“Illuminated Path” • Psalm 119:105-112 • Worship Service or Retreat for In-Home or Remote Group Use

image: Creative Commons

prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence as we do at church.

Time for Children of All Ages

“Out of the Bag: Guided” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

We are traveling on a most unusual journey, my friends. The nightstars are not bright enough to light the way. Even the daystar, the sun, can’t shine a light on the future. What will guide us on this mysterious road? God’s Word will illuminate our feet. God’s Presence will enlighten the path.

Invocation

As we light the Christ Candle we invoke the eternal presence of God. Be a lamp unto our feet, O Lord. Light our way, O Holy One. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“Thy Word” by Amy Grant and Michael W Smith Performed by GEMS Creative Movement – Dance (used without permission)

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection. Take a few moments to reflect on the past week. Listen to your heart, your mind, your body, your soul. How are you, really? What moments stopped you in your tracks or lifted your spirit with joy? What concerns weigh down your heart and body? Can you give this to God? What hope is hiding inside, asking to be celebrated? God is always with us through the ups and the downs. Offer to God anything that asks to be shared, including the sweet silence of just being together. God is so grateful you have paused to be in Holy Presence.

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. It can be very hard to still the mind. Thoughts and feelings rise. A great temptation to bolt may occur. Who wants to meet the frantic activity of our minds? Please be kind to your mental clouds. They are fleeting reality. There is a more permanent reality they mask – God’s eternal loving being. Christian spiritual guide, James Finlay, teaches us to treat these every-changing thoughts and feelings with great compassion. Kindly acknowledge what rises but try not to further engage any thought or feeling. (Important matters will return later.) Instead, try to breathe in the ultimate reality of God’s Lovingkindness. From time to time, we do sense it. Even one moment of this experience is enough to cast a huge platform of deep peace. When you’re ready to release this practice, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

God designed our minds to keep us safe. Our brains are very good at noticing potential dangers. However, when we are in a perpetual state of concern – such as living through a pandemic – our bodies are flooded with an excess of “response” biochemicals. We need to reset our body chemistry. We need to shift into “grace-awareness” mode.

God’s grace doesn’t make sense. Our ideas can’t get us there, but our souls can. Our souls receive God’s grace 24/7. To become aware of this holy flow of grace try to shift consciousness from  what is scary to what is secure. From fleeting challenges to eternal love. Let us practice trusting in God’s goodness. Maybe, today, you will actually experience God’s grace firsthand. Peace. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:105-112 (New Revised Standard Version)

Your word is a lamp to my feet
   and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
   to observe Your righteous ordinances.
I am severely afflicted;
   give me life, O Lord, according to Your word.
Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
   and teach me Your ordinances.
I hold my life in my hand continually,
   but I do not forget Your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me,
   but I do not stray from Your precepts.
Your decrees are my heritage forever;
   they are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform Your statutes
   forever, to the end.

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

Reflection Upon “Being with God”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead of, or with, this material.)

These are not easy times, friends. We like to believe in progress, in a strait path out of an unwanted challenge into a better solution. However, healing paths are never linear. They meander. They flow, like the great rivers of the world, going where the water needs to flow.

Today’s scripture is part of a much longer psalm. It is the story of human challenges laid beside God’s endless faithfulness. This is THE human story. This is OUR current story. Life can be very hard at the same time as God can be very good. What a beautiful paradox!

This enforced time of restricted activity might be a good time to explore your personal relationship with God. Do you love God when times are good but shun God when times are hard? Do you race to God when the going gets tough and forget about God when the going is good? Maybe, God is a familiar friend you turn to often with whatever is going on? Maybe God is a stranger you think you see in the corners, but aren’t quite sure you’d like to come closer? Maybe it’s a little bit of all of these styles? Our relationship with God tends to shift. Like all relationships, the shifts are spiral – we evolve in how we relate to each other both repeating old patterns while exploring new ones.

During this time of pandemic, of continuing or re-instated shelter-in-place, please reflect upon your relationship with God with great loving compassion. Listen to yourself as the best parent might listen to the most precious child. How has your life with God been? You might want to write in a journal or go for a walk. Maybe, this is a discussion to share with a dear companion? It may be a task of a few minutes or a couple of days. Honor what has been, and when you are ready, thank God for what was.

And then, when you are ready, listen to the current hunger of your soul. What does the deepest part of you want from God? Again, do so with great loving compassion – listen to yourself as the best parent might listen to the most precious child. What do you want your life with God to be? What is your personal “God Dream”?

Tell God what you’d like, really like. It might seem like play-acting to talk to God in this way, especially if you’re not used to being so vulnerable with God. It is scary to be so honest. It may be helpful to recall that Jesus frequently asked those who came to him, “What do you want from me?” The Ever-Perfect One is a gracious God who creates space for us to listen to our own deep knowing. Tell God what you want – take the time it takes to do so. Thank God for listening when you’re ready to move on.

Dear ones, this is BIG work… to explore our personal relationship with God. Come back to this practice anytime. If the work seems frightening or wrong in some way, you may wish to speak to a trusted spiritual friend or guide. You don’t have to do this deep work alone. Or, set it aside for now. This may not be the time for you to be so introspective. Trust our gut, not your fear. God remains with you, just as much in love with your beautiful soul as the day you were born.

When we seriously seek a deeper, more vivacious relationship with God light appears illuminating the most mysterious of paths. Around the world we need more people to become spiritually blessed with inner knowing. This is one of the critical ways God will move us into a new, better future. Dear one, may God’s presence – in scripture, in prayer, in community, in all creation – be with you. Take care. Soli Deo Gloria. (Latin: “Glory to God Alone”)

Special Music    

Suggestion: “Honor the Dark” written and performed by LEA (used by permission)

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

Though distant, when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we are connected one to another in the Holy Spirit. We never pray alone. What prayers does your soul ask to be lifted up – joys and concerns? Speak them. If your prayers don’t fit words today, use your body to give your prayers to God through movement or sound, dance, tears, or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them as you continue your prayers of petition.

Chant of Response

Suggestion: “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” – K Medema, CHILDREN PRAYING (#305 Chalice)

The Lord’s Prayer

Imagine a place where you feel close to God, maybe a sanctuary where you’ve worshipped. Welcome the memory of your Beloved Community filling your soul with companionship as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We Give Thanks

Offering

Sometimes we give thanks for what has been, sometimes we give thanks for what will be. Today, practice future thanksgiving – just as today’s psalmist did. Praise God for God’s faithful response to all special needs no matter what is currently going on. Practice faith. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Suggestion: “Amazing Grace” by J Newton, NEW BRITAIN, Performed by Rhema Marvanne (used without permission)

Words of Hope

Serenity Prayer by Rev. Reinhold Niebuhr (later version)

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Benediction

One step at a time in the luminous presence of God we enter the future with faith, hope, and love. Go forth in peace, Dear One. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However,  you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to an organization that provides soul care. I highly recommend Spiritual Directors International and am a member: https://www.sdicompanions.org/. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Thirsty” • Psalm 42: 1-6a • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

image (c) 2020, Wallpaper Wide HD, used without permission

prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed, including items for Holy Communion – a cup with a beverage and some bread or other finger food.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence as we do at church.

Time for Children of All Ages

“Out of the Bag: Holy Water” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

Dear Ones, no matter where you are, no matter what day of the week it is, no matter what time of the day or night it is, may we be connected, one to another, woven together through our shared faith in the Living God revealed to us through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Invocation

Our souls cry out, O God. We are thirsty for You! Flood our souls with sustaining hope, Living God. Fill our memories with Your eternal faithfulness. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

Suggestion: “Come and Fill Our Hearts” – Taizé, Performed by Church of the Savior, UCC Knoxville TN (used without permission)

Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection. How is it with you today? How is your heart, your mind, your body, your soul? What were the highpoints of the week, and the low points, too? What might be forgotten if you don’t hold that memory today? Through it all God was there and is here now, listening. Offer to God anything that asks to be shared – anything. God has heard it all many times before, and yet, God eager awaits hearing directly from each of us.

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. It can be very hard to still the mind. Our thoughts wander, feelings arise, our bodies wiggle. It can be shocking how quickly our good intentions go astray! Do not fret, dear one. The mind is like an antsy toddler. With compassion, acknowledge what rises but try not to engage any thought or feeling. (Important matters will return later.) Practice choosing to refocus on God. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our over-active mind, is a gift we give God. Let’s be kind to ourselves. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God saying, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

Ever-Present One, Ever-Faithful One, Ever-Merciful One, You wait for us. No matter how far we have wandered off; No matter how hard we were pushed away; No matter how thin our presence has become – You are always here with us. Restore our souls and make us well. May we receive the healing grace of Your Love. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Psalm 42:1-6a (NRSV)

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise God, my help and my God.

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

Reflection Upon “Spiritual Thirst”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead of, material below.)

Sermon

Sermon Suggestion: “As a Doe Thirsts” by Rev. Kathryn Schreiber, YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/wcb11m0TQMs, Transcript on Facebook: Berkeley Chinese Community Church

Special Music    

Suggestion: “As the Deer” by Martin J Nystrom, Performed by World Edition Singers (used without permission) YouTube: https://youtu.be/KnIYWKfW74E

We Share

Prayer of Consecration

Whenever we gather for Holy Communion, be it in a sanctuary or virtually in many homes, we gather spiritually. At this time, please gather your cups and bread for blessing.

Let us Pray:

We are thirsty, God! We are hungry, God! We need the spiritual nourishment only You can give. Amen.

Words of Institution

Remember the night of Jesus’ Last Supper with his Beloved Disciples? They were tired from the highs and lows of discipleship. They were parched from witnessing human suffering. They were burnt out from doing what was God’s to do. They were like deer in need of a long, deep drink of fresh water. So, Jesus called them to join him at the table.

With whom would you like to share this meal? Who is need of God’s nourishing presence? Invite them to join us. Speak their names… (say their names)

Communion Song

Suggestion: “All Belong Here” by The Many performed by The Many (used without permission)

Sharing the Elements

Jesus looked upon his beloved disciples, and he picked up the Passover Shabbat loaf of unleavened bread, an ancient symbol of God’s nourishing presence – the bread given to the freed Hebrew slaves as they left Egypt. Jesus took the Liberation Loaf, lifted it up (lift up or put your hand over your bread) and said: “Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (eat the bread)

After they had eaten, Jesus looked, again, upon his beloved disciples. Jesus picked up the Elisha’s Cup. Each Passover, a place setting is set out for the Prophet Elisha in hopes that one day he will return with the Messiah. Jesus took the Messianic Cup, lifted it up (lift up or put your hand over your cup) and Jesus said: “Drink this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (drink from the cup)

Prayer of Thanksgiving

From the dry places of weariness and regret, from the hungry places of fear and anger, O God, You have restored us. You fill our souls with Living Water. You revive our memories with Your faithfulness. We have been made whole again – ready to live strong, blessed by You. Thank You, Holy God. Thank You. Amen.

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

Though distant, when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we are connected one to another in the Holy Spirit. We never pray alone. What prayers does your soul ask to be lifted up – joys and concerns? Speak them. If your prayers don’t fit words today, use your body to give your prayers to God through movement or sound, dance, tears, or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them as you continue your prayers of petition.

The Lord’s Prayer

Imagine a place where you feel close to God, maybe a sanctuary where you’ve worshipped. Welcome the memory of your Beloved Community filling your soul with companionship as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We Give Thanks

Offering

Let your spirit fill with gratitude for a memory of being restored by God – the Living Water who brings life to all beings. Maybe your soul has been lifted by song or the fragrance of a summer flower? Maybe the sharing of Holy Communion or a word of scripture uplifted your spirit today? Give thanks for the wondrous ways God tends all of us, knitting us together, fellow siblings on this life journey.(see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Suggestion: “Be Still My Soul” – K von Schlegel, FINLANDIA (#566 Chalice, #273 HOL)

Benediction

Beloved One, Formerly Thirsty One, May the days ahead be blessed with unexpected joys. May your heart open to new gifts of hope. May you share with other living beings a moment of peace. Go forth in the Peace of Christ. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Note: *When a verse of scripture contains many sections, each phrase or sentence is labeled “a” “b.”

Resources:

Chalice: Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

TNCH: Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However,  you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to an organization which tends the souls of the thirsty. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Answered Prayer?” • Psalm 69: 13-18 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

artwork by Angu Walters

prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence as we do at church.

Time for Children of All Ages

“Out of the Bag: Wish Lists” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

Let us come together – people hungry for human contact.

Let us come together – folks who find our way forward one day at a time.

Let us come together – worshippers eager for a community of hope.

Let us come together – believers held by God’s Big Dream for everyone. Amen.

Invocation

We call upon the ever-present presence of God:

The Creator of All That Is,

The Redeemer of All Who Have Sinned,

The Animator of All That Lives.

Holy God, be known to us this day as we gather in Your name. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

Suggestion: “Gather Us In” – M Haugen, GATHER US IN (#284 Chalice)

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection. How is it with you today? How is your heart, your mind, your body, your soul? What journey did you make this week, travelling with other pilgrims on our life journeys during this time of Covid-19? Review the past week noticing the best moments, the most unexpected moments, the most challenging moments. Through it all God was there and is here now, listening. Let us offer to God anything that asks to be shared – anything. God has heard it all many times before, and yet, God eager awaits hearing directly from each of us.

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. It can be very hard to still the mind. Our thoughts wander, feelings arise, our bodies wiggle. It can be shocking how quickly our good intentions go astray! Do not fret, dear one. The mind is like an antsy toddler. With compassion, acknowledge what rises but try not to engage any thought or feeling. (Important matters will return later.) Practice choosing to refocus on God. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our over-active mind, is a gift we give God. Let’s be kind to ourselves. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God saying, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

Whenever the ancient ones lamented, they also praised the Living God. The psalms reveal a God who is always faithful, even during times of hardship and suffering.

God endlessly pours out divine mercy, forever giving us what we can never earn. This is grand evidence of God’s divinity, only a deity could do that, flawlessly forgive and uplift no matter what.

We dwell in the pool of God’s grace. There is no admission price, no ticket to punch. All that is required is an awakening to what has already been given. Receive the holy gift of grace today.

May it be so. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Psalm 69: 13-18 (New Revised Standard Version)

But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord.

At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of Your steadfast love, answer me.

With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.

Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

Reflection Upon “God’s Ways of Answering Prayer”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead of, or with, this material.)

Jews, Christians, and Muslims are co-inheritors of a rich prayer book – The Psalter – also known as “The Book of Psalms.” These 150 songs (a psalm is a poetic song-prayer) cover the range of human discourse with God. They reveal the depts of suffering and the heights of joy. They carry the stories of individuals and nations.

Most of the psalms of lament, those that address God about painful matters, also contain praise. Today’s psalm, 69, is such a psalm of lament – blending words of adoration and faith in God amid the tale of disappointment and possibly, vengeful abuse.

At the center of this psalm is a powerful lesson about prayer – verse 13b:* “At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of Your steadfast love, answer me.” Read that sentence again: “At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of Your steadfast love, answer me.”

This is a very affirming expression about how God answers our prayers. God answers “at an acceptable time” – God knows when we need what we need. God answers from “the abundance of God’s steadfast love” – God responses from the depths of God’s dependable Big Love. God answers – God never ignores a prayer request. This passage assures that even when we are hurting, even when our people are suffering, God is listening and replying to our prayers, even if it appears that God is silent.

Country singer Garth Brooks co-wrote a ballad entitled “Unanswered Prayers.” It is sung by a fellow newly reunited with his high school sweetheart many years later. As a youth, he’d fervently prayed that God would make her his wife. That didn’t happen. His prayer wasn’t answered, so he’d thought. Upon seeing his former girlfriend many years later, he realizes that God had answered his prayer – by leading him to another woman, the one he married. The chorus ends with these words: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” With that in mind, maybe, this long season of restricted human activity is God’s answer to some of our seemingly unanswered prayers?

When we pray to God, when we ask God for God’s help, we do so with our wishes in mind. We know the outcome we’d like. When we earnestly pray, however, we perform an act of surrender. We invite God into our lives to impact us in ways we mortals can’t imagine.

Right now, all around the world, because of Covid-19 our lives have been seriously changed. We have been forced to reconsider so much – even learning how to wash our hands! We are hearing each other in new ways especially the cries of those wounded by systemic racism. Parents know first-hand the many skills needed by those who professionally teach their children. Our fellow creatures have received a break from heavy human activities. We are testing our personal human connections – some are strong, others aren’t. Amazing reunions and heart-breaking separations have taken place, including deaths without tried and true rituals.

In just four months, globally, more people are cooking at home and spending time with members of their households – human and non-human. Our religious groups are learning who we are without our property and churchy things. Universal challenges to public health care are revealing which governing bodies are truly civic-minded and which aren’t. We daily witness the fragility of warehousing people in nursing homes, detention centers, and prisons and the enduring strength of the human spirit.

During this imposed time-out some of us have turned inward to clean out literal closets as well as meander beyond the closed doors of our hearts. We have learned the names of neighbors and the gift of virtual connection. We have gone for more walks and taken more photos appreciating the ever-changing beauty of nature. We’ve fed our curiosity by learning new things. Powerful songs have been written and performed by artists separated by space and time. Bold ideas have made new friends and created new communities of hope. Flexible businesses, organizations, and families have quickly learned to adapt and re-invent a “new normal.”

Not to diminish the devastation this coronavirus has brought – taking so many lives, wounding others; knocking out jobs and incomes with abandon; upending daily lifestyles and securities – not to mention to the human cost paid during this universal public health crisis — can we not also pause and see something more? Maybe, this pandemic is also a matrix for answered prayers? Look at all that has taken place in a few months. We could have never imagined so much change could happen in so few weeks. It’s downright biblical!

Like the psalmist who penned Psalm 69 we rightly lament what has hurt us in the past and what causes us suffering today, yet we also celebrate a God who hears our prayers and replies from great love in the perfect moment. Don’t we perceive God’s faithfulness rising up among us now in some places? Isn’t God currently answering generations of prayers for some peoples?

We will be forever changed by this time. Maybe God is inviting us to be transformed – to be the answer to God’s prayer for us? Dear ones, sit with this notion that God is using this time to answer many, many prayers. Listen for God’s Big Love as it responds to each prayer in its perfect season. Trust what the best and brightest in your soul and you’ll know what is true. Soli Deo Gloria.**

NOTES:

*When a verse of scripture contains many parts, or even more than one sentence, the different sections can be labeled “a” “b” “c”. In this case, in Psalm 69, verse 13b refers to the middle part of enumerated text.

**Latin for “Glory to God Alone.”

Special Music    

Suggestion: “Gebet” (Prayer) by Hugo Wolf, performed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 2018. Organist: Henry Lee. (used by permission, MP3 sent via email to BCCC folks)

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

Though distant, when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we are connected one to another in the Holy Spirit. We never pray alone. What prayers does your soul ask to be lifted up – joys and concerns? Speak them. If your prayers don’t fit words today, use your body to give your prayers to God through movement or sound, dance, tears, or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them as you continue your prayers of petition.

Chant of Response

Suggestion: “O Lord Hear My Prayer” by Jacques Berthier of Taizé, performed by St Thomas Music Group (used without permission)

Lyrics:

O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord Hear my prayer. When I call, answer me.

O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer. Come and listen to me.

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

Imagine a place where you feel close to God, maybe a sanctuary where you’ve worshipped. Welcome the memory of your Beloved Community filling your soul with companionship as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We Give Thanks

Offering

Who taught you how to pray? Maybe it was a family member who prayed grace at the dinner table or a nighttime prayer at your bedside? Maybe it was the Beloved Community praying together in worship? Maybe it was a bird singing on a branch proclaiming the wonders of God’s Creation? Maybe it was all of these and more? Offer a word of thanksgiving for your prayer teachers who have given you gifts which will last throughout eternity. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Suggestion: “Great is Your Faithfulness” – T O Chisholm, FAITHFULNESS (#86 Chalice) Performed by Selah, video by Epic Goblin Videos (used without permission)

Words of Hope

From On the Road with the Archangel, by Frederick Buechner

“Some prayers I hold out as far from me as my arm will reach, the way a woman holds a dead mouse by the tail when she removes it from the kitchen. 

Some, like flowers, are almost too beautiful to touch, and others so aflame that I’d be afraid of their setting me on fire  if I weren’t already more like fire than I am like anything else. 

There are prayers of such power that you might almost say they carry me rather than the other way around – the way a bird with outstretched wings is carried higher and higher on the back of the wind.

There are prayers so apologetic and shamefaced and halfhearted that they all but melt away in my grasp like sad little flakes of snow. 

Some prayers are very boring.”

Benediction

No matter how we pray, no matter what we pray, our prayers are heard by an Always-Loving God who always replies when the time is right, even if it takes years for us to realize the blessing in God’s response.

Go forth with hope, praying. God is Still Listening. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However,  you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to an organization that is reinventing itself to better live its mission. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Vessels of Big Love” • Romans 13: 8-10 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

“Saint Clare offering the Eucharist”

Prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (c) 2020.

Worship Note

As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence as we do at church.

Time for Children

“Out of the Bag: Praying Down Peace” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

Let us gaze upon all creation as God does – with love and amazement.

Let us peruse all peoples as God does – with love and blessing.

Let us look into our own selves as God does – with love and hope.

Invocation

Holy Christ, we name Your presence here, now. Call us to more fully awaken to the wondrous power of divine love by loving You, loving our neighbors, loving ourselves. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Holy Spirit

Suggestion: “The Gift of Love” – H H Hopson, GIFT OF LOVE (#526 Chalice Hymnal)

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection. Jesus told us to love God, neighbor, and self. Let us be kind to ourselves as we review whom we have loved well and who we have failed to love well this past week. Let us dwell in God’s healing presence and name those moments when we have not been loved; when we have not been loving. Let us offer to God anything that asks to be shared – anything. God has heard it all many times before, and yet, God eager awaits hearing directly from each of us.

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. It can be very hard to still the mind. Our thoughts wander, feelings arise, our bodies wiggle. It can be shocking how quickly our good intentions go astray! Do not fret, dear one. The mind is like an antsy toddler. With compassion, acknowledge what rises but try not to engage any thought or feeling. (Important matters will return later.) Practice choosing to refocus on God. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our over-active mind, is a gift we give God. Let’s be kind to ourselves. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God saying, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

God is love. God’s Big Love eternally calls us into communion with all that exists on earth and in heaven. God knows each moment we fail to live in love and God understands our mortal ways. Thankfully, God keeps calling us to love again. To try and love better than we did even a few moments ago.

Aren’t these the promises of Jesus Christ – to seek the Way of God’s Big Love? Let us be open vessels ready to be filled up with God’s merciful, abundant Big Love. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Romans 13:8-10 (New Revised Standard Version)

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet;” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Sacred Writings: Clare of Assisi

We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of the Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the Beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God’s compassionate love for others. (coa)

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

Reflection Upon “St Clare’s Practice of Big Love”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead of, or with, this material.)

The Christian Writings in our Holy Bible reflect recorded Christian teachings from about fifty to ninety years after Jesus’ earthly presence – only forty years. What about the fifty years that preceded these writings and the 1,930 years since? There is a great deal of important Christian teachings recorded in writing and transmitted orally in addition to holy scriptures. These, too, are our spiritual inheritance.

Among the beloved Christians who went before us is St Clare of Assisi – a young Italian woman who was a peer-disciple of St Frances of Assisi. While little of her teachings have survived the ages, all carry a deep tone of devotion to Christ. Long before the German spread of “Pietism” which generated such Christian classics such as Thomas A ‘Kempis’s “Imitation of Christ” Clare sought to embody the way of Christ in all her actions and thoughts. She taught the women of her religious order, The Poor Clares, to do the same.

Clare was a seasoned master of love. One of the frequently-told stories about her is set in the cloistered motherhouse where she and her disciples lived. They were sheltered from the world – sound familiar? – by choice, not pandemic. They made vows to adore and worship God together as a community that they might better embody God’s Dream for humanity.

One day a band of warriors from a neighboring city-state arrived looting items of value, raping women, and killing those who stood in their way. The warriors arrived at Clare’s monastery and demanded access to the women. Clare heard God tell her to take them the Eucharist – the sanctified piece of bread – instead. For Clare and her sisters this was Christ’s actual presence. God told her to offer these violent men the grace of Christ’s presence.

Some would say that Clare was naïve and foolish. Those waring men didn’t want a holy experience, but Clare, so committed to loving Christ and loving others, could discern no other way to reply to their not-loving attitudes and behaviors. She became a vessel of God’s love to those hurt and hurting men. How did they react? They received the gift of Christ’s presence and left the monastery peacefully.

Let us call Clare of Assisi into our hearts and minds this week. Let us love those who frighten us. Let us love those who hate us. Let us practice, as we can, loving others as we would like to be loved. Let us become God’s Big Love embodied.

Special Music    

Suggestion: “Nigra Sum” by Pablo Casals, performed by Taliamondinebill Young SKEEN 2020, https://youtu.be/4YTmeLCBjz0 (used by permission)

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

Though distant, when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we are connected one to another in the Holy Spirit. We never pray alone. What prayers does your soul ask to be lifted up – joys and concerns? Speak them. If your prayers don’t fit words today, use your body to give your prayers to God through movement or sound, dance, tears, or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them as you continue your prayers of petition.

Song of Response

Suggestion: “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” – K Medema, CHILDREN PRAYING (#305 Chalice)

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

Imagine a place where you feel close to God, maybe a sanctuary where you’ve worshipped. Welcome the memory of your Beloved Community, filling your soul with companionship, as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We Give Thanks

Offering

Recall a significant moment of transforming love in your life. Maybe you witnessed someone loving another being in a life-changing way? Maybe you were the recipient of such love? Maybe God has empowered you to love beyond your comfort or skill? This is God in our midst, these cherished moments of  transforming Big Love. As we share our gifts this day and this week let us to do in love offering ourselves to God for the uplift of all beings. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Suggestion: “I Need You To Survive” by Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Choir, https://youtu.be/U1fz9htzIak

Benediction

Our sister Clare of Assisi told us: “We become what we love. Who we love shapes what we become.”

Let us spend the next week loving with abandon!

Let us love where we have been afraid to love!

Let us love open to being changed by such love!

Let us love in such a way as become more like Christ –

for the glory of God, for the uplift of The Many,

and for the deep blessing it brings to our own precious souls.

Amen.

a this concludes the service a

Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.

(coa) Clare of Assisi quoted in The Saints Little Book of Wisdom, by Andrea Kirk Assaf, © 2016. Used without permission. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However,  you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to a group which embodies Christ’s Big Love. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Humbling America” • excerpts from Romans 5 and 6 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

artwork: (c) 2017, Kevin Necessary

(c) 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence as we do at church.

Time for Children

“Out of the Bag: Breathing with God” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

Dear Beloved Community,

we approach this 4th of July

as a nation aware of viruses

infecting our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.

While we ache for speedy redemption and healing

God is not calling us to jump over the Cross of Suffering.

Easter Morning has not yet dawned in this place

European settlers named “America.”

God is inviting us into a sacred humbling time

of listening to our sisters and our brothers,

of unearthing the ignored stories of our ancestors,

of taking on the mature, righteous work

of opening the banished boxes of sin

which we have decorated with cheap grace.

Now is the time, collectively,

to bow at the feet of God

whose power and glory can lead us

from our national sins

into the realm of a truly amazing grace

healing wounds we didn’t even know we had,

casting a vivacious common community

built with genuine love for each other. Amen.

Invocation

Source of Life, Source of Hope,

Source of Dignity, Source of Healing,

We align our souls to You this day. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming Christ Suggestion: “Gather Us In” – M Haugen, GATHER US IN (#284 The New Century Hymnal)

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection. As we near the 4th of July, maybe you are thinking about our country? What is in your heart and mind today? Maybe, your household seeks special attention? Maybe, the deep well of your own soul needs care? Tell God about your week – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Trust the safety of divine protection and confidentiality. You can say anything. God is listening, always. 

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. Your mind and feelings will be active; this is natural. With compassion, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings but do not engage them. Practice choosing to refocus on God. Don’t worry; we all get distracted. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our fleeting thoughts, we give God a beautiful gift. Please be kind to yourself. Each act of inner compassion helps us be kinder to others. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God and say, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

The flow of God’s grace is God’s response

to the flow of humanity’s sinfulness.

We mortal beings make mistakes.

Sometimes, we repeat them again and again.

When we fail to live up to our potential,

when we harm what God has blessed,

a great cloud of regret and or a dense veil of disguise

cloaks our souls in shame and denial.

Our Compassionate God asks us

to name these errors and unintentional abuses

and to offer them to God for transformation.

God empowers us to make the shift

from festering inner suffering toward

the infinite orbit of God’s wondrous mercy.

The grace God offers is freely given

to individuals, families, and communities.

God also offers this grace to repentant nations.

In the name of Jesus Christ

may we, together, hope, pray, and act. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: excerpts from Romans 5 and 6 (New Revised Standard Version)

Saint Paul is writing to the church in Rome about the role Jesus Christ plays in redeeming humanity from the cost of sin. For many Christians these verses have been exclusively applied to  personal sin – the mistakes we, as individuals, have made. However, the Bible is filled with stories about God working for the liberation of peoples. Plural. God seeks the redemption of the Hebrews whose covenant with God was brokered through Moses. God seeks the redemption of all religious and ethnic groups through the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who brokers liberation for all human beings.

As the 4th of July nears what might it mean for us to think about sin and forgiveness on a social level? What sins have WE committed together that have impacted US? What humility is called for among US to attend the wrong-doing done, collectively, to others? Please hold these questions in mind as you read these verses from Romans 5-6:

“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s [Adam’s] trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.”  5:15

“Therefore just as one man’s [Adam’s] trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s [Jesus’s] act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.” 5:18

“What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” 6:1-4

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon this Holy Word. Amen.

Reflection Upon “National Humility”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead or with this material.)

Since the heinous death of George Floyd a collective consciousness of systemic racial sins against persons of African descent has quickly risen in the United States of America. Many of us believe God is using this time to ask our nation, formed upon Christian ideals, to humble ourselves before God and before each other. We are called to listen to the diverse stories of our American sisters and brothers. This might be another Great Awakening moving through our country calling us to humility, confession, repentance and reparations. Time will tell.

Recall a time when you were hurting and someone deeply listened to you. A time of deep listening when your companion set aside their needs to simply be with you, resting into the fullness of your reality. This is the grace of deep listening when we sit with each other in the presence of God’s Big Love.

Our nation is in a critical season calling out for deep listening in person and via media. As we approach the 4th of July, 2020 let us intentionally listen to poignant and compassionate stories about fellow Americans (use some of the suggestions below or find other sources). Before a deep listening session please practice grounding yourself in God’s breath (see “Out of the Bag: Breathing with God” video).

May God guide us as we learn about each other and as we learn about ourselves. May we humbly witness the wounding errors of the past open to learning, open to attending tend the suffering that remains. Let us listen, too, to THIS dynamic moment. God is still speaking.

Dear ones, let us not test the boundlessness of God’s grace, rather let us seek the wideness of God’s merciful forgiveness as we try to do what is ours to to do.

Suggested Videos

“What if our America is not dead, but a country that is waiting to be born?” (7 minutes; 1916) https://youtu.be/qQ7QlKG70LE Valerie Kaur moving speech at the National Moral Revival Watch Night Service inviting us to see our national “darkness of the tomb” as a “darkness of the womb.”

“Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man – Episode 3 Gaines Family (10 minutes; 2020) https://youtu.be/xfo1XJDJKSU Chip & Joanna Gaines sit down with Emmanuel Acho, former NFL player, to have an uncomfortable conversation about teaching their kids to “see color.” Acho’s reply to the question: “Are you afraid of white people?”

“How Can We Win?” (7 minutes; 2020) https://youtu.be/llci8MVh8J4 Kimberly Jones gives a powerful, eloquent speech explaining what is currently happening in the US; racism across 450 years; and the difference between protesting, rioting and looting.

“Beyond Recognition” (27 minutes; 2014) https://youtu.be/CQOkiyLW1S8 Native American struggle to save sacred sites in the San Francisco’s Bay Area. Shattering stereotypes, native women strive to preserve their culture and homeland in a society bent on erasing them.

“Africans in America” (Four Part Series, 1998) How did America build a new nation based on principles of liberty and equality while justifying the existence of slavery? How has this history shaped current views about race? https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/tvandbeyond/tvbeyonddescr.html “America’s Journey Through Slavery – Part 1” (1:23 minutes) https://youtu.be/3aljUGMM-Yk

“The Untold Story of America’s Southern Chinese” (9 minutes; 1917) https://youtu.be/2NMrqGHr5zE Stories from a rather unknown community of Chinese-Americans in the Mississippi Delta who played an important role in the segregated South in the middle of the 20th century.

Return to the Valley(57 minutes; 2013) Japanese Americans resettling in the Santa Clara, Salinas, and Pajaro Valleys and the Central Coast region — areas once well known for strawberry farming and fishing — after internment during WWII. https://youtu.be/muvqPCy1j_0

Song of Hope

Suggestion: Michelle Thompson & Henry Lee – “Black Lives Matter” (1915) Music by Henry Lee and Michelle Thompson. Lyrics by Michelle Thompson. https://youtu.be/d4oelKRxOdw (used by permission)

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

Though distant, when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we are connected one to another in the Holy Spirit. We never pray alone. What prayers does your soul ask to be lifted up – joys and concerns? Lift them up. If your prayers don’t fit words today, use your body to give your prayers to God through movement or sound, dance or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them as you continue your prayers of petition.

Song of Response Suggestion: “I Need You To Survive” by Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Choir https://youtu.be/U1fz9htzIak

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

Imagine the sanctuary where you usually worship. Let the memory of your Beloved Community fill your soul and let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We Give Thanks

Offering

Let us give thanks today for those who went before us paving a way for us. Let us also heed God’s call to look back with curiosity and good intention so that we might move forward righteously, creating the nation embodying God’s Dream for humanity. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope Suggestion: “O God of Vision” – J P Huber, LOBE DEN HERREN (#288 Chalice)

Poem of Truth and Hope “Let America Be America Again” Written by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—


Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again! (lh)

Benediction

May God’s Dream for us, for our nation, become reality.

May we go forth with humility, curiosity, and hope

eager to encourage God’s shalom among the many. Amen.

=this concludes the service=

Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (lh) The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used without permission. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However,  you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to a group which supports the well-being of struggling Americans. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Gods Letter to Fathers” • Matthew 7: 9-11 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence as we do at church. You may wish to add special items to celebrate your Dads and Grads.

Time for Children

“Out of the Bag: Good Gifts” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Invocation

Holy Spirit, connect us one to another

as we gather across space and time.

Weave us together:

loved ones on earth and citizens of heaven;

parented ones and those who raise the next generation;

fathers by biology and papas by choice;

builders of families and communities of hope.

Holy Spirit, move through us

drawing us together as the Beloved Community

as we unite in praising God,

the Parent of All Beings. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Praising God “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” – W C Smith, ST DENIO (#66 Chalice; #35 LOL)

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our Truth

Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection. Much has taken place in the past week – in our personal lives, in our shared lives. This Fathers’ Day Weekend we give thanks for our parents and reflect upon our care of the next generation, including those who are graduating. In the privacy of prayer we can lift up joys and concerns of any type. God is listening and supporting us even when we can’t sense God’s presence.

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. Your mind and feelings will be active; this is natural. With compassion, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings but do not engage them. Practice choosing to refocus on God. Don’t worry; we all get distracted. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our fleeting thoughts, we give God a beautiful gift. Please be kind to yourself. Each act of inner compassion helps us be kinder to others. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God and say, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

Blessing of Grace 

God’s only impulse is to support Creation.

Everything God does is for the uplift of the living.

God is the Most Excellent Father

who gives us children the very best –

including the blessing of grace.

Absolutely unearned,

God endlessly offers us forgiveness and healing,

restoration and reformation.

God pours out upon us

exactly what we need when we most need it.

May we have the wisdom

to gratefully receive God’s grace.

May it be so. Amen.

Song of Assurance “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” – G Matheson, ST MARGARET (#540 Chalice; #329 LOL)

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Matthew 7: 9-11 (New Revised Standard Version)

Is there anyone among you who,

if your child asks for bread,

will give a stone?

Or if the child asks for a fish,

will give a snake?

If you then, who are evil,

know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will your Father in heaven

give good things to those who ask him! 

In everything do to others

as you would have them do to you;

for this is the law and the prophets.

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon this Holy Word. Amen.

Sermon “God’s Letter to Fathers”

Pastor Kathryn’s written sermon is available in English and Chinese via church email. YouTube video will be posted on 6/19/2020 on “Kathryn Schreiber” channel.

Special Music “A Father’s Love” Performed by the Louie family. Father’s Day 2019 at BCCC. (used by permission) YouTube: https://youtu.be/rkdt8g_T5c0

We Share

Prayer of Consecration

Whenever we gather for Holy Communion,

be it in a sanctuary or virtually in many homes, we gather spiritually.

At this time, please gather your cups and bread for blessing.

Let us Pray:

Holy Spirit come to us.

Hold us together in this precious moment.

Unite us through the living memory of Jesus Christ

as we offer these cups and pieces of food

to be blessed by God

for God’s purposes. Amen.

Words of Institution

We remember that night

When Jesus had gathered his Beloveds in the Upper Room.

The Disciples were eager for God’s good gifts.

They trusted Jesus to tend them, body and soul,

and so do we.

Today, we share this Holy Communion

with those who are not present.

With whom shall we share this meal?

Let us speak their names… (say their names)

Jesus knows we need strength for our bodies,

so Jesus took the Bread,

lifted it up (lift up or put your hand over your bread)

and Jesus said:

“Take, eat. This is my Body,

which is given for you. 

Do this in remembrance of me.” (eat the bread)

Jesus knows we need strength for our souls,

so Jesus took the Cup,

lifted up the Cup (lift up or put your hand over your cup)

and Jesus said:

“Drink this, all of you. 

This is my blood of the new covenant,

Which is poured out for you and for many,

for the forgiveness of sins.

Do this, as often as you drink it,

in remembrance of me.”  (drink from the cup)

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Good Father in Heaven, You give us such good things

fortifying our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.

Today we give thanks for the gift of this Holy Meal,

and for the gift of celebrating together

while practicing safe distancing.

May the grace of this Holy Communion

resonate with us for a very long time. Amen.

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

For whom are you called to pray today? What joy asks to dance with delight? What concern seeks the consolation of God’s attention? On this Dads and Grads Sunday who are you celebrating? Who are you asking God’s blessings upon? If your community shares prayer requests please include them as you continue your prayers of petition.

Song for Prayer “I Need Thee Every Hour” – A S Hawks, NEED (#578 Chalice, #399 LOL)

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

Imagine the sanctuary where you usually worship. Let the memory of your Beloved Community fill your soul and let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We Give Thanks

From the moment of conception until our graduation into Heaven we are held in God’s endless care. Today, praise God, the Good Parent, who has given us so much. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Recognizing our Graduates

Please share the names and news of those completing academic programs, regardless of age.

If you are not aware of specific graduates, please call to mind a nearby school or a school from which you matriculated.

Blessing Upon Graduates

If a graduate is in the room with you, and it is appropriate, lay hands on them. If not, you may

wish to hold their photo or place your hand upon your heart.

Dear beautiful Child of God,

May you pause to be grateful for each person

who made this achievement possible;

May you understand the great gift you’ve been given.

May you find many noble uses for your education;

May it be a key to open doors —

for others, as well as for yourself.

May you always know the difference

between knowledge and wisdom;

May you value and seek each.

We bless you in the name of God the Creator!

We bless you in the name of Jesus Christ!

We bless you in the name of the Holy Spirit! Amen!

Song of Hope “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry” – J Ylvisaker, WATERLIFE (#75 Chalice) YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kGze5Qpeuo Performer: Sari Breznau, Ukulele/Vocals; Channel: Plymouth Church UCC

Benediction

The God who hears our borning cries

is the God who calls us into life on earth

and beyond into life eternal.

May we go forth in Peace. Amen.

(this concludes the service)

Resources and Notes

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to the academic organization of your choice. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Uprising Samaritans” • Luke 10:30-37 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

photo: Trevor Hughes, USA Today (c) 2020

Prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (c) 2020

Worship Note

As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence as we do at church.

Time for Children

“Out of the Bag: Healing Care” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

When the critical suffering of another

kindles fires of compassion and action—

We love our neighbors.

When the cruelty of smug violence

calls forth a flowing of reform and healing—

We love our neighbors.

When we allow a terrible moment

to awaken our consciousness and stand together—

We love our neighbors.

Invocation

Holy Spirit,

Guide us as we orient heart, mind, body, and soul

to the Love of God, revealed and revealing,

in the life and stories of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming Christ

Suggestion: “Over My Head” – African American Traditional (#514 The New Century Hymnal)

Sung by The Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir 2002 Justin Time Records

https://youtu.be/baFpONlXg-I (used without permission)

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection. Much has taken place in the past week – in our personal lives, in our shared lives. Tell God about your week – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Trust the safety of divine protection and confidentiality of sacred communion. You can say anything. God’s listening even when we can’t sense God’s presence. 

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. Your mind and feelings will be active; this is natural. With compassion, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings but do not engage them. Practice choosing to refocus on God. Don’t worry; we all get distracted. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our fleeting thoughts, we give God a beautiful gift. Please be kind to yourself. Each act of inner compassion helps us be kinder to others. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God and say, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

Blessing of Grace 

In God’s wondrous mercy,

God is always broadcasting grace.

By definition, holy grace is unmerited and unearned.

It is God’s fullness of being flowing out to us

meeting us where we are, as we are,

embracing us with redemptive potential.

God’s grace is a calling to wholeness

for the wholeness of all beings.

God’s mercy wraps our nearly mortal wounds

healing individuals, healing nations.

May it be so. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Luke 10:30-37 (New Revised Standard Version)

A teacher of Torah (Jewish moral law) asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replies by telling this story:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,

and fell into the hands of robbers,

who stripped him, beat him, and went away,

leaving him half dead. 

Now by chance a priest was going down that road;

and when the priest saw him,

he passed by on the other side. 

So likewise a Levite,

When he came to the place and saw him,

he passed by on the other side. 

But a Samaritan while travelling came near him;

and when he saw the wounded man,

he was moved with pity. 

He went to him and bandaged his wounds,

having poured oil and wine on them.

Then he put the wounded man on his own animal,

brought him to an inn,

and took care of him. 

The next day the Samaritan took out two denarii, 

gave them to the innkeeper, and said,

“Take care of him;

and when I come back,

I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 

Then Jesus asked the teacher of Torah,

“Which of these three, do you think,

was a neighbor to the man

who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

Jesus said,

“The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus said to the one who had asked who was his neighbor,

“Go and do likewise.”

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon this Holy Word. Amen.

Reflection Upon “Deep Healing”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead or with this material.)

The story of the Good Samaritan is so well known we tend to extricated it from the flow of narrative in Luke’s Gospel. We might be missing something important.

Jesus tells the parable of the compassionate Samaritan during a critical shift in his ministry. After a few years of teaching, preaching and healing, Jesus begins training his followers to take over the ministry. The twelve male disciples and a few important female followers receive special instruction. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit to fill them with spiritual powers and he gives them authority to heal and preach. Equipped, Jesus sends them out before him to prepare communities.

Among the twelve male disciples are Peter, John, and James whom Jesus had recently invited to the mountain top where Moses and Elijah appeared and God said of Jesus, “This my Son, My Chosen.” Jesus sends enlightened James and John out to a village to prepare for his arrival. It is a Samaritan village and the villagers refuse to welcome Jesus and his disciples. (Conflicts between the Samaritans and the Jews are long and tangled – they share ancestors, but have separated socially, politically, and religiously.) James and John return to Jesus and tell him what happened. And they make a bold suggestion. They offer to use their new spiritual powers to call fire from heaven and earth to consume the village! Jesus rebukes them and points them toward another village (Luke 9:51-56).

This little side story might seem insignificant, but it takes place as Jesus is authorizing his followers to become spiritual leaders. He is empowering them to do ministry in his name for the glory of God. As this story reveals, sometimes they’re a little power drunk. Sometimes they’re still stuck on old cultural prejudices not God’s Dream for humanity.

During another training session with disciple leaders a “lawyer” asks Jesus a question. This professional was a trained in the content and application of Jewish law/Torah. He would have been a Levite – the tribe entrusted with maintaining Jewish moral codes and sacred rituals. Asking Jesus questions such as “How do I inherit eternal life?” and “Who’s my neighbor?” weren’t sincere invitations to dialogue. Jesus knew that. The Torah lawyer was challenging Jesus’ authority to question existing powerlines. It is in this moment that Jesus tells a story about a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan and how they response to a badly beaten, dying man.

The descendants of the Tribe of Levi, the Levites, where the portion of the Jewish nation assigned duties related to the upkeep of Jewish moral and ritual practices. All priests were Levites, but not all Levites where priests – some were Torah lawyers, some had other civic religious duties.

“The Priest” would have been a Levite offering rituals at the Temple or serving on one of the governance bodies in Jerusalem. (There is no separation of “church” and state in the ancient world.) “The Levite” would have represented someone fulfilling one of the other religious roles assigned to members of their tribe, such as a Torah lawyer. “The Samaritan” however wasn’t a  Levite or any sort of Jew, but wasn’t a Gentile either. He was an outsider culturally, and physically. Samaritans did not settle in that region.

For Jesus to tell this parable to Jewish men taking on new roles as religious leaders was to caution them not to recreate the abuses of existing religious authority and power. By casting “The Samaritan” as the moral hero, Jesus invites an opening of hearts and minds to comprehend God’s Big Love – God’s boundless care and mercy – is for all people, just as surely as is God’s judgement and punishment (no one is above The Law). Jesus is deeply concerned that the disciples may abuse power and fail to love all of God’s children.

Reading this parable in the fullness of this moment as people around the world are rising up in solidarity with Black people who have been killed by police resonates, doesn’t it? If Jesus were to tell this parable today, who would be the wounded dying man left by the side of the road? Who would be the ritual religious leader who crosses the street and walks away? Who would be the enforcer of moral law who, also, crosses the street and walks away? Who would be the outsider who shows merciful care by saving the life of a stranger in crisis?

Each person who carries a Black Lives Matters sign, each person who listens to the suffering of a Black person, each person who does something to attend the real wounding of Black people due to a legacy of racial superiority – each one who replies with vulnerable care – is a Good Samaritan in the meaning Jesus originally intended. What a beautiful uprising of Samaritans among us!

Song of Reflection

Suggestion: “O God, We Bear the Imprint of Your Face” CE Murray, RAUMATI BEACH (#681 Chalice), Sung by First Plymouth Church, Lincoln Nebraska, March 3, 2019. Video: https://youtu.be/zLSdGQXouXU (used without permission)

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

Throughout this nation and in places around the world people are lifting up images of George Floyd and proclaiming “Black Lives Matter.” Governments, non-profits, and police agencies are sitting down together to draft practices which uplift communities; they are taking steps to address internal systems which protect those who abuse power racially. With whom does your soul feel called to attend and protect, shelter and heal? What is your prayer today? If your community shares prayer requests please include them as you continue your prayers of petition.

Song for Prayer

Suggestion: “There is a Balm in Gilead” – African-American spiritual, BALM IN GILEAD (#501 Chalice)

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

Imagine the sanctuary where you usually worship. Let the memory of your Beloved Community fill your soul and let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We Give Thanks

Offering

Sometimes the best gifts God gives us are hard to accept – an unexpected word of affirmation, a clarifying word of truth, a needful word of correction. Jesus’s love for his disciples and those they would encounter led him to challenge their misuse of power and childish prejudices. Today, give thanks for someone who has spoken to you in such a way. If they are alive, thank them directly. If they are deceased, pay their gift forward. Let us praise God for the gift of such mentors. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Suggestion: “For the Healing of the Nations” – F Kaan, CWM RHONDDA (#668 Chalice)

Benediction

Let us speak a word of love over those who are hurting…

To our Black sisters and brothers we say:

We love you.

We hear you.

We care about you.

Black Lives Matter. Amen.

(this concludes the service)


Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However,  you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to a group which supports Black Lives Matter. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Amazed, Astonished, and Perplexed” • Acts 2:1-31 • Pentecost Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

doorofperception.com-Wenzel_Hablik-20

art: Wenzel Hablik; written content: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

 

Worship Note

As we continue selfless practices such as remote worship, as we adapt and welcome new, safe ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times.

 

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence as the Holy Spirit as we do at church on Pentecost Sunday – images of doves, flames, and the color red. Wear something red.

 

Time for Children

“Out of the Bag: Love-Listening” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

 

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

 

We Gather

Call to Worship

Amazed and astonished

where those who gathered

in the name of a gift-giving God.

 

Amazed and perplexed

where those who did not understand each other

finding themselves praising God together.

 

On Pentecost, we join the original Ring of Fire

celebrating the foundation of the universal Church

the birth of the Body of Christ.

 

Are we ready to be amazed?

Are we ready to be astonished?

Are we ready to be perplexed?

 

Come Holy Spirit, Come!

Surprise us and move us.

Heal us and change us. Amen.

 

Light the Christ Candle

 

Song for Welcoming the Holy Spirit

Suggestion: “Surely the Presence of the Lord” – L Wolfe, WOLFE (#263 Chalice)

 

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Pentecost is a day of gathering… so how are WE to celebrate together when we are separated from each other? Let us assemble the memory of our church friends, dear ones in heaven, and loved ones around the world. In their spiritual presence, reflect upon the past week with your housemates or speak directly to Jesus. Be honest and kind as you remember the highs and the lows of the past week.

 

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. Your mind and feelings will be active; this is natural. With compassion, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings but do not engage them. Practice choosing to refocus on God. Don’t worry; we all get distracted. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our fleeting thoughts, we give God a beautiful gift. Please be kind to yourself. Each act of inner compassion helps us be kinder to others. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God and say, “Amen.”

 

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving for God’s Grace

Holy God, just when we think it is impossible—

You break into our lives in new ways.

You appear in new forms.

You speak through the voices of strangers.

You open our ears to hear voices enflamed with praise.

We are humbled and grateful, Almighty God,

for the on-going gift of Your presence as the Holy Spirit.

Today, we still into Your grace

which releases us from old misunderstandings;

which cures the word-wounds we have spoken and heard;

which opens us to the very persons we push away. Amen.

 

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Acts 2:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version)

(Need help with pronunciation? Visit: https://biblespeak.org/p-words/)

 

When the day of Pentecost had come,

they were all together in one place.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound

like the rush of a violent wind,

and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them,

and a tongue rested on each of them.

 

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit

and began to speak in other languages,

as the Spirit gave them ability.

 

Now there were devout Jews

from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.

And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered,

because each one heard

them speaking in the native language of each.

 

Amazed and astonished, they asked,

“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

And how is it that we hear,

each of us, in our own native language?

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia,

Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,

Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene,

and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—

in our own languages we hear them speaking

about God’s deeds of power.”

 

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another,

“What does this mean?”

 

But others sneered and said,

“They are filled with new wine.”

 

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon this Holy Word. Amen.

 

Reflection Upon Being “Amazed, Astonished, and Perplexed”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead or with this material.)

 

Today we Christians celebrate the Church’s birthday which occurred at an ancient Jewish festival. International Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks, or Shavuot, fifty days after Passover. Greek-speaking followers of Jesus came to call this historic event “Pentēkostē” πεντηκοστή) — Greek for “fiftieth day” – thus our word: “Pentecost.”

 

The first Christian Pentecost took place as Jews observed the annual celebration of the gift of the Torah (God’s Law) presented to Moses on Mount Sinai. You may recall that when the liberated Hebrews were in the wilderness their leader Moses had gone to talk directly to God. When they saw the sacred mountain burst into flames, they believed Moses had been consumed by God’s fiery presence. Instead, Moses returned with the stone tablets etched by God – The Law (Ten Commandments) – a holy gift to ensure moral guidance.

 

The Shavuot celebration after Jesus’ death and resurrection was a time of deep confusion for the followers of Jesus. They missed Jesus and were disappointed that the promised helper had not arrived. How fitting that during a celebration of the Torah (Holy Law) God gave another holy gift of spiritual guidance — the Holy Spirit!

 

Those gathered in Jerusalem that year may have shared a religion, but there were turbulent divisions among them. They were diverse in belief and practice, status and wealth, culture and language. Between those who believed Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah and those who did not were serious conflicts. Imagine a divisive Christian gathering today and you’ll get a good idea what that Shavuot festival was like. Yet, it was into that very real human conflict and suffering, a gathering of mistrust and hostility, that God appeared in a new way.

 

Scripture describes a mighty wind blowing and non-destructive flames burning on the tops of people’s heads — harmless flames like the bush from which God spoke to Moses. And then something even more amazing happened. Despite their diverse languages and heated misunderstandings those present heard each other praise God in their mother tongue! Absolutely unimaginable! They were amazed, and astonished, and perplexed! Can you imagine?

 

We certainly can imagine a world of competing forces – of “us” against “them.” Such divisions exist everywhere including within our own religious communities. We often study this reading for insight into the spiritual grace of speaking in tongues or the beauty of the linguistic diversity of The Church. Today, let’s consider “speaking and interpretation” as symbols of a much larger grace. This story tells us about a God-granted ability to hear and understand the nobility of “the other.” God’s mighty work as the Holy Spirit tears down what we mortals have built up which separates us from each other and from God, too.

 

Pentecost Sunday is the perfect time to reflect upon the people in our lives who “speak another language.” These may be family members or neighbors, fellow church members or co-workers. They may actually speak other languages or come from a different culture or ethnic group. More likely, though, they are aligned with social and political movements different than our own. Daily we are encouraged to mistrust others. We’re taught to take sides. God wants something different from us – a humanity of diversity which lifts up everyone.

 

What might God’s Holy Spirit be doing today? Have you noticed new hope or compassion bringing people together? Have you been surprised by conversations creating new bonds of respect and understanding? Maybe God is reforming us again, guiding us back to each other?

 

This Pentecost Sunday most Christians will not be gathering together physically due to an invisible coronavirus. Maybe, God is using this unique time to “infect” us with a spiritual agent that draws us together spiritually through increased respect, concern, and affection for each other?

 

May we be amazed, astonished, and perplexed as God fills us with the Holy Spirit.

 

Song of Commitment

Suggestions: “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove” – I Watts, ST AGNES (#248 Chalice, #157 HOL) “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” – E Hatch, TRENTHAM (#254 Chalice)

 

We Pray

 

Prayers of Petition

Let us pray not only for Christ’s Church but for all humans on earth. Today, let us allow the pain of human separation and violence to rise in consciousness that we may offer this suffering to God. May our prayers ripple out from the personal to our households, through our neighborhoods and communities, among the nations around the globe, and out into the vast cosmos. May God’s Holy Spirit come and fill all of us with an inclusive and surprisingly sweet, sweet Spirit.

 

Song for Prayer

Suggestion: “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” – D Akers, SWEET, SWEET SPIRIT  (#260 Chalice)

 

 

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

Imagine the sanctuary where you usually worship. Let the memory of your Beloved Community fill your soul and let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

We Give Thanks

Offering

“Be the Church” is popular slogan encouraging Christians to focus upon service and engagement. The Holy Spirit empowers us to make these actions. How is the Spirit stirring in you, your household, your faith community? How are you called to care about those you’ve been taught to discount, push aside, or hate? How might you give your time, talent, or treasure to uplift communities you have not supported? (please see donation footnote)

 

Special Music

Suggestion: “Imagine” John Lennon, performed by Taliamondine (Janice Young and family) YouTube: https://youtu.be/uSpV1zVKY74 (permission granted)

 

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Suggestion: “Help Us Accept Each Other” – F Kaan, ACCEPTANCE (#487 Chalice)

 

Prayer of St Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

 

Benediction

May the Ever-Giving God send a new Spirit upon all of us –

a spirit of mutual affection, a Big Love, so radical

that everyone will wonder what we’ve been drinking.

Let us go forth in peace. Amen.

 

* this concludes the service *

 

RESOURCES

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

 

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

 

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

 

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

 

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies.

 

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

 

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to a group that benefits people under special duress. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!

 

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Weeping Together” • John 11:30-35 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

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liturgy and photo: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2020

 

Worship Note

As we continue the selfless practice of Sheltering in Place, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times.

 

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence, as we do at church.

 

Time for Children

“Out of the Bag: It’s Okay to Cry” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

 

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

 

We Gather

Call to Worship

When something must be done – we reach out to Jesus.

When someone is in real need – we reach out to Jesus.

When a problem is too big for us – we reach out to Jesus.

When our sorrow is too great to bear – we reach out to Jesus.

Let us bring our diverse needs to Jesus

each one reaching out to Christ.

All of us gathered in a circle

with Jesus Christ in the center.

May we truly be gathered together

in the hope that is Christ Eternal. Amen.

 

Light the Christ Candle

 

Song for Welcoming Christ

Suggestion: “Kum ba Yah” – by Marvin Frey  (#590 Chalice)

 

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection today. Often, we must put on a brave face in the presence of others. Thankfully, we do not need to do this in God’s presence. Trust the safety of divine protection and confidentiality and tell God how it is with you today. You can say anything. God’s listening even if you can’t sense God’s presence.

 

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. Your mind and feelings will be active; this is natural. With compassion, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings but do not engage them. Practice choosing to refocus on God. Don’t worry; we all get distracted. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our fleeting thoughts, we give God a beautiful gift. Please be kind to yourself. Each act of inner compassion helps us be kinder to others. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God and say, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

 

Blessing of Grace

The Eternally Compassionate One knows what we are experiencing.

God knows our feelings and thoughts.

God knows the joys and challenges we daily face.

Through it all, God is with us accepting as we are,

joining us in this present moment

offering us a glimpse of eternity.

May we receive these blessings of God’s grace:

unending mercy;

complete forgiveness;

never-ending hope. Amen.

 

We Listen

Scripture Reading: John 11:30-35 (New Revised Standard Version)

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village of Bethany,

but was still at the place where Martha had met him.

The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her,

saw Mary get up quickly and go out.

They followed her because they thought

that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

 

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him,

she knelt at his feet and said to him,

‘Lord, if you had been here,

my brother would not have died.’

 

When Jesus saw her weeping,

and the Jews who came with her also weeping,

he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

 

Jesus said, ‘Where have you laid him?’

They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’

 

Jesus began to weep.

 

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon this Holy Word. Amen.

 

Reflection Upon “Weeping Together”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead or with this material.)

 

**Special Note: Today’s reflection is focused upon death and loss. If this is an especially tender time for you, you may want to postpone using these materials. Take care. God’s Holy Spirit will guide you to what your soul really needs.**

 

Today’s scripture reading is a brief portion of a larger story about the death and resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany. As this scene begins, we are with Martha, Mary, and “the Jews who were in the house.” Jewish community friends gathered with Lazarus’s sisters to comfort them in their time of loss. Martha has returned from speaking with Jesus who is on his way to their village. Upon her return, Martha talks with Mary who then quickly leaves the house. Their consoling friends join Mary whom they believe is going to Lazarus’ tomb to weep. As is true today, the grieving sisters are supported by their community of faith.

 

However, during this time of the COVID-19 coronavirus we are not able to do this physically – to observe our communal death rituals with each other in person. We cannot gather together in private homes or beloved sanctuaries. We can’t huddle together at cemeteries or host memorial meals. Not only are we dealing with the deaths of our loved ones, we’re also grieving the loss of weeping together; of observing our shared ancient religious and cultural practices of bereavement.

 

We are dealing with a global crisis in a world of shared human losses. If we “widen the lens” on this scripture passage we’ll find that Lazarus’ untimely death was also part of a much larger story of human suffering.

 

1st Century Palestine was a very dangerous place for young Hebrew men. The life expectancy for Jesus and his peers was only 29-30 years of age. Various factors, including the violence of the Roman Empire, fatally threatened the lives of Jewish males. Every Jewish family, every single one, would have experienced the death of a young man – a son or a brother, a cousin or an uncle, maybe even many such tragic deaths.

 

Some scholars believe that this environment emboldened young men like John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth to take extremely dangerous risks — to speak out against corrupt religious institutions and their collusion with the inhumane practices of the Roman Empire. To do so could easily lead to imprisonment and death. Jesus, John, and all their disciples, knew that their days were numbered, so did their mothers. These grieving families had little to lose while they tried to change the world for the future of their society.

 

The same may be true for populations today with unnaturally high rates of early death. Consider the young men in our area whose lives are at the highest risk of untimely death. Who might be growing up knowing they will not become old men? Our vulnerable young ones, like Jesus and his peers, often learn to guard against feeling vulnerable. To open oneself up to grief would be to open the floodgates of pent up tears. Maybe, we’re afraid of weeping, too?

 

The stories about Jesus and Lazarus of Bethany only appear in the gospel of St John. They were written down two generations after Jesus’ death on the cross. These followers had learned how to hold the paradox of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ with the dangerous social and political conditions which remained. It could be that the cause of Lazarus’s untimely death was not noted so that we could read our own stories into the text. Who are the young men today who are dying too soon? They have died from the coronavirus, and the opioid epidemic, and the authorized use of lethal force.

 

As we continue to shelter in place, as cities begin opening up, we must be careful – there are old and new dangers in our midst. Some of us really are more vulnerable than others. And, we must acknowledge that we also suffer from the loss of being together in our grief. Unlike Martha and Mary, we cannot physically gather with our church family. We cannot weep together in a shared space even though our souls ache to do so.

 

What we can do is to listen to God – the Still Speaking God who is offering wisdom to us in this time of pandemic. God guides us with ideas and inspiration as we find new ways to comfort each other from a distance. How we do things together keeps changing, and sometimes these changes are challenging, but what we continue to do remains the same – loving God, loving others, loving our own souls. We are always in the presence of the Eternal Friend, especially in times of sorrow.

 

Special Music

Suggestion: “I’ll Fly Away” performers: Gillian Welch & Alison Krauss; O Brother, Where Art Thou? 

video: https://youtu.be/lFamN-oXRMQ (offered without  permission)

 

We Pray

 

Prayers of Petition

May is filled with graduations and education celebrations which are quite different this year. Let us pray for the achievements of our children, youth, and young adults and their amazing teachers (professionals and parents). Let us continue to pray for inventors of needed medical and social care treatments and technologies. Let us pray for the lonely, the sorrowing, and the dying. If your community shares prayer requests, please include them, as you continue your prayers of petition.

 

Song for Prayer

Suggestion: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” –J Scriven, CONVERSE (#585 Chalice, #433 HOL)

 

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

Imagine the sanctuary where you usually worship. Let the memory of your Beloved Community fill your soul and let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

We Give Thanks

Offering

Let us give thanks for the people who have taught us in the past, and are teaching right now, how to be Christ’s Church in new ways. As we give thanks for them may God help us to perceive how we are using, or could use, our gifts to best embody care and uplift, support and strength to others. (see donation footnote)

 

Song of Gratitude

Suggestion: “For All the Saints” – WW How, SINE NOMINE (#637 Chalice; #219 HOL)

 

 

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Suggestion: “Pues Si Vivimos/When We Are Living” – ES Eslinger, SOMOS DEL SENOR (#536 Chalice)

 

Benediction

May the peace of God which passes all understanding

companion us on our various journeys of grief

as the song of the heavens reminds us

we shall all be reunited in glory. Amen.

 

+ this concludes the service +

 

 Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

 

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

 

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

 

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

 

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

 

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

 

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by supporting your local church or a local religious organization or by supporting an organization which provides end of life care, especially for vulnerable populations. Thank you!

 

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Where is God Enshrined?” • Acts 17: 24-29 Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

2020 03 12prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber; photo kms

 

Worship Note

As we continue the selfless practice of Sheltering in Place, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times.

 

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence, as we do at church.

 

Time for Children

“Out of the Bag: Where’s God?” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

 

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

 

We Gather

Invocation

Praise God – Maker of this world and all things in it!

Praise God – Sovereign of heaven and earth!

Praise God – Above the intentions of human action!

Praise God – Life-Breather animating all creatures!

Praise God – Author of the human race!

Praise God – Ever-Present and constantly sought!

Praise God – Source and Force of our being!

Hallelujah! Amen!

 

Light the Christ Candle

 

Song for Welcoming God#20

Suggestions: “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You” – H van Dyke, HYMN TO JOY (#2 Chalice, #22 HOL) OR All Creatures of Our God and King” – F A, LASST UNS ERFRUEN (#22 Chalice, #20 HOL)

 

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

If you are with others in person or via devices please share what is on your minds and in your hearts. If you are alone, speak out loud to God. It has been a long time since we gathered in our church buildings to worship God and enjoy each other’s fellowship. How have you adapted? How is that for you and your household? What have you come to treasure? What do you miss the most? Be honest. Name your truth no matter what it is. God is listening.

 

Silent Prayer

In the quietude of your soul simply be in God’s presence just as you are. Your mind will wander. Thoughts will come up. Be kind to yourself. Temporarily let go of following your thoughts. Sit in God’s presence, possibly repeating “Lord of Heaven and Earth” or “Source of Our Being.”

 

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

 

Blessing of Grace

While we may feel far away from God

especially as we keep physical distance

intentionally separating from holy places and beloved friends

God is not far from us: God is here!

 

When we don’t perceive God’s presence

let us lean into the assurance of others

who speak of a very good God

in whom we live, and move, and have our being.

 

The Living God is not a physical deity that can be stolen or tarnished.

The Living God is not a product of our creative imaginations.

The Living God, though often mysterious, is eternally present. Amen.

 

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Acts 17: 24-29 (New Revised Standard Version)

The God who made the world and everything in it,

God who is Lord of heaven and earth,

does not live in shrines made by human hands,

nor is God served by human hands, as though God needed anything,

since God gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.

 

From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth,

and God allotted the times of their existence

and the boundaries of the places where they would live,

so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for God and find God—

though indeed God is not far from each one of us.

For “In God we live and move and have our being”;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“For we too are God’s offspring.”
Since we are God’s offspring,

we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone,

an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.

 

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon this Holy Word. Amen.

 

Reflection Upon “Where is God Enshrined?”

(If your pastor has prepared a sermon, please read/view it now.)

Today we are going to reflect on places and practices when we’ve felt close to God. This may be done privately or shared in discussion with others.

Call to mind your home church – the beloved sanctuary which is currently closed to public worship. Imagine arriving, gathering, worshipping, fellowship, maybe attending a class, service project, or meeting. Let memories rise, paying attention to especially rewarding or enriching experiences. On the church property, when were you most uplifted, comforted, helpfully challenged?

Call to mind a different sacred place. This may not be a religious building, but it might be. Scan your memories for a special event or experience in a holy place where you felt a deep sense of well-being or significantly connected to something larger than yourself. Where were you? What were you doing? What remains special, possibly even holy, about that experience?

Call to mind your current household practices, especially related to self-care, prayer, devotion, or worship. Are there times when you feel especially supported or uplifted? Which practices best help you feel connected to God as the Creator, or to Jesus Christ, or to the Holy Spirit? (This may be a subtle experience. Signs of holy connection can be a comforting or enlarging of the spirit, the grace of an unearned sense of peace or wisdom, or a maturing of deep gratitude and patience.)  

In the earliest days of Christianity, long before any Christian church was built, followers of Jesus felt very close to God. Through the direct experience of the person of Jesus from Nazareth, through the testimonies of his disciples, and through small gatherings in private homes, the early Christians found God in their midst. They knew a Living God who was everywhere, not enshrined in a specific temple or altar.

St Paul, the great evangelist, traveled throughout the Roman Empire proclaiming this “always-with-us-wherever-we-are” God. He was preaching to Roman and Jewish people with deeply established religious ties and practices. Today’s scripture passage is set in the great city of Athens, a magnificent place filled with some of the most spectacular sacred architecture and sculpture in the Western world. There, St Paul spoke of God as a single deity available to everyone, everywhere. A God who did not need a fancy temple or huge statue to be worshipped well. A God who belonged and cared about all living beings, all human peoples. This was radical!

Over the past two centuries, Christianity has become a global enterprise. We’ve filled the world with amazing works of Christian art and architecture, not to mention music, poetry, and literature. In parts of the world today there are far more “temples” built in the name of Jesus than all the Roman gods put together. And, we love our humble church properties, our sanctuaries and well-used social halls. We miss being there, doing things as we had in the past.

Recently, Dr. David Vásquez-Levy, President of Pacific School of Religion, described a current COVID-19 cartoon. It featured the Devil talking to God. The Devil said to God, “Ha-ha! I closed down all your churches!” To which God replied, “Ha-ha! I opened one in every household!” One of our national UCC leaders, Rev. Traci Blackmon, when Shelter-In-Place began said: “God has left the building and gone into the streets!”

Think about that. Where is God enshrined today? Where is God being encountered today? What might that mean for our local church ministries tomorrow? May these questions stimulate your thoughts and prayers this week.

 

Special Music

“You Do Not Walk Alone”

Lyrics: Traditional Irish Blessing Music: Elaine Hagenberg. Performed by the Charlotte Community Virtual Choir, Lance Burnette, piano, conducted by David Tang. Permission granted. video: https://youtu.be/bi5cQTrcFVc

 

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

Spring is here – all creation is praising God! However, this is a very different spring for humanity during this frightening pandemic. This earth-wide event is too much to comprehend. We are striving to balance what is weighty and what uplifts – including the current and coming changes to how we are Christ’s Church. Let us pray for all human religions. May we all listen to the Still Speaking God who is with us and inviting us into an unknowable future. If your community shares prayer requests, please include them, as you continue your prayers of petition.

 

Song for Prayer

Suggestion: “Come and Find the Quiet Corner” –S E Murray, BEACH SPRING (#575 Chalice)

 

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

Imagine the sanctuary where you usually worship. Let the memory of your Beloved Community fill your soul and let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

We Give Thanks

Offering

Let us remember that even though we are not gathering in our church buildings our churches’ ministries continue. Volunteers and staff are still working. We continue to fund and support other non-profits. We pay our bills. Support a local church with your prayers and goodwill, as well as with donations of time and treasure. Offer these gifts in gratitude for the Living God who may be found within and far beyond the walls of our sacred properties.

 

Song of Gratitude

Suggestions: “Who is My Mother, Who is My Brother?” – S E Murray, KINDRED (#486 Chalice) video: https://youtu.be/hq_n_sx02Kg (lyrics in previous LL service)

 

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope:

Suggestion: “Spirit of the Living God” – D Iverson, LIVING GOD (#259 New Century, #HOL 390)

 

Benediction

When we miss each other and our favorite places, let us remember:

In God we live, and move, and have our being.

When we feel a kind breeze on our face, let us remember:

In God we live, and move, and have our being.

When the future lurks unpredictable and frightening, let us remember:

In God we live, and move, and have our being.

When sorrowful tears fall from our eyes, let us remember:

In God we live, and move, and have our being.

When hope sprouts, tender and green, let us remember:

In God we live, and move, and have our being. Amen.

 

a this concludes the service a

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. (dvl) Rev. Dr. David Vásquez-Levy, President of Pacific School of Religion described this cartoon in an online conversation on 5/12/2020.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by supporting your local church or a local religious organization which manifests the values of the Living God. Thank you!

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