Photo: Rattana Ngaseppam, Deputy SP from Imphal, Manipur (India) watching as her father proudly checks her promotion stars. Twitter/@AmitHPanchal.
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.
Spiritual Practice: “Blessings” Giving and receiving spiritual blessings
Call to Worship (inspired by Luke 1:68-75)
Blessed be the God of the Hebrew ancestors –
Who raised up a mighty savior for us.
Blessed be the Still-Speaking God –
Who speaks through the ancient prophets
to save us from those who hate us.
Blessed be the Merciful One –
Who keeps the original covenant
that we might serve in holiness and righteousness
all the days of our lives. Amen.
Lighting the Christ Candle
*Song: “God of Abraham and Sarah” Words and Music: James Curtis Gertmenian, 1986. Recorded at First Congregational Church of Long Beach. Performed by Lisa Bode Heard accompanied by Curtis Heard. (TNCH #20)
We Rest in God’s Grace
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.”
Cultural practices create predictable conditions. They give us social structure. For some, these structures ensure safety, for others just the opposite. In patriarchal societies wealth, power, and authority are passed from father to the eldest son. The rite that marked this transfer of status in Jesus’ culture was the paternal blessing, usually given as the father neared death. This verbal contract was like a modern legally binding will.
Prophetic voices have long challenged this practice if it was not merciful or just. Relying upon spiritual alignment with God’s will, prophets question authority roles if they do not serve God’s needs. This is the case in today’s scripture reading.
When Zechariah, a senior Temple priest, is told he and his elder wife will have a child he cannot believe God’s messenger. For his unbelief, God makes Zechariah mute. At least six months later, at the baby’s naming ceremony, Elizabeth proclaims the child’s name – a traditional task done by the baby’s father. Elizabeth acts according to God’s direction, not social custom. Zechariah, mute for half a year, doesn’t object. When he is asked, directly, if this is his will, he writes “His name is John.” The muted father, the elder Temple priest, affirms God’s wisdom in his wife. At this moment God unmutes Zechariah who sings a song of praise to God and a blessing upon his son John.
Sometimes, it takes time for God’s grace to overcome the social barriers we create and perpetuate. However, sometimes, we come around to God’s evolving ways and become a vessel of grace for others. We become prophetic blessers, just like St. Zechariah.
Scripture: Luke 1:76-79 (NRSV)
This is the second half of Zechariah’s blessing offered at the naming ceremony of this infant son John. The entire blessing, Luke 1:68-79, is the “Song of Zechariah” or “Benedictus” the opening line of the song in Latin.
This sacred song is a canticle, one of three found in the first two chapters of the Gospel of St Luke. The other two are the “Magnificat/Mary’s Song” Mary’s blessing upon God for fulfilling promises through the gift of the Christ child in her womb, and “Nunc Dimittis/Song of Simeon” Simeon’s blessing upon God for fulfilling promises through the Christ child and the grace of living long enough to witness this wonder.
Zechariah’s canticle blesses God for fulfilling promises to deliver the Hebrew People through a Messiah, and then blesses his son, the prophet, who will proclaim the coming Christ.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to the people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
Sermon: “The Unmuted Father’s Blessing”A holy man listens and then speaks in blessings
Special Music: “Benedictus” From “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace” written by Karl Jenkins (Hendon Music Inc/BMI). Performed by Stjepan Hauser, cellist, with Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir Zvjezdice Zagreb, October 2017. Elisabeth Fuchs, conductor.
Still Blessing God, we know we need liberating change. When we cannot believe the wondrous dreams You have for us, stop us in our tracks. When our practices of tradition prevent Your miracles from verbally flowing, mute us. When we have been called to watch and consider, may we be like St. Zechariah – open to the wisdom and hope of those around us who celebrate Your liberating dreams for humanity. And, if it be Your will, grant to us not only a return of speech, but new words of blessing to speak. Amen.
Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer
Bless someone. Use the wisdom and power God has given you to say a living word over someone who needs to be lifted up. Now then, do this work from a place of humility and consideration. Do not use a blessing to promote yourself or your role. Listen, quietly, in the chapel of your heart. Who is God inviting you to affirm? Maybe, like Zechariah, God will ask you to write an affirmation of words spoken by others. Maybe, it will be to speak new affirmations upon the prophetic ones in your family?
Blessing Upon Graduates and Our Fathering Ones
Recognizing our Graduates
Please share the names and news of those completing academic programs, regardless of age. Let us speak their names… (speak their names)
Blessing Upon Graduates
If a graduate is in the room with you, and it is appropriate, lay hands on them. If not, you may
wish to hold their photo or place your hand upon your heart.
Dear beautiful Child of God,
May you pause to be grateful for each person who made this achievement possible; May you understand the great gift you’ve been given. May you find many noble uses for your education; May it be a key to open doors — for others, as well as for yourself. May you always know the difference between knowledge and wisdom; May you value and seek each. Amen.
Recognizing our Fathering Ones
Call to mind your father, or fathering ones, — men who have mentored and called you into being. Let us speak their names… (speak their names)
Blessing Upon our Fathering Ones
If your Fathering One is in the room with you, and it is appropriate, lay hands on them. If not, you may wish to hold their photo or place your hand upon your heart.
Dear beautiful Fathering Ones,
May you feel our affection and support for you and in your critical role as a Fathering One, however that role came to you and however you live it out. May you never forget that you are always in the care and support of The Father, the Eternal Parent – God. May you be blessed with self-forgiveness and inner strength, wisdom and patience, a sense of humor and all other gifts of grace flowing from The Holy One. Amen.
Blessing Upon Everyone (unison, ask folks to repeat)
We bless you in the name of God the Creator!
We bless you in the name of Jesus Christ!
We bless you in the name of the Holy Spirit! Amen!
We Continue in Hope
Special Music: “The Blessing” (kids) Performed by children from the UK, USA, NZ, AUS, SA and many other nations, All Stars Kids Club. Song written by Steven Furtick, Chris Brown, Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes ©2020 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing, Capitol CMG Paragon / Writers Roof Publishing, Worship Together Music / Kari Jobe Carnes Music CCLI #: 7147007.
May the God of Elizabeth, Zechariah, and John, bless YOU!
May the God who quiets our disbelief and who encourages the prophets, bless YOU!
May the God of dawning light who guides our feet in the way of peace, bless YOU!
(the service is concluded)
(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.
(kms) All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber, unless attributed to another source.
COPYRIGHT NOTE: Copyright laws changed in early 2021. 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: Rattana Ngaseppam, Deputy SP from Imphal, Manipur (India) watching as her father proudly checks her promotion stars. Twitter/@AmitHPanchal.
Online Publishing Date: June 16, 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”