worship format and original content: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021
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.
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
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.
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)
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.”
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)
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.
Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer
We Give Thanks
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.
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)
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: He Qui “Holy Spirit Coming”
Online Publishing Date: February 17, 2021.
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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!
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