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

artwork: (c) 2017, Kevin Necessary

(c) 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

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

Preparations

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

Time for Children

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

Worship Service

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

Worship Service

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

We Gather

Call to Worship

Dear Beloved Community,

we approach this 4th of July

as a nation aware of viruses

infecting our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.

While we ache for speedy redemption and healing

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

Easter Morning has not yet dawned in this place

European settlers named “America.”

God is inviting us into a sacred humbling time

of listening to our sisters and our brothers,

of unearthing the ignored stories of our ancestors,

of taking on the mature, righteous work

of opening the banished boxes of sin

which we have decorated with cheap grace.

Now is the time, collectively,

to bow at the feet of God

whose power and glory can lead us

from our national sins

into the realm of a truly amazing grace

healing wounds we didn’t even know we had,

casting a vivacious common community

built with genuine love for each other. Amen.

Invocation

Source of Life, Source of Hope,

Source of Dignity, Source of Healing,

We align our souls to You this day. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

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

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

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

Silent Prayer

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

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

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

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

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

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

God’s Grace 

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

to the flow of humanity’s sinfulness.

We mortal beings make mistakes.

Sometimes, we repeat them again and again.

When we fail to live up to our potential,

when we harm what God has blessed,

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

cloaks our souls in shame and denial.

Our Compassionate God asks us

to name these errors and unintentional abuses

and to offer them to God for transformation.

God empowers us to make the shift

from festering inner suffering toward

the infinite orbit of God’s wondrous mercy.

The grace God offers is freely given

to individuals, families, and communities.

God also offers this grace to repentant nations.

In the name of Jesus Christ

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

We Listen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection Upon “National Humility”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggested Videos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Hope

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

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

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

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

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

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

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

We Give Thanks

Offering

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

We Continue in Hope

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

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

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

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—


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

(It never was America to me.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The free?

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

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

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

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

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

Benediction

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

May we go forth with humility, curiosity, and hope

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

=this concludes the service=

Resources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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