Worship Pieces

Advent 1: Call to Worship

Here is a call to worship for this upcoming first week of Advent, based on Psalm 80, Isaiah 64, and my own desperate need for Advent this year. (Even if the pastor part of me is not ready for Advent yet.)

- – – -

We are broken by racism and militarism.
Restore us, O God.
We live under a dark cloud of fear.
Let your face shine.
We feel helpless against–even as we participate in–the forces that dehumanize humans who are poor, mentally ill, physically impaired, female, queer, not-white.
Tear open the heavens and come down.
This morning, O God, we claim your promise in Scripture.
May our worship ignite a powerful and holy hope. Amen.

Categories: Advent/Christmas, Call to Worship | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

All Saints Day

Call to Worship (Isaiah 25:6-9)

Hurricanes and floods and environmental havoc;
drones and IEDs and handguns;
cancer and heart disease and ebola;
poverty and injustice and oppression.
The ways of death in this world are many.
The words of death surround us.
The fear of death envelopes us.
But we come now to hear a different Word,
a true Word
a life-giving Word.
We are here on Isaiah’s mountain
where tears are wiped away,
where a banquet table has been set,
where death has been swallowed up forever.
We do not fully understand it.
We may not fully believe it.
And yet here it is:
the power of Christ’s life within us and among us.
So let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation!

- – – – – -

grace cheetahReflection on All Saints Day

My youngest daughter and I dressed up as cheetahs last Saturday for “Boo at the Zoo.” I suppose if you saw a real cheetah in the wild it could be frightening. But our cheetah costumes were certainly not scary. I’m not into gory, scary costumes.

But some people are. I’ve seen fierce werewolves and bloody vampires and creepy ghosts wandering the streets. Plenty of costumes that reminded me that Halloween is not really about candy, it’s about death–it is particularly about our fear of death. In many ways, watching horror movies and dressing up as frightening things is a way that we confront our fears; by placing ourselves in the story–even in these imaginary ways–we hope to gain some control over these forces of death that are really uncontrollable.

Scary costumes or not, a lot of people observe Halloween. Not as broadly celebrated in our culture is All Saints Day on November 1, and All Souls Day, on November 2. In the Roman Catholic tradition, All Saints Day is a time to recognize all of the official Church saints–especially ones that may not get a lot of attention otherwise:

St. Columba, patron saint of bookbinders, poets, and Ireland.

St. Lydwina, patron saint of iceskaters

St. Edward the Confessor, patron saint of difficult marriages

St. Blaise, patron saint of throat ailments, veterinarians, and wild animals

And then All Souls day developed within the Church as a time to remember and pray for “normal” people of faith who had recently died. My faith tradition does not recognize formal saints or pray to or for those who have died. But we do remember how the lives of those who have gone before us can strengthen and sustain us in our faith. We do remind ourselves that our loved ones who have died remain alive with God through Christ.

For Christians, Halloween can be a fun celebration–who doesn’t love dressing up and getting free candy? But we do not try to fight death with death. We do not meet violence with violence. We do not try to overcome our fear of the uncontrollable forces of death by participating in the broad story of death.

As Christians, we face our fear of death by participating in the Jesus story. In the story of a God who loves us deeply–so deeply that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In the story of how Jesus overcame the forces of death and violence through the power of the resurrection.

As Christians, we participate in a counter-story. A life-giving story. We seek to live our lives within the power of Christ’s life. And we seek to understand death in the context of the broader story, the bigger story, of eternal life in Christ.

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Prayer of Confession: Being Church is Hard

This week’s prayer of confession comes out of our current series on the shorter epistles, thinking about World Communion Sunday, speaking with the MCUSA Executive Board, and . . . you know . . . life in the church.


Prayer of Confession

God of each of us,
God of all of us,
Being church is hard.
We do not all agree
about who you are
or how to follow Jesus
or what faith means
or how to spend our money.
We do not always listen well.
We do not always speak kindly.
Sometimes we forget the truth of church:
We are all members of one body.
Every part is needed.
Every part is honored.
And it is a blessing to have these companions on our journey.
Forgive our failings
and strengthen our love.

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Call to Worship: Jonah

With a little bit of John 1 thrown in for good measure:

 

Call to Worship
(Inspired by this lovely reading from Katherine Hawker.)

The word of God came to Jonah
The word of God comes to us:
Go
Despite your fears
Speak
the truth of God
Love
your neighbor and you enemy
Forgive
as you have been forgiven
Receive
grace upon grace
overflowing from the fullness of God.

Categories: Call to Worship, Worship Pieces | Leave a comment

Prayer of Confession for My Denomination

I was reading through some of my old worship liturgies this morning and came across this prayer of confession. I wrote it with this passage from Deuteronomy 30 in mind:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

As I read this I realized that part of my utter, deep sadness for my denomination right now (MCUSA) is that I see us repeatedly choosing death over life. Death for ourselves, because we are alienating–if not outright rejecting–individuals, families, and a large swath of an entire generation. Death for others, both spiritually–as LGBTQ people and allies wander away from an unwelcoming church–and sometimes physically–when LGBTQ youth believe that their deepest longings for human relationship are sinful and shameful, some of them commit suicide.

And I see us repeatedly choosing curses over blessings. We are denying our church the blessings God wants to give us through the gifts of LGBTQ people. And we are denying LGBTQ people the blessings God wants to bestow on them through the church.

I am sad to see us clinging to law over love, death over life, curses over blessings. So today, this is my prayer for my denomination; a prayer for repentance, forgiveness, and renewal.

 

Gracious and Holy God,
For those times we have chosen death over life for ourselves,
Forgive us. [Silence]
For those times we have chosen death over life for others,
Forgive us. [Silence]
For those times we have chosen not to receive your blessings,
Forgive us. [Silence]
For those times we have prevented others from receiving your blessings,
Forgive us. [Silence]
For each time we have made the easy choice of law over the hard choice of love,
Forgive us. [Silence]
O God of mercy,
Hear our prayers. [Silence]

Categories: GLBT Concerns, Mennonites, Prayer of Confession | 2 Comments

Wednesday Worship Piece: Call to Worship

Call to Worship (from Psalm 28):

Praise be to God
who hears our voice.
God is our strength;
God is our shield;
Our hearts trust
and help comes.
Our hearts leap for joy,
and with our songs we praise our God.

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Welcome Table Call to Worship

Here is a call to worship for communion Sunday based on the spiritual “You’ve got a place at the welcome table.”

We gather together to worship God.

We gather together to share a holy meal.

We gather around this table

To which Christ has invited us.

You’ve got a place at this table.

And you’ve got a place at this table.

We’ve all got a place at this table.

We’ll feast on milk and honey.

We’ll give thanks.

We’ll find our home

with God

together.

So welcome to worship. Welcome to the table.

Hallelujah!

Categories: Call to Worship, Communion, Worship Pieces | Leave a comment

Worship Pieces: Holy Spirit

photo

An icon depicting Pentecost–given to Peace Mennonite in memory of Cindy Wiens.

Call to Worship

Come, Holy Spirit,
The wind of God, the breath of Life.
Come, Holy Spirit,
Our Advocate, our Counselor.
Come, Holy Spirit,
Teacher of Wisdom, Reminder of Christ.
Come, Holy Spirit,
Granter of forgiveness, giver of peace.
Come, Holy Spirit.
May we feel God breathing through our worship.
May we receive the Holy Spirit in this place. Amen.

Offertory Prayer

Holy One, you have given yourself to us in Creator, in Christ, in the Spirit. We now give back to you:
this money that seems so little; this worship that seems so small; these words that never quite get it right.
Receive what we offer and transform it by the power of your Spirit into:
enough money, sufficient praise, worthy words
for proclaiming and enacting your peace, justice, and love in the world.

Link to Pentecost Call to Worship and Benediction.

A sermon on Pentecost and Baptism.

And another Pentecost sermon “In Praise of Inefficiency.”

Categories: Call to Worship, Offertory Prayer, Worship Pieces | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

On Worship, Freedom, & Fear

wildgooseThe Wild Goose Festival is a gathering at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. Happening June 26-29 outside of Asheville in Hot Springs, NC. You can get more information and tickets here: www.wildgoosefestival.org. I am honored to be part of the Wild Goose blog tour and connect through cyberspace with many other people of faith who long to celebrate and embody the living liberation of God!

 

Several weeks ago, blog tour participants were given a list of topics from which to choose, all related to this year’s festival theme: Living Liberation! When I finally for real had to pick one of those topics, my spirit settled on “living liberation through worship.”

 

Maybe because I’m a pastor, and facilitating worship is one of my primary activities every week.

 

Maybe because–at least in my white middle-class context–I don’t generally connect the act of worship with liberation, so the idea intrigues me.

 

Maybe because I was getting to the end of the list and I’m not brave enough to write about “living liberation as sexual beings”–which was the last option.

 

So, “living liberation through worship” it is. And this whole idea makes me think of what Annie Dillard wrote in Teaching a Stone to Talk:

 

It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church. We should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may awake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.

 

Somehow for me the danger of worship and the liberation of worship are connected. Because a truly healthy fear of God–a realization of the full power of the Almighty–puts my earthly fears in perspective. And I have plenty of earthly fears. Petty fears about things like whether or not you will like this blog post. Deeper fears about what life holds for my teenage son when he finishes high school next year. Life-grabbing fears about the storms and tornadoes that sweep into Kansas this time of year, about the prevalence of guns in our society and the hurting, violent people who might use those guns to kill people I love.

 

If you need more fear in your life, just let me know. I’d be glad to give you some of mine.

 

And fear, as I imagine we have all experienced, is an imprisoning force. It is the opposite of liberation. It can hold us back and lock us in and keep us from living the abundant life that Jesus said he came to give.

 

Now I won’t claim that worship is some kind of magic ritual that will erase fear from our lives. But I do think that regular and true worship can help us release our fears–at least a little bit. Because in worship we acknowledge the true Power of this world–and the next. We remind ourselves that the forces of bondage and death that we fear are not the most potent forces in this world.  Worship reminds us–against the loudest of cultural voices–that our own individual lives are not the most important things in this world. And through worship God reminds us that the end of the Story–the true and real end–is Life. No. Matter. What.

 

In that way, worship gives us perspective. And perspective, it turns out, can be very liberating indeed.

Categories: Ponderings, Worship Pieces | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Lenten Offertory Prayer

In preparing for Ash Wednesday and this weekend’s Lenten retreat I haven’t found a lot of time to blog. Thought I would share the offertory prayer we will be using for Lent this year.

God of the Cross, in losing our lives we find them in you. In sharing our money and time, we receive the blessings of your Kingdom. Use these gifts toward your holy work of peace, justice, and service in the world. Amen.

Categories: Lent/Easter, Offertory Prayer, Worship Pieces | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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