content (c) 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber
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 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
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
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.
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. 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 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
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”)
“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)
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.)
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.
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”)
“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)
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
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)
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)
*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.
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”