An Easter Sunrise Liturgy

Click here for this liturgy in a downloadable .doc file

GREETING
In the nighttime of our sin, the grace of God rises like the dawn.
In the coldness of our hearts, hope rises like the sun.
Into all that is cold and shadowed in our lives, the light of God shines.
From the sleep of sin and the dust of our death
O God of grace, shine your light upon us!
Come to us, and renew us, O God of life!
May the light of Christ, rising in glory,
dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.
Thanks be to God for the light of Christ. Alleluia!
This is the Passover of Christ, the victory of love
over sin and death, evil and violence.
Thanks be to God for the life of Christ. Alleluia!

OLD TESTAMENT READING — From Exodus 14.10 – 15.21

PRAYER
God of life, from all that oppresses, set us free.
From the wounds that paralyze us and the sorrows that will not heal,
God of Life, set us free!
From the tyranny of our fear, from the grip of envy and shame,
God of Life, set us free!
From the power of sin, and all that keeps us from you,
God of Life, set us free!
From the lure of evil and violence, from all our hurtful ways,
God of Life, set us free!
from our slavery to the darkness, into your gracious light,
God of Life, set us free, and grant us your grace! Amen.

GOSPEL — Luke 24.1-10

SONG

PSALTER (Psalm 107.1-2, 10-15)
O give thanks to the Holy One, for God is good.
God’s steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Holy One say so,
whom God has redeemed from trouble.
We sat in darkness and in gloom,
prisoners in misery and in irons,
for we had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
Our hearts were bowed down with hard labor;
we fell down, with no one to help.
Then we cried to God in our trouble,
and God saved us from our distress.
God brought us out of darkness and gloom,
and broke our bonds asunder.
Oh God, we thank you for you steadfast love,
for your wonderful works to humankind.

NEW TESTAMENT READING — Romans 6. 1-11

ACCLAMATION
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! ALLELUIA!
The stone has been rolled away!
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
The tomb where they laid him is empty.
This is the work of God, wonderful in our eyes!
To the one whom everyone scorned, we give our praise!
The Gentle One is victorious,
the innocent one over the powers of this world.
Christ, on your cross, our life and death have struggled.
But Love has overpowered death itself.
Christ, in your grave, our sin lay dead and defeated.
The Sun of our life has risen, and brought us into glory.
Christ, in your rising, we are brought to life.
Victorious Savior, have mercy on us all! Alleluia!

MEDITATION

SONG

THE PRAYERS

BAPTISMAL RENEWAL
When the sun rose upon the empty tomb,
it brought a new day,
Everything was changed:
there was a new Creation.
God of resurrection,
by the light of Christ’s rising,
grant us a new day.
By the mystery of your grace,
raise us up to new life
in the Spirit of Christ.

All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death.
Therefore we have been buried with him
by baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of God,
so we too might walk in newness of life.
By God’s great mercy
God has given us a new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance
that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
Blessed be God!


[Here people may be invited to interact with the water, for instance by touching it, or making a cross on their foreheads… or it may be sprinkled on everyone with greens.]

SONG

PRAYER OF BLESSING
Beloved Mystery, you have raised Christ from the dead, and with Christ you have raised us into new lives. Give us faith to continually die with Christ—surrendering our lives to you— so that we might be raised with Christ. May the wonderful mystery of resurrection give light to our days, courage to our love, and hope to our hearts. We thank you for the gift of life, made always new. This is the day you are creating, and we rejoice in it! Alleluia!

SONG

BLESSING
God of love, you have raised Jesus from death to life!
Lead us always into newness of life.
Light of Christ, rising in glory,
be the light of our hearts!
Spirit of Resurrection, grant us your grace.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

SENDING FORTH & PASSING THE PEACE

The Beloved needs it

           “You will find a colt that has never been ridden.
           Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you,
           ‘Why are you untying it?’
           just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

                           —Luke 19.30-31

A humble donkey, not glamorous or powerful,
maybe not even noticed,
but, Loving Mystery, exactly what you need.

So many parts of myself I overlook—
an extraordinary talent or simple presence—
gifts I’ve been given I undervalue;
but you need them
for purposes I can’t yet see.

Beloved, what gifts of mine do you need?

Help me know what humble donkey you require,
and untie it.

Breath prayer:
                           My donkey … for you

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Seed

           Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
           it remains just a single grain;
           but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

                           —John 12.24

Beloved,
in love you have thrown the seed of yourself
into the soil of us.
You have sown yourself in the wound of us,
the dark, rich hummus of our sorrow and lostness.
You have surrendered yourself to our pain
and the taunting of the demons that haunt us.
You’ve allowed the seed casing of your life to split open,
and your love to reach out,
fingering tenderly through the dark soil.
You’ve already said, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.“
You have already died,
and been raised to life that is eternal.

So now you are ready
to ride your little donkey toward us.
Resurrected One, you are ready to be crucified.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Before Easter

God, I am tempted to jump to Easter
and neglect the cross.
I want the happy ending
but not the good death.
Stop me in my headlong leap over the grave.
Let me descend into the darkness,
held in your hands.
Let me see what in me must die,
what I must let go of.
Let me see the deep pain you endure
in order to descend with me, to heal me.
Let me go with you down into the thick darkness
where death struggles for me,
and loses.
Let me see my grave opened like a wound,
and left open forever, a spring.
Only then, place a flower in my hands,
and raise me into the soft light,
bearing with me always the smell of earth.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Take, this is my body

             While they were eating,
            he took a loaf of bread,
            and after blessing it
            he broke it,
            and gave it to them,
            and said, “Take; this is my body.”
                                    — Mark 14.22

He gives us himself.
He becomes part of us.
His light fills our cells;
his love moves our flesh.

Let him pour into you.
Taste him; savor him.
Consume him wholly
until you are wholly consumed.

We are in him, and he in us.
We inhabit his body.
We look out through his eyes,
and he through ours.

Now we need not fear death
or anything else:
we can love with courage;
for he loves in us.

Taken, blessed, broken and given:
we become the Body of Christ,
one in Spirit, one in each other,
and one in love: mighty, miraculous love.

Eat, and be filled.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

The burden

Christ carries the great burden on his back,
weeping, bleeding. The burden is you.
He carries you to Golgotha,
though people scorn him.
Though he stumbles, he carries you steadily.
On the hill he is nailed to you.
You hold him as he dies.
His blood runs down you.
He is heavy, bearing the weight of all the world.
Yet he weighs no more than God.
He dies and is buried, and you are relieved of the weight.
You stand through the night, alone and still.

The next day is quiet. Stillness.

On the third day, with the rising light,
he comes to you, alive again.
He takes you in his arms,
bathing you in light,
until you are light.
He begins to pull you up,
his cheek pressed in to you,
his sweat and tears running down you,
your grave loosening, stones rolling away.
He draws you up out of the ground.
It cannot hold you; its grip is nothing
against his gentle, insistent lifting,
until you are free.
Your arms and legs are strong and lively now,
your heart beating with life.
You have gained the strength to bear God.
He walks with you.
You hold onto him,
but he is not carrying you.
You are carrying him.
You walk with him
back into the city, rejoicing,
for your burden is light.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

7th Sunday of Easter / Ascension Sunday – May 29, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Ascension Day (Thursday, May 19)

In Acts 1. 1-11 Jesus, who has appeared to the disciples for forty days since his resurrection, ascends into the sky— a metaphor for Christ’s cosmic sovereignty.

Psalm 47 proclaims God’s power and goodness. God has “gone up with a shout,” as if God is ascending to take a throne to rule over all Creation.

In Ephesians 1. 15-23 Paul prays that we might come to know Christ and the power of his grace. This power is the same that raised Christ, who is seated “in the heavenly places,” meaning in power over all the world.

In Luke 24.44-53 forty days after the resurrection, Jesus tells his followers to bring his message of repentance and forgiveness to others, then he ascends to heaven.

Seventh Sunday of Easter

In Acts 16. 16-34 Paul and Silas are imprisoned for interfering with a fortune-telling business. An earthquake splits open the prison, but they choose not to leave, since their escape would mean the death of the jailer. Changed by their love, the jailer is converted and baptized.

Psalm 97 proclaims that God rules the world, and light dawns for the righteous.

In Revelation 22 the cosmic Christ gives some final blessings: “I am coming soon;” “Blessed are those who wash their robes,” that is, who are transformed by Christ’s grace; and “Everyone who is thirsty, come take the water of life as a gift.”

In John 17. 20-26 Jesus prays that his followers be united in his spirit, that we be in Christ and Christ in us as God and Christ are in each other.

Preaching Thoughts

        The story of the Ascension, like that of the Transfiguration, is highly symbolic. Treating it as a historical fact that proves a certain point (like that Jesus is divine) is not as fruitful as letting it be a story that invites our wonder. The story offers layers of “meaning” and significance.
       We still cling to the ancient worldview that God is “up” (NFL players point to the sky when they score. Why not point to the ground, or their hearts?) Given that geography, for Jesus to ascend implies he’s gone”up” to be with God on the throne—that is, to rule over all Creation. Love is actually sovereign, even if it’s unseen.
        For those concerned with the physical body of Jesus after the resurrection, this seems to present a puzzle: now where is Jesus? But he has told them: In you. In Luke 24.48-49 and Acts 1.8 Jesus has charged them to continue his ministry and promised the Spirit (in John 20.22 he has already breathed his spirit into them). Jesus is the spirit; they (we) are the body. On Pentecost the disciples will discover that gift with amazing power. The Ascension makes way for the community to become the physical body of the risen Christ.
       This is also a story about transition: the disciples now have to live without Jesus in separate physical form. It reflects a lot of the change, grief and uncertainty that surrounds the church these days.
        The story of the Ascension also raises the question of how we live out our faith without the reassurance of Jesus’ physical presence with us. Much as we might wish he were ”here” in that way, we have to learn to accept his presence in a different form.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader:  Eternal God, you have raised Christ to rule over the universe!
All:  We sing your praise in awe and wonder. Alleluia!
You have raised Christ to reign over all human history.
All is taken up in the grace and Christ. Alleluia!
You have raised up Christ to rule over our hearts and our lives.
We bow in humility and gratitude,
and give our lives to serve in love and wonder.  Alleluia!


2.
Leader: Christ, crucified and risen, you come to us in love.
All: We welcome you with gratitude, and we give you our thanks.
Christ, eternal Word of God made flesh, you ascend to rule the universe.
We worship you with awe, and we give you our obedience.
Living Christ, you breathe your Spirit into us.
We receive you with open hearts, and we give you our love. Alleluia!

3. [from Revelation 22.12-21]
Leader: Christ says, “See, I am coming soon!
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
All: Blessed are those who wash their robes,
who are given access to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
Let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.
Amen.

4.
Leader: Holy One, Heart of Heaven, your grace enfolds us.
Your Word creates us, and we rejoice in you.
You are in us, and we are in you.
Risen Christ, you have been raised to rule all things.
You reign over us in love, and with grace you embrace us.
You are in us, and we are in you.
Holy Spirit, you live in each of us, giving us one shared life.
With your people in all nations and traditions, languages and lifestyles,
we are one. And we praise you as one people.
Alleluia! You are in us, and we are in you.
Come, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Infinite God, the Christ who has walked among us you have raised up from death. The love Jesus embodied you have set on the throne of the world. In humility we open our hearts to your Word. Speak to us and re-point the very compass of our hearts, that they may point to you alone, and to your love. We pray in the name of the crucified and risen and exalted Christ. Amen.

2.
Eternal God, you sent us Christ who lived among us, located in time and space. Give us faith to behold in every time and place Christ, whose love raises us from death, whose presence gives us life. Resurrecting God, lead us onward. Amen.

3.
God of mystery, Christ cannot be contained—by a grave, or by a body. Love is above all things, all desires and all powers. Christ risen and ascended, reigns from the throne of our hearts. We give you our thanks and pledge allegiance to your Reign, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of grace, we confess how small we imagine you;
yet you are infinite, your presence mysterious.
We confess we pretend to understand Jesus;
yet he exceeds our grasp.
We confess we want Jesus for ourselves;
yet he has ascended, enlarged beyond our time and place.
We confess how small our faith is.
Open our hearts, God, to your infinite greatness, and your mystery.
We repent of our certainty. Give us faith instead.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. ( Ephesians 1.17-23)
Leader: We pray that the God of the beloved, Jesus Christ, the God of glory, may give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know the Creator so that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened.
All: We give our hearts to God, who calls us to hope,
who gives us a glorious inheritance among the saints,
and who shows immeasurably great power for us who trust.

God has shown that power in raising Christ from the dead
and seating Christ beside God in the heavenly places,
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in the age to come.

God has put all things under Christ’s feet
and has made Christ the head over all things for the church,
which is Christ’s body,
the fullness of God who fills all in all. Alleluia!

2. (Ephesians 1. 15-23)

Leader: O God, God of our Lord Jesus Christ, Mother of Life and Father of glory, All: Give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know you.
May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened.
May we know the hope to which you have called us.
May we behold the riches of your glorious inheritance among the saints.
May we know the immeasurable greatness of your power for us who believe.
Your great power is at work in us, the same power you put to work in raising Christ
Christ is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in the age to come.
You have put all things under his feet
and have made him the head over all things for the church.
We, the church, are his Body, his real Presence,
through which he fills the world.
Bless us that we may be filled with Christ,
and fill the world with his love. Amen.


3.
            We trust in God, the Source of all being, sovereign of all Creation, who in love continually creates all that is and all that is to come
            We follow Jesus, God’s Anointed One, who embodied God’s love in word and deed, giving his life in love. Christ was crucified and yet raised to new life, and ascended to reign over all Creatgion. Christ, the flesh of God’s love, walks among us, accompanying us toward God’s reign of peace and justice. Christ, the love of God, rules over our world, occupies all places and times, and leads us toward God’s New Creation.
            We live by the Holy Spirit, God’s love in us, and open our hearts to her guiding. We trust in the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, the unity of the Body of Christ, and the mystery of eternal life. We devote our lives to love, mercy and justice in the name and Spirit of Christ, our ruler and our companion. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Risen Christ,
you are no longer in one time or place,
but in every time and place.
You are here. You are in us.
We are in you.
We open our hearts to your loving presence.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

We thank you, God, for in the beginning
you spoke your Word and all Creation came into being,
all things, all living beings, one in your Word.
You have claimed all your children in love
and made us siblings;
you saved us all together on one ark;
you set us all free, judging all powers of oppression;
we have all passed through the same Red Sea.
You make a home for us, a promised land,
a fertile planet for all living beings.
In the Spirit of Christ you gather us as one people, one Body;
we are part of one another, and made whole in one another.
And so with all your children we gather at this table.
With all Creation and the whole company of heaven
we sing your praise with one voice.
[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who embodied your love for us:
in his teaching and healing he made whole
bodies that were sick, families that were broken,
communities that were divided.
He gathered all around one table—
the powerful and the outcast, the esteemed and the condemned,
and fed us from one loaf.
[Blessing and Covenant]

Jesus invited us to share in the baptism of his death and resurrection.
Crucified and risen, he ascended from one time and place
into all times and places.

He gave us all his Spirit, making us one body in him,
promising that we would be in him, and he in us,
so that we would be one in you.
Whenever we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
[Memorial Acclamation]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, O God,
and on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
redeemed by his blood and made one in his Spirit.


Receiving the Body of Christ,
we give thanks that we are the Body of Christ,
one with Christ, one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world.
Through your son Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit in your holy church,
all glory and honor is yours,
eternal and loving God.
[Amen]

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, we give you our lives, symbolized in these gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You are our sovereign; your love, embodied in Christ, reigns over all the world. Send us in humility and awe, in love and courage, to serve you, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. As wheat is gathered and made into one loaf, so we have been made on in Christ’s love. As bread rises, Christ has risen into a new form, and is alive in us. Send us now as the Body of Christ, moved by the Spirit of Christ, to join in the loving work of Christ, for the healing of the world. Amen.


Songs

(Click on titles to view on the Music page)

Christ Has Ascended     (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Christ, you have gone now into all Being,
into all people, all time and space.
Open our eyes, then, that we may see you
risen and living, shining with grace.

Christ you have changed now, hidden in daylight,
always before us, here in plain sight.
We look not skyward, but to our neighbor,
every face shining with God’s pure light.

Christ, you expanded, so that your Spirit
is not yours only, but with us all.
Still our companion, you will be with us,
no matter where we follow your call.

Christ, in your love you rule all creation;
justice and mercy shine as you rise.
We are your Body, breathing your Spirit,
light of your rising clear in our eyes.


Christ, Ruler of All Things       (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Christ, Ruler of all things, what is seen and unseen,
your love reigns; your grace is sure.
Beneath our fear and strife, death fails to conquer life:
your tender mercy still endures.

Christ, Ruler of our hearts, come and reign within us.
Make us comrades, siblings, friends.
Your love be our life, our only power,
that gives us life that never ends.

Christ, Ruler of the earth, bring your gentle justice:
your Realm come, your will be done.
Heal all oppression; fill us with mercy,
as faithful as the rising sun.

Christ, Ruler of all things, of what is and is to come,
Risen One, our song we raise.
Rule in our living; guide us with tender love.
Your grace in us will be your praise.



Love Is Enthroned      (Tune: Finlandia)

O, risen Christ, who once appeared among us,
you have ascended! Loud we sing your praise.
Though we may see no shadow of your nearness,
you have not gone; your loving presence stays.
You are no longer in one time or place,
but in all things, to radiate your grace.

Christ has ascended, reigning now above.
Love is enthroned at the Creator’s side.
All powers on earth are subject to Christ’s love,
who is our history’s unseen, gentle guide.
Though evil try to make this world its home,
Love is its Lord, and love shall overcome.

Go in the peace of Christ who is our Lord,
and gently heal, amid the fear and strife.
For we who eat and drink the living Word
are now Christ’s Body, and Christ’s earthly life.
We may not see the journey or the end,
but Christ still reigns, our ruler and our friend.


You Are the Nerve      (Tune: Finlandia)

O God, your Christ is risen in your people.
On earth Christ has no body now but ours.
We are the flesh and blood of your compassion:
moved by your Spirit, with its loving powers.
God be our heart, and we will be your Body,
serving in love in all our days and hours.

We are your feet, that go with joy to others
to share your love, the gospel we confess.
We are your eyes that see what is and may be,
that see each person’s need and loveliness.
We are your hands, that work with strength for justice,
your hands that shelter, heal and feed and bless.

Love, move in me, and guide me by your Spirit,
even when I don’t see or understand.
My life is yours, to be your living Body,
that I may love and serve at your command.
This is my life, my purpose and my power:
you are the nerve, and I your willing hand.

6th Sunday of Easter – May 22, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Acts 16. 9-15 Luke recounts Paul’s visit to Philippi. In a dream Paul is beckoned to Macedonia by a man; but it is a woman who greets him and joins in his ministry. And knowing they are on the road, she also welcomes his group to stay in her home.

In Psalm 67 we sing God’s praise and ask God’s blessing, that “God’s face will shine upon us,” that we will experience God’s gracious presence.

Revelation 21.22 – 22.5 is a vision of the “new Jerusalem.” God, not the sun, is its light, and in its center is the river of the water of life, and the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. As Lydia provided a home for Paul, in John’s vision God is a home for us.

In John 14.23-29 Jesus offers an image of God not as a king on a far-off throne, but as a homemaker. God comes and “makes a home” with us. In fact God is our home: Jesus says “I am in God and you in me, and I in you.” He promises the Holy Spirit, and says, “My peace I give you.”

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: From the noise and demands of the world,
All: we come to be made alive in God,
to be rooted and built up in Christ,
to be nourished and held together in the Spirit,
united in Christ’s body, the Church,
abounding in gratitude and love.

2.
Leader: Holy One, praise for you rises in our hearts like spring flowers.
All: We sing with gratitude, with awe and joy.
Loving Christ, our hearts bow in thanks; they dance with delight.
Our faithful companion, we open our hearts to your blessing.
Holy Spirit, power of grace in us, we proclaim your mercy; we shine with your beauty.
We worship you. We serve you. We live by your grace. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: God of Love, you come to us.
All: Giver of life, you make your home with us.
Spirit of God, you teach us your truth.
Defender of our Souls, you remind us of all we have heard.
Risen Christ, you give us your Peace.
We receive you. We worship you. We give you thanks. Alleluia!

4.
Leader: This is the day that God has made.
All: We will rejoice, and be glad in it!
God, as the earth blossoms with colors, and the scents of new life,
our spirits show forth the glory of your grace.
For in raising Christ from death you have given new life to us all.
You have brought us to life with one Spirit breathing in us all.
You have brought us out of our solitary tombs,
and made us alive in one body.
You have given us your love,
and with Christ you have come and made your home with us.
Alleluia! Awaken us to your presence, God,
and to Christ who is among us, and the Spirit within us;
transform us by your grace, that we may serve you faithfully
as the Body of your Risen Christ.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, you have promised to be with us always, and that your Spirit will live within and among us. We open our hearts to be mindful of your presence, to listen for your Word, and to allow you to lead us by your grace. Come and fill us, Spirit of love. Amen.

2.
Life-Giving God, you have planted the Tree of Life in our midst. We are your leaves, bearing our various fruits, each in our season. May your Spirit flow through us, that we may be filled with your love and strengthened for service, and bear the fruits of your love to the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

3.
God, you sent Jesus to be our way, our truth, our life. Help us to listen to him now, to be united in his Word, and to be empowered by his Spirit. He made promises to us. Help us to listen, so that we may treasure them in our hearts, and see their fulfillment in our lives. Gracious God, renew us by your Word. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, Jesus promised that when we love, he and you come to us and dwell with us, along with the Holy Spirit. Come to us now, and prepare a place of love in our hearts. Bless us, that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

      We believe in God, whom Jesus called Father,
Creator of all things, infinite in wisdom, power and love,
who prepares for a place for us to live,
and whose will for us is love and blessing.
       We give our hearts to Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son,
who lives with us in love, who heals and redeems us,
who dies in love and is raised to new life in love.
       We trust in the Holy Spirit, the divine presence in our lives,
who moves us to love in the name of Christ.
We devote ourselves to lives of faith,
serving the world in compassion and humility.
We belong to the Body of Christ;
we seek God’s peace, justice;
we trust in the power of forgiveness and mercy;
and we live by the promise of Resurrection. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Loving God,
you are our heart, our home.
Your Christ is in us;
and we are in you.
We make a home for you here
in hearts that are still.
Come, be with us
in love.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively by leader(s) and congregation or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise. God of all Being, God of our life, we thank you.
We live within you; you birth us breath by breath.

You make your home with us, present in all our moments.
You overcome oppression and set us free.

You are our safe space, our living room,
our place of intimacy and celebration.
You are our kitchen, our place of nourishment and joy.
Therefore we gather at your table, with al Creation,
singing your praise:

[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He embodied your love; he made your home among us.
He fed the hungry and healed the broken;
he taught those who hungered for mercy and justice.
He opened the door to a new world, the Ream of God among us.
     (The Blessing and Covenant)

He was crucified by the powers of injustice and oppression;
but he was raised by the power of your love.
He gave us your Spirit, and he lives in us:
he is in you and you are in us, and we in you.
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember Christ’s death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
As we receive thee gifts may they fill us with you,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
Christ alive in us, and us in you,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world, to your glory.
     
(Amen.)

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, when we are loving, we become your dwelling place. We seek to become more deeply and freely loving. Therefore we give you these gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Through our generosity, by your grace, make your home with us, now and always. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Communion Songs for Easter set to familiar tunes
Eight songs of invitation to the table, set to these melodies:
All Creatures of Our God and King,
Infant Holy, Be Thou My Vision,
The Gift of Love / Water Is Wide,
Morning Has Broken, Fairest Lord Jesus.

Easter Eucharistic Responses
Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen set to:
All Things Bright and Beautiful (Includes Preface
)
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Fairest Lord Jesus
Morning Has Broken
Now the Green Blade Rises

Always New   (Tune: Gift of Love (“Water Is Wide”)
                                    or Tallis’ Canon
)

O God, you make me always new.
Each breath I breathe is life from you,
a gift of love that sets me free.
Beloved, breathe new life in me.

O Christ, you call me to new birth
like God’s creation of the earth,
to leave the things I’m fastened on
and walk into the rising dawn.

O loving Spirit, live in me.
Forgive my sin and set me free.
Give me new birth, life from above,
that I may live in your deep love.

On Feminine Images of God

Though scripture and popular usage often refers to God as “Father, “ I often use feminine images of God. There are several reasons; here are some.

• Scripture uses feminine images of God.

• I use feminine images because I experience God in this way. I am simply being true to my experience.

• Scripture uses dozens of images to describe and identify God. It is silly to insist that God can’t be imagined in feminine images.

• God is not more masculine than feminine. God has no biology, no X or Y chromosomes, no body parts. Our images refer to social stereotypes of the nature and roles of men and women. God is beyond that. (Remember, God is not a human, no matter how great.)

• But, given our stereotypes, much of what the scriptures (and especially Jesus) say about God is actually more like our traditional stereotypes of women than of men: God gives us birth, feeds us, tends us, and washes us. God cares for us intimately, makes a home for us, tends to our relationships, and shepherds our life together as a family. Whatever values and characteristics we imagine as “feminine” —tenderness, sensitivity, emotion, receptiveness, resilience, fertility, attention to relationships—apply to God. Jesus takes care to project an image of God that is decidedly unlike our stereotypes of masculinity: control, physical dominance, rational thought, emotional distance, and so on.

• God commands that we have no graven images of God. Feminine as well as masculine images of God save us from the idolatry of the graven image of God as exclusively male.

• As The Cloud of Unknowing says, “God can be loved but not thought.” God is beyond our rational understanding. Images that are unexpected, that bewilder or even confuse us, keep us from arrogantly thinking that we have God “all figured out.”

• Our images of God are just images. God is absolute, but our images are not. We need images of God that are multiple, shifting, relative and varied, so that we worship God and not our image of God. In fact God keeps telling us, “I am not who you think I am!”

• The image of the Holy Trinity suggests that God is more than one kind of “person.” In order to keep our language about God honest, we need a variety of images, not just one. In fact the image of the Trinity suggests that we imagine God beyond our binary male-female polarity, but in a way that transcends gender. Yes, in that way God is Trans.

• The real reason we call God “father” is sexism (the thought that maleness is somehow superior)—an evil that Jesus calls us to work against. Feminine God images oppose sexism, and help change gender stereotypes and social roles.

• Feminine images of God can affirm women in ways that the church has not done: to honor their dignity, and help them identify divine qualities in themselves.

• We really should move beyond language about God that liberates us from our graven images of gender for either God or humans. For this reason the second best pronoun for God is “They.”

• The best pronoun for God, and the best way to imagine God, is not in the third person at all, since, God being infinite and omnipresent, we can’t talk about God without also talking to God. We are invited not just to have ideas and images of God, but to relate with God. So the best pronoun for God is really “You.”

Mothers Day – May 8, 2022

Scripture Texts

Selections from next week’s lectionary may be appropriate:
In Acts 16. 9-15 Luke recounts Paul’s visit to Philippi. In a dream Paul is beckoned to Macedonia by a man; but it is a woman who greets him and joins in his ministry. And knowing they are on the road, she also welcomes his group to stay in her home.

In Psalm 67 we sing God’s praise and ask God’s blessing, that “God’s face will shine upon us,” that we will experience God’s gracious presence.

Revelation 21.22 – 22.5 is a vision of the “new Jerusalem.” God, not the sun, is its light, and in its center is the river of the water of life, and the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. As Lydia provided a home for Paul, in John’s vision God is a home for us.

In John 14.23-29 Jesus offers an image of God not as a king on a far-off throne, but as a homemaker. God comes and “makes a home” with us. In fact God is our home: Jesus says “I am in God and you in me, and I in you.” He promises the Holy Spirit, and says, “My peace I give you.”

Additional texts:
Hosea 11.1-11 portrays God as a loving mother whose child, Israel, has become rebellious. Though she feels like rejecting her child, she will not, because she is God, not human: she acts in love, not anger.

Psalm 131
(a version is below) imagines us in the arms of a nursing mother, at peace.

Colossians 3.12-17 is not about motherhood, but describes a way of living together that any mother would recognize as what she wants for her family.

In Luke 13.34 Jesus refers to himself as a mother hen protecting her children.

Guiding Thoughts

Before it was swallowed up in Hallmark sentimentality Mothers Day originally arose as an action for Peace: mothers who refused to send their sons off to war to kill other mothers’ sons. (Here’s a little history.) Be careful with how you treat Mothers Day in worship. Honoring mothers can easily be construed as preferring motherhood, leaving those who are not mothers, by choice or otherwise, to wonder when they get their day. And some people are troubled honoring “all mothers,” if their own mother was abusive. The day can easily give way to the belief that women are justified chiefly by bearing children and that their highest calling in life is as homemakers. So be thoughtful.

Mothers Day can be a day to lift up images of God as Mother, but again: be thoughtful. Our sexist images of God need to be done away with, and Mothers Day can be a chance to gently introduce feminine images of God. (See my piece on feminine images of God here.) But if you do, keep it up. If we pray to Mother God once a year and Father the rest of the time, the tokenism will only serve to further obscure the fact that God is beyond gender. Keep in mind that the characteristics of God that are revealed in feminine images of God, except for birthing and nursing, are attached only to our social stereotypes of women and mothers. Our culture says certain traits, like strength, courage, or assertiveness, are masculine and others like nurturing, receptiveness or gentleness are feminine—but that’s not usually true. Except for biological functions, most gender roles are a social construct. Women are strong and courageous; men are gentle and receptive. Men raise children and women earn salaries. So be careful how you set out social gender role stereotypes as descriptions of God. They should expand our understanding of God, not restrict our understanding of mothers and women. For example we might frame the Eucharist as God our mother providing a meal for her family. But be careful not to imply that cooking and serving a meal is for mothers only, and isn’t a fatherly thing to do.

Call to Worship

Leader: Holy God, heavenly Mother,
you have given us birth and watched over us in love. We praise you.
All: Risen Christ, loving brother, you have shared with us the gift of life.
We thank you.
Holy Spirit, confident sister, you have walked with us and believed in us.
We give you our hearts.
Eternal God, Holy Trinity, family of grace, we worship you.
We gather at the family table to tell stories, to share bread,
and to give each other our hearts,
so that our lives will be changed. Alleluia!


Prayer

God of Love, Mother of our Souls, we thank you for the gift of life: that by your grace we are born anew from you; that you nurse us at the breast of Creation, that you have held us, guided us, and taught us to walk. You gather all your children in your loving arms; grant us peace with one another in your love. We pray for all mothers, givers of life; strengthen them with your love and grace. We pray especially for mothers who raise their children in poverty, violence, war or unhealthy environments; that we may care for one another as for our own kin. We pray for mothers whose children fight our wars for us; that we may learn peace. Gracious God, Mother of us all, grant us your peace. Amen.

Reading

(Psalm 131)

O Lord, my heart has not been haughty,
nor have my eyes looked too high,
nor have I striven for great things,
nor for things too wondrous for me.
But I have calmed and contented myself
like a weaned babe in my mother’s arms,
like a weaned child I am at peace.
O Israel, trust in God;
trust, now and forevermore.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Loving Mother God,
I nurse in your arms;
I rest in your lap;
I am at peace.
You are with me;
adoring, you hold me;
I open my heart to your presence.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Our Mother God, you have given birth to us,
and we are made in your image.
You have nursed us with your love and fed us your grace;
you protect us from bullies and set us free from all that we fear.

You call us as one family, all humanity, siblings all,
to live together in peace, and to feast together at the table you set.
Therefore with the whole family of Creation we sing your praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, Mother of our Souls,
who embodied your love.
He fed the hungry as his own children;
he offered healing and comfort.

Like a mother hen gathering her children he gathered us
in his grace in a community of love.
He was crucified, but you raised him from the dead.

He invites us to his table, to feast on the grace
he has prepared for us like a mother feeding her children.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
born anew from the womb of your grace,
bearing the image and the heart of your love,
for the healing of the world.

(Amen.)

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Children of the Heavenly Mother    (Tune: Children of the Heavenly Father)

Children of the Heavenly Mother
gather gladly with each other,
for you call us to your table,
bringing gifts as we are able.

You have held us and caressed us,
washed and taught us, healed and blessed us.
You who cherish and adore us,
God, you set this table for us.

You have birthed us, and have freed us;
with your body now you feed us.
In this grace, O loving mother,
we are one with one another.

So we praise you, heavenly Mother,
Holy Spirit, Christ our brother,
All Creation sings together
honor, thanks and praise for ever.


This Is Our Mother’s World       (Tune: This Is My Father’s World)

As a mother in her love surrounds her own with care,
God gives us birth and life and earth and grace beyond compare.
This is our Mother’s world; her grace is everywhere,
each person blest, held to her breast, enfolded in her care.

As a mother tends her young and teaches them her ways,
God loves us so that her light will show: our lives become her praise.
This is our Mother’s world. Her care for us is sure.
Though we go wrong her love stays strong. Her love and grace endure.

As a mother, wise and kind, leads children day by day,
God holds us near so we can hear the voice that guides our way.
This is our Mother’s world, and so our gifts we bring,
to freely share her loving care, and praises gladly sing.

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