Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 14, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Isaiah 49.1-7. God has called the prophet (and us) to proclaim God’s word and to bring about justice. Significantly, the call is not only to be a prophet to one’s neighbors, but to the nation, and in fact to other nations as well. It’s an exceedingly broad vision! God’s justice is never about “America first,” but about the well-being of all the nations, “to the end of the earth.”

John 1. 29-42 reflects a vision of Jesus’ call similar to Isaiah’s: that Jesus has been ordained by God from the beginning, and agin that his witness is not just for the sake of a chosen few but for the whole nation. Jesus is the lamb of Gosd who takes away the sin of the world. God knows we have a lot of sin to be taken away.

      Some alternate texts:
                  Hebrew Bible

Isaiah 9.2-4 N
ext week’s lectionary reading—celebrates the light of God’s liberating grace, which overwhelms the darkness of war, injustice and oppression.

Isaiah 42.1-9
is the reading from then previous week. It describes God’s gentle servant, who brings healing and justice nonviolently.

Micah. 6.1-8 Is a reading for Jan. 24) What the Lord requires: Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.

Isaiah 58.1-9 is the reading on Feb. 5 God criticizes religiosity that does not lead us to love our neighbor and care for the poor. “You serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress your workers. But real religious observance is to do justice and set people free.” In this your light will shine.

Isaiah 11. 1-10 imagines a ruler from Jesse’s family tree who shows us how to live: with a spirit of wisdom, judging not by appearances, but by the spirit; providing justice for the poor, until nonviolence prevails over all the world.

Psalm 72 celebrates one who rules with justice, defending the poor and needy and eliminating oppression.

Preaching Thoughts

Racism. A preacher who avoids preaching about racism is a bad preacher, or at least a coward in the face of the call of Jesus. But how you address racism takes a lot of discernment, wisdom and nuance. Everyone is somewhere on a continuum from those who are profoundly oblivious, in denial and actively white supremacists—to those who are becoming aware of the issue—to those who are ready to engage in serious self-examination about their racism— to those who are actively wrestling with their own implicit bias, disentangling themselves from their complicity, and working for justice. Where are your people? What is their next step? What message will help them take that step? They probably don’t need righteous pulpit-pounding with “racism is bad!” What will actually be good news for them? Even repentance can be preached as good news if it’s clear that God’s grace invites us, accompanies us, and empowers us to make the journey. Don’t complain about racism. And don’t just talk about how great Martin was. Give your people some fuel for the work, some encouragement to keep at it.

Lamb of God. How was Martin a “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?” I don’t mean he was Jesus, or equal to him. But he—and all Black people—have been scapegoats. They suffer for our sins. And Martin, and many before him and after, received our hatred, violence and injustice without returning it. They confront us with our sin but also offer forgiveness, and the possibility of masking amends. Is that what it means to be a lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Maybe Martin gives us a model for what it might mean to really follow Jesus.

Call to Worship

Leader: This is God’s world, a world of beauty, wonder and incredible diversity.
All: Yet it is broken: fractured by our racism poverty, militarism and greed.
But God is still God, offering us forgiveness, and giving us courage to heal the world.
Speak to us, God. Give us grace to see ourselves clearly,
to be changed by your grace and renewed by your Spirit,
and to follow Jesus.
We open our hearts to you. We give you our thanks. We worship you.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of grace, in this world broken by hate, fear, violence and greed, we need Jesus. We need your Lamb of Love to forgive us, to teach us, to lead us. Open our hearts to hear his voice and to follow, that we too may become your lambs of love, in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus, love of God, walk with us in humility, mercy and justice.
With Martin Luther King, Jr, walk beside us in nonviolence.
With Rosa Parks, walk beside us in courage.
With Oscar Romero walk beside us in hope.
On the Trail of Tears, walk beside us in repentance.
Crucified and risen Christ, walk beside us in justice, love and mercy. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of love,
we confess the smallness of our love,
our fear of acting justly,
our willingness to comply with injustice.
Forgive us, heal our hearts,
renew our courage, and lead us in lives of justice.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
have mercy on us, and give us life.

God of grace,
we confess our racism.
We confess that we are complicit in unjust systems,
that we protect our privilege and defend our biases.
We have broken the bonds of the human family,
and injured our siblings, and we repent.
With the grace you show us in Christ,
forgive our sin, heal our fear,
and inspire us to be transformed,
to change and to work for change,
for the sake of the healing of the world.

God of love and justice,
we praise you for the wonder and beauty
of the diversity of the human family.
And we confess our fear of the gift,
our buried, subtle bias against people of color,
our preference for what is white and familiar.
We confess all our sin, including racism.
We confess our silence in the face of injustice.
Forgive our sin, and transform it.
Heal our fear, and open our eyes.
Give us humility to admit when we are biased,
and honesty to be learners
when we’re not sure what to do or say.
Help us be aware of our privilege
and steward it with humility and compassion.
Give us courage to take risks,
to bear witness, to speak out against injustice.
God, grant muse the joy of living in harmony with Christ,
by the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

     God, we love you and we give our hearts to you: you who create all things, who make all people in your image, who give us this world of rich and blessed diversity.
     Jesus, Lamb of God, we love you and we give our hearts to you, for you take away the sin of the world: you set us free from our fear and selfishness, and you give us the power and courage to do justice, to love boldly, and to serve humbly. Dying, you confronted oppression without surrendering. Rising, you renewed in us life without limit. In gratitude we seek to follow you.
     Holy Spirit, we love you and we give our hearts to you, for you descend on us as on Jesus, empowering us to continually repent of our sin, be renewed in your grace, and work for justice and reparation. You give us the power of nonviolent love, humble courage, and undying hope. We open our hearts to your grace, that we may be your lambs of love, in the name of Christ, for the healing of the world. Amen.

Leader: Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
All: God of love, give us Christ’s peace.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”
God of love, give us Christ’s love.
Martin said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
God of love, give us Christ’s light,
that we may be light for the world,
and love among broken people. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
give us your humble love,
your gentle courage,
your trust in the mystery of grace.
The heart of our hearts
rises to follow you.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding 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 love, we thank you,
for you create us in love, all of us in your image,
in spectacular diversity of color and culture—
all in your image of love and loveliness.
You claim us as your children, and save us when we are lost.
You judge the forces of oppression and set your children free:
free from slavery, free from prisons, free from hatred.
And you ask us to join you
in the great work of setting all your children free.
To guide us you sent us Moses and prophets, and you sent us Jesus.
You sent Martin and Rosa and Harriet and Ruby and so many more,
and still you send leaders to help us set free your Beloved.
Therefore in chorus with all who have bee set free
and those who long for freedom, we sing your praise:

               Sanctus, spoken or sung:
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.

       [or alternate]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
whose nonviolent love changed the world—and changed us.
He fed the poor, healed the broken,
and proclaimed liberty to the prisoners.
He stood for justice, and paid with his life,
but you raised him from the dead, for justice cannot be killed.
Living still, he renews with us your Covenant
to be with us in love forever.

     (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, spoken or sung:
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.

             [—or alternative]

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,
nonviolent lambs of love for the healing of the world,

             [Spoken or sung]

* 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 / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us in love. / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Lamb of God, strengthen us in your courage and your love, to work for justice, gentle as lambs and resolute as lions, in the name and the spirit of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Light for the World (Original song) – [weekly Epiphany “Theme song”]
A dialogue between soloist and congregation. May be used as a “theme song” throughout the Epiphany season, using one to three verses per week. Throughout the season the congregation sings the chorus; each week the soloist’s verses relate to the day’s lectionary readings. Lyrics for this week:]

Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

“You are my servant in whom I delight, a light unto the nations.”
Shine for the ones who dwell in the dark, with comfort and justice.

The people in darkness have seen a great light. On them your glory has risen.
For you have broken oppression’s power. Your people rejoice!

“This is the fast that I choose,” says our God, “to loosen the bonds of injustice.
For then your light shall break forth like the dawn, rising in the darkness.”

                        << See all songs with “justice” tags, especially these: >>

Becoming Whole (Original song)
(This has many possible verses. A sampling:)

We are a broken people becoming whole again.
We are a wounded people being healed again.
We are a wandering people coming home again.
We are a captive people walking free again.

Breath of God       (Tune: Londonderry Air, O Danny Boy)

O Holy One, Creator of the stars of night,
whose dust we are, created with your light,
now breathe your spirit into us and give us life;
give us new hearts that beat with your delight.
Our dust and ashes, Love, we give in faith to you.
Receive our lives, our sin, our wounds, our death;
and raise us up with Christ from death to life by grace.
God, may we be your love and you our living breath.

Breathe into us the breath of your compassion, God,
the breath to sing your praise in all we do,
the breath to run the race of justice, long and far.
Breathe, holy breath: empower and renew.
O be the grace that fills our lungs, reviving us;
O be the wind on which our hearts can soar;
O be our life, our beauty and our living breath.
O Spirit, come breathe in us now and evermore.

Do Justice (Original Song)
Do Justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.
Love, help us humbly live your justice, your love, your mercy.

Give us eyes      (Tune: EBENEEZER, “Once To Every Man and Nation”)

Give us eyes, O God of justice, to see clearly as you see:
not to turn away but bravely face oppression’s misery.
Steel our hearts to see injustice, and to feel our siblings’ pain.
Give us sorrow; give us rage; but let our anger be humane.

Give us eyes, O God of mercy, to see evil as you see:
holding victim and oppressor in its jaws, and neither free.
God, refine our wrath and grief with yours ‘till only love remains.
Give us loving rage and courage to step up and break the chains.

Give us eyes, O God of wholeness, to see all the love you sow,
and by grace to set it free: in every person let it flow.
Let our wrath be flames of love and not the burn of power denied,
till we gently, firmly, mightily pry the gates of justice wide.

God, We Are Broken         (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, we are broken, for all flesh is weak.
Grant us the healing and peace that we seek.
For all that pains us, beyond our control,
grant us your healing, our bodies made whole.

God, we are broken; our hearts are not one.
Sometimes it seems that our souls come undone.
Bring us renewal and calm in our soul.
Grant us your healing and make our hearts whole.

God, we are broken: for families and friends
suffer when love fails and faithfulness ends.
May your forgiveness and grace play its role.
Grant us your healing; make covenants whole.

God, we are broken, for many are poor,
and we ignore those who lie by our door.
God, may your justice like great rivers roll.
Grant us your healing; make all people whole.

God, we are broken for hate and all war
wound us so we are not free anymore.
Make us one people from pole to pole.
Grant us your healing, and make the world whole.

Lead on, O God of justice
Tune: LANCASHIRE (Lead on, O King Eternal)

Lead on, O God of justice. Your vision calls us forth:
to life where all are cherished, and know their sacred worth,
where all have what they need to be who they can be,
and all know their belonging and live in peace and free.

Lead on, O God of justice, as Jesus shows the way,
and gives to us your Spirit, and guides us day by day.
Your courage and compassion, your love flow through our veins
for those we cast aside, who bear oppression’s chains.

Lead on, O God of justice. Your fiery pillar burn
in us to heal the world, to make injustice turn.
To change our evil systems your Spirit sets us free.
Though long the road and tiring, you bear us faithfully.

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