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.

5th Sunday of Easter – May 15, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Today’s texts speak of newness and change, inviting us into a new future. In Acts 11.1-18 Peter has a vision in which he is invited to eat foods that are considered unclean, which leads him to include Gentiles in the ministry of the young church.
In Psalm 148 all Creation and all manner of people praise God.

In Revelation 21.1-6 John sees “a new heaven and a new earth,” in which God dwells with the people and wipes away their tears, and death will be no more.

In John 13.31-35 Jesus tells his disciples that change is coming: he will be leaving them. But for this new reality he gives them a new commandment, that they love one another as he has loved them.

Preaching Thoughts

John 13: Jesus defines discipleship not by belief or doctrine, but by love—and not merely the Golden Rule, to love as we wish to be loved, but as Jesus (and God) have actually loved us. That’s an even higher standard! We often try to excuse ourselves from imitating Jesus by saying, “Well, he was the Son of God and I’m not.” But he says “Where I am going you cannot come.” We can’t imitate him exactly in every way. But we can practice his love.

Acts 11: Jesus was a Jew, and so were his followers.Peter has a vision in which God asks him to eat food that Jews consider unclean. He then is invited to go to a Gentile household. Peter makes the connection: to accept people the Jews consider unclean. So he includes them in the life of the community, Of course he has to explain this to his companions. This is the beginning of the expansion of the Way of Jesus beyond Jews to include pagans, and eventually the whole world. And the expansion of our own love to include everybody, specifically those we think are unworthy, those who are beyond God’s compassion and therefore beyond our concern. It’s also a parable about allowing God to change us, even to change our religion.

Call to Worship

1. [Also may be used as a Collect or general prayer.]
Leader: God of love, you create us in love.
All: You create us so that you may love us,
Christ, you come to us in love and show us how to love.
You send us into the world to love.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with your love so that it is your love, not ours
with which we love the world.
Renew your love in us, that we may love as you have loved us.

2.
Leader: Love, mystery of love, you create us!All: Love, gift of love, you enfold us!
Love, power of love, you call us!
Love, beauty of love, you fill us!
Holy Trinity—Lover, Beloved and the Love that flows—we adore you.
We worship you. Alleluia!

3. [Also may be used as a Collect or general prayer.]
Leader: Gracious God, in love you have created us.
All: In love you have called us your own.
In love you have made us your people,
and called us to bear your love to the world.
In love you have come among us in Christ, healing and forgiving.
In love you have raised us out of our old lives into new life.
You give us life and fill us with your love.
Bless us that we may witness your love, be changed by it,
and go into the world bearing love, and love alone,
in the name of Christ, to your praise and glory. Amen.


4.
Leader: O Love, you have created us.
All: Fulfill your love in us.
O Love, you have called us by name and taken us as your own.
Fulfill your love in us.
O love, you have healed us and called us to join you in the healing of all Creation.
Fulfill your love in us.
O Love, you give us your Spirit and fill us with your presence.
Fulfill your love in us.
O Love, be our life, our breath, our purpose and our only hope.
Alleluia! Come, Beloved, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

5.
Leader: O, God of love, how perfectly you love us!
All: O Christ, how deeply you love us!
Holy Spirit, how beautifully you love us!
O Love, take our hearts make make them yours.
We adore you. We love you. We worship you. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, you are love itself. Where love is, there you are. In our thirst for your love, speak your love to us, renew your love in us, and let your love flow through us for the sake of all the world, in the spirit and the company of Christ. Amen.

2.Loving God, we are led by many desires, commanded by many voices, torn by many forces. Speak your Word to us; give us your one command, that our souls may be still, that our hearts may be one, that our minds may be clear, that our strength may be yours. Bring us to right desire, right thought, and right action. Speak to us, God, for we are hungry for your Word. Amen.

3.
God of love, in all that changes, you do not change. So we turn to you. Amidst all that passes, you remain steadfast, and so we turn to you. Despite all that is unknown and unfamiliar, you speak to us. So we turn to you. We turn our ears to hear your voice, our hearts to receive your love, our lives to reflect your light. Speak your Word to us God, for we turn to you. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of love, help us to see ourselves with the eyes of love,
to see all that is in us that is loving,
and all that is not loving.
By the grace that we know in Christ,
receive us, heal us, and perfect your love in us.

2.
God of love, we confess we put limits on our love, and put some people beyond the bounds of our compassion. Forgive our judgments, heal our fear, and renew in us your perfect love that includes everyone without exception. Give us, O God, Christ’s heart of love.

2.
Gracious God, shine the light of your holy presence, your living Word, into our hearts. By the light of your grace, forgive our sin, heal the wounds of falsehood in this world, rid our minds of the darkness of our fears and desires, and make us radiate your love. We pray in the spirit of Christ, who is our way, our truth, and our life.

Readings

from Revelation 21.1-6

Leader: I heard a loud voice speaking from the throne:
All: See, the home of God is among us. God will dwell with us.
We will be God’s peoples, and God in person will be with us;
God will wipe every tear from our eyes.
Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
These words are trustworthy and true.
Then the One spoke to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
“To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”
Alleluia!

Response / Creed / Affirmation

           We entrust ourselves to God, Divine Lover and Maker of all. We are created by love, for love, and we give thanks.
          We entrust ourselves to Jesus, God’s Anointed One, who embodied God’s love in its fullest. His love has healed us and fed us, taught us and guided us, freed us and raised us to new life, and we give thanks. His love defied all barriers of power and status, of privilege and exclusion, and for that he was crucified. But by the eternal power of love Christ was raised from the dead, and we give thanks.
        We entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the spirit of love, by whose power we care and forgive, heal and bless. This is the Spirit that renews our hearts, that gives us new life, that empowers us to live for justice and healing, in the name of Christ. We pray that by that Spirit we may love as we have been loved, for the sake of the whole world. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Holy Lover,
your love is deep and wide.
With silent hearts we open ourselves
to your presence,
to receive your love,
to become your love.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone. The responses (Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation & Amen) may be said or sung.]
1.
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 you create us out of love, for love.
You claim us as your Beloved, and promise to be our God.
You save us from all that oppresses, and set us free,
You surround us with this teeming earth, feeding us with your love.
And so with the saints and all Creation we sing your praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He loved the unlovely and welcomed the rejected.
He taught a love that ruined all social barriers, and for that he was crucified.
But you raised him from the dead, for love cannot be extinguished.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)*

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”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.
In this feast we take in again all the ways you have loved us,
and poured out yourself for us, and into us.
Fill us with your love to overflowing,
that we may always love as you have loved us.
(Amen.)

2.
Pastor: God, in love you create us.
All: In love you claim us.
In love you promise to be with us always; and you are.
When we wander, you follow. When we are stuck you set us free.
You judge the forces of oppression and lead us toward justice,
toward a New Jerusalem in which everyone is Beloved.
As a sign of that hope you invite us to your table.
At this table all are welcome, and all are beloved,
where we are all young and old, rich and poor, gay and straight, male and female,
guilty and innocent, whole and broken, without distinction or judgment.
Therefore, with all Creation, we praise you with love and delight.
[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, who loved us as you love us.
In love he taught and healed, he gathered the outcast, he loved the unlovely.
In love he established a new realm; he built a new city.
In love, even in death, he gave us his Spirit, so that we might love as he loved.
[The Blessing and Covenant….] *

“Do this,” he said, “in remembrance of me.”
And so, remembering your loving, mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves with praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery at the heart 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 Holy Spirit on us,
that we may feast on your love, and it will become part of us,
so that your love is the love with which we love all people,
in the name and the Spirit 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

Gracious God, you have loved us perfectly in your Son Jesus Christ. Stir up a spirit of gratitude in our hearts, that we may respond in faith. 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, for the love of all people, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have fed us with your love; your grace is now a part of us. Send out to love as you have loved us, for the sake of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. As you have loved us, so may we love one another, and all your children. Send us into the world, unafraid of all that is new and changing, steadfast in love and faithfulness, in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

See all songs with “Easter” or “Love” tags, but especially these:

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.

Create Us Now    (Tune: Gift of Love/ The Water Is Wide)

Creating God, you breathe your Word
and new each day create the world;
your light you sing, your love you give;
you breathe in us, and so we live.

Creating God, you gather grain
from scattered fields, baptized by rain;
raised up in love, from death released,
it brings forth grace that spreads a feast.

Above the meadows of our hearts
your rising sun your love imparts.
Remade in love, raised from the dead,
Make us your wine, your living bread.

With our dear Christ, we, too, have died,
like seeds once sown and multiplied.
Now raise us up from death anew.
Create us now, dear God, in you.


Fulfill Your Love In Me       (Original song)

Refrain:
Fulfill your love in me, O Loving Spirit,
fulfill your love in me, O Heart of Love.

Verses:
Speak the name Beloved in my deepest soul.
Hold me in your heart, your gentle loving.

Heal me with your mercy and your tenderness.
Bring to life the grace in me to love you.

Give me grace to love my neighbor as myself,
freely, with the love with which you love me.


Like the sun rising      (Tune Morning Has Broken)

Christ, we surrender all of our living
into your tender, merciful grace
Baptized in you, we join in your dying,
and rising, too, in your life’s embrace.

Christ, you are living in us in mercy,
faithfully giving life that is true.
Like the sun rising, fresh every morning,
free and surprising, we are made new.

Great Holy Spirit, live in us daily,
free from the fear that once bound us in,
free now to love our neighbors with courage,
rising above our death and our sin.

Blest and forgiven and resurrected,
set free for living by grace alone,
may we live lives of gentle compassion,
with the same light that in you has shone.


Love Will Bear Us Over      (Tune: HOLY MANNA)

When our world is changing ‘round us and we long for good old days,
what that lasts will bear us over to new earth, new heaven, new ways?
Love will lead us when the path is unfamiliar, come what may:
set our heart to love our neighbors and our feet will find the way.

Christ gives us a new commandment: “Share the love that you’ve been given.”
When we do we’re resurrected, entering new earth and heaven.
When we love our neighbor more than caring for what used to be,
then our love will bear us over, then our love will set us free.

4th Sunday of Easter – May 8, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Revelation 7. 9-17, like last week’s reading, is another hymn from John’s vision: a multitude of angels singing praise to God. The vision continues as an elder describes the angels as those who have survived a great ordeal and “washed their robes in the blood of the lamb,” that is, their sins have been washed clean by Christ’s forgiveness.

In Acts 9. 36-43 Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, has died, but Peter brings her to life again. When he says, “Tabitha, get up,” it echoes Jesus raising a little girl from the dead, when he said “Talitha (“little girl”), get up.”

Psalm 23 expresses God’s care as shepherding, accompanying, feeding and blessing us.

In John 10.22-30 Jesus speaks of his love for us, and how we listen for his voice and follow him. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life…. No one will ever snatch them out of my hand.”

Preaching Thoughts

Today’s texts reflect on the mystery of grace hidden in suffering. To “wash our robes in the blood of the lamb” is to know we are set free in Christ’s forgiveness, and also to acknowledge that our peace and blessing has come only after hardship and pain. Jesus’ promise to give us eternal life, and that we will never perish, are profoundly comforting. But they are not an escape from suffering. In fact when we do indeed follow him we follow him toward the cross—the willingness to suffer for the sake of love. We can bear to do this because love is both stronger and also more important than death. Jesus’ promise is not that we won’t suffer, or even die, but that love will carry us through all suffering and even death. When we live in harmony with God’s love we live on a plane that is greater than the survival of our bodies—a dimension of life that is eternal and can’t be taken from us. The comfort of Psalm 23 leads us this way: the “paths of righteousness” God leads us on lead right smack dab into the “valley of the shadow of death.” But we fear no evil, for under God’s care the path comes out the other side, to a feast of life and blessing. In our own ways each of us is dead, and God calls to us, “Little one, get up,” and brings us to life.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God of love, Creator of life, we hear your voice.
All: You call to us in love, and we answer.
Christ of love, shepherd of your sheep, you lead us out in love.
You walk in love, and we follow you.
Holy Spirit, breath of love, you give us life that cannot be taken from us.
You enliven us now to worship you, and to go forth to serve in love. Alleluia!

2. (Revelation 7.9-12. See Readings below for the whole lectionary passage, 7.9-17 )
Leader: I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice.
All: Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing.
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.


3.
Leader: Christ is risen!
People: Christ is risen indeed!
Christ, our shepherd, you call to us
Lead us to your heart, and guide us in the ways of peace.

We have died, and our life is hidden in Christ.
Receive our old ways of living and grant us new life,
that we may serve you in love, all of our days.
Christ, our gentle shepherd, bless us, and lead us in your ways.
Alleluia! We entrust our lives to you! Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God, you are the gentle shepherd of our souls. Call to us and we will know your voice. Speak to us and we will answer. Go before us, and we will follow. You who give us life, we hunger for your grace. Shepherd us, O God of love. Amen.

2.
God of grace, when we are lost you give us direction. When we are defeated you give us courage. When we are weak you give us strength. When we are dead you raise us to life. Come to the place in our hearts where we are in need, and take our hand, and raise us up with your Word. Amen.

3.
Gentle God, we are your sheep, scattered and hungry. Shepherd us with your presence, lead us by your grace, and feed us with your Word, that we may not only lie down in green pastures in times of rest, but also be loving shepherds for your people in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, you have given us the risen Christ, who shepherds us through all the paths of our life, who protects, nourishes and guides us. Help us to hear his voice, to learn to trust, and to follow, so that we might truly know the infinite, eternal life that you give us, to your glory. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of love, we confess we are afraid, and we need your peace.
We do not know the way, and we need your leading.
We are not whole, and we need your shepherd.
Call us out of old lives, and lead us in your ways.

Readings

1. (Revelation 7.9-17)
Leader: I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice:
All: Salvation belongs to our God
who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing:
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving
and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me,” These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and
made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship God day and night within the temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
who will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

(Ezekiel 34.11-16)
Leader: Thus says the Lord God:
All: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.  I will feed them with good pasture, and they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God.  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Listening Prayer

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

Gentle shepherd,
we listen for your voice,
the voice of love, the voice of eternal life.
We listen, ready to follow.

Eucharistic Prayer

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

1.
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, you are our shepherd, we are not in want.
You make us lie down in green pastures;

you lead us beside still waters;
you restore the breath of life in us.

[Sanctus]

Blessed is the one who comes in your name,
and Blessed is Jesus, your Anointed.
He leads us in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though we walk through the darkest valley,
we fear no evil; for Christ our shepherd is with us;
his rod and his staff— they comfort us.

[The Blessing and Covenant] *

You prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies;
you anoint our head with oil; our cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life,
and we shall dwell in your house our whole life long.

[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 Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
[Amen]

2.
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.

Creator God, Source of all Being, Giver of Life, we thank you.
Your grace creates this world, and all that is in it.
You speak us into being. Your voice calls us to life.
You lead us beside still waters, and renew our life.

When we wander you are faithful.
When we are imprisoned you set us free.

You send us Jesus, the shepherd of our souls,
who leads us in paths of justice and compassion.
We thank you, and with all Creation we sing your praise.
     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He fed and healed the broken. He gathered the outcast.
He broke all walls of division, all systems of privilege and exclusion.

He has walked with us through the valley of the shadow of death:
for his revolutionary love he was crucified, but you raised him from the dead.
His presence comforts us, and we are not afraid.

     (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)

God, you prepare a table for us that unites us with our enemies.
You anoint us with oil; our cup overflows.
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 Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
By your Spirit may we spread your goodness and mercy all our days.
For we dwell in your presence forever and ever.
(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 gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Trusting in your gentle leading, may we follow you into the world to share your love and to do your will, to tend the lost and wounded and hungry for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have fed us in the green pastures of your love. Call us out now, and lead us in paths of love and justice for the sake of the healing of all Creation, in the power of your Spirit and the company of the risen Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You lead us beside clear waters and restore our souls. Send us into the world, in the name of Christ and the power of your Spirit, with deep trust in your care, the deep peace of your presence, and the deep compassion of those who have been given your love to share with others. 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


Dear Gentle, Watchful Shepherd    (Tune: O Sacred Head Now Wounded)

Dear gentle, watchful shepherd,
you lead us as we graze,
and guide, us when we wander,
to find again your ways.
And when we stray in darkness,
alone and lost and weak,
unseen, you still are with us,
your dear ones whom you seek.

We pray for those who struggle
through life all on their own,
who find no path to guide them,
who think they are alone.
You fold them in your mercy
in every lonely place,
and with your hand upon them
you bless them with your grace.

O lead us, loving shepherd
to seek the last and lost,
to love them with your passion,
and serve at any cost.
Send us to find the lonely,
forgotten and ignored:
it’s there that we shall meet you,
our saving, healing Lord.


Fulfill Your Love In Me       (Original song)

Refrain:
Fulfill your love in me, O Loving Spirit,
fulfill your love in me, O Heart of Love.

Verses:
Speak the name Beloved in my deepest soul.
Hold me in your heart, your gentle loving.

Heal me with your mercy and your tenderness.
Bring to life the grace in me to love you.

Give me grace to love my neighbor as myself,
freely, with the love with which you love me.


Psalm 23      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God is my shepherd; I have all I need. God
Makes me lie down in green pastures to feed.
By the still waters God gently will lead.
Love, you’re my shepherd. I have all I need.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I
fear not, for you are as close as my breath.
For you are with me, your staff and your rod
they are my comfort, my shepherd, my God.

You set my table before all my foes. You
pour out your blessing; my cup overflows.
Goodness shall be with me wherever I roam,
and I will live with you, my Heart, my Home.

3rd Sunday of Easter – May 1, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Revelation 5.11-14 is a vision of millions of angels singing praise to God and to Christ.

Psalm 30
is a song of thanksgiving to God, who has rescued the author from death. “God’s anger is but a moment; God’s grace is for a lifetime.”

In Acts 9.1-20 Saul, who is persecuting Christians, has a vision: he sees that they are actually Christ—that he is victimizing God! In the shock of recognition—both his guilt and his forgiveness— he is changed. (Saul will later change his name to Paul, and become a leader of the early church and the author of much of the New Testament.)

In John 21. 1-19 the risen Jesus appears to the disciples, directs an abundant catch of fish, feeds them breakfast, commands them to feed his sheep, and says, “Follow me.”

Preaching Thoughts

The appearance on the beach
There are three scenes in the Gospel reading. (There’s a fourth, about the beloved disciple, not included in the lectionary reading.) Each is a rich vein of ore from which to pick a gem of a sermon. Really using your imagination to find yourself in the story helps you locate your gems.

           Scene 1: The Catch. (Want to follow Jesus? There’s a catch.) I imagine the disciples’ discouragement. I can feel it when I think of the church’s “golden days” which seem now past. I imagine their sense of loss, pointlessness, grief. They go back to what they know, back to the way it was. Which doesn’t really work. Jesus stood on the shore watching. (He’s always there, watching.) They don’t recognize him. Nobody does, at first. I imagine that’s because he’s changed. He calls them children. I imagine that hauls them (as in a net) out of their despairing, responsible adulthood. They’re in charge, accountable to produce results, obligated to justify themselves. How jarring to be called a kid.
          Jesus tells them to change their ways. Again—how jarring to be told how to live your life. But look what it produces! Maybe Jesus know more than we do about the rich gifts in our lives. And about the fruits of transformation. Now the beloved disciple recognizes Jesus—not by looking at him more closely, but by observing his life-giving power. Peter leaps into the baptismal sea, in love and service to his Chief. Peter, once beckoned to get out of the boat and walk on water to Jesus, now is happy to simply swim toward his Beloved.

           Scene 2: Eucharist on the beach. Once again Jesus “took and gave” bread. Nobody knows why there are 153 fish. The number of members of John’s community? Churches in the area? A mystery. Though there are so many, the net is not torn. Even as the community spreads and grows it stays connected. Our Eucharist is not just the Last Supper; it’s the First Breakfast, too—and the feeding of the 5000, and all the other food and drink Jesus shares.

         Scene 3: Peter, Peter, Peter. Maybe Jesus’ asking Peter three times is re-instating him after he denies Jesus three times. But Peter doesn’t feel restored. He’s “hurt.” Remember: John wrote his gospel around the end of the first century, when Peter was already seen as the first pope. Maybe John is cutting the pope down to size! There is no rank, no better or worse Christian, just loving Jesus.
Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” In the Greek it’s like “be grazing my lambkins.” Very tender. Then “Tend my sheep.” (Literally “shepherd my sheep.”) Like, don’t just feed them, take them somewhere. And then “Feed my sheep.” There’s a sense of both nourishment and mission, journey inward and journey outward.
Then comes Jesus’ koan about being led where you don’t choose to go. Something like Paul’s “giving up childish things” in 1 Cor. 13? “When you grow old” could mean when you get aged and feeble. But it can also just mean when you mature, when you grow up. Maybe part of growing up is letting go of our childish “I want to do it myself” urge: allowing ourselves to be led by the Spirit.

Saul’s awakening
         I avoid calling this story Saul’s “Conversion.” That label lends itself to categorization by which people too easily exclude themselves or others. It was an awakening, which any of us can and should experience all the time. The radical nature of it is not just that Saul, has a vision of Jesus, but that he has a vision of his own life: the very people he’s persecuting are the ones in whom God is most fully present. If Christ is the Crucified One, then no matter how righteous we think our cause, Christ is present in whoever it is that we judge, exclude, marginalize or oppress, whoever we think of as the ”other.” That’s a lot more likely to “convert” us than a dramatic (and unlikely) vision of Jesus.
         By the way, let this story live in mystery. Explaining it as a scientific fact will only get you tangled up in irrelevant things. There are several version of the tale, and they differ. For instance here “Those traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one” (v. 9). In the version in Acts 22.9 Paul says “those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice.” In the version in Acts 26.12-18 they all fall to the ground… Let it be a story about awakening, not about special effects.
         Oh, also by the way—there was no horse. It was in Caravaggio’s painting, not in the Bible. (Do you see how the faith was taught through art? We all think there was a horse, because we saw it. In the painting.)

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Christ is risen.
All:Christ is risen in deed!
Risen Christ, you come to us,
hidden and unrecognized, and you bless us.
We greet you with awe and wonder.
You give us your gifts, and nourish our souls.
We welcome you with gratitude and joy.
You give us the spirit of your peace, and call us to love.
We serve you with faith and hope. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Crucified love, risen love, you walk among us.
All: Loving God, heartbroken God, you pour yourself out to us.
Risen Christ, Beckoning Christ, you work miracles among us.
Loving Christ, tender Christ, you feed us.
Holy Spirit, Living Spirit, you come to us.
Holy Spirit, life-giving Spirit, you call us to follow.
We are yours. We worship you. Alleluia!


3. (Revelation 5.11-14)
Leader: I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice:
All: Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom
and might and honor and glory and blessing!
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor
and glory and might forever and ever!
And the four living creatures cried out:
Amen!
And the elders fell down and worshiped.

4.
Leader: Christ is risen!
All:Christ is risen indeed!
Creator God, we praise you!
Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
Eternal God, you alone are holy, and we worship you.
By the light of Christ, rising from the grave in victory,
dispel the darkness of our hearts, shine upon us with mercy,
guide us in the ways of peace, and lead us to your heart.
We have died with Christ. We are raised with Christ.
Receive our old ways of living and grant us new life,
that we may serve you in love, all of our days.
You who grant your disciples a miraculous catch of fish,
grant us your grace that we may worship you.
Alleluia! Bless us, that we may feed your sheep. Alleluia!

5.
Leader: God of love, by your grace
the disciples who thought they were empty handed were given great gifts.
All: By your love Saul who thought he was persecuting by your will
saw your presence among the persecuted.
Open our eyes, change our hearts, and lead us in new directions.
Give us your Spirit to follow Jesus,
to proclaim your Word, to feed your sheep. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, you have raised Christ from the dead, yet we don’t recognize the Beloved among us. Speak to us and awaken our hearts. Open our eyes to see your presence, to hear your call, and to follow you, in the power of your Spirit of love. Amen.

2.
Life-giving God, the Risen Christ came to the grief-stricken disciples and fed them, taught them, and called them. You are present among us now; speak your Word to us, feed us with your grace, and call us again into the ministry of loving service, in the name of Christ and the power of your Spirit. Amen.

3.
Jesus, our risen Savior, you bring new life to us, and ask us to share it with others. Help us realize the presence of your Spirit in us, and live as you have lived. In your goodness, teach, heal, forgive and give new life to others through us, to the glory of God. Amen.

4.
Loving One, though our love often fails, We do love you. Give us your spirit to feed your lambs. Though our discipleship often falters, you give us miraculous gifs to share. Give us faith to tend your sheep. Though we have our own hopes and wants, lead us by your Spirit to feed your sheep, in the name and the company of Jesus. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, the risen Christ spoke to Peter by the lakeshore, and to Saul on his way to Damascus. You called them to serve, and changed their lives. Speak to us now; transform us by your Word, and call us into your service. Bless us with open hearts and minds, that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

6.
Holy One, come to us. Like Saul we go about our business, like the disciples we stick to the familiar, not realizing what we are doing—until you reveal yourself. Shine your light on us now; come to us, awaken us, speak to us, and change our hearts. Amen.

7.
Christ, though our nights be dark, you are near, and your blessing awakens us. Though our boats be empty, a mysterious abundance billows beneath us. You feed us your Word of grace; you lead us to life that we do not design. Help us to listen, and to love you. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God we confess that like Saul we think we know.
We think we are right.
Shine the light of your love on us,
that we may see where we have excluded you.
Bring us to our knees
that we may be changed.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

[From Colossians 3.1-16]

Since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
We set our minds on higher things, not on worldly things,
for we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your life, is revealed,
you also will be revealed with Christ in glory.
As God’s beloved we clothe ourselves in love,
which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
to which you were called in one body.
May the word of Christ dwell richly in us.
With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God.

Listening Prayer

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

Loving One,
like the disciples we think we are empty-handed;
but you draw up gifts from the depths.
Like Saul we judge other;
but you are among those we judge.
Open our eyes to see you anew,
and to receive your gifts.

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.

Eternal Creator, Unfailing Liberator, Steadfast Lover, we thank you.
Like then sun rising on the sea you shine on us with beauty and hope.
When we think we are alone you are with us.
When we think we are empty handed you provide nets full of fish.

You feed us; you call us your children; you set us free from fear and despair.
You give us bountiful gifts, and we thank you.
You set this table before us and invite us to feast with you
in the morning light of resurrection.
So we come to your table, with all your Beloved singing your praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He fed the hungry and healed the broken.

He suffered with us and for us.
In Christ you are faithful to us;
you walk through death to be with us, in love and blessing.

     (The Blessing and Covenant) *

As he did at that table, and so many other tines,
Jesus did again on the seashore:
he took bread, blessed it, and gave it to this friends.
We feast on the miracle of your presence.
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.
Pour out your Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
taken—drawn up in the net of your grace,
blessed—awakened by the light of your love,
broken—stripped of all but our love for you,
and given to the world,
in the resurrecting power of your Spirit.

(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

1.
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. You have come to us; you have loved us; you have called us; you have brought forth our gifts. We are ready now to go where you send us. Wrap the belt of your Word around us and lead us, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
Holy One, blessed by your presence and fed by your love, we give you thanks. You have drawn up from the depths of mystery gifts we did not know we have. Send us now in the power of those gifts to feed your sheep, to tend your Beloved, to live for the well-being of all who long for life, in the name and the Spirit and the presence of the risen Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have come to us in Christ, and fed us with your love. You have filled us with your Spirit, so that we might embody your love for others. Send us into the world now and help us to feed your sheep, to tend your lambs, to care for your beloved ones. May our lives be nourishing to the poor, in the power of your Holy Spirit and the name of Christ, who is risen in us. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have fed us with grace that can’t be predicted, with abundance that is hidden until it is received. Send us into the world now to follow Christ, to feed your sheep, to embody your love, in the name and Spirit of Christ. 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

Come, Risen Christ     (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Come, risen Christ, to us. Come into our daily lives.
Come in our labors and in our rest.
Walk with us by our side. Show us where grace may hide.
Become our host, who once was guest.

Come, risen Christ, to us. Come into our fear and pain.
Come, speak to us your word of peace.
Nourish our weakened hearts. Feed us the food of grace.
From guilt and anguish grant release.

Come, risen Christ, to us. Lay your hand upon our hearts.
Draw us to follow. Our lives now use.
Call us your word to keep, love you and feed your sheep,
and bear your light where you shall choose.


Feed My Sheep     (Original song)

“Feed my sheep. Tend my lambs.
Do you love me? Reach your hands.
Bear your cross faithfully.
Give you life and follow me.

Sight restored,wounded healed,
God’s deep love is thus revealed.
God sent me: I send you,
love, my new commend, to do.

Serve the poor and the weak,
help them find their voice to speak.
Evil turned, mercy raised,
love and justice are my praise.

Peace be yours from this hour,
and the Holy Spirit’s power.
Raised from death, born anew,
live in me and I in you.”

Psalm 23      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God is my shepherd; I have all I need. God
Makes me lie down in green pastures to feed.
By the still waters God gently will lead.
Love, you’re my shepherd. I have all I need.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I
fear not, for you are as close as my breath.
For you are with me, your staff and your rod
they are my comfort, my shepherd, my God.

You set my table before all my foes. You
pour out your blessing; my cup overflows.
Goodness shall be with me wherever I roam,
and I will live with you, my Heart, my Home.

Earth Day – April 22, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Consider using psalm 148 instead of the lectionary Psalm. A slightly abridged version is below.

Prayer

Leader: Creator God, we celebrate your gift of Earth, your gift of all Creation.
All: We give thanks that you embodied your love in Jesus,
made your compassion real with the dust of the earth,
and so blessed our lives, our breath and our bodies.
Loving Creator, we renew our reverence for your gift.
We look to Earth not as a “resource,” for our use, but a temple of your presence,
a living being that we are part of and in relationship with.

God, we, praise you; we confess our self-centeredness.
We open our hearts to your Spirit, that we may love as you have loved us.

Prayer of Confession

Creator God, we confess we have not honored your Creation;
we have not loved it as you have loved us.
We have thought ourselves separate, not part of your Creation.
Forgive our ignorance and arrogance,
our greed and destructiveness.
Bring us again into the oneness of your Creation;
forgive us, heal our fears and transform our desires,
and shepherd us to be good stewards
of the gift of life.

Reading

From Psalm 148
Praise God! Praise the Holy One from the heavens;
       praise God in the heights!
Praise God, sun and moon;
       praise God, all you shining stars!

Let them praise the name of the Creator,
       who commanded and they were created.
Praise the Eternal One from the earth,
       you sea monsters and all deeps!

Fire and hail, snow and frost,
       stormy wind fulfilling God’s command!
Mountains and all hills,
       fruit trees and all cedars!

Wild animals and all cattle,
       creeping things and flying birds!
Rulers of the earth and all peoples!
       People of every gender, age and race together!

Let them praise the name of the Loving One,
       for God’s name alone is exalted.
God’s glory is throughout earth and heaven.
       Praise God!

2nd Sunday of Easter – April 24, 2022

Lectionary Texts

During the Easter season a reading from the book of Acts replaces the Hebrew Bible reading. Revelation 1. 4-8 is John’s greeting to the churches at the beginning of his book. It opens with a greeting from God and from Christ, who has set us free and made us a nation of priests who serve God, and who is coming again.

In Acts 5. 27-32 the authorities try to stop Jesus’ followers from preaching in his name, but the disciples say “We obey God, not human authority,” and they keep right on preaching.

Psalm 150 invites us to praise God with all the musical instruments (and all the other means) that we can imagine. Let everything that breathes praise God!

In John 20.19-31 The risen Jesus comes to the disciples and breathes his spirit into them (“spirit” and “breath” being the same word in Greek). Thomas misses this, and wants to see the crucified and risen Lord—wounds and all. When he does see Jesus he is overwhelmed, not by the physical proof but by Jesus’ presence.

Preaching Thoughts

The Gospel reading comprises two scenes. The first is John’s Pentecost. Jesus breathes the Spirit on his followers. This is what Jesus has returned for: not to prove anything, not to exalt in his victory over death, but to breathe his living spirit into the disciples. Now they are his risen body.

Thomas (the “Twin”) says he won’t believe unless he touches the wounds. Maybe that’s doubt. But maybe he’s saying, on behalf of all of us, that resurrection isn’t something you just think is true because someone said so; you believe it because you’ve experienced it. We don’t want to hear beliefs about resurrection; we want to see evidence of resurrection. When he does see Jesus, what convinces him is not the wounds (he never does touch them) but simply the overwhelming (and I assume loving) presence of Jesus. Thomas represents all those to whom we want to proclaim resurrection. Words alone won’t suffice.

We love happy endings. But Thomas is holding resurrection to a higher standard: resurrection is not just bouncing back; it’s radical transformation from something that is truly dead—you can see the wounds—to something that is truly alive. Thomas wants to see and touch the wounds. He wants to know not just that Jesus is OK after all, but that the one who is alive and whole is indeed the one who suffered and died. That the one who stands before him with forgiveness is the very one he denied and abandoned. (Remember when Jesus set out to Lazarus’ tomb, despite a contract out on him, and Thomas said “Let us go die with him.” But Thomas didn’t die with him. He ran away.) Now, in the wounds, and the Living One who bears them, he needs to see his own sin forgiven. As do we. Thomas is our twin.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed!
God of Love, you have passed through our sin and sorrow,
died of our wounds, lain in our grave.
And you have risen, full of life.
You have entered our darkness,
and you have made the darkness one with the light.
Now even the darkness shines with your glory.
All of life is raised, new, and we with it,
praising you with new voices, new hearts, new lives. Alleluia!

2. [Psalm 150 ]
Leader: Praise the Holy One! Praise God in the sanctuary;
People: God, we praise you in the mighty heavens!
We praise you for your mighty deeds, and for your surpassing greatness!
We praise you with trumpet sound; we praise you with lute and harp!
We praise you with tambourine and dance; we praise you with strings and pipe!
We praise you with clanging cymbals; we praise you with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise God!
Praise God!

3.
Leader: Loving God, this is the day that you are making.
All: Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
You have raised Christ from the grave and overcome death.
You have defeated the power of evil and oppression.
We long for your presence, and we open ourselves to your Spirit.
Christ, our living Chief, you are with us, and we give you thanks.
We look for signs of your rising;
and we live in a world that longs for your living presence.
Breathe your Spirit into us, and raise us to new life,
that we may be living evidence of your resurrection,
the Body of your risen Christ. Amen.

4.
Leader: Christ is risen!
People: Christ is risen indeed!
Creator God, we praise you!
Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
Alleluia! We have seen the Risen Christ! Alleluia!
You alone are holy, O God, and so we worship you.
You have brought Christ up out of the grave.
You have brought life out of death, hope out of despair.
We have seen your victory in our lives;
we have beheld your Risen Christ among us
For what we have seen, we give thanks.
For what is yet to come, we give you our hearts.
We worship you, and give you ourselves. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of new life, your grace is always beyond our grasp. But we want to see you, to feel your presence. Open the eyes of our hearts to see you, present for us. Open the ears of our hearts to hear you speak your Word to us, now and always, through the living Christ. Amen.

2.
Resurrecting God,
when the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples,
he offered them signs of peace,
and breathed his spirit on them.
Breathe your Spirit into us,
and grant us seeing hearts,
that we may live as your faithful disciples,
and offer peace and healing in a broken world. Amen.

3.
O God, you make every moment new. You come through the locked doors of our habituated lives, and reveal yourself in Jesus, who bring us his peace. May we continually pass with him from death to life, and embody his love and forgiveness.May the wounded but risen Christ, who is present with us, empower us to be present with this wounded world, by the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, your risen Christ appeared to the disciples and spoke to them. Pass through the locked doors of our fears and our doubts, our need to control and understand. Be present with us; speak to us; open our hearts and minds, that we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today, and give you our hearts. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God we confess our trust in you is broken
by our fears and cynicism,
by our need to control and understand,
by our attachment to comfort and security.
In the wounds of Christ touch us,
soften our hearts, and turn our spirits toward you,
that in us Christ may rise anew, living and whole.

Reading

1. [May be used as an affirmation or creed.]
Revelation 1.4-8

Leader: Grace to you and peace
from the One who is and who was and who is to come,
and from the seven spirits who are before the divine throne,
and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of all earthly rulers.
All: To Christ who loves us
and in his dying freed us from our sins
and made us to be a nation of priests serving our God and Creator,
to Christ be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Look! Christ is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see, even those who pierced Jesus on the cross;
and for Christ all the tribes of the earth will mourn . So it is to be. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says God,
who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Come, risen Christ, come Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace.
Alleluia!

Listening Prayer

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

Living God,
the doors of our hearts are locked.
Come through them,
grace us with your loving presence,
breathe your Spirit into us,
and grant us your peace.

Eucharistic Prayer

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

God of love, you create all things in your grace.
You bring light out of darkness and life out of death.
You bring people out of slavery, and Christ out of the grave.

Through the locked doors of prisons you set the captives free.
Through the locked doors of our fears
you come with forgiveness and peace.

We rejoice in your presence that we cannot understand,
your love that we cannot comprehend.
So we feast in joy beyond words, singing your praise with all Creation:

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, crucified and yet risen,
wounded and yet forgiving,
having passed through death, yet bearing peace.

He passed through the walls of people’s fears and prejudice
and brought them truth and healing.
He passed through the disciples’ closed doors
and brought them love and peace.

He touched the wounds of others,
and now in broken bread we touch his wounds.

     (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,
that we may touch the world’s wounds with healing,
that we may offer peace and forgiveness,
that a world yearning for your presence
may behold it in us and our love,
by the power of your Holy Spirit
and the presence of your living Christ in us,
for your glory and the 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.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

1.
Gracious God, you have breathed your Spirit into us. Now into this world, that is hungry for your peace, send us as signs of your living presence. Into this world that is doubtful of your love, send us as vessels of your grace. May your love pass through the locked doors of our world and reach the hearts of those who hunger for your grace. Send us in your Spirit as bearers of your healing light, in the name and Spirit of Christ.

2.
Gracious God, there are many people in this world who have not experienced your love, who have no reason to hope, who have not seen the risen Christ. Use us, we pray, to bring your love to them. We give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts, with which to make resurrection real in this world, in the name of Christ. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In our hunger for you, you come to us. You touch us with your presence and feed us with your flesh. Now throw open the doors we have locked around us, and send us, for the sake of others who hunger for you, as the Body of Christ. Amen.2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In the broken bread we have touched your wounds. In the cup poured out you have filled us. Send us into the world to touch the wounds of Christ in those who suffer, seeking always your life-giving presence. We go in the name and the Spirit of Christ, in the courage and compassion of Christ, in the loving company of the risen Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view 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


Come, Risen Christ   (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Come, risen Christ, to us. Come into our daily lives.
Come in our labors and in our rest.
Walk with us by our side. Show us where grace may hide.
Become our host, who once was guest.

Come, risen Christ, to us. Come into our fear and pain.
Come, speak to us your word of peace.
Nourish our weakened hearts. Feed us the food of grace.
From guilt and anguish grant release.

Come, risen Christ, to us. Lay your hand upon our hearts.
Draw us to follow. Our lives now use.
Call us your word to keep, love you and feed your sheep,
and bear your light where you shall choose.


Let Me Feel Your Wounds   (original song)

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the heart of the one whom I have crucified.
May I feel your forgiving and begin brand new living.
May I know your rising there.

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the hands of the lonely and despairing ones.
May I love with your caring. May I hope with your daring.
May I know your rising there.

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the feet of the poor and homeless wandering.
May I weep with their weeping. May I give without keeping.
May I know your rising there.

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the marks of our violence upon the world.
May I bless and heal. May your peace be my seal.
May I know your rising there.

Easter Sunday – April 17, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Luke 24.1-12 the women come to Jesus’ tomb and find that he has been raised. They go and tell the others, who find it hard to believe.
—Or— John 20.1-18: Mary finds the empty tomb and tells Peter and the beloved disciple, who come and look. Mary then encounters Jesus in the garden.

In Acts 10.34-43 Peter tells the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 15.19-26 Paul proclaims the resurrection for all people: “as all die in Adam, all will be made alive in Christ.” Christ rules over all, even death.
Psalm 118 is a song of God’s victory. What we thought was failure God has made triumph: “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

Guiding Thoughts

The Gospel readings
If there is both a sunrise service and a regular one, I recommend using one Gospel at each. The John reading lends itself to two scenes that may be separate readings: verses 1-10, Mary at the tomb; and 11-18, Jesus and Mary. I like to begin the service with the first part of the gospel reading (Luke 24.1-7, or Jn. 20.1-0) followed by a response as a call to worship.

Preaching Resurrection
It’s common, I think, to preach stuff that’s almost Resurrection but not really. For some folks Easter is some kind of victory party as if our team won the championship. Easter is about victory, yes, but not ours. It’s God’s victory over our sin, over our judgment of others, over our injustice and violence. It’s love’s victory over death and our our fear of it.

Resurrection is not just happy endings. Resurrection isn’t the same as “bouncing back.” There’s no “back” to it It’s about being plunged forward, into a new life that’s not just more of the old one. Resurrection is more like an unexpected beginning than a happy ending. God miraculously creates life where there was none—and no potential—before. Resurrection is not the same as near-death. It’s actual death. Failure. Surrender. It’s out of our brokenness that resurrection comes. Resurrection is not “return;” it’s transformation. (I think that’s why his friends didn’t recognize him on Easter: he was changed.)

It’s tempting to make resurrection the doorway to the afterlife, but it’s not that, either. Resurrection is the doorway to this life. “Unless a seed dies and is buried it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn. 12.24). Jesus wasn’t interested in the afterlife—that is, being dead—but in living this life with love. “Eternal life” doesn’t mean immortality. (Are you kidding? People act as if they want to live forever but they can’t even abide a worship service that goes a few minutes over an hour—and they want to live for millions of years? No way.) Eternal life doesn’t mean life that’s long; it means life that’s infinitely deep. It means life with infinite life in it, with God in it. It means life that can’t be taken from us—not by what happens to us, not by our own actions, not even by death. It means harmony with the infinite love of God.

Resurrection is also about the rejected stone that becomes the cornerstone. Again, I don’t mean the triumph of the underdog. I mean the Divine Presence in places we don’t see it, in situations we discount and people we reject. It’s about God’s justice that comes about even if we miss it.

Call to Worship

1. [I like to use two readers for the leader part. They alternate two lines, then read the third in unison, to create a sense of crescendo.]

Christ emptied himself and became obedient to death,
obedient to death on a cross.
But Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
He is not among the dead anymore!
The stone has been rolled away!
The Crucified One is risen again!
He has come out of the tomb!
Christ has conquered by the cross!
All our hope is in him! Alleluia!
God has rescued us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the dominion of God’s beloved Son.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! ALLELUIA!

2.
Leader: Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen in deed!
Light out of darkness!
Life out of death!
Hope out of despair!
Power out of surrender!
God, this is your grace, marvelous and wonderful!
This is your way, always and forever.
You raise us up with Christ, and we thank you.
You create us anew, and we worship you. Alleluia!

3.
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!
Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Holy God, we thank you and praise you for the mystery of your grace. On the cross Jesus your Christ bore all that separates us from you and from life; yet sin and evil and suffering and death were unable to defeat him. By his glorious resurrection you have delivered us from the power of death. Gracious God, make us die every day to sin. Birth us anew, so that we may walk in newness of life with Christ, in the joy of eternal life and in the company of the Holy Spirit, O God, our Creator and Redeemer. Amen.

2.
God of life, all that defeats life you have vanquished. All that opposes love you have overcome. We are in awe of your glory. We are in debt to your grace. We are in love with your Christ. Raise us up now in worship; create us anew, that we may serve you with joy and confidence as your resurrected people, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. , Amen.

3.
Christ loved us so dearly that he clung to us in this death; and still he holds us close as he rises. We are raised with him to new life. We are new creations. Grant us the grace to receive the new life you offer, to be transformed by your glory, and to serve you in the power of your love, as the risen Body of Christ, for the sake of the world. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. (1 Pet. 1.3;   Eph. 2. 4-6;   Rom. 6.4;   Col. 3.3   Ps. 51.10)
Alleluia! Blessed be God, who has given us Jesus Christ.
In Mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
God, rich in mercy, out of great love for us,
has made us alive together with Christ,
and raised us up and seated us with Christ.
We have been buried with Christ by baptism into death,
so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of God,
we too might walk in newness of life.
Gracious God, we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in you.
Spirit of Life, create us anew!
Create in us a clean heart, and put a new and right spirit within us.
Forgive our sin, and wash us clean in the water of new birth.
Heal us, redeem us, and set us free.
Spirit of Blessing, be our freedom and our life!
Through your risen Christ give us courage to love fearlessly,
and to resist evil, injustice and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves.
Through your crucified and risen Christ, we pray for your church,
that, committing our spirit into your hands,
we may die and rise to newness of life.
We pray for all those who suffer, struggle or despair,
that they may find renewal, hope and peace.
Grant us the joy of your life-giving resurrection,
and make us by your grace a new and holy people. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Spirit of Life,
roll the stone from my heart.
Let your light invade my shadows;
let your life transform my death.
I surrender all in the tomb of my heart.
Raise me to new life.
In the garden of this stillness,
come to me. Speak my name.
Fill me with your light.

Eucharistic Prayer

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

1.
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 glory, the rising sun praises you;
the light of day proclaims your goodness.
You create light out of darkness,
and you create your people out of the dust of the dearth.
You bring slaves out of Egypt to freedom,
and you bring Christ out of death to life.
Wonder of wonder, you raise us with Christ!
You bring new life to us, miraculous and beautiful.

Like wheat, sown and harvested and risen into bread,
we are made into the Body of your Risen Christ.
Therefore as risen people we sing your praise with all Creation:
     [Sanctus, sung or spoken]

Blessed are all who come in your name and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He brought healing where there was brokenness,
love where there was fear, and life where there was death.

He shone with your light, light that the darkness could not overcome.
He was crucified, but the life in him was eternal and could not be taken;
you have raised him from the dead.

[The Blessing and Covenant] *

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, sung or spoken]

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again in love.
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 Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be the Body of Christ,
crucified and risen with Christ, made new for new lives,
by the eternal power of your love.

     [Amen, sung or spoken.]

_____________________

2.
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, we thank you, for you create us in love, and each moment you re-create us.
You create us in the image of your love, and claim us as your Beloved.
When we are lost and imprisoned you stay with us;
you overcome the forces of death and oppression, and set us free.
By the mystery of your grace you have raised Christ from the dead,
and raised us to newness of life.

From the power of death you have set us free.
From our fear and the failure of our love you save us,
and accompany us toward your peace.
Therefore with all Creation we sing your praise.

       
[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He loved and taught, he healed and embraced the outcast.
He occupied all that separates us from you, accepted our suffering and our sin,
and poured out your love for us, even to death, for our sake.
He was crucified, but you raised him to new life.

[The Blessing and Covenant]

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 these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, that we may be the Body of Christ,
crucified and risen with Christ, made new for new lives,
by the eternal power of your love.
God, may your will be done on earth now
by all your church, the Body of Christ.
Praise to you, Mother, Son and Spirit. Alleluia. 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

1.
The Day of Resurrection has dawned upon us, for Christ, our life, has risen. We give abundant thanks and praise to you, O God! In your victory, O Christ, help us shed all sin and death. In your rising, help us receive new life. In your power, direct our lives as your new creation. In your Spirit, guide us in lives of compassion, trusting by the light of your glorious rising the great victory of love over all things. Grant that we may live new lives in Christ, free of our old ways, free of fear and distrust. Sustain us with your mercy, and bestow upon us your abiding peace, hope and gladness, so that we may find joy in serving you. O Christ, you are our life, which is eternal. We thank you. Grant us grace to receive the gift of life, and by your Spirit to live as fearless servants of your love. Amen.

2.
God of love, you have raised Jesus from death to life!
Lead us always into newness of life.
Light of Christ, rising as the sun on a new day,
overcoming the darkness of sin and death,
shine on our path, chase away all darkness,
and lead us to the heart of God.
Light of Christ, rising in glory,
be the light of our hearts!
Spirit of Resurrection, grant us your grace.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have fed us with the body of the risen Christ, the bread of life, life that is eternal, and deeply beautiful. By the grace of these gifts, may the power of resurrection be within us. Send us out into the world, unafraid, to give of ourselves; to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you, in the name and the Spirit of the risen Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view on the Music page)

See all songs with “Easter” tag—especially these:

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

Children of the Resurrection    (Tune: HOLY MANNA. Alternate: Ode to Joy)

Christ is risen! Baptized in his death and rising, so are we.
Children of the resurrection, we are one now; we are free.
Fear no longer holds us, and we live with love courageously,
giving gifts and sharing love for God, who loves eternally.

* In this feast we greet the risen Christ, who calls us all in grace,
gathered into one and fed with love, we now are mercy’s face.
Now we are Christ’s risen Body; for the world we now are light,
children of the resurrection, radiant with eternal life.

* Without communion: “With glad hearts we greet the risen Christ …”


Christ Is Our Sunrise (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Christ is now living— Alleluia!—
wondrously giving life out of death,
hope gently spoken when we were hopeless,
when we were broken, life-giving breath.

God, you have sought us deep in our suffering,
and you have brought us out of our fear,
gently revealing your presence in us,
tenderly healing, drawing us near.

Christ, in your rising you are our sunrise,
drawing surprising green from the seed.
Still your light finds us, wrapped in our grave clothes;
from all that binds us, now we are freed.

God, your grace gives us brand new tomorrows.
As Christ forgives us we are made new.
Now liberated from sin and sorrow,
newly created, we follow you.


Like the Sun Rising     (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Christ, we surrender all of our living
into your tender, merciful grace
Baptized in you, we join in your dying,
and rising, too, in your life’s embrace.

Christ, you are living in us in mercy,
faithfully giving life that is true.
Like the sun rising, fresh every morning,
free and surprising, we are made new.

Great Holy Spirit, live in us daily,
free from the fear that once bound us in,
free now to love our neighbors with courage,
rising above our death and our sin.

Blest and forgiven and resurrected,
set free for living by grace alone,
may we live lives of gentle compassion,
with the same light that in you has shone.


Morning is Breaking    (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Morning is breaking, sorrowful morning,
as we are making haste to the tomb:
cold and despairing, numb and defeated,
painfully bearing darkness and gloom.

But in the dawning we see the grave now,
empty and yawning, bright like the sun.
Angels in glory say he is risen!
“Go tell the story: Death is undone!”

We came to grieve our crucified Jesus,
but, loving God, you opened his grave!
Jesus is living! Yours is the victory,
great in forgiving, mighty to save.

God, you have greeted sin with forgiveness;
you have defeated evil and fear.
Light of his rising, shine in our courage,
pure, energizing, radiant and clear.

Morning is breaking bright in our hearts now,
as we are waking, light in our eyes.
With him we offer love without fear, for
with him we suffer, with him we rise.


Resurrection Light (Tune: Joyful, Joyful)
[There are additional verses in the downloadable document, especially for a sunrise service]

In your mercy you have shattered every tomb we cannot flee.
From whatever binds and traps us you have set your children free:
free to live in every moment life that is a gift from you,
life unfettered, in your Spirit, life unbounded, always new.

Help us to receive this life that rises up and soars above.
Grant us courage for self-giving; grant us trusting, fearless love.
Help us lose the lives we cling to; with compassion and delight
give our lives, receiving new ones, bright with Resurrection light.


Spring Now Blooms     (Tune: Now The Green Blade Rises)

Early in the morning we come to the tomb,
bearing sins and sorrows, wounds and hearts of gloom.
But what is this? The stone is rolled away!
And the tomb is empty! Wonder and dismay!

Verse 2, Synoptic version:
* Then an angel greets us, speaking to our fear,
saying “Christ is risen. See, he is not here.”
Now our despair itself has passed away,
and we feel new life rise in the dawning day.

Verse 2, John version
So we ask the gardener where the body is—
and we hear the voice and know that it is his.
“Why do you weep?” Such sadness fills our eyes.
Then we see and fill with joy and glad surprise.

Christ now stands before us, living as he said.
Oh, what hope he brings us, rising from the dead!
Night was so dark, but with the rising sun
everything is changed now, in this grace-filled dawn.

We give God our spirits, buried just like seeds,
and emerge forgiven, healed, made new and freed.
Sorrow and dread are changed to joy instead.
Spring now blooms, for Christ is risen from the dead!

A Foot-washing Liturgy

Click here to download a .doc file of this liturgy.

A Foot Washing Liturgy

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

—John 13.34


GREETING
Leader: Christ, our teacher and our healer,
you call us to your table, to celebrate our freedom in God.
All: We come, drawn by your Word.
Christ, our savior and our Sovereign,
you call us to be close to you in prayer.
We come, drawn by your Spirit.
Christ, our servant and our victim,
you call us to follow you in humility.
We come, drawn by your love. Amen.

SONG

OLD TESTAMENT — Isaiah 42.1-4
SILENCE

PRAYER
Gentle Christ, in humble service you renounce power, comfort and status.
We confess our envy and judgment, our thirst to dominate and control.
You do not cry out; you will not quench even a dimly burning wick.
We confess our anger, despair and violence, and our distrust of love.
We confess that in our fear and self-centeredness we shrink back
from washing the feet of the poor and working for justice.
We surrender our fear, and open our hearts to your grace.
We pray for all whom we think are beneath us.We pray for all those whom we have judged or wounded.
Forgive us, heal our fear, and empower us to serve in Christ’s name.
God of peace, you establish justice in all the earth.
Grant us your spirit of nonviolence, justice and mercy. Amen.

SONG

PSALTER — Psalm 116
SILENCE

NEW TESTAMENT — Philippians 2. 5-11
SILENCE

PRAYER
Suffering Christ, you humble yourself to death,
even to the shame and pain and injustice of the cross.
We confess that we hurt others, seeking our own security.
We pray for all who suffer, who are ashamed,
who are accused, for they are the Lamb of God.
You lovingly serve even those who harm you.
Grant us your spirit of humble servanthood.
Your tender love is more powerful than all our evil.
Grant us your spirit of self-emptying love. Amen.

SONG

SHARING THE MEAL OF JESUS

SCRIPTURE — John 3. 1-17
SILENCE

PRAYER
Loving Christ,
in our sin you wash us clean; in our grief you bless us,
in our weariness you restore us, in our shame you honor us.
We confess our resistance to your grace.
Wash the feet of our hearts, that we may wholly belong to you.
You pour out your Spirit upon us, and make us your brimming vessels.
Anoint our spirits, that we may find joy in serving you.
Grant us your spirit of love, O God, your life-giving spirit of love.
Amen.

SONG

THE FOOTWASHING

SCRIPTURE — John 13.34-35
SILENCE

PSALM (Psalm 141, paraphrased)
Holy One, you who are always present for me, I call to you.
Hear the cry of my heart — oh hear!
My prayer rises like incense before you,
my hands I raise as my evening sacrifice.
Beloved, keep watch over my mouth;
stand guard at the door of my lips.
Keep me from evil thoughts,
from joining in other people’s anger.
Help me stay free from joining them in accusing;
may I never seek comfort in belonging with them.
Let righteous people strike me,
let the faithful condemn me,
but may the wicked never anoint me with the acid of their praise:
for every day I pray blessing in defiance of their evil.
When with the stones they would throw they are wounded,
then they will see how gentle my way has been.
The whole warring world is divided and split:
our bones lie at the edge of hell.
So we turn to you, O Loving One:
You are our healing, and our only hope.
Keep me out of the trap of blaming and judging,
the pit of evil so easy to fall into.
Let the violent be entangled in their own nets,
while I go freely on a different way.

SILENCE

SONG

BLESSING AND SENDING FORTH