“Come to Me” • Matthew 11:28 • Worship Service or Retreat for In-Home or Remote Group Use

“Preparing for Flight” by Michelle Kingdom, (c) 2016

Content 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.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Napping” https://youtu.be/vVl1h2tFRXo 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 and Invocation

We wander about looking for something we can’t name. We ache for a form of comfort beyond the blessings we have. We seek a caregiver big enough to attend each of our worldly concerns.

Into this void the voice of the Eternal Christ calls out: “Come to Me. All who are weary and carry heavy burdens; come to Me. I will give you rest.”

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“Seek Ye First” https://youtu.be/9LMQfOp9w8k Written by Karen Lafferty, SEEK YE FIRST (Chalice #354) Performed by Maranatha! Acoustic (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. How are you – heart, mind, body, and soul? What weighs you down? What lifts you up? Tell God. And if you have no words – offer a smile or your tears, a heartache or the bird-like flicker of hope.

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

It can be helpful to physically acknowledge the burdens and weights we carry. Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle as you offering God released concerns. If you do not have words, do not be concerned. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive. Whatever you give, however you give it, Christ will receive your prayerful offerings.

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 knowing that thoughts and feelings will occur. This is natural. Return focus by chanting a name for God or Christ – such as “Abba, Abba, Abba.” Or by focusing on your breath resting into the ultimate reality of God’s Lovingkindness. Rest in God’s holy presence. When you’re ready to release this practice, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

Recall your best efforts to love. Note how your ability to care for others continues to grow and expand as conditions and needs change. Human love, so imperfect and yet wonderful, pales in comparison to God’s perfect love.

Rest in the grace of God’s Big Love, a love so complete that we mortals will never fully comprehend it. As best as you can, surrender to this healing, eternal affection. God’s restorative love so deeply desires to hold and renew us. Let us receive this grace. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:28 (NRSV)

(After lamenting the spiritual brokenness of many communities Jesus then prays to God. After that prayer, Jesus offers this gracious invitation.)

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

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

Reflection “Called to Rest”

(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.)

This is a serious question: have you every heard a prayer request for rest? Who might lift up such a prayer request — a grandparent concerned for the sleep-deprived parents of a newborn? A friend praying for a loved one suffering from an exhaustion-induced illness? Yourself, knowing you need deep rest but don’t feel comfortable asking others to pray for this need of yours?

Social pressures may put a very high value on working hard and never appearing to be tired – as if natural fatigue is a moral failing or character flaw. Sometimes there are different “rules” about who can pause for rest daily. How does your household react when a male adult “kicks back” after work compared to an adult woman doing the same thing? Whom do we encourage to rest? We require our children take naps and we protect snoozing elders, but we may be uncomfortable with a daytime sleeping adult. Take a moment to explore your internalized ideas about rest and relaxation.

If our culture/s have told us we should not be tired, that our need for rest is a sign of weakness, we will teach ourselves not to observe our genuine need for restorative care. When our hearts, minds, bodies, or souls are overcome we may ignore the signals that rest is needed. Unattended, these real needs will manifest as dis-ease in our feelings, thoughts, health, and spiritual attitude.

Jesus’s earthly ministry was very brief, about three years long. He was a young man, probably in his early thirties. He was on a super-charged, spirit-filled whirlwind tour of duty with teams of supporters. Many Christians are taught to view Jesus as an example of how we should live for the length of our lives. That isn’t realistic, is it?

We may have been encouraged to ignore the times when Jesus stopped to rest or how he deeply regarded the Jewish practice of Sabbath (a weekly day of rest). Jesus even reframed the notion of keeping Sabbath as a legalistic religious obligation to an understanding that Sabbath is a beautiful gift given to all beings for their well-being. In the Torah, Jewish moral law, all working beings – people, cattle, crops – are to take a day off every week, as well as longer times off throughout the year and over the years.

This ancient, sustainable practice of revitalization, sadly, has often been ignored at our peril. During normal times most of us don’t get enough of the revitalizing Sabbath rest we need to be our best. Now that we are living through a pandemic and a Great Uprising of civil reforms, a time when many of us may be doing less physically, we are actually doing much, much more internally. It may seem odd, or even shameful, to be tired so often.

Could the weariness we feel, could the burdens we carry, be reframed as the cost of rising with compassion at this challenging time? How can we not witness systemic racism’s deadly violence and not grieve? How can we dwell among nearly 8,000 wildfires and increasingly volatile tropical storms and not feel something? How can we ignore the weight of increasing numbers of hungry or unhoused people? Of course we are weighted down or over saturated. How can we journey in isolated pockets sequestered from the very social practices and rituals that have rooted our well-being for generations and not feel drained? Our tiredness and exhaustion are an accurate portrait of our experience of these trying times.

NOW is the time to listen for the voice of the Living Christ. Jesus is speaking to us, saying: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Give yourself permission to rest. No questions asked. No social or religious permission needed. If you need rest, take it, take it in Christ’s loving presence. If possible, stop right now. Take a break this very moment. If you can’t rest immediately, make plans to take a pause soon. And when you’ve had a little rest, make plans for a bigger rest.

God so wants to take care of us. God wants to give us the healing, renewal, and reinvigoration which comes from Sabbath. Let us rest so we can receive these blessed gifts.

Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Special Music

“Come unto Me” with lyrics https://youtu.be/qeaoPhbuGtg Written and performed by Drew 79 (YouTube channel; used without 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 carry – 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. Now is also the time to include prayer request from your community.

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

Inspired by Jesus Christ, Christians throughout the ages have gone on retreat stepping away from regular patterns of activity and responsibilities to rest, pray, study, and ground in God’s Big Love. How might you give God some of your time for a retreat? Consider how you might offer God your whole being for a time of renewal in the mysterious and amazing presence of the Living God. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“How Can I Keep from Singing” https://youtu.be/VLPP3XmYxXg Written by Robert Lowry,  HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING (Chalice #619) Performed by the NYC Virtual Choir and Orchestra (used without permission)

Benediction

Dear ones, are you tired?

Dear ones, are you weary?

Dear ones, are you burdened?

Let us rest into the restorative care of the Living Christ.

Peace be with you. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship 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

Online Publishing Date: September 17, 2020.

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 a retreat center or another place where you have found solace and rest for your soul. 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”

“Yielding Water” • Numbers 20:2-13 • Worship Service or for In-Home or Remote Group Use, Includes Gathering of the Waters Ritual

photo (c) 2014, Outdoorsy Mama

content (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 including gathered water/s, a nice bowl, and towel.
  • 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.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Holy Water” https://youtu.be/q8vGex_AJK4

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

Original Source of all Life-Giving Water, though we dwell in many places may Your Holy Spirit gather us together. May we become a well of hope filled by You with all that truly sustains life on Earth. Rain down upon us. Flow through us. Bubble up from us. Saturate us with Your Presence. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“There’s Water for You” https://youtu.be/DXwnotPLw5E

Written by Mietek Szcześniak, Wendy Waldman, HB Barnum (ZAIX Pl / Weavers Path Music BMI / Hidle Music BMI) performed by Mietek Szczesniak, HB Barnum, Life Choir, Wendy Waldman (used without permission); 2020.

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. Gently listen to your heart, mind, body, and soul. How are you, really? What moments stopped you in your tracks or lifted your spirit with joy? What concerns weighted 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 has designed all living beings to be connected to one another; one family of life on one planet.  Because we share one common lot each failure to protect life harms all of us.

God’s infinite love for us is merciful. Even when we fail to touch the earth lightly, God never fails to call us into right relationship with all creation. God never restricts the flow of sweet water even when we do. This is evidence of God’s amazing grace.

All species are dependent on water to survive. Water tunnels below the ground and dances in the sky above. Water flows wild in seas, rivers, lakes, geysers, and falling tears. Water cycles through all of us for the well-being of all of us. This, too, is evidence of God’s amazing grace. Amen.

We Gather and Bless the Waters

Introduction

While we cannot physically assemble our community’s gathered waters in a common bowl this year, we can virtually affirm our uniting faith in a Living God, a singular source of all life and love. We can also affirm the perpetual presence of water on earth.

Rod MacIver wrote in Heron Dance magazine: “I’ve read that all water molecules now in existence were here when the earth first formed. No more have been made, none have disappeared. A drop in the glass of water that you drink tonight might well have once been the tear of a dinosaur… Water flows through our lives, then through other lives.”

As we recall the water and water memories we’ve gathered, let us remember that all water is continually recycled. Some of your water may have been in the Red Sea when Moses and the Hebrews crossed into freedom. Or in the Jordan River when John baptized Jesus or as dew on the ground where His feet passed on Easter morning. This water may one day become the blood pulsing through saints or the baptismal waters marked on the heads of your descendants.

Gathering the Waters

Assemble container/s of water you’ve collected. If no water has been specially collected, provide a small pitcher or cup of tap water. Assemble a nice bowl and towel for spills.

You’ll be pouring water into the bowl for each watery memory shared. As you do so, please name the body of water your sample came from or represents.

If you are with others at home or virtually, one by one, each person tells about the water or water memories gathered and pours water into the bowl. If you are doing this as a private devotion, tell God about the water or water memories you have gathered and pour water into the bowl.

Blessing the Waters

Place your hand on the bowl or in the water and pray this prayer:

Creator God, You call the waters into being and command their coming and going. We bless these gathered waters naming our on-going need of You.

Compassionate Christ, You call us into community with fellow human beings and all living beings. We desire well-being for all creatures of air, land, and water.

Sustaining Spirit, we call Your holy presence into these gathered waters. May Your cleansing, healing, and empowering force touch all blessed by this Holy Water. Amen.

(see note below “Caring for Holy Water”)

Special Music

“Pachelbel, Canon in D” https://youtu.be/V5VXPtydAMY

Performed by students and teachers at Holy Names University Preparatory Music’s Summer Project, 2020. Features BCCC members Jae and Jurgis Vass. (used with permission)

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Numbers 20:2-13 (New Revised Standard Version)

(After forty* years of journeying the liberated Hebrew people were thirsty not only for fresh water, but for evidence of God’s providence.)  

Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron. 

The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.”

Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock.”

So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as God had commanded him.

Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”

Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. 

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and by which God showed divine holiness.

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

Reflection “Water from 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.)

Moses’s Meribah

Today’s story from the book of Numbers is not the first time during the Great Exodus that Moses asked God for life-sustaining water for the people and their animals. About forty* years earlier the people were thirsty and anxious. They did not trust Moses or God. Moses feared they would kill him, so he turned to God to save his people and to save his own life. God provided sweet water from the rock in Meribah, just as God did forty* years later. These two stories, however, are not the same.

Rabbi John L. Rosove, wrote: “Two incidents at the same place, Meribah, 40 years apart – the first, Moses was told to hit the rock and was praised; the second time, Moses was told to speak to the rock, hit it instead, and was punished. Rabbi Marc Gellman explains that between these two events was the revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah. Sinai was intended to change the people through the covenant and transform raw emotions to reason, physical strength to law, violence to dialogue, and brutality to compassion and justice.” (jlr)

After the long, long journey of spiritual formation as a righteous nation Moses and the people should have matured. However, it appears they returned to old ways — even Moses! (Moses, as a young Prince of Egypt newly awakened to his Hebrew roots, saw an Egyptian strike a Hebrew slave. Moses lashed out in anger, killed the man, hid his body, and fled to another country. The prince became a shepherd carrying a staff – a necessary tool for a shepherd.)

In the early “water from rock” miracle God tells Moses to strike the stone with his shepherd’s crook, the object God has used to channel divine power for the liberation of the enslaved Hebrews. God doesn’t magically provide fresh water – God tells Moses how to use his “agency”, his power, his staff, to do God’s will providing for the survival of the people and animals.

In the later “water from rock” miracle, God gives Moses and his brother Aaron instructions. Specifically, God tells Moses to command the stone to yield it’s water. God, again, doesn’t magically provide fresh water. Again, God asks Moses to use his agency, his power, his voice to do God’s will providing for the survival of the people and animals. Actions which include a changed non-violent relationship with the water-holding stone.

Moses fails to do as God directs. His old violent streak flares. Moses is mad at the people and maybe frustrated with God, too. Instead of asking the stone to yield the needed water, Moses strikes the rock two times. This is a violent act. The prophetic leader of the people, and his brother Aaron the priestly leader of the people, disobey God’s directions. And, they have also done something much worse, they have broken Torah law which teaches righteous relationship with God, neighbor, and all creation. I suspect this moment deeply hurt God.

And yet, God the Faithful Provider takes care of the vulnerable despite the failure of the anointed leaders. Fresh water abundantly flows from the violated rock. The wandering nation and it’s livestock live drink deeply. They survive. God’s plans are not interrupted, but Moses’s and Aaron’s are.

Our Meribahs

Fifteen years ago, levies broke in the lower 9th Ward of New Orleans and the poor were flooded and injustice revealed. Six years ago, when Flint, Michigan’s failed public water system hit national news, the old story of greed rose to the surface. This spring, the coronavirus hit the Navajo nation brutally due to the lack of running water – essential for life and life-saving hand-washing.

We are all living in “Meribah.” The Hebrew word means “quarrel” and we are living amid disagreements with each other. We all are frustrated and angry. We are all thirsty for sweet living water. This is a time of multiple traumas – health crisis, race crisis, economic crisis, weather crisis, leadership crisis. Like the thirsty Hebrews, we want our leaders to channel God’s miracles to magically solve our problems. Like Moses and Aaron, we sometimes choose not to follow God’s ways.

God grants us original agency – power to choose our actions. We are not puppets. Jesus Christ, while on earth, told people to end the suffering of others or themselves by doing something. Jesus required that we act, we change our behaviors or attitudes.

This could be a critical time when God is directing us to follow the righteous path of living with respect toward God, each other, and all living begins. God wants us to live reciprocally with each other leaving behind past patterns of violence.

Our God is a good God who calls us to our best selves, and who gives us tools and directions for living sustainably with love and care for all beings, just as God did thousands of years ago. Our God is a good God who hopes we will step up to repair what we have damaged, but will never withhold essential needs.

Soli Deo Gloria. (Latin: “Glory to God Alone”)

Special Music

“Touch the Earth Lightly” (instrumental) https://youtu.be/S1kiguZJm9I    

Written by Shirley Erena Murray and Colin Gibson, TENDERNESS (Chalice #693) Instrumental version performed by Mark Lloyd Music (used without 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.

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

Fresh, safe drinking water. Indoor plumbing and water that is always available. Let is give thanks for the daily gifts we often take for granted. And let us ensure that all people have these essential needs met, too. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“I’ve Got Peace Like a River” https://youtu.be/J3cnKDpWXy8

African-American spiritual, PEACE LIKE A RIVER (Chalice #530) performed by Elizabeth Mitchell; video byVirginia Jardim with Spanish lyrics (used without permission)

Benediction

May the fresh water your soul thirsts for be found.

May the life-giving water your neighbors require be shared.

May the eternal flow of Living Water forever bless all creation. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Notes:

*In the Hebrew Bible “forty” isn’t a literal number – it indicates a long time. Just as when we say: “This will only take a minute,” “minute” is not a literal measure of time. It indicates a short amount of time.

(jlr) John L Rosove. Rabbi John Rosove’s Blog, “The Waters of Meribah Before and After Sinai – Parashat B’shalach” published online 1/16/2019.

“Caring for Holy Water” – If your gathered waters contain non-water content, you may wish to purify your water. 1) Strain water through coffee filter or very fine sieve. 2) Bring strained water to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 3) Add a drop or two of bleach to the strained, heated, and cooled water. 4) Store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Holy Water may be used to bless beings and objects you wish to honor with God’s loving presence.

Worship 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 supporting an organization which protects or provides healthy water. 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”

“Big Love Table” • Romans 13:8-10 and John 13:34-35 • Worship Service with Holy Communionfor In-Home or Remote Group Use

Art: “Picnic at Unity Island Park”, Ylli Haruni

Worship content 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, 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.

Time for Children of All Ages

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

Worship Service

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

We Gather

Poem of Preparation “Love One Another”

Love the sunrise which wakes you up.

Love the warm body bedside you in bed or resting in your eternal heart.

Love the farmworker who picked your coffee beans or tea leaves.

Love the bold crow cawing “day” and the hidden owl cooing “night”.

Love the reporters (of all types) who tell us about each other.

Love the children you asked for and those you didn’t.

Love the roof over your head and those who built it.

Love the sibling who hurt you yesterday or decades ago.

Love the hymn that trails you like a faithful dog.

Love the neighbor who never, ever smiles.

Love the way you keep learning how to grow older.

Love the friends who return with food and hope.

Love the people others tell you to hate.

Love the building blocks of life – earth, wind, fire, water, and soil.

Love the gentle way God turns your heart toward compassion.

Love the human beings a sea away with whom you share DNA.

Love the ones who are present and those who are long gone.

Love the person you see in the mirror.

Love the Spirit who tugs us into relationship.

Love the Christ who invites us into transformation.

Love the Creator who leads us into life and life eternal. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“I’m Gonna Eat at the Welcome Table” African-American spiritual, WELCOME TABLE (#424 Chalice), video: “Welcome Table” performed by A Southern Gospel Revival – Courtney Patton; version published with lyrics by “philsabine1”. YouTube: https://youtu.be/PDasYUepo1c (used without permission)

Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, may this be a time for private reflection. How is it with you today? Is this a good day or one that requires kindness and patience? Honor the swings of contentment and concern that are a part of every life, as well as the unique shifts that are new to this era. Invite God to help you reflect on the people you encountered the past week. Find one memory to talk to God about: a warm remembrance, something surprising, or even a challenging encounter. Tell God about it. God is listening even when we can’t sense God’s presence. God adores hearing the stories about our lives.

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 likes to think. 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. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God saying, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Write down whatever you wish to release to God and leave at the base of the Christ Candle. If it is safe, burn these prayers. If you don’t have the words yet, offer God what you can. This is fine. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

God’s forgiveness is the gate through which we pass to arrive at the blessing from all holy communions – reunions and new connections with God, others, and our own souls. As we offer our regrets and mistakes to God we allow God to heal us. As we are healed, we are freed to offer mercy and forgiveness to others. Let us prepare for Holy Communion with a private, prayerful confession. Let us also rest for a while in God’s eternal forgiveness. (silence) Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Readings: Romans 13:8-10 and John 13:34-35

(from St Paul’s letter to the church in Rome written 58 CE)

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.

(from St John’s Gospel written in the 80’s or 90’s CE)

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

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

Reflection Upon “Big Love Table”

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

It wasn’t that long ago that in most churches the Communion Table was a High Altar – a solid structure on the highest platform in a church’s sanctuary usually made of special material built against the front wall of the chancel. During Holy Communion the minister or priest would turn their backs to the people to offer God items for blessing. Once the words and sacred rites were performed over the cup and loaf the officiant would turn around and offer the consecrated meal to us, the people. That was when The Table was The Altar which we watched.

In the 1960’s most Roman Catholics and Mainline Protestants began making major worship reforms. In many sanctuaries, High Altars remained in place while an additional, portable table, was brought in. This new table was used for Holy Communion. It was placed on the same level as the people and located so that the officiant could face the congregation. Some congregations removed their High Altars or pulled them out from the wall that they might be used like a table. As the sanctuary furniture changed so did the experience of Holy Communion. The Altar became The Table were everyone was an active participant.

Sixty years ago, inspired by global social changes – colonies casting off foreign imperial rulers, challenging social codes regarding race and gender – as the world changed so did God’s Table. It evolved into a “Welcome Table” more like the one envisioned by freed African American slaves – a place of welcome and inclusion for those who had been excluded or treated as second-class.

Sixty years later in 2020, The Table is still changing. Instead of going to a building to be with The Table, we are currently remaining in our own homes sitting at many tables. We each provide our own communion elements. Each person takes on the priestly tasks of blessing the elements. Now, there are many Tables, many pieces of Bread, many Cups, Many officiants. Yet, we are united one to another by a singular virtual Big Love Table. A mystical place where each one is equal and we all face each other.

Like the social revolutions of the 1960’s, we are living amid massive, public, and passionate demonstrations that sometimes become violent. Power and values clash daily. We exist amid serious political polarizations. So many “US verses THEM” tensions as there were in Jesus’s day.

Jesus Christ, in thought, word, and deed, brought people together – all kinds of people. Jesus knew that all human beings are eager to be fed immortal hope. All human beings are soul-hungry for divine forgiveness. We come equally to God’s Big Love Table needing an outpouring of divine kindness, compassion, mercy, and grace. We always have. We always will.

Spiritually, Holy Communion was always a virtual event transcending time and place. Now, as we know we are physically separated yet spiritually connected, it might be easier for us to assemble at God’s Big Love Table entering eternity, dwelling in the Big Love which gave us life, calls us through life, and will usher us into Life Eternal. Amen.

Special Music     

“We Shall Overcome”African-American spiritual, MARTIN (#630 Chalice), video: performed by Henry Lee, original jazz improvisation, 8/2020. YouTube: https://youtu.be/I1i84ITIavo (used with permission)

We Share

Invitation to Holy Communion

All are welcome here. Though we may be alone in our private homes, we can share this meal with a wider spiritual community. Speak the names of those who are not physically present, but with whom you wish to be gathered in the Holy Spirit: (say names out loud)

Consecration of Elements

Place your hands on the cup and the bread or food you have prepared. Let us pray:

Holy God, Your Big Love moves through the gifts of this earth, the skills of farmers and bakers, the kindnesses of soul friends. May Your Big Love move through us as we share these items at Your Big Love Table. Amen.

Communion Song

“Let Us Break Bread Together” African-American spiritual, LET US BREAK BREAD (#424 Chalice, #234 HOL), video: performed by Joan Baez 6/2020. YouTube: https://youtu.be/z7JUSSPQg7Y (used without permission)

Sharing the Elements

Jesus lifted up and loaf and said: “Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Because we are God’s Beloved, we can love each other. May we receive God’s sustaining Big Love with this Bread. (eat bread)

After super, Jesus lifted up the cup, saying: “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.”

Because we are God’s Beloved, we can love each other. May we receive God’s merciful Big Love with this Cup. (drink from cup)

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Dear God, again, through the wonder of Your never-ending Love we are redeemed and repaired. You reconnect what is broken and give what we did not even know to ask for. Thank You, most Holy and Generous God! 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. You may wish to use your body as movement or sound, dance, tears, or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them at this time.

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

This week we are reminded of the fundamental call to love each other. Today, offer thanks for a fellowship of faith where you encounter God’s Big Love Table. Ask God to protect and tend this Beloved Community and all your relationships – divine and mortal. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“We Shall Overcome”African-American spiritual, arrangement: Paul S Morton, video: performed by 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders of Baldwin Hills Elementary, 3/2018. YouTube: https://youtu.be/5vevW8pv9CQ (used without permission)

Benediction

Beloved Child of God – You are loved. As you are loved, may you so love. May God build us into a universe of Loving Siblings. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

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.

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

Online Publishing Date: September 3, 2020.

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 person or group which helps us love each other. 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 online: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Choosing Life” • Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

(c) 2020, 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.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Choices” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber https://youtu.be/e-Xr2rxB0kA

Worship Service

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

We Gather

Call to Worship/Invocation

Choose Life.

This is a complete invitation: Choose Life.

This is a complete covenant: Choose Life.

This is a complete prayer: Choose Life.

Holy God, may each moment of this day be filled with the commitment to “Choose Life.” Help us choose to be as fully alive as possible and to encourage the same for others. I “Choose Life” in the name of Jesus Christ, my Brother and Friend, my Teacher and Savior. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

Hymn: “’Tis the Gift to Be Simple” Shaker song, SIMPLE GIFTS (#568, Chalice) Video: ‘Simple Gifts’ in a crisis: Yo-Yo Ma and Joyce DiDonato collaborate for the first time” YouTube: https://youtu.be/4fHc1o48DqM (used without permission)

Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, may this be a time of private reflection. How is it with you today? What brings a smile to your face or a lump to your throat? Is this a good day or one that requires kindness and patience? Honor the swings of contentment and concern that are a part of every life, as well as the unique shifts that are new to this era. Tell God how you are doing. Invite God to help you remember a decision from the past week when you chose the Way of Life. God is always very lovingly toward us even when we can’t sense God’s presence. Rest in the hope of God’s sustaining care.

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 likes to think. 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. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God saying, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Write down whatever you wish to release to God and leave at the base of the Christ Candle, or if it is safe, you may burn these prayers. It may be that what you have to offer cannot yet be consciously named. This is fine. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

The God of our ancestors is the God of our descendants and the God of this very moment, too. The Eternal One forever calls all living beings into being. We are invited, again and again, to choose life. God’s eternal encouragement is a form of grace. We are always being coaxed by God’s goodwill into a better future. Let us be grateful for God’s life-giving grace. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

(Moses is speaking to the liberated Hebrew people as they near the Jordan River. Their ancestral homeland is very near.)

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in God’s ways, and observing God’s commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 

“But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying God, and holding fast to God; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

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

Reflection Upon “Choosing Life”

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

On days when sheltering in place feels like a burden, in those moments when putting on a mask feels uncomfortable, when the weight of change is real it is helpful to remember we are doing these things because we choose life. We are choosing to change our actions to keep each other and ourselves alive. We are choosing life.

Throughout human history there are epic turning points when the masses must decide between life and death. Today’s reading is about one of those times for Jesus’ ancestors.

It took a few generations for Moses, with God’s help, to lead the enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt. The Hebrew metaphor for a long time is “forty years.” The Hebrew metaphor for a very long time is “four hundred years.” The Hebrews had been enslaved in Egypt for “four hundred years.” It took “forty years” to leave Egypt, wander in the wilderness, and then finally come into sight of their ancestral home – Israel. They arrived at the Eastern shore of the Jordan River having traveled up from wild lands beside and below Israel. This natural geographical boundary, the Jordan River, descends from Mount Hermon to the mouth of the Dead Sea. To this day The Jordan River remains a line of demarcation between nations and cultures. Crossing it can still be a choice fraught with dangers.

Today’s scripture narrative is from the end of Moses’ life. The elderly prophet is speaking to the people he’s led for decades. Moses knows they need a new spiritual leader as they face new challenges while reentering the land from which their ancestors were removed a very long time ago.

Moses prepares to pass on the sacred mantel of leadership to Joshua, his anointed successor, by asking the people to renew their covenant with God. Moses asks them to choose God’s ways – the great laws given to them on their journey to freedom. The call to God’s way of life is an invitation, not enforcement. Moses asks each household to choose between life and death, blessings and curses.

This is a time of big choices for us, too. Not just choices about public health – where we go and how we stay safe around others. Rather, bigger choices surround us: How to address and mend the wounds of racism? Which lifestyle choices are least harmful to climate disruption? How should we use our gifts and talents for the uplift of the many? Household by household, person by person, we are faced with big decisions. Moses would remind us to go back to the basics – to reflect upon God’s ways through the foundational rules of moral decency found in the Ten Commandments.

Globally, nationally, institutionally, communally, filially, and personally we are being asked to choose between the ways of God which lead to life and the ways of not-God which lead to death. These choices are so big; they can be overwhelming. Let us view these choices as invitations to join God in growing a new era of well-being for all beings. “Choosing Life” may be our portal to a new, very better tomorrow.

Special Music     

Suggestion: “Gratias Tibi” performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Montclair State University Singers. This world premiere of “Gratias Tibi,” commissioned by NJSO commission from José Luis Domínguez, is an expression of gratitude to frontline workers of the COVID-19 pandemic. (used with permission) https://youtu.be/ATpVXvwnBy0

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. You may wish to use your body as movement or sound, dance, tears, or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them at this time.

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

This week we are reminded of the great Hebrew leaders – Moses and Joshua. Pause to consider the leaders who impact your community. Pray for them and give thanks for those who call us to embody God’s ways – ways of life. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Commitment

Suggestion: “Take My Life” – written by FR Havergal (#609 Chalice; #457 HOL) Video: “Kari Jobe – Take My Life with Lyrics” created by Janelle (used without permission) YouTube: https://youtu.be/6QubPnYFavY

Benediction

We are at a crossroads. Shall we choose life or death? The way of blessings or curses? May the Prince of Peace fill us with the courage to always choose life. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

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.

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

Online Publishing Date: August 27, 2020.

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 develops and tends prophetic leaders who lean into God for guidance. 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 online: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“We Know Not How” • Mark 4:26-29 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

content and photo: 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.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Mystery” YouTube: https://youtu.be/s7v5L57zz3U

Worship Service

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

We Gather

Call to Worship/Invocation

When the weight of responsibility weighs heavily on our shoulders; When we struggle to understand what we should do next; When we gaze upon the immensity of tasks ahead; Most Holy God, address our tossed and weary souls reminding us of Your most wonderfully mysterious ways. We are not alone. You always go before us making the way where there has been no way. Let us pause to rest and trust in You. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

Hymn: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” T.O.Chisholm/W.M.Runyan (#86, Chalice) Video: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness/Beginning to End” performed by One Sonic Society, Mike Weaver, published by Essential Worship (used with permission). YouTube: https://youtu.be/dxy-HSy01_w

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? Listen to your body. Is there a place in your body which is especially noticeable today? A part of the body which is feeling very good or is hurting? An area of the body at rest or anxious. Listen to your physical self and consider the previous week. 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 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 

Take a moment and let go of everything you are carrying. (Take a deep breath.)

God is here. God has always been here. God will keep the world spinning on its axis. God will ensure night will fall and morning will break. God has designed plants to grow and the heavens to provide rain. God has called you into community and God’s Big Love will eternally weave you into meaningful relationship. God dwells in all that is and invites all that is into fullness of being. (Take a deep breath.)

There is nothing, nothing, you must do right now but rest in God’s grace. May we trust what we cannot understand. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Mark 4:26-29 The Parable of the Growing Seed”

Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

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

Reflections Upon “God’s Mysterious Ways”

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

Sermon Video: “Mysterious God” Reminders that God’s Doing the Heavy Lifting (not the same as content below) YouTube: https://youtu.be/x3amV96jf1k

Jesus often told “kingdom of God” stories planting seeds of knowing about the nature of God. This subset of Jesus’ parables features clear metaphors about who God is, how God operates, and what God desires.

The fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus teaching a large crowd on a shoreline. The group is so big that Jesus has gotten into a boat to speak to them from the sea. Jesus tells the crowd “The Parable of the Sower” (Mark 4:1-9). Later on, when Jesus is alone with his disciples, Jesus unpacks the public teaching (Mark 4:10-34). And, as Jesus often did, he told more stories, including the kingdom of God story “The Parable of the Growing Seed.” Literally, it is a story about a grain farmer and the natural cycle of agriculture – planting seeds, sprouts breaking forth and growing, plants becoming tall stalks, seed-heads appearing, ripening, and being harvested. Jesus says that the farmer who planted the seed doesn’t know how the growth happened. The crop even grows without the farmer’s help while he sleeps.

Jesus is teaching the disciples that it is not the human worker which causes growth. God is the prime force animating life. The farmer may work with seed, soil, sun, and water to encourage plants to grow, but it is God who is critical to the presence, existence, maturation, and fulfilment of living things.

Theologian Paul Tillich coined a unique metaphor for God calling God “The Ground of All Being.” Tillich was attempting to move past anthropomorphic symbolling of God – God as a super form of us human beings. Tillich reframes God as “All Being” not “a being.” The literal translation of God’s Holy Name in Hebrew “יהוה” can be translated as “I am who I am that is.” This huge concept of God informs Tillich’s thought and is a good underpinning for understanding God in this parable.

Though private teachings Jesus describes, through metaphor, that it is God who creates the harvest, not the farmer/us. We do not create the kingdom of God, Basileia tou Theou “βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ” (Greek) rather we are invited to work with God, the Ultimate Reality, to assist in manifesting God’s Dream. This work will be mysterious – we will never know everything God is doing.

Yet, we human beings are curious and like to do things. We like to create things and take pride in our efforts. We do a lot of amazing things from making breakfast to fighting wildfires, from designing internet technology to mining the essential minerals needed for computers and processors. We make languages and cultures, create rituals and theologies. We do a lot, but we don’t do this alone. God is infinitely active. There is a huge realm of mysterious divine reality which we cannot perceive.

Currently, we are living with a great deal of uncertainty. Our lives have been dramatically changed by a virus we cannot see with the unaided human eye. This microorganism, smaller than the smallest bacteria, is a novel (new) coronavirus. And this very tiny thing, COVID 19, is doing huge things to human beings wherever we dwell. It enters our bodies through breath and takes away our ability to breathe.

This invisible thing has also made many ugly truths visible. It is US, we human beings, who have created systems and practices which cause far more suffering and death through our institutional endorsement of racism, environmental damage, and unfair distribution of basic needs – food, shelter, health, and education. We have supported the enrichment of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and less powerful.

As we live amid a great deal of mystery let us keep in mind that God – the Ultimate Reality, the Being that is Being – is actively balancing life on earth aligned with spiritual realities throughout eternity. Let us pause to be grateful for what we don’t know, but can trust: God is with us and for us doing what is essential for life and life abundant.

Special Music    

Suggestion: “God Moves in Mysterious Ways” lyrics by William Crowper (1731-1800); Arrangement: Crossroads Music © 2020. Performed by Crossroads Music (used without permission). YouTube: https://youtu.be/51Bx1UwLc0U

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

Today the only offering God desires from you is acknowledgement of Divine Mystery. Let us give thanks for all we do not know that God is doing, is being, is calling into being. Let us rest in profound gratitude.(see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Suggestion: “In the Bulb There is a Flower” – N Sleeth, PROMISE (#638 Chalice) Video: Posted by Frederic Chopin (used without permission). YouTube: https://youtu.be/v_2W2cUUfYU

Benediction

We know not how – but God is always doing what is essential. Let us lean into the transforming grace of Divine Mystery. Let us gather hope and strength from what is unknowable, yet what has been promised to us through Jesus Christ. Let us proceed in peace, grateful for God’s mysterious ways. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

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.

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

Online Publishing Date: August 20, 2020.

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 encourages trust in God’s essential goodness. 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 online: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Ho’oponopono” • Psalm 133 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

content and photo (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, including items for Holy Communion – a cup with a beverage and some bread or other finger food – consider using elements with a Pacific Islander theme for this service.
  • 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 with Aloha Spirit!

Time for Children of All Ages

“Out of the Bag: Aloha” 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

Aloha! E komo mai! (Greetings! Welcome!) Let us gather in the welcoming, warm spirit of God’s Big Love. Let us gather recalling the blessing of reunions with Loved Ones. Let us gather remembering being in tropical places, especially Hawai’i. Let us be drawn together by God’s Aloha Spirit! Aloha! E komo mai!

Invocation

Holy One, we carry in our hearts a dream of unity. We long for a world with all people living peacefully together. You, Eternal God, are the author of this most beautiful dream. You, Enabling Spirit, are the thread which connects the beloved community. We await Your presence among us with wonder, gratitude, and humility. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Entering the Presence of Christ

Suggestion: “He Will Carry You” performed by Mana’o Company ℗ 2011 Dan Pa Productions, released: 2011-12-30 (used without permission) YouTube: https://youtu.be/8HUrxPaiPEM

Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

We have been riding “Rona” for five months learning how to keep our distance from each other. Yet, we long for each other and the tenderness of proximity. This is a time of revealed social conflicts. Yet, we long for greater harmony and respect among us. Let this be a moment to gently check in with ourselves, with our household members. How are we doing – as individuals and as a group? God is here with us, 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 

Let us rest into the assurance of God’s faithful love. God’s life-giving affection dwells in every cell of every living being. God’s goodwill pluses through living things – the original breath of life. God forever calls us to be realigned to holy well-being, to gracious self-awareness, and to transforming compassion toward others. God’s Big Aloha Love always flows. Always. May we receive the healing presence of God’s grace today. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Psalm 133 (Version: Liturgical Training Publications)

How good it is, how wonderful, whenever people live as one!

It is like sacred oil on the head flowing down Aaron’s beard, down to the collar of his robe. It is like the dew of Hermon running down the mountains of Zion.

There God gives blessing: life for ever.

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

Scripture Notes “Psalm 133”

This psalm is a short song that may have originally been used to welcome people into a family household. It is a call for communal unity.

Some of the imagery might be a little confusing. “Aaron” symbolizes the dynasty of Hebrew priests. Aaron was the brother of Moses and Miriam, one of the three blessed siblings who led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. While Moses was the prophetic leader and Miriam was the worship leader, Aaron was the priestly leader who officiated at rituals.

In the ancient world it was not uncommon to use precious oils to anoint special persons, especially rulers in high office. For the Hebrew community, oil anointing was symbolic of God’s blessing. To use so much oil that it runs off the head, flows down the beard, and over the collar of a priestly robe describes a hearty, holy blessing.

The second parallel metaphor focuses on dew – the morning moisture so essential to life in the desert. Mount Hermon is a sacred place, just as a priest is a sacred person. The dew, like the oil, freely flows. The blessed water (dew) behaves like a river during the verdant season, running down the holy mountain in the Promised Land. Again, a symbol of great, divine blessing.

Gods blessings flow when humans dwell in unified human community. This little psalm is a call for people to live in harmony with each other, richly blessed by God.

Sermon

(If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead of the item below.)

Sermon Suggestion: “Hoʻoponopono” by Rev. Kathryn Schreiber on YouTube

Special Music    

Suggestion: “Hula performance by Halau Hula O Kupukalau’ie” (used with permission) YouTube: https://youtu.be/J4FvpNK6-G4

We Share

Invitation to Ritual, Consecration of Elements

Aloha! As we prepare for this ritual let us gather a wider spiritual community. Let us invite those who are not present to join us. Let us speak their names: (say names out loud)

Please gather your Holy Communion elements – something to eat, something to drink. (place your hands on these items)

Holy God, we ask for Your healing spirit to move through each of us and to enter this cup and food. Fill us and these items with Your forgiving love, with Your anointing power, with Your eternal blessings. Amen.

Preparation for Ho’oponopono Holy Communion

It is human nature to gather together – to come together for rituals and for renewal. As we assemble, we may do so with mixed emotions. We delight in being together, but we also remember old hurts. We carry old failures. We feel sorrow for a broken bond. We turn aside from a disquieting moment. We pull ourselves apart in life and death. These separations create suffering.

Let us remember that Jesus brought his disciples together when they were fragile. When they were anxious and in danger. When they were sad and confused. When they were hopeful and curious.

We join them at the ancient Passover Table where the story of God’s salvation of the Hebrew People is told every year. We join them on the very special evening when Jesus widened the story of God’s saving love. Jesus spoke, and is still speaking, to all of us of Ho’oponopono – of the healing restoration of the community. Of a mending of what has been broken between us and each other, between us and God, between us and our own souls. Jesus offers divine forgiveness and assurance of God’s mercy for the entire community.

Dear Ones, as we prepare for this Ho’oponopono Holy Communion, let us rest into a moment of loving silence holding in our hearts the real wounds and concerns we bring to God for healing. Let us silently pray with God for the well-being of all beings, one blessed community of life.

(silence) Amen.

Communion Song

Suggestion: “O Kou Aloha No” (The Queen’s Prayer) written by Queen Lili`uokalani, the last monarch of Hawai’i while imprisoned at Iolani Palace 1893. Recorded by WAZEEmusic. YouTube: https://youtu.be/R2QNvWvTEj8 used without permission (Also see #580 in The New Century Hymnal)

Prayer for Healing

Almighty Creator, Beloved Brother Jesus, Empowering Holy Spirit, we call upon the Holy Trinity to use this ritual and prayer to mend us. Only You know how deeply we have become separated from You, from each other, from the gentle kindness of our own souls. May the grace of this inherited meal bring healing to those living here on Earth and blessing to those accompanying us in Heaven. Amen.

Sharing the Elements

Jesus is with us. The Eternal Christ is here. The Ever-Present One offers us spiritual nourishment and hope.

“Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

(all eat bread)

Jesus is with us. The Eternal Christ is here. The Ever-Present One offers us spiritual forgiveness and healing.

“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.”

(all drink)

Affirmation of Grace

God’s immense Aloha Big Love has washed over us. We are renewed. We are refreshed. We are repaired. We are reborn in hope of Love Divine. 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

Today we focus upon reconciliation and the good work of repairing what has been broken. Spend a few moments recalling when such holy healing took place in your life, your family, your church, your community. Can you see the Hand of God? Give thanks for God’s good work and remember the names of God’s helpers. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Healing

Suggestion: “Queen Lili`uokalani Prayer / Ke Aloha O Ka Haku” https://youtu.be/OO3SvuP2lL8, posted by takutaimoana4sure, used without permission (the wind like the breath of the Mountain can be heard in this recording)

Benediction

(from Queen Lili`uokalani’s prayer song)

No laila e ka Haku Ma lalo o kou `êheu

Kô mâkou maluhia A mau loa aku nô

`Âmen

(translation: And so, O Lord, beneath You wings be our peace forever more. Amen.)

(the service is concluded)

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 make an offering of prayer, time, or funds to an organization that works for the repair of social breeches. Who is knitting back together what we have torn apart? 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”

“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”