content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber
As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.
- You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
- Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed, including 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?
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
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.
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. 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 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.
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)
“We Shall Be Known” https://vimeo.com/451351704
Written by MaMuse. Performed by “The Nuptial Community Choir.” (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
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)
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)
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!
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