“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”

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