A Mighty Love: Prayers for Reformation Sunday

A mighty fortress are you, O God,

Creator, redeemer,

Protector, provider.

 

The earth is yours, and all that is in it.

We give you thanks for the bounty of our lives,

and the abundance of your creation.

Move us to recognize your gifts, O Lord,

and challenge us to share them.

 

A mighty fortress are you, O God,

Creator, redeemer,

Protector, provider.

 

A mighty love are you, O God,

Parent, teacher,

Comforter, friend.

 

You walk with us through joy and heartbreak,

and you bind us together in holy community.

You poured out your grace in the life of Christ,

and we witnessed your love in his resurrection.

 

Move us to know the depth of your love,

and challenge us to share it.

 

A mighty love are you, O God,

Parent, teacher,

Comforter, friend.

 

A mighty Spirit are you, O God,

Reformer, sustainer,

Challenger, change-agent.

 

On this Reformation Day,

we give you thanks for the saints of our faith,

who have followed your leading at any cost:

For Mary, John, and Peter,

who were there to tell the news of the first Easter Day;

For Paul, Lydia, and Chloe,

who built the church on the foundation you laid;

For Martin, John, and Marie,

who dared to lead your people in Reforming;

For all the reformers since,

who have dared to challenge the status quo.

 

A mighty Spirit are you, O God,

Reformer, sustainer,

Challenger, change-agent.

 

As we remember the Reformation 500 years ago,

do not let us sit idly and reflect on the past.

Move us to follow your Holy Spirit

into the leading of the future.

 

Help us to be your church, reformed and still being reformed.

Help us to be your people, formed and still being formed.

 

Glory be to you alone,

Soli deo Gloria.

 

Move us to be people reformed and reforming,

standing on the cornerstones of our faith:

Scripture alone, Christ alone,

Faith alone, Grace alone,

Glory always, to you alone,

Knowing that we are never alone.

Amen.

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Awaken Us: A Confession for Romans 13:8-14

Living God,

You beckon us to wake from our sleep,

to open our eyes to the goodness of your reign,

the injustice of our world, and the gap in between.

You call us to follow in the path of your love.

Forgive us, O God, when we choose the easy way.

Forgive us, O God, when we choose the selfish way, the fast way,

the successful way, the nice way,

the friendly way, the comfortable way.

Convict us, awaken us, empower us, and enliven us

to follow the Way of justice and love.

Amen.

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Prayers of the People: Our Help.

These prayers of the people are based on two lectionary texts for today: Psalm 124 and Exodus 1: 8-22.

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Refrain: Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Heaven and earth, O holy God, cannot contain your boundless glory.

Heaven and earth, O holy God, cannot contain your everlasting love.

You are gracious, compassionate, and good.

You are loving, patient, and kind.

You are parent, mother, and father.

You are God, and we are not.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

 

We give you thanks for your holy story, illumined for us this day.

You call us to be faithful at all costs,

especially when the powers of the world turn their backs

on people who are vulnerable or oppressed.

In the spirit of Shiphrah and the courage of Puah,

enliven and empower us to mean the words we often pray:

Thy kingdom, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Make us hear the truth of your calling,

and move us to follow with bold faithfulness.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

 

We give you thanks, O God, for the signs of your goodness all around:

For the sounds of newborn babies,

who cry that you are making all things new.

For the hands of compassionate doctors and nurses,

whose care is an extension of your own.

For the voices of prophets, old and new,

whose stories attest to the challenge of your call.

For the church, your body in this place;

in our struggle and in our song, may we witness to your love.

 

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

 

Help, O Lord; Help, we pray.

As we pray to you from the depths of our hearts,

humble us to ask for your help,

and make us wise enough to recognize it.

We pray for the people and places who are hurting this day:

[Name the concerns of your community.]

 

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

 

For the people of the Sudan, suffering great violence.

For all in the path of tropical storm Harvey,

preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

For marginalized people everywhere,

who suffer in the same system in which benefit.

Bring your spirit of comfort, O God:

your spirit of healing, in your time and your way;

your spirit of companionship, in fostering community;

your spirit of justice, in creating change;

your spirit of love, stronger than death itself.

 

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Amen.

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Prayers from Matthew and Esther: For Such a Time as This

These prayers were written with Matthew 10:34-49 and Esther 4:1-17 in my mind and my transgender friends in my heart.

Let us pray.

Speak to us this day, O God,
and humble us to hear your word.
Make us still enough to notice your presence,
Quiet enough to hear your voice,
Brave enough to speak your good news,
and wise enough to follow your spirit.

So often we pray to you for life:
to preserve life, to prolong life,
to guard life, to begin life.
Today we pray something else.
We pray for courage to lose our life for your sake,
and we pray for the wisdom to find it.

As Mordecai challenged Esther to be faithful at all costs,
make us hear the voices of people oppressed,
whose stories challenge our way of life.

We pray for your children everywhere:

For your people who are suffering,
Discriminated against because of their race, gender identity,
sexuality, or religion.
For your people who are fearful,
Faced with losing their access to healthcare or treatment.
For your people who are isolated,
Living in the shackles of addiction or abuse.

Holy comforter, challenger, redeemer,
We know that you are in our midst.
Help us recognize your spirit on the move,
and empower us to join your work.

Help us be your church, reformed and still being reformed.
Help us be your people, formed and still being formed.
Help us boldly share the news of your love,
For such a time as this.

Amen.

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Holy Holy Holy: A Prayer from the Lips of Isaiah

Refrain: Holy are you, Lord of Hosts. Holy, holy, holy.

God of mercy we pray to you,
With all our joys and all our burdens.

Holy are you, Lord of Hosts.
Holy, holy, holy.

Your power is beyond our imagination;
Your grace is beyond our comprehension;
Your presence is beyond our senses;
Your goodness is beyond our wildest hope.

We give you thanks for the movement of your spirit:
In the church and in the world,
In the past and in the present,
In our lives and in our neighbors,
In our hearts and in our minds.

Holy are you, Lord of Hosts.
Holy, holy, holy.

Even as we praise you for your power and your might,
We carry the weight of a hurting world.
Where there is pain, breathe your comfort.
Where there hunger, help us share our bread.
Where there thirst, splash living water.
Where there is weakness, help us know your strength.

Hear the prayers of our hearts,
O God our maker,
and hear the prayers we dare not put to words.
Lift them into your being,
Lift our hearts to your presence.
Into our lives, breathe your love.
Into our silence, breathe your mercy.

Holy are you, Lord of Hosts.
Holy, holy, holy.

In the name of Christ,
In the love Christ,
In the grace of Christ, we pray.
Amen.

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Signs and Wonders: Prayers of the People

I have the honor of serving as the liturgist for the Massanetta Bible and Church Music conferences this week. Over the course of the week, I am leading worship eleven (ELEVEN?!) times,  and I have written every word of the 30 page worship book. It has been a lot of work, but it has also been an incredible joy. 

My office for the week

I will not post all 30 pages here, but I will post a few of my favorite pieces. These are the Prayers of the People from Monday Morning worship, inspired by the conference theme, “Remembering the Reformation,” and the sermon scripture for the day: Acts 5:12-32. 

Let us pray. 


Holy God, three-in-one,

We give you thanks for your holy spirit moving through this place.

We have seen your signs and wonders;

We have heard your teachings in the street.

We have felt the shadow of your presence,

and we have been witnesses to the depth of your grace.
We give you thanks for abundant grace

that you have showered upon this world.

We give you thanks for the saints of our faith,

who have followed your leading at any cost:

For Peter, John, and Mary, who were there tell the news of the first Easter Day;

For Paul, Lydia, and Chloe, who built the church on the foundation you laid;

For Martin, John, and Marie, who dared to lead your church in Reforming,

For all the reformers since,

who have dared to challenge the status quo.
We give you thanks, O God of wonders, for these and all the signs of your goodness.

People of God, for whom and for what else do we give thanks?

(Prayers are named aloud or in silence.)

We give you thanks, O God of Mercy,

Hear our prayers. 
Your apostles carried your good news into the streets,

into the temple,

into the lives of people who were hurting.

As you did then, O God of Peter,

speak to us with your signs and wonders.

Hear our prayers and free us from our bondage.
We pray for the world that you so love:

For the ones who are imprisoned, and find no angels to open the doors.

For the ones who are sick, and find nothing to heal them. 

For the ones who are lost, and fear that no one will find them.

For the ones who are hurting, with no balm to ease their pains.
People of God, for whom and for what else do we pray?

(Prayers are named, aloud or in silence.)



Bring your signs and wonders, Holy God, 

into our lives and into your world.

Breathe your healing presence, triune God,

and burst through our locked doors. 
We offer these prayers in the name of the Christ,

The one whom you sent to bring freedom to the world.

Amen. 

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Common Ground: Liturgy from the Garden

A few years ago, I planted my first vegetable garden. I fell in love with the way the soil felt under my fingernails, with the looks of surprise on neighbors’ faces when I brought them fresh vegetables, and, of course, with the taste of a freshly picked cherry tomato, still warm from the summer sun.

I often find metaphors in the garden, and, luckily for me, so did Jesus. This liturgy was written for Central Presbyterian Church, based on the lectionary gospel for this Sunday: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.

 

Garden

My happy place

Opening Sentences

Listen, O people, for the word of God,

Giving seed to the sower and bread to the hungry.

Listen, O people, for the word of God,

Growing trees in the desert and fruit in the wilderness.

Listen O people, for the word of God,

Planting faith in the weary and hope in the desperate.

Listen O people, for the word of God,

And worship God with gladness.

Prayer of Confession

God the maker of all things good,

Have mercy upon your creation.

We gather on Sundays to nourish our faith,

But we find the seeds scorched in the light of Monday morning.

We want to bear fruits of compassion and kindness,

But we  fall into selfish habits,

and our discipleship withers.

Forgive us, God of mercy.

Shower us with your grace, and free us to try again.

The Affirmation of Faith draws from several of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings. While his words are not explicitly about gardening, they ring in my head every time my hands are in the soil. Weeds in one corner of the garden mean weed seeds in every corner. Earthworms in one place means good soil in another. Pesticide in one place means poison in every place. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 

Affirmation of Faith Adapted excerpts from the writings of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

We refuse to believe that we are unable to influence the events which surround us.

We refuse to believe that we are so bound to racism and war,

that peace, brotherhood and sisterhood are not possible.

We believe that we need to discover a way to live together in peace,

a way which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation.

The foundation of this way is love.

We believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.

We believe that what self-centered people have torn down,

other-centered people can build up.

By the goodness of God at work within people,

we believe that brokenness can be healed.

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