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.
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 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
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
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.
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.”
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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)
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
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)
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)
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!
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