinary ways
that we praise you. Make this a time to
imagine what more we can do
and what we never realized was an act of praise.
Stretch our bodies
and our hearts and our minds
from the sunrise to the sunset of worship today.
This we pray in your high and holy name, Amen.
This would lead to what I would call Morning Rituals. I would set these stations up on one side of the worship space on small tables or pedestals. On the other side, where the sun moves later in the day, is the Evening Praise.
Morning Rituals would include those very things that are morning rituals with small prompts to pause and reflect. They do not need to be done in order — but can be explored as each worshipper feels so moved. I would allow about 15-20 minutes of time to explore these prayer stations with music playing softly in the background. (This music should be playful and fun that fits your congregation. Make it a medley that flows easily. For a high stress community of professionals, you might include a few bars of this song. Or maybe this song. You get the idea.) As the music plays, the congregation can move among these stations.
One of the first things I think of doing in the morning is brushing my teeth, but because that would be challenging, how about a basket of dental floss placed upon a pedestal? Put a trash can down below. Next to the basket, provide this guidance:
As you rise to care for your body and soul, take a moment to floss your teeth. As you move the floss around your gums, embrace this time to reflect on the small crevices that God shows up in your everyday life.
On another table, place a stack of newspapers with plenty of space to surround it. On the table, provide this guidance:
We often begin the day reading about what has happened in the world. From this news, rip out a page of bad news and sculpt it into something beautiful.
Perhaps there is one more space laid out with yoga mats (or something soft that you might put on the nursery floor in the church) and a simple instruction that reads:
Move your body into this new day. As you stretch each muscle, allow yourself enough time to consider how this simple, every day movement might stretch you to more love and praise of God.
If they haven’t found their way there yet, invite folks back together with a song. Read the Psalm and then share in the Noontime Meal. Play up the imagery of the sun being directly overhead as you come to this feast of Holy Communion. From this meal, there should surely be Prayers of the People before going into Evening Praise. Just as with the Morning Rituals, these are prayer stations that are set up on the other side of the worship space. Allow another 15-20 minutes for folks to wander and pray.
As the day concludes, it seems that the first thing that happens at home for many is the homework. For some, that’s the schoolwork that must be done for the next day. For others, it’s the checking in on social media that you didn’t get to do all day long. For us all, it’s reconnecting with those that we love. Set up a table with math worksheets. They are easy to download. Maybe a history book or two from your church library. Set up a cup of pencils and a stack of stationary with either a shoebox mail drop to mail those letters (if your church might be willing to mail these letters). Offer these instructions:
As you begin to settle into the end of the day, take a moment to stimulate your mind by learning something new in the pages of history or challenging yourself with some math problems. Or, instead of picking up your tablet or phone to check in on social media, take this moment to write a letter to someone for whom you haven’t made enough time. Be sure to address and seal the envelope as you thank God for all our minds can do.
Many of our evenings are spent cooking, preparing lunches and caring for those in our own homes. In words of your own choice, invite the worshipping body to extend this love beyond their homes and into the world by making hygiene kits or baby care kits for Church World Service. Set up the table with all the supplies needed for the kit of your choice. Provide instructions that invite reflection on all their hands have done to praise God since the rising of the sun that very day.
Last but not least, the night comes with a desire to be still. Your worship space might not allow for something as large as this prayer station. So perhaps instead you provide slips of paper that can be taken home to practice something like the Ignition Daily Examen. This prayer card could be downloaded and provided on a pedestal or small table with simple instructions to take a prayer card and find a pew to practice.
If they haven’t found their way there yet, invite folks back together with a song. Perhaps the Psalm is read again. Perhaps not. To conclude worship, just as the worship began, I would end with Blessing Songs or Songs of Praise for the Sunset. You might include Night Has Fallen or Day is Done or any other hymns found in the Close of Worship section in your church hymnal.
As worship ends, I would find it hard not to include one of my favorite prayers from the New Zealand Prayer Book. I might adapt it to say something like “Lord, the sun is setting.” Or I might leave it just as it is.
I would love to hear what you’ve go planned for worship on Sunday — especially as summer arrives. Does this mean a transition in your worship experience? 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 June 7, 2015 by the Rev. Elsa Anders Peters. Elsa is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who blogs at revelsaanderspeters.com.