All Souls and All Saints Tribute • Romans 8:38-39; John 14:1-3 • Invoking the Dearly Beloved – A Ritual for Home Use

photo: kms (c) 2015

prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

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 ritual is one of a series services designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

The Thin Veil

Around the globe diverse cultures and religions understand that there are times when the veil between the living and the dead thins. Usually these times align with nature’s conclusion of the harvest season as plants release spend biomass and concentrate on regenerating internal resources for next year’s crop. The wheel turns — life to death to life. In Christian tradition we observe this thinning most especially with two feast days: The Feast of All Souls on November 1st and the Feast of All Saints on November 2nd.  Halloween, celebrated on October 31st, is “All Hallows Eve” the night before All Souls.

Reclaiming a Spiritual Communion with the Dead

In 2019, US consumers spent $8.8 billion on playful decorations, costumes, and treats for Halloween. Spooky play is big business. Sadly, many souls lament the loss of the ancient purpose of this holy season. This is a time when the eternal in us reunites with the eternal in others, including the dead. We have a deep need to attend to and exercise that part of us that will never die – our souls. Our loved ones’ souls also have a deep need to be remembered and honored. When we pay attention to the divine gift of eternal souls, we prepare ourselves and our community for a more peaceful translation into the afterlife. During the pandemic, this is an especially significant time to honor the newly dead and to experience the sweet, mystic communion of souls when physical encounters are limited.

Altar/Ofrenda Preparation

Set-Up

  • Timing: Construction of a home altar/ofrenda can begin weeks before All Saints or All Souls days – November 1-2. The building of a physical tribute can be a very prayerful, healing activity especially when one is actively grieving.
  • Location: Use the top of a bookcase, table, counter or fireplace mantel that can be left undisturbed.
  • Construction: The base surface should be stable and flat. Use solid stackable items (bricks, books) to create “steps” to display many items to best advantage.
  • Decoration: Fabric, woven mats, large leaves, or colored paper can be used to craft a colorful base. Mexican ofrendas are decorated with papel picado (colorful cut tissue paper), marigolds and calla lilies (real or paper), candles and calvaveras (skeleton figurines and sugar skulls). Include images of deceased loved ones and symbolic objects and favorite treats. (The spiritual nature of the offerings will be consumed when they come to visit.) Images of saints and objects from holy places are also welcome. If your little voice says “add this” – please do!
  • Education: If you are new to such observances of All Saints/All Souls and the creation of altars/ofrendas, learn more from your local Latino community’s Mexican Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. Watch the 2017 film “Coco.”
  • Fire Safety: Review safety rules: https://candles.org/fire-safety-candles/ Charged fire extinguishers should be handy. Never leave burning candles unattended. If your area is prone to wildfires please consider switching to flameless battery-operated candles.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag “Ofrendas” making a home memorial; on “Kathryn Schreiber” YouTube channel, https://youtu.be/vxlyl166kzo

Invoking Souls Ritual

Please adapt order and words to make this ritual and your own.

Gathering Chant

“Come and Fill our Hearts” https://youtu.be/to01d0ejx7c

Bro. Jacques Berthier and the Taizé Community, CONFITEMINI DOMINO; performed by Grace Notes (Cheryl & Karl Aufderheide, Mary & Bob Richards)

Sing while lighting candles or decorating the altar; repeat chant as many times as needed.

Invocation Prayer

Holy God, we gather at this altar/ofrenda eager for a communion of souls. In Your blessed presence, we call upon the souls of the Dearly Beloved who wish to assemble in goodwill. May they gather with us bringing with them heavenly gifts, as well as their perpetual intention to do Your will. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ who opened the gates of Heaven. Amen.

Offering

Place a living thing (fruit, flower) on the altar, or burn some incense, while singing the Gloria Patri.

Offering Chant

“Gloria Patri” https://youtu.be/oghJOsXG-3E

The Lesser Doxology, GREATOREX, (Chalice #35); Performed by members of the Delaware Valley Classical School.

Remembering Them

Take a few moments and remember your deceased loved ones, as well as those who went before who have impacted your life. If children are present, be sure to tell stories about those who have died. Ask them to share their memories and assure them that the souls of the dead are near and blessed when they are remembered. This may be a time for reunion tears which is a good thing. We do miss those who have crossed over. Also, try to be still and sense their presence. Maybe a particularly strong memory or thought arises? Souls speak a more subtle language than mortal mouths, but they do communicate and love to be heard.

Prayers of the People

Offer prayers for those who living and dead, including:

  • the saints and friends of Jesus;
  • the ancestors, named and without names;
  • those who are memorialized on the altar;
  • those who have recently died;
  • those who are preparing to die;
  • those who are grieving;
  • our own eternal souls.

The Lord’s Prayer

Assembled here in this communion of souls, we join together to pray 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.

Words of Faith

Let us take assurance from these words of faith from St. Paul:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NRSV)

Let us listen for the wisdom in these words from Thomas A Kempis:

“It is a vanity to mind only this present life, and not to look forward to those things which are to come. It is a vanity to love that which passes with all speed, and not to hasten to that place were everlasting joy abides. Often remember the proverb: The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. Study therefore to withdraw your heart from the love of visible things, and to turn yourself to things invisible.”(tak)

May Christ speak to us, as Jesus spoke to his beloved followers, saying:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3 (NRSV)

Benediction

We are grateful for all who have assembled here. As we conclude this time of sacred communion of souls, let us wish peace upon all beings in all places, in all times.

Benediction Chant

“Dona Nobis Pacem” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmqPP5rt1c8

Traditional Latin hymn, DONA NOBIS PACEM (Chalice #297); performed by Anaya Guitar.

Blow out all the candles saying: “Peace upon all Beings.”

This concludes the ritual. Repeat daily while the veil is thin.

Worship Resources:

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.

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

(nrf) National Retail Federation

(tak) Thomas a Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, New York: Thomas Whittaker 2 & 3 Bible House. ©1981, pp4-5. Modern language adaptation kms.

(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.

Online Publishing Date: October 20, 2020.

Worship Credit: ©2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Focused & Following” • Philippians 4:8-9 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Groups

photo: unknown source

content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • 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?

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

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.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (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’s Grace 

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.

We Listen

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)

Special Music

“We Shall Be Known” https://vimeo.com/451351704

Written by MaMuse. Performed by “The Nuptial Community Choir.” (used without permission)

We Pray

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

Offering

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)

Benediction

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)

Worship Resources:

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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Sch

“All Creatures Sing” • Psalm 148:7-14 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use • Includes Blessing of the Animals

“Saint Francois d’Assise” M. Boutet de Monvel, 1921

Content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (C) 2020

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • 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.
  • Make arrangements for your non-human guests to be comfortable (treats and toys). If you are remembering a deceased pet, assemble photo or another item of remembrance.
  • 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 “Blessed by Animals” https://youtu.be/n5j3n66cucw

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

“If we pause to rest and savor, perhaps we will see, hear, or experience how all of life seems held together (apart from our daily efforts) by God – and how each and every part of creation fulfills God’s purpose and blessing. Scripture gives expression to this wholeness by allowing creation itself to sing, dance, and even applaud God’s greatness.” (sh-p)

Let us take a moment to rest and savor the wonder of being fellow worshippers with all created beings. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“All Creatures of Our God and King” https://youtu.be/wSFK7UiH5Us

Written by Francis of Assis, LASST UNS ERFREUEN (Chalice #22); performed by The David Crowder Band, “Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern” ©2004, Sparrow Records. (used without 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.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (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.”

God’s Grace 

St Francis’s song of praise begins: “Most High, all-powerful, all-good God, all praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings. To you alone, Most High, do they belong; no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.”

St Francis found the key to spiritual joy not in human happiness or contentment, but in rightful alignment with God. St Francis could accept, tolerate, and even rise above suffering because he also knew God’s Big Love – he trusted in God’s endless, lavishly poured out forgiveness and mercy.

In these truly troubling times St Francis models for us a way of resting in God’s grace as we endure humanity’s failings, our own included. May we stumble into such grace today. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Psalm 148:7-14 (LTP)

(this translation captures the beauty of this praise song’s lyrical poetry)

Let there be praise:

from the depths of the earth, from the creatures of the deep.

Fire and hail, snow and mist, storms, winds,

mountains, hills, fruit trees and cedars,

wild beasts and tame, snakes and birds,

princes, judges, Rulers, subjects,

men, women, old and young,

praise, praise the Holy Name.

God’s splendor above the earth, above the heavens,

gives strength to the nation, glory to the faithful,

a people close to the Lord.

Israel, let there be praise!

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

Reflection “All Creatures Praise God”

(This reflection includes wisdom from the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. A related sermon appears on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber.)

In May 2015, Pope Francis issued his second encyclical (doctrinal letter) entitling it: “Laudato Si’” after the opening words of St Francis of Assisi’s song: “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord” (aka “All Creatures of Our Lord and King”).

Pope Francis writes: “In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs’”. (ls, 1)

The pope also speaks of his namesake, St Francis of Assisi: “I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” (ls, 10)

St Francis deeply understood an equalizing cosmology (worldview) with all creatures as siblings – as we noted two weeks ago in our “Sister Moon” service. That common being-hood extends to our relationship with God, too. We sibling beings all praise the same God, the same Creator. Let that sink in – all of us creatures praise God! Throughout the Hebrew scriptures are passages such as today’s reading in which created beings, including animals, praise God.

While Jesus tells many parables about animals and nature, he doesn’t speak much about the importance of just and loving relationships between humans and other creatures. It may have been that this was assumed (these are important Torah teachings) or that the deadly human power struggles of his day where the most essential moral dangers to address. Today, however, we know our natural world is in crisis along with other epic problems.

Environmental crises were the impetus for Pope Francis to write his 2015 encyclical subtitled, “On Care for Our Common Home.”

Again, from Pope Francis’ introduction: “This sister [mother earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us.” (ls, 2)

This week as we Bless the Animals, especially our dear companion animals, let us widen our compassion to consider all our sibling creatures. May we pay attention to how they are praising God, as well as to how they are crying out in pain. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Special Music

“His Eye Is on The Sparrow”https://youtu.be/-aSMDVKBZqU

Written by CD Martin, DH Gabriel/SPARROW (Chalice #82); performed by David Im. (used without permission)

We Bless

Holy Water

If you do not have Holy Water – water that has already been blessed – place your hand near or in the water and pray:

Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, we call Your Holy Spirit into this water that it may be a living symbol for us of Your eternal love. Amen.

Blessing All Creatures

Blessing the animals we know by name…

(animal’s name) _______, may God bless you, for you are one of the Creator’s Beloved creatures. (make the sign of the cross in water on animals’ forehead or safe place to touch)

Blessing our unnamed animals neighbors, may go outside…

Siblings (may name kinds of animals) _______, may God bless you, for you are each one of the Creator’s Beloved creatures. (sprinkle Holy Water in areas where you often see your animal neighbors)

Blessing the household humans…

(human’s name) ________, may God bless you, too, for you are one of the Creator’s Beloved creatures also. (make the sign of the cross in water on humans’ forehead or safe place to touch)

May God bless all beings who live here. May we be strong in our love for and with each other. In the name of Jesus Christ, in the way of St Francis, we pray. Amen.

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

This week, let us be grateful for our companion animals, as well as the millions of animals that we will never know personally – the insects that pollinate flowers that produce fruits and reproduce new generations; the tiny creatures living in the waters that keep our oceans and rivers in balance, and also feed the larger creatures, including us. We are dependent upon our sister and brother  created ones for our very lives – the animals we consume, or from whom we collect goods; the animals who work for us – as guards, guides, laborers, entertainers, & research subjects. Each has sacrificed something for us. Let us also remember our animal friends who have died.

Great Creator, thank You for this wonderful world filled with so many sibling creatures. Thank You for all the animals, especially those who are our family members. Speak their names:

Loving One, we also grieve for beloved animals who have died. Comfort us in our loss and attend our friends in heaven. Speak their names:

Great Healer, lay Your kind hand upon those animals in need of healing & special care. Speak their names:   

Comfort those animals who are suffering from illness, poverty, and mistreatment. Speak to our hearts that we might be more compassionate toward all beings upon this planet. We pray for animals waiting for a home, and those who are sheltering away from dangers. We ask Your blessing upon those human beings who provide kind and safe foster care. We pray for wild, commercial and domesticated animals, and their unique challenges and graces; especially the animals impacted by wildfires and tropical storms, and other damaged natural habitats. And we pray for all the humans who selflessly serve our fellow creatures. Amen.

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

Offering

May our offering today be praise, praise, praise! Join with the animals in your home and neighborhood in praising God! Take turns lifting up your joy! Listen for the praise songs of all our siblings. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“What A Wonderful World” https://youtu.be/auSo1MyWf8g

Song written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss; performed by David Attenborough for BBC One. (used without permission)

Benediction

Beloved Ones, God has given us amazing siblings of every species to strengthen and uplift each other. May we join in a fabulous chorus of praise Thanking God for each other. And, may we go forth in peace, seeking each other’s well-being. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship Resources:

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.

(ls) http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

(LTP) Liturgical Training Press, The Psalter ©1995

(sh-p) Sam Hamilton-Poore, Earth Gospel pp 13-14.

(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.

Online Publishing Date: October 9, 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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn

“Peacemaking with Gubbio’s Wolf” • Matthew 5:7-9 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

artist unknown

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.

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • 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

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

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.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (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.”

God’s Grace 

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.

We Listen

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”

Introduction

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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

We Share

Communion Song

“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.

Special Music

“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)

We Pray

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

Offering

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)

Benediction

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)

Worship Resources:

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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Sister Moon” • Genesis 1:1-5, 14-19 and Psalm 148:1-5 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

photo: unknown source

Content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2020

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • 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 “Sun and Moon” https://youtu.be/urPEvPhcnBo

on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship and Invocation

Holy God, gather all beings into one orbit, one harmony of existence; all siblings of life; all children of You.

May we be like Sister Moon circling around luminous Brother Sun reflecting back the Great Light we have received shining toward our neighbors. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise” https://youtu.be/Fff2xQETe1c

Written by Walter Chalmers Smith, ST DENIO (Chalice #66, HOL #35), Performed by Jaron & Katherine Kamin (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.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (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.”

God’s Grace 

The sun appears to rise and set. In reality, it is the earth that turns into and away from the sun’s light. The moon appears to rise and set becoming full and then fully diminished. In reality, it is the moon orbiting the earth, orbiting the sun, that impacts what we see on earth. The size and shape of the moon never changes, though the amount of sunlight we see reflected off the surface of the moon does. Our planet, earth, blocks the sun’s light casting portions of the moon into deep shadow.

Across the Milky Way there are 200-400 billion stars, only 35-76 billion like our sun. Imagine that – a cosmos filled with wonders we see but dimly, perceive in part. The same is true of God’s grace. Eternally offered, we only glimpse a portion of God’s endless mercy and unfathomable compassion. Praise be to God. Amen.

Song of Comfort

“Psalm 121 (He Watches Over You)” https://youtu.be/KsYeTCpVwx0

Written and Performed by The Psalms Project (used without permission)

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:1-5, 14-19 and Psalm 148:1-5 (NRSV)

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness God called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

(second and third days of creation skipped, verses 6-13)

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

AND

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise God in the heights!
Praise God, all God’s angels; praise God, all God’s host!

Praise God, sun and moon; praise God, all you shining stars!
Praise God, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for God commanded and they were created.

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

Reflection “St. Francis: Cosmic Siblings”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead of, or with, this material. A related video sermon with different content appears on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber)

This service is the first in a series reflecting upon the life and teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. Inspired by the work of such popular theologians as G. K. Chesterton (English, 1874-1936) and Father Richard Rohr (American, 1943-) we will meet Francis through his most profound teachings, rather than the simplistic stories told about him. Warning: the St. Francis you’ve come to know may be challenged.

Francis was radiant with God’s Big Love at a time and in a place rife with much that was just the opposite. He lived his Christian faith so profoundly that he inspired a religious movement and so prophetically that his words still sound fresh, and rightly challenging, to us today.

Joseph F. Girzone, writing the introduction to Chesterton’s Saint Francis of Assisi, in 1957 comments: “When we look upon the lives of the saints we run headlong into the same phenomenon [i.e. discounting a child’s world view]. Their lives appear to be almost fiction, make-believe, and not reality. We call them dreamers. We call them psychotic. We call them a variety of names because we cannot grasp the significance or the relevance of their actions to our world of make-believe. We make statues of St. Francis and recite his prayer of peace. Our frightened world desperately grabs hold of his memory in a frantic attempt to protect our environment from pollution, but we don’t really take him seriously. We have merely adopted him as a pet or mascot, without ever really grasping the real meaning of his life.” (gkc)

Rohr’s Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, 2014, includes these introductory words: “I want to illustrate here what Francis clearly changed and did differently, and what flowed from his unique wholeness. We will see that Francis was at once very traditional and entirely new in the ways of holiness, and he is still such a standing paradox. He stood barefoot on the earth and yet touched the heavens. He was grounded in the Church and yet instinctively moved toward the cosmos. He lived happily inside the visible and yet both suffered and rejoiced in what others thought was invisible. Again and again, he was totally at home in two worlds at the same time, and thus he made them into one world.” (rr)

It is not surprising that St. Francis’s modern appeal began to appear as new environmental crises loomed large in the 1960’s. Humans were hungry for a faith in God which held humanity accountable for right relationship with all living beings. Among the dormant voices being unearthed was that of a radical Italian Christian born into great wealth in the Umbrian city of Assisi in the year 1182. He was a soldier transformed by war into a prophet of peace; an inheritor of great wealth who embraced and required a life of poverty for himself and his disciples; a cradle-born Christian whose faith was turned inside out when he met the Living Christ whilst kissing a leper.

Meeting the real St. Francis is not for the faint of heart! Nor is encountering the Living, True Church of Jesus Christ. Christ’s Church thankfully continues to survive our human plans and policies. We grow mighty structures that often plod further and further away from the life and teachings of Jesus. Francis came to understand this well.

As we begin a journey to meet the True Francis the Harvest Moon is about to become full. For many cultures this is an auspicious time of year when people gather to celebrate, eat, and give thanks – a time of acknowledging a web of interdependence among all living beings.

In the stories about St. Francis, “The Little Flowers” gathered by his followers, Francis’ radical belief in the siblinghood of all created beings appears often. This is not true of most Christian teachings. Christianity, which meets God in the person of Jesus Christ, has long been androcentric – focused on the well-being of human persons. Francis, not unlike other Christian mystics throughout the ages, deeply understood the intrinsic value and co-dignity between all created beings. Francis called all beings sibling because we are all the beloved children of a singular Beloved Creator.

St. Francis’ “The Canticle of the Sun” or “Canticle of the Creatures” (Latin: “Laudes Creaturarum”) best capsulates these beliefs. Consider this reflection written by a member of the Society of Friars Minor (SFM) known more commonly as “Franciscans.”

“The Canticle of the Creatures is a hymn of praise that recapitulates Francis’s journey to God in and through the beautiful things of creation. For Francis all creation became a theophany, a manifestation of the goodness of God. But the Canticle also represents a lifetime of conversion, as Francis strove to be a brother to all things and to praise God in the cloister of the universe despite his sufferings, feelings of abandonment and darkness. In the Canticle, composed one year before he died and while he was laying ill in a small dark hut near San Damiano, Francis sang of the human family (brother-sister-mother) as the model for all relationships. The Canticle of the Creatures is the capstone of his theological vision.” (id)

The canticle includes these lines:

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom You give us light.

And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.*

We will spend weeks with St. Francis who has come to be with us during a global pandemic amid various climate crises as human rights failures are revealed. The whole world is being called to experience ourselves as sibling beings, sibling species, sibling races. We are being asked to let go of ways of being which cruelly separate us from each other, ways that turn each other into things — commodities. Whenever we diminish the siblinghood of any creature, we also reject the precious reality that we are all God’s beloved ones.

Let us pray for the gift to perceive, as St. Frances did, all creation praising God, specially Brother Sun – the greater light to rule the day, and Sister Moon – and the lesser light to rule the night.

Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Special Music

“Brother Sun, Sister Moon” https://youtu.be/xo0_qQiqQyA

Written and performed by Buddy Comfort, © 2001 (used without permission)

We Pray

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

Offering

With whom shall you sing God’s praises today? With Brother Sun or Sister Moon? With a companion animal or wild critters? What about the pollinating bees or sheltering trees? Stars far above or lava rivers deep within the earth’s core? Let this be a week of offering God thanksgiving led by the joyful praise songs of our non-human neighbors. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“Sister, Let Me Be Your Servant” (Servant Song) https://youtu.be/4iu_T_FRvbY

Written by Richard Gillard, THE SERVANT SONG (Chalice #490), Performed by Singer – Lowana Wallace, Guitar – Matt Froese Filmed at St Aidan Anglican Church, Moose Jaw SK (used without permission)

Benediction

Edith Wharton, like St. Francis, was born into wealth and reborn into compassion. She wrote: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” 

May we be mirrors reflecting God’s Love for all beings. May we be like Sister Moon reflecting the bright Light of the Cosmic Christ throughout the universe. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship Resources:

*The song “Canticle of the Creature” will be featured in its entirety in our “Blessing of the Animals, All Creatures Sing” service. (10/8/2020)

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.

(gkc) G.K Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi. ©1957; pp vi.

(id) Ilia Delio, OSF, “A Franciscan View of Creation: Learning to Live in a Sacramental World.” Volume 2 of The Franciscan Heritage Series. Published by The Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, NY, 2003.

(rr) Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. ©2014; pp xvi-xvii.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Online Publishing Date: September 24, 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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Come to Me” • Matthew 11:28 • Worship Service or Retreat for In-Home or Remote Group Use

“Preparing for Flight” by Michelle Kingdom, (c) 2016

Content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (c) 2020

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • 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: “Napping” https://youtu.be/vVl1h2tFRXo on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship and Invocation

We wander about looking for something we can’t name. We ache for a form of comfort beyond the blessings we have. We seek a caregiver big enough to attend each of our worldly concerns.

Into this void the voice of the Eternal Christ calls out: “Come to Me. All who are weary and carry heavy burdens; come to Me. I will give you rest.”

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“Seek Ye First” https://youtu.be/9LMQfOp9w8k Written by Karen Lafferty, SEEK YE FIRST (Chalice #354) Performed by Maranatha! Acoustic (used without 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 offer 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.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (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.”

God’s Grace 

Recall your best efforts to love. Note how your ability to care for others continues to grow and expand as conditions and needs change. Human love, so imperfect and yet wonderful, pales in comparison to God’s perfect love.

Rest in the grace of God’s Big Love, a love so complete that we mortals will never fully comprehend it. As best as you can, surrender to this healing, eternal affection. God’s restorative love so deeply desires to hold and renew us. Let us receive this grace. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:28 (NRSV)

(After lamenting the spiritual brokenness of many communities Jesus then prays to God. After that prayer, Jesus offers this gracious invitation.)

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

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

Reflection “Called to Rest”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead of, or with, this material.)

This is a serious question: have you every heard a prayer request for rest? Who might lift up such a prayer request — a grandparent concerned for the sleep-deprived parents of a newborn? A friend praying for a loved one suffering from an exhaustion-induced illness? Yourself, knowing you need deep rest but don’t feel comfortable asking others to pray for this need of yours?

Social pressures may put a very high value on working hard and never appearing to be tired – as if natural fatigue is a moral failing or character flaw. Sometimes there are different “rules” about who can pause for rest daily. How does your household react when a male adult “kicks back” after work compared to an adult woman doing the same thing? Whom do we encourage to rest? We require our children take naps and we protect snoozing elders, but we may be uncomfortable with a daytime sleeping adult. Take a moment to explore your internalized ideas about rest and relaxation.

If our culture/s have told us we should not be tired, that our need for rest is a sign of weakness, we will teach ourselves not to observe our genuine need for restorative care. When our hearts, minds, bodies, or souls are overcome we may ignore the signals that rest is needed. Unattended, these real needs will manifest as dis-ease in our feelings, thoughts, health, and spiritual attitude.

Jesus’s earthly ministry was very brief, about three years long. He was a young man, probably in his early thirties. He was on a super-charged, spirit-filled whirlwind tour of duty with teams of supporters. Many Christians are taught to view Jesus as an example of how we should live for the length of our lives. That isn’t realistic, is it?

We may have been encouraged to ignore the times when Jesus stopped to rest or how he deeply regarded the Jewish practice of Sabbath (a weekly day of rest). Jesus even reframed the notion of keeping Sabbath as a legalistic religious obligation to an understanding that Sabbath is a beautiful gift given to all beings for their well-being. In the Torah, Jewish moral law, all working beings – people, cattle, crops – are to take a day off every week, as well as longer times off throughout the year and over the years.

This ancient, sustainable practice of revitalization, sadly, has often been ignored at our peril. During normal times most of us don’t get enough of the revitalizing Sabbath rest we need to be our best. Now that we are living through a pandemic and a Great Uprising of civil reforms, a time when many of us may be doing less physically, we are actually doing much, much more internally. It may seem odd, or even shameful, to be tired so often.

Could the weariness we feel, could the burdens we carry, be reframed as the cost of rising with compassion at this challenging time? How can we not witness systemic racism’s deadly violence and not grieve? How can we dwell among nearly 8,000 wildfires and increasingly volatile tropical storms and not feel something? How can we ignore the weight of increasing numbers of hungry or unhoused people? Of course we are weighted down or over saturated. How can we journey in isolated pockets sequestered from the very social practices and rituals that have rooted our well-being for generations and not feel drained? Our tiredness and exhaustion are an accurate portrait of our experience of these trying times.

NOW is the time to listen for the voice of the Living Christ. Jesus is speaking to us, saying: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Give yourself permission to rest. No questions asked. No social or religious permission needed. If you need rest, take it, take it in Christ’s loving presence. If possible, stop right now. Take a break this very moment. If you can’t rest immediately, make plans to take a pause soon. And when you’ve had a little rest, make plans for a bigger rest.

God so wants to take care of us. God wants to give us the healing, renewal, and reinvigoration which comes from Sabbath. Let us rest so we can receive these blessed gifts.

Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Special Music

“Come unto Me” with lyrics https://youtu.be/qeaoPhbuGtg Written and performed by Drew 79 (YouTube channel; used without permission)

We Pray

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

Offering

Inspired by Jesus Christ, Christians throughout the ages have gone on retreat stepping away from regular patterns of activity and responsibilities to rest, pray, study, and ground in God’s Big Love. How might you give God some of your time for a retreat? Consider how you might offer God your whole being for a time of renewal in the mysterious and amazing presence of the Living God. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“How Can I Keep from Singing” https://youtu.be/VLPP3XmYxXg Written by Robert Lowry,  HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING (Chalice #619) Performed by the NYC Virtual Choir and Orchestra (used without permission)

Benediction

Dear ones, are you tired?

Dear ones, are you weary?

Dear ones, are you burdened?

Let us rest into the restorative care of the Living Christ.

Peace be with you. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship Resources:

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.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

Online Publishing Date: September 17, 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 a retreat center or another place where you have found solace and rest for your soul. 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”

“Yielding Water” • Numbers 20:2-13 • Worship Service or for In-Home or Remote Group Use, Includes Gathering of the Waters Ritual

photo (c) 2014, Outdoorsy Mama

content (c) 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed including gathered water/s, a nice bowl, and towel.
  • 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: “Holy Water” https://youtu.be/q8vGex_AJK4

on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Invocation

Original Source of all Life-Giving Water, though we dwell in many places may Your Holy Spirit gather us together. May we become a well of hope filled by You with all that truly sustains life on Earth. Rain down upon us. Flow through us. Bubble up from us. Saturate us with Your Presence. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“There’s Water for You” https://youtu.be/DXwnotPLw5E

Written by Mietek Szcześniak, Wendy Waldman, HB Barnum (ZAIX Pl / Weavers Path Music BMI / Hidle Music BMI) performed by Mietek Szczesniak, HB Barnum, Life Choir, Wendy Waldman (used without permission); 2020.

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. Gently listen to your heart, mind, body, and soul. How are you, really? What moments stopped you in your tracks or lifted your spirit with joy? What concerns weighted down your heart and body? Can you give this to God? What hope is hiding inside, asking to be celebrated? God is always with us through the ups and the downs. Offer to God anything that asks to be shared, including the sweet silence of just being together. God is so grateful you have paused to be in Holy Presence.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (pause)

Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. It can be very hard to still the mind. Thoughts and feelings rise. A great temptation to bolt may occur. Who wants to meet the frantic activity of our minds? Please be kind to your mental clouds. They are fleeting reality. There is a more permanent reality they mask – God’s eternal loving being. Christian spiritual guide, James Finlay, teaches us to treat these every-changing thoughts and feelings with great compassion. Kindly acknowledge what rises but try not to further engage any thought or feeling. (Important matters will return later.) Instead, try to breathe in the ultimate reality of God’s Lovingkindness. From time to time, we do sense it. Even one moment of this experience is enough to cast a huge platform of deep peace. When you’re ready to release this practice, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

God has designed all living beings to be connected to one another; one family of life on one planet.  Because we share one common lot each failure to protect life harms all of us.

God’s infinite love for us is merciful. Even when we fail to touch the earth lightly, God never fails to call us into right relationship with all creation. God never restricts the flow of sweet water even when we do. This is evidence of God’s amazing grace.

All species are dependent on water to survive. Water tunnels below the ground and dances in the sky above. Water flows wild in seas, rivers, lakes, geysers, and falling tears. Water cycles through all of us for the well-being of all of us. This, too, is evidence of God’s amazing grace. Amen.

We Gather and Bless the Waters

Introduction

While we cannot physically assemble our community’s gathered waters in a common bowl this year, we can virtually affirm our uniting faith in a Living God, a singular source of all life and love. We can also affirm the perpetual presence of water on earth.

Rod MacIver wrote in Heron Dance magazine: “I’ve read that all water molecules now in existence were here when the earth first formed. No more have been made, none have disappeared. A drop in the glass of water that you drink tonight might well have once been the tear of a dinosaur… Water flows through our lives, then through other lives.”

As we recall the water and water memories we’ve gathered, let us remember that all water is continually recycled. Some of your water may have been in the Red Sea when Moses and the Hebrews crossed into freedom. Or in the Jordan River when John baptized Jesus or as dew on the ground where His feet passed on Easter morning. This water may one day become the blood pulsing through saints or the baptismal waters marked on the heads of your descendants.

Gathering the Waters

Assemble container/s of water you’ve collected. If no water has been specially collected, provide a small pitcher or cup of tap water. Assemble a nice bowl and towel for spills.

You’ll be pouring water into the bowl for each watery memory shared. As you do so, please name the body of water your sample came from or represents.

If you are with others at home or virtually, one by one, each person tells about the water or water memories gathered and pours water into the bowl. If you are doing this as a private devotion, tell God about the water or water memories you have gathered and pour water into the bowl.

Blessing the Waters

Place your hand on the bowl or in the water and pray this prayer:

Creator God, You call the waters into being and command their coming and going. We bless these gathered waters naming our on-going need of You.

Compassionate Christ, You call us into community with fellow human beings and all living beings. We desire well-being for all creatures of air, land, and water.

Sustaining Spirit, we call Your holy presence into these gathered waters. May Your cleansing, healing, and empowering force touch all blessed by this Holy Water. Amen.

(see note below “Caring for Holy Water”)

Special Music

“Pachelbel, Canon in D” https://youtu.be/V5VXPtydAMY

Performed by students and teachers at Holy Names University Preparatory Music’s Summer Project, 2020. Features BCCC members Jae and Jurgis Vass. (used with permission)

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Numbers 20:2-13 (New Revised Standard Version)

(After forty* years of journeying the liberated Hebrew people were thirsty not only for fresh water, but for evidence of God’s providence.)  

Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron. 

The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.”

Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock.”

So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as God had commanded him.

Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”

Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. 

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and by which God showed divine holiness.

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

Reflection “Water from God”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead of, or with, this material.)

Moses’s Meribah

Today’s story from the book of Numbers is not the first time during the Great Exodus that Moses asked God for life-sustaining water for the people and their animals. About forty* years earlier the people were thirsty and anxious. They did not trust Moses or God. Moses feared they would kill him, so he turned to God to save his people and to save his own life. God provided sweet water from the rock in Meribah, just as God did forty* years later. These two stories, however, are not the same.

Rabbi John L. Rosove, wrote: “Two incidents at the same place, Meribah, 40 years apart – the first, Moses was told to hit the rock and was praised; the second time, Moses was told to speak to the rock, hit it instead, and was punished. Rabbi Marc Gellman explains that between these two events was the revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah. Sinai was intended to change the people through the covenant and transform raw emotions to reason, physical strength to law, violence to dialogue, and brutality to compassion and justice.” (jlr)

After the long, long journey of spiritual formation as a righteous nation Moses and the people should have matured. However, it appears they returned to old ways — even Moses! (Moses, as a young Prince of Egypt newly awakened to his Hebrew roots, saw an Egyptian strike a Hebrew slave. Moses lashed out in anger, killed the man, hid his body, and fled to another country. The prince became a shepherd carrying a staff – a necessary tool for a shepherd.)

In the early “water from rock” miracle God tells Moses to strike the stone with his shepherd’s crook, the object God has used to channel divine power for the liberation of the enslaved Hebrews. God doesn’t magically provide fresh water – God tells Moses how to use his “agency”, his power, his staff, to do God’s will providing for the survival of the people and animals.

In the later “water from rock” miracle, God gives Moses and his brother Aaron instructions. Specifically, God tells Moses to command the stone to yield it’s water. God, again, doesn’t magically provide fresh water. Again, God asks Moses to use his agency, his power, his voice to do God’s will providing for the survival of the people and animals. Actions which include a changed non-violent relationship with the water-holding stone.

Moses fails to do as God directs. His old violent streak flares. Moses is mad at the people and maybe frustrated with God, too. Instead of asking the stone to yield the needed water, Moses strikes the rock two times. This is a violent act. The prophetic leader of the people, and his brother Aaron the priestly leader of the people, disobey God’s directions. And, they have also done something much worse, they have broken Torah law which teaches righteous relationship with God, neighbor, and all creation. I suspect this moment deeply hurt God.

And yet, God the Faithful Provider takes care of the vulnerable despite the failure of the anointed leaders. Fresh water abundantly flows from the violated rock. The wandering nation and it’s livestock live drink deeply. They survive. God’s plans are not interrupted, but Moses’s and Aaron’s are.

Our Meribahs

Fifteen years ago, levies broke in the lower 9th Ward of New Orleans and the poor were flooded and injustice revealed. Six years ago, when Flint, Michigan’s failed public water system hit national news, the old story of greed rose to the surface. This spring, the coronavirus hit the Navajo nation brutally due to the lack of running water – essential for life and life-saving hand-washing.

We are all living in “Meribah.” The Hebrew word means “quarrel” and we are living amid disagreements with each other. We all are frustrated and angry. We are all thirsty for sweet living water. This is a time of multiple traumas – health crisis, race crisis, economic crisis, weather crisis, leadership crisis. Like the thirsty Hebrews, we want our leaders to channel God’s miracles to magically solve our problems. Like Moses and Aaron, we sometimes choose not to follow God’s ways.

God grants us original agency – power to choose our actions. We are not puppets. Jesus Christ, while on earth, told people to end the suffering of others or themselves by doing something. Jesus required that we act, we change our behaviors or attitudes.

This could be a critical time when God is directing us to follow the righteous path of living with respect toward God, each other, and all living begins. God wants us to live reciprocally with each other leaving behind past patterns of violence.

Our God is a good God who calls us to our best selves, and who gives us tools and directions for living sustainably with love and care for all beings, just as God did thousands of years ago. Our God is a good God who hopes we will step up to repair what we have damaged, but will never withhold essential needs.

Soli Deo Gloria. (Latin: “Glory to God Alone”)

Special Music

“Touch the Earth Lightly” (instrumental) https://youtu.be/S1kiguZJm9I    

Written by Shirley Erena Murray and Colin Gibson, TENDERNESS (Chalice #693) Instrumental version performed by Mark Lloyd Music (used without permission)

We Pray

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 ask to be lifted up – 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. If your community shares prayer requests please include them as you continue your prayers of petition.

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

Offering

Fresh, safe drinking water. Indoor plumbing and water that is always available. Let is give thanks for the daily gifts we often take for granted. And let us ensure that all people have these essential needs met, too. (see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“I’ve Got Peace Like a River” https://youtu.be/J3cnKDpWXy8

African-American spiritual, PEACE LIKE A RIVER (Chalice #530) performed by Elizabeth Mitchell; video byVirginia Jardim with Spanish lyrics (used without permission)

Benediction

May the fresh water your soul thirsts for be found.

May the life-giving water your neighbors require be shared.

May the eternal flow of Living Water forever bless all creation. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Notes:

*In the Hebrew Bible “forty” isn’t a literal number – it indicates a long time. Just as when we say: “This will only take a minute,” “minute” is not a literal measure of time. It indicates a short amount of time.

(jlr) John L Rosove. Rabbi John Rosove’s Blog, “The Waters of Meribah Before and After Sinai – Parashat B’shalach” published online 1/16/2019.

“Caring for Holy Water” – If your gathered waters contain non-water content, you may wish to purify your water. 1) Strain water through coffee filter or very fine sieve. 2) Bring strained water to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 3) Add a drop or two of bleach to the strained, heated, and cooled water. 4) Store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Holy Water may be used to bless beings and objects you wish to honor with God’s loving presence.

Worship Resources:

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.

Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies

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 an organization which protects or provides healthy water. 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”

“Big Love Table” • Romans 13:8-10 and John 13:34-35 • Worship Service with Holy Communionfor In-Home or Remote Group Use

Art: “Picnic at Unity Island Park”, Ylli Haruni

Worship content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (c) 2020

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • 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.
  • 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: “Special Tables” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Poem of Preparation “Love One Another”

Love the sunrise which wakes you up.

Love the warm body bedside you in bed or resting in your eternal heart.

Love the farmworker who picked your coffee beans or tea leaves.

Love the bold crow cawing “day” and the hidden owl cooing “night”.

Love the reporters (of all types) who tell us about each other.

Love the children you asked for and those you didn’t.

Love the roof over your head and those who built it.

Love the sibling who hurt you yesterday or decades ago.

Love the hymn that trails you like a faithful dog.

Love the neighbor who never, ever smiles.

Love the way you keep learning how to grow older.

Love the friends who return with food and hope.

Love the people others tell you to hate.

Love the building blocks of life – earth, wind, fire, water, and soil.

Love the gentle way God turns your heart toward compassion.

Love the human beings a sea away with whom you share DNA.

Love the ones who are present and those who are long gone.

Love the person you see in the mirror.

Love the Spirit who tugs us into relationship.

Love the Christ who invites us into transformation.

Love the Creator who leads us into life and life eternal. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

“I’m Gonna Eat at the Welcome Table” African-American spiritual, WELCOME TABLE (#424 Chalice), video: “Welcome Table” performed by A Southern Gospel Revival – Courtney Patton; version published with lyrics by “philsabine1”. YouTube: https://youtu.be/PDasYUepo1c (used without permission)

Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, may this be a time for private reflection. How is it with you today? Is this a good day or one that requires kindness and patience? Honor the swings of contentment and concern that are a part of every life, as well as the unique shifts that are new to this era. Invite God to help you reflect on the people you encountered the past week. Find one memory to talk to God about: a warm remembrance, something surprising, or even a challenging encounter. Tell God about it. God is listening even when we can’t sense God’s presence. God adores hearing the stories about our lives.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (pause)

Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. It can be very hard to still the mind. Our thoughts wander, feelings arise, our bodies wiggle. It can be shocking how quickly our good intentions go astray! Do not fret, dear one. The mind likes to think. With compassion, acknowledge what rises but try not to engage any thought or feeling. (Important matters will return later.) Practice choosing to refocus on God. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our over-active mind, is a gift we give God. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God saying, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Write down whatever you wish to release to God and leave at the base of the Christ Candle. If it is safe, burn these prayers. If you don’t have the words yet, offer God what you can. This is fine. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

God’s forgiveness is the gate through which we pass to arrive at the blessing from all holy communions – reunions and new connections with God, others, and our own souls. As we offer our regrets and mistakes to God we allow God to heal us. As we are healed, we are freed to offer mercy and forgiveness to others. Let us prepare for Holy Communion with a private, prayerful confession. Let us also rest for a while in God’s eternal forgiveness. (silence) Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Readings: Romans 13:8-10 and John 13:34-35

(from St Paul’s letter to the church in Rome written 58 CE)

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

(from St John’s Gospel written in the 80’s or 90’s CE)

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

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

Reflection Upon “Big Love Table”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead.)

It wasn’t that long ago that in most churches the Communion Table was a High Altar – a solid structure on the highest platform in a church’s sanctuary usually made of special material built against the front wall of the chancel. During Holy Communion the minister or priest would turn their backs to the people to offer God items for blessing. Once the words and sacred rites were performed over the cup and loaf the officiant would turn around and offer the consecrated meal to us, the people. That was when The Table was The Altar which we watched.

In the 1960’s most Roman Catholics and Mainline Protestants began making major worship reforms. In many sanctuaries, High Altars remained in place while an additional, portable table, was brought in. This new table was used for Holy Communion. It was placed on the same level as the people and located so that the officiant could face the congregation. Some congregations removed their High Altars or pulled them out from the wall that they might be used like a table. As the sanctuary furniture changed so did the experience of Holy Communion. The Altar became The Table were everyone was an active participant.

Sixty years ago, inspired by global social changes – colonies casting off foreign imperial rulers, challenging social codes regarding race and gender – as the world changed so did God’s Table. It evolved into a “Welcome Table” more like the one envisioned by freed African American slaves – a place of welcome and inclusion for those who had been excluded or treated as second-class.

Sixty years later in 2020, The Table is still changing. Instead of going to a building to be with The Table, we are currently remaining in our own homes sitting at many tables. We each provide our own communion elements. Each person takes on the priestly tasks of blessing the elements. Now, there are many Tables, many pieces of Bread, many Cups, Many officiants. Yet, we are united one to another by a singular virtual Big Love Table. A mystical place where each one is equal and we all face each other.

Like the social revolutions of the 1960’s, we are living amid massive, public, and passionate demonstrations that sometimes become violent. Power and values clash daily. We exist amid serious political polarizations. So many “US verses THEM” tensions as there were in Jesus’s day.

Jesus Christ, in thought, word, and deed, brought people together – all kinds of people. Jesus knew that all human beings are eager to be fed immortal hope. All human beings are soul-hungry for divine forgiveness. We come equally to God’s Big Love Table needing an outpouring of divine kindness, compassion, mercy, and grace. We always have. We always will.

Spiritually, Holy Communion was always a virtual event transcending time and place. Now, as we know we are physically separated yet spiritually connected, it might be easier for us to assemble at God’s Big Love Table entering eternity, dwelling in the Big Love which gave us life, calls us through life, and will usher us into Life Eternal. Amen.

Special Music     

“We Shall Overcome”African-American spiritual, MARTIN (#630 Chalice), video: performed by Henry Lee, original jazz improvisation, 8/2020. YouTube: https://youtu.be/I1i84ITIavo (used with permission)

We Share

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:

Holy God, Your Big Love moves through the gifts of this earth, the skills of farmers and bakers, the kindnesses of soul friends. May Your Big Love move through us as we share these items at Your Big Love Table. Amen.

Communion Song

“Let Us Break Bread Together” African-American spiritual, LET US BREAK BREAD (#424 Chalice, #234 HOL), video: performed by Joan Baez 6/2020. YouTube: https://youtu.be/z7JUSSPQg7Y (used without permission)

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.”

Because we are God’s Beloved, we can love each other. May we receive God’s sustaining Big Love with this Bread. (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.”

Because we are God’s Beloved, we can love each other. May we receive God’s merciful Big Love with this Cup. (drink from cup)

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Dear God, again, through the wonder of Your never-ending Love we are redeemed and repaired. You reconnect what is broken and give what we did not even know to ask for. Thank You, most Holy and Generous God! Amen.

We Pray

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 ask to be lifted up – joys and concerns? Speak them. You may wish to use your body as movement or sound, dance, tears, or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them at this time.

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

Offering

This week we are reminded of the fundamental call to love each other. Today, offer thanks for a fellowship of faith where you encounter God’s Big Love Table. Ask God to protect and tend this Beloved Community and all your relationships – divine and mortal. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

“We Shall Overcome”African-American spiritual, arrangement: Paul S Morton, video: performed by 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders of Baldwin Hills Elementary, 3/2018. YouTube: https://youtu.be/5vevW8pv9CQ (used without permission)

Benediction

Beloved Child of God – You are loved. As you are loved, may you so love. May God build us into a universe of Loving Siblings. 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 ©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.

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

TNCH: 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 Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies.

Online Publishing Date: September 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 making a donation to a person or group which helps us love each other. 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 online: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Choosing Life” • Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

(c) 2020, Kathryn M Schreiber

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • 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: “Choices” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber https://youtu.be/e-Xr2rxB0kA

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship/Invocation

Choose Life.

This is a complete invitation: Choose Life.

This is a complete covenant: Choose Life.

This is a complete prayer: Choose Life.

Holy God, may each moment of this day be filled with the commitment to “Choose Life.” Help us choose to be as fully alive as possible and to encourage the same for others. I “Choose Life” in the name of Jesus Christ, my Brother and Friend, my Teacher and Savior. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

Hymn: “’Tis the Gift to Be Simple” Shaker song, SIMPLE GIFTS (#568, Chalice) Video: ‘Simple Gifts’ in a crisis: Yo-Yo Ma and Joyce DiDonato collaborate for the first time” YouTube: https://youtu.be/4fHc1o48DqM (used without permission)

Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, may this be a time of private reflection. How is it with you today? What brings a smile to your face or a lump to your throat? Is this a good day or one that requires kindness and patience? Honor the swings of contentment and concern that are a part of every life, as well as the unique shifts that are new to this era. Tell God how you are doing. Invite God to help you remember a decision from the past week when you chose the Way of Life. God is always very lovingly toward us even when we can’t sense God’s presence. Rest in the hope of God’s sustaining care.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (pause)

Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. It can be very hard to still the mind. Our thoughts wander, feelings arise, our bodies wiggle. It can be shocking how quickly our good intentions go astray! Do not fret, dear one. The mind likes to think. With compassion, acknowledge what rises but try not to engage any thought or feeling. (Important matters will return later.) Practice choosing to refocus on God. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our over-active mind, is a gift we give God. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God saying, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Write down whatever you wish to release to God and leave at the base of the Christ Candle, or if it is safe, you may burn these prayers. It may be that what you have to offer cannot yet be consciously named. This is fine. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

The God of our ancestors is the God of our descendants and the God of this very moment, too. The Eternal One forever calls all living beings into being. We are invited, again and again, to choose life. God’s eternal encouragement is a form of grace. We are always being coaxed by God’s goodwill into a better future. Let us be grateful for God’s life-giving grace. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

(Moses is speaking to the liberated Hebrew people as they near the Jordan River. Their ancestral homeland is very near.)

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in God’s ways, and observing God’s commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 

“But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying God, and holding fast to God; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

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

Reflection Upon “Choosing Life”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead.)

On days when sheltering in place feels like a burden, in those moments when putting on a mask feels uncomfortable, when the weight of change is real it is helpful to remember we are doing these things because we choose life. We are choosing to change our actions to keep each other and ourselves alive. We are choosing life.

Throughout human history there are epic turning points when the masses must decide between life and death. Today’s reading is about one of those times for Jesus’ ancestors.

It took a few generations for Moses, with God’s help, to lead the enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt. The Hebrew metaphor for a long time is “forty years.” The Hebrew metaphor for a very long time is “four hundred years.” The Hebrews had been enslaved in Egypt for “four hundred years.” It took “forty years” to leave Egypt, wander in the wilderness, and then finally come into sight of their ancestral home – Israel. They arrived at the Eastern shore of the Jordan River having traveled up from wild lands beside and below Israel. This natural geographical boundary, the Jordan River, descends from Mount Hermon to the mouth of the Dead Sea. To this day The Jordan River remains a line of demarcation between nations and cultures. Crossing it can still be a choice fraught with dangers.

Today’s scripture narrative is from the end of Moses’ life. The elderly prophet is speaking to the people he’s led for decades. Moses knows they need a new spiritual leader as they face new challenges while reentering the land from which their ancestors were removed a very long time ago.

Moses prepares to pass on the sacred mantel of leadership to Joshua, his anointed successor, by asking the people to renew their covenant with God. Moses asks them to choose God’s ways – the great laws given to them on their journey to freedom. The call to God’s way of life is an invitation, not enforcement. Moses asks each household to choose between life and death, blessings and curses.

This is a time of big choices for us, too. Not just choices about public health – where we go and how we stay safe around others. Rather, bigger choices surround us: How to address and mend the wounds of racism? Which lifestyle choices are least harmful to climate disruption? How should we use our gifts and talents for the uplift of the many? Household by household, person by person, we are faced with big decisions. Moses would remind us to go back to the basics – to reflect upon God’s ways through the foundational rules of moral decency found in the Ten Commandments.

Globally, nationally, institutionally, communally, filially, and personally we are being asked to choose between the ways of God which lead to life and the ways of not-God which lead to death. These choices are so big; they can be overwhelming. Let us view these choices as invitations to join God in growing a new era of well-being for all beings. “Choosing Life” may be our portal to a new, very better tomorrow.

Special Music     

Suggestion: “Gratias Tibi” performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Montclair State University Singers. This world premiere of “Gratias Tibi,” commissioned by NJSO commission from José Luis Domínguez, is an expression of gratitude to frontline workers of the COVID-19 pandemic. (used with permission) https://youtu.be/ATpVXvwnBy0

We Pray

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 ask to be lifted up – joys and concerns? Speak them. You may wish to use your body as movement or sound, dance, tears, or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them at this time.

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

Offering

This week we are reminded of the great Hebrew leaders – Moses and Joshua. Pause to consider the leaders who impact your community. Pray for them and give thanks for those who call us to embody God’s ways – ways of life. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Commitment

Suggestion: “Take My Life” – written by FR Havergal (#609 Chalice; #457 HOL) Video: “Kari Jobe – Take My Life with Lyrics” created by Janelle (used without permission) YouTube: https://youtu.be/6QubPnYFavY

Benediction

We are at a crossroads. Shall we choose life or death? The way of blessings or curses? May the Prince of Peace fill us with the courage to always choose life. 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 ©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.

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

TNCH: 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 Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies.

Online Publishing Date: August 27, 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 making a donation to an organization which develops and tends prophetic leaders who lean into God for guidance. 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 online: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“We Know Not How” • Mark 4:26-29 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

content and photo: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
  • 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: “Mystery” YouTube: https://youtu.be/s7v5L57zz3U

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship/Invocation

When the weight of responsibility weighs heavily on our shoulders; When we struggle to understand what we should do next; When we gaze upon the immensity of tasks ahead; Most Holy God, address our tossed and weary souls reminding us of Your most wonderfully mysterious ways. We are not alone. You always go before us making the way where there has been no way. Let us pause to rest and trust in You. Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song for Welcoming the Presence of God

Hymn: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” T.O.Chisholm/W.M.Runyan (#86, Chalice) Video: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness/Beginning to End” performed by One Sonic Society, Mike Weaver, published by Essential Worship (used with permission). YouTube: https://youtu.be/dxy-HSy01_w

Unburden and Gather Hope

Naming Our New Reality

Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection. How is it with you today? Listen to your body. Is there a place in your body which is especially noticeable today? A part of the body which is feeling very good or is hurting? An area of the body at rest or anxious. Listen to your physical self and consider the previous week. What might be forgotten if you don’t hold that memory today? Through it all God was there and is here now, listening. Offer to God anything that asks to be shared – anything. God has heard it all many times before, and yet, God eager awaits hearing directly from us.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (pause)

Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. It can be very hard to still the mind. Our thoughts wander, feelings arise, our bodies wiggle. It can be shocking how quickly our good intentions go astray! Do not fret, dear one. The mind is like an antsy toddler. With compassion, acknowledge what rises but try not to engage any thought or feeling. (Important matters will return later.) Practice choosing to refocus on God. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our over-active mind, is a gift we give God. Let’s be kind to ourselves. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God saying, “Amen.”

Acts of Unburdening and Affirming

Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.

God’s Grace 

Take a moment and let go of everything you are carrying. (Take a deep breath.)

God is here. God has always been here. God will keep the world spinning on its axis. God will ensure night will fall and morning will break. God has designed plants to grow and the heavens to provide rain. God has called you into community and God’s Big Love will eternally weave you into meaningful relationship. God dwells in all that is and invites all that is into fullness of being. (Take a deep breath.)

There is nothing, nothing, you must do right now but rest in God’s grace. May we trust what we cannot understand. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Mark 4:26-29 The Parable of the Growing Seed”

Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

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

Reflections Upon “God’s Mysterious Ways”

(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead of this content.)

Sermon Video: “Mysterious God” Reminders that God’s Doing the Heavy Lifting (not the same as content below) YouTube: https://youtu.be/x3amV96jf1k

Jesus often told “kingdom of God” stories planting seeds of knowing about the nature of God. This subset of Jesus’ parables features clear metaphors about who God is, how God operates, and what God desires.

The fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus teaching a large crowd on a shoreline. The group is so big that Jesus has gotten into a boat to speak to them from the sea. Jesus tells the crowd “The Parable of the Sower” (Mark 4:1-9). Later on, when Jesus is alone with his disciples, Jesus unpacks the public teaching (Mark 4:10-34). And, as Jesus often did, he told more stories, including the kingdom of God story “The Parable of the Growing Seed.” Literally, it is a story about a grain farmer and the natural cycle of agriculture – planting seeds, sprouts breaking forth and growing, plants becoming tall stalks, seed-heads appearing, ripening, and being harvested. Jesus says that the farmer who planted the seed doesn’t know how the growth happened. The crop even grows without the farmer’s help while he sleeps.

Jesus is teaching the disciples that it is not the human worker which causes growth. God is the prime force animating life. The farmer may work with seed, soil, sun, and water to encourage plants to grow, but it is God who is critical to the presence, existence, maturation, and fulfilment of living things.

Theologian Paul Tillich coined a unique metaphor for God calling God “The Ground of All Being.” Tillich was attempting to move past anthropomorphic symbolling of God – God as a super form of us human beings. Tillich reframes God as “All Being” not “a being.” The literal translation of God’s Holy Name in Hebrew “יהוה” can be translated as “I am who I am that is.” This huge concept of God informs Tillich’s thought and is a good underpinning for understanding God in this parable.

Though private teachings Jesus describes, through metaphor, that it is God who creates the harvest, not the farmer/us. We do not create the kingdom of God, Basileia tou Theou “βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ” (Greek) rather we are invited to work with God, the Ultimate Reality, to assist in manifesting God’s Dream. This work will be mysterious – we will never know everything God is doing.

Yet, we human beings are curious and like to do things. We like to create things and take pride in our efforts. We do a lot of amazing things from making breakfast to fighting wildfires, from designing internet technology to mining the essential minerals needed for computers and processors. We make languages and cultures, create rituals and theologies. We do a lot, but we don’t do this alone. God is infinitely active. There is a huge realm of mysterious divine reality which we cannot perceive.

Currently, we are living with a great deal of uncertainty. Our lives have been dramatically changed by a virus we cannot see with the unaided human eye. This microorganism, smaller than the smallest bacteria, is a novel (new) coronavirus. And this very tiny thing, COVID 19, is doing huge things to human beings wherever we dwell. It enters our bodies through breath and takes away our ability to breathe.

This invisible thing has also made many ugly truths visible. It is US, we human beings, who have created systems and practices which cause far more suffering and death through our institutional endorsement of racism, environmental damage, and unfair distribution of basic needs – food, shelter, health, and education. We have supported the enrichment of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and less powerful.

As we live amid a great deal of mystery let us keep in mind that God – the Ultimate Reality, the Being that is Being – is actively balancing life on earth aligned with spiritual realities throughout eternity. Let us pause to be grateful for what we don’t know, but can trust: God is with us and for us doing what is essential for life and life abundant.

Special Music    

Suggestion: “God Moves in Mysterious Ways” lyrics by William Crowper (1731-1800); Arrangement: Crossroads Music © 2020. Performed by Crossroads Music (used without permission). YouTube: https://youtu.be/51Bx1UwLc0U

We Pray

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 ask to be lifted up – 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. If your community shares prayer requests please include them as you continue your prayers of petition.

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

Offering

Today the only offering God desires from you is acknowledgement of Divine Mystery. Let us give thanks for all we do not know that God is doing, is being, is calling into being. Let us rest in profound gratitude.(see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Suggestion: “In the Bulb There is a Flower” – N Sleeth, PROMISE (#638 Chalice) Video: Posted by Frederic Chopin (used without permission). YouTube: https://youtu.be/v_2W2cUUfYU

Benediction

We know not how – but God is always doing what is essential. Let us lean into the transforming grace of Divine Mystery. Let us gather hope and strength from what is unknowable, yet what has been promised to us through Jesus Christ. Let us proceed in peace, grateful for God’s mysterious ways. 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 ©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.

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

TNCH: 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 Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies.

Online Publishing Date: August 20, 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 making a donation to an organization which encourages trust in God’s essential goodness. 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 online: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”