OT 23 – 13th Sunday After Pentecost

September 4, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 18. 1-11 God says, “You are the clay and I am the potter. I reshape you as I see fit.”

Psalm 139 prays, “God, you created me.” (Knitted and woven, specifically, which were women’s work). “You know me; you are always with me. Help me to avoid doing evil.”

Philemon was apparently indebted to Paul, and owned a slave, Onesimus, who had possibly run away to work with Paul. In this letter Paul returns Onesimus and asks Philemon to set him free, not as an obligation, which Paul could have demanded, but in love, asking Philemon to see Onesimus not as an inferior but as a brother.

In Luke 14. 25-33 Jesus invites us to love at all costs. And he gets honest about that cost. If you’re building a tower you first count the cost to make sure you can finish. To truly follow Jesus is to carry the cross, letting go of all that we cling to and our loyalty to everything and everyone but God—even our own loved ones. Don’t lose your saltiness, Jesus says.

Preaching Thoughts

Luke
     “Hate father and mother..” — Strong language, typical of Jesus. Obviously he doesn’t mean dislike, enmity or mistreatment. (Notice how he defends “honor your father and mother” in Mark 7.11). He means honoring your discipleship even above family loyalty. We easily surrender our beliefs or our integrity to avoid upsetting people we care about (well, yeah, and even strangers). We “go along to get along.” This can be hardest in families or bonds of significant friendship. How many folks don”t talk politics” with family members? Jesus invites us to stand for who we are, even when the resistance is costly. That’s when we really become ourselves. Of course, the point is not to start family arguments; some disagreements are best left untested. But not arguing about our beliefs is one thing; staying true to them is another. That’s what counts.
     “Carry the cross.” — A “cross to bear” is not an annoyance. It’s our willingness to suffer for the sake of loving others. And love requires suffering. Mayne not much, but always at least a little. Sometimes a lot. Every parent knows your heart will be broken a thousand times. But you do it, because the cost is actually a good deal. Love is worth it. But don’t think it won’t hurt. “Count the cost.” I think people need help discerning the difference between the authentic cost of discipleship and unrelated struggle or suffering. Not every “thorn in the flesh” is a result of our love, forgiveness, generosity or work for justice. “Stuff happens.” On the other hand, we often minimize just how much we have to let go of to really live lives of love, forgiveness, humility, vulnerability, reconciliation, healing and justice. Each of us needs to discern: What do I need to let go of to be perfectly loving? What are the things I cling to that are likely to hold me back from loving deeply, forgiving entirely, or risking for the sake of others?
     “Salt is good.” — What a cryptic, evocative image. Be salt. There’s not much correct doctrine to it, nor any clear senses of definition. In the context of carrying the cross, it seems to mean “be loving.” Its ambiguity invites us to ponder: What feels like “salty” living to you? Loving? Kind? Authentic? Simple? Bringing out other people’s beauty, as salt brings out other flavors? It certainly seems to describe behavior, not belief. Who has “salted” your life? What do you value in that? The image of salt invites a lot of play, imagination and storytelling.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, divine artist, you fashion the universe with skill and beauty.
All: We praise you!
Jesus the builder has shaped our hearts with loving hands and a steady eye.
We thank you!
Holy Spirit, breath of new creation, you continually fashion us anew.
We worship you. We open our hearts to you.
We surrender ourselves to your shaping hands. Alleluia!


2.
Leader: God, you have searched us and known us.
All: Holy Mystery, we wonder; and we praise you.
Where could we escape your presence? Even in the farthest desolation, you are there.
Loving Presence, you accompany us; you sustain us, and we thank you.
You have formed our inner nature; you create us by your grace.
How vast is your love! We praise you,
for we are astoundingly and wonderfully made.
Search us, and remove whatever is evil in us,
and lead us in the way everlasting.

3.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: We thank you and we worship you.
God, you search us and know us;
you are all about us, within us and among us.
Your presence is everywhere; help us to be aware.
Come be with us now, God, and help us in our worship.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

4.
Leader: Creator God, you are the potter; we are the clay.
All: Shape us by your Word.
By your grace help us to turn from the things we possess
and worship you with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.
By your grace help us to take up our cross and follow.
Savior of the world, we devote our hearts to you. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Potter God, shape us by your Word. Fashion us with your divine skill. In your grace re-make us in your image. Speak to us, and your Word will call us to new life. Amen.

2.
God of love, Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow him. But we confess that we hold back; we cling to many things. Grant us the faith to trust your grace, to let go of all that burdens us, and to take up Christ’s love for the world and follow him in faith and service. Speak your Word to us, call to us in our fear, and give us courage to follow. Amen.

3.
God, we want to worship you. Christ, we want to follow you. Living within us, you know better than we what holds us back. Spirit, rise up in us now, and bend us toward you. You are the potter; we are the clay. Shape us by your Word. With your steady hands upon us, change us from one degree of glory to another, and form us into your delight. You are the weaver. Weave the threads of our hearts into the tapestry of your image, the Body of Christ, our Savior and our brother. Amen.

4.
Gentle God, you know that we cling to many things in this life. Help us now to let go of them all, and to open ourselves to your presence and your Word. As your scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, help us to hear your voice, and to allow ourselves to be changed, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

5.
God of love, Jesus called his hearers to leave behind their worldly attachments and follow him. Lead us by your grace to let go of everything to which we cling, so that we can be open to your Word. Open our hearts, so that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Great Potter God,
we confess we have had a mind of our own,
and shaped our lives as we have chosen,
not as you have hoped for us.
In stillness we repent.
Lay your strong and gentle hands upon us,
and reshape us according to your delight.
Forgive our sin, heal our wounds,
and shape us by your grace,
as vessels of your light.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
       Loving God, you are our creator. You create all things in your love; you create us as an image of your love. You are the potter; we are the clay. We submit ourselves to your shaping hands.
       Loving Christ, you who perfectly embodied God’s love, who taught and healed, who fed the hungry and gathered the outcast: you call us to follow you. You were willing to pay the cost for your radical faithfulness to God: you were crucified. But God raised you from the dead. The way of the cross is not the way of death, but the way of Life! Christ, you call us to surrender all and follow you. We submit ourselves to your life-giving Way.
       Loving Spirit, it is by your power alone that we are faithful, You breathe in us; you give us grace to take up our cross and follow. Make us people of trust and forgiveness, people of prayer, people of resurrection. You are the potter and we are the clay: mold us and shape us according to your will. Amen.

2.
Leader: God, like a thoughtful grandmother you knit each of us a life.
All: Like a weaver at her loom of beauty you weave us together.
Like an artful potter you shape us for your purposes.
And when we are distorted you re-shape us again.
You are the beauty that draws us toward life.
You are the love that beckons us out of self-centeredness
and toward our sisters and brothers in compassion and gratitude.
You are the treasure that is worth the greatest cost.
Alleluia! We gladly give up everything and turn to you.
Bless us, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Listening Prayer

Salt me, God,
with your love,
that. forsaking all else,
I may love perfectly
with your love,
and never lose my saltiness.

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 hearts.
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 we are wondrously made.
You know us inside and out, and are with us always.
Even in the farthest places you are with us;
even in the darkest times you are light.
You set us free from all that enslaves us,
and ask us to set one another free.
Like a master potter you shape us by your love.
And so we come to your table to be re-shaped again,
singing your praise:

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who loved even at the cost of his life,
and asks us to do the same.
Under an oppressive power he was crucified,
but by your infinite grace he was raised from the dead.


     (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,
with courage and compassion no matter the cost,
salty with your love,
for the sake of 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.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

God of love, you have shaped us by your Word; now send us into the world to embody that Word, forsaking all our possessions, our habits and attachments, to follow Christ with courage, to heal the broken and set free the oppressed with compassion, and to praise you in all things, by the grace and power of your Holy Spirit in us. We pray, as we live, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In the love of Jesus you have salted us with your love, that we may serve you for the sake of justice, with courage and compassion. May this mystery live in us always. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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


I Am Open (Original song)

Dear gentle Jesus, I open to you
the deepest secrets of my soul.
My heart is open, wounded and broken.
Heal and forgive and make me whole.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

Beloved Jesus, my eyes are open;
your healing touch restores my sight.
Like open windows, they shine, and in flows
your glory filling me with light.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

My wounded Jesus. Your arms are open,
our hurt and dying to embrace.
When I would close them, hold my arms open,
to be so loving by your grace.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

Now risen Jesus, my life is open,
a flower unfolding in the sun:
by your light growing, and boldly showing
the love of God, as you have done.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.


I Take Up My Cross (Original song)

Congregation:
Letting go, I am held. I take up my cross and follow.

Cantor
1. Jesus, you call to me, and draw me into your life.
2. Christ, I leave all behind, to follow you in love.
3. I yield my life to you, for you alone are God.
4. Loved with your costly love, I’ll suffer for the sake of love.
5. Christ, make my one desire to be to serve you in love.


OT 9

Lectionary Texts

In 1 Kings 18.20-39, a scene with a good deal of satire, Elijah stages a showdown between Yahweh and the god Baal. Two sacrifices are prepared, one for each god. The real God will be the one who comes down and lights the fire under their sacrifice. Of course, Yahweh comes through, big time. Final score: Yahweh 1, Baal 0… or maybe even less than zero.

Psalm 96 is a song of praise to God and God’s righteous reign. All nations, and all Creation, join in praising God.

In Galatians 1.1-12 Paul begins his letter by scolding the church in Galatia for listening to people with a message that is not really the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Luke 7. 1-10 Jesus heals the beloved servant of a Roman soldier, who understands that Jesus has authority over the spirits just like he, the centurion, has authority over the soldiers he commands.

Preaching Thoughts

Call to Worship

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Prayer of Confession

Readings

Poetry by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Response / Creed / Affirmation

Listening Prayer

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


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.


     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,

     (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,
(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

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.


Suggested Songs

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


Palm – Passion Sunday, April 10, 2022

Lectionary Texts

The Palms

In Luke 19.28-42 Jesus enters Jerusalem to joyful acclaim. The human resistance of the Pharisees is met by the support of all Creation (“these stones would cry out”). Verses 41-42, in which Jesus laments over Jerusalem, are not included in the lectionary but I highly recommend including them. (They never appear in the lectionary!)

Psalm 118 is a festival Psalm (probably from an ancient worship service) proclaiming trust in God’s kindness and protection despite the onslaught of enemies.

The Passion

Isaiah 50.4-9 speaks of God’s servant who is treated unjustly, and yet who trusts in God, listens for God’s voice, and proclaims God’s truth.

Psalm 31 cries out for God’s help amidst suffering, especially the judgment and hate of others. Even in such deep sorrow, the Psalm expresses profound trust in God.

Philippians 2.5-11 celebrates the incarnation, or embodiment, of God’s presence in Jesus. Christ, though divine, came among us as a humble, vulnerable, suffering human, in order to be present with us in all things.

Luke 22.14 – 23.56 tell the story of Jesus’ last days: his final gathering with his beloved community, his arrest and trial, and his death and burial.

Guiding Thoughts

The Palm and Passion service

Because few people attend Good Friday services, if we celebrate Palm Sunday one week and Easter the next worshipers completely miss the story of the cross—the second most important story in our faith! Easter becomes a punchline without the joke. That certainly sits well in our shallow, happiness-addicted, pain-avoidant culture. But not with our faith. It completely avoids our facing our pain and our sin, particularly the consequences of our sin—people get hurt—and we miss witnessing God’s mighty compassion in accompanying us though both our crucifying and our own crucifixion. This is one Sunday in which there is particular power in experiencing the wide narrative sweep of the gospel story instead of the little bits we usually hear on Sundays.

The passion story is intense drama. It takes a while to experience. It deserves more than a brief drive-by viewing. But it’s a along story to read in Sunday worship. It helps to break it up. By God’s grace the arc of a worship service provides the structure for telling the palm-passion narrative. The service outline provided here follows the whole gospel story through the liturgical movements, more as a dramatic reading than a typical worship service—and more engaging of the congregation than an extended reading.

For people not familiar with the palm-passion structure it can feel jarring to suddenly turn from waving Palms to shouting “Crucify him!” It’s supposed to unsettle us. Our sin ought to. That’s the story we’re telling. The abrupt movement from the praise and confidence of the Service of the Palms to the dark, confessional Service of the Passion follows the Gospel story of Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, from the festal procession to the awful reality of the cross and the tomb. This progression also reflects God’s presence with us and for us not just in the happy, triumphant times but also in our suffering. And it invites our humility: our praise easily turns to sin, our loyalty to betrayal. (So, in the traditional manner, the palms we wave today will be burned to provide the ashes for our Ash Wednesday worship next year.)

Most importantly, witnessing thew story as a whole helps us experience the movement of the Gospel: Christ confronts the violence of our social, political and religious systems as its victim. He exposes the evil of our violence, and meets it with nonviolence, forgiveness, healing and community, setting us free to renounce all violence and live in his spirit of mercy and love. It is only in the cross—in the context of our suffering and our evil—that the grace of God’s life-giving love and forgiveness can honestly promise resurrection.

The New Exodus

Jesus’ Last Supper with the disciples was a Passover meal. The Passover is the great celebration of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. The feast gives thanks for our freedom, and honors God’s will to liberate all people from oppression and injustice.

Jesus is the new Passover. Note the parallels between the passion story and the Exodus. Instead of being slaves to Pharaoh, we are enslaved to sin. God Godself suffers the plague of the death of the first-born. Jesus is the slaughtered lamb whose blood marks us for freedom, and saves us from the power of death. As Moses leads the people through the Red Sea to freedom, Jesus leads us through death and Resurrection (symbolized in the Red Sea of the baptismal waters).

The Exodus story is about our liberation. We are those Hebrews. But what we usually completely miss in our White American churches is that it’s also a story about our sin. We are also those Egyptians. We Whites are a dominant group that benefits from the enslavement of blacks which, even though it legally ended 150 years ago, is still at at work today. White Supremacy is the new Egypt. As we celebrate the Exodus we are also called to notice our racism, and our willingness to impoverish certain populations. Pharaoh’s command to slaughter male Hebrew children has a parallel in the targeting of young blacks in our incarceration rates and the police murder of unarmed black men. Many of the “liberties” we celebrate in this country are not available to African Americans. We’re not out of Egypt yet.

The Exodus is God’s will not just for the escape of some slaves, but for the abolition of slavery. It’s God’s judgment against all oppression. The Exodus and the resurrection are God’s nonviolent overthrow of the forces of evil and oppression. Baptized into Christ, we are not only grateful for our own liberation; in the words of the Methodist baptismal rite we “resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”

In that work we are not only convicted but also empowered by the cross. The cross is God’s nonviolent resistance to our sin: God exposes and overcomes our violence and our separation from God. When we hurt others, even for “righteous” reasons, we make God our victim. But God does not retaliate or punish— instead, God forgives us and reunites us with God. We are set free from the power of sin and fear of death to control our lives, free to live by the power of love alone. Jesus’ dying and rising is a new Exodus for us.

To take up the cross is to continue Jesus’ work of identifying with the suffering and the victims of violence and injustice, and changing unjust political, economic and social structures—beginning with confessing our own part in them. The cross of Jesus is not just a focus for personal piety. It is also a rallying point for God’s command to change this world on behalf of the poor and oppressed. This is the Great Passover, the New Exodus, a journey that we are still on.

See A Palm & Passion Sunday Service (Luke)
for a liturgy based on Passion story in Luke.

Also find additional prayers in
A Brief Service of Prayer for Palm/Passion Sunday.

Call to Worship

Leader: Blessed is the ruler who comes in the love of God.
All: Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!
Amid the powers of this world, Christ comes humbly, riding on a donkey.
Christ alone is our savior and our sovereign.
Christ, we thank you. We honor you. We follow you.
God of love and justice, we worship you. God, save us!

Prayers

1.
Creator God, we praise you, for your Love rules over our lives with grace and beauty, creating us anew each moment. We thank you, for your Christ rules over us in humble tenderness, healing and redeeming us. We open our hearts to you, for your Spirit rules us from within with power, filling us with compassion. Grant that we will always turn to you alone for our salvation, and for the gift of life. Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in your name! Peace on earth, and glory in the highest! Grant us your salvation, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

2.
We praise you and thank you, O God, for the great acts of love by which you have redeemed us through your son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Sovereign. Grant that we may ever hail him as ruler of our lives, and share in his obedience to your will, in joy and confidence. Blessed is the one who comes in your name! Peace on earth and glory in the highest! Grant us your salvation, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God, in our fear and distrust we have betrayed you.
In the failure of our love we have denied you.
In our selfishness we have crucified you.
Forgive us, heal our hearts,
and set us free to love,
in the name and the gentle grace of Christ.

Listening Prayer

We wave our palms at the foot of the cross.
We sing of our delight, and our despair.
Joyous, we are grateful, and we worship you.
Brokenhearted, we confess we have crucified you, and we repent.
We clutch our palms as you bear the cross.
Swept up, we join the procession.

Suggested Songs

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

See all songs with tags for “Cross,” but especially these:

Kyrie (Original tune)

Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.
Grant us peace and mercy.


Behold the Lamb of God
(Original song)

Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Come, let us follow, come let us follow
the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


O Jesus, Wounded Sovereign
(Tune: O Sacred Head Now Wounded)

Dear Jesus, you who suffer and walk among the poor
whose hearts and lives are broken, whose faith is still unsure:
despised, accused and battered, you do not say a word.
So powerless, yet loving!— you are my Sovereign Lord.

You bear no arms but loving, no threats nor flags unfurled.
You wear no kingly robes, but the sorrows of the world.
Yet your forgiveness conquers each worldly rule and reign,
and rises, whole, undaunted, from evil, death and pain.

While emperors abuse you, and people shrug or stare,
and dark injustice troubles the ones for whom you care,
your mighty grace arises, and hidden from our sight,
enfolds all living beings in your triumphant light.

O Jesus, wounded Sovereign, I pray, give me the nerve
without this world’s armor to love and bless and serve.
My master and companion, rule all eternity
with grace and deep compassion, and, Love, begin with me.

Oh, Jesus (Original song— an acapella solo)

Oh, Jesus, what have you done?
Carried my burdens, every one,
All of my sorrow, all of my sin,
Like a mother gathering her children in.
Now I’m left with nothin’ at all but love,
Nothin’ but your tender, tender love.

Oh, Jesus, what have I done?
Crucified my precious one.
I didn’t want to bear the pain or loss,
So I left you alone to carry the cross.
Now I’m left with nothin’ at all but love,
Nothin’ but your sufferin’, sufferin’, love.

Oh, Jesus, what will you do?
Forgive me like you always do.
With not a word of wrath or blame,
You died with love gently sayin’ my name.
Now I’m left with nothin’ at all but love,
Nothin’ but your precious, precious love.

Oh, Jesus, what will I do?
Give me the courage to follow you,
To give my love if I live or die,
And never again to crucify.
For I’m left with nothin’ at all but love,
Nothin’ but your dyin’, dyin’ love


This Is the Passover (Original Song)

This is the Passover you have desired to share
as you deliver us out of our slavery and fear.

This is the new living covenant sealed in your blood.
Grant that it may be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.

Stripped in our suffering of all but our need for your grace,
join us to you in your dying and rising, O Christ.

Come, Holy Spirit, and grant us new life in our Lord.
gather us into your Body, made new by your Word.


Woeful Cross (Original song)

Woeful cross, saddest wood, death in me of all that’s good,
I confess. Mother/Father, bless. Mercy.

Holy cross, mystery, love from fear of death set free.
Sin’s dark lie. Here I die. Mercy.

Gentle Christ on the cross, for our life your own life’s loss.
You forgive, and we live. Mercy.

Our own cross calling us to your love and gentleness:
may we live, as you give, mercy.


You Feed Us, Gentle Savior (Tune: O Sacred head Now Wounded)

You feed us, gentle savior, the bread that makes us whole,
the wine of your compassion poured out into our soul.
the food of your own presence, your spirit, strong, within,
the grace that heals us deeply and overcomes our sin.

You bind us, gentle savior, and weave us into one,
one flesh and blood, made holy, the Body of your Son.
We gather here in hunger, one hunger, all the same;
and with one grace you bless us together in his name.

You call us, gentle savior, and send us in your name.
You teach and heal and show us how we can do the same.
So strengthened by your Spirit and nourished by your grace,
we go to be your presence in love, in every place.

Blessed

           Blessed are you who are poor,
           for yours is the Realm of God.
                           —Luke 6.20


The blessing is not in being poor.
   The blessing is that the realm of God is yours.

Your poverty, your hunger, your mourning
are circumstances.
   The presence, the fulfillment, joy of God
   are yours no matter what.

Your failures are mere passing breezes.
   But the grace given you is eternal as the stars.

Your riches, your fullness, your merriment,
they, too, are passing.
   But your belovedness is eternal.

Let the winds blow. Let them.
   You remain in the Beloved.



______________
Weather Report

Variable,
as light and shadow
flow around each other.
Conditions will remain unstable
except within,
which is subject to the constancy of love.

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

A Baptismal Liturgy

The liturgy below is available here in a .doc format for ease of editing.

Contrary to our popular thoughts, baptism is not a sign of a believer’s faithfulness, but a sign of God’s. (John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, but Christian baptism is a recognition of the Holy Spirit in us whether we repent nor not!) We are immersed in God’s grace, “born again” not of our own believing but of God’s grace. We don’t “get our children”— or ourselves— baptized. Baptism isn’t something we do at all, but something God does. The Baptismal service is our way of beholding what God has done and is doing in the person baptized—and in the community, for we are charged to treat the person as God’s beloved so they can accept it and integrate it for themselves. Therefore the sacrament of baptism is not repeated: God got it right the first time. But we need to continually renew our awareness of our baptism, our awareness of God’s faithful love for us and the invitation to live out a faithful response.

This liturgy is an adaptation of the service in the United Methodist Hymnal, It may be used for services of baptism and/or baptismal renewal, including Confirmation. (In Confirmation what we’re confirming is our baptism, so it’s most fitting for confirmation to include baptism renewal.)

For a baptism, names and pronouns that need to be correct are italicized. (The placeholder “Name” is intentionally misspelled so it shows up in your spell check.)

For a service including a baptism omit sections 9 and 13, 14, 15.
For congregational renewal or Confirmation without a baptism— omit 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 12.

The Sacrament of Baptism

1.
Introduction
Pastor: Beloved in Christ:
through the sacrament of baptism
God gives us new birth through water and the Spirit,
includes us in Christ’s holy church,
and makes us part of the salvation of the world.

So we come to the water—
Yes, everyone who thirsts! Come to the waters:
water of new birth, poured out and flowing freely
for all who will receive it;
water of justice rolling down,
water of righteousness like an everflowing stream;
a spring of water in us gushing up to eternal life;
the river of God for the healing of the world.

We come to this water
because our souls thirst for you, O God,
as in a dry and weary land.

2.
[If there is a baptism:]
Sponsor: We come to this water
to baptize NAMIE
and to bathe them in your love for them.
Pastor: We come to this water as a community.

3.
All: We come to this water
to renew our love as siblings in Christ,
and to renew our baptism
in the death and resurrection of Christ.

4.
[In a baptismal service: asked of those being baptized, or their parents;
for Confirmation, asked of Confirmation candidates;
for a baptismal renewal service asked of the congregation
.]

The Baptismal Vows
Pastor
As we behold the mystery of God’s grace,
I invite you to profess your faith,
and to confirm the baptismal covenant made in your name:
Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?
Individual(s) or Parents:
We confess our need for the saving, life-giving grace of God!
Will you turn away from the powers of sin and death?
We renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin!
Will you let the Spirit use you as prophets to the powers that be?
We accept the freedom and power God gives us
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves!
Will you receive God’s grace, give yourselves wholly to God,
and live as disciples of Jesus, Christ’s body on earth?
We confess Jesus Christ as our Savior,
put our whole trust in Christ’s grace,
and promise to serve Christ as our Superior,
in union with the church which Christ has opened
to people of all ages, nations, and races!

5.
[For baptism of children, asked of their parents]
Will you, their parents and mentors, nurture these people in Christ’s holy church?
Parents and mentors : By teaching and example we will guide them
to accept God’s grace, to grow in faith, and to lead a Christian life.

6.
[For baptism of those who can answer for themselves]
According to the grace given you,
will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church
and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?
I Will.

7.
[If there are sponsors]
Will you who sponsor these people
support and encourage them in their Christian life?
I will.


8.
[For a baptismal service, asked of the congregation]
Do you, Christ’s Body, the church, reaffirm your rejection of sin
and your commitment to Christ?
Congregation: We do.
Will you be living witnesses to the gospel,
individually and together, wherever you are, and in all that you do?
We will live as faithful members of the Body of Christ
and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world.
Will you nurture one another in living the faith through the church
and include these people in your care?
With God’s help we will embody the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We will surround nayme with faith, hope and love
that they may grow in grace and faith
and learn to trust God and live in loving service in the world.

We will pray for them and walk with them
on their journey of discipleship among us.

9.
[For baptismal renewal service without a baptism]
Will you be living witnesses to the gospel,
individually and together, wherever you are, and in all that you do?
We will remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church
and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world.
Will you nurture one another in living the faith through the church?
With God’s help we will embody the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We will surround each other with faith, hope and love
that we all may grow in grace and faith
and learn to trust God and live in loving service in the world.
We will pray for each other and walk with one another
on our journey of discipleship together.

10.
Profession of Faith (The Apostles’ Creed)
Let us join in professing our faith.
Do you trust in God the Father and Mother?
All:
: I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.


Do you follow Jesus Christ?
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Begotten, our Superior,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of God,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.


Do you live by the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy universal Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.


11.
Thanksgiving over the Water

The Spirit of God is among us.
The blessing of the Beloved is upon us!
Let us pray. Loving, life-giving God, we give you thanks,
for in the beginning your Spirit brooded over the waters
and you brought forth Creation.
You brought us to freedom through the waters of the Red Sea.
You gave us new birth through baptism into Christ,
and gave us life that cannot die.
The river of God is full of water,
the river of the water of life,
bright as crystal, flowing from the heart of God.
We who are baptized into Christ Jesus
are baptized into his life,
born in the water of a womb;
we are baptized into his ministry,
giving water to the thirsty,
washing the feet and sharing the tears of all who suffer;
and we are baptized into his death,
so that just as Christ was raised by the glory of God,
we too might walk in newness of life.
Born of water and the Spirit,
may we enter into the Realm of God
as children of God,
born not of human will, but of God.

12. [If there is a baptism]
Pour out your Holy Spirit in this water
and bless the one who receives it,
that claimed by your Word, nourished in your grace,
washed from all sin and borne by your Spirit,
they may live in freedom, trust and courage,
sharing in the eternal life of Christ.

Namme, you are God’s Beloved,

in whom God is well pleased.
All reverence and delight is yours,
infinite and loving God, now and forever.
All praise to you, Eternal Father and Mother,
Son and Holy Spirit,
in the present moment and in eternity. Amen!

… Baptism with Laying on of Hands …

Let us
welcome our new sibling in Christ.
nanme, Child of God, claimed by water and the Spirit,you are joined to God’s new creation.
We are one in Christ Jesus,

sharing in Christ’s royal priesthood.
With joy and thanksgiving
we welcome you as a member of Christ’s church.
God bless you now and in eternal life. Amen.

1
3.
[If there is a renewal without a baptism.]
Pour out your Holy Spirit in this water
and bless us as we remember it.
Claimed by your Word, nourished in your grace,
washed from all sin and borne by your Spirit,
may we live in freedom, trust and courage,
sharing in the eternal life of Christ.

Children of God,
you are God’s Beloved,
in whom God is well pleased.
All praise to you, Eternal Father and Mother,
Son and Holy Spirit,
in the present moment and in eternity. Amen!

14.
[The congregation is invited to interact with the water in ways not easily interpreted as being “re-baptized.” Possibilities include having people come forward and touch the water; having people kneel and receive a cross of water on their foreheads; sprinkling the congregation using evergreen branches…]

15.
[Confirmation and/or reception of new members may be held here]

16.
Blessing:
Pastor: The God of all grace, who loves us,
blesses us and calls us in Christ,
establish you and strengthen you by the power of the Holy Spirit,
that you may live in love and grace and peace.

Epiphany 3 (January 23, 2022)

Lectionary Texts

In Nehemiah 8. 1-10 the Israelites have returned from exile and are rebuilding Jerusalem. The scribe Ezra reads to them the scroll of God’s law that they have found (probably essentially the book of Deuteronomy).

Psalm 19 says all Creation, and even the passage of time, proclaims God’s praise, not with words, but with glory. So we seek to know God’s intent, and ask God to help us confront sins we don’t even know we suffer from.

In 1 Corinthians 12.12-31 Paul says that the church is Christ’s body: we are all connected; we all have something to offer, and we need each other.

In Luke 4. 14-21 Jesus begins his ministry by announcing his agenda—and, presumably, that of his followers—quoting from Isaiah (61.1-2): “God has sent me to serve the poor, the powerless and the oppressed.” (He omits the phrase in Isaiah referring to God’s vengeance, expressing instead his nonviolence.)

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Spirit of Truth:
All: open our eyes.
Spirit of healing,
set us free.
Spirit of love,
come upon us and send us to a hurting world. Amen.

2. (Adapted from Psalm 19)
Leader: God, your whole Creation displays your glory;
All: the universe is your beautiful song without words.
Your Word gives life; it restores the breath of our souls.
Your delight shines in our eyes and makes us beautiful.
But who can see their own faults?
Save us, God, from our self-ignorance.
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts
give you delight, O God, our rock and our redeemer.


3. (Psalm 19)
Leader: All Creation is your praise, O God.
All: The sky radiates with your glory.
The stars are your autograph.
Night turning into day speaks your wisdom,
not in the language of words, but with light and wonder.
So we want to know your intent, and hear your Word.
It gives us life, sweeter than honey and more precious than gold.
Help us, then, to know your ways.
For we easily become lost without knowing.
May we follow in your path, and live by your Spirit.
May the words of our mouths and the thoughts in our hearts
be praise to you, O God, our Source and our Salvation. Alleluia!

4.Leader: God of justice, the poor and the poor in spirit cry out.
All: Come, Holy One, and bring good news.
God of love, our hearts are blinded to your truth.
Come, Holy One, and bring sight to the blind.
God of righteousness, the oppressed plead for liberation.
Come, Holy One, and bring release to the captives and freedom for the oppressed.
Give sight to our spirits and set us free from our fears,
that we may be bearers of your good news in the name of Christ.

5.
Leader: Loving God, we are your people, the Body of Christ.
All: We are one in your Spirit.
All over the world we gather—all different, all beloved.
We are all connected; we all are gifted, and we all need each other.
In the unity of your love we worship
together with those who are different from us,
and with our unseen siblings nearby and around the world.
With one voice we praise you; we thank you; we worship you.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Gracious God, you have given us your prophets, so that we might hear your word and be enlightened. You have inspired the writing of Scripture, so that we might hear and be transformed. You have given us your law, so that we might hear and obey. Pour out your Spirit upon us now, God, and bless us with your living Word, your loving presence, your life of compassion and truth. Amen.
2.
Eternal God, quiet the thoughts in our minds, that we may hear your voice. Calm the fears in our hearts, that we may see your way. Open the doors of our hearts, that we may walk in the path of Christ. Come to us, Holy Spirit and transform us by your grace. Amen.

3.
Holy One, your Spirit makes us the Body of Christ. By your grace, overcome all separation, barriers and divisions; that we may truly join one another, honor those who are different, and worship as one. Lift up all our gifts and give voice to all our languages, that our worship of you may be complete. We pray in the spirit of Christ, who makes us one. Amen.

4.
God of love, amide the world’s injustice and suffering your prophets promise healing and liberation. Now Jesus proclaims the vision is fulfilled in him. Open our eyes to see and our hearts to hear; open our hearts to know that Christ is among us, bringing about the redemption of the world. In hope and trust, we listen for your Word. Speak, for we are listening. Amen.

Prayer of confession

Eternal God, Holy One, Holy Oneness, we give thanks for those moments when we are in harmony with the unity of the Body of Christ, and with all Creation. And we confess those times when we are out of harmony, when we act as separate individuals who do not need each other, who do not need all Creation. We give thanks for your Spirit, alive in us , who empowers us to seek justice; and we confess those times when we betray that calling. Forgive our selfishness, heal our fear, and draw us back into unity, by the grace of Christ.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
We give our hearts to you, God: you create all things. You desire wholeness for all people, and your desire moves the world. You set us free; you lead us into new lives.

We follow Jesus, your Christ, the embodiment of love, who taught and healed, who fed and forgave. He confronted our systems of privilege and exclusion For his challenge to the powerful he was crucified; but you raised him from the dead. We trust you to raise us to lives of love and service.

We live by your power, Holy Spirit. O Mystery of Love and Justice, your Spirit is upon us for the sake of the world. Your vision of a redeemed world of justice moves us and gives us hope. In your power you send us into the world to bring good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind and liberty to the oppressed, for the sake of the mending of the world.

2.
       We love and trust God, the Creator of all things, who creates us as one: one Body, one Creation.
       We love and trust Jesus, who taught and healed, fed and included insiders and outsiders alike. For his prophetic witness he was crucified; and he was raised from the dead. He is raised now as a community, the risen Body of Christ, and we are its members.
      We love and trust the Holy Spirit, whose breath makes us alive, whose grace makes us one, whose varied gifts bear fruit in each of us differently. By the Spirit’s power we serve in lives of healing, love, courage and justice, in the name and the company of Christ.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, we give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Pour out your Spirit upon us: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the time of God’s grace, in the power and the name and the company of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

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


God of All Gentleness [Luke 4]
(Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God of all gentleness, God of pure love,
you do not watch us from heights far above,
you are no tyrant, but patient and mild,
present with grace in the poor, in the child.

God of all mercy, may we be the ones
bearing your love to your daughters and sons,
not out of pity but humbly, with grace,
for in the poor we see your human face.

God of all justice, give us hearts to care,
hope to free prisoners of fear and despair,
courage to challenge the ways that oppress,
deep love to reach out to heal and to bless.

God of compassion, your Spirit now pour
into us all, for it’s we who are poor,
hungry for justice, for healing and grace,
and for full life for the whole human race.

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.

Make Us Merciful (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Merciful parent, God, prodigal with grace and love,
welcoming children through your pain,
gently receive us all, break down our shame’s dark wall,
that we may never leave again.

Gentle and gracious God, you who love your children,
you take us in though we turn away.
Fold us in your embrace; fill us with peace and grace,
that we may live your gentle way.

God, give us spacious hearts, generous and kind and wide,
no matter what hurtful things folks do.
Help us to love and bless, steadfast in gentleness.
Lord, make us merciful as you.


Raise Up Your People
(Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, you who raised up your Christ from the grave.
Raise up your people and bless us and save!
Help us be mindful our life is in you
when we surrender you raise us up new.

When all the powers of evil assail,
not by our strength but your grace we prevail:
when we are lowly and gentle in love
power is not ours but flows from above.

Give us the faith, God, to fearlessly live,
love with our whole hearts and bless and forgive.
Your Word is borne, God, in all that we do;
in our forgiveness is Christ raised anew.


You Are the Nerve [1 Cor. 12]
(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.