Lent 2 Christian Community: “Beloved Community” • Romans 12:9-21 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

artwork: Hi Qui “After Resurrection”

worship format and original contentRev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021

Worship Note

As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times, as social justice reforms arise, we freely offer this worship content for you to adapt for your needs.

Lent-Easter 2021

About a year ago the coronavirus converted our congregations from sanctuary-based to home-based ministries. This Lent we reflect upon our calling to be the Christian Community in new ways. May we be open to reinvention by the Holy Spirit.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Different and Blessed” Seeing the Light of Christ in each other

Worship Service

We Gather

Call to Worship

God sees us, each of us,

radiant with original blessing.

We are the seeds of God’s Dream –

embodiments of incarnate Belovedness.

Jesus, our earthly teacher,

Christ, our eternal guide,

call us, collectively, to awaken

to our truest identity:

We are The Beloved Community.

Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

*Song: “In This Very Room” Written by Ron & Carol Harris. Directed by Dr. Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez. Accompanied by Allen Diadem Chesed Jovita. Produced by COPVA Tech Team October 4, 2020. (Chalice #295)

We Rest in God’s Grace

Releasing and Receiving

This Lent we intentionally focus upon our faith community. Today, pause to reflect upon our spiritual group as a Beloved Community. We are a gathering of beloved persons. Beloved… how does that word resonate within you? Who makes you feel beloved? Who are your beloved ones? Have you experienced yourself as God’s beloved one? We experience belovedness differently. Check in with God about your current state of belovedness. You can tell God anything. Anything. What God most wants is for you to show up as you. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen,” with gratitude in your heart.

Silent Prayer

Shift into simply being 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)

Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

We are beloved, each and every one of us. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Every moment of our being we are held in God’s eternal care and supportive concern. This is our ultimate reality, though we can only partially perceive this fundamental, expansive grace.

Maybe you have been blessed with a glimmer of this timeless, complete, holy love. However these moments come to you, whenever these moments come to you, cherish them and know they represent a much, much, much larger reality. Know this, too: this grace is a shared grace. It is given to us. We are God’s beloved. We are the Beloved Community.

We Listen

Scripture: Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)

St Paul’s advice to groups of Jesus-followers:

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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

Quote by Dr. Donald M. Chinula, Associate Professor, Religion and Philosophy, Stillman College:

“In King’s thought, the beloved community is heaven incarnate. It is an inclusive community here on earth. For the concrete American polity of which King spoke, integration was synonymous with inclusivity. The beloved community was, therefore, a society that had achieved optimal integration, not just desegregation. For King, a desegregated society was not synonymous with an integrated one. A segregated society was one where legal sanction for separateness had been removed. An integrated society was unitive. It had achieved a sense of human togetherness and solidarity and was vigilantly intentional about promoting human togetherness. The beloved community is, therefore, an integrated society. In King’s thought, such a society was akin to the biblical dominion of God, as King understood that metaphor.”

Reflection: “Origins of the Phrase: The Beloved Community”

The term “Beloved Community” became popular when it was used by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960’s to describe society transformed to God’s dream for humanity. However, the term originated with a Californian, the son of British immigrants who settled in Grass Valley during the Gold Rush.

Dr. Josiah Royce (1855 – 1916) was educated in his family’s remote mining town school and then in San Francisco, Oakland, and Germany. He earned a PhD from Johns Hopkins. Royce began his teaching career at University of California at Berkeley, though the bulk of his teaching career was spent at Harvard. Among his more famous students were: TS Eliot, George Santayana, and the black philosopher, WEB DuBois.

Royce, a devote, yet critical, Christian wrote: “My life means nothing, either theoretically or practically, unless I am a member of a community.” Royce’s academic work, grounded in the history of the American West, took a critical view of triumphant individualism. He was interested in the functioning of communities.

Dr. Royce believed the key to creating community among persons was loyalty. “Natural Communities,” he wrote, exhibited vicious or predatory loyalty; they tended toward the destruction of others’ causes and possibilities fueled by strident, oppositional loyalties. Royce also perceived a nobler type of loyalty calling it “loyalty to loyalty,” an adherence to higher universal ideals. Communities who foster this kind of loyalty he called “Genuine Communities” or “Communities of Grace.”

Royce’s philosophical work took a more practical turn after a series of family sorrows. He was deeply impacted by WWI. He turned his intellectual attention to addressing the war and the Church.

About Christianity, Royce noted that doctrines and creeds come and go, but the Church as community goes on. Sometimes, a church community may become a “Natural Community” with conflict and abusive behavior because its loyalties are petty and privatized. However, a church community may become a “Community of Grace” if its loyalty is to the highest values.  Royce called the perfect expression of Christian faith the “Beloved Community,” an ideal he though we could never reach, but should aim for.

55 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. read Royce’s ideas about community and reflected upon the conditions in the world during his lifetime: national racism, the plight of the poor, the destructiveness of war, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Dr. King reclaimed Royce’s idea of the “Beloved Community” not as unattainable ideal of the true Church, rather as the incarnate goal of living Christians. For King, the “Beloved Community” occurs here on earth and includes all human beings. It comes into existence when people embody the teachings of Jesus Christ – respecting all persons, creating well-being for one another, including one’s enemies. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Sermon: “Beloved Community” Loyalty creates community – to what are we loyal?

Special Music: “Redemption Song” Written by Bob Marley. Arrangement by Kanneh-Mason. © 2020 Universal Music Operations Limited. Performed by Kanneh-Masons.

We Pray

Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer

We Give Thanks

Offering

This second Sunday of Lent reflect upon a “Community of Grace” based on higher universal ideas. When and where have you witnessed a group striving to embody the “Beloved Community?” When and how does your faith community come closest to these ideas? What is God calling you to do to support such efforts? (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song: “Help Us Accept Each Other” Words: Fred Kaan & John 15:12 (1974) Music: John Ness Beck (1977) Performed by Doug Smith, 2020. (Chalice #487)

Benediction

God has given us the powerful force of choice. We can choose which principles are foundational to our actions. We can choose loyalty to God’s Dream for us – the Beloved Community where all are welcome, valued, and called to their best selves. May we choose well. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship Resources:

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

(NRSV) New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text formatted, adapted by Kathryn M. Schreiber, 2021.

(dmc) Donald M. Chinula, Rebuilding King’s Beloved Community: Foundations for Pastoral Care and Counseling with the Oppressed. ©1997. Paperback. Pp 60.

(jr; mlk) Josiah Royce and Martin Luther King, Jr, Stanford Philosophical On-line Encyclopedia plato.Stanford.edu and essays on the King Center’s website.

2/11/2021 UPDATED COPYRIGHT NOTE: Copyright laws have recently changed. Please check with your denominational legal counsel as to the appropriate use of licensed materials, especially print and recorded music when sharing content publicly. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow the publishing requirements of any broadcasting or publishing platforms you use. Thank you.

Online Image: artwork: Hi Qui “After Resurrection”

Online Publishing Date: February 25, 2021.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. 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”

Lent 1 Christian Community: “Christians” • Acts 11: 19-26 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use


artwork: Hi Qui “Holy Spirit Coming”

worship format and original contentRev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021

Worship Note

As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times, as social justice reforms arise, we freely offer this worship content for you to adapt for your needs.

Lent-Easter 2021

About a year ago the coronavirus converted our congregations from sanctuary-based to home-based ministries. This Lent we reflect upon our calling to be the Christian Community in new ways. May we be open to reinvention by the Holy Spirit.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Many Christians” One Christ, Many Christians

Worship Service

We Gather

Call to Worship

Beloved, no matter where we are physically;

Beloved, no matter how scattered we are;

Through the grace of being alive;

Through the grace of Jesus Christ;

Through the grace of the Holy Spirit;

We dwell in Christian Community.

In this unique moment;

In the unimaginable wonder of eternity;

In the invisible cloud of witnesses;

We are home with each other.  Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song: “When Morning Gilds the Skies” Words: German, ca. 1800; tr. Robert Seymour Bridges (1844-1930), alt. Music: Laudes Domini, Joseph Barnby (1838-1896) This hymn was recorded at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, St. Louis on the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 2017. (Chalice #100)

We Rest in God’s Grace

Releasing and Receiving

This Lent we intentionally focus upon our faith community however it is real to us. On this day, pause to reflect upon your soul’s community. How is your spirit community? How are you within your community? Talk to God honesty. If it feels uncomfortable, stick with it. Tell God you feel awkward. If you are blessed with ease of conversational prayer, make  sure to leave spaces for God to speak. Trust that God will use your willingness to connect to lighten a burden, to cause a blessing to bloom. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen,” with gratitude in your heart.

Silent Prayer

Shift into simply being 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)

Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

We are never alone. We are always spiritually connected, soul to soul, to others throughout time and place. We are always in community, maybe even most of all when we aren’t aware of these blessed, ephemeral ties.

The gifted 20th century theologian, Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, lived, taught, and pastored in Nazi Germany. He wrote about “the invisible fellowship” of persons separated from their congregation due to imprisonment or illness. We who have been pulled apart daily for nearly a year know the loneliness of lost physical presence within our congregations, too, don’t we?

Pastor Bonhoeffer wrote, “…let [the person] who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of [their] heart. … It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with [other] Christians.” (db-lt)

We Listen

Scripture: Acts 11:19-26 (MSG)

Those who had been scattered by the persecution triggered by Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, but they were still only speaking and dealing with their fellow Jews. Then some of the men from Cyprus and Cyrene who had come to Antioch started talking to Greeks, giving them the Message of the Master Jesus. God was pleased with what they were doing and put his stamp of approval on it—quite a number of the Greeks believed and turned to the Master.

When the church in Jerusalem got wind of this, they sent Barnabas to Antioch to check on things. As soon as he arrived, he saw that God was behind and in it all. He threw himself in with them, got behind them, urging them to stay with it the rest of their lives. He was a good man that way, enthusiastic and confident in the Holy Spirit’s ways. The community grew large and strong in the Master.

Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. He found him and brought him back to Antioch. They were there a whole year, meeting with the church and teaching a lot of people. It was in Antioch that the disciples were for the first time called Christians.

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

Reflection: The First “Christians”

THE Church was born about 1990 years ago on Pentecost – fifty days after Easter – as the Holy Spirit filled the Jewish followers of Jesus assembled in Jerusalem for a religious (Jewish) festival. These people believed that Jesus – dead, crucified, and buried, had risen from the dead. They believed this Jewish carpenter’s son turn healer and preacher was the long-awaited Jewish messiah. They were not alone. From the very beginning, people were drawn to the person of Jesus and the promise of divine hope he imparted.

It’s hard for us to imagine that in those days there were no “Christians.” Christianity had yet to become a religion of its own. The followers of Jesus called each other “disciples.” They also called each other “siblings” (usually “brothers”) or “saints.” Only once in the Bible do we find a group of these people called “Christians” – this appears in the Book of Acts 11:26.

In the ancient world, as today, it was not uncommon to call the followers of powerful leader a group name based on the leaders’ name or title. During Jesus’ lifetime “Caesariani” referred to “those of the party of Caesar.” To call Jews who were disciples of Jesus “those of the party of Christ” was probably not a complimentary term. “Christian” wasn’t a term used by Jews who believed Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and certainly wasn’t used by non-Jews.

Today, “Christian” technically means a person who practices the religion of Christianity, who strives to live in the way of Jesus Christ. Over the past 1990 years, we Christians have taken on many expressions and will probably continue to do so. While we use different terms to labels ourselves, and sometimes we question the validity of each other’s identities, we are all branches of the same tree. We all spring forth from Jesus of Nazareth, the earth-born Christ.

As we begin Lent this year, let us pray with our fellow disciples, our Jesus siblings, Christians of all types in all places.

Pray with the Pentecostal neighbors speaking in tongues. Pray with the bearded hipsters playing banjos. Pray with the refugees asking the stars to hear their prayers. Pray with the billions attending worship online. Pray with the Greek Orthodox chanting before icons. Pray with the Roman Catholics leading spiritual retreats. Pray with the new converts who have to hide their faith. Pray with the Mothers wearing their crowns to worship. Pray with the old-school Protestants singing their beloved hymns. Pray with the frontline workers fighting to save lives and honor the newly dead. Pray with the preachers holding outdoor tent revivals. Pray with the Holy Spirit dancers keeping time with handmade drums. Pray with the elders holding cherished Bibles. Pray with the Quakers (society of friends) sitting in silence. Pray with the Born-Again Christians. Pray with the Social Justice Christians. Pray with the don’t go to church Christians. Pray with the Nones who want to believe, but have been deeply church-hurt. Pray for the Christians in your heart. Pray for yourself.

We are all members of the Christian Community. We are one, yet we are different. We have always been diverse. May God bless Christians everywhere this First Sunday of Lent. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Sermon: “Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Us” Christianity is both diverse and united

Song: “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” Words and Music: D Akers, 1962. Performed by The Adventist Vocal Ensemble and the congregation of St. John’s, Hackney, North London. Songs of Praise – 27th May 2012.

We Pray

Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer

We Give Thanks

Offering

This first Sunday of Lent support your community of faith. It may be with a gift of time, talent, or treasure. It may be a gift of goodwill and affirmation. It may be a gift of holding your tongue or letting go of an old grudge. God will guide you in making a gift that will truly serve God’s Dream for your spiritual home. Amen. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Special Music: “See the Light” Music video by TobyMac performing See The Light (Separate Altogether Acoustic). © 2020 F.L. Inc., under exclusive license to Capitol CMG, Inc.

Benediction

Beloved, we are held together, one to another, pearls strung on the strongest cord – the Holy Spirit. We are beautiful and wondrous, luminous and precious. May the holy gift of our community keep you strong and brave, caring and comforted. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship Resources:

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

(db-lt) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together. Trans. John W. Doberstein. © 1954 by Harper & Row Publishers. HarperSanFrancico paperback, page 20.

(MSG) The Message (Translation of the Holy Bible). Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson.

2/11/2021 UPDATED COPYRIGHT NOTE: Copyright laws have recently changed. Please check with your denominational legal counsel as to the appropriate use of licensed materials, especially print and recorded music. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow the publishing requirements of any broadcasting or publishing platforms you use. Thank you.

Online Image: artwork: Hi Qui “Holy Spirit Coming”

Online Publishing Date: February 17, 2021.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. 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”

2021 Lenten-Easter Series: Christian Community

Image: “The Risen Lord” by Hi Qui

Hello Dear Ones, as has been true throughout COVID-19, we are developing content lead by the Holy Spirit. Our content aligns with the liturgical year, but not always with liturgical pericopes (designated readings).

This Lent we take a further departure from lectionary readings and themes to focus upon the Christian COMMUNITY, a theme usually observed after Easter. Given what has been happening in our lives, what is happening in our world, this Lent feels like the right time to practice an intentional, introspective gaze upon ourselves as Christian community. To examine our roots and some key principles as our calling to be the Church, the Body of Christ.

We are building this bridge of consciousness as we go – so no advance plan this year. However, these are some themes we’re working on, most have not be assigned to a specific Sunday. Some may not appear in our final offerings.

May God bless you and your community as you discern your way forward this Lent and Easter. We are all following the same Christ. May that be a good and deep blessing!

2021 Lenten-Easter Themes:

Lent 1  “Christians” – Pentecost to Antioch. United by the Holy Spirit, trying out “Christian” as a name for the followers of Jesus.

“Through Jesus Christ” – Bonhoeffer teaches that the Christian community is grounded in what Christ has already done for each of us. We are called to gratitude first. (see his book: Life Together)

“Beloved Community” – MLK used this term to describe the racially inclusive human community.

“By Our Love” – 1 John writings call us to love each other. The beloved hymn also calls us to be in solidarity with and protect each other.

Maundy Thursday “Servanthood” – Recalling Jesus’ washing the feet of this disciples, we remember our call to serve each other.

“Mystic Sweet Communion” – The eternal reality of the Christian community throughout time and place.

2 Easter “Body of Christ” – Theresa of Avila reminded her sisters that “Christ has no body now but ours.” Resurrection in community.

“Create in Us Clean Hearts” • Psalm 51:1-17 • Preparing for the Season of Lent on Valentine’s Day • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

photo: Kathryn M Schreiber © 2018

worship format and original contentRev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021

Worship Note

As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times, as social justice reforms arise, we freely offer this worship content for you to adapt for your needs.

Ash Wednesday

This service covers the spiritual content of Ash Wednesday for those who may not attend an Ash Wednesday service or use DIY at home devotional materials. It may also be used as an Ash Wednesday service or devotional.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Ashes, Part 1” Making Ash Wednesday ashes at home

Out of the Bag: “Ashes, Part 2” Why we wear ash crosses on our foreheads

Worship Service

We Gather

Call to Worship

“Create in Me a Clean Heart, O Lord” a poem inspired by Psalm 51:10. As you read or recite the poem, notice which lines stand out.

When I am soiled by another’s pain and seek revenge,

Create in me a Clean Heart, O Lord.

When I am clouded by accumulating disappointments,

Create in me a Patient Heart, O Lord.

When I am fed by the work of others,

Create in me an Appreciative Heart, O Lord.

When I am in pain and aware of physical limitation,

Create in me a Soulful Heart, O Lord.

When I am unexpectedly smitten with wonder,

Create in me a Joyful Heart, O Lord.

When I am overcome by systemic oppression,

Create in me a Prophet’s Heart, O Lord.

When I am grumpy about my personal relationships,

Create in me a Loving Heart, O Lord.

When I am hiding in the forest of distraction,

Create in me a Curious Heart, O Lord. 

When I am resonating with love for Dear Ones,

Create in me a Grateful Heart, O Lord.

When I am rigid and holding court,

Create in me an Open Heart, O Lord.

When I am carrying heavy suitcases filled with hurt,

Create in me a Forgiving Heart, O Lord.

When I am enchanted with the play of colors,

Create in me an Artist’s Heart, O Lord.

When I am sad and swallowed by loss,

Create in me an Eternal Heart, O Lord.

When I am proudly self-important,

Create in me a Humble Heart, O Lord.

When I am hurt and scared, tossed by life,

Create in me a Brave Heart, O Lord.

When I am in the presence of beloved little ones,

Create in me a Playful Heart, O Lord.

When I am surgically dissecting the actions of others,

Create in me a Merciful Heart, O Lord.

When I am isolated by loneliness,

Create in me a Befriended Heart, O Lord.

When I am confused and entertain despair,

Create in me a Strong Heart, O Lord.

When I am anxious and poking the Tempter,

Create in me a Peaceful Heart, O Lord.

When I am exhausted and really need to stop,

Create in me a Sabbath Heart, O Lord.

When I am lost and have forgotten who I am,

Create in me YOUR Heart, O Lord.

Light the Christ Candle

Song: “Come and Fill Our Hearts” Written by Taizé Community. 1982. Performed by Robert Allen. 2020.

We Rest in God’s Grace

Releasing and Receiving

How is it with your soul? Which lines above resonated the most for you? Talk to God, offering God the gift of your honesty. Release what is no longer yours to carry, handing it over to God. Also, receive what God is bringing to you in this precious moment, including sweet memories and new awareness. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen,” with gratitude in your heart.

Silent Prayer

Shift into simply being 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)

Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

Long ago, Christian church leaders created the season of Lent – a reflective 40-days plus Sundays leading up to Easter morning. Lent’s purpose is to prepare us to more fully appreciate Holy Week, especially Jesus’ Passion (death on the Cross) and Resurrection.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Annually, this is the day Christians collectively turn inward — as individuals and as groups — to examine the spiritual health of our lives and ministries. We do so in the presence of a loving God who wants the best for us.

If we’ve experienced religious judgement or punishment, Lent can be an uncomfortable reminder of previously shaming human experiences. If this is true for you, recall a time when someone very kindly helped you to grow in maturity and wisdom. This is how God mercifully calls us into the season of Lent, with respect and a desire for good outcome.

The profound gentleness of God is in itself a magnificent expression of divine grace. May our turning to God for redemptive review be such a moment for each of us. May this be a grace-filled season of Lent.

We Listen

Spiritual Practice: “Beginning Lent with Confession”

Lent is a time of spiritual renewal. A time to cleanse that which has become soiled. A time to release what is no longer needed. A time to replace what which has outgrown its use. A time to welcome whatever is truly vivacious.

God has given us freewill. God will not change us without our permission, so we begin the season of Lent giving God permission to change us, to reform us. We come to God with hope, curious to see what sort of upgrade God will download this year.

NOTE: If you will be attending a group Ash Wednesday service, you may wait until after that service to engage this deeply, personal examination. You may wish to write or draw your insights after concluding this practice.

Prayerfully recite the words of Psalm 51 (below) out loud. Pay attention to what lies heavy on your heart, mind, body, or soul. Is there a burden or barrier God is inviting you to release? This may be a vague, unnamed sensation. Or you may know, clearly, what is hard and harming that needs softening. Whatever is draining your spirits, whatever is redirecting your energy, offer this up to God for release.

Or, it may be, that you are not comfortable doing this work at this time. It will wait. You can come back to this practice anytime. Today, may these words of scripture be a shelter keeping you safe from whatever you are not yet ready to explore consciously.

Dear one, trust your inner knowing. God will guide you. There is no wrong process. Enter into this practice with an attitude of inner reflection and hopeful confession. May these words of Holy Scripture truly bless your heart.  (Pray this psalm as a private conversation with God)

Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-17 (NRSV)

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that You have crushed rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.

Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of Your deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For You have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt-offering, You would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.  Amen.

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

Sermon: “St Valentine’s Pandemic Big Love” We love in so many ways. This year has asked a lot of us – and has given us new opportunities and challenges to love. God’s Big love guides and heals us. Text: Psalm 51:10.

Special Music: “Make Me A Channel of Your Peace” This piece and performance are offered in solidarity with Asian-Americans, especially Chinese-Americans, who have recently experienced increased racial hate violence, as well as a healing balm for all who are suffering. Prayer attributed to St. Francis, adapt. Sebastian Temple ©1967; Performed by members of Berkeley United Methodist Church. 2020. Used by permission.

We Pray

Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer

We Give Thanks

Offering

Of all the offerings we make, the one which pleases God the most is “a contrite heart.” God is pleased not by our being brought to our knees in humility, but in our eagerness to be repaired and restored. The Mighty Repairer awaits each and every offering of contrition we make. Amen. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song: “Take, O Take Me as I Am” (may repeat chant many times) Words and music by John L. Bell, copyright © 1995 Iona Community, admin. GIA Publications, Inc. Performed by the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Michigan) Virtual Choir with James Biery, organist. 2020.

St Valentine’s Day Benediction

(hold hands with someone you love, or to put your hand over your heart and call to mind a beloved someone)

St Valentine’s Day Blessing:

There is but one love, Dear Ones, it is the Love of God.

This Big Love flows through all that is.

It moves from one being to another.

It flows from one era to another.

It continually seeks reunion with all beings.

It endlessly attends the wellbeing of everything.

May God’s Redemptive Love,

made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ,

bless you and your loved ones today.

Peace be with you, Dear Ones! Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship Resources:

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

Support Chinatowns: The Northern California-Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ’s PAAM (Pacific Islander, Asian American Ministries) recognizes that Asian-American businesses are reeling from a double economic impact – the pandemic and anti-Asian xenophobia. Please support your local “mom and pop” Chinese and other AAPI-owned restaurants. The ox is a symbol of hard work that produces prosperity. Lets’ help make 2021 Year of the Ox prosperous for our Asian-American families and neighbors. Thank you! (see #SaveChineseRestaurants).

2/11/2021 UPDATED COPYRIGHT NOTE: Copyright laws have recently changed. Please check with your denominational legal counsel as to the appropriate use of licensed materials, especially print and recorded music. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow the publishing requirements of any broadcasting or publishing platforms you use. Thank you.

Online Image: photo: Kathryn M Schreiber © 2018.

Online Publishing Date: February 12, 2021.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. 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”

“First Things First” • Isaiah 40:28-31 • Preparing for The Year of the Ox with Saints Isadore and Maria • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

artwork: icon of San Ysidro y Maria, Fr. Robert Lentz, ©1992. image from Fine Art America’s website

worship format and original content: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021

Worship Note

As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times, as social justice reforms arise, we freely offer this worship content for you to adapt for your needs.

Lunar New Year

Many cultures celebrate a Lunar New Year, including Chinese-Americans. The Year of the Ox begins on February 12, 2021 and concludes on January 31, 2022. (see videos in Worship Notes below)

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Ysidro and Maria” Working hard – being true to God and God’s Dream for Us

Worship Service

We Gather

Call to Worship

From our chores and duties,

From our play and entertainment,

From our weekend release from work-a-day doings…

Let us set it all down and come worship God!

As we tend and care for our households,

As we work hard to get things done,

As we plow through each day’s daily activities…

Let us be sure to spend time with God!

May we enter this New Year like the Ox

with diligence, patience, and humility,

like saints Isadore and Maria,

with prayer and charity, putting first things first…

Let us Praise God! Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song: “Praise to The Lord” Words: J Neander, C Winkworth (trans); Tune: Lobe den Herren; Performed by: Emu Music, arrangement © 2018 Alanna Glover, CCLI Song Number 7125857. (Chalice #25)

We Rest in God’s Grace

Releasing and Receiving

How is it with your soul? Check in with God. Turn toward God in honesty, however is best for you today. Release what is no longer yours to carry. Hand it over to God. Receive what God is bringing to you in this precious moment, including sweet memories and new awareness’s. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen,” with gratitude in your heart.

Silent Prayer

Shift into simply being 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)

Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

Isadore and Maria were poor, Spanish share-croppers. Overcoming the death of their young son opened their hearts to the needs of others. Their faithfulness has long inspired others – they are “saints” – Christian role models. Like the Ox of the Chinese zodiac, Maria and Isadore experienced tragedy and hardship but kept on going. Isadore began every day with lengthy prayers. Some say God rewarded his faithfulness by sending angels to guide the oxen plowing his fields while he was absent.

When we put God first, unnoticed grace may flow. Ease appears where once there was hardship. God helps us. May we attend what is first from God’s perspective trusting that unearned blessings will flow somewhere.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:28-31 (RNSV)

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; God’s understanding is unsearchable.

God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

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

Quote from Robert Ellsberg, contemporary author of All Saints:

Writing about Saint Isadore – “His kindness extended to animals. One winter day he was so moved by the sorrowful noise of some hungry birds that he opened the sack of corn he was carrying and poured out half its contents. Though witnesses scoffed at this prodigality, later, at the mill, the bag was found miraculously to be full.” (re)

Spiritual Practice: “Holy Stories”

Holy stories are beloved tales or myths we tell, from generation to generation, to teach key moral values and principles. All peoples have such teaching stories. We may call these stories “tales” or “myths” – but they are not untrue. They carry deep truths using symbols, metaphors, and sometimes a little supernatural magic to illustrate big wisdom.

Jesus, himself, was a great storyteller. He often told a special kind of holy story – “a parable.” Like other teaching narratives, the characters or activities in the parable stories are symbolic and not to be taken literally. Remember the story of the farmer sowing seeds on different types of soil? Jesus wasn’t teaching farming methods. He was teaching his disciples that their efforts to spread the Gospel would not always be productive; to be patient.

We also have stories about Jesus in the Bible, most specifically the four Gospels. All recount holy stories about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – but they aren’t the same. Each version differently illuminates the meaning of Jesus as Christ. Holy stories always serve a bigger purpose than our quick reflections might suggest.

Christian holy stories arose and continue to rise. Stories about two 12th century poor Spanish farmers, Saint Isadore and Saint Maria, are cherished among campesinos around the world. They are holy stories that also speak to non-farmers. Holy stories are always about our common human condition and meant to uplift and empower anyone in need of guidance.

What holy stories are dear to you? Maybe you’ve set aside some that used to be important? Maybe, you’re open to new teaching tales? Holy stories need not be Christian in origin to inspire a righteous life. One of these stories is the adventure of the Ox and his efforts to please the Jade Emperor and repair his mistakes.

May we ask God to open our minds to the larger truths in our holy stories. May we be inspired to living well — bringing glory to God, wellbeing to our neighbors, and delight to our own precious souls. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Recorded Sermon: “Putting God First” Relying upon God’s promises of spiritual prosperity this Year of the Ox

Song: “Give Me Jesus” African-American Spiritual adapted and performed by Fernando Ortega. (P) 1999 Metro One

We Pray

Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer

We Give Thanks

Offering

Saint Isadore put prayer first – whether he was at home, in the chapel, or in the fields working. Isadore and his wife Maria regularly offered God attention, devotion, and sincere relationship. From such a foundation grew compassion for all beings and a deep-seated sense of inner well-being – a state of mature contentment. Let us give thanks for our sister and brother in faith. May they inspire us to put first things first, too.  Amen. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Special Music: “On Eagles’ Wings” Written by M Jonas ©1979; Performed by Ellen and Michael Haygood

Benediction

As the Year of the Ox approaches, as we assemble our New Year’s hopes and dreams, goals and agendas, let us remember to put God first. Let us be like the Ox, and farmers Maria and Isadore, responding with acts of humility. Let us dedicate our labors to the well-being of all-beings – the embodiment of God’s Dream.

May God bless the New Year! Peace and Well-Being upon all beings! Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship Resources:

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

(re) Robert Ellsberg, All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses For Our Time. ©1997.

“2021 Story of the Ox” Animated, short video https://youtu.be/QJm0pky7sjo

“The Myth Behind the Chinese Zodiac” Animated, short video https://youtu.be/may2s9j4RLk

“St. Isidore the Farmer” Short video about St. Isidore the Farmer, a 12th century Spanish laborer, and his wife St. Maria who were devoted to God. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDfooT7ahrs

Support Chinatowns: The Northern California-Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ’s PAAM (Pacific Islander, Asian American Ministries) recognizes that Asian-American businesses are reeling from a double economic impact – the pandemic and anti-Asian xenophobia. Please support your local “mom and pop” Chinese and other AAPI-owned restaurants. The ox is a symbol of hard work that produces prosperity. Lets’ help make 2021 Year of the Ox prosperous for our Asian-American families and neighbors. Thank you! (see #SaveChineseRestaurants).

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

Note: (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, suspended copyright restrictions early during the coronavirus pandemic. Permission may shift as conditions change. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms’ publishing requirements.

Online Image: artwork: icon of San Ysidro y Maria, Fr. Robert Lentz, ©1992

Online Publishing Date: February 2, 2021.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. 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”