Content 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.
Time for Children of All Ages
Out of the Bag: “Napping” https://youtu.be/vVl1h2tFRXo on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
Call to Worship and Invocation
We wander about looking for something we can’t name. We ache for a form of comfort beyond the blessings we have. We seek a caregiver big enough to attend each of our worldly concerns.
Into this void the voice of the Eternal Christ calls out: “Come to Me. All who are weary and carry heavy burdens; come to Me. I will give you rest.”
Light the Christ Candle
Song for Welcoming the Presence of God
“Seek Ye First” https://youtu.be/9LMQfOp9w8k Written by Karen Lafferty, SEEK YE FIRST (Chalice #354) Performed by Maranatha! Acoustic (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. How are you – heart, mind, body, and soul? What weighs you down? What lifts you up? Tell God. And if you have no words – offer a smile or your tears, a heartache or the bird-like flicker of hope.
Acts of Unburdening and Affirming
It can be helpful to physically acknowledge the burdens and weights we carry. Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle as you offer God released concerns. If you do not have words, do not be concerned. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive. Whatever you give, however you give it, Christ will receive your prayerful offerings.
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 knowing that thoughts and feelings will occur. This is natural. Return focus by chanting a name for God or Christ – such as “Abba, Abba, Abba.” Or by focusing on your breath resting into the ultimate reality of God’s Lovingkindness. Rest in God’s holy presence. When you’re ready to release this practice, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”
Recall your best efforts to love. Note how your ability to care for others continues to grow and expand as conditions and needs change. Human love, so imperfect and yet wonderful, pales in comparison to God’s perfect love.
Rest in the grace of God’s Big Love, a love so complete that we mortals will never fully comprehend it. As best as you can, surrender to this healing, eternal affection. God’s restorative love so deeply desires to hold and renew us. Let us receive this grace. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:28 (NRSV)
(After lamenting the spiritual brokenness of many communities Jesus then prays to God. After that prayer, Jesus offers this gracious invitation.)
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
Reflection “Called to Rest”
(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.)
This is a serious question: have you every heard a prayer request for rest? Who might lift up such a prayer request — a grandparent concerned for the sleep-deprived parents of a newborn? A friend praying for a loved one suffering from an exhaustion-induced illness? Yourself, knowing you need deep rest but don’t feel comfortable asking others to pray for this need of yours?
Social pressures may put a very high value on working hard and never appearing to be tired – as if natural fatigue is a moral failing or character flaw. Sometimes there are different “rules” about who can pause for rest daily. How does your household react when a male adult “kicks back” after work compared to an adult woman doing the same thing? Whom do we encourage to rest? We require our children take naps and we protect snoozing elders, but we may be uncomfortable with a daytime sleeping adult. Take a moment to explore your internalized ideas about rest and relaxation.
If our culture/s have told us we should not be tired, that our need for rest is a sign of weakness, we will teach ourselves not to observe our genuine need for restorative care. When our hearts, minds, bodies, or souls are overcome we may ignore the signals that rest is needed. Unattended, these real needs will manifest as dis-ease in our feelings, thoughts, health, and spiritual attitude.
Jesus’s earthly ministry was very brief, about three years long. He was a young man, probably in his early thirties. He was on a super-charged, spirit-filled whirlwind tour of duty with teams of supporters. Many Christians are taught to view Jesus as an example of how we should live for the length of our lives. That isn’t realistic, is it?
We may have been encouraged to ignore the times when Jesus stopped to rest or how he deeply regarded the Jewish practice of Sabbath (a weekly day of rest). Jesus even reframed the notion of keeping Sabbath as a legalistic religious obligation to an understanding that Sabbath is a beautiful gift given to all beings for their well-being. In the Torah, Jewish moral law, all working beings – people, cattle, crops – are to take a day off every week, as well as longer times off throughout the year and over the years.
This ancient, sustainable practice of revitalization, sadly, has often been ignored at our peril. During normal times most of us don’t get enough of the revitalizing Sabbath rest we need to be our best. Now that we are living through a pandemic and a Great Uprising of civil reforms, a time when many of us may be doing less physically, we are actually doing much, much more internally. It may seem odd, or even shameful, to be tired so often.
Could the weariness we feel, could the burdens we carry, be reframed as the cost of rising with compassion at this challenging time? How can we not witness systemic racism’s deadly violence and not grieve? How can we dwell among nearly 8,000 wildfires and increasingly volatile tropical storms and not feel something? How can we ignore the weight of increasing numbers of hungry or unhoused people? Of course we are weighted down or over saturated. How can we journey in isolated pockets sequestered from the very social practices and rituals that have rooted our well-being for generations and not feel drained? Our tiredness and exhaustion are an accurate portrait of our experience of these trying times.
NOW is the time to listen for the voice of the Living Christ. Jesus is speaking to us, saying: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Give yourself permission to rest. No questions asked. No social or religious permission needed. If you need rest, take it, take it in Christ’s loving presence. If possible, stop right now. Take a break this very moment. If you can’t rest immediately, make plans to take a pause soon. And when you’ve had a little rest, make plans for a bigger rest.
God so wants to take care of us. God wants to give us the healing, renewal, and reinvigoration which comes from Sabbath. Let us rest so we can receive these blessed gifts.
Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)
“Come unto Me” with lyrics https://youtu.be/qeaoPhbuGtg Written and performed by Drew 79 (YouTube channel; 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 carry – 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. Now is also the time to include prayer request from your community.
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
Inspired by Jesus Christ, Christians throughout the ages have gone on retreat stepping away from regular patterns of activity and responsibilities to rest, pray, study, and ground in God’s Big Love. How might you give God some of your time for a retreat? Consider how you might offer God your whole being for a time of renewal in the mysterious and amazing presence of the Living God. (also see donation footnote)
We Continue in Hope
Song of Hope
“How Can I Keep from Singing” https://youtu.be/VLPP3XmYxXg Written by Robert Lowry, HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING (Chalice #619) Performed by the NYC Virtual Choir and Orchestra (used without permission)
Dear ones, are you tired?
Dear ones, are you weary?
Dear ones, are you burdened?
Let us rest into the restorative care of the Living Christ.
Peace be with you. Amen.
(the service is concluded)
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
Online Publishing Date: September 17, 2020.
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 a retreat center or another place where you have found solace and rest for your soul. 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”