Prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (c) 2020.
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.
- 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
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
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.
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.
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)
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 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.
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.
Suggestion: “Nigra Sum” by Pablo Casals, performed by Taliamondinebill Young SKEEN 2020, https://youtu.be/4YTmeLCBjz0 (used by permission)
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
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
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.
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.
(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”