“Cloud of Witnesses” • Hebrews 12: 1-3 • All Saints and All Souls Observed with Holy Communion • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

artist unknown, posted on blog, Our Savior Lutheran Church in Johnson City, Tennessee

liturgy 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, including items for Holy Communion – a cup with a beverage and some bread or other finger food.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • For All Souls, All Saints, you may wish to provide a “Memorial Candle” to honor your deceased loved ones.
  • Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites) and prepare music.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag “Ofrendas”making a home memorial

Worship Service

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

We Gather

Call to Worship

In the rising of the sun and in its going down – We remember them.

In the blowing of the winds and the sparking of wildfires – We remember them.

In the dance of autumnal leaves and the promise of winter rains – We remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and the gray fog rolling in – We remember them.

In this era of pandemic when all life is ever so precious – We remember them.

When we recall the former ease of gathering together – We remember them.

When we find ourselves moved by a smile or twinkling eye – We remember them.

When we hunger for community as much as for food – We remember them.

When we are bone weary and need a heroine’s strength – We remember them.

When we are broken hearted and searching for faith – We remember them.

When we have new victories to celebrate – We remember them.

When we struggle with unanswered questions – We remember them.

When we tread the solid ground they prepared – We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us,

for we truly do remember them. (sk/jr)

Light the Christ Candle and Memorial Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“For All the Saints” https://youtu.be/9ML6WFskgYI Lyrics: William W How; Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams SINE NOMINE (Chalice #637); Performed by Fernando Ortega, 2012, Desiring God National Conference (used without permission)

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-3 (NRSV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

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

Reflection “Surrounded”

We are surrounded by the “Cloud of Witnesses.” What a beautiful reality to consider during this time when so many of us are separated from those with whom we usually worship, as well as work and socialize. How our lives have changed.

Years ago, as a student chaplain in a big urban hospital, I was struggling with how to provide pastoral care to lonely patients. They were so delighted to have someone come visit. We were supposed to keep general visits short – saving time to be with those in crisis, but I found it very hard to leave the room of someone aching for companionship.

I asked one of the seasoned chaplains how she dealt with this. She smiled and said, “Well, I tell them they aren’t alone.” She went on to share her faith in souls – that they gather to support human beings in need. I believed this, too, but hadn’t been prone to speak so freely in those days. This made my teaching chaplain smile. She said, “Yes, it’s old-fashioned to believe in things unseen. But we believe in love – don’t we? Beautiful souls are one of the many forms divine love takes.”

If this is a time when you’re feeling lonely, if you know someone who is isolated or grieving, encourage the practice of paying attention to the presence of loving souls. Like any skill, it gets easier with practice. Do use discretion though, you don’t have to welcome every soul that comes to mind. If the deceased is someone who has hurt you, or if you’re painfully grieving a difficult death, you may want to put such challenging reunions on pause. However, be open to unexpected soul-visitors. There are kind souls whom we never met in the flesh who desire to comfort us. They freely come with goodwill.  

The souls in heaven are very respectful. They wait to be invited. They enjoy a kind word or a pretty flower or song. They like to know we’d really like them to visit. The more often we invite the “Benign Ones” to come and gather, the more often they will accompany us and we will grow in our ability to experience the “Cloud of Witnesses.” As we experience the eternal witnesses our souls deepen in awareness of the eternal Christ.

God, through Jesus Christ, understands how just hard it is to be human especially when we are separated from those who strengthen us. Thankfully, we are never alone spiritually. May we grow in awareness of the loving souls who are present in compassion, goodwill, and support. May the Cloud of Witnesses become real to us. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

We Share

Invitation to Holy Communion

(In honor of those who went before us, many of these communion prayers are inspired by The Pilgrim Hymnal, 1935 edition.)

All are welcome here. We may be alone in our private homes though as residents of earth and heaven we can share this meal with each other through the Holy Spirit. Let us speak the names of those who are not physically present, but with whom we wish to be spiritually gathered. (Say names outloud.)

Consecration of Elements

Place your hands on the cup and the bread. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, You have consecrated us for a new and living way. Grant that in the taking of this bread and cup our hearts and lives may be truly yielded to the sway of Your spirit. May Your Holy Spirit sanctify these elements for sacred use – symbols of Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. May they beget in us penitent hearts and quickened faith. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray. Amen. (tph, pp 20)

Prayer of Preparation

O God, our help in ages past, our hope today and forever: Have mercy upon our humanity in its blindness, its bitterness, and its confusion. You have granted to our age to discover the wonders of Your mind and such mysteries of Your handiwork as to give humanity such vast power for good or ill, let us not use Your beautiful power for cruel and unworthy ends. Stay our hands, and teach us to use Your power to serve Your will on earth.

Deliver our world and us, O Lord, from lust of power, from vanity of spirit, from envy, apathy, and ill will; fill our minds with wisdom from above, which is pure, peaceful, and full of mercy. Touch our minds with light, that, having a right understanding, we may have compassion and courage and patience – working with Your help for the better order of the ages. Create in us a clearer insight, a juster and wiser spirit, and by Your spirit temper our minds to forbearance.

Bring the people of humanity, bring each of us, to a sound mind and a kind heart; restore good will and mutual trust. Visit not upon our children the horror of an age whose spirit was not steadfast with You. Lead us in the ways of justice and honor, in the paths of truth and brotherly kindness, till we are delivered from the bondage of hate and fear into the light of love; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (jfn)

Silent Prayer

Sit with God in the silence of eternal contact. You may wish to simply “be” in holy presence or offer specific prayers. Your soul will guide you. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen” with gratitude in your heart.

God’s Grace 

The same God who called the worlds into being, is the same God who called the Hebrews out of slavery, and the same God who spoke through Jesus’s words and actions, and the same God who moves through us as the Holy Spirit. Our God is a perpetual God of Grace. There is no time, no place, no condition, no person where God is not present opening the door to a better tomorrow. This is the eternal heartbeat of divine Grace. Amen.

Communion Song

“In Remembrance of Me” https://youtu.be/nV_kFlsKrQU Lyrics: Ragan Courtney; Music: Buryl Red RED (Chalice #403); Performed by Robert Kochis (used with permission)

Sharing the Elements

Jesus lifted up the loaf, gave thanks to God, broke it, and said: “Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

May the Cloud of Witnesses and all of us receive Christ’s broken body. (eat bread)

After super, Jesus lifted up the cup, gave thanks to God, and offered it to them saying: “Drink this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

May the Cloud of Witnesses and all of us receive Christ’s New Covenant. (drink from cup)

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Almighty and most merciful God, You call us to sit together in heavenly places at the feast of Your love; we give thanks for Your great goodness entrusted to us through this sacred communion. Grant that we might partake in the very life of Christ that Christ may live again in us. May we grow in Christ’s likeness so that Christ may present us before Your eternal glory with exceeding joy. Amen. (tph, pp 20)

Special Music

“In Christ Alone” https://youtu.be/3ch6eXkQWU8 Written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend; performed by Lauren Daigle. (used without 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 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

Offering

For those who gone before us – especially those people who nourished our faith in deed and word, may we be truly grateful. And, may we pay forward their service by serving others. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“The Church’s One Foundation” https://youtu.be/v-AzLnm1Tws Lyrics: Samuel J Stone, Music: Samuel S Wesley –  AURELIA. (Chalice #272); Performed by Grace Community Church – Sun Valley, California. (used with permission)

Benediction

Dear Ones, we truly are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Let us put down our burdens and mistakes to continue the race, keeping our eyes on Jesus Christ, opening our hearts to eternal peace. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship 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.

(jfn) Joseph Fort Newton, Altar Stairs, reprinted in The Pilgrim Hymnal, revised edition, 1935. © 1931, Sidney A Weston.

(sk/jr) rewritten by Rev Kathryn Schreiber; original a poem by Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer;

(tph) The Pilgrim Hymnal, revised edition, 1935. © 1931, Sidney A Weston.

(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.

Online Publishing Date: October 28, 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 disaster relief giving to One Great Hour of Sharing through your church, our church, or directly: http://www.ucc.org/oghs. 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”

All Souls and All Saints Tribute • Romans 8:38-39; John 14:1-3 • Invoking the Dearly Beloved – A Ritual for Home Use

photo: kms (c) 2015

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 ritual is one of a series services designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

The Thin Veil

Around the globe diverse cultures and religions understand that there are times when the veil between the living and the dead thins. Usually these times align with nature’s conclusion of the harvest season as plants release spend biomass and concentrate on regenerating internal resources for next year’s crop. The wheel turns — life to death to life. In Christian tradition we observe this thinning most especially with two feast days: The Feast of All Souls on November 1st and the Feast of All Saints on November 2nd.  Halloween, celebrated on October 31st, is “All Hallows Eve” the night before All Souls.

Reclaiming a Spiritual Communion with the Dead

In 2019, US consumers spent $8.8 billion on playful decorations, costumes, and treats for Halloween. Spooky play is big business. Sadly, many souls lament the loss of the ancient purpose of this holy season. This is a time when the eternal in us reunites with the eternal in others, including the dead. We have a deep need to attend to and exercise that part of us that will never die – our souls. Our loved ones’ souls also have a deep need to be remembered and honored. When we pay attention to the divine gift of eternal souls, we prepare ourselves and our community for a more peaceful translation into the afterlife. During the pandemic, this is an especially significant time to honor the newly dead and to experience the sweet, mystic communion of souls when physical encounters are limited.

Altar/Ofrenda Preparation

Set-Up

  • Timing: Construction of a home altar/ofrenda can begin weeks before All Saints or All Souls days – November 1-2. The building of a physical tribute can be a very prayerful, healing activity especially when one is actively grieving.
  • Location: Use the top of a bookcase, table, counter or fireplace mantel that can be left undisturbed.
  • Construction: The base surface should be stable and flat. Use solid stackable items (bricks, books) to create “steps” to display many items to best advantage.
  • Decoration: Fabric, woven mats, large leaves, or colored paper can be used to craft a colorful base. Mexican ofrendas are decorated with papel picado (colorful cut tissue paper), marigolds and calla lilies (real or paper), candles and calvaveras (skeleton figurines and sugar skulls). Include images of deceased loved ones and symbolic objects and favorite treats. (The spiritual nature of the offerings will be consumed when they come to visit.) Images of saints and objects from holy places are also welcome. If your little voice says “add this” – please do!
  • Education: If you are new to such observances of All Saints/All Souls and the creation of altars/ofrendas, learn more from your local Latino community’s Mexican Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. Watch the 2017 film “Coco.”
  • Fire Safety: Review safety rules: https://candles.org/fire-safety-candles/ Charged fire extinguishers should be handy. Never leave burning candles unattended. If your area is prone to wildfires please consider switching to flameless battery-operated candles.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag “Ofrendas” making a home memorial; on “Kathryn Schreiber” YouTube channel, https://youtu.be/vxlyl166kzo

Invoking Souls Ritual

Please adapt order and words to make this ritual and your own.

Gathering Chant

“Come and Fill our Hearts” https://youtu.be/to01d0ejx7c

Bro. Jacques Berthier and the Taizé Community, CONFITEMINI DOMINO; performed by Grace Notes (Cheryl & Karl Aufderheide, Mary & Bob Richards)

Sing while lighting candles or decorating the altar; repeat chant as many times as needed.

Invocation Prayer

Holy God, we gather at this altar/ofrenda eager for a communion of souls. In Your blessed presence, we call upon the souls of the Dearly Beloved who wish to assemble in goodwill. May they gather with us bringing with them heavenly gifts, as well as their perpetual intention to do Your will. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ who opened the gates of Heaven. Amen.

Offering

Place a living thing (fruit, flower) on the altar, or burn some incense, while singing the Gloria Patri.

Offering Chant

“Gloria Patri” https://youtu.be/oghJOsXG-3E

The Lesser Doxology, GREATOREX, (Chalice #35); Performed by members of the Delaware Valley Classical School.

Remembering Them

Take a few moments and remember your deceased loved ones, as well as those who went before who have impacted your life. If children are present, be sure to tell stories about those who have died. Ask them to share their memories and assure them that the souls of the dead are near and blessed when they are remembered. This may be a time for reunion tears which is a good thing. We do miss those who have crossed over. Also, try to be still and sense their presence. Maybe a particularly strong memory or thought arises? Souls speak a more subtle language than mortal mouths, but they do communicate and love to be heard.

Prayers of the People

Offer prayers for those who living and dead, including:

  • the saints and friends of Jesus;
  • the ancestors, named and without names;
  • those who are memorialized on the altar;
  • those who have recently died;
  • those who are preparing to die;
  • those who are grieving;
  • our own eternal souls.

The Lord’s Prayer

Assembled here in this communion of souls, we join together to pray 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.

Words of Faith

Let us take assurance from these words of faith from St. Paul:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NRSV)

Let us listen for the wisdom in these words from Thomas A Kempis:

“It is a vanity to mind only this present life, and not to look forward to those things which are to come. It is a vanity to love that which passes with all speed, and not to hasten to that place were everlasting joy abides. Often remember the proverb: The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. Study therefore to withdraw your heart from the love of visible things, and to turn yourself to things invisible.”(tak)

May Christ speak to us, as Jesus spoke to his beloved followers, saying:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3 (NRSV)

Benediction

We are grateful for all who have assembled here. As we conclude this time of sacred communion of souls, let us wish peace upon all beings in all places, in all times.

Benediction Chant

“Dona Nobis Pacem” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmqPP5rt1c8

Traditional Latin hymn, DONA NOBIS PACEM (Chalice #297); performed by Anaya Guitar.

Blow out all the candles saying: “Peace upon all Beings.”

This concludes the ritual. Repeat daily while the veil is thin.

Worship 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.

(kms) All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.

(nrf) National Retail Federation

(tak) Thomas a Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, New York: Thomas Whittaker 2 & 3 Bible House. ©1981, pp4-5. Modern language adaptation kms.

(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.

Online Publishing Date: October 20, 2020.

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

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 disaster relief giving to One Great Hour of Sharing through your church, our church, or directly: http://www.ucc.org/oghs. 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”

“Focused & Following” • Philippians 4:8-9 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Groups

photo: unknown source

content 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, including your household Holy Water – or a small bowl of water to bless.
  • 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 “Moral Guides”Who inspires you to be your best?

Worship Service

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

We Gather

Call to Worship

Beloved, where have you been looking? Whose images and voices fill your mind? What storylines and messages nest in your heart? Has your curiosity taken you nearer or further from God?

Let us gather in hope and humility with the intention of attuning our focus upon the presence of the Living Christ among us. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“Over My Head” https://youtu.be/gOaEa4DHhis

Traditional Spiritual arranged by Osby Hodges (TNCH #514); performed by Anna Crusis Women’s Choir with soloists Kate Caffrey and Nicole. Dec 6, 2014. Philadelphia PA (used without permission)

We Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our 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 doing? What would you like to tell God right now? Tell God about the easy moments, the times of challenge, and the situations that confound. If words don’t flow, speak to God with a smile or tears, heartache or swelling of gratitude. God is with you as you are.

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 offering 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.

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. Thoughts and feelings will occur; this is natural. Return focus by chanting a name for God or Christ – such as “Friend, Friend, Friend Jesus” or paying attention to your breath. Rest in the ultimate reality of God’s Lovingkindness. When you’re ready to release this practice, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

God is always broadcasting. Always sending us messages although our attention often drifts. We may follow ideas and feelings down long corridors that are not life-giving. We may move away from God’s wisdom. Thankfully, no matter how far we drift the Holy always calls out to us. God speaks directly to our souls, saying, “Come back, Dear One, come back. This is the way forward.” Pay attention to the uprising of new insights or hopeful urges.

When our spirits meander away from the vivacious heart-beat of God’s Big Love take a moment to pause. Listen with your soul. God is still broadcasting such wondrous messages of grace. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:8-9 (NRSV)

(From the closing of St Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi)

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

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

Reflection “Focusing on Role Models”

(We conclude this series of services inspired by the life and wisdom of St Francis pausing to reflect upon why it is important to study the lives of saintly folks. A related sermon video can be found on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber.)

What was the last thing you read or watched? What was it about? How did you feel afterwards? We have so many media devices and platforms. It is a little too easy to skip from story to story. We can be exposed to 100’s of storylines in a single day — much more than our human psyches can absorb and process.

Have you heard of the new phenomena called “doom scrolling”? It is a potentially addictive practice of rapidly scrolling through a sequence of videos or articles about bad news, often before going to bed. We can be lured to scan the news (or weather reports or infection rates or election polls) to learn more about what’s going on. It makes sense to search the horizon for potential dangers. Unfortunately, an overload of bad news can trigger us in very unhelpful ways. Our brains get a warped view of reality. We can also take the other extreme of trying to avoid all unpleasant news and troubling information. Creating a fantasy bubble creates its own challenges.

During Jesus’ lifetime the Jewish people were daily exposed to many hardships and abuse. Their nation was controlled by an invading foreign empire. Most of their powerful native leaders had capitulated to corrupt overlords, and in some cases, were profiting from the harm of their own people. Honestly, few of us can imagine what life was like in Israel during Jesus’ lifetime.

Into that dire moment of human crisis God sent Jesus Christ to bring the redemptive message of God’s Big Love. Into widespread anxiety and injustice Jesus called people to choose to gaze upon what is good and true. Jesus proclaimed a God who was active among those who were suffering when they helped each other. Jesus urged personal responsibility in the context of unfair circumstances. The Living Christ continues to ask us to carefully place our attention and actions.

Throughout the two decades of Christianity we have regularly found moral focus by recounting the stories of “the saints.” Not just the human beings officially sanctified by the Roman Catholic church, but all manner of folks, the ones Robert Ellsberg calls “great souls, great hearts, moral witnesses.” Who are your great souls, great hearts, moral witnesses? Who inspires you?

In a recent video, Vincent Wu recalls being a college student inspired by a young, Black activist — John Lewis. Vincent joined the Civil Rights Movement’s second Selma March as a support volunteer. Wu says that was a young man’s decision. Today, his activism takes a different form. (vw) Who inspires you now? Do you need new heroes and heroines to match who you are today?

If we set our gaze upon people who embody “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise” we align with the Spirit of Christ. These noble role models will guide us to attend to real needs.

God invites regular human beings to become the noble ones, the moral ones, the brave ones, the ones who show us how to walk with God. May we follow today’s moral guides. Maybe, we will be so inspired our lives will inspire others? Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Special Music

“We Shall Be Known” https://vimeo.com/451351704

Written by MaMuse. Performed by “The Nuptial Community Choir.” (used without 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 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

Offering

Let us thank God for being God! Let us praise God for the Spirit of Christ that rises up in real human beings who embody that which is noble and wise, compassionate and brave, merciful and just. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” https://youtu.be/N-hN740J6qA

written by Isaac Watts / ST ANNE (Chalice #67); posted by SE Samonte (used without permission)

Benediction

Let us keep on keeping on choosing where to focus, choosing whom to follow. In this way we will encounter the Peace of Christ. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship 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.

(vw) Vincent Wu interview. YouTube. Posted by NCNC Helping Hands Concerts.

Online Publishing Date: October 16, 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 disaster relief giving to One Great Hour of Sharing through your church, our church, or directly: http://www.ucc.org/oghs. 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 Sch

“All Creatures Sing” • Psalm 148:7-14 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use • Includes Blessing of the Animals

“Saint Francois d’Assise” M. Boutet de Monvel, 1921

Content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (C) 2020

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, including your household Holy Water – or a small bowl of water to bless.
  • Make arrangements for your non-human guests to be comfortable (treats and toys). If you are remembering a deceased pet, assemble photo or another item of remembrance.
  • 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 “Blessed by Animals” https://youtu.be/n5j3n66cucw

Worship Service

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

We Gather

Call to Worship

“If we pause to rest and savor, perhaps we will see, hear, or experience how all of life seems held together (apart from our daily efforts) by God – and how each and every part of creation fulfills God’s purpose and blessing. Scripture gives expression to this wholeness by allowing creation itself to sing, dance, and even applaud God’s greatness.” (sh-p)

Let us take a moment to rest and savor the wonder of being fellow worshippers with all created beings. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“All Creatures of Our God and King” https://youtu.be/wSFK7UiH5Us

Written by Francis of Assis, LASST UNS ERFREUEN (Chalice #22); performed by The David Crowder Band, “Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern” ©2004, Sparrow Records. (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 offering 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.

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 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.”

God’s Grace 

St Francis’s song of praise begins: “Most High, all-powerful, all-good God, all praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings. To you alone, Most High, do they belong; no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.”

St Francis found the key to spiritual joy not in human happiness or contentment, but in rightful alignment with God. St Francis could accept, tolerate, and even rise above suffering because he also knew God’s Big Love – he trusted in God’s endless, lavishly poured out forgiveness and mercy.

In these truly troubling times St Francis models for us a way of resting in God’s grace as we endure humanity’s failings, our own included. May we stumble into such grace today. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Psalm 148:7-14 (LTP)

(this translation captures the beauty of this praise song’s lyrical poetry)

Let there be praise:

from the depths of the earth, from the creatures of the deep.

Fire and hail, snow and mist, storms, winds,

mountains, hills, fruit trees and cedars,

wild beasts and tame, snakes and birds,

princes, judges, Rulers, subjects,

men, women, old and young,

praise, praise the Holy Name.

God’s splendor above the earth, above the heavens,

gives strength to the nation, glory to the faithful,

a people close to the Lord.

Israel, let there be praise!

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

Reflection “All Creatures Praise God”

(This reflection includes wisdom from the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. A related sermon appears on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber.)

In May 2015, Pope Francis issued his second encyclical (doctrinal letter) entitling it: “Laudato Si’” after the opening words of St Francis of Assisi’s song: “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord” (aka “All Creatures of Our Lord and King”).

Pope Francis writes: “In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs’”. (ls, 1)

The pope also speaks of his namesake, St Francis of Assisi: “I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” (ls, 10)

St Francis deeply understood an equalizing cosmology (worldview) with all creatures as siblings – as we noted two weeks ago in our “Sister Moon” service. That common being-hood extends to our relationship with God, too. We sibling beings all praise the same God, the same Creator. Let that sink in – all of us creatures praise God! Throughout the Hebrew scriptures are passages such as today’s reading in which created beings, including animals, praise God.

While Jesus tells many parables about animals and nature, he doesn’t speak much about the importance of just and loving relationships between humans and other creatures. It may have been that this was assumed (these are important Torah teachings) or that the deadly human power struggles of his day where the most essential moral dangers to address. Today, however, we know our natural world is in crisis along with other epic problems.

Environmental crises were the impetus for Pope Francis to write his 2015 encyclical subtitled, “On Care for Our Common Home.”

Again, from Pope Francis’ introduction: “This sister [mother earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us.” (ls, 2)

This week as we Bless the Animals, especially our dear companion animals, let us widen our compassion to consider all our sibling creatures. May we pay attention to how they are praising God, as well as to how they are crying out in pain. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Special Music

“His Eye Is on The Sparrow”https://youtu.be/-aSMDVKBZqU

Written by CD Martin, DH Gabriel/SPARROW (Chalice #82); performed by David Im. (used without permission)

We Bless

Holy Water

If you do not have Holy Water – water that has already been blessed – place your hand near or in the water and pray:

Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, we call Your Holy Spirit into this water that it may be a living symbol for us of Your eternal love. Amen.

Blessing All Creatures

Blessing the animals we know by name…

(animal’s name) _______, may God bless you, for you are one of the Creator’s Beloved creatures. (make the sign of the cross in water on animals’ forehead or safe place to touch)

Blessing our unnamed animals neighbors, may go outside…

Siblings (may name kinds of animals) _______, may God bless you, for you are each one of the Creator’s Beloved creatures. (sprinkle Holy Water in areas where you often see your animal neighbors)

Blessing the household humans…

(human’s name) ________, may God bless you, too, for you are one of the Creator’s Beloved creatures also. (make the sign of the cross in water on humans’ forehead or safe place to touch)

May God bless all beings who live here. May we be strong in our love for and with each other. In the name of Jesus Christ, in the way of St Francis, we pray. Amen.

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

This week, let us be grateful for our companion animals, as well as the millions of animals that we will never know personally – the insects that pollinate flowers that produce fruits and reproduce new generations; the tiny creatures living in the waters that keep our oceans and rivers in balance, and also feed the larger creatures, including us. We are dependent upon our sister and brother  created ones for our very lives – the animals we consume, or from whom we collect goods; the animals who work for us – as guards, guides, laborers, entertainers, & research subjects. Each has sacrificed something for us. Let us also remember our animal friends who have died.

Great Creator, thank You for this wonderful world filled with so many sibling creatures. Thank You for all the animals, especially those who are our family members. Speak their names:

Loving One, we also grieve for beloved animals who have died. Comfort us in our loss and attend our friends in heaven. Speak their names:

Great Healer, lay Your kind hand upon those animals in need of healing & special care. Speak their names:   

Comfort those animals who are suffering from illness, poverty, and mistreatment. Speak to our hearts that we might be more compassionate toward all beings upon this planet. We pray for animals waiting for a home, and those who are sheltering away from dangers. We ask Your blessing upon those human beings who provide kind and safe foster care. We pray for wild, commercial and domesticated animals, and their unique challenges and graces; especially the animals impacted by wildfires and tropical storms, and other damaged natural habitats. And we pray for all the humans who selflessly serve our fellow creatures. Amen.

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

May our offering today be praise, praise, praise! Join with the animals in your home and neighborhood in praising God! Take turns lifting up your joy! Listen for the praise songs of all our siblings. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“What A Wonderful World” https://youtu.be/auSo1MyWf8g

Song written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss; performed by David Attenborough for BBC One. (used without permission)

Benediction

Beloved Ones, God has given us amazing siblings of every species to strengthen and uplift each other. May we join in a fabulous chorus of praise Thanking God for each other. And, may we go forth in peace, seeking each other’s well-being. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship 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.

(ls) http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

(LTP) Liturgical Training Press, The Psalter ©1995

(sh-p) Sam Hamilton-Poore, Earth Gospel pp 13-14.

(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.

Online Publishing Date: October 9, 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 disaster relief giving to One Great Hour of Sharing through your church, our church, or directly: http://www.ucc.org/oghs. 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

“Peacemaking with Gubbio’s Wolf” • Matthew 5:7-9 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

artist unknown

Special Note: This service is dedicated to the memory of Rose Lee, dedicated servant of God, active volunteer throughout the NCNC UCC Conference and National PAAM, sister to all at Berkeley Chinese Community Church, UCC in Berkeley, CA who entered Heaven this week.

 Rose served our church and Senior Center in many ways for decades. She was our worship musician until in-person services were suspended.  Dear Rose, we remember you with love and appreciation.

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, including items for Holy Communion – a cup with a beverage and some bread or other finger food. If you are celebrating World Communion select items with global significance.
  • 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 “Ouch!” https://youtu.be/0Qs4vEl3-Ic

Worship Service

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

We Gather

Call to Worship

Today is World Communion Sunday and the Feast Day for St Frances of Assisi. We gather, online and in person, as the Body of Christ. We are a diverse, global body. We gather, in spirit and in flesh, as the Body of Christ. We are a community with residents in heaven and on earth. We gather, in faith and in hope, as the Body of Christ. We are followers of the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata , 1st movement, https://youtu.be/m02rZjT5pR4 , Performed by Eileen Huang, sister of Sonya Lee (used with 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 offering 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.

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 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.”

God’s Grace 

St Francis’s faith foundation was God’s mercy. Francis boldly faced the truth of human sinfulness – from our smallest mistakes to large corporate acts of evil. He knew the human condition well because he had searched his own heart.

St Francis believed in God’s Big Love and redemptive forgiveness embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Francis never doubted God’s merciful grace even when he did not personally experience it.

Because of St Francis’ open humility, Christ’s light was able to enter this unique little man. He blazed a dynamic trail that continues to offer liberation to many souls. We, too, are blessed, flawed, and forgiven followers of Christ. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:7-9 (NRSV)

(from the Beatitudes, Jesus sermon on the mount)

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

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

Reflection “St Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio”

(video and written text below; not identical)

Sermon: “St Francis – Wolf of Gubbio”

Introduction

Saint Francis of Assisi lived about 800 years ago. He was the son of a wealthy Italian businessman and his cherished French wife. Francis was born into “the good life.” As a young man he had a romantic sense of chivalry and served as a mercenary solider in a local armed battle. Captured, Francis was imprisoned for a year. He returned home a spent and sickly person. Upon recovery, Francis was deeply changed, committed to a lifetime of humble service to God. His simple, yet radical, faith drew others – and gave birth to a new religious order known to us as the Franciscans. Today “the Poor Man of Assisi” continues to inspire a holy compassion for all beings, especially the most vulnerable, through the spiritual path of non-violence.

There are many stories told about St. Francis.  Among these “fioretti” or “little flowers” is a story which seems fitting to our current era. May God speak to us of the Ways of Christ through this story.

Story

When Francis heard about a large and fierce wolf which was killing and eating animals and human beings, he went to visit the terrified villagers of Gubbio. They had begun carrying weapons and were afraid to leave the gates of the town, much less enter the countryside.

Francis, filled with compassion for the people, listened to their stories. Then he announced that he would visit the wolf. The villages were beside themselves with anxiety, “The wolf has devoured many people, Brother Francis, you might be next!”

But Francis was fortified with the peace of Christ. Unarmed, Francis set out to meet the dangerous wolf. Some of the villagers followed behind, but fear overcame them. Francis asked them to remain where they were safe and witness the encounter from afar.

Alone, Francis approached the wolf of Gubbio. The fierce animal was running toward the monk with his mouth open! Francis made the sign of the cross, aligning his spirit with God’s presence. This act calmed the wolf who slowed down and then closed his mouth.

Francis spoke to the animal, saying: “Come to me, Brother Wolf. In the name of Christ, I order you not to hurt me or anyone.” The wolf tamely approached Francis, laid his head at the man’s sandaled feet. The fierce wolf of Gubbio had become as gentle as a lamb.

St. Francis spoke honestly to the wolf, saying: “Brother Wolf, you have done great harm in this region. You have committed horrible crimes by destroying not only irrational animals, but have also committed the more detestable sin of killing and devouring human beings made in the image of God. Brother Wolf, you deserve to be put to death as would be done to the worst human robber or murderer. The villagers are right in crying out against you and complaining. This whole town is your enemy. But, Brother Wolf, I want to make peace between you and them. I do not want you to harm them anymore. And, I hope they will be able to forgive you for all your past crimes, so that neither men nor dogs will pursue you anymore.” The wolf moved his body, tail, and ears, nodding its head, displaying his acceptance of what Francis had said.  

So, the saint continued, “Brother Wolf, since you are willing to make and keep this peace pact, I promise you that the villagers give you food every day as long as you live. You will never suffer from hunger again, for I know whatever evil you have been doing was done because of the urge of hunger. But, Brother Wolf, since I am obtaining such a favor for you, I want you to promise me that you will never hurt any animal or human ever again. Will you promise me that?” The wolf clearly signaled his agreement, nodding its head.

Francis continued, “Brother Wolf, I want you to give me a pledge so that I can confidently believe what you promise.” Francis held out his hand and the wolf gently placed his paw in the saint’s hand as a sign of its pledge.

Then Francis said, “Brother Wolf, I order you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come with me now, without fear, into the village to make this peace pact in the name of God.” Immediately, the wolf walked beside Francis.

The villagers who were looking on from a distance were amazed. News quickly spread throughout the entire village. In no time at all everyone had assembled in town square. Francis gave a moving sermon about the fires of hell being far more dangerous than any hungry wolf. He invited the villagers to move from fear to faith, and then spoke about the pledge Brother Wolf had made.

Francis told the villagers, “Brother Wolf, standing here with you, has promised that he will make peace with you and will never hurt you again, if you promise to feed him every day. I vouch for Brother Wolf, that he will faithfully keep this peace pact.” The villagers spoke among themselves and made a promise to feed the animal daily.

Francis asked the wolf, “And you, Brother Wolf, do you promise to keep this pact, to never hurt any animal or human being?” The animal knelt down, twisted his body, and wagged his tail – showing he would keep the pact.

Francis addressed the animal: “Brother Wolf, just as you made this pledge with me outside the city gate, will you make the pledge here, surrounded by witnesses?” Again, the wolf gently raised his right paw and placed it in Francis’ hand as a pledge. The villagers were amazed and joyful! They were filled with thanksgiving to God for this miracle and for the one who had brokered this deal.

From that day forth the wolf and the villagers kept their pact. Food was offered daily and peace was kept. Not a single dog ever barked at the wolf. The wolf grew old and died. The villagers lamented the death of their four-legged friend, Brother Wolf, who exhibited peacefulness, kindness, and patience – just like St Francis.

Conclusion

We share this “fioretti” – this little story – about Saint Francis to remember the many ways Christ appears among us, often unexpectedly in places of great violence and fear. May Christ help us be agents of transforming peace which addresses the true suffering in our communities finding life-giving solutions.  Amen.

We Share

Communion Song

“Make Me A Channel of Your Peace” https://youtu.be/LQ_BXYowyPs , written by St Francis of Assisi, adapted by Sebastian Temple; Performed by Berkeley Methodist United Church (used with permission)

Invitation to Holy Communion

All are welcome here. Though we may be alone in our private homes, we can share this meal with a wider spiritual community. Speak the names of those who are not physically present, but with whom you wish to be gathered in the Holy Spirit: (say names out loud)

Consecration of Elements

Place your hands on the cup and the bread or food you have prepared. Let us pray:

Sister Wine and Brother Bread, may the presence of the Living Christ be known to us in the sharing of this sacred meal. May all assembled be fed in body and soul for the glory of God. Amen.

Prayer of Preparation

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (fa,lf)

Sharing the Elements

Jesus lifted up and loaf and said: “Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Today, we share this loaf with Christians around the world. May this act of diverse unity be a blessing that ripples out. (eat bread)

After super, Jesus lifted up the cup, saying: “Drink this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Today, we share this cup with Christians throughout time. May this act of divine forgiveness be a blessing that ripples out. (drink from cup)

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Eternal Christ, gathering with You and each other, nourished and forgiven by You, we are deeply grateful. Each time we share Your Table we sit with You in eternity. May our souls be fed by this reality both in this moment and throughout all time. Amen.

Special Music

“Let There Be Peace on Earth” https://youtu.be/O_KHl6o1M4Y Written by S Miller and J Jackson, WORLD PEACE (Chalice #677); Performed by The Boys Choir of Harlem (used without 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 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

Offering

We are called by the Living Christ to be peacemakers. Today, reflect upon those Children of God who have taught you how to grow in non-violent ways to restore safe community. Honor the good work of peace-making wherever you have witnessed it. Praise God for the Way of Peace as it rises up in the human realm. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“God be with You Till We Meet Again” https://youtu.be/GZHrtHdbdOE Written by JE Rankin; Posted by SE Samonte (used without permission)

Benediction

Beloveds, we are Instruments of God’s Peace! It is God’s Holy Spirit within us that enables us to embody the Way of Christ, to follow the Prince of Peace. May we go forth with St Francis and all God’s friends bringing hope to a world too much in despair. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship 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.

(fa,lf) Francis of Assisi, The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi.

Online Publishing Date: October 3, 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 disaster relief giving to One Great Hour of Sharing through your church, our church, or directly: http://www.ucc.org/oghs. 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”