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

doorofperception.com-Wenzel_Hablik-20

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

 

Worship Note

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

 

Preparations

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

 

Time for Children

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

 

Worship Service

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

 

We Gather

Call to Worship

Amazed and astonished

where those who gathered

in the name of a gift-giving God.

 

Amazed and perplexed

where those who did not understand each other

finding themselves praising God together.

 

On Pentecost, we join the original Ring of Fire

celebrating the foundation of the universal Church

the birth of the Body of Christ.

 

Are we ready to be amazed?

Are we ready to be astonished?

Are we ready to be perplexed?

 

Come Holy Spirit, Come!

Surprise us and move us.

Heal us and change us. Amen.

 

Light the Christ Candle

 

Song for Welcoming the Holy Spirit

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

 

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

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

 

Silent Prayer

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

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

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

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

 

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

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

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving for God’s Grace

Holy God, just when we think it is impossible—

You break into our lives in new ways.

You appear in new forms.

You speak through the voices of strangers.

You open our ears to hear voices enflamed with praise.

We are humbled and grateful, Almighty God,

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

Today, we still into Your grace

which releases us from old misunderstandings;

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

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

 

We Listen

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

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

 

When the day of Pentecost had come,

they were all together in one place.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound

like the rush of a violent wind,

and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them,

and a tongue rested on each of them.

 

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit

and began to speak in other languages,

as the Spirit gave them ability.

 

Now there were devout Jews

from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.

And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered,

because each one heard

them speaking in the native language of each.

 

Amazed and astonished, they asked,

“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

And how is it that we hear,

each of us, in our own native language?

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia,

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

Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene,

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

in our own languages we hear them speaking

about God’s deeds of power.”

 

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another,

“What does this mean?”

 

But others sneered and said,

“They are filled with new wine.”

 

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

 

Reflection Upon Being “Amazed, Astonished, and Perplexed”

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Song of Commitment

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

 

We Pray

 

Prayers of Petition

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

 

Song for Prayer

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

 

 

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

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

 

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

 

We Give Thanks

Offering

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

 

Special Music

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

 

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

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

 

Prayer of St Francis of Assisi

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

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

 

Benediction

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

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

that everyone will wonder what we’ve been drinking.

Let us go forth in peace. Amen.

 

* this concludes the service *

 

RESOURCES

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Worship Note

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

 

Preparations

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

 

Time for Children

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

 

Worship Service

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

 

We Gather

Call to Worship

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

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

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

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

Let us bring our diverse needs to Jesus

each one reaching out to Christ.

All of us gathered in a circle

with Jesus Christ in the center.

May we truly be gathered together

in the hope that is Christ Eternal. Amen.

 

Light the Christ Candle

 

Song for Welcoming Christ

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

 

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

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

 

Silent Prayer

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

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

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

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

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

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

 

Blessing of Grace

The Eternally Compassionate One knows what we are experiencing.

God knows our feelings and thoughts.

God knows the joys and challenges we daily face.

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

joining us in this present moment

offering us a glimpse of eternity.

May we receive these blessings of God’s grace:

unending mercy;

complete forgiveness;

never-ending hope. Amen.

 

We Listen

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

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

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

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

saw Mary get up quickly and go out.

They followed her because they thought

that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

 

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him,

she knelt at his feet and said to him,

‘Lord, if you had been here,

my brother would not have died.’

 

When Jesus saw her weeping,

and the Jews who came with her also weeping,

he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

 

Jesus said, ‘Where have you laid him?’

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

 

Jesus began to weep.

 

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

 

Reflection Upon “Weeping Together”

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Special Music

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

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

 

We Pray

 

Prayers of Petition

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

 

Song for Prayer

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

 

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

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

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

 

We Give Thanks

Offering

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

 

Song of Gratitude

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

 

 

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

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

 

Benediction

May the peace of God which passes all understanding

companion us on our various journeys of grief

as the song of the heavens reminds us

we shall all be reunited in glory. Amen.

 

+ this concludes the service +

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Worship Note

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

 

Preparations

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

 

Time for Children

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

 

Worship Service

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

 

We Gather

Invocation

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

Praise God – Sovereign of heaven and earth!

Praise God – Above the intentions of human action!

Praise God – Life-Breather animating all creatures!

Praise God – Author of the human race!

Praise God – Ever-Present and constantly sought!

Praise God – Source and Force of our being!

Hallelujah! Amen!

 

Light the Christ Candle

 

Song for Welcoming God#20

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

 

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

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

 

Silent Prayer

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

 

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

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

 

Blessing of Grace

While we may feel far away from God

especially as we keep physical distance

intentionally separating from holy places and beloved friends

God is not far from us: God is here!

 

When we don’t perceive God’s presence

let us lean into the assurance of others

who speak of a very good God

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

 

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

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

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

 

We Listen

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

The God who made the world and everything in it,

God who is Lord of heaven and earth,

does not live in shrines made by human hands,

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

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

 

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

and God allotted the times of their existence

and the boundaries of the places where they would live,

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

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

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

as even some of your own poets have said,

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

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

an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.

 

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

 

Reflection Upon “Where is God Enshrined?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Special Music

“You Do Not Walk Alone”

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

 

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

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

 

Song for Prayer

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

 

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

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

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

 

We Give Thanks

Offering

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

 

Song of Gratitude

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

 

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope:

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

 

Benediction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

a this concludes the service a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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