Stress and distress have been the undercurrents of conversations with colleagues this week. The Delta variant of COVID-19 is again wreaking havoc with our worship, education and fellowship plans. Back to school is complicated by fear for families. Climate change and the newest dire report raises feelings of helplessness and dread. The plight of the people of Afghanistan has taken center stage in the news. Where are the words of hope we need to offer our congregations? What is the good news of the Gospel for us to speak into such uncertain times? How can we sing the Lord’s song when the terrain we travel feels so foreign?
Here are a few worship words to help you on your way as you prepare to lead God’s people. Included this week are words inspired by the Revised Common Lectionary, worship words written by a member in discernment, and finally, a link to wonderful prayers for re-opening following COVID-19. These words are given as gifts to be used as they have been written, or to prime the pump of your own creativity as you prepare for worship. Please give credit in print and video descriptions, but verbal attribution is not necessary. If you have prepared worship words for next week that you are willing to share with your rev gal blog pals, we’d love to post them. Submit them by Monday of the week for which they have been written.
Blessings Rev Gals, may God’s ever creating-love flow through you; inspiring, encouraging and uplifting you and your flocks.
Worship Words related to the Revised Standard Lectionary written by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Z. McNeil:
Call to Worship (after Song of Solomon 2:8-13)
Hear the voice of God calling out with love,
Hear the voice of God in the wind whispering in the trees,
Hear the voice of God in the swishing grass,
Hear the voice of God in birdsongs,
Hear the voice of God calling out with love,
“Come to me! Come to worship and be renewed.”
“Come to worship and be restored.”
“Leave in the past the difficulties of the past.”
“Bask in the sweetness of this time together.”
Beloved, God is calling us to come away to worship.
Invocation (after Psalm 45)
Our hearts overflow with thanks and praise, O God. When we open our eyes to your presence, when we pay attention to the gifts you have given us, then our gratitude lists go on and on. As we gather today for worship, we rejoice that Your reign of freedom, equity and justice is for all the earth and for all time. You have given gifts for all creatures to enjoy. Bathe us today in gladness. Restore to us our sense of joy that we may sing Your praises here and everywhere, now and forever, Amen.
Prayer of Confession (after Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9)
You, O God, have given us the earth, rich with resources and overflowing with opportunity. You have given us your laws, your wisdom, your prophets, your mercy, your grace and your beloved son, our Savior, Jesus, to guide us, that all people might live in the beauty of Eden. But, too often and in too many ways we have been unwise. We have closed our eyes and our minds and refused to discern Your ways. Our planet and Your precious people groan from the effects of our collective failures to steward the earth and to treat one another as siblings in one great human family. If ever we have needed rescue and rebirth, it is now, O God, come quickly and save us from ourselves, that our children’s children might know and enjoy the blessings and the beauty of Your creative love.
Words of Assurance (after Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9)
God is not a god far off, but is near to us. When we call out, God hears our pleas and answers us. As it has been from the beginning, so it is now, and forever. Amen.
Prayer (after Psalm 15)
It feels so good, God, to be together in prayer. So much seems to be falling apart. So many are so divided that it feels good to be united here with you and with these, our friends in faith. It feels good to be protected from the winds that blow, to be shaded from heat, to be gathered where there is safety in numbers.
We lament the heartaches unfolding in the world around us:
Our neighbors in Haiti who seem never to be able to rebuild from tragedy before another disaster strikes.
Our neighbors in central Tennessee, in Germany and elsewhere digging out and drying out from devastating flooding while weeping and mourning their dead and their missing loved ones.
Our neighbors in the American west and in Greece and elsewhere in the world fleeing fires and breathing smoke, praying for rain, enough, but not too much, praying for a future for the landscapes they call home.
Our neighbors in Afghanistan clinging to hope, hiding out, crying out, for help, for safe passage, for a future, for freedom, for an end to suffering and war, for simple happiness.
Our neighbors in hospitals and schools and businesses around the globe who are so very weary of COVID-19, who mourn for those who have died, who grieve for those who are terribly ill today, who grow frustrated with those who do not do the simple things that can be done to slow the progress of this disease and bring it under control.
Our neighbors anywhere who live under threat of violence, absent safe homes, who are lonely, addicted or otherwise afflicted with heartaches and sorrows untold.
Help us, so fortunate to be gathered here in the sanctuary of this fellowship, to do what is right by our neighbors.
Help us to speak truthfully about ourselves and each other. Help us to know the truth, help us to be willing to change our minds and change our hearts and change our behavior when truth turns out to be different than we once believed.
Help us to speak in ways that help and heal and make the world and all her inhabitants more whole. Tenderize our tongues that love alone is what we communicate.
Help us to live with integrity. Help us to live so that what we say we believe and what we do line up with each other and with You.
Help us to be honest. Help us to be fair. Help us to give advantage to others rather than taking advantage for ourselves.
Help us to stand up for the least of these among us.
Help us to be your people until all the world is a sanctuary and all our neighbors are welcomed safely home. Amen.
Call to Offering (after James 1:17-27)
May all our lives be an offering. May what we give today be just the “tip of the iceberg” of our generosity, lived out in everything we do, in every thought we harbor, in every word we speak. As children of God who has given life as a gift, may we live our lives as generous gifts to one another—each of us a gift for the good of all in the name of the one who made us.
Call to Communion (After Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)
Our hands have been scrubbed for twenty seconds, scrubbed while singing “Happy Birthday to you” or the alphabet song, scrubbed tops and palms and individual fingers and fingernails of one hand in little circles in the palm of the other hand. Our hands have been squirted with sanitizers and wipes, but our hearts? We cannot sanitize them. We cannot scrub away the grudges lingering there. We cannot wipe clean the hurts and the hate and the selfishness caked into the chambers and arteries there. Only love can dislodge impurities within us.
And so, we come to this feast, to receive a cleansing transfusion. God’s love in Christ’s blood given that we may be made clean. Given that love may flow through us as it flowed through him who on the night before his death, gathered his friends and said, “I give my life for you. This broken bread is my body broken for you. This wine is my blood shed for you. Every time you eat bread, Every time you drink wine, receive me and let me cleanse you. Let me make you new.”
Let us go from this sacred space,
this holy place,
to live our lives honoring God,
not only with our lips but with our whole hearts.
In our words and in our deeds,
may we make sacred every space
that all our work and all our days
may be worship.
Worship Words offered by one of our Members in Discernment, Shellie Anne Brook:
Call to Worship
One: We gather in this holy, sacred space to meet with God.
Many: We come as we are. Just as we are.
One: We come without a mask or facade of perfection, we come with our scars,
the broken edges of our stories.
Many: We come to our Savior who blesses what is broken.
One: We come carrying heavy burdens, weighed down & weary.
Many: We come to our Savior who carried the cross for us that we might know peace.
One: We come through all the chaos that rages in the world & in our hearts.
Many: We come to our Savior who leads us beside quiet, still waters.
All: We come with hope, resilient hope, hope that persists & endures because Your love, Oh God endures forever. We come to worship God, our Savior.
Lord Jesus You are with us as we gather together in Your Name. You break into the broken places of our stories with hope. You are the One who shepherds us in our darkest valleys, who comforts us in our desert wilderness, who leads us beside quiet, still waters. We rest & rejoice in Your promises.
We trust by faith that God provides abundantly more than we than we can ask, think, or imagine. As God provided manna in the wilderness, as Jesus multiplied a little boy’s lunch of fish & bread enough that the disciples collected the leftovers. God provides where there is lack. Faith is always the surprising, miraculous, wondrous gift of God. So we give in faith, blessed to be a blessing to the Church, to the world. Amen.
Prayer of Dedication
We commit this offering to Your kingdom come here on earth, to all those in Your care. That we might see compassion, kindness & courage shine the light of Christ in this community. For yours is the kingdom, the power, the glory forever and ever. Amen.
And finally, for Fall kick-off and re-opening after COVID-19 here is a link to wonderful prayers written by Cathy Mia Kolwey to rededicate the spaces of her building:
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Zahller McNeil retired June 1, 2021 after serving ministries in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Zaire, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Nebraska in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. She and her husband Mike just moved to Trinidad, Colorado where they enjoy worshipping with Zion’s Lutheran Church. They’ve started hiking and are thankful to begin to be able to breathe at higher altitudes. Becky blogs at http://everydaystories.blog
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